USDA: dairy farmers enjoyed mild February temperatures - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New USDA numbers find dairy farmers enjoyed mild February temperatures

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

As a sixth generation dairy farmer, Dane Lang of Brooklyn knows all too well so much depends on what is beyond his control.

"No one expected milk prices to crash as quickly as it did, and no one expected milk prices to stay depressed as long as it did," Lang said.

The family business survived in 2009 what many others could not, when milk prices bottomed out after the recession.

Business has since been on the mend and here in the beginning of 2012, Lang has seen a boost from mother nature.

"The way we operate here on a daily basis, is solely dependent on what the weather is doing," he said.

The mild weather has meant good news for dairy farmers, who have seen record production in the month of February.

The United States Department of Agriculture reports a productive start to the year for the 23 major milk producing states.  Iowa farmers have seen a six percent increase this February when compared to that of 2011.

Industry experts say mild temperatures are part of the reason.

"The feed quality could be just as much as an impact from last year to this year, as well, but the weather definitely plays a big impact on how well cows produce milk," said Dr. Larry Tranel, dairy field specialist with the Iowa State Extension office in Dubuque.

While record temperatures have been welcomed during the winter months, above normal temperatures in the spring and summer hurt milk production.  Cows are most comfortable when temperatures are between 35 and 55 degrees.

"Cows are not like people where we can kind of withstand higher temperatures.  Cows can't," Tranel said.

Meaning for farmers like Lang, news of a good start to 2012 is tempered by the uncertainty that lies ahead.

He's already seen production drop off in March, after the record temperatures to start the spring.

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