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Thread: Starting a Dairy Farm

  1. #1

    Default Starting a Dairy Farm

    I was wondering if it is a feasible idea to start a dairy farm in the markets we are seeing. Everyone says prices will go back up yet, we see a short spike in prices then a slow and long fall until the next good price. I am 19 years old with over 4 years with dairy experience on multiple farms. I am hoping to start a dairy in the next 5-10 years. I am attending college for animal science and will be graduated by December of 2019. I know most of the ins and outs of dairy farming. I have done many tasks alone such as: pulling calves, treating calves, pilling and treating cows, feeding anything, changing silo doors, and many other basic tasks that go along with dairy farming. The only other important skill I need is breeding cows which I will learn before graduation. I know just the basics on machinery maintenance as well. I have done almost types of field work/ harvesting except for planting. I was wondering what the cost of starting a dairy farm would be. I would like to renovate my uncles old farm if possible; it has 2 top feeding silos with out unloaders, one havestore silo with unloader, an entire belt feeder, harvestore slurry storage with out pumps I believe, free stall barn for 50 but maybe more cows but no stalls just allies, and a milk house/ 9 cow stantion parlor. I would want to invest money into ripping out the old stantion parlor and putting in a pit (maybe big enough for double 6 herringbone, but I think a double 5 could fit for sure). Along with the pit, I would want to put 2 more doors in the parlor because one would not work; adding two would allow a straight entry on both sides and a turn exit. I would appreciate any comments anyone has. The barn does have enough storage for at least 5-6,000 bales, along with two 20'x40' pens for calves, a calf barn that can fit 14+ calves. The barn can be separated in a way to have calving a dry pens. I know I have saved over $50,000 and it keeps rising as I work on the dairy farms at home and the farms down at college. If anyone could help with an approxomite cost within a ten thousand dollars or so. Major costs would defiantly feed, remodeling parlor, and cattle. I would like to start around 30 cows and work up to 50-70, 100 max. There are 3 different milk buyers (Arps, MMPA, DFA) in my county even though we only have less than 10 dairies. Is it worth getting into the dairy bussiness or not?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
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    77

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    What I have found is there is no market. Organic or conventional there is no one to stop and pick up your milk in vermont. If the cows have been sold and the doors shut that’s how they will stay. They want less stops with more cows. I’m trying like you will never believe to buy out an established organic dairy because of not being able to start up new. It’s in the bankers hands now weather it’s a go or not. Time will tell. I would suggest looking into becoming a dairy grazing apprentice. Google it, it’s a super cool program.

  3. #3

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    There is a strong market in my area where Holstein herds are starting out at around $15 hundred weight i think. Jersey milk would be worth more. The largest farm that the milk man picks up is 400 Jerseys; the rest are less than 100 Holsteins, mostly 50-60 cow dairies. Is it possible to earn a living by starting a dairy farm if milk price is only about $15? I think even well established dairies are not making much so would a start-up could be even less profitable at first.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    north-central virginia
    Posts
    692

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    What Bairdswift is saying, is that the co-ops might not want your milk. They're picking up milk from small farms because they've been doing so for years, but they are likely reluctant to take on any new producers under a certain size. First step is to start calling the co-ops and asking questions.

  5. #5

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    oh okay. I get what you are saying. The local processor just picked up a 50-60 cow dairy and another 80-90 cow dairy just this year. Both are on opposite sides of the county so I think they might be different milk routes.

  6. #6

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    In my area the only co op taking new milk is the organic coop and they are adding small under 30 cow grass based Amish farms. Quite a fe w conventional dairies are quitting and unless they have quota to sell are having a hard time getting much money for cows you could buy a hard with quota and start shipping milk but it would be tough

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
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    37

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bairdswift View Post
    What I have found is there is no market. Organic or conventional there is no one to stop and pick up your milk in vermont. If the cows have been sold and the doors shut thatís how they will stay. They want less stops with more cows. Iím trying like you will never believe to buy out an established organic dairy because of not being able to start up new. Itís in the bankers hands now weather itís a go or not. Time will tell. I would suggest looking into becoming a dairy grazing apprentice. Google it, itís a super cool program.
    Dga is a good route to go. I am in it doing part time until hopefully can move to it full time down the road. The nice thing is you work and get paid as your doing the program which is a 2 year program and is reconigzed by usda for beggining farmers loan qualification. Surplus of milk dosent help and thats organic or coventional. I have looked into many ways of getting into starting a dairy and like most people on here will tell you its very hard if not almost impossible. Grass certified milk is a small market but alot less producers for it so for me thats the in that im trying to acheive. Just have to do your research and see how your market in your area is. Organic seems to be ok with smaller producers cant say the same for coventional. Good luck

