Richard C. Waybright
Mason Dixon Farms in Gettysburg, PA
Richard C. Waybright is president of Mason Dixon Farms in Gettysburg, PA. He grew up on the farm that forms the core of Mason Dixon operation, and provides a livelihood for the ninth generation of Waybrights to farm there. In addition to farming, Mr. Waybright has served as a dairy consultant, both in the United States, India, Eastern Europe, South America, China and Russia. His innovations in agricultural mechanization and technology have brought him national recognition. Mr. Waybright’s leadership extends to the political arena, where he served as Adams County Commissioner from 1991 to 1995. He has been a member of The Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture since 1980 and served as the Society’s President in 1992.
The dairy industry is undergoing dramatic change in the U.S. Ten years ago, the U.S. had 126,000 dairy farms that produced a total of 144 billion pounds of milk. Today, there are 70,000 dairy farms in the country and they produce 171 billion pounds of milk. Of those 70,000 dairy farms, two percent of them produce 37 percent of the nation’s milk. At the rate the concentration of dairy animals is going, in five to ten years, two percent of the diary farms will produce 80 percent of the milk. Cornell University has done a study concluding that by the year 2016, we will have fewer than 4,000 dairy farms in the U.S.
This rapid concentration of dairy animals has created a crisis in states like Pennsylvania. Agriculture is the number one industry in Pennsylvania, yet the average dairy herd size is less than 100 cows. It saddens me to say that the state of Vermont has three times as many 500-cow dairy herds than Pennsylvania. There is a growing number of dairies that are larger than Mason Dixon Farms’ 2,200 cow operation in Adams County. Bill Braum, in Oklahoma, has 17,000 cows and an Oregon operation has 30,000 cows. A 90,000-cow dairy is being planned in California.
The cost of producing of milk is closely related to labor costs. The average dairy produces 300,000 pounds of milk per worker per year. Larger dairies are much more efficient in this area. At Mason Dixon, we produce 1,800,000 pounds of milk per worker per year. Our farm is located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and consists of 2,500 acres, over 2,200 cows, and 1,600 replacement heifers. In 1979, we build an anaerobic digester system which produces biogas, which is used to produce all the electricity for the farms and four homes.
The farm has two double-12 rapid-exit milking parlors, a 25,000-bushel capacity computerized feed mill, and a 68-ft. by 152-ft. farm shop with overhead traveling crane. Digested manure goes to three holding lakes that total 30 acres of surface area. The liquid from the digested manure is applied to the crops during the growing season using center pivot irrigation.
Forages are harvested with a self-propelled mower that can mow 30 acres of hay per hour. Track-mounted forage choppers and hauling wagons enable Mason Dixon employees to move high volumes of forage from field to bunker silos on a timely basis and at the same time preventing the large equipment from compacting the soil or becoming bogged down in the fields.
The various federal farm programs that are supposed to be a safety net for farmers have had the effect of removing the incentive for farmers to innovate and cut costs. Consequently, many milk producers farm the way we did 40 years ago and are living at subsistence levels with small herds.
Yet there is lots of opportunity for Pennsylvania dairying. We have 40 percent of the people in the United States within a day’s trucking distance of our state. We will not have 20,000 cow dairies in Pennsylvania because the cost of hauling manure out and forages in is prohibitive with that many animals in one place.
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