On March 7 and 8 about 400 farmers and industry professionals made their way to Liverpool, NY for the 2018 Northeast Dairy Producers Conference. Northeast Dairy Producers Association, Inc., known as NEDPA to most, is “an organization of dairy producers and industry partners committed to an economically viable, consumer-conscious dairy industry dedicated to the care and well-being of our communities, our environment, our employees and our cows.” As their mission statement may suggest, it was a conference filled with producers and partners coming together to discuss their communities, environment, employees, and of course cows.

Conference presenters and speakers consisted of farmers, researchers, agriculture advocates, coaches, and experts in finance, business, and trade. It should come as no surprise that the state of the milk market was discussed, as well as other hot topics such as labor and immigration. While these are topics that may cause many to shift uncomfortably in their seats, NEDPA and Pro-Dairy Conference organizers did an excellent job of arranging speakers that challenged attendees to address industry issues and ask questions regarding what they can do to remain successful.

Milk price, labor, and immigration may not be topics we enjoy discussing, but they are topics we are frequently exposed to. A topic we don’t discuss nearly as often, and one that some may argue is even more uncomfortable than the topics that typically make as squirm, is telling your story. Michele Payn, founder of Cause Matters Corp, and Kim Bremmer, Ag Inspirations, spoke to attendees about the importance of doing just that. We live in a world today where the weekly grocery shopping trip can be one of the most confusing and intimidating hours (or more) of the week. Both Michele and Kim explained the importance of having discussions with consumers about what happens on the farm and why we do things the way we do. Kendra Lamb and Joe Swyers also shared stories of how they have already started the conversation with consumers by opening the barn doors and inviting people to their farms to see what goes on.

It may not be feasible for you to invite busloads of people on to you farm, or you may not be confident in your ability to explain the science behind biotechnology. However, if you are a Dairy One Customer, you already have a great set of talking points to use when explaining to consumers what you do to ensure the safety and well-being of your animals, employees, and consumers.

Do you use DHIA testing? Have you ever told a neighbor, friend or inquisitive stranger why you do that? Consumers may be surprised to know that not only is your milk tested for things like antibiotics before being processed, but also that you elect to have your milk tested on a regular basis. While this is information that is useful for management decisions, consumers may be interested to know that it also helps you to monitor cow health and make adjustments to her diet to ensure she’s receiving the proper nutrients. Do you use milk pregnancy testing? This non-invasive analysis is a way for you to see if a cow is pregnant from a milk sample you are taking anyway. It keeps your cows happier, and may also be helping you to keep a few extra bucks in your pocket.

So your using technology to keep your cows comfortable and healthy? All from a milk sample? How cool!

Are you having haylage or corn silage tested with our forage lab? Unlike human food that has a label with all of the nutrition facts, we don’t know the exact nutrient profile of our cows’ feed unless we test it. Having feed analyzed allows you to work with your nutritionist to build diets that will provide your cows with exactly the nutrients they need. This helps you to improve productivity and efficiency as well as keeps your cows happy and healthy.

Your cows have a nutritionist that makes them a custom diet? I don’t even have that!

Do you have cameras installed on your farm? They are a great way for you to monitor farm security, animal well-being, and employee performance. But as Allen Behrer explained in his breakout session on how he uses technology on his farm, it’s also a great way to improve employee morale and communication. Allen uses his cameras to monitor his cows, but they have also been a great tool for employee reviews and training. He can point out what is being done well and where there is room to improve. Allen also uses his on-farm network to broadcast easy to understand information, procedures, and updates on a large screen in his employee breakroom.

You can see what your cows are doing all the time? And you’re using technology to engage your team? Awesome!

Are you an ACS customer working with a crop consultant or environmental planner? Do you have a CNMP or CAFO/LFO/MFO plan? You have a plan for how to safely store manure to prevent runoff and minimize odor. You are testing your soil to find out what nutrients are lacking and only applying nutrients where they are needed. You have identified where the bodies of water are on your property and have created emergency plans in case something goes wrong. You have crop consultants scout your fields for harmful pests and disease that could have negative effects on crops and food. Not only are you taking care of your land and managing your resources to increase yields, but you are being an environmental steward.  We live in a society that’s very concerned about the environment. Whether these are things you are required to do, or choose to do to, they are things you are doing nonetheless.

Wow, you put that much thought and consideration into the environment? I had no idea!

To you, the things you do day to day on the farm may seem mundane. They are the things you do to keep your herd comfortable and to take care of your land; it’s how you stay in business. Don’t underestimate how progressive and truly interesting some of these things may be to a person who has never been on a farm. For consumers who have concerns about the treatment of animals, people, and the environment, the Dairy One services you use can be a great way to show them that those are concerns you share as well. Don’t be afraid to tell your story to those who ask, and even those who don’t.