Hundreds of dairy farmers and agricultural leaders from New England and New York gathered at the recent 18th annual Vermont Dairy Producers Conference in Burlington to hear from a panel of experts about strategies to ensure dairy farms remain a vibrant part of the local economy. Conference organizer Reg Chaput, a dairy farmer from North Troy, reports that more than 300 attended the conference.
“From the seasoned dairy farmers to the next generation of agricultural students, we all have a shared goal to strengthen the dairy industry,” said Chaput. “Over 7,000 jobs in Vermont are created through dairy, and by working together we’re strengthening our future and the economy in Vermont.”
Added Keith Lanphear of the Lanphear Family Farm in Hyde Park, 2016 Vermont Dairy Farm of the Year, “Farmers continually look for innovative ways to be more efficient and sustainable—this conference delivered helpful new perspectives we can use to remain competitive.”
Carrie Mess is a dairy farmer, blogger, speaker and advocate for agriculture from Lake Mills, Wisconsin. Mess says most people are two or more generations removed from the farm. She spoke to attendees about increasing their community outreach to share with people how dairy products are made.
“The conversations we have today with our customers will shape the future of our industry—we are responsible for our future by being proactive and reaching out,” said Mess. “I challenge you to say thank you to the next person you see buying dairy products…share a little bit about your life in agriculture.”
Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts thanked dairy farmers for their contributions to the state.
“I grew up in Cabot on the land—we had dairy cows, sheep and maple sugaring; it’s a true honor to be in this field, it’s where my heart has always been, in agriculture and in farming,” said Tebbetts. “You should all be very proud of yourselves today—you’re working to make your industry better, and your Vermont economy better, thank you for doing that.”
Dr. Lance Baumgard of Iowa State University is the Norman Jacobson Professor of Nutritional Physiology in the Department of Animal Science; he spoke about his primary research on the consequences of heat stress on animals.
“As we’re seeing more hot days every year, farmers need to understand how to adapt to give the best care to their cows for the future of our farms and our food supply,” said Baumgard. “The primary strategy is for farms to work with their nutritionists to formulate their cows’ diets to make sure that cows stay healthy even when temperatures rise.”
An issue that every farm faces concerns how to stay positive despite the challenges facing the dairy industry today, according to Damian Mason, an Indiana dairy farmer and professional speaker, who had a positive and humor-filled message for attendees.
Kati Hale, a third-generation dairy farmer at Gervais Family Farm in Enosburg, Vermont, where she is the herd manager, says that the conference helped her to gain information that she wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to.
“It’s very important to our farm’s legacy to address the challenges we face every day—it’s a huge responsibility—coming to this conference gives you innovative ideas you can bring home and implement on your farm.”