Dairy Day activities planned for Thursday

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A day for dairy farmers to learn the latest industry news andways to improve their product has been scheduled for Thursday at9:30 a.m. at the Lincoln County Multi-Use Facility.

Lincoln County Dairy Day, sponsored by the Mississippi StateUniversity’s Cooperative Extension Service, will provide farmerswith an opportunity to ask questions of the experts as well asreceive the latest industry news, said Perry Brumfield, LincolnCounty agent.

“The information being presented here can be very beneficial todairy farmers,” he said.

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Dairy prices remain strong after a banner year in 2004, but mostproducers will need to channel much of those profits to pay largeamounts of debt accumulated in previous years, he said.

Many dairy farms folded in the past seven to 10 years whenprices collapsed and failed to recover, Brumfield said. Those thatsurvived struggled – and many accumulated large debts.

The industry rebounded in 2004, said Bill Herndon, anagricultural economist with the agency, and milk prices exceededthe once-considered unreachable level of $20 per hundredweight,which was significantly higher than the previous record. However,there is little cause to celebrate.

“Most farmers have used these additional revenues to pay offdebts accumulated during 2002 and 2003 when they suffered andendured the lowest milk prices since 1978,” he said.

Lincoln County is no different, Brumfield said, and he hopessome of the information provided at Thursday’s event can helpfarmers continue to enjoy successful dairy operations.

Dairy experts will talk to farmers about a variety of subjects,including preliminary incubation (PI) cell counts, the nationalidentification program and a determination of where profits aremade and lost on dairy farms.

One of the major changes in the industry and a strengthening ofregulations concerning the PI counts, said Wesley Farmer, statedairy specialist. PI counts are used to determine the amount ofbacteria found in milk before it is pasteurized. Farmers are oftenfinancially penalized by purchasers if their PI count exceeds acertain level. If the count gets too high, producers won’t purchasethe product at all.

“They’ve increased the way they monitor milk quality to ensure ahigh quality product with a longer shelf-life and a better taste,”Farmer said.

Dr. Gary Hay, an extension specialist from Louisiana StateUniversity, will talk to farmers here about how PI counts canaffect profits and how to manage their dairies to ensure lowcounts.

A meal will be provided for attendees for the seminar, which isexpected to last much of the day.

The Mississippi dairy industry generated an estimated $267.4million in economic activity in 2004. Seventy-five percent of thestate’s dairy product is produced south of Jackson.

Lincoln County is fourth in the state in production with 25farms producing 26,483,003 pounds of milk in 2004. It trailedWalthall County (44 farms producing 53,424,748 pounds), Pike County(22 farms producing 38,595,091 pounds) and Marion County (18 farmsproducing 34,336,872 pounds). Amite and Newton counties round outthe top producers in the state.