The Dairy Business Association’s (DBA) annual “Dairy Strong” conference was held Jan. 18-19 at Madison, Wisconsin.

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

Under the theme “The Journey Forward,” the event brought together more than 700 farmers, corporate professionals and government and university representatives to explore the future of the dairy industry in Wisconsin and beyond.

Panel discussions: Hispanic labor and culture, farmer-led conservation

Three panel discussions addressed current dairy industry topics:

  • Cultural and dairy community challenges as seen through the eyes of three immigrant workers. The panel was moderated by Cody Heller, owner and chief executive office of the 1,500-cow, 5,500-acre Heller Farm in Alma Center, Wisconsin. He is also CEO of Central Wisconsin Ag Services (CWAS), a dairy consulting service.

Panelists included: Ignacio (Nacho) Escamilla, a longtime herdsman at Heller Farms and a Hispanic worker consultant with CWAS; Joaquin Vazquez, herd manager at the 1,800-cow Vir-Clar Farms, Fond du Lac; and Ricardo Jaime, a Heller Farms’ employee who is also an accounting/finance student at the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse. They shared their family stories and how they overcame language barriers and cultural changes.

  • The Latino influence on U.S. food, agriculture and culture. This panel shared information about a growing market and the strong dairy consumption trends among Latino consumers.

  • Conservation and water quality efforts by Peninsula Pride Farms, a nonprofit organization formed in Wisconsin’s Kewaunee and southern Door counties. Kewaunee County has the highest cow density of any county east of the Rocky Mountains. That cow population, coupled with the unique karst geology, makes it easy for fertilizers, including manure, to easily seep and reach the groundwater.

    The organization has 43 members with dairy herds ranging from 60 to 6,000 cows. Among activities conducted during Peninsula Pride’s first year, the group held field days focused on protecting groundwater and surface water quality, started a Cover Crop Challenge program to encourage farmers to use cover crops and created a “Well Water” program, providing potable water to families dealing with E. coli well contamination, no matter the source.

Perino, Uldrich are keynotes

Political commentator and author Dana Perino shared her experiences as press secretary to President George W. Bush and as a current co-host of Fox News Channel’s The Five. She urged DBA members to “embrace the chaos” that is expected during the Donald Trump presidency.


Fox News Channel political commentator and author Dana PerinoFuturist and author Jack Uldrich urged DBA members to “future-proof” their businesses and be ready for emerging technologies that will transform the industry in the years to come.

Breakout sessions

Five breakout sessions offered participants in-depth looks at issues facing the dairy industry. They included:

  • “From Silicon Valley to Silicon Farms: How big dairy can learn from big data” – Ben Keating, Milker LLC

  • “Nutrient Trading and the Future of Farm-Based Nutrient Management” – Steven Rowe, Newtrient

  • “What does the dairy industry look like in 2025?” – Ryan Sirolli, Cargill

  • “2017 Dairy Market Outlook” – David Bullock, Agribank

  • “Environmental footprinting in dairy: Greenhouse gas emissions, carbon footprint, life cycle assessment and new regulations” – Dr. Frank Mitloehner, UC – Davis Department of Animal Science

Most breakout sessions are available for public viewing via YouTube:
Valley to Silicon Farms: How big dairy can learn from big data
Nutrient Trading and the Future of Farm-Based Nutrient Management
What does the dairy industry look like in 2025?
2017 Dairy Market Outlook

Innovation stage

The Innovation Stage featured short presentations on production and business management topics, including environmental liability and pollution insurance, hybrid-powered ventilation systems in modern dairy facilities, new research in cow cooling, prospering in a “down” market, reduced lignin alfalfa, sexed semen, using genomics for herd health trait selection and managing herd management data.The innovation Stage featured short presentation on production

Awards, elections

The DBA’s “Advocacy Award” was given to Jeff Endres, a co-owner of the 550-cow Endres Berryridge Farms LLC. Endres was also one of the founders and currently serves as chairman of Yahara Pride Farms, another farmer-led nonprofit organization working to improve water and soil quality.

As a lobbying organization, DBA honored 33 state lawmakers with Legislative Excellence Awards for their support of the dairy industry on policy issues.

newly elected and continuing DBA boardNewly elected DBA board directors included farmer representatives Lee Kinnard, owner of Kinnard Farms Inc. in Casco, and Amy Penterman, owner of Dutch Dairy LLC in Thorp. Mike North, president and founder of Commodity Risk Management Group in Platteville, was re-elected as the board’s corporate representative and selected as the group’s new president.

DBA’s members work together to guarantee Wisconsin’s dairy farms of all sizes have the support they need to thrive in the state’s economy, communities and food supply chain. Visit for more information.  end mark

PHOTO 1: Dairy Strong participants get ready to attend one of five breakout sessions addressing issues facing the dairy industry.

PHOTO 2: Fox News Channel political commentator and author Dana Perino urged DBA members to “embrace the chaos” expected during the Donald Trump presidency.

PHOTO 3: The Innovation Stage featured short presentations on production and business management topics.

PHOTO 4: Newly elected and continuing DBA board members are: (front row) Cindy Leitner, Jennifer Keunig and Amy Penterman; and (back row) Lee Kinnard, Lloyd Holterman, Mike North, Gordan Speirs, Cody Heller and Paul Fetze. North was elected president. All photos from Dairy Business Association.

Dave Natzke