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Technology Adoption Among Wisconsin's Dairy Farmers in the 1990s
Fact Sheets No. 15, June 2001
by Douglas Jackson-Smith and Bradford Barham

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Any discussion of the dairy industry must recognize the economic pressures currently faced by dairy farmers. Low milk prices, price volatility, and high input costs have resulted in tight profit margins – if not increasing debt load – for many of Wisconsin’s dairy farmers. In order to remain economically viable in light of these circumstances, dairy farmers feel competitive pressures to either increase herd numbers and/or productivity per cow. Most new technologies and management strategies aim to increase milk yields (e.g., use of rBST or milking 3 times a day) or to improve the labor efficiency of operations (e.g., parlor milking facilities). Alternatively, the use of low-cost technologies, facilities, and management practices (e.g., management intensive rotational grazing, or MIRG) can increase profitability by reducing costs of production and lower risk by demanding less fixed investments. A careful look at technology adoption among Wisconsin dairy farmers reveals a striking pattern of diversity, especially across farms of different scales of operation.

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