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October 2008 Archive for Dairy Today Expo Extra

RSS By: Catherine Merlo, Dairy Today

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

Climbing out of Expo

Oct 06, 2008
By Catherine Merlo
I’m good for the first three or four days of World Dairy Expo. Everything still looks shiny and new to me. I’m happy to see everyone. The meetings are interesting. The food tastes great.
By Thursday, however, I’m climbing more slowly out of bed when the alarm goes off. I’m missing my 12-year-old son and my husband and our life in California. The drive from my hotel starts to feel like a commute. The meetings begin to seem repetitive. I crave home-cooked meals.
It isn’t until I get back to California that the full weight of Expo lifts, and I begin to sort the wheat from the chaff. And there’s always plenty of wheat, enough to fuel me for months.
In the thick Expo folder I bring home with me, there are names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of people I can call for stories, quotes and answers. There are new topics presented and discussed at Expo that I can turn into stories. There’s new understanding of dairy issues, relationships and business.
And, among the brochures, plastic-wrapped cheese samples, freebie pens and other souvenirs, there’s always a new World Dairy Expo T-shirt or sweatshirt from the Purple Cow gift shop.
A World Dairy Expo T-shirt bound for California.
Every year for the past four years, I’ve brought home an article of clothing from Expo. I often wear one on my daily walk-jog with my dog. Seeing the shirt’s logo, people sometimes ask me, “What’s World Dairy Expo? Is that like the Kern County Fair? Or the Tulare Farm Show?” (Most people in the San Joaquin Valley, at least those I know, still haven’t learned to say “World Ag Expo.”)
I try to tell them. I really do. But unless they’ve been to Expo, I can’t make them grasp the enormity and the impact of this five-day show. They can’t understand the hectic schedule that keeps the Dairy Today staff – and many, many other attendees – hopping from morning ‘til night. They can’t appreciate the tension of the judging competitions and the auctions. And most can’t identify with the millions of dollars and the business that Expo generates.
As for my family and my dog, they only understand that I’m back home. They don’t really want to hear much about that place in Wisconsin with all the cows and people. All they want to know is, “What’s for dinner?”
That’s just fine with me, because for three or four days, everything in Bakersfield looks shiny and new to me. I’m happy to see everyone. The food tastes great. By the fourth day, of course, I’m climbing more slowly out of bed when the alarm goes off.
Merlo’s “Dairy Today Expo Extra” blog ends today. But you can keep up with her Dairy Today articles all year long – as well as those by award-winning editor Jim Dickrell and a variety of dairy columnists – by logging daily on to www.dairytoday.com.

C’est magnifique!

Oct 04, 2008

By Catherine Merlo
Marc Comtois is one happy Canadian today.
Not only is this master dairy breeder, longtime show-ring winner and international dairy judge back at World Dairy Expo after a five-year hiatus, but he’s in the spotlight too.
Thursday night, Comtois received a new award, which now sits on display at his impressive barn exhibit on Expo grounds.
Comtois was honored by the National Dairy Shrine as its 2008 Distinguished Cattle Breeder. Some 300 people were present at the 
Marc Comtois with his Holstein pride and joy,
Belmoral Lee, at Expo on Friday.
banquet in Expo’s Exhibition Hall.
“I am very proud,” Comtois said Friday, as a steady flow of well-wishers stopped by his barn exhibit.
Quick background: The Distinguished Cattle Breeder award is open to producers of all breeds and from all countries. It’s been presented by the National Dairy Shrine annually for 30 years. Each year, some 15 to 20 applicants vie for the honor.
“I don’t think Marc has any idea what a well-loved person he is,” said Dr. David Selner, executive director of the National Dairy Shrine. “He is such a warm, gracious individual, with no arrogance.”
This clear-eyed Canadian who speaks English with a strong French accent might not be considered such a titan if he was measured by dairy herd size. Comtois milks only 200 cows at his Comestar Holsteins family farm in Quebec. The full herd size is 700, but even that wouldn’t be considered much in California or New Mexico, where herd sizes easily reach 3,000 cows and more.
It’s in cattle breeding and genetics that Comtois stands tall. For
Comtois (left) visits with an Expo attendee from
England Friday afternoon at his barn exhibit.
example, of the world’s 26 Holstein bulls that have produced more than 1 million units of semen, four have come from Comestar Holsteins. “That’s incredible,” Selner said.
Comestar is also a leader in A.I., embryo transfer and heifer production in the international market. 
Comtois says he started with nothing when he was 18. His father was a master breeder, but Comtois chose to build his dairy operations on his own.
“I’m big on passion,” Comtois said. In fact, a display proclaiming “The Passion of Breeding” highlights his exhibit.
Forced out of U.S. cattle shows when the U.S. closed its border to Canada after the BSE troubles in 2003, Comtois has been eager for the Canadians to compete in the show ring at Expo this year. He’ll show four beauties in tomorrow’s International Holstein Show in the Coliseum.
For today, however, he’s reveling in Thursday night's award, this week’s reunion with old friends, and the anticipation of Saturday’s show ring.
It’s good to have the Canadians back.

