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Wisconsin dairy producer survey provides industry insight

Survey questions were said to cover topics such as markets, labor needs, off-farm employment, conservation practices, retirement planning and more
FILE - Cows on pasture at the University of Vermont dairy farm eat hay in a Thursday, July 23,...
FILE - Cows on pasture at the University of Vermont dairy farm eat hay in a Thursday, July 23, 2020 file photo, in Burlington, Vt. The dairy industry has a familiar question for you: “Got milk?” Six years after the popular tagline was retired, “Got milk?” ads are back. The dairy industry is reviving the campaign hoping to prolong the U.S. sales boost milk has gotten during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathk, Filee)(Lisa Rathke | AP)
Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 9:13 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has shared the results of its 2020 dairy producer survey, providing insight to the industry.

The survey was developed by DATCP with UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (UW-CALS) and distributed in March, just before the outbreak of COVID-19, according to a DATCP news release.

Of the 7,100 licensed dairy herd owners in the state, 2,871, or 41 percent, of surveys were completed.

Survey questions were said to cover topics such as markets, labor needs, off-farm employment, conservation practices, retirement planning and more. DATCP says some producers referenced COVID-19 in their answers, but overall the pandemic did not have a significant influence on the results of the survey.

“Since the last dairy producer survey was conducted ten years ago, Wisconsin’s dairy industry has changed,” said Krista Knigge, administrator of DATCP’s Division of Agriculture Development. “Even during COVID-19, this is an opportunity to assess the state of the industry and current demographics, and learn more about how DATCP and other partners can serve as a resource to dairy producers.”

Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis at UW-CALS, said the results will provide new insight that will aid in university research and outreach to better address the practices and challenges of Wisconsin’s dairy producers.

Findings from the survey, as listed in the news release, include:

  • Almost 90 percent of respondents were conventional farms; 11 percent utilize managed intensive grazing; and nine percent classified themselves as organic.
  • Two-thirds of respondents were sole proprietorships.
  • Just under one-quarter of respondents reported they will need additional labor within the next two years. Most indicated they would consider hiring a military veteran, and just under half reported they would consider hiring a person who has been incarcerated.
  • About one-fifth of respondents reported providing housing for employees.
  • Almost 60 percent of respondents use cover crops to manage soil health and erosion. 70 percent use grassed waterways.
  • Almost 10 percent of respondents felt the need to access mental health services in the past year due to farming challenges.
  • Nearly half of the respondents said at least some portion of their family income comes from off-farm employment.
  • Nearly half of those responding said the farm’s “primary decision maker” was in the 50-64 age range.
  • Looking to the future, 83 percent of respondents said they believe their operation will still be farming in five years.

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