Small Dairy


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Business & Financial Planning | Value-Added & Processing | Cattle Health | Dairy-Beef Production | Feed & Forages | Goats | Organic | General Resources

Business & Financial Planning

Financial Benchmarks for Small Dairies

This article helps dairies identify the strengths and weaknesses of their farms compared to other farms of similar size in New York State and to calculate financial benchmarks.  Available here.

Small Dairy Case Studies

These four case studies highlight unique examples of how small dairy operators made decisions to keep their farms profitable.

  1. Custom Hay Harvest for the Small Dairy, by Mariane Kiraly
  2. Achieving Low Costs of Producing a Cwt. of Milk, by John J. Hanchar
  3. Value-Added Dairy: Making Cheese, by Corey Hayes & Peggy Murray
  4. Consider Deep Pack Barns for Cow Comfort and Manure Management, by A. Fay Benson

Production Record Keeping Book for Grazing Dairies

Formatted and distributed to Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) offices statewide by Cornell Small Farms Program Small Dairy Work Team; printed funded by New York Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative; books are available to grazing dairies at no cost through local CCE office. Available as a PDF here.

Cash Flow Planning Help for NY Dairy Farms

New York dairy farmers can access free, on-farm confidential help with cash flow planning, thanks to grant funding from the NY Center for Dairy Excellence to NY Farm Net. Trained financial consultants work with farmers to develop business plans, analyze the feasibility of new business ventures, create cash flow plans, facilitate business transfer and succession planning, and provide other business management outreach to NY farmers, and those moving to the Empire State. To learn more about this service, call NY Farm Net toll free at 1-800-547-3276. The hotline is answered by a person 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Dairy Diagnostics Tool Box

University of Minnesota Extension Service The Minnesota Dairy Diagnostics Tool Box is intended to support dairy diagnostic team professionals in completing an accurate and comprehensive analysis of a dairy farm business.

New York Small Dairy Innovators: Successful Strategies for Smaller Dairies

The book features 7 small dairies all over NYS that have found methods of increasing profit and leisure time even in the face of a very challenging time for the dairy industry. Download in PDF.

Grazing Heifers: An Opportunity for Economic Growth

CCE educators compiled this resource of economic analysis for dairy farmers. Through the combined use of Management Intensive Grazing and winter confinement, dairy farmers can raise heifers that fit their operations through reduced cost of feed & labor, targeted growth goals, increased heifer fitness, and decreased post-calving metabolic problems. Download in PDF.

Value-Added & Processing

Off-Farm Processing Start-Up Fact Sheet

This PDF suggests first steps for dairy farmers considering adding direct sales of value-added dairy products to their business mix. Available here.

The Artisan Cheese Wedge

The Milk Quality Improvement Program at Cornell has recently published a newsletter with a mission “To advance the quality and safety of cheese through better communication, education, and networking.” The Artisan Cheese Wedge highlights issues in cheese production, upcoming cheese related events, and more. The most recent issue is available in PDF. To receive the newsletter via email contact

New York State Cheese Guild

The Guild addresses the need for a collective trade organization for the growing number of small-scale cheesemakers in New York State. The organization strives to develop a voice and a collective market presence for farm-based and artisan cheese makers.

Cornell Quality Milk Program

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Quality Milk Production Services provides laboratory testing for mastitis, milking equipment evaluation, milking parlor performance, milker training, and many other services.

University of Wisconsin Milk Quality Resources

The purpose of this University of Wisconsin site is to provide information and other resources related to the production of high quality milk.

Dairy Foods Extension Program

Cornell University’s Dairy Foods Extension Program offers training courses in cheesemaking, yogurt culturing, milk testing as well as the technologies and equipment needed for a safe and marketable product.

Artisan Cheese Map

This map, initially generated by Fay Benson, shows all the small dairy processing plants in New York state. This New York Artisan Cheese Map is available here.

Cattle Health

Penn State Dairy Cattle Nutrition

Penn State University Dairy and Animal Science Information on cow, calf, and heifer management, as well as some other cow-related links.

PRO-DAIRY Herd Health Resources

PRO-DAIRY, Department of Animal Science, Cornell University Click on “Herd Health” (in the left-hand menu) to access articles and links related to herd health.

New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program

A Cornell University initiative that aims to improve dairy herd health, productivity, and profitability; assure food safety, public health, and consumer confidence in dairy products; and to promote environmental stewardship.

Healthy Animals

The USDA publishes a quarterly online newsletter that compiles ARS news and expert resources on the health and well-being of agricultural animals and fish. An index lists ARS research locations covering about 70 animal health topics. The site also provides complete contact information for the more than 25 ARS research groups that conduct studies aimed at protecting and improving farm animal health.

Dairy-Beef Production

Dairy-Beef Production

Penn State University Cooperative Extension dairy-beef production guide for small-scale and part-time farming operations. Information on marketing, puchasing calves, health, nutrition, sample budget, and more. Publication is in PDF format.

Feed & Forages

Barley Fodder Feeding for Organic Dairies Webinar

In this webinar, John and Cornell’s Fay Benson will discuss the benefits and challenges of growing and feeding fodder to dairy animals. Other animals (from horses to chickens) also have benefited from the practice and their owners may be able to adopt the principles addressed in this webinar.

