Dairy producers attending the 10th annual Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference (GLRDC) Feb. 9-11 at the Soaring Eagle Resort, Casino and Conference Center in Mount Pleasant should come prepared to find out the latest information available on managing the challenges of dairy farming. From achieving the biggest bang for your buck when making facility improvements to increasing service rates and determining how developing mentoring and training programs can benefit the bottom line on your dairy operation, this conference is the place to be. The first day of the conference will feature Matt McKnight, senior vice president for market access, regulatory and industry affairs, U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). He will talk about capitalizing on the growing global demand for dairy products. The proportion of the U.S. milk supply sold overseas is nearly double what it was a decade ago and the outlook remains strong. McKnight will share the latest efforts by the USDEC to assist suppliers in building the volume and value of U.S. dairy exports to help meet this growing demand.
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Producers trying to figure out if they should start a building project from scratch or renovate existing facilities will not want to miss the presentation from Curt Gooch, senior Extension associate for the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University, covering the 10 things to ask your contractor. After his talk, Gooch will facilitate a producer panel, “What We Learned from Modifying Facilities.” The panel will feature representatives from Swisslane Dairy (Oesch), Alto; Daybreak Dairy Farm (Elzinga), Zeeland; and Palm Boys, (Vogel), Palms.
Other speakers rounding out the first day of the conference include Dr. Greg Bethard, assistant director for dairy technology for Dairy Records Management System (DRMS), who will challenge conference attendees in determining if they are efficiently replacing animals in their herd, and Paul Anderson, chief credit officer for GreenStone Farm Credit Services, who will lay out how to achieve the biggest bang for your buck when improving facilities. Jennifer Garrett, president of JG Consulting Service LLC, will deliver tips on closing the knowledge gap between food producers and consumers, and Hall of Fame speaker David Okerlund will discuss the positive aspects of change.
Attendees will also hear from United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) dietitians, school food service directors and former Detroit Lions defensive tackle and Pro Bowler Luther Ellis about Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60). The National Football League (NFL) and the National Dairy Council (NDC), in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), developed this student-driven in-school wellness program.
Friday morning will be divided between reproduction and labor training. Dr. Albert DeVries, associate professor at the University of Florida, will start the morning program by defining the value of a (cow’s) pregnancy. Dr. Ray Nebel, senior reproduction and dairy herd management specialist for Select Sires Inc., will conclude the reproduction section with a talk about improving service rates. Dr. Nebel will then facilitate a producer panel highlighting how three farms have been able to achieve higher service rates in their herds: Goma Dairy (VanderGoor), Marlette; Double Eagle Dairy (Weller), Middleton; and Sturgis Dairy (VanderHulst), Sturgis.
Mary Kraft, owner, chief financial officer and human resources director of Fort Morgan, Colorado-based Quail Ridge/Badger Creek Dairy Farm, and Dr. Noa Roman-Muniz, assistant professor of animal science at Colorado State University, will present the final session offered on the Friday morning program, an interactive labor-training discussion.
Friday afternoon, Feb. 10, attendees will have the choice of attending two of the four in-depth workshops offered:
• “Your Employee Hiring Process: Can You Pass Inspection?” with Craig Anderson, Michigan Farm Bureau
• “Connect with Your Community: Every Relationship Counts” with Jane Hillstrom, Hillstrom Communications Inc. (offered one time at 1:15 p.m.)
• “Leading the Conversation: How to Answer Difficult Questions from Curious Consumers” with Hillstrom (offered one time at 3:15 p.m.)
• “The Economics of Getting Cows Pregnant” with Dr. Albert DeVries, University of Florida.
The Michigan Brown Swiss and Holstein associations will conduct their annual meetings on Saturday, the third and final day of the conference, starting at 10 a.m. A group lunch and statewide Purebred Dairy Cattle Association (PDCA) update occurs at noon following the meetings. The Michigan Jersey Cattle Club will conduct its annual meeting and Holstein Association USA will hold its regional member meeting starting at 1 p.m.
Other conference activities include the seventh annual Great Lakes Commercial Heifer Extravaganza Sale, an industry trade show, the sixth annual dairy industry recognition night banquet and introduction of the 2012 Michigan Dairy Ambassador Scholarship and Leadership Program recipients.
Individual (adult), student and farm registration options are available. Registrations received before Jan. 20 will receive a $50 discount. Online registration closes Jan. 27 at midnight. On-site registrations are subject to availability.
Visit www.glrdc.msu.edu for the complete conference schedule or to register online. Participants can also register by phone by calling Michigan State University agriculture and natural resources events coordinator Megghan Honke at (517) 353-3175. PD
—From Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference news release