BERWICK — It’s a good time to be a Jersey farmer.
As of Feb. 1, Ontario is implementing a new payment schedule for dairy producers based on milk components that will boost the bottom-line for Jersey farmers.
Jerseys have been getting more popular and this is sure to help, said vice-president of Jersey Ontario Theo Elshof. The Berwick-area farmer, like many Jersey farmers, also has a few Holsteins to supplement his herd. But with an overall SNF ratio of around 1.8 and 100 or so kilos of quota, he’s expecting an $18,000 to $20,000 boost in his gross revenue from the new payment schedule. And the closer he can get to 2 (without going over), the more money he’ll make.
While it may not be enough for a Jersey renaissance (they make up about five per cent of the overall cow herd in Canada, whereas Holsteins are most of the remaining 95 per cent), Jerseys have been growing in popularity, he said. Many new entrants are turning to the breed and he’s heard of a few farmers even making the switch. Small, smart and feed-efficient, the breed is becoming more common in predominantly Holstein-based herds as well, he said, and that may be the way of the future. “Instead of 100 per cent of Jerseys or Holsteins, more mixed herds.”
The old system paid producers at the same rate for any solids-not-fats (SNF) in their milk, up to a ratio of 2.3 relative to their butterfat. So a farm shipping 100 kilos of butterfat could get paid for up to 230 kg of SNF.
The new system adds a new payment schedule for producers under that 2.3 ratio. Farms shipping under an SNF ratio below 2 get the biggest payout, whereas producers shipping above 2.2 will be penalized. Payments also go out based on how much of the production was at each ratio. So, for a 100 kilo farm, the first 200 kg of SNF would get the new, best price. The next 30 kg would get a lower price, and any SNF after the 230 kg wouldn’t make the farmer any money at all.
It’s a market-driven change that’s been a long time coming, said dairy consultant Jack Rodenburg. Much of the protein producers were getting paid extra to ship under the old system was pure waste, and ended up in manure tanks as often as in hog feed. This approach of adding a new payment schedule “is more complicated but it is definitely more logical,” he said.
While it’s a nice boost if you’ve got brown cows and maybe a pain if you’ve got black-and-whites, it’s likely not a game changer, he said. “For a large majority (of farms) the change in their milk cheque will be less than 1 per cent.” About 84 per cent of farms have an SNF ratio between 2 and 2.3, according to DFO.
Holstein producers likely won’t be running out to buy Jerseys but will probably focus on tweaking their feeding programs Rodenburg said. The only farmers looking to make major changes will be those with an SNF ratio higher than 2.3, who can expect to lose 25 cents per kilo of quota they’re over that ratio next year from the change. DFO numbers put around 13 per cent of dairy farms in Ontario above that ratio.