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Oct 1, 2014
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Dairy Today Expo Extra

RSS By: Catherine Merlo, Dairy Today

Dairy Today's Catherine Merlo brings you the latest from the World Dairy Expo.

Local and Global Dairy Meet in Virginia’s James Huffard

Oct 01, 2014

Don’t let James Huffard III’s unpretentious manner fool you. This down-to-earth Virginia dairy producer is doing big things on his farm and in national dairy circles.

At the family’s 370-cow dairy in Crockett, Va., Huffard and his brother, John, have ventured into a milk bottling plant with a neighbor. Their Duchess Dairy Products enterprise produces nearly 4,000 gallons a week of fluid milk, all from their Jersey herd. They market and deliver the bottled milk to more than 80 stores in the Blue Ridge Mountain area. And next month, they’re launching a drinkable yogurt addition.

On the national scene, Huffard serves as vice president of the National All-Jersey Board. He’s past president of the American Jersey Cattle Association. His latest honor came Wednesday night when he received the World Dairy Expo Dairyman of the Year Award.

James Huffard at WDE 10 1 14
James Huffard III at World Dairy Expo on Wednesday.
(Photo: Rick Mooney)

Reality will return when he gets home later this week. There, he’ll get back to the work that most dairy producers face every day.

"Environmental issues are always near the top of the list," says Huffard, whose dairy sits near the New River. The dairy has been in the family since 1929. Under its nutrient management plan, lagoons are inspected yearly. Managing manure from the freestall operation and monitoring how much can be applied to the farm’s 600 acres is mostly brother John’s area of expertise.

Production costs are another issue for the Huffards. They’re high -- he estimates his dairy’s production cost at about $20 per cwt.

"We can’t grow soybeans in our area," he says. "Most of our grains are brought in. We try to keep our feed costs in line, but it costs us more than Wisconsin dairies to buy grain."

The dairy’s milk hauling rates add up to $1.20 per cwt., vs. the 20-40 cents for other areas of the country, especially those that sit close to processing plants.

With the help of six employees and a Herringbone parlor, the Huffards' dairy produces 6.8 million pounds of milk a year. The all-Jersey herd produces about 58 lb. per cow, per day. Huffard believes their milk is top-notch.

"Jersey milk is richer in calcium and protein," says Huffard. "It tastes better. People tell us our chocolate milk tastes like melted ice cream."

The milk bottling plant consumes about one-sixth of the dairy’s production. The rest of the dairy’s output goes to Dairy Farmers of America (DFA).

"Marketing is key to meeting the challenge of declining milk sales," says Huffard, who earned a bachelor’s degree in dairy science from Virginia Tech. "We need something new, innovative, different. And we have to produce the products that the world wants, like DFA and Hilmar Cheese do."

Huffard has just returned from a World Jersey Cattle Bureau tour of South Africa and Denmark. His take-home observations?

"Dairymen in South Africa are using a lot of U.S. genetics so their cows are much like ours," he said. "They’re paid similar prices. Their concerns about the dairy industry are the same as ours. They’re nice people."

In thinking about the role of the U.S., Huffards adds, "A lot of the dairy world looks to the U.S. to be a leader in things like genetics and innovation. We have to continue to push forward to be that leader. I’m excited about the potential of what our industry can do."

Handling Hard Questions with Finesse

Sep 30, 2014

Most consumers have never been on a dairy, but they readily toss around terms like factory farms, GMOs and antibiotics in milk.

And you’ve heard their questions: "How do we know your cows are happy?" "Why are the cows so thin?" "Why do you take the baby calves away from their mothers so soon?" "Why do you feed all that GMO feed to your cows?" "What about all those hormones and antibiotics in milk?"

To address the stigma that many consumers attach to dairying, an educational seminar today at World Dairy Expo helped dairy producers address the challenge with finesse.

"How to Handle Difficult Questions from Consumers and Make a Difference for Dairy" offered ways for dairy producers to respond to misconceptions, concerns and curiosity about their operations. Led by Stan Erwine, a vice president with Dairy Management Inc., the seminar also included direction from Pennsylvania dairy producer Marilyn Hershey, Wisconsin dairy producer Tracy Loos and Wisconsin dairy student Amanda Hintz.

