More than 2,000 dairy farmers and allied industry representatives from 39 states attended the Professional Dairy Producers 2017 Business Conference, March 15-16 in Madison, Wisconsin.

The theme for this year’s conference, “Mission Driven,” celebrated the past, present and future of PDPW with special events to commemorate the organization’s 25th anniversary.

PDPW launches Dairy AdvanCE

PDPW introduced Dairy AdvanCE, a new online, one-stop professional development shop for the dairy industry.

The multi-faceted resource includes a schedule of national dairy education and training programs, workshops and accredited continuing education (CE) opportunities on a wide range of topics – from animal care to human resources, and financial management to environmental stewardship.

PDPW verifies each training for content, quality and rigor, including speakers’ expertise and assurance of non-promotional content.


This online resource lets farmers and their on-farm team members easily track CE credits as they advance toward professional development goals. Participants will be able to produce CE transcripts, providing the information to lenders and business partners.

Dairy AdvanCE is free for dairy farmer owners, farm managers and on-farm team members. For all others, there is a $50 annual subscription fee. To learn more or subscribe to Dairy AdvanCE, email Dairy AdvanCE, or call (800) 947-7379.

PDPW board elections

PDPW elected three new members to its board of directors: Andy Buttles, Stone-Front Farm, Lancaster, Wisconsin; Katy Schmidt, Tri-Fecta Farms Inc., Fox Lake, Wisconsin; and Steven Orth, Orthland Dairy Farm LLC, Cleveland, Wisconsin.

PDPF silent auction raises record $31,000

The Professional Dairy Producers Foundation raised $31,275 during its annual silent auction. The proceeds will be used to fund dairy education programs. Auction items ranged from collectible art pieces to trips.

Keynote speakers

Longtime PDPW supporter David Kohl, who addressed the first annual business conference in 1993, opened the 25th conference. Kohl, an agricultural and applied economics professor emeritus at Virginia Tech University, is currently president of AgriVisions LLC, a knowledge-based agricultural consulting business.

David Kohl

Kohl reflected on how the organization has grown and changed over 25 years and offered advice on surviving the extreme volatility facing the industry moving forward.

Using the acronym RELAX (Resilience, Execution, Liquidity, Attitude and a plan for the X-factor of unintended consequences), he encouraged the group and individual PDPW members to plan, strategize, execute and monitor their business functions.

Looking ahead to the trends for the next 10 years, Kohl identified key factors that will likely drive trends in the dairy industry. The global economy, consumer trends, innovation and technology, and the millennial generation top the list. The other major players will be non-government organizations, the disconnect between consumer and producer, and the transition of the dairy business to the next generation.

“Getting better before you get bigger is an important part of this success process,” Kohl said. “But keep in mind not to let the numbers rip the heart out – lead with your heart. When you ask any dairy farmer what is most important to them, it’s not about the profits or the operation; it’s all about their family and their children.”

Lowell Catlett, former dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University, provided a unique perspective of emerging technologies and trends. He urged dairy farmers to prepare and anticipate coming changes, recognizing futuristic planning must include the impacts of technology on careers, lifestyles and the economy.

Tom Thibodeau, Viterbo University’s distinguished professor of servant leadership and the director of Viterbo’s Master of Arts in Servant Leadership program, reminded PDPW attendees to take time to reflect and celebrate their accomplishments over the past 25 years and take pride in sharing that legacy with the future.

“Celebrations are profoundly human,” Thibodeau said. “They give us a chance to reflect on where we have been but, more importantly, to think of the hope we give to the future. For 25 years, other people have made sacrifices so we can celebrate tonight. At the same time, we have the responsibility to proclaim a hopeful future.”

The annual banquet featured the viewing of a 25th anniversary video and the distribution of a free commemorative book, both of which were co-produced by Progressive Dairyman.

Book and video created, showing the history and progress of PDPW.

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Abbott closed the conference, urging PDPW members to ADAPT (Adjustability, Determination, Accountability, Perseverance and Trust) to overcome challenges and achieve success.

Abbott, born without a right hand, was an All-American pitcher at the University of Michigan, pitched on the U.S. Gold Medal Olympic Team in 1988 and threw a 4-0 no-hitter for the New York Yankees in 1993. He played for 10 seasons on four teams before his playing career ended in 1999.

Educational program

The 25th anniversary PDPW Business Conference featured 74 expert speakers and panelists in 25 breakout sessions, 15 learning lounges, five hands-on workshops, 10 producer panels and 12 new research preview stages. More than 230 companies were featured in the Hall of Ideas Trade Show.

The conference also featured dairy producers as the main speakers on several panels, along with opportunities for hands-on learning through demonstrations on hoof trimming, in vitro fertilization, farm safety and necropsies.

The 2018 PDPW Business Conference “Dairying to Thrive” is set for March 14-15 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.  end mark

PHOTO 1: PDPW celebrated 25 years of impact on the dairy industry during its annual business conference in March. Through the conference, integral board members, sponsors and supporters were recognized for their contributions. Photo by Kayla Teske.

PHOTO 2: Long-time friend of PDPW, David Kohl opened the conference with reflections on how the organization has transformed the dairy industry and offered his foresight regarding the domestic and international dairy economies.

PHOTO 3: As part of the silver anniversary celebration, PDPW teamed up with Progressive Dairyman to create a video and a book commemorating the group’s history and progress. Photos by Ray Merritt.