Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Two Hearts Farm

David and I went to Lisa's to see about helping them with vaccinations. Lisa and John have had a bad time of it lately and we figured we'd help them out. It goes so much faster if there are 3-4 people there.

They have a flock of sheep, some Dexters, a family Jersey, a couple of hogs, and awsome donkey named Fiona and a flock of laying hens. I've attached some photos of that day. The Dexter photo's didn't come out well.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Long Drives

Well, Lisa and I went down to L's to get the packaging, books and labels. Books weren't there. No one was around. Didn't think I'd find anyone. I don't like going into places when I don't see anyone around. Guess I have to email an invoice to J.

I decided that if I wanted things done correctly, I'd have to do them myself. I don't mind helping people out, but I don't like being taken advantage of. I paid for the crap cheese and the decent quark, but everything else in that whole package deal wasn't right. Too many underlying agenda's for my taste. That and no one had the balls to say it how it is. Even me...

Why does age make people woosies? I don't think it is a true spinal fracture, but why DID I tell J my deal with the beeswax? I don't care for being bullied after I bend over backwards for people. I am too tired and have now decided that organizaed associations and groups are not in my best interest.

I had this need to take Lisa for a drive. The poor soul. He father isn't well, her daughter isn't is a good way and there are so many changes that I don't know how she can awake every day and face all of it! I offered help to vaccinate the sheep and trim hooves if they needed it.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

processors and retailers guaranteed profits

The U.S. government guarantees a profit for processors. The irony is that the dairy case is a profit center for a retail grocer. They can return to the processor the dairy products that do not sell. But that is okay for the processor because the US government guaranteed a profit for the processors. And the dairy cooperatives allow this? They think the changes in pricing to favor processors is good? What for the dairy farmer? Our pay price goes down again! Why is it that farmers are always the ones that can be disposed of at the whim of an ignorant consuming public? Isn't it time that the consumer realizes that it only sets presidence for their own lives if we dairy farmers are disposable and allowed to be taken advantage of? They are being treated in much the same way only cannot look and see that they are disadvantaged just like us. Heck, Mitt Romney - Gov of MA - even said that there isn't enough of a distance in income between haves and have nots. Are we the average American to pay for their luxuries? I'd forgo diamonds and designer outfits for something as simple as a health insurance plan.

See the article below!

Weekly Dairy Market Outlook
By Ken Bailey
Penn State University

January 20, 2006

Headline: USDA To Hold a Public Hearing on “Make Allowances”
· Processors facing higher costs
· Make allowances expected to increase
· Farm-gate milk prices could decline $0.25-$0.46/cwt

USDA announced in the Federal Register earlier this month that they will hold a public hearing on January 24, 2006, to consider amending Class III and IV milk price formulas (see URL: http://www.ams.usda.gov/dairy/proposals/classIII_IV_make_all.htm ) . This hearing will focus on receiving testimony to potentially adjust what processors pay dairy producers for their milk. USDA will do this by making changes in the make allowances to reflect processing costs for butter, cheese, nonfat dry milk and whey. My preliminary analysis indicates that using the changes in make allowances presented by USDA in the Federal Register will lower farm-gate milk prices roughly $0.25-$0.46 per cwt in 2006.

Processors located in federal orders must pay dairy producers class prices for milk depending on how it is used. These class prices are based on formulas that set minimum prices for milk components (milk fat, protein, other dairy solids) which are in turn based on the wholesale value of dairy commodities (cheese, butter, nonfat dry milk and whey). The formulas include “make allowances” that reflect the cost of processing various dairy products. According to Agri-Mark, current make allowances used in federal orders are based on an outdated cost survey and should be updated to reflect higher processing costs.

If the hearing results in make allowances being raised to reflect these higher processing costs, processors will end up paying dairy producers less for their milk. The opposite is also true; if make allowances are reduced, farm prices will rise.

USDA conducted a preliminary analysis of the impact of three scenarios that reflected changes in make allowances. For all three scenarios make allowances were raised 36 percent for butter production, 15 percent for nonfat dry milk, and 10 percent for dry whey. The cheese make allowance was increased successively in each scenario by 1 cent per pound (6 percent) in Scenario 1, 2.5 cents per pound (15 percent) in Scenario 2, and 4 cents (24 percent) in Scenario 3.

