The biggest challenges to dairy grazing remain the things producers can’t control – weather and price volatility. Southwest Missouri producer Charles Fletcher tells Brownfield they’re getting a pretty good price for milk now and hay stocks are looking good. But that’s not always been the case.
Fletcher explains why he switched his operation from conventional dairy to grazing intensive in 1997. Fletcher tells Brownfield Ag News, “I’d say first and foremost, economics. We ran into a year in 1996 where grain prices were high, similar to what they were last year and it forced us to look at alternative ways to feed the cows and the thing that was abundant on our farm was grass.”
Fletcher says they got by with help from friends in the drought of 2011 and ’12, when pastures dried up and they had to buy feed. “When we do that it increases our costs and obviously reduces our bottom line. But by having good relationships with other farmers in the area we were able to purchase feed. It was available to us, at a higher cost, but it was available to us and that allowed us to get through.”
Fletcher and his family runs two grazing dairies with 700 cows. The southwest Missouri region has about 100 dairy grazing operations with upwards of 10-thousand cows. He’s one of the organizers of the Missouri Dairy Grazing Conference held last week in Springfield, Missouri.