Quantifying Heterogeneous Returns to Adoption of Genetics:
The Case of the Dairy Industry

with Brent Hueth and Guilherme Rosa
Forthcoming in “Economics of Research and Innovation in Agriculture”
Estimates of productivity growth in the dairy sector attribute as much as half of observed growth to genetic improvement. Our work decomposes total productivity change on Wisconsin dairy farms due to genetics into separate effects for genetic improvement and endogenous selection. Using data from a large sample of Wisconsin dairy farms and national-level data on dairy sire rankings, we find that endogenous selection accounts for as much as 75 percent of the total productivity improvement in our sample. Our results indicate that a large portion of productivity growth in dairy farming can be explained by farmers’ ability to identify and select genetics well suited to their production environment, and not solely the quality of the genetics they choose.

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Research Projects

Milked for All They Are Worth:
Livestock Replacement in a Dynamic Discrete Choice Model

Job Market Paper
This paper examines cow replacement decisions on over 1,000 Wisconsin dairy farms during the period 2011-2014 to discern whether unexpected cow mortality drives replacement decisions. I model the replacement decision using a dynamic discrete choice model and incorporate unplanned mortality as a source of uncertainty that drives farmers to replace dairy cows before they maximize production. I estimate the cost of premature mortality at 2,300 USD per death, 1,300 dollars more than estimates based on simulation studies. Utilizing farm size heterogeneity, I also find that mortality costs are three times higher on small dairies than on larger ones. This is more than twice what is calculated from simulations, which suggests dairy cow replacement models are at odds with producer behavior because they have underestimated the costs of declining animal health.

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The U.S. Farm Credit System and Agricultural Sector Growth:
Evidence from Early Expansion, 1920-1940

in Submission
This paper explores the impact of the expansion of the founding of the Production Credit Associations (PCA), an arm of the Farm Credit System, on agricultural yield and input use following the agricultural crisis of the 1920s. I estimate that counties 100 kilometers closer to a PCA had roughly 10\% higher crop revenue per acre and higher growth in use of fertilizer and tractors. This paper makes a significant contribution the literature on the impact of government sponsored enterprises on the early US agricultural economy and its use as a cost-effective tool to address market frictions.

Supply Response in Dairy Farming:
Evidence from Monthly, Animal-Level Data

with Brent Hueth, in Submission
We estimate short-run, price response in dairy farming using nearly 10 million monthly animal-level observations across 2,311 Wisconsin farms in the years 2011 to 2014. We control for herd size and account for the age distribution of dairy cattle to identify changes in variable inputs in response to price movements. We find heterogeneous supply response across the animal life cycle to lagged movements in monthly milk and beef prices. Specifically, we find the greatest supply response in age cohorts with relatively high marginal returns from feeding, with supply elasticities as high 0.286 for milk price and 0.713 for beef price.

Breeding Technology and the Valuation of Animal
Genetic Resources in the Senegalese Dairy Sector

with Karen Marshall and Ayao Missohou
We analyze the factors affecting willingness-to-pay (WTP) for artificial insemination (AI) breeding technology by smallholder dairy farmers in Senegal. AI is a critical tool for expanding access to new animal genetic resources and increasing livestock productivity in developing countries, but it faces significant barriers to adoption in Senegal despite government campaigns that provide new breeds with AI free of charge. We find that while WTP did not differ between the two methods for any breed on average, those with higher education and experience using a private sector provider valued AI more. Specifically, those using a private provider value AI up to 25% more than those using a public campaign. Our analysis elucidates the unique challenges of improving livestock productivity via adoption of AI when mass provision by the government can affect service quality and undermine future adoption.