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Nominations sought for the 2019 John Dennison Award

Entries are now being invited from all sectors of the dairy industry for the John Dennison Lifetime Achievement Award.

This annual accolade, now in its seventh year, is personally awarded and presented by the Dennison family, in memory of the renowned breeder of Denmire Holsteins, John Dennison.

The winner is set to be announced at this year’s Borderway UK Dairy Expo on Saturday, March 9, 2019.

Last year, the award was won by Holstein Association past president Jimmy Wilson, from the Tregibby Herd in Cardigan.

Former recipients have also included Mike Miller of Shanael Holsteins; John Gribbon; Sammy McCormick of the Hilltara Herd, Bangor, Northern Ireland; Alister Laird of Blyth Bridge, Peebleshire; and Mark Nutsford from the Riverdane Herd.

Last year’s winner Jimmy Wilson said: “It is a great honour, and privilege to accept this award. It is truly a lifetime achievement and something that you cannot buy.”

The judging panel comprises of industry leaders, including members of the Dennison family and past winners of the award.

Together, they look for an individual that reflect the traits of its namesake, John Dennison and similarly someone who is judged to be an exemplary role model and has made a significant contribution to the dairy industry.

Suitable nominees include those that have worked consistently throughout their lifetime to earn a status of high regard in the dairy and farming community.

Glyn Lucas, dairy auctioneer at Harrison and Hetherington, said: “The British dairy industry is renowned across the world, along with many of the individuals who work within it and the Dennison family wanted to recognise these individuals.

John Dennison was a highly respected and celebrated figure within the industry and we, all attendees of Dairy Expo, are proud to be able to highlight those who have dedicated their life to dairy.

“The moment when the winner of the John Dennison Lifetime Achievement Award is announced is a moment not likely to be forgotten by any recipient, and we very much look forward to receiving 2019 nominations.”

John Dennison

John Dennison farmed at Scales Farm in Ulverston and was highly respected for his extraordinary skills as a pedigree breeder and showman.

John was also well known as a judge and inspirational figure for many young people. He acted as an ambassador for the Holstein breed and mentor to the younger generation of Holstein breeders.

The honour was introduced in 2012 following his death, to mark the deep respect within the dairy industry for his lifelong contribution to dairy farming.

How To Nominate

Anyone who would like to make a nomination should send a brief resume on the nominee to: The John Dennison Lifetime Achievement Award, c/o Glyn Lucas, Harrison & Hetherington Ltd., Borderway Mart, Rosehill, Carlisle CA1 2RS. The closing date for nominations is Thursday, January 31, 2019.


‘2018 is by far the worst year the dairy industry has ever been through.’ It might get worse.

US dairy farmers, after enduring years of low milk prices, are now hurting even more thanks to the trade war. Ryan Mercer, Free Press Staff Writer

After years of low milk prices, about 75 dairy farms closed across Vermont in 2018. Harold Howrigan of Fairfield says the past year set a new low for dairy farmers in the state. 

And the year isn’t looking any better. In fact, dairy farmers say that it’s looking worse.  

President Donald Trump’s tariff actions and the resulting trade war shut off access to foreign markets for U.S. dairy farmers. The U.S. Dairy Export Council, an organization funded almost entirely by dairy farmers, has worked for decades developing those same markets around the world for their dairy producers. 

“Those markets were taken away with the stroke of a pen,” Howrigan said, referring to Trump’s move in July 2018 that imposed billion of dollars of tariffs on Chinese goods and prompted China to impose retaliatory tariffs of its own. The trade war then expanded to other countries like Canada and Mexico. 

Now that U.S. farmers have been cut off from those markets, there’s no guarantee that they will get them back. 

“It’s going to take some time,” said Mark Magnan, a dairy farmer in Fairfield, who owns and operates a fourth-generation dairy farm.

Magnan said that if the trade war ended tomorrow and U.S. dairy farmers were allowed to sell to the foreign markets they lost, they’d have to compete to get back. And to do that Magnan says they’ll have to lower U.S. milk prices.  

And lower prices are the last thing dairy farmers need right now. Years of low prices have already taken a heavy toll. Aside from just not covering costs, Magnan said sustained low prices have driven down the value of cattle and have devalued other assets that farms rely on for collateral at the bank. That lack of value means farmers can’t borrow as much money for things like seed for the next year’s feed crop or to buffer financial losses from the previous years. 

And back to those foreign markets, when U.S. dairy farmers were forced out by the trade war, other countries started moving in to fill the void. So competition is fierce, from countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and more. 

“There is tremendous competition from the European Union now for those same export destinations,” Howrigan said. 

The government did make a one-time payment to dairy farmers to help limit the impacts of the trade war, but of the estimated $1.5 billion lost in 2018, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council, that payment covered just $127 million of what dairy farmers lost.  

“It’s a slap in the face,” Magnan said

He would much rather see some kind of program to drive up milk prices by reducing production which he says would not only solve cash flow problems farmers are seeing now, but would also serve as a long-term benefit after years of financial loss because of low milk prices.   

Adding insult to injury, an additional payment scheduled for December never happened because of the government shutdown, which is also preventing dairy farmers from taking advantage of any other farm programs that might help.  

“When you force farmers into the economic position we are in now, it makes me wonder where we are going to be in five years,” Magnan said.

Magnan doesn’t see a viable future for his farm if things continue the way they have for the past four or five years.  


As for the Trump Administration’s trade war and the impacts on his livelihood, Magnan doesn’t think there is much hope at the moment. 

“I don’t think they fully understand [the problem], nor do I think they care.”


Trump’s trade war is hitting, hurting dairy farms

Shawn Hernley and daughter Miranda Hernley stand for a photo at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. (Photo: by Ed Mahon, PA Post)

When the tariffs started, Shawn Hernley knew other countries would retaliate.

But he figured — in the big picture — the tariffs would be good for the United States economy.

Then the trade war with China, Mexico and other countries dragged on. Milk prices remained low. And a heifer Hernley could sell for $2,500 to $3,000 a few years ago now might sell for $1,100.

Hernley, a 61-year-old Lebanon County dairy farmer, is one of many farmers struggling in Pennsylvania, a state that is second only to Wisconsin for its number of dairy farms.

The tariffs between the United States and other countries have hit soybean, pork and dairy farmers the hardest in Pennsylvania, according to Mark O’Neill, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

And the issue is especially problematic for Pennsylvania’s about 6,000 dairy farms. The industry has been struggling with low prices because of a global oversupply. In 2016 — before President Donald Trump took office and before the trade war began — the state lost 120 dairy farms, according to the Center for Dairy Excellence in Pennsylvania.

Hernley has seen friends sell off their cattle and find whatever work they can.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Hernley said, adding, “It’s a passion, and it’s who you are. And that is being taken away from you through no fault of your own.”

The tariffs are one more challenge for the industry. Jayne Sebright, executive director of the Center for Dairy Excellence, said the trade war has had an impact on the the amount of dairy products, particularly powdered milk, sent to China, as well as cheese products sent to Mexico.

There have been some positive signs for Pennsylvania farmers hoping for relief from the trade war and other assistance. But even then, there are limits.

In the fall, the United States reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the new pact hasn’t gone into effect yet. 

In December, the BBC reported that China bought U.S. soybeans for the first time since the trade war began, although it was uncertain whether a broader deal would follow.

The December farm bill had general provisions helpful to farmers, Sebright said, but some have been delayed because of the partial federal government shutdown.

Sebright said dairy farms in Pennsylvania tend to be smaller than in other parts of the country, and it’s harder for those farmers to weather this type of downturn.

Before the Farm Show officially began, as officials gathered to unveil a half-ton, superhero-themed butter sculpture, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf acknowledged some of the challenges facing the dairy industry.

His administration recently announced a new $5 million grant program to help dairy farmers. Lawmakers approved the grant program as part of the state budget in June.

Among other things, the program will encourage farmers to expand their products, such as by offering cheese and yogurt, and to use organic production methods.

At the federal level, the Trump administration announced in July that it would make an estimated $12 billion in government assistance available to farmers, including soybean, dairy and hog producers.

Mark O’Neill, with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said that funding might help some farmers pay bills, but he said it’s not enough to make them whole. And some payments will be on hold because of the shutdown.

“Farmers really don’t want this money. They want a free market system,” O’Neill said, as he stood near a Pennsylvania Farm Bureau booth where people could pick up pink pig hats and take photos in front of a farm picture. “They want to be able to sell their products on the open market, get the best price they can possibly get.”

‘Never want to come to that’

Miranda Hernley, 24, arrived at the Farm Show Tuesday and planned to stay there with her family’s heifers until Saturday. She brought a cot to sleep near the animals.

She splits her time between working on the family’s dairy farm and working at a feedmill — where farmers buy food to feed their animals.

At a Christmas party, the feedmill owner told employees that company gave some feed away for free to farmers who didn’t have the money to pay. So that’s one side of the industry she sees.

And on the other side, the thought of leaving the dairy industry feels like it’s always in the back of her mind. “But you never want to come to that,” Miranda Hernley said.

On Tuesday, her father, Shawn Hernley, was clipping the hair of his white and brown heifers inside the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex.

He took a break to talk to a reporter about the tariffs, which he supported at first. At one point — just as Hernley finished talking about how much less heifers sell for now — a man walked up to him asked if there were any animals his child could pet. Shawn Hernley pointed to the end of a row.

“The calf on the end you can certainly pet, yeah,” Shawn Hernley told the man.

He turned back to the reporter. These days, Hernley is more on the fence about the tariffs. He thinks they’ve been a burden on the economy. He’s skeptical that any deals would help smaller farms.

“As long as you have big money involved, mega corporations — yeah, the family farm has such a small voice,” Hernley said.

