Indiana’s Dairy Producers met for their annual meeting on Wednesday, and Purdue Extension Dairy specialist Dr. Mike Schutz presented what he called the state of the Indiana dairy industry today. He said it is an industry that has seen significant change in the past 20 years. Since 1997, Indiana dairy farms have declined by over 60%, “But this is just part of a national trend we have seen ever since the end of WWII.” While Indiana has lost a large number of dairy operations, the actual number of dairy cows has been increasing since the 1990s. “Per cow milk production has increased by over 30% and overall milk production in the state has increased by over 87%,” said Schutz.
While Indiana has several large dairy operations, Schutz said, for the most part, dairy producers in Indiana milk a small number of cows, “The average herd since in the state is still around 150 cows so that shows that we still have a lot of smaller operations in the state.” He noted many of these smaller operations are moving to robotic milking systems to maximize efficiency and to deal with a significant labor shortage.
While lower feed costs have helped the bottom line of many producers over the past few months, milk prices have been at the lower end of their range. But he hopes that situation will improve later in 2016, “I think we will see milk prices remain flat for the next several months; but, hopefully, we will see a increase in milk prices later in 2016.” He added that, in recent years, more and more producers have diversified into other types of operations to help spread out the risk from what have been very volatile dairy prices.
The State Department of Agriculture has made it a goal to bring new dairy processors to the state, and indications are that will occur in 2016. Schutz said that will provide a much needed lift for the Indiana dairy industry, “More competition for milk is always a good thing.” He said that every day about 80 tanker trucks leave the state filled with Indiana milk and more processing capacity here at home will reduce that. Currently dairy production represents 7% of Indiana’s agricultural production.
During the IDP meeting, David Ring of Dubois County was honored as Outstanding Producer of the Year and Orville Haney of Kosciusko County was named Outstanding Young Producer. Fred Kunkle was elected to serve as the Northern region representative on the board of Directors, and Gary Peters was elected to represent the Southern region. Liz Kelsey was re-elected to the at-large board position.