Progressive dairy farm managers must monitor and address diverse challenges in the dairy industry to be successful. In today’s dairy market, human resources and leadership skills are equally as important to smooth operations as cow comfort and forage quality are to milk yield.

The slate of speakers scheduled for the 2017 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit guarantees to expose attendees to the latest production methods and challenge dairy producers in all areas of management.

Planned for Feb. 8-9 at the Lancaster Marriott Convention Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the dairy summit is hosted annually by the Center for Dairy Excellence and the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania. The high-energy two-day program filled with networking and learning opportunities typically attracts more than 500 people.

Dynamic featured speakers

Lowell Catlett will open this year’s summit with a discussion on capturing opportunities within the international dairy markets. Catlett is a regents’ professor in agricultural economics, agricultural business and extension economics.

0217pd roscinski catlettHe has counseled the U.S. departments of Agriculture, Interior, Defense, Labor, Education and Energy, as well as consulted with the World Bank and many Fortune 500 companies.


Catlett will lead two presentations on Wednesday, Feb. 8 – the keynote discussion and a breakout session featuring additional information on global markets and why now is a good time to be in the dairy industry.

Following Catlett, Tom Thibodeau, distinguished professor of servant leadership at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin, will speak on leading within your industry. Tom is the founder of Place of Grace, a Catholic worker house and free meal site that serves hundreds of needy persons each month.

Thibodeau, a story teller extraordinaire, will share insights into the heart of servant leadership and its value for leaders at all levels, in all types of organizations and for those seeking to create caring communities.

Dick WittmanCarrying through with the leadership theme, Dick Wittman with Wittman Consulting will share how management systems and practices can influence the success of the family business in his session titled, “Professionalizing the Family Business.”

Wittman was an adjunct faculty member of Texas A&M University and manages a 19,000-acre crop, cattle and timber operation in northern Idaho. He was recently appointed to the Farm Journal’s Legacy Institute Board of Advisers focusing on succession planning.

Shifting gears to a producer viewpoint, Jeff Burnett from Burnett Enterprises will highlight his family’s experience working through a banking crisis in this year’s producer showcase.

Burnett, who with his brother, Jay, and their wives, Kim and Lisa, own Burnett Enterprises, a 3,000-plus-cow dairy in southeastern Wyoming. He will also showcase their operation, specifically referencing their recent changes to their feed center and calf management.

Something for everyone

The summit offers 90-minute breakout sessions focusing on a wide array of management and industry topics, including genetically modified organisms, immigration reform, animal care and antibiotic regulations, and many more topics.

Bringing another cutting-edge topic to the program, Troy Ott, associate director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Penn State, will describe the basics of how organisms are modified, explain genetically modified organism effects on agriculture production and offer his perspective on a future enabled by modern technologies.

With the changing landscape of farm labor policies in recent years, immigration policy issues impact all agricultural employers, including dairy farms. Tom Maloney, senior extension associate in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, will discuss workforce and immigration policies and what may be changing with the recent election.

Animal care sessions will explore changing regulations and emerging pharmaceutical products.

Emily Yeiser SteppEmily Yeiser Stepp, director for the National FARM Animal Care Program with the National Milk Producers Federation, will share why animal care is so important and what the next steps are for dairy producers caring for dairy cows.

On a similar note, Bill Flynn, deputy director for science policy at the Center for Veterinary Medicine with the FDA, will present the current regulations on animal health and antibiotics. Flynn will share changes that dairy farms need to be aware of to safely and responsibly administer antibiotics in their herd.

Producer panel discussions also continue to be a highlight of the summit, with two offered this year. During the general session, Pennsylvania dairy producers will lead a session called “Growing in Non-Traditional Ways.” Another panel during the breakout sessions will focus on pros and cons of new technology.

Complete program details online

Thanks to significant support from summit sponsors, exhibitors and hosts, registration costs remain low for this two-day event filled with learning and networking opportunities.

In light of the economic situation, the Center for Dairy Excellence has discounted registration fees for dairy producers and farm employees to $75 for the first registrant and $50 for each additional person from the farm.

One-day rates are also available. Complete registration and program details are online (Pennsylvania Dairy Summit). To request a registration brochure or for more information, contact the Summit Business Office by email at Pennsylvania Dairy Summit or at (814) 355-2467. end mark

PHOTO 1: Lowell Catlett, regents’ professor in agricultural economics, agricultural business and extension economics, will present the keynote address, “Capturing Opportunities within International Dairy Markets.” Photo courtesy Lowell Catlett.

PHOTO 2: Dick Wittman, Wittman Consulting, brings experience in succession planning to his session on “Professionalizing the Family Business.” Photo courtesy Wittman Consulting.

PHOTO 3: Animal care and the National FARM Animal Care Program will be the focus of a breakout session led by Emily Yeiser Stepp from National Milk Producers Federation. Photo courtesy National Milk Producers Federation.

Stephanie Roscinski is a communications and marketing manager with the Center for Dairy Excellence. Email Stephanie Roscinski.