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Small Dairy

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Business & Financial Planning | Value-Added & Processing | Cattle Health | Dairy-Beef Production | Feed & Forages | Goats | Organic | General Resources

Business & Financial Planning

Financial Benchmarks for Small Dairies

This article helps dairies identify the strengths and weaknesses of their farms compared to other farms of similar size in New York State and to calculate financial benchmarks.  Available here.

Production Record Keeping Book for Grazing Dairies

The Cornell Small Farms Program Small Dairy Work Team formatted and distributed this record keeping book to Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) offices statewide, with printing funded by New York Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative. Print books are available to grazing dairies at no cost through local CCE office, or you can download it as a PDF: Dairy Herd Production Record Book.

Click here for the Excel spread sheet version of the CU Dairy Account Book: Cornell Account Book.xls

Cash Flow Planning Help for NY Dairy Farms

New York dairy farmers can access free, on-farm confidential help with cash flow planning, thanks to grant funding from the NY Center for Dairy Excellence to NY Farm Net. Trained financial consultants work with farmers to develop business plans, analyze the feasibility of new business ventures, create cash flow plans, facilitate business transfer and succession planning, and provide other business management outreach to NY farmers, and those moving to the Empire State. To learn more about this service, call NY Farm Net toll free at 1-800-547-3276. The hotline is answered by a real person 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Grazing Heifers: An Opportunity for Economic Growth

CCE educators compiled this resource of economic analysis for dairy farmers. Through the combined use of Management Intensive Grazing and winter confinement, dairy farmers can raise heifers that fit their operations through reduced cost of feed & labor, targeted growth goals, increased heifer fitness, and decreased post-calving metabolic problems. Download in PDF:

Funding for Dairy Profit Team

The New York Farm Viability (NYFVI) Dairy Profit Team program encourages dairy farmers to use a team-based approach to evaluate their operations and identify areas to improve performance and profits.  Farmers select their own team members and determine where they will focus. Team members often include veterinarians, nutritionists and financial service professionals. NYFVI will reimburse 80% of fees associated with each meeting with a maximum total reimbursement of $2,500. Participating farms are required to hold 7 meetings over 15 months. Apply at 

Small Dairy Case Studies

These four case studies highlight unique examples of how small dairy operators made decisions to keep their farms profitable.

  1. Custom Hay Harvest for the Small Dairy, by Mariane Kiraly
  2. Achieving Low Costs of Producing a Cwt. of Milk, by John J. Hanchar
  3. Value-Added Dairy: Making Cheese, by Corey Hayes & Peggy Murray
  4. Consider Deep Pack Barns for Cow Comfort and Manure Management, by A. Fay Benson

New York Small Dairy Innovators: Successful Strategies for Smaller Dairies

The book features 7 small dairies all over NYS that have found methods of increasing profit and leisure time even in the face of a very challenging time for the dairy industry. Download in PDF:

Dairy Diagnostics Tool Box

University of Minnesota Extension Service The Minnesota Dairy Diagnostics Tool Box is intended to support dairy diagnostic team professionals in completing an accurate and comprehensive analysis of a dairy farm business.

Value-Added & Processing

Off-Farm Processing Start-Up Fact Sheet

This Cooperative Extension fact sheet suggests first steps for dairy farmers considering adding direct sales of value-added dairy products to their business mix. Available as a PDF at

Dairy Foods Extension Program

Cornell University’s Dairy Foods Extension Program offers training courses in cheesemaking, yogurt culturing, milk testing as well as the technologies and equipment needed for a safe and marketable product.

Cornell Quality Milk Program

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Quality Milk Production Services provides laboratory testing for mastitis, milking equipment evaluation, milking parlor performance, milker training, and many other services.

University of Wisconsin Milk Quality Resources

The purpose of this University of Wisconsin site is to provide information and other resources related to the production of high quality milk.

Artisan Cheese Map

This map, initially generated by Fay Benson, shows all the small dairy processing plants in New York state. This New York Artisan Cheese Map is available here.

Penn State Extension Cheese Tracking System

The Penn State Extension Cheese Tracking System is designed to help cheesemakers track the quality and consistency of their cheese. By defining and monitoring measurable parameters, cheesemakers can understand how variation in raw materials and processes can impact the sensory characteristics and quality of their cheese. This information can help cheesemakers adjust their practices to consistently make better cheese and troubleshoot problems. This system was developed for small-scale cheesemakers because they often have multiple responsibilities and a small staff, which leaves little time to develop their own comprehensive record-keeping system. The system is designed to be adaptable, and it may be of use to larger-scale cheesemakers and manufacturers of other dairy products that wish to modify the tracking templates for their products and processes. Download the Cheese Tracking System:

Cattle Health

New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program

A Cornell University initiative that aims to improve dairy herd health, productivity, and profitability; assure food safety, public health, and consumer confidence in dairy products; and to promote environmental stewardship.

PRO-DAIRY Herd Health Resources

Cornell PRO-DAIRY facilitates New York State economic development by increasing the profitability and competitiveness of its dairy industry. Click on “Herd Health” (in the left-hand menu) to access articles and links related to herd health.

Dairy-Beef Production

Dairy-Beef Production

This Penn State University Cooperative Extension dairy-beef production guide is for small-scale and part-time farming operations. It contains information on marketing, purchasing calves, health, nutrition, a sample budget, and more.

Feed & Forages

Barley Fodder Feeding for Organic Dairies Webinar

In this webinar, organic dairy farmer John Stoltzfus and Cornell’s Fay Benson discuss the benefits and challenges of growing and feeding fodder to dairy animals. Other animals from horses to chickens also have benefited from the practice and their owners may be able to adopt the principles addressed in this webinar.