‘Trump says he loves the farmers’

Jill Dice grew up on a dairy farm and married a dairy farmer. She and her husband can only afford staying in the dairy business because her husband’s family has multiple businesses.

She thinks the tariffs have had a big impact on her family’s Lebanon County farm.

“Trump says he loves the farmers. Well, it’s really not helping us right now,” Dice said. “And I’m not political in any way. …We just need help so that we can survive.”

Jason Nailor, a 36-year-old Cumberland County dairy farmer, voted for Trump in 2016 and remembers telling his wife that his only fear was that Trump would make other countries mad.

“Sure enough, he did that,” Nailor said.

But Nailor said before the tariffs went into effect, he locked in the price of soybeans he sells to a local mill. It was a risk, but it ended up benefiting him this past November. He sold those soybeans for what they were going for before the tariffs.

He doesn’t have a soybean rate locked in for the next season, and he’s not not sure how many he’ll plant. As for milk, he doesn’t think the tariffs were that big of a factor.

And Nailor has received payments from the federal government as part of the $12 billion program Trump announced last year. He said he’s talked to a lot of other farmers who were skeptical of those payments.

“I’ve been, like, you know, ‘Hey, it’s the real deal, guys,’ ” Nailor said.

Still, there are a lot of questions for Nailor and farmers like him.

His day starts around 4 a.m. to milk cows. Sometimes, he wonders why he’s doing it.

When asked if he’s thought about leaving the dairy industry, Nailor laughed.

“Every day for the last couple years now,” he said. “But it’s going to be a decision we’re going to look at hard at the end of this year, if things don’t turn around.”

Before he became a farmer, Nailor studied electronics engineering at a technical institute. He worked with computers.

Maybe, he has sometimes thought, he’ll go back to that.


Panic attacks, isolation, loneliness and fear: January can be the cruelest month for farmers

January is a dark month, mentally, for farmers, writes Toban Dyck.Postmedia

I drove myself to the hospital exhibiting heart-attack symptoms and left with none. This has happened twice. And both times I left the urgent care with a clean bill of health.

The attending physician would sensitively sidestep toward what to him was the obvious conclusion: anxiety.

“Do you have a history of anxiety?” he would ask. “Have you ever experienced panic attacks?”

It never occurred to me that physical symptoms as real and specific as chest pain could stem from anxiety, a state of being that seems too nebulous and ethereal to have any physiological connection. Nor did I consider myself anxious.

Many farmers spend their days alone. They work alone. They troubleshoot alone. And they shoulder the farm’s problems alone

Adapting to a schedule that has become increasingly busy and demanding has been a challenge. It requires that I pay special attention to my mental health, ensuring that I routinely balance the things that deplete me with activities that recharge.

Canadian farmers are by and large familiar with weathering storms. It’s an assumed clause in the job description. We do it all the time. In southern Manitoba, right now, it’s cold and windy and there’s enough snow built-up that I’m not sure you’d make it down my driveway with a two-wheel-drive vehicle. This is not uncommon for January.

In whiteout blizzard conditions my wife and I feel alone on our farm. But that’s more of an observation than a fear. We have the tools and machinery to survive. And, if those all fail, we have neighbours who would ensure our safety.

Things change, however, when the things that need dealing with are in our heads. We don’t feel as confident calling a neighbour for help. The steps needed in order to survive the storm are not as clear.

Many farmers spend their days alone. They work alone. They troubleshoot alone. And they shoulder the farm’s problems alone. And, while any farmer would be able to tell you exactly where to purchase a new cultivator shovel, they may not know where to go for help dealing with the nagging and intrusive thought that their farm isn’t going to make it another year. Or, worse yet, that they aren’t going to make it another year.

Some farms are miles or hours from the nearest community. And some farms have poor or nonexistent cellphone coverage. Isolation and loneliness are physical realities that become exponentially more dangerous when they become mental realities, as well.

Strength. Endurance. Survival. Perseverance. These are the words through which many farmers judge themselves. To be known in connection to any of them is to have built a solid legacy. To have found the last growing season stressful, mentally, is tantamount to saying you’re a lesser farmer.

My wife and I own slightly less than 100 acres of land. It’s not much, by most Canadian farming metrics. But the payments are high. And the stress associated with our new and growing operation is tied to managing the cash-flow demands we have now with an eye for what those demands are going to look like as we purchase more acres.

The federal government is currently taking a deep look into the issue of mental health among farmers. They have opened themselves to receive personal anecdotes from producers across Canada. According to iPolitics, many farmers report being under extreme pressure and some have contemplated suicide due to stress and isolation.

The full report is expected to be released this year.

In November, Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay acknowledged the mental-health concerns that are specifically plaguing the agriculture industry and announced a campaign that will see ag-lender Farm Credit Canada team up with 4-H Canada to provide a support network for youth.

On Jan. 7, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Ernie Hardeman, raised his voice on the matter, announcing a public awareness campaign aimed at shedding light on the mental-health challenges that face farmers.

“Farming can be a tough business, one that takes a toll on farmers and their families,” he said, in a press release.  “We want to address the stigma that still surround mental health and help people find the resources that can make a difference.”

The stigmas are not going away any time soon. Farmers are culturally known to be hearty and callous toward things as seemingly petty as insecurity and negative thoughts.

The next time you’re driving outside of the city and you see just one yard amid thousands of acres of unoccupied land, know that as lonely as that farm looks is as lonely as some farmers feel.

It’s January. Traditionally, this month is a dark one, mentally. Take extra care out there. I’m learning to deal with my anxiety. It’s not easy.


New Poll: Consumers, by Nearly 3-to-1 Margin, Want FDA to End Mislabeling of Fake Milks

New national survey data released today finds that consumers – by a nearly 3-to-1 margin – want the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce existing regulations and prohibit non-dairy beverage companies from using the term “milk” on their product labels. FDA is soliciting public comment regarding front-of-package dairy labeling regulations through Jan. 28.

The national survey conducted by IPSOS, a global market research and consulting firm, found that 61 percent of consumers believe FDA – which currently defines “milk” as the product of an animal, but doesn’t enforce that labeling rule – should restrict non-dairy beverage companies from using the term “milk” on their product labels. Only 23 percent said FDA should not limit the term “milk” to dairy products, while 16 percent were uncertain.

“Consumers have spoken, and they are clear in their desire for FDA to enforce its own rules,” said National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “FDA must listen to their voice and end deceptive labeling by plant-based beverage manufacturers.”

Plant-based beverage brands regularly exploit lax regulatory enforcement to label their products as “milk,” and polling data shows that consumers are widely misinformed by mislabeling. A survey by IPSOS from last August showed that 73 percent of consumers erroneously believe that almond-based drinks had as much or more protein per serving than milk. In a separate poll from the International Food Information Council Foundation released in October, one-quarter of consumers either thought almond drinks contained cow’s milk or weren’t sure.

The newly announced online IPSOS poll – commissioned by NMPF – was conducted Jan. 4-7, 2019, and surveyed 1,005 adults nationwide.

The question was: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently defines ‘milk’ as the product of an animal, but doesn’t enforce that labeling rule. Do you believe that the FDA should restrict non-dairy beverage companies from using the term ‘milk’ on their product labels?”

About the study:

For the survey, a sample of 1,005 adults 18+ from the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii were interviewed online in English. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to, coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of IPSOS online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=1,005, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=+/-5.0 percentage points).

Agriculture professionals seek ways to spot signs of suicidal thoughts in dairy farmers

A former dairy barn, now empty of cows. (Photo: John Oncken)

Tammi Kohlman spent a half-hour talking to 120 agricultural professionals about recognizing the signs of, and helping prevent, suicide.

Her presentation at a meeting in Kiel this week aimed to help those who work with farmers navigate the multi-year crisis the dairy industry and other farm sectors are facing in 2019.

That includes helping producers who might be suicidal.

Kohlman, coordinator of CSI Destination Zero in Fond du Lac, an organization focused on suicide prevention, pointed to the number of people at the meeting as a bright spot as farmers face tough decisions and unknown market and price conditions in the new year.

“It shows people care and that people recognize there is an issue and want to help,” she said at the meeting.

“This is going on the fifth year of very low milk prices, and other commodity prices,” said Scott Gunderson, agriculture agent with Manitowoc County University of Wisconsin-Extension. “It’s taking an economic and emotional toll on people — farmers especially — but also those who work with farmers.”

The event was hosted by extension offices in Manitowoc, Fond du Lac, Calumet, Sheboygan, Ozaukee and Washington counties.

Herd decline

Participants ranged from ag lenders, to dairy equipment providers and dairy nutritionists. Farmers are their clientele, but in some cases, they’re more akin to family.

“Those people take the stress home with them as well,” Gunderson said. “They’ve worked with farmers, in some cases, for generations… Their families feel the stress.”

The economics of milk prices below the break-even point is also squeezing some farmers out of the industry. The October all milk price received by the state’s farmers was $17.60 per hundredweight. Break-even is generally around $18, but varies by operation.

“If you can’t show a profit, in any business, ultimately that business is doomed to not succeed, and I think that’s where we are in some cases,” Gunderson said.

Manitowoc County lost a dozen farms in 2018, a trend he hopes can be reversed in 2019, but many unknowns — including foreign trade and domestic consumption of dairy products — remain question marks.

There were 8,163 milk cow herds in the state in December, down almost 16 percent from 9,711 in 2015, according to state figures. Many of the cows, however, have remained in the state, moving to other operations. 

Older farmers are choosing to retire while some farms are leaving, or will leave, the business because it simply doesn’t pay to continue.

Industry impact

What happens on the farm ripples to suppliers and lenders working directly with farmers as they navigate the rocky shoals of staying in business.