I applied these make allowances to formulas I use to forecast 2006 milk prices. Federal order blend prices were then estimated by using class utilization rates from 2004. The results of my one year analysis are in Table 1. They indicate that depending on the scenario, farm-gate milk prices will likely decline $0.25-$0.46 per cwt in 2006. (this study is preliminary and does not reflect simultaneous changes in supply and demand over time).

The current formulas used in federal orders are designed to basically guarantee processors a profit margin. These formulas look at wholesale market prices for basic dairy commodities and then set a cost for the milk. Inside that formula is the processors fixed profit margin. Assuming the margin is set right, high cost processors will be able to process dairy products, and low cost processors will make an above-average profit. Dairy farmers, of course, have no such guaranteed profit margins. However, there is no other good way to run federal orders without these formulas. One can make the argument that these formulas and make allowances are necessary if dairy producers are to receive federal order protection.

Milk cooperatives are proposing these changes in light of escalating energy costs, as well as higher costs for labor and insurance. Also, they argue that make allowances used in California are higher than they are in federal orders.

There is no such thing as make allowances and guaranteed margins in the rest of the U.S. economy. Input costs and sale prices for products change over time, thus margins fluctuate. Companies that face such variability use contracts and forward pricing tools to lock in their margins. They also rapidly adopt technology and expand market share in order to protect margins and increase sales volumes. In fact, that is exactly what has happened to U.S. dairy producers over the past 20 years.

The national hearing is simply a meeting to gather data. If dairy processing costs have risen, then it is possible and even likely that higher make allowances will be adopted. This in turn will directly lower farm-gate milk prices. But it should also be understood that dairy producers don’t have such protection and are expected to adopt new technology, expand production, lower production costs, and even relocate their operations in order to remain competitive. U.S. dairy processors should ultimately face these same competitive pressures.

Table 1. Impact of Changes in Federal Order Make Allowances on Class
Prices and Uniform Blend Prices, 2006 1/

Estimated Changes Relative to a 2006 Baseline:

----USDA Proposals----

Scenario 1
Scenario 2
Scenario 3
Federal Order Prices:

Class I mover
Class II price
Class III price
Class IV price

Federal Order Uniform Blend Prices:

Upper Midwest
Arizona-Las Vegas
Pacific Northwest
All markets
Assumptions used in analysis: 1) used 2004 utilization rates, 2) 2-week average
commodity price forecasts used monthly average forecasts from the prior month,
3) based on commodity forecasts by Ken Bailey, Penn State as of January 2006.

NOTE: this is a preliminary analysis that is subject to change. The spreadsheet used to generate these numbers can be downloaded on my website: http://dairyoutlook.aers.psu.edu/ .

Want to get a friendly weekly reminder via email that my dairy outlook report is available? Subscribe to my email service. To subscribe, send a blank email to join-dairyoutlook@lists.cas.psu.edu.

Friday, January 20, 2006

feed and balers

Dave and I talked to out cow nutritionist yesterday. We were waiting for him. Well, not like the check I want in the mail, just had questions...

Bruce switched to GMO corn. There was that drought, so we had to buy and feed a lot more corn than we usually do. The corn for this planting is $160/bag and we don't feel comfortable feeding it. We didn't know it was GMO until it was in the silo. It was average feed with low minerals. It cost us too much money for the milk we produce. About $5000! We cannot do that this year. We like Bruce very much, but we need to go back to our principles and feed the cows baleage or haylage or dry hay or something...

In talking to Peter and other cheese technitions, dry hay is the best feed. Baleage is next. Corn silage is the last choice for good cheese. We need to make some volume of milk to pay the bills monthly, so we are going to aim for second best, baleage.

I was impressed with Dave's desire to learn more about the internet. He wanted me to show him how to look for used balers. We need a specific size bale to fit into the barn we have. Ideally a 3' bale. The baler has to be able to handle heavier (wetter) feed. Out Hesston baler is too weak and doesn't make a good heavy bale (the core is too soft). He is looking for a Vermeer.

We have a couple of more months to figure something out. We have enough equipment to get dry hay or chop the first cut if we need to. The one thing Dave also likes about the baleage is that we need less equipment and fewer passes in the field (less petrol used).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cheesemaking Supplies

Well, I have to order my own curd harps. I've been using the ones from the College all winter. With the changes over there, I've decided that I should have my own set. $660 for a set apparently. Oof.

