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Some Farmers Consider Culling Herds in Wake of Feed Shortage

Dairy farmers in upstate New York are considering their options as the drought impacts food supplies. Farmers say they could be forced to buy more forage to feed their cattle, or downsize their herds because there have been smaller harvests of corn and hay after a dry summer.

Dry weather this summer is expected to diminish the fall hay and corn silage harvest. Some dairy farmers will have to buy their feed elsewhere to make up for the smaller crop. But those prices are very high.  Jefferson County Cornell Cooperative Extension Dairy Livestock Educator Ron Kuck says farmers will make sure they have enough food for their herd, but are considering several options, including culling.

Despite New York farmers being in a better position than Midwest and western states that are more impacted by the drought, New York Farm Bureau Director of Public Policy Julie Suarez says they still face difficult business decisions.

The availability of food for dairy cows varies widely throughout the Northeast.  Agrimark Dairy Economist Bob Wellington notes that there aren’t many alternative feed options.

The Farm Bureau’s Julie Suarez expects a slightly higher cull rate if a farmer chooses that option.

Cooperative Extension’s Ron Kuck believes most New York farmers are close to having enough feed.

Most culled cattle are lower production animals and those with health issues or defects.