Denmark State Bank in Denmark sent its ag lending specialists to the meeting.

“Every farmer that calls maybe has no problem, a small problem, or a big problem, and it’s our job to figure out what size problem they have and what we can do to help,” said David Kappelman, senior vice president/agribusiness manager with the bank. “We share in their success and we feel their failures as well, so we’re not immune to that.”

He said most farms that have left the business have been voluntary, but that might change.

“Now there are going to be more stressed situations where they can’t do anything but file or stop paying,” Kappelman said.

That’s the backdrop of dairy farming in 2019.

Kohlman said asking people if they’re thinking about suicide, taking the time to listen, and showing they care are ways everyone can help producers in crisis. That’s anyone from veterinarians to bankers to the faith community.

“The financial burdens are very real and the uncertainty with everything,” she said. “You might not be mental health professionals, but we all have a role to play in preventing suicide.”


‘A hard Brexit might be the best thing for our dairy industry – it would free up lots of land’

A hard Brexit could, indirectly, provide some opportunities for high profit dairy farmers, according to one leading Agri Consultant.

Cork consultant Mike Brady told the Grassland Conference this week that at the moment young people coming into dairy farming have to be prepared to move for their chosen career.

He said that young dairy farmers who don’t own or even come from a farm can have a successful and profitable career in farming, but they must be prepared to move location to do so.

“If you’re from West Cork you’re not going to end up milking 300 cows in West Cork. So you better be prepared to move where there will be opportunities.”

However, he also said that a hard Brexit may present an opportunity for some farmers, notably high profit dairy farmers.

“It’s a harsh thing to say but a hard Brexit might be the best thing ever for the dairy industry. That will free up lots of land.”

He said that a hard Brexit might be tough on the dairy industry, but it would be ‘catastrophic’ on the beef industry in Ireland.

“There is going to be substantially less single farm payment and if there are tariffs going into Britain, it will be catastrophic for the beef industry in this country.

“Figures from the National Farm Survey show that if you take out the subsidies, the average beef farmer with 100 acres loses €3,000 a year. If that goes to minus €20,000 a year, will he continue to do it?

“I doubt it. So that will free up land for dairy farmers, which is profitably and will be profitable, even if you take a 20pc hit if we have a hard Brexit, they will still survive.”

“It could be an opportunity for high profit dairy farmers, which it is for high profit farmers in the UK.”

Land in the West

Meanwhile, growing inequality in the farming sector will lead to a return of “landlordism” in the west, Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice has claimed.

Deputy Fitzmaurice said land purchases in the West were now dominated by either large-scale dairy operations or forestry interests, with small drystock farmers losing out.

“It’s either trees or the big dairymen that are mopping up all the ground that’s coming for sale,” Mr Fitzmaurice said.

He said local drystock farmers did not have the borrowing capacity to compete with either of these groups, adding that large dairy operators had the access to credit and the CAP payments to outbid most drystock farmers for any good parcels of land that came on the market.

Private forestry interests were also willing to pay more for planting ground, he said. Deputy Fitzmaurice (right) claimed that over €5,000/ac was paid for a section of land near the Galway-Roscommon border recently that is likely to go for trees.

“I see this happening around the country. Local farmers with 50-60ac who are trying to buy 20-30ac more just can’t get the finance to compete with the dairy farmers or forestry interests,” he said.

“The small man and woman are being pushed out.” He said State-backed low-interest loans should be made available to farmers with under 100ac who are seeking to expand the size of their holding to a commercial level, or who are looking to consolidate a fragmented farm.

“Something has to be done to help these farmers, because Ireland is heading for a return to landlordism the way the land market is going,” he stated.


Dairy Cows Are the New Therapy Dogs, Helping College Students De-Stress During Finals

First, there were therapy dogs in local schools. Then there were yoga goats on local farms. Now, a herd of dairy farm cows has gone back to school — to help college students de-stress before their tests.

This month, the Lansing State Journal reported on a new program at Michigan State University allowing students to brush dairy cows to chill out during final exams week.

PEOPLE reached out to Andrea Meade, Farm Manager at the Michigan State University Dairy Cattle Teaching and Research Center, to learn more about this unique human-animal bonding experience. She had been looking for ways to get students outside the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources aware of the dairy farm. Meade was also particularly keen on finding “a new way to utilize the herd.”

“I have been following other trends in agriculture like ‘goat yoga’ and wanted to see if any MSU students would be interested in a similar experience,” says Meade.

Meade tells PEOPLE that about 50 students participated in the program, including MSU undergrads as well as a few PhD candidates. She says the animal group consisted of 35 cows, ranging in age from 2 to 10 years old, who were specially picked out for brushing sessions.

Jessica Hanna/Michigan State University

“We had Christmas music playing, and all of the students remarked how much they had enjoyed getting to meet the cows,” Meade tells PEOPLE. “The cows very much enjoyed this event; I would say they equally enjoyed brushing and petting. Social grooming is an important natural behavior for cows. You can always tell when a cow is relaxed because she will be chewing her cud … Rumination [cud chewing] is when the cow regurgitates the food she has stored in her first stomach [cows have four stomach compartments], chews it, and actually starts digesting it. We always look for cows that are chewing their cud as a sign that they are relaxed and feeling safe and comfortable. Many of the visitors got to see this as they brushed. Many of the cows were so relaxed, that they laid down and took a nap!”

However, not all of the cows were sleepy, and Meade says she encouraged students to talk to the cows, too.

“Cows are great listeners and you can tell how they are feeling by the way they hold their ears, much like a horse,” she says.

So, what’s the best technique for brushing cows? Meade says people should approach them slowly, staying out of their blind spot, which is directly behind them. The farm had two types of brushes available, so students were able to choose which brush felt best.

“I encouraged everyone to put their hand on the cows so the cows knew where they were at all times,” Meade explains. “From there, most people started on the top of the cow and worked their way down. It was interesting to see that some people picked one cow and worked on her the entire time, while others bounced around from cow to cow.”

Jessica Hanna/Michigan State University

Meade says that cows are similar to dogs, “because they are very soulful, calm animals.” She says this with the caveat that “they are not the world’s smartest animals, but [they’re] just smart enough to sometimes get in trouble. They are very social, group-oriented animals that hate to be alone, and they have very strong social structures, just like a pack of dogs.”

For Christmas, Meade says the cows will be up to their “normal” routine: eating, sleeping and making milk. And because work on a dairy farm doesn’t stop — not even for holidays — the team of dedicated full-time employees and student staff will be there throughout Christmas, into the new year (and beyond) to take care of the cows.

While this was the MSU dairy center’s first-ever cow brushing event, Meade and staff think it went very well overall; they hope to do it during next semester’s finals week, too. Although the team kept the cow therapy event small this time and limited to students, they may open it to the general public in the future so people can get a glimpse of where (and who!) their milk comes from.

The farm is open to the public from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day, and self-guided tours are available all year around.

Happy Moo-Year from the Michigan State University Dairy Cattle Teaching and Research Center therapy cows!


Excess of cheese leads to problems for dairy farmers

You cheddar believe it.

There is a massive 1.4 billion pound cheese glut in the United States. But what that cheese glut reveals is that it’s getting harder for small dairy farms to compete.

“Milk is so complicated. And nobody knows how it got this way,” said farmer Layne Klein. 

Klein is a third-generation dairy farmer and owner of Klein’s Dairy Farm in Northampton County. According to the USDA, milk production has gone up 13 percent in the last 10 years. 

“40 years ago the average cow produced 15 or 16,000 pounds a year. Now they’re producing 23 to 24,000 a year,” said Klein. 

But dairy consumption is on the decline, thanks to Americans adopting vegan diets and nut milks. 

“Fluid milk consumption per person has gone down for the last 30 years,” said Klein. 

So if demand is down, why is supply up? Could it be subsidies? Not really. 

“What they’ve done now is they’ve put the burden of subsidy on the farmer. So you’re supposed to take out almost basically an insurance policy,” said Klein. 

Klein has a different explanation. 

“We do not control the price of milk when it goes to the dairy. They tell us what they’re gonna pay us. The only way you can make more income is make more milk,” said Klein.

Which has created a vicious cycle. In order for dairy farms to make enough income, they make more milk. The more of a surplus there is, the more prices fall. 

And in order to keep all that milk from perishing, they turn it into cheese. 

“They have huge, huge refrigerated warehouses where they store it in. It’s commercial cheese,” said Klein. 

1.4 billion pounds to be exact of commercial American cheese that consumers don’t really want to eat either. So the more cheese that’s added to storage, the worse it is for dairy farmers. 

“I remember when there were 150 dairy farms in Northampton County. We’re down to a dozen,” said Klein. 


Pitter patter, back at ‘er: Dairy farmer starts over after devastating fire

Peter Ruiter stands in his new barn. The Ottawa dairy farmer lost 80 cows when three of his old barns burned down in September 2017. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

More than a year after losing most of his cattle in a fire, Ottawa dairy farmer Peter Ruiter is back in business.

With a brand new barn and a few dozen new cows, Ruiter has begun milking and breeding his new herd.

“It’s [got] a new car smell, except it’s a new barn! Once we open the door, it’s still a barn,” he said.

On Sept. 8, 2017, a fire broke out at Ruiter’s Blackrapids farm in Nepean, destroying three barns — one of them more than a century old — and killing 80 cattle. The fire’s damage was estimated at over $1 million. 

“It felt like a funeral for my farm,” Ruiter recalled.

After the blaze, Ruiter was faced with a choice: retire at the age of 50, or try to rebuild.

He chose the latter.

