- Industry Profile
- Production Practices
- Nutrient Management
- Agricultural Engineering
- Business Management
The New Hampshire dairy industry consists of about 140 commercial dairy farms and 10 licensed goat farms, as well as many hobby, family and 4-H projects. There are about 18,000 mature milking animals on N.H. farms. The industry generates about 51 million dollars a year in revenue from the sale of milk. These farms utilize over 20,000 acres of land for forage crop production.
The high price of land makes it difficult to enter the dairy industry in N.H. Many farms are passed on from generation to generation. Entry-level operations get into business by leasing farms or purchasing farms that have had the development rights already purchased.
The majority of the dairy industry is found along the Connecticut River Valley on the western side and along the Merrimack River Valley in the center of the state. Grafton County, in the north, has the largest number of dairy farms.
There is one independent milk processor in N.H. and the bulk of the milk is shipped through cooperatives. There are five producer handlers who process and market their own milk.
Organizations that are involved with the dairy industry include: Granite State Dairy Promotion ; N.H. Farm Bureau, dairy committee; New England Dairy and Food Council; as well as various breed associations and the N.H. Purebred Dairy Cattle Association.
Most of the dairy cattle in N.H. are housed in free-stall barns and some of the smaller farms are tie-stalls. The majority of the farms feed stored forages throughout the year and a few use rotational grazing.
On the average, N.H. dairy farms utilize 1-2 acres of cropland per cow. Most farms depend heavily on rented land and pay $30-50 per acre for cropland.
A few farms purchase all of their forages, but most grow their own feed. Some larger farms have the heifers contract raised by growers. There is some custom hiring of specialized operations such as corn planting, field spraying, liquid manure spreading and crop harvesting.
Most dairy farmers in N.H. have a working relationship with their feed company representatives, who balance their rations on a regular basis. Most rations have a corn silage base with hay crop silage and dry hay. Concentrates are generally purchased either as separate commodities or as complete mixed feeds.
Generally rations are balanced according to the National Research Council (NRC) recommendations. Another reference used widely in New England is the Dairy Nutrition Manual, Bulletin No. 2107, a publication of the New England Committee on Dairy Nutrition.
The University of N.H. has done extensive work in protein nutrition, conducted by Dr. Charles Schwab. The purpose of his work is to determine the specific amino acid needs of dairy cattle and reduce protein feeding to lower the excretion of excess nitrogen. Work is also being done to promote lower levels of phosphorous feeding to reduce the accumulation of phosphorous on the land that is fertilized heavily with manure.
N.H. has a shortage of large animal veterinarians. Most dairy producers have learned a lot of the basic skills needed for routine animal care and often bring in veterinary specialists for reproductive herd health.
N.H. doesn’t have an official mastitis control program, but this service is provided as needed by UNH Cooperative Extension. Milk samples can be taken and analyzed at the State Diagnostic Lab at the University of N.H. The samples are cultured for bacteria and drug susceptibility and a treatment program is worked out with the producer and the veterinarian.
UNH Cooperative Extension has also done extensive work in the area of bio-security. Farm practitioners are encouraged to wash their boots or wear disposable ones. Producers have been encouraged to limit visitors and arrange their farmsteads to minimize contamination from older to younger animals during routine chores.
The N.H. Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food has set up a voluntary Johnes Control program. A producer can request a herd screening, and animals will be tested at no cost to the owner. On-farm “risk assessments” can also be provided by veterinarians with the cost covered by a Federal Grant program.
N.H. is a tuberculosis and brucellosis free state. Milk is checked twice a year with the brucellosis ring test. The TB testing program is on a three-year cycle
Reproductive health continues to be a major challenge among N.H. dairy producers. Producers are encouraged to establish a regular herd reproduction program with a veterinarian.
Hormone therapy and heat synchronization programs are widely used. Many N.H. farmers are involved with embryo transfer work with animals that have high genetic value.
N.H. is a selenium deficient area, so supplemental feeding and injections are recommended to promote good reproductive health.
There is limited artificial insemination service available. Most farmers have their own semen tanks and breed their own cows.
