It's National Dairy Month, a great time to thank dairy farmers who lead New York as the fourth largest dairy producing state in the country.
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There are more than 3,600 dairy farms throughout the state, and with rising fuel and labor costs, as well as changing weather, it’s a challenging time across the board.

Jon Patterson is a sixth generation farmer and runs Patterson Farms near Auburn in Cayuga County.

“Fuel costs, all these things that are going on, are really having a challenging time for us right now,” said Patterson.

Despite economical challenges, Patterson is committed to delivering a great product. He and his family, along with about 25 employees, work hard to make sure about 2,800 cows are getting efficient feed each day.

“There’s 1,700 where we can call them lactating, where they actually can give milk or have given milk in the last year, and then there’s another 1,100 young stock that have never given milk yet,” he said. “Each cow eats about 135 pounds of food a day and can drink up to 50 gallons, or a bathtub, of water a day,” said Patterson.

Patterson says it’s important the corn and hay mixture the animals are consuming is just right for them, and that’s where the weather comes in.

Across the road from his barn, Patterson is growing corn for the cows on several acres of his land that will be harvested in September. Generally, hot and humid weather with the right mix of rain is ideal for growing the best corn for feed.

A good growing season will cut down on costs to bring in feed from elsewhere. But what’s good for the corn isn’t always good for the cows.

“If we have the hot muggy day, lots of days like that with rain every week, an inch of rain every week, that’s great for the corn. But, that’s not great for the cow. We get into the 90s, she’s really stressed, and these muggy days, they’re stressed,” said Patterson.

The main goal is to keep the cows cool, calm and comfortable.

“It’s a complete science; there’s a lot more into it than I know most days. But, if the diet isn’t right, the cows will tank right down on milk,” said Jon’s son, Tad Patterson, who also works on the farm.

That’s why fans and sprinkler systems are used in the barn this time of year. When the cows are brought into the parlor for milking, they will produce the best milk possible.

“Our goal is happy, healthy cows because they’ll make more milk doing that,” said Patterson.

According to the American Dairy Association, northeast dairy farms in New York State have a total economic impact of $39.6 billion annually.

At the midpoint of the year, the all-milk price forecast for 2022 is a whopping $26.20 per hundredweight (cwt), according to the June 2022 USDA/ERS Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook report.

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