Dairy farming runs in Ruiter’s family. His father ran the farm when Ruiter was young and now his son Mark helps out. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

‘It’s who I am’

“It’s who I am. I’ve been a dairy farmer from the time I [had] my earliest thoughts,” he said, noting his father was also in the business.

Part of his herd survived the fire, so he’s restarting with those 10 cows and 42 more he was able to pick up from a neighbouring farm — although he said it may take time for him to get used to the new ones.

“I got to learn these cows’ personalities,” he said.

“I used to know the [old] cows’ personalities. I used to know their mothers’ personalities. I used to know their grandmothers’ personalities.”

Ruiter is now employing robots to do his milking for him as part of his rebuild. He says the technology could allow him to keep farming into his 70s and 80s. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

New setup for the better

Ruiter said it’s taken time to get the cows — old and new — used to the new milking routine, in part because he’s started using robots as part of the process.

But the cows aren’t the only ones adjusting. Ruiter said his entire routine was changed after the fire.

“It changed all my habits, what I had done for my whole life,” he said.

Ruiter said he thinks it’s for the better that he’s no longer milking cows by hand. After almost losing it all, he says his new setup could prolong his career as a dairy farmer.

“I won’t be bending my knees near as much,” Ruiter said. “I’ve been milking cows since I was 13 years old. Now I’m pretty sure I can do this until I’m 75, 80.”


Big Island Dairy in Hawaii set to shut down

A Big Island dairy farm agreed to end its operations by April 30 in a settlement reached with a community group and an environmental organization.

Kupale Ookala and the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against Big Island Dairy in 2017, alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported .

The settlement requires the dairy to stop milking by Feb. 28 and end operations by April 30, according to court documents filed Tuesday. It also details timelines for cattle removal and facility cleanups.

“It’s a clear and decisive timeline for shutting down and for the pollution to stop impacting the community of Ookala,” said Charlie Tebbutt, the attorney who represented the two groups. “For the last seven years, Big Island Dairy has been wantonly polluting the community of Ookala and the environment of Hawaii and it’s time for it to stop.”

Citing the dairy’s “potential insolvency,” the settlement states that no penalties will be assessed or paid in the resolution of the lawsuit. But civil penalties will be levied through the state Department of Health’s administrative process.

The state fined the dairy $91,000 in December for three separate spills between April and May. It also fined the dairy $25,000 in May 2017 for an unlawful discharge of wastewater.

The penalties collected by the state will be paid to an “appropriate supplemental environmental project or environmentally beneficial project” for the benefit of the Ookala community, according to the documents.

Dairy owner Derek Whitesides declined to comment Tuesday.

The lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial this month. Big Island Dairy said in November that it would discontinue its dairy and milk processing operations at the Ookala facility.

“Given the circumstances, given that they’re going out of business, it made no sense to go to trial,” Tebbutt said.

Getting civil penalties was “no longer a realistic possibility,” Tebbutt said, but his clients got a “firm agreement” that the dairy would close.


Controversy After Farming Company Uses Models To Sell Agricultural Machinery

Agrifac hired the models for the Lamma show in Birmingham. Picture: Agrifac

A tractor manufacturer has come under fire for using models to help sell their agricultural machinery.

At the Lamma trade show in Birmingham, agricultural firm Agrifac encouraged visitors to get selfies with the glamorous “girls” at their stand.

The company posted a picture on Twitter, writing: “Come and see the girls @lammashow today and tomorrow in Hall 9!! Don’t forget to tag us in any selfies with them.”

But some people criticised the decision as outdated.

Christine Tacon responded on Twitter: “I am afraid this sort of promotion isn’t acceptable any more. Don’t your products sell themselves?”

Another wrote: “Really….21st century farming still using ‘come and see the girls’ as a sales pitch?”

But Bec Quinn, one of the models at the show, responded: “Your opinion isn’t warranted here, unless you were physically at the show and saw the engagement we were creating. Agrifac is a fantastic brand and employed us as a way to boost more interaction. I mean, how dare a company try to do such a thing.

“We are not silly girls. We are intelligent young women, who have gone to university and like this kind of work for its fun nature. People seriously need to lighten up and learn to have a little fun!!”


Top Dairy Industry News Stories from January 5th to 11th 2019

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A Closer Look at Direct Genomic Values (DGV)

2019 will mark Canada’s 10th anniversary of the introduction of official genomic evaluations. When they were first introduced by Canadian Dairy Network (CDN) in August 2009 for Holsteins, there was much hesitation and questioning about whether the technology was real and useful or just hype. Today, we know the truth and, as a consequence, breeds with genomic evaluations have rapidly increased the rate of genetic progress for essentially all traits.

Basically, genomic selection added another source of data to the genetic evaluation systems at CDN.  In addition to performance data and pedigree information, DNA became a new source of data for each genotyped animal.  To improve the understanding of how this new source of data was being used to produce published genomic evaluations, CDN decided to make Direct Genomic Values (DGV) public.  In recent months, there has been much discussion about the intent of CDN to no longer publish DGV. The strong interest and passion of Canadian breeders was clearly heard. For this reason, the CDN Board decided to delay the implementation of the GEB recommendation to be effective December 2019. Let’s take a closer look at why CDN will be moving forward with this direction.

What is Genomic Parent Average (GPA)?

For genotyped animals, there are three main sources of information that contribute to its official genomic evaluation.  These include the animal’s Parent Average (PA), any performance data (i.e.: such as lactation, classification, mastitis, fertility, etc. data) recorded on the animal and/or its progeny, and the DGV estimated from the animal’s DNA.  For young bulls and heifers, since no performance data exists, they receive a Genomic Parent Average (GPA), which combines its PA and its DGV into the single official genomic evaluation published by CDN, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Combining Parent Average (PA) and Direct Genomic Value (DGV) into the Official Genomic Parent Average (GPA)

Scale Differences

Since PA is simply the average of the evaluations for the animal’s sire and dam, the range for PA can never be wider than it is for evaluations of bulls and cows old enough to be parents.  Looking at Conformation as an example, the highest active sire in A.I. currently has a rating of +20, while the highest proven sire is +16 and the highest breeding age female born in Canada is +18.  This means that it is impossible for Canadian-bred animals to have a PA higher than +19. Looking at DGV for Conformation, however, the highest bulls are at +22.  This higher scale for DGV attracts extra attention to these values for marketing purposes. However due to their different scales, DGV cannot be directly compared to GPA values.  Further, since GPA results from a blending of PA and DGV, the most elite animals of the breed will almost always have a DGV higher than GPA.

Animal Rankings

Even though the scales for GPA and DGV are not exactly the same, the rankings for top animals of greatest interest for selection are essentially identical. In fact, regardless of the trait looked at (i.e.: LPI, Pro$, Conformation, etc.), over 90% of the highest genomic bulls would be the same if ranked by GPA versus DGV.  In this sense, DGV does not help identify the most elite animals for selection and mating compared to using GPA alone.

Prediction of Future Genetic Evaluations

In discussion with some breeders, there was the impression that DGV helped to better identify those genomic young bulls that would end up with the highest proofs once their progeny were milk recorded and type classified. This was the basis for the initial analysis conducted by CDN geneticists earlier this year.  The most appropriate way to assess this question is to look at sires that currently have an official progeny proof and see whether their GPA or DGV four years ago, when they were a genomic young sire in A.I., best predicted their current results.  The results of the analysis were clear. While GPA is not a perfect predictor of a young bull’s future progeny proof, using DGV was consistently a poorer predictor.  This can be explained by the fact that DGVs tend to be higher than GPA for elite genomic young bulls so a higher degree of over prediction is expected compared to GPA.

The same question can also be asked for females.  Does DGV for genotyped heifers provide a better prediction than GPA of their future performance as a lactating cow in the herd? CDN conducted a specific analysis to examine this question within several herds.  In the end, there was no practical difference in the correlation between GPA or DGV for heifers with their resulting 305-day lactation yields and classification scores during first lactation.

Looking at the Difference of DGV Versus GPA

Another strategy used by some breeders when assessing high end genomic bulls for semen purchase decisions has been to look at the difference of DGV minus GPA. The belief here has been that preference should be given to select genomic bulls for which the superiority of DGV over GPA is the highest. The CDN analysis looked at this hypothesis by focussing on the Top 100 GPA LPI genomic bulls in 2013, all of which now have an official progeny proof in 2018. The 25 genomic bulls with the highest difference of DGV minus GPA were compared to the 25 bulls with the lowest DGV superiority and results are presented in Figure 2. The 25 bulls with the biggest difference had an average DGV LPI of 3190 and an average GPA LPI of 3027.  As expected, this difference was much less at only 60 LPI points (i.e.: 3075 minus 3015) for the other group of 25 genomic bulls in 2013. Once proven, however, it was the 25 bulls with DGV and GPA being closest together that ended up with the higher average LPI, at 2929 compared to 2827 for the 25 bulls with the biggest difference of DGV minus GPA. This overall result stemmed from the fact that the bulls with the biggest difference had significantly lower Parent Average (PA) for LPI at 2622 points, compared to 2773 for the bulls for which DGV and GPA were quite similar.

Figure 2: Comparison of Average LPI Values for Two Groups of Genomic Bulls Among Top 100 for GPA LPI Based on the Degree of Difference Between DGV and GPA

Breeding for the Next Generation of Extreme Animals

Breeders aiming to produce young bulls for potential entry into A.I. and/or elite females for marketing and embryo sales tend to have navigated to using DGV as an important sire selection tool. The goal from this strategy is to use genomic bulls with the highest DGV for any given trait to increase the chance of producing progeny that also have an extreme DGV in the breed. CDN recently designed and conducted an analysis to assess this strategy compared to using GPA for achieving the same objective.  The conclusion from this study was that DGV was not superior to GPA in terms of identifying extreme genomic sires that will have higher chances of producing extreme progeny. 