I got a pH meter for Christmas. I want a TA set as well. I think is a great thing to use both in the beginning of this whole deal. The TA set is cheaper.

Elmond has my brick molds in exchange for his Tomme molds for a bit. I'll have to get the ones Margaret has on hand pretty quick here.

Need more labels and some vacuum pump oil from Bush pumps. Cryovac ran out of oil.

Need to get on the list for the Hamilton Farmers Market and the Cazenovia Farmers Market this year. Darn it, I have a great product and I need to focus on education and marketing to make them worth while. If Green Rabbit can clear $40,000 at Hamilton with their stuff, so can I! It just means more tents, better tables, a sign and the like...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rain and Sheep

There was another lamb this morning. Just when I think they stopped, another one. A little black female lamb out of one of the first lambers. I like this dab of Romney. Makes the ewes a little more agressive about the welfare of their lambs. The Romanov gives them that rapid growth and number of lambs in subsequent lambings. The Tunis gives them a decent body and some milk. Dave Sauter laughs at me about my odd crosses, but I think I have one on him here.

The flock is doubled in size. I have two, maybe three lambings to go. I do hope that Peggy doesn't lamb. Poor think is 20 years old this year. Wow!

Raining hard today. Should be snow. I don't care for the extra work that snow involves, but I think that in winter, there should be snow and in the other three seasons... rain. Am I harking to my mothers favorite... everything has a place, put everything in it's place... theory in life? I think that for me it is easier to try to organize things like a cupboard, clean the bathroom, rewrite a budget that you cannot pay unless people pay you... little things that really mean nothing in the grand scheme of things but make you feel like you are achieving something.

Too much wind overnight. I cannot tell if it is the wind that makes me loose sleep or the fact that we tend to get the wind in the winter and that corresponds with a significant lack of money every winter (cows cost us money in winter and Dave drops number of cows calving to avoid the problems with calving inside in the winter).

I started milking down the road. Cannot remember if I said that before. Trying to get money to pay Dave cash for the milk as I use it so that I can build up inventory for farmers markets this summer. We cannot afford to loose cash flow while cheese is aging. I don't want to loose out on sales over the summer like last year. I make a good cheese, but add lack of aging capacity and my own issues about fearing success/failure and I undersold product last year. Or rather, I didn't make enough of product last year and kept selling out of lower value fresh cheeses rather than focus on higher margin aged cheeses.

Waiting for money for projects last year. I hate looking at mailboxes and making bets with myself that the check(s) will actually be there. I have this bad feeling about the US economy and want to eliminate all debt under $5000 this year. I just have to hash out freelance work, a book maybe, more business plans, more workshops... sell more cheese... It is easy to forget that the main focus is suppose to be cheese.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Free Money

Okay, so I didn't get free money, but I did get a phone call last Friday to say I got the Farm Viability grant. Thank you, thank you, thank you Ag & Markets.

It is to complete Phase II. I'll go into details about it in the newsletter.

Mike J. got one as well. I didn't get Tom or Tim their's. Mmm. I'll have to email Steve and see if we can get a b.plan done through Farm Start...

Cecil is trying to work on the Farmstand building. This may have to become a chicken shed now and have another one made for the grant... Mmm.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


We bought this farm in 2002. We moved the cows November 2nd. I came with Dave and then spent the next few weekends traveling back and forth to MA to get things and make sure the due-diligence on property there was moving forward.

Dave, Claire and I spent the greater part of the day doing our due diligence on the triangle piece on the east side of Center Rd. Public Health to get the Declination, Tax paid reciept and filing the Mylar copy of the property in the County Clerks office.

We also got the papers on the Easment for the Wetlands today. Finally. This is part of our wetland restoration project. The swamp is partially existing. They are going to enhance it as best NRCS can. My only stipulation will be that they use native vegetation, nothing invasive. These projects are riddled with invasive species. This one is pretty good already. I'm not sure how they can enhance it. We'll see.

The other property deal is with Jen and Cecil. They complete the terms of our agreement and we procede with the land swap. It is a piece we do not use. If it was possible to purchase a piece of our neighbors fields or wooded bits, it would be valuable to us. The neighbors to our east have a value only God can afford and the one to the south has family interests that I think will prevent our ability to purchase anything. So this triangle piece is Jenny and Cecil's. Fair enough.