The state of N.H. operates by the Best Management Practices (BMPs) for agricultural production. These guidelines were written by agricultural specialists representing the Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food, USDA agencies and UNH Cooperative Extension. It is a voluntary program, but any violations are mediated by the N.H. Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food.
The BMPs establish practical guidelines for handling water run-off, manure storage, fertilize application, etc that promote good environmental stewardship. There are also guidelines for the land application bio-solids. Bio solids are monitored closely by the state and allowed in most towns.
UNH Cooperative Extension strongly promotes soil testing and recommends fertilizer levels in accordance to the land’s production capacity, soil type, nutrient content and crop produced. Soil testing forms are available at each county extension office.
The University of New Hampshire doesn’t have an agricultural engineer, but this service is available to N.H. farmers through the support of the Andrew C. and Margaret R. Sigler Foundation of Norwich, Vermont. This grant covers the cost of an on-site visit to N.H. farms to deal with agricultural engineering issues. The consultant engineer is Dr. Stan Weeks, formerly a Cornell professor and an Agway engineer, who is now an independent consultant.
Stan specializes in dairy, but can cover a broad area of technology issues. He has helped people with irrigation, apple storage, barn design, manure pits, etc. To obtain an appointment, call John Porter at (603) 225-5505 Ext. 22.
UNH also holds one of the most complete collections in the country of the old USDA Plan Service files. This includes old idea plans for many agriculturally related buildings, animal handling equipment, and speciality facilities. These are organized by the USDA plan number system and contain many things of interest to small scale and beginner farmers.
Traditionally dairy farms have left the marketing of their milk up to the distributor. More recently, however, with increased consolidation and frequent price fluctuation, producers have become more actively involved in marketing.
UNH Cooperative Extension has held several informative sessions about dairy marketing. There is also a milk marketing summit that is now held annually in the fall in Connecticut. New Hampshire and Vermont have a grant to support the milk marketing discussion group which holds several milk marketing sessions throughout the year and brings in nationally recognized speakers.
Milk promotion efforts are coordinated by Granite State Dairy Promotion. This has a director and a board made of producers and industry people who coordinate programs to promote the sale of milk.
The key extension person who has responsibilities in milk marketing is Michal Lunak – (603) 787-6944.
Help in dairy farm management is offered through UNH Cooperative Extension. This is done through personal farm visits and group meetings. The personal visits can cover areas of budgeting, business planning, estate planning, decision making, goal setting, etc.
Ag-Biz is a short course that runs for 4-5 sessions and teaches farmers management principles in classroom style. Several meetings are held each year under the heading of “Risk Management” and cover the areas of crop management, diversification, proper planning etc, to minimize risk.
Procuring labor is a major problem on N.H. dairy farms. The stronger the economy, the harder it is to find farm labor. Some of the larger farms have started to use immigrants from Mexico.
The going rate for general farm labor is between $8.00 - $10.00/hour. The annual salary for a herdsman is in the range of $25,000 per year, plus a house.
The primary reference for N.H. and Federal farm labor laws is the “Review of Selected State and Federal Laws that Apply to Agricultural Employees” supported by First Pioneer Farm Credit and UNH Cooperative Extension and written by Carol Zintel and Michael Sciabarrasi.
Dr. Pete Erickson – UNH Dairy Specialist
Tel No: (603) 862-1909
Michal Lunak – UNH Dairy Specialist
Tel No: (603) 787-6944
John Porter– Emeritus UNH Dairy Specialist
Tel No. (603) 862-1341
Dr. Drew Conroy – Thompson School, Dairy Professor
Tel No. (603) 862-2625
- Agricultural Databases for Decision Support (ADDS)
- Dairy Practices Council
- Granite State Dairy Promotion
- New England Dairy, Crops, and Livestock
- New England Dairy & Food Council
- Virtual Library for Dairy Production
- New England Agricultural Statistics
- Iowa State Extension Crop Publications
- Iowa State Extension Livestock Publications
- N.H. Farm Bureau
- N.H. Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food
- Management of Young Calves
- Feeding Wet Brewers Grain
- Harvesting, Storing and Feeding Haycrop Silage
- N.H. Breeding Log Book