Path Forward

Based on all scientific analysis conducted, no evidence has been found to show that DGV provides any information for improved sire selection and/or mating decisions, compared to using the official GPA itself. Based on these results, the Genetic Evaluation Board (GEB) of CDN approved a recommendation to no longer publish DGV in the future.  In terms of implementation of this recommendation, the CDN Board of Directors decided to delay it until December 2019.  In the meantime, CDN will work with the various breed associations and A.I. organizations to prepare and deliver an industry-wide communication plan related to this direction.

Brian Van Doormaal, General Manager, CDN
Lynsay Beavers, Industry Liaison, CDN

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Dairy farmers ask Trump to ‘stop the hemorrhaging’

Milk prices have dropped nearly 40% over the last four years.

“Dear President [Donald] Trump – Liquidate surplus cheese,” the American Dairy Coalition wrote this week on the behalf of U.S. dairy farmers who are in “a crisis.”

“As each week passes, an increasing number of hard-working dairy families are going out of business. Many of us feel helpless, and we struggle to support our families; some have even required food stamps to put food their tables,” the letter stated.

While the group said the recent government assistance was appreciated, the industry needs higher milk prices. “We want to become profitable, but due to the uncertainty created by lingering retaliatory tariffs, we only see a slight — if any — rebound anytime soon,” the coalition explained.

According to the group, milk prices have dropped nearly 40% over the last four years. Additionally, cheese exports from the U.S. to Mexico are down more than 10% annually, and shipments to China have fallen almost 65% annually.

“If this isn’t bad enough, the industry faces onerous and costly dairy regulations as well as a shortage of workers — making it hard to find a way each day to stay in business,” the letter added.

Also, despite the government seeking to offset the negative impacts of milk prices due to the tariffs set by Mexico, Canada and China, more action is needed, the coalition said.

“Currently, 1.4 billion lb. of American, cheddar and other types of cheese are sitting in cold storage facilities throughout the U.S. With the price of milk at a record low, it is necessary that this surplus be liquidated to jump-start the industry,” it said.

Further, the group pointed out that an estimate 40 million Americans struggle with hunger and food insecurity and that the U.S. dairy product industry supports nearly 3 million workers, generates more than $39 billion in direct wages each year and has an overall economic impact of more than $628 billion.

“The diets and the jobs of countless Americans depend on the success of the dairy industry to provide an important nutritional staple at an affordable price. Please help us by helping food insecure families across the nation,” the American Dairy Coalition said.

The coalition encouraged people to reach out to Congress to “stop the hemorrhaging” of the U.S. dairy industry.


Source: Feedstuffs

Indiana dairy farmers struggling to stay afloat

The state of Indiana once featured more than 2,000 dairy farms. However, according to Indiana Dairy Producers, that number has now dipped below 900.

“It’s not a state by state issue,” said Executive Director of the Indiana Dairy Producers Doug Leman, citing similar struggles across the Midwest and the entire country. “It’s a general industry issue.”

In 2018 alone, Leman says 10 percent of all Indiana dairy farms stopped production. One of those farms was Kelsay Farms, which stopped milking on November 20.

“Just walking around here, it’s like the rapture happened and we didn’t go,” owner Joe Kelsay said while walking through the building that once housed 500 cows, most of which have now been sold. “It’s so quiet and lonely and empty.”

It was a tough decision for Kelsay and his brother to make. He says after crunching the numbers, the move was an obvious choice to make financially. However, the emotional connection to the land and the business made the obvious choice the more difficult one.

“I grew up here,” said Kelsay as he motioned to the house on the property. “My brother and I in the house here, it’s difficult to walk outside and not see milk cows.”

Founded in 1835, Kelsay Farms has been run by six generations of Kelsays on their Whiteland, Indiana property. While dairy was their main business for decades, Kelsay says the farm is now shifting its focus to corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat. It’s a tough but necessary change.

“You really somewhat kind of identify as ‘I’m a dairy farmer, and I take care of these cows and they take care of me and my family,” Kelsay said. “To get to the point where you need to choose to do something different… It’s excruciating.”

At one point in time Kelsay farms was producing 12 million pounds of milk a year. But with the rise of alternative dairy products, lower prices and a slew of other factors, it only took four years to bring the 184 year old family business to a halt.

“2014 was probably one of the best years the industry ever experienced,” Leman said. “Since that time it’s just been in the doldrums.”

Leman says in 2014, Indiana had about 1,400 diary producers in the state. He can’t remember a time when the state featured less than 900 operations.

“It’s a sad day for the farmer, it really is,” Leman said. “They feel like their way of life is changing.”

Leman knows the struggle firsthand. It wasn’t too long ago that Leman himself was a dairy farmer, faced with the decision to close down his operation.

Today, he talks from experience about how challenging that time was. He can also tell you from experience that everything will be okay, because the resilience of a farmer is second to none.

“Life does go on,” Leman said. “The sun will come up tomorrow… and God is good.”


Source: CBS4

Nobody Is Moving Our Cheese: American Surplus Reaches Record High

It’s a stinky time for the American cheese industry.

While Americans consumed nearly 37 pounds per capita in 2017, it was not enough to reduce the country’s 1.4 billion-pound cheese surplus, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The glut, which at 900,000 cubic yards is the largest in U.S. history, means that there is enough cheese sitting in cold storage to wrap around the U.S. Capitol.

The stockpile started to build several years ago, in large part because the pace of milk production began to exceed the rates of consumption, says Andrew Novakovic, professor of agricultural economics at Cornell University.

Over the past 10 years, milk production has increased by 13 percent because of high prices. But what dairy farmers failed to realize was that Americans are drinking less milk. According to data from the USDA, Americans drank just 149 pounds of milk per capita in 2017, down from 247 pounds in 1975.

Suppliers turn that extra milk into cheese because it is less perishable and stays fresh for longer periods. But Americans are turning their noses up at those processed cheese slices and string cheese — varieties that are a main driver of the U.S. cheese market — in favor of more refined options, Novakovic tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson. Despite this shift, sales of mozzarella cheese, the single largest type of cheese produced and consumed in the U.S., remain strong, he says.

“What has changed — and changed fairly noticeably and fairly recently — is people are turning away from processed cheese,” Novakovic says. “It’s also the case that we’re seeing increased sales of kind of more exotic, specialty, European-style cheeses. Some of those are made in the U.S. A lot of them aren’t.”

Novakovic also notes that imported cheeses tend to cost more, so when people choose those, they buy less cheese overall. The growing surplus of American-made cheese and milk means that prices are declining. The current average price of whole milk is $15.12 per 100 pounds, which is much lower than the price required for dairy farmers to break even.

“It’s the same as it is for everything else: If you’ve got too much of something, the price has to go down until consumption rises,” Novakovic says.

Some analysts have raised fears that U.S. trade disputes with China and Mexico could also negatively impact the dairy industry. But according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the impact of retaliatory tariffs on American dairy products has been relatively small, not to mention that the U.S. exports only about 6 percent of its cheese.

That is to say that the price of letting pounds of cheese sit idle in cold storage comes back to dairy farmers. Since the 1970s, the industry has consolidated with more cows housed on larger farms, but now even those farms can’t compete. In Wisconsin alone, hundreds of farms closed in 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“A lot of farmers would say, ‘Well, make it stop.’ But the fact of the matter is we’re still pushing out a little bit more milk than we know what to do with,” Novakovic says. “And really, it’s not a big number, but until those two numbers get reconciled, we’re going to continue to see these low prices.”


Source: NPR

Milk Markets Move Upward in Chicago Thursday

At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Milk futures on worked their way higher Thursday supported by an improving cash market.  Class III markets were green across the board today gaining anywhere from two to 13 cents.  January class III milk futures closed up three cents at $14.08. February up 13 cents at $14.45. March unchanged at $14.88. April up a dime at $15.42. May through September contracts were two to nine cents higher. The first and second half averages are now at $15.12 and $16.52.

Dry whey unchanged at $0.4875 cents. Blocks up $0.02 at $1.39. Two trades were made at $1.38 and $1.39. Barrels up $0.0025 at $1.2475. Butter unchanged at $2.2350. Two trades were made at $2.2275 and $2.2350. Nonfat dry milk up $0.0225 at $1.0250. Two trades were made at $1.02 to $1.0250.

DeLaval VMS V300™ Wins International Ag Engineering Award

DeLaval voluntary milking system VMS V300™ was recently named a 2019 AE50 award winner by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE).

AE50 awards honor the year’s most innovative designs in engineering products or systems for the food and agriculture industries. The DeLaval VMS V300™ represents a significant leap in robotic milking innovation.

“We are honored to receive this award from such as distinguished professional organization like the ASABE,” said Gavin Strang, DeLaval Market Development and Sales Support Manager for Capital Equipment. “While DeLaval has been a name synonymous with robotic milking for decades, we are extremely proud to offer dairy producers a redesigned milking system with revolutionary advancements in animal welfare, food safety and farm profitability.”

With a 10 percent higher capacity, up to 50 percent faster attachment time, up to 99.8 percent attachment rate, up to 99 percent teat spray hit rate, real quarter milking, lower running cost than earlier systems and with a potential of up to 7,500 pounds of milk per day, the DeLaval VMS V300 is setting an all new industry performance standard*.

The VMS V300 system comes with DeLaval InControl™, the new user interface allowing access to information and control of the system remotely. DeLaval PureFlow™, the redesigned milking module featuring a transparent teat preparation cup, is another new feature. Lastly, DeLaval InSight™, the latest in vision technology helps ensure a smooth, fast and accurate attachment.

