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Conference Name Helping Small Commodity Dairy Farmers Transition Successfully

Mariane Kiraly

Summary

Commodity dairy farming is changing in the Western Catskills with small dairy farmers looking for other ways to be profitable in agriculture. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County has been working for three years assisting transitioning dairy farmers using targeted discussion and learning groups. In 2015, an organic dairy discussion group was started to help transitioning and organic dairy farmers take advantage of regional experts who could address issues on their farms. Conventional crop and livestock programs left a gap since organic methods were not included in most programming. Assistance from Cornell's Pro-Dairy program helped pay for speaker fees and meeting expenses. The group has become a cohesive, knowledge-seeking group that supports each other and continues to meet in the winter months. They are better equipped to manage changes in the organic milk market while some have moved forward into organic, grass only production.

Another major effort has been with dairy farmers transitioning into beef production. Since 2015, many of the dairy farmers who sold out moved into beef production. Support was needed with herd records, beef-specific marketing, terminology, risk management and handling equipment. Cornell resurrected a beef farm account book, educators were trained in Finpack, and beef production systems were explored in on-farm workshops followed up by classroom trainings. This group became more cohesive and social as time passed and most turn out for every meeting and have had excellent success with the transition because they realize that education reduces risk in a new venture.

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