Sprouted Barley Fodder Forum

This Facebook group serves as a forum for dairy farmers who want to know more about using sprouted barley fodder as feedstock. Connect to the community of barley fodder producers and dairy farmers by posting questions and pictures and engaging with the group’s resources. Sign in to Facebook, and then click here.

Dairy Management Program Factsheets

Cornell’s Dairy Management Program provides a series of fact sheets and worksheets that cover a wide variety of topics, including: “Sampling Feeds for Molds,” “Dairy Herd Forage Inventory Worksheet,” “Molds and Mycotoxins,” and more.

Northern New York Corn Silage Trial Results and On-Farm Research

NY Corn Variety Field Trials, funded by the Northern NY Agricultural Development Program, help farmers to select their corn silage hybrid varieties for the upcoming season. Cornell conducts these annual trials, providing the results to growers online. Other on-farm nutrient management research funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has helped North Country farmers reduce costs by showing that high-quality, strong-yield corn crops can be grown with less nitrogen fertilizer. All research results are posted on the site.


United Caprine News

United Caprine News is the largest and best read periodical serving the dairy goat industry. United Caprine News provides up-to-date news on everything from breeding, feeding and management, to health care and veterinary topics, club conferences and show dates, coverage of major shows and conventions, and the largest breeders advertising resource available in the industry.


The Organic Dairy Initiative

This Cornell initiative provides information to all parts of the organic dairy industry, including the consumer, dairy retailer, dairy processor, organic certifier, and farmers. The information provided on these web pages will enable New York State to grow this new dairy industry into a viable farming style that responds to the needs of its consumers, its environment, and its farmers.

Organic Dairy Transition Handbook from NOFA-NY

A Comprehensive Guide for the transition and beyond. Find the information to help you become an expert organic dairy farmer in this coil-bound book from the Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY (NOFA-NY) Organic Dairy Transitions Project (ODT). With chapters on planning for the transition, certification, the organic milk market, organic soil management, pasture management, organic crop management, managing dairy nutrition, organic herd health, recordkeeping, and more written by agricultural professionals from around the Northeast, the guide is truly comprehensive. To order the guide or its companion self-assessment workbook, visit or call 607-625-6632.

Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance – NODPA

A web site of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association (NODPA) that includes links, directories, events information, marketing information, and much more on organic dairy production in the northeastern U.S. It also includes information about the mission of and membership in NODPA. This is a valuable resource for transitioning and existing organic dairies.

General Resources

Online Workbook for Beginning Dairy Farmers and Processors

Users can walk through the process of setting up a dairy processing business from the planning stages to the implementation of all the small details. While the online workbook does not provide the same interactivity as the hands-on workshop, it provides a framework for beginning to think about a dairy farming or processing venture. ALBC’s goal is to help farmers find niche outlets for their rare breeds and rare breed products. As the market for rare breed dairy products grows, new farmers interested in these operations must be wise and informed to create financial success and to serve conservation. The workbook is also a great tool for those simply interested in starting a farm or farming business. The templates for business planning apply to any new farming venture that you may be interested in starting!

Dairy Decision Support Tool

Several decisions are made daily on a dairy farm – some involve cow and labor management, others address crop and business concerns, and there are a host of others in between. Unfortunately, dairy producers do not always have enough information to make the best decisions for current circumstances. The Dairy Expansion Decision Support System – a decision support system designed to explore dairy farm production and expansion scenarios and simulate specific metrics of their performance – provides critical information dairy producers need to actively manage risk on their dairies. The versatility of the program’s structure offers potential use in several other areas including providing a tool for risk management in times of great uncertainty, particularly during periods of dairy expansion; accounting for future herd growth when considering livestock housing needs; and matching the proper facility design with specific user-defined goals in mind.

Dairy Farm Energy Efficiency Guide

Rising energy costs and environmental concerns are causing dairy farmers to alter their management practices. Dairy farmers are analyzing their energy inputs and investing in cost-effective energy conservation and energy efficiency measures. This ATTRA publication provides an overview of how dairy farms can implement efficiency improvements and energy-saving technologies that can reduce energy consumption and energy-related costs.

Podcasts Available for Dairy Farmers

Dairy farmers have podcasts as a new resource for industry information from Purdue University. Purdue Dairy Digest, a podcast series created by three Purdue Extension animal science specialists are available for free download by noon each Wednesday. Each podcast runs about two minutes and includes both information directed to dairy farmers and some general information for the public. Podcasts include information on general dairy topics, management issues, animal welfare, updates on upcoming conferences and meetings and more.

PALS Publication List: Dairy

The Plant and Life Sciences Publishing (PALS) publications list includes many titles relevant to small dairy producers.

The Dairy Practices Council

DPC is a non-profit organization of education, industry, and regulatory personnel concerned with milk quality, sanitation and regulatory uniformity. The DPC develops and disseminates educational guidelines for proper sanitation practices in the production/processing of milk, and the manufacture of dairy products. Guidelines also address many basic dairy management issues of interest to small dairies, for example: planning dairy stall barns; natural ventilation for dairy tie stall barns; tunnel ventilation for dairy tie stall barns; fundamentals of cleaning and sanitizing farm milk handling equipment; raw milk quality tests; and many, many more.

2018 Custom Rates and Fees

The Cornell Cooperative Extension Office of Franklin County presents a fact sheet detailing various custom costs for hiring machinery. This fact sheet is meant to be used as a guide in establishing custom rates for your farm. Example hiring costs include custom labor costs, hay harvesting costs, and tillage costs.

Food Safety Resources

Food safety systems help to ensure the safety of your food products, protecting both your consumers and your business. This Cornell Dairy Extension webpage is intended to assist you in developing plans for your facility through examples, templates, resources, and practical information such as good manufacturing practices. View the website at


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