"Consumers want to know that you care," Erwine said. "Values are more important to them than competency."

He pointed out that 97% of U.S. dairies are family-owned. And it shouldn’t surprise people that the look of dairies has changed over the years – hardware and grocery stores no longer look the same either. The values of caring for the land and animals remain strong in American agriculture – and consumers should hear that from farmers.

"Those messages all help remove the ‘factory farm’ stigma,’" Erwine said.

Values matter to consumers, said Hershey. "People care about people, not numbers," she said.
That means dairy producers should translate their responses into values-based messages. Among the pieces of advice Erwine, Hershey and the team offered:

• Don’t lead with science. "Science collides with emotions," Erwine said.
• Create a simple, strong introduction that communicates who you are and what you stand for.
• Show and tell what you do with on-farm examples. Tell a story.
• Use science – not moral justification -- as validation or verification.
• Share your values.
• Be memorable and repeatable – but don’t talk too much.

When the heat is on with someone who’s more hostile than friendly, these techniques will help diffuse difficult questions (they might also work at a family holiday meal):

• Be a strong listener. When there are conflicting opinions, it’s easy to ignore what the other person is saying. Don’t automatically set a tone that indicates, "I’m right and you’re wrong."

• Ask questions. That demonstrates an interest in the speaker’s thoughts and shows you’re trying to understand the basis of their assumptions or attitudes. You’re also showing courtesy, reinforcing confidence and gaining respect and trust.

• Make sure you heard what they said. Repeat back to them what you heard in your own words. It lets them know you are listening.

• Find common ground. It may not change an opinion but it’s the first step toward being heard. It can also lead to more dialogue and problem-solving.

• State your principles. They can help you connect and they tell a story.

• Break the rhythm. If an adversarial questioner asks increasingly volatile questions, you can say, "Let’s step back and look at the bigger picture." This diffuses the situation and takes the emotional edge off a heated exchange.

• Transparency increases trust.

• Check out these websites for more ways to talk to consumers: dairygood.org and dairyfarmingtoday.org.

With their short training course still sinking in, audience members were asked to offer three "pillars" of facts about their own dairy operations. Two producers in the audience responded with flying colors. They spoke of their focus on cow comfort and care, how they work closely with veterinarians and nutritionists to ensure their cows have quality feed and bedding. They added that cow comfort is important because that translates into more milk from cows. They said good early calf care is essential, since those babies grow up to be cow-girls that we depend on for their milk-making capabilities.

Their responses were impressively sincere, clear and sensible. I wish more consumers could have been in that room today. The take-away here seems pretty clear: When you’re confronted with questions about your dairy business, it’s smarter to address them than avoid them. You can make a difference for your dairy – and your industry.

Staying in the Race

Sep 01, 2014

Europe, Mexico, South America, China – they’re all taking the necessary steps to be leading global milk suppliers. And they’ll be here at World Dairy Expo this week looking for more ideas and solutions.

While the U.S. continues its record pace of milk production – 206 billion pounds projected for 2014 – the rest of world also is gearing up to supply a broad range of dairy products to a vastly expanding global population. A few examples:

• New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra and a leading Chinese infant food manufacturer, Beingmate, announced in August they intend to form a global partnership that will help meet China’s growing demand for infant formula. In fact, Fonterra has invested more than $1.8 billion to grow its overall processing capacity since 2011.

• Scotland, a small nation with world-class food success, has "launched "Ambition 2025," a strategy that aims to produce more than 3.5 billion pounds of milk a year by 2025. That’s a 50% increase from its current output. Scotland also hopes to boost its dairy exports by at least 5% every year for the next decade.

• Ireland, just off the western coast of the Irish Sea from Scotland, also plans to increase milk output 50% in five years, specializing in infant formula and other value-added products. They’ll do it, too, because they can use pasture now used to graze unprofitable beef cattle to run more dairy cows, more fully utilizing milking parlors that often sit idle 21 or more hours per day.

• Nestlé Mexico announced plans earlier this month to invest 700 million pesos (about $53 million) over the next six years to increase milk production in our neighbor to the south. Nestlé followed that announcement with another, this time publicizing a two-year partnership to improve the productivity and lives of smallholder dairy farmers in East Africa through technology and innovation.

