The Southern Regional Dairy Challenge was held November 18-20 at Mississippi State University in Tupelo, Mississippi. The host farms were Graham Dairy in Thaxton and Heritage Dairy Farm in Holly Springs. Jeremy Graham (pictured at right) of Graham Dairy and Grandy Ladner of Heritage Dairy Farm shared their thoughts on the event. Q. What suggestion from the students are you most likely to implement on your operation? GRAHAM: The students recommended altering the transition diet for our dry cows. We are primarily a grass-based dairy, and we have used corn silage as a supplement for only the milking herd. So it's an abrupt change, especially for the first calf heifers, to go from a diet with no corn silage to one with it. We're also looking at ways to improve our somatic cell count.

LADNER (pictured below left with family)
: We're going to focus on following our SOPs better and be more cautious of how we're doing them. One area in particular is milking procedures. We can pay attention to the little details better and be able to lower our somatic cell count.

Q. What suggestion from the students are you least likely to implement on your operation?

GRAHAM : Many of the students weren't familiar with grass-based systems, so they suggested cutting back on how far the cows have to walk to get to and from the milking barn. They also wanted us to put up more fencing -- they didn't think the one strand fence we had was enough to keep the cows in. What they didn't realize was that I turned off the electricity for the fence while they were there!


LADNER : Some of the students suggested putting in a brisket rail in our freestalls. I think we can do the same job another way. We can add more bedding to the front of stall, so that way that cows still have the lunge space they need, and we don't have to risk increased injuries.

Q. What did you enjoy most about participating in this year's Dairy Challenge event?

GRAHAM : It's really a humbling experience. You have to swallow your pride and go into it with an open mind because the suggestions [the students] make enable you to have a profitable business. I'm 30 years old and the third generation here. And sometimes I don't revise or improve because that's the way it's always been done. This really helps you to look at your operation in a new light.

LADNER : I liked interacting with the judges and the students. It's always good to have outsiders come in because they can see things you may have overlooked. The meal [at Dairy Challenge] was pretty good too! PD


Related links:
Mississippi hosts Southern Regional Dairy Challenge
2010 Northeast Dairy Challenge: Producer feedback
114 attend Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge