Summer just wouldn’t be the same without dripping ice cream cones, melted cheese on hamburgers, and a nice cold glass of milk with dinner. Milk is plentiful in our area thanks to our region’s dairy farmers that work tirelessly to provide safe, high quality, low cost dairy products for our families to enjoy. We’re especially enjoying dairy this month as we celebrate “June is Dairy Month” across the country.
In the Southwest New York region (encompassing Steuben, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, and Erie counties) there are over 680 dairy farms. Those farms care for 75,000 dairy cows that produce enough milk to provide three servings of dairy to 2 million people every day. This milk travels from farms to local facilities where it is bottled into milk for schools and stores, made into blocks and slices of cheese, and cultured for products like yogurt and buttermilk.
Dairy is a yearlong operation where farms and employees provide quality care to cows every day of the year, regardless of holidays, cold weather, or other challenges. Routine tasks take place like cleaning and checking the health of cows, providing fresh feed and water multiple times of day, and milking 2-3 times a day. To help make all of this happen efficiently and smoothly, farm owners and managers employ others and work with many different agri-service providers.
An average 100 cow dairy farm will need about 2.5 employees to make everything run smoothly, including both family partners and full or part time paid employees. However, these are just the people employed by that particular farm. There are many hands at work on a dairy farm, including the services of others like veterinarians, nutritionists, milk haulers, hoof trimmers, consultants, and many more. So, although that specific farm might only have 2.5 people on their payroll, the impact a single dairy farm has on the job market is valuable.
From an economic view point, dairy is big news in our region and provides many economic benefits. Studies show that for every $1 a farmer receives, $2.29 is generated in the local community. Farming remains inherently local – the store where feed for the animals is purchased is a short drive away, the tractor repair business is down the road, and the veterinarian the farm uses is close enough to answer calls within a short time.
A single 100 cow dairy farm could have as much as a $2.78 million economic effect in the region and create 29 direct and indirect jobs. It takes a lot of moving pieces to take a raw product like milk and turn it into goods we can purchase and enjoy. These moving pieces provide jobs, economic activity, and a supply chain whose upmost priority is safety and quality.
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When it comes to the environment, dairy farms work as stewards to protect our rural landscape in a sustainable manner. Dairy farms must meet certain state and federal requirements for manure storage and handling by following detailed nutrient management plans. These efforts help to protect local waterways and conserve soil. Some dairy farms even have systems in place that use a methane digester to take waste and generate electricity that powers the farm and their surrounding community. Farms also use their cattle’s waste as a natural fertilizer to return critical nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to the soil.
Dairy farmers farm for many different reasons — but one of the most important is that they like cows! Cows are incredible animals that work efficiently to take products humans can’t consume and turn them into things we can. In order to do this, they need to be cared for humanely and precisely. For cows, this includes fans and sprinklers to beat the summer heat, regular “pedicures” to keep their hooves at a comfortable length, and monthly check-ups with the vet. Dairy farmers even employ nutritionists to create specialized diets that are uniquely formulated to meet the needs of cows depending on their lactation and pregnancy status.
Let’s not forget about the end product — milk. Milk is a low-cost way to access high quality nutrition. One serving of milk contains 8 grams of protein along with calcium, vitamins A, B2 & B12, and D; potassium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, omega 3’s, and more. Drinking milk is associated with lower incidences of osteoporosis and age-related muscle loss, and increased physical performance.
This June we celebrate our community’s dairy farmers that care for cows, the environment, and provide healthy and safe products that we can all use to feed ourselves and our families! Support your local dairy farmer by choosing real milk at the grocery store, requesting an extra slice of cheese on your sandwich, and driving carefully behind tractors and other slow moving vehicles this season.
SWNYDLFC is a partnership between Cornell University and the CCE Associations of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Steuben counties. Their team includes Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Farm Business Management (716-640-0522) and Amy Barkley, Livestock Management (716-640-0844). CCE is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities.