Tricounty News

Dairy Expo highlights

No doubt, attendance at this year’s Midwest Dairy Expo was hampered by weather conditions. The first significant snow event and the first dose of subzero temperatures, make remaining items on the “get ready for winter do-list” more urgent.

“Take home message” summaries of most of the presentations made at the Midwest Dairy Expo are posted at Minnesota Milk Producers Association website: At the home page, click on the “Programs” tab. Then click on “Midwest Dairy Expo.” Then click on “Proceedings” and pick from the topic list. Raising healthy calves, dairy outlooks, family transitions and relationships, genetics and reproduction are some of the useful 2013 topics. I’ll share a couple key points I heard.

Dan Rice from Prairieland Farms, near Lincoln, Neb., talked about sustainability. His definition of sustainability is, “Will my grandchildren be able to farm here someday IF they want to?” He talked about things they were doing to stay viable financially, environmentally, and in relationships with family, the community and consumers.

Rice works at strength-based management. He sees his strengths as looking to the future, finding new ideas, and keeping people connected. He is weak with numbers and relies on others to keep him straight with the numbers – like the financial realities related to ideas he’s thinking about. If someone has an interest in coming into the operation, they need to consider together whether their strengths fit a need, whether there’s an opportunity to diversify to make use of those strengths, and whether they recognize where they need to rely on other people’s strengths.

They manage to maximize return on investment. With their parlor milking system, they are thinking about switching from 3 times (3X) a day milking to 2 times (2X) a day milking because they could milk more cows with the same facility investment per day with 2X milking. Milk per cow also counts, in terms how getting the most milk per day for the facility investment. There are also overhead expenses in having more cows and handling more manure. Every farm needs to consider things in the context of the whole farm and their own personal and family priorities.

The Rice family spends time giving people in the community a chance to see their dairy and to tell people what they are doing. They talk to and listen to their neighbors. They listen to consumers. They are learning about practices that provide higher omega-3 fats that have more health benefits.

Prairieland Farm considers manure as a product they produce that is just as important as the milk and meat they produce. They provide manure to neighboring cash crop farmers. They compost part of their manure and bag some of that for garden and landscape use. They use their compost process to provide a disposal opportunity for food waste, leaves, and grass clippings in the community – noting that as much as 80 percent of what goes into the garbage stream can be composted. They handle it properly.

Dr. Dennis Schaffler from Elanco Animal Health talked about “Food Security” – availability, quality, and access. Studies around the world show that where children have some high quality animal protein in their diets, their intellectual development is stronger. When countries have adequate food, there is less war. Key factors for reducing world hunger are innovation, consumer choice, and trade.

For more information check

Regional Extension Dairy Educator Jim Salfer shared information from data being collected from 50+ farms with robotic milkers to see what can be learned. His favorite quote was from Doug Kastenschmidt at Ripon, Wis., “Management makes milk; robots only harvest it.”

We’re fortunate to have an organization like Minnesota Milk Producers Association that works with dairy farmers, U of M Extension, farm management instructors, businesses and others to conduct an educational event like the Midwest Dairy Expo. We’re fortunate to have businesses that see the value of supporting good educational programs to help maintain a strong dairy enterprise in Minnesota. The commercial exhibits are also a significant part of the education opportunity at Midwest Dairy Expo.

Please consider SAFETY first with work and other activities with cold and snowy winter weather.