• Colombia is making a huge push to develop its dairy industry, with a focus on exports to the United States, Proexport Colombia announced Sept. 22. The country is the fourth-largest dairy producer in Latin America, and three of its top food manufacturers are dairy-based, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Colombia’s producers are seeking to take advantage of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

To boost milk output to ever-higher levels, the world’s dairy farmers are using the latest research, technology and marketing strategies to get ahead. Certainly, U.S. dairy farmers aren’t the only ones employing robotic milking, rotary parlors, and wind and solar energy in the quest to deliver the milk while remaining efficient, low-cost producers. You’ll find those in Scotland and the European Union, China, Latin America, South America and elsewhere. The race to be a leading milk supplier is taking place – and those who want to succeed are implementing the necessary measures.

That’s why World Dairy Expo is so vital to staying in the race. New dairy technology, machinery, products, services – they’re all here this week in Madison, Wis. And along with them – and perhaps most importantly – is the brain trust that understands how all these things work and how you can make them work for you.

More than 850 exhibiting companies will be here at the Alliant Energy Center, unveiling their latest technologies, products and services. Just click on Expo’s "Innovations Unveiled" website to see the astounding diversity that will appear here this week.

To be sure, dairy producers and industry partners from 90 countries will be here as well. They’ll attend the world-class cattle competition. They’ll sit in on the Expo Seminars, Virtual Farm Tours and Dairy Forage Seminars, where they can interact with industry experts and top producers to exchange management ideas. International attendees will also participate in the annual International Dairy Short Course, a three-day dairy management course that presents the latest research and technology in dairy genetics, nutrition, cow comfort and milk quality.

These are your milk-producing competitors, who know they’ll find ideas and solutions at World Dairy Expo. Even if you can’t make it here this week, follow our coverage at www.DairyToday.com. Look for our daily e-newsletters arriving in your email. We’ll be doing our best to report on the latest and most important developments aimed at keeping you front and center of the world’s dairy race.

Prize Money, Pride and a Pat on the Back for Forage Superbowl Winners

Oct 05, 2013

Ohio dairy producer Lambert VanderMade, one of Dairy Today’s four 2013 Dollars & Sense contributors, made a good showing in the 30th annual World Forage Analysis Superbowl at this year’s World Dairy Expo. He won third place – and $250 -- in the Standard Dairy Corn Silage (non-BMR) category, one of the highest-entry categories in this year’s national competition.

But VanderMade can’t be as happy as producers Doug and Sandy Kerfeld of Fuchs Kerfeld Dairy in Albany, Minn., who took the Superbowl’s overall Grand Champion honors for their haylage entry. The Kerfelds were awarded $3,000 by that category’s sponsor, NutriSave Forage Management System. Judges were impressed with the Kerfeld sample’s strong Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) component (298) and its high Milk Performance index (3,957 lb.).

This year’s Superbowl competition received 321 samples from 22 states, Doug Harland of Dairyland Laboratories told me Friday. Among the seven forage categories, the corn silage categories for both BMR and non-BMR received the highest number of entries.

Forage Superbowl and Harland 10 4 13
Doug Harland of Dairyland Laboratories shows the Grand Champion haylage sample (lower right) from Fuchs Kerfeld Dairy.

"Some of the top forages in the country are here," said Harland, pointing to the clear plastic containers of pungent, dark-green samples. Ten winners from each category are displayed in the Arena Building during Expo.

Harland manages the World Forage Analysis Superbowl. Each year, he gathers the entries, analyzes them at his company’s DePere, Wis., lab, and then brings in three judges from the University of Wisconsin to select the winners. They determine winning entries using a ratio of 60% forage analysis, 30% visual evaluation, and 10% milk performance. The judges evaluate things like dry matter content, crude protein, NDF levels, chop length, kernel processing, color and smell. As Harland points out, often just a narrow spread separates the top entries in each category.

The dairy corn-silage BMR category drew the most participants, with 121 entries, Harland said. Its Grand Champion winner was Holmes Acres of New Woodstock, N.Y. Judges found that entry’s strengths in its digestibility (68.21) and its Milk Performance (3,782 lb.) Holmes Acres received $1,500 from category sponsor Blue River Hybrids.

