In this file:


·         US dairy consolidation likely to continue down the road

·         Dairy Farmers Embrace Washington Overtime Law



US dairy consolidation likely to continue down the road


By Gustavo Schuenemann, Farm and Dairy (OH)

April 30, 2021


Dairy farms in the US are consolidating at a faster rate today than any other agricultural commodity. In January 2020, the dairy cattle inventory was about 9.3 million cows distributed among 34,200 farms, with an average annual productivity per cow of about 23,000 pounds of milk.


About 50% of licensed dairy farms, mostly with less than 500 cows, ceased operation in the past 20 years at a rate of about 2,300 farms per year, or 6.3 dairy farms per day, without changing the national milk cow inventory.


The dairy industry consolidation is global, with similar trends in South America, Asia and Europe, characterized with fewer dairy farms of larger sizes. In today’s US dairy industry, about 5% of the dairy farms are milking almost 60% of cows (Figure 1). In other words, 1,700 large dairy farms are milking about 5.6 million cows, with an average herd size of about 3,300 cows.


This consolidation trend will likely continue with emphasis on improving the efficiency of processes, integrated with local communities and natural resources (land, water and energy), while meeting the demands of consumers and improving sustainability within production ecosystems.


There is a marked trend to implement regenerative management practices and to adopt precision technologies to achieve consistency with daily routine tasks. Since the first commercial milking robot’s installation on a dairy farm in 1992 in the Netherlands, over 35,000 dairy farms of all sizes have adopted this technology worldwide.


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Dairy Farmers Embrace Washington Overtime Law


By Karen Bohnert, Dairy Herd Management

May 3, 2021


In November Washington dairy farmers were required to begin paying overtime to any of their employees who work more than a 40-hour workweek. This came after the Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state's dairy workers to receive overtime pay equating to time and half after 40 hours. Before this ruling, the Washington law followed the federal law and agricultural workers were exempt from receiving overtime pay. The state of Washington has the highest minimum wage in the country at $13.69, although agricultural workers average much more than that.


Fourth generation dairy farmer, Jason Sheehan, who runs J & K Dairy located 45 minutes outside of the Tri-Cities in eastern Wash., has been paying some form of overtime pay to his dairy employees for years, as he watched other states, like New York and California slowly introduce overtime practices. Sheehan followed their plans with an initial 50-hour workweek; decreasing five hours annually to eventually get to the 40-hour workweek.


The Sheehan's 3,000 cows produce 265,000 pounds of milk daily and the family farms 1,400 acres of cropland, all of which goes back to feeding the herd. The dairy employs 38 full-time workers, of which 80% have been there for three years and of those experienced staff, more than a third have 10 to 24 years with the dairy, Sheehan reports.


“Yes, we have people that have been with us for a long time,” Sheehan says. “If the pay was an issue with our employees, they would have gone and found work elsewhere.”