Small dairy, great business

Oct 03, 2008

By Catherine Merlo
In August 2007, Elena and Mike Gonser opened a small retail store near Everson, Wash., to market their dairy’s milk production. They did $32 in business the first day.
Last month, the farm store leaped to an astonishing $598 a day in retail business.
Perhaps even more impressive, Elena calculates she averaged $122/cwt. for the milk she sold last Saturday at the local farmer’s market. That’s based on selling half-gallon jugs at $2.50 each.
With just 72 milking cows and nine employees, the
Washington dairy producers Mike and Elena Gonser have made their "go-local" dream work.
Gonsers are producing, processing, marketing and distributing their own milk. They’re producing 600 to 700 gallons of milk each day and selling it all into the local market. And they’re gaining more customers all the time.
Elena Gonser shared the details of her dairy and retail operation during a Virtual Farm Tour here at World Dairy Expo today. Page & Pedersen International sponsored the session.
Three years after the couple decided to downsize their herd size and focus on a quality-oriented, local product, the operation is thriving in its niche market.
“The future looks rosy,” Gonser said. “We’re happy with what we’re finding and with our customer support.”
The dairy, known as Breckenridge Farms, markets milk, cream, half-and-half and butter under the Dairy Best label. Its customers include 10-12 local stores and restaurants, 20 espresso stands, the farm store and a local farmers’ market.
It’s the taste and freshness of the products that Breckenridge Farms produces that has captured its customers, Gonser said. The dairy uses a slow vat pasteurization process that helps preserve the milk’s flavor.
“Our milk gets from cow to shelf in less than three hours,” she said.
A Dairy Best delivery truck sits outside the Gonsers' farm store. (Photo by Elena Gonser.)
Cow comfort is a primary focus on the dairy. The Holstein herd is fed a total mix ration (TMR) that includes only top-quality commodities. Not an organic operation, the dairy has a rolling herd average of 30,800 pounds. Butterfat level averages 1,320 pounds per cow per year.
“Some of our cows are breaking 200 pounds [of production] a day,” Gonser said.
The Gonsers made the decision to downsize from a 200-cow herd and focus on the local market in 2005. They wanted to do away with transportation hassles and the middlemen who collected a big chunk of their profits. “Our milk is delicious, and it was being made into powder and selling for $10 a hundredweight,” Gonser said.
The couple’s go-local dream became reality when they completed their own processing plant in July 2007. The next step was opening the farm store.
It took nine permits, $5,000 and a lawyer to complete the store last year. They added a drive-up window, which has spurred business. They’ve expanded well beyond chocolate into a variety of milk flavorings, including Hazelnut Mocha and Golden Raspberry. The store’s average daily sales translate into a return of $42/cwt.
But it may be the type of consumers in Whatcom County that really helps. “We’ve got locavores coming out of our ears in this area,” Gonser says. “Our customers have made this business.”
The locavore movement encourages consumers to buy their food from local markets.
Adds Gonser: “Any local farmer can become a direct distributor. You can keep producing quality milk. You get the profit and you lower your carbon footprint.”
The session marked the fifth time Page and Pedersen (www.pagepdedesen.net) has sponsored a Virtual Farm Tour. The Massacusetts-based company makes a product called LactiCheck™ Milk Analyzer, which the Gonsers use in their operations to analyze their milk composition.
For more about the Gonsers’ operations, visit http://www.dairybest.com/page/show/1168.

