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Back to school

Brenda Miller

It is that time of year again when youth go back to school. For some it is the excitement of starting college; for others it might be the first day of kindergarten or senior year of high school. However, continuing education does not stop at high school or college graduation. There are learning opportunities around every corner for every age and stage of career. Owners, operators, and farm employees can all benefit from a little continuing education.

It is a great idea to attend seminars, conferences, workshops, and field days to keep up on what is happening in the dairy industry and seek ways to improve your farm. Many events like these are free to attend or at most have a small fee. Most workshops or field days are an opportunity for hands-on learning. You get to see first-hand what is happening on a farm, ask questions, and see how other operations work on a daily basis. You get to ask the owner/operator how and why they made the decision to build a new freestall barn or calf facility. Most field days will have a speaker talk about a certain subject related to the farm such as manure handling or dry and transition cows.

Attending bigger events such as seminars, conferences, or expos allows you to experience things on a broader level. At some events you can sit down for a virtual farm tour; others bring in speakers from across the country or the world to share their visions and research with you. Many of these bigger events have tradeshows with them. There you can visit with company representatives from all aspects of the industry: nutrition, reproduction, herd health, milking equipment, farm equipment, hoof care, and more! Although there may be products out there that you may not be able to implement on your farm, it is still fun to learn about them and see them in real life. Someday your operation may change, grow, or transition and some of those products may come into play at that time.

For some farms, employees play a big role in their farm’s success. Continuing education for employees can go a long way in more ways than one. There are many options for employers to provide learning opportunities to their employees. Some of these may include: team meetings, bring in a local expert to talk about a certain topic such as farm safety/milking protocols/ etc., take them with you to a workshop or conference, or send a couple of them to an industry event and have them report on what they learned and if anything can be used to better the operation. By doing this you are investing in your farm and it is a way of showing your employees that they are an integral and important part of your operation.

Regardless of what kind of educational program you attend, they are all excellent opportunities for networking. You will meet other farmers, industry representatives, and researchers who all play important roles in different sectors of the dairy industry. In a round-about way all of these people have an impact on your farm because at some point they are all interconnected and you implement techniques based upon what you learn from them or see in real life. This can be reversed as well. When you talk to company representatives on farm or at a trade show they can learn what kinds of products you use and ideas you have for products to make your farm better. They may ask you what they can do to make life easier for you or to help your cows. The company representatives can then take that information back to the company where scientists can develop new products based upon the dairy farmer’s needs.

So the next time you see a flyer or press release for a workshop, field day or conference, plan to attend for a few hours. You never know what you will learn or who you will meet. Continuing education is good for you, your family, your employees, and your farm. "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go." – Dr. Seuss

August 27, 2016

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