Sept. 4 2014 07:37 AM

Partnering has benefits for both the entering and exiting generations.

FarmerFew dairymen readily admit when the time has come to retire. After pouring decades of blood, sweat and capital into their business, hanging up the milkers is likely the most difficult decision they will be faced with during their career. For those without a successive generation, the decision to exit the industry can be even more daunting. Partnering with a beginning dairy farmer can ease this transition while keeping the dairy in working order.

In its recent newsletter, the University of Wisconsin-Extension office in Fond Du Lac County highlighted its program which aims to connect beginning and exiting dairymen. LAND (Lakeshore Area Network for Dairy) is a program designed to assist people planning to enter or exit dairy farming throughout nine counties in northeastern Wisconsin.

Early in their career, beginning producers are faced with the challenges of accessing capital and building equity. Equity accumulation is often accomplished through a herd first strategy, where cattle inventory is built up before investments in fixed assets such as land or buildings are made. Unlike cows, which are relatively easy to buy and sell, buildings and equipment depreciate. Acquiring a herd first enables the beginning producer to generate income while managing debt.

According to the extension group, only 65 percent of beginning dairy farmers own land compared to 95 percent of all Wisconsin dairy farmers. Many beginning dairymen build equity through renting some or all of their ground until they are in a financial position to purchase a farm or land.

One way to ease the transition into and out of the business for the beginning and established producer, respectively, is to partner. The beginning producer gains a mentor while the existing farmer may find an individual to transfer the farm to.

Creating these links, though, has been a challenge for generations. This hurdle led to the creation of the LAND program by agricultural professionals in northeastern Wisconsin. The program is designed to:
• Link existing and beginning dairy producers in order to form a partnership or joint venture
• Provide beginning producers with an opportunity to locate and work with existing facilities and cows
• Aid exiting producers in transitioning out of the dairy business

For more information, contact UW-Extension Fond Du Lac County at 920-929-3171.
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The author, Amanda Smith, was an associate editor and an animal science graduate of Cornell University. Smith covers feeding, milk quality and heads up the World Dairy Expo Supplement. She grew up on a Medina, N.Y., dairy, and interned at a 1,700-cow western New York dairy, a large New York calf and heifer farm, and studied in New Zealand for one semester.