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Takeaways from Carver County Dairy Expo

Colleen Carlson

Implementing forward thinking strategies will keep Minnesota dairy producers productive, efficient and effective was a consistent message during the 25th Carver County Dairy Expo held in February at Central High School in Norwood Young America.

By taking a look at world population growth, world hunger, increase of calorie consumption and consumers’ buying decisions, Phil Plourd, President of Blimling Associates, Dairy Consultant and Keynote Speaker, painted an optimistic picture of the important role that dairy farmers have in feeding the world.

Keeping pace with future demand

In 1798, Thomas Malthus estimated the world population to be 900 million people. The world population today is 7.5 billion and is predicted to rise to 9 billion by 2040. World hunger along with severe poverty are in a decline; however, as developing countries continue to grow, so does the demand to increase the world’s food supply. In 2012, the UN said that food production must increase by 60% by 2050 in order to keep up with population growth and economic expansion.

Jim Dickrell, Editor of Dairy Herd Management, shared other important facts. The global dairy industry has doubled output in the past 50 years, but per capita, globally we are producing 14% less milk than in 1965 because milk production is not keeping up with global population growth. Dickrell suggests that to double milk output we need 40 million more conventional cows or 75 million organic cows or increase milk production by 100 pounds per cow per year.

Dickrell maintains that demand for dairy will continue to rise as the world populations look to milk and dairy products to provide a dense, nearly complete nutrient package. Milk production is predicted to rise to over 1,000 million metric tons by 2040.

How do consumers’ buying and eating habits impact food purchases? Plourd shared a study from Pew research that 54% of the people say they are paying attention to eating healthy while only 29% have adopted heathier eating habits. Consumers’ buying decisions are based on taste, price and convenience. Consumption of chips, fast food, and pizza are on the rise. Delivery systems are evolving to more online shopping, restaurant spending, fast food delivery and the newest trend—delivery of meal kits.

How will the dairy producer keep pace with world demand? Jeffrey Bewley, University of Kentucky, shared this key message in his Small Giants: Strategies for Small Farm Survival presentation, “There are businesses around the world that are small despite the fact that the world tells us you can’t be successful and compete. The one thing that is quite clear is you no longer can just be average if you’re going to be a dairy farmer.”

Technology can improve operations

Attendees had the option of participating in two breakout sessions featuring Bewley’s work. Bewley challenged the audience to engage in using precision technology to improve farm operations. “Today’s technologies are endless and do deliver results better than visual observation. Like today’s human exercise monitors, we can monitor a cow’s activities for better detection of health issues, minimize environmental impacts and improve the overall health and well-being of dairy animals. There are exciting opportunities for large and small producers to utilize these technologies for improved efficiencies.”

“Many producers don’t know their actual cost of production,” states Bewley. “They usually only think about the variable or cash costs. Applying the principles of business management, understanding the economies of size, fully utilizing labor, machinery and buildings can increase returns to size.”

Bewley offers six controllable factors that small producers should monitor: milk yield, herd health, reproduction, replacement heifer quality, feed costs and asset base to make the operation more efficient and competitive in the marketplace.

Maintain cow health and milk quality

Another key message throughout the Carver County Dairy Expo was to maintain cow health and milk quality. “What you feed your cows is important,” states Abby Neu, University of Minnesota Extension. Neu shared the results of different types of hay rakes on ash content in alfalfa. Choosing a hay rake that minimizes ash content produces more desirable forages, provides greater digestion efficiency and aids in better milk quality.

“Science of Mastitis” presented to bilingual dairy laborers and herd managers was well received,” said Alison Rickeman, Minnesota Dairy Initiative Representative and Carver County Dairy Core Team member. “The goal is to engage every level of the labor force in dairy education.”

“When we understand the anatomy and physiology of the udder, we can grasp how bacteria in the environment can enter the udder and cause infection. This infection can also be transmitted to healthy cows,” stated Javier Lara, herdsman, Enchanted Dairy of Little Falls. Shannon Seifert related the impact of mastitis on the dairy industry and how preventing mastitis infections can be controlled by keeping the environment clean. Following proper milking procedures will result in healthier cows, improved conception rate, better tasting milk, improved cheese yield and longer shelf life of milk products.

Communication is key

“Good communication leads to a more successful farming operation,” Betty Berning, University of Minnesota Extension, shared during her workshop. Whether it’s husband to wife, parents to children, manager to employee, good communication minimizes unmet expectations, reduces conflict and helps generate better ideas. Understanding communication styles can bridge the gap between the generations, personal culture and genders. Willingness to engage in positive communication results in better relationships.

This year’s line-up of speakers at the Carver County Dairy Expo was exceptional and very timely with the current economic conditions. The key messages were to stay positive…we have a world to feed; keep cows healthy for better milk quality; track and improve your financials and dairy production benchmarks; and keep communicating to build better relationships. Now that the 25th Carver County Dairy Expo has passed, take these strategies forward to improve your operation and prepare to feed the growing world; 2042 is just 25 years away.

Downloads of the Carver County Dairy Expo presentations are available on the Carver County Extension website.

March 2017

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