Sept. 17 2013 07:09 AM

Data collection for the national dairy survey will begin in early 2014.

Dairy producers across the country will be asked to participate in a survey that will postulate benchmarking data for the whole industry. The USDA's National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) with launch its sixth national dairy study in January 2014.

Dairy 2014 will take an in-depth look at U.S. dairy operations. It will provide the industry with new and valuable information regarding trends and changes in the dairy industry from 1991 to 2014.

Starting in January, representatives from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will contact selected producers in 18 states. NASS representatives will conduct personal interviews with all participating operations with 30 or more cows, while those with less than 30 cows will complete a brief mailed questionnaire.

Operations that choose to continue with the study will be visited by a USDA Veterinary Services representative between March and May of next year. This person will administer a second questionnaire, perform a lameness evaluation and collect milk and fecal samples.

Participating farms will receive customized reports describing animal welfare, calf and heifer growth and efficiency, and milk and meat drug residue risks on their operation. This in-depth analysis will show the farm opportunities to improve the health and productivity of their herd. The final report compiling all the data will allow participating farms to compare themselves to other operations across the country.

The dairy industry as a whole benefits from this data. Current and scientifically valid estimates of management practices, disease prevalence, and other dairy trends provide benchmarks other producers can use to evaluate their own operation. Dairy companies utilize this data to better serve their customers, and recognizing trends also helps the industry implement practices that improve farm productivity, environmental stewardship and food safety.

NAHMS collects data in a scientific manner, and the privacy of all participants is protected. No name or contact information is associated with data. Data are presented only in an aggregate manner.

The USDA has been gathering data and providing benchmarks for the agricultural industry for decades. Soon, it will be dairy's turn to step up to the plate again. If called on to participate, we urge you to give it serious consideration. The data collected by NAHMS will provide benchmarks that will benefit many in the dairy industry.
Abby blog footer
The author is an associate editor and covers animal health, dairy housing and equipment, and nutrient management. She grew up on a dairy farm near Plymouth, Wis., and previously served as a University of Wisconsin agricultural extension agent. She received a master's degree from North Carolina State University and a bachelor's from University of Wisconsin-Madison.