Though treacherous weather sabotaged a few speakers’ efforts to travel to the event, conference organizers employed technology to deliver presentations for those unable to attend in person, keeping the program schedule intact.
Attendees learned the latest on a variety of topics ranging from recommendations for managing herd health issues to a comprehensive overview of federal dairy policy.
Presented as a webinar, the opening session with Diane Leonard, vice president of Strategic Initiatives for Dairy Management Inc., and Rachel Weber, dairy scientist with Dairy Management Inc., shared insight into a side of the dairy industry that most producers don’t get to see or hear from every day – the research, innovation and retail side of product sales.
Dairy food scientists, for example, participate in every step of McDonald’s new product development process, which can take up to two years from concept to launch.
“Dairy-based menu items are extremely popular at quick-service restaurants, and lots of opportunity remains to be explored in (dairy) beverages and as an ingredient in other products,” Leonard shared. “McDonald’s does plan to add more dairy-based food options to their Happy Meals over the next couple of years, but we’re also testing new recipes with yogurt. Yogurt may be a viable and healthy solution for decreasing fat and enhancing flavor in salad and burger dressings.”
The first day’s second speaker, Mark Thomas, also spoke via webinar. He is an Ohio dairy farmer and seven-time International Hot Rod Association World Champion and the first person to drive an alcohol funny car entirely powered by ethanol and lubricated with corn oil. Thomas shared a firsthand account of how he and his farm employees have embraced a team approach to operating his family’s dairy operation.
Erskine emphasized that preventing BLV in heifers may be more critical than doing so in older cows; Grooms focused on implementing management practices to reduce the risk of transmitting Johne’s to calves.
These talks were followed by Dr. Sam Leadley, calf and heifer specialist with Attica Veterinary Associates, who conferenced via phone on his drive from New York.
Leadley shared recommendations for optimizing colostrum intake in newborn calves. The topic hit close to home for many in the audience and led to a near-capacity bonus Friday afternoon workshop that ran over by more than two hours due to its popularity.
The second day of the conference began with a packed room focused on what Ken Nobis, president of the Michigan Milk Producers Association, had to say about the status of milk pricing policy development.
“We need to be talking about margins – we all live on margins and it’s what puts bread on the table – and not just the support price,” he said.
“The price support program needs to be eliminated and replaced with the Dairy Producer Margin Protection Program [DPMPP]. The price support level has never been at a point where it supported the cost of production. The DPMPP won’t make the farmer money, but it will help him retain more equity.”
Gary Sipiorski, dairy development manager for Vita Plus Corporation, told attendees that the dairy industry will be a good business in the future for those that discipline themselves to understand the numbers.
Sipiorski shared eight financial rules that dairy producers need to heed if their operations are to survive another year like 2009, including not spending more than 85 percent of the milk check on expenses and not letting the amount of debt per cow go above $5,000.
Other conference presenters included Dr. Jeffrey Stevenson, dairy reproduction expert from Kansas State University; Dr. Dan Undersander, professor of agronomy from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, who spoke about incorporating grass-legume mixtures into dairy rations; and Iowa native Jolene Brown, C.S.P., who was sponsored by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan.
Attendees also had the option of attending one of five concurrent workshops held on the second day. Workshop topics included: • Strategies for managing calves – Leadley • Managing milk marketing risk and positioning your dairy operation for the future – Dr. Christopher Wolf, MSU Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics • Hands-on training for Spartan Dairy 3 (dairy ration program) – Dr. Mike VandeHaar, MSU Department of Animal Science • Creating a “business-first” family farm business – Brown • Vertically integrating retail into your dairy farm operation – Dr. John Partridge, MSU associate professor of food science and human nutrition moderated this producer/retailer panel that included Doug Westendorp, Mooville Creamery; George Crave, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese; Jon Plummer, Moomers Ice Cream; and Wendell Van Gunst, Country Dairy Inc.
Crandall Dairy Farms LLC received the 2011 MSU Dairy Farmer of the Year award at the sixth annual Michigan Dairy Industry Recognition Night banquet held Feb. 4.
Other award winners honored that evening included Merton Sowerby, Grand Rapids, Michigan, who was recognized as one of the National Dairy Shrine’s 2010 Pioneer Award winners; Terry and Jennie Koebel of Tri-Koebel Holsteins and Jerseys, who were named the 2011 Michigan Holstein Association Master Breeders; and Lauren Bush, MSU animal science sophomore from Swartz Creek, Michigan, and Kelsey Casebere, Clare High School senior from Clare, Michigan, who were named the 2011 senior and junior Michigan Dairy Ambassador Scholarship and Leadership Program recipients, respectively.
(View slideshow below to see these and other awards presented at the conference. Story continues below photos.)
The conference also featured the second annual Young, Savvy and into Dairy hospitality, a young producer society for those age 35 or younger, and the sixth annual Great Lakes Commercial Heifer Extravaganza Sale managed by United Producers Inc. The final day of the conference included purebred dairy cattle association meetings, a youth program and a presentation from George Crave, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, Waterloo, Wisconsin.
The10th annual GLRDC takes place Feb. 9–11, 2012, at the Soaring Eagle Resort and Conference Center in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. For more information, contact MSU Events Coordinator
at (517) 353-3175, or visit www.glrdc.msu.edu. PD
—From MSU news release
PHOTOS: TOP RIGHT: Terry Koebel, left, of Tri-Koebel Holsteins and Jerseys, Three Oaks, Michigan, received the 2011 Michigan Holstein Association (MHA) Master Breeder Award from Ike Hunt, MHA board member and herd manager at Green Meadow Farms, Elsie, Michigan. BOTTOM LEFT: Ken Nobis, dairy farmer from St. Johns, Michigan, and president of the Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA), presented a talk on dairy policy: where we’re at and where we’re heading. Photos courtesy of MSU.