Sprouted Barley Fodder Forum

This Facebook group serves as a forum for dairy farmers who want to know more about using sprouted barley fodder as feedstock. Connect to the community of barley fodder producers and dairy farmers by posting questions and pictures and engaging with the group’s resources. Sign in to Facebook, and then click here.

Organic Dairy Forage and Grain Survey

Due to fluctuating precipitation in 2011, many farms are short of forage and grain. This shortage will be particularly stressful to organic dairies since they have limited options for buying replacement feed. The results of the mid-September 2012 survey were shared with the New York Organic Dairy Task Force at their November 2012 meeting. Available here.

Dairy Management Program Factsheets

Cornell’s Dairy Management Program provides a series of fact sheets and worksheets that cover a wide variety of topics, including: “Sampling Feeds for Molds,” “Dairy Herd Forage Inventory Worksheet,” “Molds and Mycotoxins,” and more. To view these resources, visit

Northern New York Corn Silage Trial Results and On-Farm Research

NY Corn Variety Field Trials, funded by the Northern NY Agricultural Development Program, are a help famers to select their corn silage hybrid varieties for the upcoming season. Cornell conducts these annual trials, providing the results to growers online. Other on-farm nutrient management research funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has helped North Country farmers reduce costs by showing that high-quality, strong-yield corn crops can be grown with less nitrogen fertilizer. All research results are posted on the site.


United Caprine News

United Caprine News is the largest and best read periodical serving the dairy goat industry. United Caprine News provides up-to-date news on everything from breeding, feeding and management, to health care and veterinary topics, club conferences and show dates, coverage of major shows and conventions, and the largest breeders advertising resource available in the industry.


Organic Dairy Transition Handbook from NOFA-NY

A Comprehensive Guide for the Transition and Beyond. Find the information to help you become an expert organic dairy farmer in this coil-bound book, from the Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY (NOFA-NY) Organic Dairy Transitions Project (ODT). With chapters on planning for the transition, certification, the organic milk market, organic soil management, pasture management, organic crop management, managing dairy nutrition, organic herd health, recordkeeping, and more written by agricultural professionals from around the Northeast, the guide is truly comprehensive. To order the guide or its companion self-assessment workbook, visit or call 607-625-6632.

Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance – NODPA

A web site of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association (NODPA) that includes links, directories, events information, marketing information, and much more on organic dairy production in the northeastern U.S. It also includes information about the mission of and membership in NODPA. This is a valuable resource for transitioning and existing organic dairies.

General Resources

Podcasts Available for Dairy Farmers

Dairy farmers have podcasts as a new resource for industry information from Purdue University. Purdue Dairy Digest, a podcast series created by three Purdue Extension animal science specialists are available for free download by noon each Wednesday. Each podcast runs about two minutes and includes both information directed to dairy farmers and some general information for the public. Podcasts include information on general dairy topics, management issues, animal welfare, updates on upcoming conferences and meetings and more.

PALS Publication List: Dairy

The Plant and Life Sciences Publishing (PALS) publications list with many titles relevant to small dairy producers.

The Dairy Practices Council

DPC is a non-profit organization of education, industry, and regulatory personnel concerned with milk quality, sanitation and regulatory uniformity. The DPC develops and disseminates educational guidelines for proper sanitation practices in the production/processing of milk, and the manufacture of dairy products. Guidelines also address many basic dairy management issues of interest to small dairies, for example: planning dairy stall barns; natural ventilation for dairy tie stall barns; tunnel ventilation for dairy tie stall barns; fundamentals of cleaning and sanitizing farm milk handling equipment; raw milk quality tests; and many, many more.

2011 Custom Rates and Fees for Machines

The Cornell Cooperative Extension Office of Franklin County presents a fact sheet detailing various custom costs for hiring machinery. This fact sheet is meant to be used as a guide in establishing custom rates for your farm. Example hiring costs include custom labor costs, hay harvesting costs, and tillage costs.

Online Workbook for Beginning Dairy Farmers and Processors

Users can walk through the process of setting up a dairy processing business from the planning stages to the implementation of all the small details. While the online workbook does not provide the same interactivity as the hands-on workshop, it provides a framework for beginning to think about a dairy farming or processing venture. ALBC’s goal is to help farmers find niche outlets for their rare breeds and rare breed products. As the market for rare breed dairy products grows, new farmers interested in these operations must be wise and informed to create financial success and to serve conservation. The workbook is also a great tool for those simply interested in starting a farm or farming business. The templates for business planning apply to any new farming venture that you may be interested in starting! View the workbook on the ALBC website at

Dairy Decision Support Tool

Several decisions are made daily on a dairy farm – some involve cow and labor management, other address crop and business concerns, and there are a host of others in between. Unfortunately, dairy producers do not always have enough information to make the best decisions for current circumstances. The Dairy Expansion Decision Support System – a decision support system designed to explore dairy farm production and expansion scenarios and simulate specific metrics of their performance – provides critical information dairy producers need to actively manage risk on their dairies. The versatility of the program’s structure offers potential use in several other areas including providing a tool for risk management in times of great uncertainty, particularly during periods of dairy expansion; accounting for future herd growth when considering livestock housing needs; and matching the proper facility design with specific user-defined goals in mind.


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