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Mount Joy Farmers Co-operative
Record production and quality celebrated

During the Perry County meeting of Mount Joy Farmers Cooperative Tues., Jan. 21, Mark Brandt, Shippensburg (center) was awarded the "Superior Management Award" for 5 years of consecutive quality premiums by co-op manager Gib Martin (left) and Board President Don Risser (right). Photo provided.

By SHERRY BUNTING
Special for Farmshine

EPHRATA, Pa. – “2013 was a great year for our co-op,” said Mount Joy Farmers Cooperative Association President Don Risser Monday, Jan. 20 at the annual membership meeting attended by over 200 here in Ephrata. A second meeting with similar attendance was held Tuesday, Jan. 21 in Perry County.

“We continue to be the milk market of choice and our numbers are increasing,” Risser continued. “Our geography keeps stretching by the inquiries we get.”

Kurtis Groff of Simon Lever qualified Risser’s statements, reporting that the Lancaster County-based co-op saw a record 640 million pounds of milk shipped in 2013. “This is the seventh consecutive year of increased membership (at 325 farms) and increased production – up 6% over last year,” said Groff.

The co-op’s average milk price of $21.12 for 2013 came in just shy of Mount Joy’s 2011 record and was $1.76 higher than 2012.

Groff also noted that costs continue to increase, mainly due to higher costs of transportation. Mount Joy milk traveled 2.59 million miles last year and more of those miles were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike with higher tolls also affecting costs.

The co-op’s mailbox milk price for 2013 – net of all costs – was $20.05, which is up $1.74 from 2012.

Risser congratulated co-op members for continually improving their milk quality. “One-third of our producers made the quality bonus every single month last year, and over 80% made the quality bonus at least six months of the year,” he said. “That is a great tribute to our dairymen.”

Co-op manager Gib Martin congratulated members for continual improvement in milk quality, noting that the average somatic cell count for all 325 Mount Joy Farmers Co-op members was the best yet at 209,000 last year.

He also noted that the co-op's average production was up by 1000 pounds/farm/year. “We had 38 new starts in 2013 and 28 farms that went out of the dairy business,” he said. “Of those, 15 have barns sitting empty.” Martin observed that this seems to be a trend among 40 to 50 cow dairies where the owners continue cash cropping and the dairy barns sit idle.

Giving a sense for the co-op's daily operations, Martin said trucks run an average of 34 routes per day, transporting an average of 1.75 million pounds of milk per day.

Risser talked about the Gold Standard certification under the FARM program of animal care. Mount Joy will begin participating in this industry-wide program. Martin added that the goal is to have one-third of the members certified in 2014.

“We as producers are under more scrutiny and regulations. This program is not rocket science. It gives us a way to record and communicate what we all do all the time in taking care of our animals,” said Risser.

“We expect consistent production from our cows so we can’t afford to be inconsistent in providing their care.”

Risser also urged fellow dairymen to be smart during these times of strong prices and modest feed costs.

“We cannot expect this to last forever,” he said. “Take time to learn and use the marketing tools that are available to protect your future price.”

At the Perry County meeting, Mark Brandt of Shippensburg was recognized with the Supreme Dairy Management Award for his five years of un-interrupted milk quality bonuses. The co-op’s top 10 producers were noted as Brubaker Farms, Meadow Vista Farms, Walnut Run Farms, Amos Conley Farms, George Rohrer, Todd Miller, Landyshade Dairy Farms, Ray Hershey, Myron Gehman and Faron Martin. Additionally, 110 dairy producers were recognized on the 12-month milk quality honor roll.