Dairy center intent on support system
Goal is to maintain, strengthen dairy industry
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
CALMAR, Iowa -- Iowa needs to turn around declining cow numbers to protect the dairy industry's future in the state, says Nick Rolling, president of the Northeast Iowa Community-Based Dairy Foundation dairy center.
Cow numbers in Iowa have gone from 241,00 to 210,000 in the last five years. If that trend continues, cow numbers will be down to 175,000 cows in another five years, Rolling said. Although milk per cow is increasing, Rolling doubts that the 3 percent-per-year gain seen the last five years will continue.
"The message is that we have a lot of work to do if we want to get off this trend,'' Rolling said. "We not only want to maintain what we have, we'd like to grow.''
The first goal is grow existing dairy farm families. The foundation is developing a relief milking organization so that families can get away once in a while. The foundation will also work on developing a resource center and a resource team at Calmar to help producers who want to modernize, expand or start dairy operations.
The foundation will continue to offer education programs to farm families and encourage students to think about starting dairy operations.
"We want the center to be a place people can call to help them sort things out, find contacts, get names of farms to visit,'' Rolling said. "We want to provide unbiased consulting. We want to be the place people turn for good direction.''
The foundation's second goal is to foster the development of new family dairy operations. The foundation will offer education programs for potential new operators and help develop incentive packages. The foundation will work with groups such as Ag-Connect and Farm-On, which now assist beginning farmers.
The foundation's third goal is to recruit dairy families to northeast Iowa.
"Iowa is a good place to have a dairy farm,'' Rolling said. "We have land, feed, markets. The big word here is 'families.' We aren't looking for huge operations where the owner lives in some other state. We don't think that fits our environment. Our goal isn't just growth. Our goal is growth of family farmers as it impacts local communities and main streets.''
The foundation's fourth goal is to improve dairy's image.
The fifth goal is to support niche dairy operations through the dairy center's resources.