Vindication. That’s what I felt standing at the gate in Charlotte, North Carolina, in mid-January. I was on my way to attend PDPW’s Managers Academy. (Click here and here for the highlights from this event.)

Cooley walt polo
Editor and Podcast Host / Progressive Dairy

Among the dozens of emails that were rolling in on my iPhone after a two-hour flight from Minnesota was one with this headline from the USDA: “More than Half of Nation’s Dairy Producers Enroll in New Margin Protection Program.”

A smile broke across my face, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Here’s why.

Early in 2014, we decided to run fewer, but more extensive, reader polls in our magazine. So last year, we only asked readers to respond to four questions, one each quarter. Each one of them answered a question that had never been asked before. What was most exciting to me is that each of the polls shed light on a subject that had previously not been explored.

For example, last spring we asked: “How often do you moisture-test the silage in your ration?” The results showed that on a majority of dairies that happens irregularly.


After the poll ran, I received a request from researchers in Wisconsin who were writing a case study to demonstrate dry matter variability on-farm and its impact. They wanted permission to cite the data. Here was the researcher’s response to the survey’s outcome:

“Thanks, Walt, this is very eye-opening. I consider myself fairly realistic but had guessed dry matter was being assessed much more frequently.”

Now, I must state here, as we have when publishing the results of these surveys, that these polls are not scientific studies. We don’t have a standard deviation or P-value for the accuracy of the results. Our polls are conducted as a simple straw poll.

When we start a new poll, we post the question on our website and users can vote but once per question there. In addition to this, we also ask the question of readers in person while conducting our regular circulation renewal calls. If you get such a call from someone in our circulation department, I would encourage you to participate.

You’ll also see these questions appear sometimes on this page. While you can’t log a vote just by looking at it here, please consider participating and give us your vote. To vote you can go online, drop me an email with your response or cut out and mail in the survey response “coupon” that appears periodically in our magazine.

As has been shown, these polls do matter and can provide insight into trends and present realities in the industry. Also, if you have a question for the industry you think needs answered, call or send me an email. I’m the keeper of our list of potential future questions and I’d be happy to hear your suggestions.

Featured on this page this issue is our current poll question. We’re trying to do some groundwork that might help improve transition cow care on-farm. We first need to know who to target in our audience when publishing information on this topic. Please consider providing us with your response.

Later that week in Charlotte, a dairy producer asked me over dinner if I thought the results of our most recently concluded poll about MPP participation were accurate. (He obviously hadn’t yet seen the news release that I had.) I told him I thought they were, but I was only just recently confident in them.

Compare for yourself the headline I quoted at the start of this piece with the one we published 11 days earlier: “Survey: At least 50 percent likely to participate in margin protection.”

I thought we might be sticking our neck out by publishing these non-scientific straw poll results. But thanks to enough of you participating, the most recent results showed we were actually ahead of the curve. That’s why I’m sure onlookers saw me grinning from ear to ear that day in the airport in Charlotte. PD

Walt Cooley
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