To help manage the data the VMS V300 collects, DeLaval also launched DelPro™ Companion, a new mobile app that puts full herd management capabilities at farmer’s fingertips. Producers can view cow lists, record data, remotely access their herd’s activities and more.

To learn more about DeLaval VMS V300, read the press release here.

About AE50 Awards

Companies from around the world submit entries to the annual AE50 competition and up to 50 of the best products are chosen by a panel of international engineering experts. The judges select innovative products that will best advance engineering for the food and agriculture industries.

The AE50 awards program emphasizes the role of new products and systems in bringing advanced technology to the marketplace. These engineering developments help farmers, food processors and equipment manufacturers increase efficiency, enhance quality, improve, safety and increase profits. For more details visit

ASABE is an international scientific and educational organization dedicated to the advancement of engineering applicable to agricultural, food, and biological systems. Further information on the Society can be obtained by visiting

*Data collected from test and pilot farms.

About DeLaval

DeLaval is a worldwide leader in milking equipment and solutions for dairy farmers, which make sustainable food production possible, warranting milk quality and animal health. Our solutions are used by millions of dairy farmers around the globe every day. DeLaval was founded more than 135 years ago in Sweden, when the visionary Gustaf de Laval patented the cream separator. Today, DeLaval has 4,500 employees and operates in more than 100 markets. DeLaval, alongside Tetra Pak and Sidel, is part of the Tetra Laval Group. See more at

Pennsylvania Makes A Case For Dairy With A Huge Butter Sculpture

The Pennsylvania Farm Show’s 2018 butter sculpture was unveiled on Thursday. It was carved from a half-ton of butter.

This year’s life-sized butter sculpture at Pennsylvania’s Farm Show made its debut Thursday before a crowd of admirers that included the a former NFL quarterback and Gov. Tom Wolf.

But the unveiling of the yearly staple, carved from a half-ton of butter, was more than a farm show highlight. It was also a plug for the state’s struggling dairy industry.

The sculpture puts the dairy farmer on a literal platform beside “superheroes.” A soldier, doctor, firefighter and football player, all made out of butter, all donning capes, show off their dairy products alongside the farmer. They form a semicircle around a table filled with more dairy products, including milk, ice cream and, of course, a stick of butter crafted out of butter.

The sculpture has been part of a tradition of many Midwestern fairs since its birth in Pennsylvania in the late 19th century.

A Toast To Butter Sculpture, The Art That Melts The Hearts Of The Masses

“It’s more than just butter,” said the governor at the unveiling. “It’s a way for us to honor our dairy industry in a fun and memorable way – an industry that we work hard to promote and support year-round.”

It was the first time a governor had attended the Pennsylvania event in more than 25 years, according to Marie Pelton, who sculpted the display along with her husband Jim Victor.

Wolf’s presence may be a marker of the state’s push to revitalize an industry that has faced immense financial pressure, as consumer preferences have shifted nationwide.

Fewer milk consumers and increases in milk production have caused a drastic decrease in prices, as WHYY’s Catalina Jaramillo reports. Dairy consumption nationwide has been falling for decades, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

That decline has dealt a blow to Pennsylvania, which has the second largest number of dairy farms in the nation, after Wisconsin, according to the Center for Dairy Excellence. Pennsylvania lost 120 dairy farms in 2016. In addition, Dean Foods, one of the nation’s largest dairy distributors, ended its contract with dozens of farmers in the state last year.

More than 6,600 dairy farms still operate across Pennsylvania. At the butter sculpture unveiling, state Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, former Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Charlie Batch, and dairy farmer Marilyn Hershey made an appeal on behalf of those farmers: Please drink more milk.

“Milk is an energy powerhouse packed with nine essential vitamins and minerals,” said Hershey. “Milk fuels our bodies in every stage of life.”

In his address, Redding praised Wolf for his support of the dairy industry, including the Dairy Development Plan released in August, and $5 million in grants for dairy farmers announced in November. The grants are intended to help the industry adapt to market conditions, according to Redding.

At the unveiling, the governor thanked a handful of members of the youth organizations 4H and Future Farmers of America in attendance.

He said that he had asked which FFA members intended to pursue a farming career, and only one had raised a hand. But there was a bright side for Wolf. That young woman is planning to be a dairy farmer.

Catch up on the latest headlines and unique NPR stories, sent every weekday.


Nitrate Nitrogen (NO3-N) or Nitrate (NO3-) – Know the Difference

When you test your hay or corn stalks or cover crop for nitrates, look closely at the report to see what method your lab used to report your nitrate results. Photo courtey of Troy Walz, NE Extension.

I just got the forage test results back from the lab and the nitrate score was 3,000. Am I in trouble?

Every year I get multiple questions similar to this one. Unfortunately, with just this information I’m unable to give a useful answer. So – the first question I ask is “Was this reported as nitrates or as nitrate nitrogen?”

Why is it important to know the difference between nitrate nitrogen and nitrates? Well, using the example above, if the score was 3,000 parts per million of nitrate nitrogen, then the forage may have a nitrate concentration that is almost 50 percent higher than what we often consider to be the potentially toxic level for nitrate nitrogen. It would be risky for cattle to eat this forage without taking some precautions.

However, if the score was 3,000 parts per million of nitrate there should be no worries since this is less than one-third the danger level for nitrates. So the same score or value can range from quite dangerous to perfectly safe depending on how it is reported.

So what is the reason for these big differences? Basically, it comes down to how each individual laboratory tests for and then reports results for nitrates. When a laboratory reports directly the concentration of nitrate, it is referring specifically to the nitrate ion, which is designated chemically as NO3-. Most labs and advisors consider a level of 9,000 to 10,000 parts per million of the nitrate ion to be the level where toxicity concerns begin.

Some labs, though, report the amount of nitrogen that is in the nitrate ion and call it nitrate nitrogen and report it chemically as NO3-N. Nitrate is one part nitrogen plus three parts oxygen so nitrogen only makes up about 22.6 percent on the nitrate ion. Thus, a much smaller amount of nitrate nitrogen is needed to produce the same effect as the entire nitrate ion. As a result, the danger level for nitrate nitrogen begins somewhere between 2,000 and 2,300.

Is one method better than the other? No – both give the same result and either one can be used to determine the safety of your feed. In fact, it is easy to mathematically convert between nitrate and nitrate nitrogen by using the following formulas:

Nitrate = Nitrate Nitrogen x 4.43
Nitrate Nitrogen = Nitrate x 0.226

Next time you test your hay or corn stalks or cover crop for nitrates, look closely at the report to see what method your lab used to report your nitrate results. Then, if you want to talk with someone about the safety or feeding alternatives for your forage you can be sure both of you are talking the same language.


Safety Exemptions for Livestock Haulers Raise Concerns

It was sometime around 4 a.m. on a cool spring morning when James McGilvray lost control of his semi, careening into a ravine off Interstate 49 in Harrisonville, Missouri.

His trailer, which carried between 80 and 100 cattle, according to police records, flipped on its side as the truck plowed to a halt. The crash killed roughly half the livestock onboard, with the other half escaping onto the highway where state and city law enforcement spent the next four hours shutting down traffic in order to corral the remaining herd.

McGilvray, who was 48 at the time of the crash, blamed another car for causing the wreck, according to the crash report, despite officers marking no evidence for another vehicle’s involvement. Rather, 45-year-old Stacy Ball, who was traveling with McGilvray and was in the sleeper cabin changing when the crash occurred, believes McGilvray fell asleep at the wheel.

On the crash report, Ball told officers that McGilvray had run off the road twice the previous night and “had been driving ‘non-stop’ for 2-3 months between Mississippi and Florida.” She also informed officers that McGilvray had been pushing himself to prove to his current employers that despite his age, he was still fit to drive the long, hard hours commonly associated with the trucking industry.

“Show me you’re not too old to haul cattle,” Ball recalled the trucking company telling McGilvray when he was first hired, according to the report.

Ball also told officers that McGilvray hadn’t updated his mandatory hours log because of how busy the company was keeping him, and that the trucking company wasn’t using electronic logging devices, or ELDs, which in December 2017 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began requiring most U.S. truckers to carry to prevent fatigue-related accidents.

Under current federal hours of service law — which dictate how long commercial drivers can be on the road — commercial drivers can operate on duty for 14 hours after a mandatory 10-hour break. Electronic logging devices, which are approved GPS tracking devices plugged into the truck’s engine, are meant to replace older paper logs in order to more accurately track driver’s on-duty hours, federal officials said. The devices are projected to save dozens of lives and prevent hundreds of injuries each year, officials said, plus save stakeholders more than $1 billion annually by reducing paperwork.

But McGilvray’s crash, which happened April 27, 2018, came while livestock haulers were still temporarily waived from complying with the new ELD law because of persistent lobbying efforts from the agricultural industry. In fact, federal agencies that track and enforce these laws, like the FMCSA, have been slow to implement the devices since the law came into effect.

FMCSA has also expanded broad exemptions for drivers carrying agricultural commodities and is now considering changing several other standards that some safety advocates say would greatly reduce the effectiveness of hours of service rules.

That’s despite national data showing a rise in large truck-related fatalities. In 2017, there were 841 occupants of large trucks killed in crashes, up from 725 in 2016, and 665 in 2015, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report. When including pedestrians and other cars involved in those crashes, fatalities jump to 4,761 in 2017, up from 4,369 the year prior.

That upward trend goes for Missouri’s statewide data, too. According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, the number of deadly crashes involving commercial motor vehicles rose by more than 40 percent between 2013 and 2016.

“Forty-four states have experienced increases in truck crash deaths since 2009,” said Harry Adler, a spokesman for the Truck Safety Coalition, a national nonprofit focused on reducing truck-related fatalities and injuries. “When you look at the state of truck safety, the number of truck crashes, injuries, fatalities, they all keep going up.”

