Dairy producers get up-to-date information

posted on February 29, 2012 12:06pm

February 15, 2012

Dairy producers get up-to-date information from top-notch speakers at dairy conference in Mount Pleasant

ELSIE, Mich. – The Soaring Eagle Casino, Resort and Conference Center hosted more than 350 dairy producers and industry representatives who attended the 10th annual Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference (GLRDC) Feb. 9–11 in Mount Pleasant.

Attendees learned the latest on a variety of topics ranging from affecting attitudes and influencing behaviors of consumers to capitalizing on growing global dairy demand and from new trends in facilities to improving (pregnancy) service rates in dairy cows.

The conference’s first-day opening session featured Jennifer Garrett, president of JG Consulting Service LLC. Garrett blends her experience of having been raised on a livestock operation with what she’s learned during her professional career. She’s worked as an assistant professor of dairy and animal sciences at the University of Missouri, spent 11 years with the Monsanto Company and served as the U.S. director of nutrition for the Kellogg Company. Garrett advocates using sound science as the basis for what we do and say in agriculture and food production. She shared tips on finding common ground with consumers, which, she says, is a critical first step for food producers interested in communicating effectively with consumers and rebuilding trust in the U.S. food supply.

Next, attendees heard about Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) from United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) dietitian Amy Viselli, Manchester dairy producer Lynda Horning and her son Mason, former Detroit Lions defensive tackle and Pro Bowler Luther Elliss, and the school food service director from Alma Public Schools. The National Football League (NFL) and the National Dairy Council (NDC) in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed FUTP 60, a student-driven in-school wellness program that empowers students to make healthy nutrition choices and achieve 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Following the presentation, Elliss signed autographs and met with conference goers.

Matt McKnight, senior vice president for market access, regulatory and industry affairs, U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), started off the afternoon session by sharing the latest efforts to assist suppliers in building the volume and value of U.S. dairy exports to help meet growing global dairy demand.

A large portion of the afternoon schedule on the first day focused on facilities. Paul Anderson, the chief credit officer for GreenStone Farm Credit Services, started the topic sequence with his tips for achieving the biggest bang for your buck when it comes time to sit down with a lender. Next, Curt Gooch, senior Extension associate with the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University, covered the 10 things one should ask a contractor before signing on the dotted line. He also reviewed new trends in calf barn facilities. Then, three producers – Matt Oesch from Swisslane Farms in Alto, Nathan Elzinga from Daybreak Dairy Farm in Zeeland and Tom Vogel from Palm Boys LLC in Palms – answered questions and shared what they had learned from modifying facilities at their operations.

The Friday morning program opened up with a focus on getting cows pregnant. Albert DeVries, associate professor of animal science at the University of Florida, talked about the value of a cow’s pregnancy. Ray Nebel, senior reproduction and dairy herd management specialist for Select Sires Inc., followed DeVries’ talk with tips on improving service rates. In turn, his talk served as the backdrop for a producer panel featuring Geert van den Goor from Goma Dairy in Marlette, Gary Blair from Double Eagle Dairy in Middleton and Mario VanderHulst from Sturgis Dairy in Sturgis. These three offered insight into how they achieve higher service rates in their herds by using tail chalk, the AfiAct heat detection system and the Select Detect activity monitoring system, respectively.

The final morning session featured Mary Kraft, owner, chief financial officer and human resources director for Quail Ridge/Badger Creek Dairy Farm, and Noa Roman-Muniz, assistant professor of animal science at Colorado State University. The tag-team duo conducted an interactive labor-training discussion focused on developing effective mentoring and training programs for Hispanic workers.

Other conference presenters included Craig Anderson, Agriculture Labor and Safety Services Division manager for the Michigan Farm Bureau; Greg Bethard, assistant director for dairy technology, Dairy Records Management System (DRMS); Jane Hillstrom, president of Hillstrom Communications Inc.; and Hall of Fame speaker David Okerlund.

Jim Reid, Jeddo, received the 2012 MSU Dairy Farmer of the Year award at the seventh annual Michigan Dairy Industry Recognition Night banquet held Feb. 10. Other award winners honored that evening included Arnold Reister, Hillsdale, named the 2012 Michigan Holstein Association Master Breeder, and Mark and Katrina Bontekoe (Touchdown Holsteins), Marion, named the 2012 Distinguished Young Breeder by the Michigan Holstein Association. Britney Zondlak, an MSU freshman pursuing double degrees – a certificate through the Institute of Agricultural Technology dairy management program and a Bachelor of Science degree in agribusiness – from Byron Center, and Kailey Sweers, Dansville High School senior from Williamston, were named the 2012 senior and junior Michigan Dairy Ambassador Scholarship and Leadership Program recipients, respectively.

For the third year, the conference featured the hospitality of Young, Savvy and Into Dairy, a young producer society for those age 35 or younger. The society coordinated hospitality with ABS Global Inc. and United Producers Inc., who managed the seventh annual Great Lakes Commercial Heifer Extravaganza Sale earlier that evening. Purebred dairy cattle association meetings took place on the final day of the conference as did the Holstein Association USA regional member meeting.

The 11th annual GLRDC will take place Feb. 7–9, 2013, at the Bavarian Inn Lodge and Conference Center in Frankenmuth. For more information, contact MSU events coordinator Megghan Honke athonkemeg@msu.edu or 517-353-3175, ext. 229, or visitwww.glrdc.msu.edu.

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