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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    texas
    Posts
    155

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Wiemken View Post
    There is a strong market in my area where Holstein herds are starting out at around $15 hundred weight i think. Jersey milk would be worth more. The largest farm that the milk man picks up is 400 Jerseys; the rest are less than 100 Holsteins, mostly 50-60 cow dairies. Is it possible to earn a living by starting a dairy farm if milk price is only about $15? I think even well established dairies are not making much so would a start-up could be even less profitable at first.
    A few ideas on getting started- first- I started with $22,000.00 plus a loan for $26,500.00, that was 25 yrs. ago----go for it Ryan! second- put your money where you get a fast return- MILK, that means COWS. Don't try growing feed on the side,unless it's pasture for dry cows--that means; stay away from equipment as much as you can, unless you use it every day, like feed mixer, loader tractor,skid steer. Try to make a deal with older dairyman, who's willing to grow feed for you and you take over the dairy part of the farm---also, look into the New Zealand share milker idea! With some modification, it may work well in the US, too. Also, remember, there is never a best time to start..prices go up-prices go down...don't wait- just get going and always be honest and open with your banker..that will go a loooong way. Good luck.

  9. #9

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    Thanks for the reply! I should be done with college in less than 2 years. All of that is pretty much paid for. I think I could have it paid for with about $50,000 or more. Would you suggest working a job on the side to provide a stable income and health insurance? I know I have over $20,000 in feeding equipment and possibly could work out a deal for a loader if I rent my uncles old facilities. I am not interested in land unless the possibility to rent some comes up, in which I would for two reasons, you dont know when you'll get the chance again and second it would help the bottom line if I rent equipment or hire custom farmers. What is you're parlor set-up? I do not want to start unless I can afford a pit parlor. It will be too difficult and expensive to switch once I have cows.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    texas
    Posts
    155

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Wiemken View Post
    Thanks for the reply! I should be done with college in less than 2 years. All of that is pretty much paid for. I think I could have it paid for with about $50,000 or more. Would you suggest working a job on the side to provide a stable income and health insurance? I know I have over $20,000 in feeding equipment and possibly could work out a deal for a loader if I rent my uncles old facilities. I am not interested in land unless the possibility to rent some comes up, in which I would for two reasons, you dont know when you'll get the chance again and second it would help the bottom line if I rent equipment or hire custom farmers. What is you're parlor set-up? I do not want to start unless I can afford a pit parlor. It will be too difficult and expensive to switch once I have cows.
    Don't start working off the yard! Once you have cows, focus on them, if you have time for spare, milk 3x. I started in a 2 x 6 swing over barn with weigh jars, worked good for me, but a stanchion barn set up and cows trained you can do a lot of herd work during or after milking without having to catch cows again.

  11. #11

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    What where the major expenses when you started up? How much of the $48,500 went into cows and parlor? I know the quickest way to build to build equity is investing in cows. How do you build up herd genetics? I plan on all AI, but is flushing quality cows and putting eggs in bad cows profitable or not.

  12. #12

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    Also how much of a parlor was there prior to you starting? Did you have to buy all new or new to you/used milkers, compressor, and a tank? Is the swing 6 a pit or not?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
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    texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Wiemken View Post
    Also how much of a parlor was there prior to you starting? Did you have to buy all new or new to you/used milkers, compressor, and a tank? Is the swing 6 a pit or not?
    It was a pit, with a barrel full of old milking equipment-it came out of the 80' buy out-the owner put a pos milk tank back in, I replaced it after 3 months. The old pulsators I got rebuild and the shells I used, found good boumatic claws(free). the vacuum pump was cleaned and useable and rubber parts and hoses all new, of course. I paid 1,000.00 rent per month, this and the electric bill, were my biggest expenses, after feed cost and bank pmt. 42 out of the 43 cows got bred back and I started with 1 box today, and after a year had 1/2 box left and increased the herd to 70 cows. It can be done!

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