Strong safety record; stronger lobbying efforts

For years, industry associations like the National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association have touted the safety record of their drivers to circumvent expanding regulation.

“Livestock haulers comprise one of the safest sectors of the commercial motor vehicle industry due in part to the very nature of the only cargo they haul: live animals,” wrote the association in an October petition to the FMCSA, asking the agency to increase on-duty hours for livestock drivers from 14 hours to 16.

The group points to an analysis they did of FMCSA data between 2013 and 2015, where livestock haulers make up between 6-7 percent of the nation’s roughly 4 million commercial drivers yet constitute less than 1 percent of the total crashes.

Added to their driver safety record is the fact that livestock haulers must also worry about keeping their animals safe, particularly during times of extreme heat or cold, said Allison Rivera, the beef association’s executive director for government affairs. “It’s an animal welfare issue,” Rivera said. “The problem is that, unlike the rest of trucking, we can’t just stop at a rest stop for 10 hours and rest with the animals in the back.”

So far, that argument has been working, delaying ELD implementation and relaxing the way federal agencies interpret hours of service laws and their exemptions.

Petitions from the National Pork Producers Council — joined by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and several other stakeholders — delayed the original ELD implementation date of December 2017 not once, but twice, giving livestock haulers 180 days to fall into compliance.  Then on Dec. 13, the FMCSA announced on its website that transporters of livestock and insects aren’t required to carry ELDs at all “until further notice,” raising questions of when livestock haulers, if ever, will need to install the device.

But a larger change came from several revisions the FMCSA made to the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995, which established the first exemptions for drivers “transporting agricultural commodities or farm supplies for agricultural purposes.”

The act set a radius of 100 “air miles” around any pickup spot for agricultural goods, including livestock, feed and farm equipment. The agency defines an air mile as a nautical mile, which is equivalent to about 1.15 miles.

Truck drivers operating within the radius were exempt from hours of service regulations during a state’s harvest season. However, if their trip included leaving that radius after they picked up their livestock or other agricultural goods, then standard hours of service laws applied as soon as they left the radius, and they were subject to 10-hour breaks every 14 hours.

The idea was to give drivers with sensitive cargo the flexibility to manage their own schedules without having to worry about tight federal deadlines. And under pressure from the agriculture industry, Congress expanded that exemption to 150 air miles, or roughly 172 miles, back in 2012.

Then in the summer of 2017, the FMCSA quietly changed how it interpreted the nearly 30-year-old law altogether, said Matt Wells, the associate director of the Midwest Truckers Association, on a Facebook video.

Drivers hauling agricultural goods have always been exempted from hours of service rules while in the exempted radius but were required to track all their hours driving if their trip ever intended to leave it. Under the agency’s new guidelines, he said, now agricultural haulers only need to track their hours outside the radius and aren’t required to log any hours within it.

“Meaning that you record that time as off-duty, not driving,” Wells said. “This is the drastic change the FMCSA has done that you can now turn your logbook on and off throughout the day without affecting your daily or weekly hour limit of the logbook rules.”

That means that unlike before, law enforcement or regulatory agencies are now no longer privy to when a trucker is actually driving or when they’re taking a break while in exempted zones.

Industry leaders say giving drivers more flexibility and less stress over logging hours was necessary to help address the unique challenges livestock haulers face.

For example, Rivera said, truckers hauling livestock in some cases require extra training to handle live cargo, and therefore some end up loading and unloading by themselves because of workforce shortages and the cost of hiring extra manpower. That itself can be a safety concern, she said, and eats into the already limited time allotted to drivers under hours of service rules.

Some drivers have also come out publicly to say ELDs force truckers to act more recklessly because they essentially create a “hazardous race to beat the clock,” reported Business Insider back in May.

But Adler said these exemptions go too far at the expense of safety, especially since Congress considered expanding them further. In 2018, about 10 bills were introduced that would, in some way, expand hours of service exemptions or relax ELD requirements, he said.

“They’re all different attempts to lengthen the amount of time truck drivers are either driving or working, and there’s just not data to support that more time on task without a break, or longer work days, are safer,” Adler said.

One bill, called the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act, was introduced to both the U.S. Senate and House in early 2018, but failed to make it further. That bill, sponsored by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-NE, would double the 150-air-mile exemption to 300 air miles — nearly 100 miles longer than the drive between Kansas City and St. Louis.

In states like Missouri or Illinois, where harvest season is year-round, 300 air miles essentially covers each state entirely, giving anyone hauling livestock or other agricultural goods free reign to drive within them without any kind of federal accountability.

While the FMCSA won’t deal with that bill — since it stalled — the agency is considering relaxing other hours of services rules, including short-haul limits and 30-minute breaks. Short hauls are when drivers operate only within 14 hours a day instead of 24 hours and are currently limited to 11 hours of on-duty time, 8 hours off duty and a mandatory 30-minute break.

The agency announced in October that it would be extending the public comment period for a second month to discuss proposed changes to those regulations, including increasing on-duty time from 11 hours to 12.

Duane Debruyne, acting director for FMCSA’s office of external affairs, said the agency has a robust process that prioritizes safety when considering any changes to regulation. For instance, he said, the agency gathered hundreds of comments before granting waivers to delay ELD implementation for livestock haulers in 2018 and weighed the decision carefully.

Under the safety considerations of that waiver approval, the agency stated it “expects that any drivers and their employing motor carrier operating under the terms and conditions of the exemption will maintain their safety record.”

Adler points to that as evidence the process wasn’t robust, especially when studies commissioned by the agency itself — such as a 2011 study titled Hours of Service and Driver Fatigue — show a clear correlation between longer hours on duty and increased risk of crashing.

“The FMCSA’s own studies show that working longer … will diminish safety,” he said. “So, the agency doesn’t need to look toward other studies, they have studies that they commissioned and did that show just that.”

Fatigue underreported

On an early October morning in 2016, about a mile west of Osborn, Missouri, Gary Bowling’s cattle truck struck a ditch along U.S. Highway 36 and overturned.

According to St. Joseph News-Press, the crash killed at least four cows and sent others to roam in the pre-dawn darkness, where they caused two additional accidents. One woman, 68-year-old Bonnie Bridgeman of Winston, Missouri, was airlifted to Kansas University Hospital with serious injuries after her car struck one of the escaped cattle.

According to the crash report, Bowling gave no explanation when the state trooper asked him what caused the accident. “I dropped off the shoulder. I don’t know,” he’s quoted to say in the report.

A witness, who was driving behind Bowling when he crashed, said he watched Bowling’s truck drop off the shoulder as it passed his car. “The cows must have shifted and made it so he couldn’t get back on the road,” the witness said in the report.

In the end, the Missouri State Highway Patrol filed the crash under “improper lane use/change,” which in some ways acts as a catch-all category when a cause hasn’t been identified. But Bowling’s crash highlights several challenges that both truckers and those enforcing safety face when it comes to hauling livestock.

Because animals often escape after crashes, they can cause additional accidents, particularly at night. And the cargo itself is exceptionally dangerous to transport because animals can move within the trailer, shifting weight and exacerbating the situation.

That’s a common reason many drivers give after they’ve crashed their livestock trailers, said Jennifer Woods, an expert in livestock handling and safety. But Woods, who operates her own livestock services company in Canada and helps train drivers on safety across North America, said that explanation is a myth.

Rather, Woods said, it’s more likely that sleepy drivers nod off and overcorrect after drifting out of their lane, or they turn too hard while merging because they’re fatigued and less in control.

“The load shifted because the trailer started to tip over,” Woods said. “The load doesn’t shift and tip the trailer over.”

In fact, a 2008 study conducted by Woods points to fatigue as a major cause of accidents involving livestock transportation. The study, which analyzed 415 accidents involving commercial livestock trailers in the U.S. and Canada between 1994 and 2007, most notably points to five things that suggest fatigue is the real cause behind most livestock-related crashes. Of those crashes, it found that:

  • More than half — 59 percent — happened between midnight and 9 a.m., when drivers are likely tired — although Woods believes due to limitations from gathering that data from news reports, that the prevalence is likely closer to 90 percent.
  • The vast majority — 80 percent — were single-vehicle accidents, which helps rule out other vehicles causing the crash.
  • Driver error was blamed for 85 percent of the wrecks
  • The vehicle rolled over 83 percent of the time, which Woods said typically suggests the driver drifted out of the lane, then overcorrected.
  • Trailers overturned to the right-side 84 percent of the time, which falls in line with typical fatigue-related crashes in North America, where driving is done on the right-hand side.

But outside of Woods’ study, there’s not much official data on fatigue-related crashes to help push safety efforts. Looking at national and state data, fatigue doesn’t seem to play a prevalent role. A 2007 FMCSA study that looked at 963 crashes involving 1,123 large trucks between 2001 and 2003 found fatigue only playing a role in 13 percent of the accidents.

That’s the same rate in Missouri, at just above 13 percent. Out of the approximately 2,057 crashes involving large trucks between 2015 and 2017, just 271 involved fatigued drivers, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Woods said that’s because fatigue is highly underreported in crashes. “Does the driver look at the cop and say, ‘Hey, I’m tired?’” she said. “Because I can tell you, when your truck hits the ditch, you’re wide awake.”

In fact, a 2014 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated an average of 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur annually, which is more than three times the police-reported number. Of those, about 109,000 result in injury and roughly 6,400 are fatal, the report says.

Cpt. John Hotz, director of the public information and education division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said it is likely that fatigue is underreported in highway crashes because proving fatigue played a role can sometimes be difficult to do.

