Delivering Dairy Education Through a Variety of Formats

Through program evaluation, producers consistently let us know that offering a variety of program formats and lengths is necessary to reach a wide audience. This season, our Dairy Program utilized discussion groups, on-farm meetings, and webinars to offer new information to our farmers.

Discussion Groups

New this year, the formation of the Automated Milking System Discussion Group brought together producers utilizing robotic milking technology from around Central NY. Producers that utilize this technology are faced with unique challenges, which makes learning from peers so valuable and rewarding for those that participate. This group of farmers have met twice already, with topics focused on Milk Quality Management and Daily Task Efficiency being discussed at each meeting.

Once again this year the Dairy Manager Discussion Group met, with Dr. Julio Giordano from Cornell University presenting research around reproductive strategies for dairy farms. Herd managers from dairies in the SCNY region were able to compare notes with each other on this topic, as well as pick Julio’s brain on best practices and associated costs of utilizing a particular strategy.

Modern On-Farm Preparedness Webinars

Together with the other regional dairy educators, a series of webinars was given to help producers prepare for the modern dairy farm’s needs. Webinars on topics including F.A.R.M. 4.0 Updates, Social Media Preparedness, Disease Outbreaks & Biosecurity and Animal Activism were given at several locations throughout NYS. Presenters included Lindsay Ferlito of the North Country Regional Ag Team, Beth Meyer of American Dairy Association North East and Dr Melanie Hemenway of NYS Ag & Markets. These webinars were recorded, and will be accessible for viewing in the near future.

On-Farm Meetings

Together with Alltech, we hosted an on-farm meeting for both English- and Spanish-speaking employees at a local dairy farm. For the English speaking managers, Alltech’s on-farm specialist, Jorge Delgado presented on how to motivate Hispanic employees and gave context behind Hispanic culture. In the session for the Spanish-speaking employees, Jorge delved into the science behind transition cow issues. More than fourteen Hispanic employees attended this session from four of the counties represented in our SCNY region.  Employees received a certificate at the end of the training. Several said they had not been to any trainings before, but this one answered many questions about the science and “why’s” behind the care of transition cows.

Another meeting held on-farm centered on grazing, and featured Troy Bishopp, the “Grass Whisperer”, of Madison County SWCD and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition. This meeting was made possible by a grant from the Dairy Advancement Program awarded to Mary Kate, and was the kick-off meeting for a discussion group that will help conventional grazing dairies achieve their goals. Producers from many types of grazing situations attended; Mary Kate talked through ways to understand cost of production while grazing, and Troy led discussion around setting up a grazing system using his grazing charts. Next steps for this program include working with conventional dairies one-on-one to further understand their grazing system and track both inputs and milk production during the grazing season.

Dairy Profit Monitor Discussion Group

Another Dairy Advancement Program-funded group is in the beginning stages of gathering data for their discussion group meetings. This group focuses on smaller ~70 cow herds and utilizing data from Dairy Profit Monitor (DPM), an online system for gathering key data and comparing numbers from one dairy to similar dairies. Betsy was awarded funding for this group, and has started gathering monthly milk check data, herd parameters and feed inputs from participating farms. Farms can start to compare their own monthly numbers as they are inputted in the DPM system. A summer discussion group meeting is planned so that our producers can compare several months of data at that time. This group will gather data throughout 2020, and meet early in 2021 to compare a full year’s data.

NY Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI) Applied Research Project

This last quarter also saw the start-up of a new NYFVI-funded research project, coordinated by Betsy and two other regional dairy specialists, Margaret Quaassdorff of the NWNY Team and Lindsay Ferlito of the NNY Team. This project focuses on areas of opportunity and excellence in calves, transition cows and cow comfort. Each region will work with five farms to achieve five contact points, including:

  1. Initial visit and questionnaire
  2. Initial farm assessment
  3. Report delivery to farm and formation of an action plan
  4. Farm reassessment
  5. Final report delivery and documentation of changes

This project will last until the summer of 2021, and will result in the formation of a podcast series in which each producer will discuss their area of excellence or opportunity and what they’ve done to improve/maintain results. This project serves to achieve two areas: increasing the profitability of the participating farms, as well as share best practices in a form that many producers are looking for.

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