More than 1,300 dairy producers and industry representatives gathered in Madison, Wisconsin, March 16-17 for the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) Business Conference. The annual conference brings together producers from across the country to learn and share ideas that will help make them successful in the year ahead.

Emcee Dr. David Kohl, president of AgriVisions LLC and professor emeritus at Virginia Tech , told producers that this is a great time in the dairy industry for those who are prepared and able to recognize the changes taking place.

“We are at an inflection point,” he said, “where the next 10 years will bring more opportunity to succeed than did the past 30 years, and also more volatility.” The risk of failure will also be higher, which is why it will be imperative for producers to properly manage and execute, Kohl said.

He also outlined his reasons for optimism during his presentation, “Capitalizing on the Three O’s of Business Success: Optimism, Opportunities and Oneself.” One reason for optimism, he said, is that agriculture is one of the new engines of growth, citing the fact that the industry employs directly and indirectly one out of every seven people. Opportunity will be available to all sizes and types of dairy operations, he said.

“One size does not fit all. You can be successful with any type of business model. The traditional dairy operation will survive,” he said.


However, successful dairy producers will need to take key steps for a bright future, including having a strong focus on business management, engaging consumers and special interest groups, making educational investments in themselves and maintaining a balanced lifestyle.

A multitude of specialty sessions followed to aid producers in their personal education investments. Topics ranged from animal health, calf care, hoof care and forage production to communication, business transition, working with family and computer tips.

PDPW Conference 2 Dan Thurmon , a professional juggler, taught the audience how to focus on what’s important, learn from the drops and take on bigger challenges as he delighted everyone with an action-packed presentation.

Dan Basse, president of AgResource , helped the audience see a more global, comprehensive view of the world and how events impact them on their U.S. farms. Basse advised dairy farmers to remain steadfast in the productivity gains their herds have made while also focusing on health.

Producers should also do a better job of pricing milk on the futures market while looking at their margins (the spread between input costs to produce the milk and the price at which farmers sell their milk.)

“I call it the ‘slope of hope,’ Basse said, “because the futures markets offer dairy farmers great opportunities.”

Time in the Hall of Ideas set producers on a treasure hunt. Visits to PDPW’s preferred suppliers awarded attendees with chances to win a travel voucher, laptop and sapphire ring.

If you didn’t want to take your chances in the hunt, PDPW members could guarantee themselves a souvenir by bidding high in the live and silent auctions to benefit the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation . Seven auction items brought a total of $12,150 for dairy education programs at the live auction. The silent auction raised an additional $14,500.

An elite genetics Holstein calf topped the live auction at $3,700. Ripp’s Dairy Valley LLC of Dane, Wisconsin, purchased Jenny-Lou Million 2069, donated by the Mitch Breunig family of Mystic Valley Dairy .

Other items sold included:
• A GEA WestfaliaSurge Rotating Cow Brush sold for $2,200 to Warmka Holsteins of Fox Lake, Wisconsin.
• 100 units of Semex semen with a tank, donated by Semex and ai24, sold for $2,100 to Merry-Water Farms, Inc. of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
• A Wisconsin golf package featuring gift certificates to five of Wisconsin’s premier golf courses sold for $1,800 to Dic-Wisco Farms, Inc. of Dorchester, Wisconsin. The package was donated by the five participating courses, plus AgStar , Stewart-Peterson and Diamond V Mills.
ANIMART donated a Door County walleye trip, which sold for $1,000 to Maple Ridge Dairy, Stratford, Wisconsin.
• A pheasant hunt package sold to Quality Liquid Feeds of Medford, Wisconsin, for $650. It was donated by Sharon Brantmeier of Ameriprise Financial and Don Meyer, Rock River Laboratory.
• A handmade quilt crafted by Karla Zimmerman was purchased by Badgerland Financial for $700.

PDPW Conference 3

During the group’s annual meeting at the conference, Kevin Krentz from K&D Dairy near Berlin, Wisconsin, was elected to the board. He replaces outgoing board member Gary Ruegsegger. Incumbent directors Russel Strutz of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and Eric Hillan from Ladysmith, Wisconsin, were re-elected for a second three-year term.

Also at the conference, PDPW Industry Advisors Doug Wilson of Genex/CRI Cooperative and Jeff Riechers from M&I Bank retired from the board. Their replacements will be named later in the spring.

PDPW has already started planning for the 2011 conference, March 15-16, in Madison, Wisconsin. Check out the PDPW website for news and highlights from this year.

TOP RIGHT: More than 1,300 dairy producers and industry representatives attended the annual Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin Business Conference.
LEFT: Dan Thurmon, a professional juggler, entertained the crowd while encouraging them to take on big challenges.
BOTTOM RIGHT: Progressive Dairyman Editor Karen Lee (far right) talks with Christine Lindner (far left) of ANIMART and Marjorie Stieve (center) of Vita Plus .
Photos by Karen Lee and Sal Gomez.

Karen Lee