Lights, action, AgDay

Oct 02, 2008

By Catherine Merlo
If you’re not used to appearing on camera, it’s easy to be nervous when the camera is focused on you.
That, at least, was my experience when AgDay, Farm Journal Media’s daily television show, videotaped here at World Dairy Expo yesterday and today.
Executive producer Wes Mills, managing editor and host Scott Kinrade, senior producer Don Green and videographer Rob Jones interviewed lots of people, including Dairy Today’s editor Jim Dickrell and me.
It’s a breeze for Jim to respond to questions about the dairy business, on or off camera. I don’t think there’s anything he doesn’t know about the
AgDay's Scott Kinrade (right) interviews Jim Dickrell of Dairy Today about the economic climate for dairy.
industry. I, on the other hand, have to study beforehand like a student preparing for exams.
That’s partly because I know AgDay is ahead of the mainstream media on just about everything related to U.S. agriculture.
Case in point: Reporting on Cornell University’s extraordinary new research that shows that modern technology is allowing the dairy industry to reduce its carbon footprint while increasing milk production.
AgDay put the microphone in my hands yesterday and let me interview Dr. Jude Capper about the research. Capper is the British-born Ph.D. who’s the lead author of the study, “The Environmental Impact of rBST Use in Dairy Production”  (www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/0802446105v1).
Neither Dr. Capper nor I are used to being on camera. But once we began, her message eclipsed any nervousness.
“The modern practices and technologies that increase milk production reduce dairy’s carbon footprint and conserve resources,” Capper said.
The Cornell-Capper study shows that 10 more pounds of milk per cow (ostensibly from using rBST) reduce the carbon footprint of a gallon of milk by 9% a year. If just 15% of the U.S. dairy herd, or about 1 million cows, produced an average of 10 more pounds of milk per cow per day, that would mean:
  • The need for farmland to grow crops could be decreased by 540,000 acres;
  • Some 1.4 billion gallons of water needed for milk production could be saved;
  • The amount of feed for animals could be reduced by 2.5 million tons;
  • Gas and diesel use could be lowered by 4.3 million gallons;
  • Manure output could be cut by 2.8 million tons;
  • Total greenhouse gas emissions could diminish by 1.9 million tons.

The idea is that we don’t need more cows, just better ones, to help feed the world’s growing population. Modern technology is allowing dairy to do that while, at the same time, making a “green” contribution.
It may be a while, if ever, before you read or hear that in the mainstream media. But the Cornell-Capper research shows it’s a fact.
Take it from a scientist. And from AgDay.
AgDay’s 30-minute show, “A day at the World Dairy Expo,” will air Oct. 13-17 at 7:30 a.m. (CST) and Oct. 18 at 8 a.m. (CST) on Direct TV 225. AgDay airs five days a week on 140 stations plus Channel 225 on Direct TV. You can also view the show online at www.agweb.com/agday.

Is your dairy ready for a crisis?