Sounds like everyone wants the Gouda. Third inquiry this week. Oof. I know I should have listened to Dave, but how when I have to pay him cash for the milk as I use it so that the farm keeps working. There is hope at the end of the tunnel. Mum is investing a little and one customer bought most of the inventory.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I'm on fire

That should mean that I've accomplished a lot today, but in fact, it meant that I accidently caught myself on fire. I was just finnished hooking up the dishwasher and started to look at the piles of paper that accumulated on top of that dishwasher. That in itself wouldn't cause a fire. The left front lid on the stove that was on to boile water for cous cous was the cause. My favorite green sweater with the paint stains and holes ignited on my back.

Claire was in the bath tub. She was playing with the plastic sheep and Polly Pocket dolls. I'm trying to figure out how to get the fire out without alarming her, catching my house or myself on fire and without getting caught in my sweather without being able to get out of it.

The later I found is a new fear of mine.

Instead of doing the drop and roll (my house is old, It'll catch on fire I tell my self) or running and jumping into a snow bank outside (you only think about after), I try first putting it out with the sink spray attachment (cannot get lower back). I think of shower, Claire in there. Take sweater off. It hits floor (there goes my house is too old for drop and roll theory). I pick it up by arm (sweater is in serious flames). With Joey rumbling in his crate (he just came in from mud) I run for door and throw into snow bank (I should have been in). Claire is asking in teh backround - why are you on fire Mommy?? So much for not alarming her...

My back isn't blistered. It is a little red and my shoulders of all things are crazy sore. I'm not sure if that is because of the Surge automatic take off arm weights that I use at Bruce's to milk his cows or because I either slept on my sides too much or maybe because I took that sweater off too fast...

Ooof, what a way to end a day.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

lazy sunday mornings

Well, I'd like it to be lazy. The sun was shining for most of the morning. The Arapawa goats and the NC Ceviot ram, Ben, were sunning themselves. The pigeons that Cecil claimed dead were strong in number. I counted 33 while folding bed clothes. The brown one is gone, but there are more non-descript grey ones than we had in the pole barn before.

Dave closed the main barn up last month. He bought chicken netting and covered the doors and windows. Starlings and sparrows (allong with the pigeons) were contributing to the general chores by leaving piles of manure in the grain bin and on the hay in the mow. The last thing we need is cows ingesting this distusting mess from the birds. Starlings in particular have wreaked havoc on some calf crops back home by carrying a virus that causes a bad pneumonia and I believe scours.

I started milking for a farm down the road to help with the loss in income from so many dry cows and lowering of milk prices. Not a bad afternoon. They are good people and it is nice to get off the farm and have some conversation with someone. Sometimes I think this is the sort of thing Dave should do, but I think he is of the class of farmers that think it is okay from him to putter about the farm all day, but the woman is the one to go off to work when money comes slow.

I've had to lay off cheese production for a couple of months. We are down in milk volume due to dry cow numbers and have to ship a minimum volume to the Cooperative. I do steal a volume or two (after I pay my own husband cash) to make a batch to meet a number of loyal customers.

Dave is off to the grain store to get vacuum pump oil. An hour and a hald later, I think he also ordered lunch. It is one of the few hardware/grain stores I know of that you can get nuts, gas, mastitis treatment and 2 eggs over easy with a side of potatoes and a cup of coffee. An odd little place, but it serves its purpose by providing the little communities in the area with some off the farm comforts. I miss going there on Sunday mornings. Guess I'll have to go to a church or something to keep a routine.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

bikes in barn

When we have to get chores done early, we bring Claire to the barn and all try to work together. Claire has a special potty, a tricycle and a couple of all plastic dolls in a purple pail. She alternates between taking hay from the bigger heifers to give to claves and sheep and taking handfulls of grain and giving to special cows in the barn. Brindle heifer and her Rose coloured heifer primarily, but others get special attention from her as well.

For the most part, Claire has never been able to figure out how to pedal a bike. She has been able to move it along by walking it (while sitting). Last night we actually pedaled the bike! She cannot take corners yet. Something about the sharpness of the angle and a narrow front end. She didn't land in the gutters, but she did take one header and sat there trying to decide if crying would be worth it. Instead she righted the bike and took another spin.