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Cow eating in stall
WHAT’S THE ANSWER: Is it cutting feed costs or selling replacement heifers? Dairy farmer Noah Johnson is struggling to figure out how to survive in a down dairy economy.

New York dairy farmer: ‘What are we doing to survive?’

Stress levels are high as the holidays approach and dairy farmers struggle.

Editor’s Note: The following was originally posted on the Dairy Farmers of Facebook group earlier this month and is being re-used with permission of the author.

By Noah Johnson

We read and hear all the time from the educated ones of the "right way" to farm.

There's college studies, college classes, Hoards Dairyman, Progressive Farmer, the list goes on and on.

They are filled with information about new technology, new ways, better ways, the right way to farm.

At this time, it's about surviving. Everyone has their own story and bank account to tell them where and why they are there. This year though, no matter how big or small, new or old, there has been kick after kick to the southern region of everyone.

Let's face it, if milk price was the only problem, we wouldn't be so bad. How about the 40-plus inches of rain with early killing frost? My point is that this year has added so many factors to the struggles of this industry.

I was wondering: What are we doing to survive? Where are we cutting corners? Obviously, the educated and experts can tell us what to buy, but nobody seems to educate us how to get by. Where can you take from to gain some? Is it in production, bedding or raising heifers? Dry cow care? Pipeline chemicals? Fertilizer? Seed purchases?

Are you stretching another year on that re-seeding, or are you going to re-seed but maybe use that paper towel over again? Are we cutting pre-dip with water or spreading less fertilizer? Are we bedding once a day or buying a cheaper corn seed? Are we selling replacement heifers or washing the pipeline once a day? Are we giving milk to calves or using cheaper replacer?

I don't think anyone should be criticized; it may help someone else out.

How do you juggle Christmas presents when the grain company is on COD (collect on demand)?

Let’s face it, everyone is struggling and corners have to be cut. Maybe your corner is better than the next guy’s and you could help him out.

I just wish some smart old-timers were around to school us on making cheap milk rather than buying more cows.

Johnson rents 116 acres of land and has 50 head of dairy cattle in Hillsdale, N.Y. He and his wife started farming on their own two years ago and they have one son.

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