Oct 01, 2008

by Catherine Merlo

Surely the three California dairies that tested positive for Bovine tuberculosis this year weren’t expecting the disease to hit their operations.
Surely the Washington dairy that found a cow with BSE (“mad cow disease”) on its premises in 2003 wasn’t expecting that blow.
And surely foot and mouth disease will never hit your dairy.
Never say never.
Safeguarding your dairy for an animal health emergency is critical, two experts told a surprisingly small audience today at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.
“But if I told you producers all understand and are taking action on it, I’d be lying,” said Matt Mathison, vice president of technical services for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
But the consequences of ignoring the threat would be monumental.
“Every day approximately 500 million pounds of raw milk moves across the country,” Dr. Darlene Konkle said. She’s a veterinarian with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture-Trade and Consumer Protection’s (DATCP) Division of Animal Health.
“An outbreak of a foreign animal disease would stop the intrastate and interstate movement of animal products and result in major economic impacts across the country,” Konkle told the audience of about 20 people. “International trade would be halted.”
A peaceful dairy today could be the scene of an animal disease outbreak tomorrow.
Responding to and containing an outbreak requires a great deal of coordination between government agencies and private industry, she said. Advanced planning and resource coordination can help mitigate and improve the response to a crisis. But dairy producers and processors must participate in the planning process with government agencies to ensure an effective response.
And both “must also take an active role in these preparedness efforts by implementing food defense programs on their farm or in their plants,” Konkle added.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) as well as state agencies have their protocol in case of an outbreak: recognizing there’s a problem, diagnosis, movement holds, disease response. But a dairy caught unprepared only worsens a crisis situation.
“Having business continuity plans in place at the farm, plant and across the state’s industry will play a vital role in getting the milk flowing again as soon as possible,” Konkle said.
Both Konkle and Mathison urged dairy producers to implement on-farm food defense programs. These span your operations, environment, product and animal health. They involve your cows, employees, visitors and more.
Their message: Develop a response plan. Understand the steps that state and federal agencies will take in an animal health emergency. Get involved in your local preparedness planning and exercises.
“If you don’t, there’s no way you can be prepared,” Mathison said.
Today’s message to safeguard the industry – and your dairy – seems to be falling on many deaf ears. On a day when 10,000 people were expected to attend Expo, only 20 took the time to learn more about agro-security.
But as those beleaguered producers in California and Washington might tell you, don’t wait until the thief is inside your door to secure your house. Start today.
More on how to set up and implement agro-security programs can be found at a number of Web sites:

Students with a cause

Oct 01, 2008

by Catherine Merlo

Lenny Polzin just flew in from France yesterday to attend World Dairy Expo. He’s working with CINOR 2008, the Normande International Conference that’s taking place here on the grounds this week. He spent today helping set up the stalls, cows, flooring, tables and chairs, and other exhibit elements in the Normande Pavillion that’s located in Expo’s Trade Mall.

Polzin grew up on a Wisconsin dairy. He’s closely observed agriculture and dairy in Egypt and Morocco as well as France. His family has opened its doors to students from Germany, Ukraine and Macedonia.

And Polzin’s only 21 years old!

Lenny Polzin helps set up the Normande Pavillion at Expo while on a week-long break from studying dairies in France.

Polzin is involved in a study program through the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. A junior, he’ll be working on French dairies and living with French families until mid-December. In November, he’ll interrupt his French stay to spend time on dairies in Italy and Slovenia. This study-abroad semester contributes to Polzin’s double major of dairy science and agricultural economics.  

“When they say agriculture is a global market, it really is true,” says Polzin, who’s attended nearly every World Dairy Expo since he was a child. “Everybody is facing the same problems: high inputs and low prices received.”

Is this polite, well-spoken, young American an oddity? He doesn’t have a visible tattoo. When he talks, he looks you directly in the eye. He has lived outside of his neighborhood and – wonder of wonders – still appears to appreciate and admire people and cultures starkly different from his own. He uses terms like “the food-fuel debate,” “efficient labor” and “management practices.”

How remarkable.

With all the attention – at least in Bakersfield, Calif., where I live and work -- on violent gang members, under-performing students and immigrant children who live in poverty,  it’s easy to believe that the U.S. is failing to produce a bumper crop of winners. But whenever I come to a show like World Dairy Expo, I am thrilled to know that’s not true.

