2009 was a year to be remembered or maybe forgotten for both the Dairy Industry and the Farming Industry. We heard all too many local farmers say "the best part of 2009 will be when it is behind us," and we definitely agree. But despite the challenges, we are happy to say we are excited to see what the future brings to Bridgewater Dairy Farms. Below is a review of challenges and successes of 2009 for both the farming and dairy operations.
With a new set of equipment, a new style of farming, a new management team, and a new set of employee's we went into 2009 with the knowledge that it was going to be a tough and interesting year. But Mother Earth piled on wet spring conditions that pushed planting into June. This was followed by a drought in mid-june and what seemed an approaching drought failure. Thankfully, as fertilization took place on the corn planted the latest it rained and rained. It appeared we were finally headed towards an average year. Then as harvest approached we realized it wasn't going to be a normal harvest. We started quesitoning our mold (vomitoxin) levels and had some concerns about getting the crops off in the mud with out ruining the fields. With the help of a couple of neighbors, we were able to get Soybean harvest out of the way and proceeded to focus on Corn. It was the first time in our history for two things, we only used one forage harvester for 1600 acres and 31000 tons of Corn Silage. The cool weather kept the plants from drying down too quickly and made for a long 4 weeks of silage harvest. The other first in Bridgewater history was the abiity to make High Moisture Corn. This is a product we plan to produce yearly, but rarely will we have the ability to make almost 100,000bu in the havest window we would see normally. In the end, we had the second best farm yields in our history and the fears of mold in our corn due to the cool fall vanished as we tested the crops and everything was at a reasonable level.
The dairy had its own set of challenges this year, by now everyone knows that the Dairy Industry was faced with some of the lowest milk prices and highest feed costs in decades. Those prices were so low that by now, we have all almost forgotten the extremely cold weeks we had in January 2009. There were days I came in at 2am to help repair something, and was just grateful I had employee's willing to milk cows when it was 29 degree's below zero out. But despite the weather, the dairy still had to focus on cost cutting techniques and management techniques to make the best of the year. We lowered our cow inventory a little, and we cut our specialty feeds in order to cut our overall feed costs. We knew we would have to lower our staffing level, but decided to do that through normal turnover rather than lay people off. It seemed that if there was a stone to turn over that would cut our costs we looked at it. But we also knew we had to continue to strive for high quality milk. We put a new emphasis on milk quality and animal health, re-trained employee's and even did a couple of trials to see if by changing some minor protocols we could improve the health and sustainabilty of our cattle. In the end, the dairy is relieved that 2009 is over as well. We did see a marked improvement in our milk quality, and feel we are treating our cows in the best and most humane way we know. We also saw some record milk production levels for the year mostly attributable to a cool summer, but also from a change in nutrition philosophy. As the dairy looks to 2010, we look to a long recovery. Milk prices have rebounded, but we are cautious as these prices appear very unstable.
All in all 2009 was a challenge, but we looked at the challenge and chose to fight. We have an awesome group of individuals here, and without them these operations would not be profitable.
This Blog will be Updated by a member of the management team.