ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- Dairy farm patrons of Grassland Dairy Products of Greenwood received their second alarming letter of this year from the dairy plant. The latest letter, dated September 5th, describes program adjustments Grassland is implementing as of October 1st of this year. The adjustments include lowering volume premiums and quality premiums, based on somatic cell counts, by about half for each category. Hauling charges to the Greenwood plant will also change as the dairy farmers will now be responsible for all costs to deliver their milk to the plant. The bottom line is that for a dairy farmer who ships about 20,000 pounds of milk a day to Grassland, his milk check will drop by about $6,000 a month, or $72,000 a year.
Dairy cow, courtesy: USDA
That news hits just as new numbers came out about how many dairy farms we have in Wisconsin. According to our state statistician, we now have less than 9,000 dairy farms as we have lost 477 herds since last September. The total is now down to 8,970 herds across the state as we are lost about 8 herds a week over the first 6 months of this year. But farms are getting bigger as we still have about 1.28 million head of milk cows and in 2016 they produced a record 30.1 billion pounds of milk. Clark County has the most dairy farms with 836 with Marathon county second with 539. The fewest number of herds are in Forest and Florence counties-they have 1 herd each. Back in 1950 when they first started keeping track of dairy farm numbers, Wisconsin had over 143,000 dairy operations.
More technology is coming to John Deere equipment. Deere and Company officials announced this week they have bought farm automation company Blue River Technology, headquartered in California. Blue River specializes in tractor towed robots that can examine individual plants and apply fertilizer and chemicals on an as needed basis to those individual plants. Right now the technology is used mostly in vegetable fields like lettuce. Deere officials say they should wrap up the deal yet this month at a sale price of around $305 million.
Food prices around the world fell in August. The United Nation's Food and Agricultural organization said the drop was almost 1 and a half percent as prices for grain, sugar and meat all fell. Cereal grain prices fell almost 5 and a half percent from a year ago.
It's a big weekend for agriculture in the Chippewa Valley-it's the 10th annual Farm City Days hosted this year in Eau Claire County at Bears Grass Dairy near Augusta. Today about 800 grade school children will have a field day to the farm to see how a modern dairy farm operates. Tomorrow the event will be open to the public for farm tours through the crops, dairy barn and conservation areas. Tomorrow's activities will start at 10 and run until 2 o'clock. Admission is free and lunch is available. The event is put on by agricultural leaders in Eau Claire, Chippewa and Dunn counties and host farms are rotated among the 3 counties.