By M. Bozic, J. Newton, C.S. Thraen, B.W. Gould
With the increased volatility of feed prices, dairy farm managers are no longer concerned with managing only milk price volatility, but are considering the adoption of risk management programs that address income over feed cost (IOFC) margin risk. Successful margin risk management should be founded on an understanding of the behavior of IOFC margins. To that end, we have constructed forward IOFC margins using Class III milk, corn, and soybean meal futures prices. We focus on the characteristics of the term structure of forward IOFC margins, that is, the sequence of forward margins for consecutive calendar months, all observed on the same trading day. Our research suggests that IOFC margins may exhibit slow mean-reverting, rather than predictable cyclical behavior, as is often suggested in the popular press. This finding can be exploited to design a successful catastrophic risk management program by initiating protection at 9 to 12 months before futures contract maturity. We analyzed the dynamics of realized IOFC margins in 2009 under 4 different risk management strategies and found that optimal strategies that were founded on the principles delineated above succeeded in reducing the decline in IOFC margins in 2009 by 93% for the Home-Feed profile and by 47% for the Market-Feed profile, and they performed substantially better than alternative strategies suggested by earlier literature.