The Grand Champion First-Time Entrant cash award of $1,500 went to Ed Byers Dairy, of Enon Valley, Pa., for its entry in the dairy corn-silage BMR category, which it won. Kuhn North America sponsored that category and its prize money. Gregg Troyer, of Dalton, Ohio, was named Grand Champion in the Dairy Haylage category, sponsored by Ag-Bag. Doody Farm, of Tully, N.Y., took the Grand Champion award in the standard (non-BMR) corn silage category.

Producer sniffs forage 10 4 13
Dairy producer Gary Reese of Simpsonville, Ky., judges one of the winning samples by its smell Friday at World Dairy Expo.

Each category’s Grand Champion wins $1,500. Second-place winners receive $500, third place gets $250, and fourth place collects $100. In all, more than $22,000 in cash prizes was awarded to top-finishing producers. The winners were announced Oct. 2 at the World Forage Analysis Superbowl Awards Luncheon, sponsored by Mycogen Seeds, at World Dairy Expo. Click here for the list of winners and sponsors. 

"We’re always pushing for more participation in Forage Superbowl," Harland said. "It’s a big competition for showing the worth of good quality forage."

From his dairy barn in northwest Ohio, VanderMade was pleased but realistic with his third-place win. "Winning is nice," he told me by phone on Friday, "but feeding the silage in the bunk is more important."

Coming to a Dairy near You: Robotic Milking for Large Dairy Herds

Oct 03, 2013

There’s plenty of interest in Robotic Milking Systems from large-herd dairies this week at World Dairy Expo. Five of the biggest equipment milking companies are here featuring RMS displays. Do they see a future for RMS in large herds?

There’s plenty of interest in Robotic Milking Systems (RMS) from large-herd dairies this week at World Dairy Expo. Five of the biggest equipment milking companies – AMS-Galaxy USA, BouMatic, DeLaval, GEA Technologies and Lely -– are here in Madison featuring RMS displays.

DeLaval robotics
DeLaval’s Mark Fletcher with one of the company's robotic milkers this week at Expo.

Although the majority of the world’s 10,000 RMS are located in Europe, where herd sizes are small, the systems are becoming more common in the U.S., according to Marcia Endres of the University of Minnesota. Endres spoke Thursday at an Expo Educational Seminar about a study she and co-investigator Jim Salfer are conducting on how RMS perform in U.S. dairy conditions and management styles. Their findings will be released next spring. Steady RMS growth is taking place in the Upper Midwest, especially in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Endres said.

For now, each RMS unit is designed to milk 60 cows. But is there a place for RMS in large herds with 1,000 cows or more?

"Absolutely," DeLaval’s Mark Fletcher told me. He’s been talking to several large-herd dairy producers this week at World Dairy Expo. They’re intrigued with RMS’ potential for labor savings and its technological ability to drill down to individual cow information. Larger-herd producers are looking at ways to bring in RMS, whether through retrofitting their existing facilities or constructing new ones. Fletcher knows of one Pennsylvania dairy that’s milking 1,100 of its 2,200 cows using 20 RMS systems.

Likewise, GEA Technologies’ Greg Larson has had numerous large-herd producers stop by his exhibit this week. "They’re looking at transitioning to RMS due to labor and immigration law changes and family farm transitions," Larson said. They’re also interested in milking cows at a high rate – up to 4x daily --something that RMS makes possible. Some are looking at milking just their fresh and late-lactation cows in their regular milking facilities and then using RMS for their cows that are 21-200 days in milk.

Stronger profit margins in the Midwest may be driving the greater RMS interest there than shown by Western dairies. "Midwest dairies have seen gains and are reinvesting back into their dairies," said Larson.

All agree that RMS opportunities for large herds will grow as the technology increases.

"We’re very optimistic about robotic technology growing into the large-herd concept," said Rick Rugg, Lely’s Midwest regional manager. Lely counts 15,000 RMS globally and 1,500 in North America. "We’re striving hard to help make RMS economically justifiable for large-herd dairies."

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