Young people like Polzin are not an oddity here. They’re the norm. You see them everywhere, grooming cows, standing in the show ring with their cattle, cleaning stalls, chatting in groups. They smile and greet others warmly. They exhibit a hard work ethic, deep-seated responsibility, ingrained civility and the beginnings of advanced education. 
            Like Kelly Lee, an 18-year-old high school junior from Ft. Atkinson, Wis. Lee is here with her parents. She’s preparing to show her calf Tuesday afternoon in the Winter Jersey Calf Class. Lee has not missed an Expo in her life. She was two weeks old when her parents brought her here for the first time. In two years, Lee will either attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison or Cornell University.

Kelly Lee (left) and her mother at World Dairy Expo.

“I love seeing people from all across the country here,” says Lee. “And I love how everyone is showing off all they’ve worked for all year. Expo is the culmination of all that hard work and effort.”

Did she say, “culmination”? “Hard work"?

Let these “oddities” keep coming to Expo. Give them a place to put what they’ve learned to work. Let them keep doing what they’re doing. Offer them a forum to show their stuff. Send them to represent us in the rest of the world.

Just don’t let them go to Wall Street.


CINOR Conference and Events

On Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, the CINOR conference will feature panel discussions on:

·                     Adaptability of the Normande breed to grazing;

·                     Use of the Normande for crossbreeding purposes;

·                     Beef qualities of the Normande breed;

·                     Cheese-making qualities of Normande milk; and

·                     Perspectives on the future of Normande genetics. 

Speakers from around the world will participate in the discussions.  For a list of speakers and panel discussion times, visit www.normandegenetics.com/cinor2008.html.




Let the exhibits begin

Oct 01, 2008
By Catherine Merlo
Building bridges. Making connections.
That’s the theme of this year’s World Dairy Expo, and it is, of course, what commercial exhibitors, dairy producers and just about everybody else hope to do during the show’s hectic week. It’s certainly what the Italians did last year. (More on that in a minute.)
With more than 700 commercial exhibitors at World Dairy Expo, you’ve got to compete smartly for the attention of the 67,000 people who attend. There’s immense pressure to secure a good location for your booth. The Exhibition Hall is a prime location.
I’m happy to say that Dairy Today holds a prominent spot in the foyer of the Exhibition Hall, at EH 4516 and 4517. It’s a high-traffic location fitting for the Five-Star Sponsor that we are. (Stop by our booth and meet Dairy Today’s team. Go one step further and tell our publisher, Bill Newham, how much you love the articles that Jim Dickrell and I write each month in Dairy Today.)
To grab people’s attention, exhibitors stock their booths with free giveaways, continuous loop videos, informational packets and snacks. Last year, an Italian company, SOP, went a step further to increase traffic to its booth in the Arena Level of the Coliseum.
SOP’s Paolo Schiavetta and his two Italian assistants pose while setting up their booth at last year’s World Dairy Expo.
SOP, a barn hygiene and manure management company, stocked its booth with two lovely, long-haired young women who wore knee-high boots and short skirts. What’s more, the two “signorinas” could speak intelligently in English – albeit with strong Italian accents -- about SOP’s products.
The day before Expo officially opened, I spoke with the Paolo Schiavetta, the pleasant young man who headed SOP’s Expo exhibit. His booth was as deserted as a church on a Sunday afternoon.
When I went back a couple of days later -– at the peak of World Dairy Expo -- to see how they were doing, I couldn’t get close to SOP’s exhibit. Throngs of college-aged boys flocked around the booth, where the two young Italian women earnestly explained the company’s manure management products. If Schiavetta was there, I couldn’t see him.
I don’t know what kind of actual business SOP did during that week, but the Italian company sure made a good impression. It appears they did just fine because they’re coming back this year to Space 178-179 on the Arena Level of the Coliseum.
Come to think of it, if anybody would know how to shine in the Coliseum, it would be the Italians. These Expo exhibitors have ancient Rome in their blood – and they know how to use it.
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