Drivers are disincentivized to admit fatigue, Hotz said, since admitting fault can result in discipline from employers, suspension of a commercial driver license or prompt insurers to raise rates. It can also result in a hefty fine or hold drivers criminally liable, he said.

In Missouri, anyone who crashes their vehicle because they fell asleep can get slapped with careless and imprudent driving — which depending on circumstances, can come with up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine. If anyone is injured or killed as a result of the crash, Hotz said, that can be upped to assault or manslaughter, a felony.

Ultimately, Woods said, industry and regulators need to find a balance between public safety and animal welfare, especially when it comes to tracking driving hours and mitigating fatigue. “There’s a lot of moving parts,” she said. “This is not just about our truck drivers, this is about our industry. It’s about animal welfare … trying to find one hat that fits them all isn’t going to work.”

Finding a balance

Finding a balance between industry and safety needs may be easier said than done, said Adler, who believes current trends show government regulators favoring industry over safety.

For more than a decade, he said, both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have essentially stalled talks on implementing a speed limiter rule, which would require drivers to install a device that would put a cap on the truck’s top speed.

The agencies have also been slow or reluctant to address other safety proposals, Adler said, like assigning minimum hours behind the wheel for new drivers, raising minimum insurance or researching automatic emergency braking. In 2017, the agency stalled or withdrew from nearly half a dozen safety rulemakings, reported The Hill.

“You do look at some of their priorities and say, ‘Hm, they’re not focusing on proven policies that could really move the ball on safety,’ Adler said.

Adler also said that the way agricultural exemptions are being handled is making it increasingly difficult for regulators to provide needed oversight on things like hours of service and how those hours are tracked.

In states like Missouri, where agricultural exemptions have given drivers hauling livestock enormous leeway on time spent on-duty, regulating driving hours falls almost entirely on the trucking companies themselves. That means whether a driver is scheduled in a way that provides adequate time for rest, or whether drivers are being encouraged to log hours accurately, falls on company management rather than government agencies commonly tasked with that role.

That’s one of the challenges regulators and industry leaders need to consider, Woods said. Most livestock hauling companies are small and have a good track record for compliance. But there are some chronic “bad actors,” she said.

In McGilvray’s case, when he crashed his cattle trailer in Harrisonville, he was working for Phenix Transportation West Inc., a Mississippi-based company with 125 drivers, according to the FMCSA.

In the last two years alone, Phenix drivers have been involved in three fatal crashes, according to the agency’s website, and the company has received 905 inspections for compliance that resulted in 120 of its drivers receiving out-of-service violations — a government order that pulls drivers from the road until they’re back in compliance.

That gives Phenix a ratio of 13.3 percent regarding inspections to out-of-service orders, more than double the national average of 5.5. percent, according to the website.

Information on the FMCSA website also shows that, at some point this year, the agency pulled the company’s interstate operating authority. DeBruyne said that means the Mississippi company can no longer operate outside state lines, but he wouldn’t clarify when that status was revoked or for what reasons.

Ricky Wilkerson, president of Phenix Transportation West, said the fatalities involved in the company’s record are misleading and that two of the three weren’t his drivers’ fault. He also said his livestock drivers work for his cattle hauling operation Southfork Cattle Company, which has no record of compliance inspections or fatal crashes.

However, Southfork Cattle Company isn’t authorized to operate across state lines, according to the FMCSA, and Wilkerson acknowledged McGilvray worked for Phenix. Furthermore, according to the agency’s website, Phenix reported that it does, in fact, haul livestock.

Wilkerson wouldn’t clarify that discrepancy. He also wouldn’t clarify why despite his statement that Phenix drivers installed ELDs back in 2017, McGilvray was driving without one, and disputed the notion that his company pressured any of its employees to drive beyond what’s allowed under federal law.

“It’s a mystery to us, too,” Wilkerson said of McGilvray’s crash. “But I can assure you that he had ample time to make his delivery.”

Numerous attempts to reach McGilvray for comment were unsuccessful.

For Adler, McGilvray’s crash is the perfect example of why rolling back hours of service rules or expanding exemptions that allow more time on duty for drivers without federal oversight is a bad idea.

“All too often, you hear folks throw around the term ‘flexibility,’” he said. “Yet, there’s no discussion on how that quote, unquote flexibility can be exploited by some of the worst actors. And I think that’s what you see with so many of these unstudied, unsafe proposals.”

Note: The nonprofit news outlet Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting provided this article to The Associated Press through a collaboration with Institute for Nonprofit News.

NAAB Technical Director and CSS Service Director Jere R. Mitchell Retires

Jere R Mitchell, Technical Director for the National Association of Animal Breeders (NAAB) and Service Director for Certified Semen Services Inc. (CSS), a subsidiary of NAAB, announced his retirement at the end of December 2018 after serving thirty years in this capacity.

“We salute and express our appreciation for Mr. Mitchell’s dedication and efforts in support of the U.S. AI industry and to cattle improvement around the world,” states Dr. Katie Olson, chair of the NAAB Board of Directors. “Here in the U.S., the artificial insemination industry is self-regulated. CSS was created in 1976 to ensure the proliferation of healthy and disease-free cattle. Jere has contributed to this growth by continuing and improving those minimum standards that were set forth establishing CSS as an effective industry auditing service that assures a high standard for AI production center practices, working with the industry to insure certain operating procedures, i.e., sire and semen identification, health testing and proper record keeping, semen processing protocols, AI center animal management and semen quality control which have been followed to provide effective genetic improvement for dairy and beef cattle”.

“NAAB has been in existence for 72 years and there have been only two Service Directors for CSS” Mitchell said. “During my 30 + year tenure, I have travelled extensively and conducted approximately 1450 audit inspections of labs, barns and facilities for the members of the NAAB and CSS. I have learned much and been well blessed to know and work with many of the scientists, AI industry pioneers and current personnel that have contributed greatly to our successes. I have the utmost respect for all of my peers and all of the people in this industry which I will miss.”

Jere Mitchell joined the NAAB/CSS staff in 1988 as the NAAB Technical Director and as the second CSS Service Director. He has conducted the national service program for the U.S. AI industry and provided technical support to NAAB. He has worked closely with both the NAAB and CSS Boards of Directors, various NAAB Committees and USDA-APHIS VS staff.In conjunction with the Research Committee, he helped coordinate the NAAB Research Program for many years. Working with the NAAB Technical Committee, he has helped organize topics of interest, invited informative speakers to the biennial Technical Conferences and has been responsible for editing and publication of the NAAB Technical Conference Proceedings on AI and Reproduction. Mitchell has been a member of the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA), Society for Theriogenology (SFT), Association for Applied Animal Andrology (AAAA), AETA, ADSA and ASAS.

Prior to joining NAAB/CSS in 1988, Mitchell worked in technical and research areas for various organizations in the AI industry starting in 1974. He is a native of Cortland, New York.Mitchell earned his in Agricultural Science from S.U.N.Y at Alfred, B.S. in Animal Science from Kansas State University, M.S. in Dairy Science (Reproductive Physiology) from Virginia Tech and undertook advanced studies at Penn State University where he was a Staff Instructor in the Department of Dairy and Animal Science. He also served two years in the U.S. Army. Jere and his wife Becky reside in Columbia, MO and have 2 grown sons and 3 grandchildren.


Source: Hoards

Opportunity to be Wisconsin’s new Alice in Dairyland now open

Have you ever dreamed about being an agvocate for the modern dairy industry? As one of the most widely recognized communications professionals in Wisconsin agriculture, Alice in Dairyland educates Wisconsin children and adults about the value, economic impact and future of the state’s $88 billion agricultural industry. Individuals interested in applying to become the next “Alice” — the 72nd to hold the yearlong position — are invited to submit applications through Thursday, Feb. 4.

In this highly visible and fast-paced position, Alice in Dairyland cultivates relationships with television, radio and print media outlets throughout the state; writes and delivers speeches at events large and small; and utilizes social media to tell the stories of Wisconsin agriculture. Additional duties include developing and executing marketing plans, delivering classroom presentations, and networking with industry professionals. Alice must also learn and retain information about the diversity of Wisconsin agriculture and be able to tailor that information to educate both urban and rural audiences.

Alice in Dairyland is an honored guest and speaker at many notable Wisconsin events including State Fair, World Dairy Expo, county fairs and dairy breakfasts, conferences and more. Alice manages scores of television and radio interviews each year, and has a daily presence on multiple social media platforms. This public relations position is the premier spokesperson opportunity for a professional eager to step into the limelight to promote Wisconsin agriculture.

“The Alice in Dairyland program packs a lifetime of learning experience into one short year,” Kaitlyn Riley, 71st Alice in Dairyland, said. “Serving as Alice in Dairyland has provided me with an exceptional opportunity to expand my knowledge of our state’s diverse agriculture industry and improve my ability to share the story of Wisconsin farmers and processors. I encourage anyone with a passion for agricultural communications and education to embrace this opportunity to develop personally and professionally.”

Alice in Dairyland applicants should have an interest in Wisconsin agriculture; at least three years of experience, education or training in communications, marketing, education or public relations; and public speaking experience. Applicants must be female, Wisconsin residents, and at least 21 years old.

This one-year, full-time contractual position starts June 3, 2019. The position holder is headquartered in Madison and travels extensively throughout the state. The annual salary for Alice in Dairyland is $45,000 and includes holiday, vacation and sick leave as well as use of a vehicle for official business. Reimbursement is provided for an individual health insurance premium up to $450 a month, as well as professional travel expenses.

To apply, submit an application form, cover letter, resume and three professional references to DATCP by 4:30 p.m. CT Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. Application materials are available here.

Qualified applicants will be invited to a preliminary interview Feb. 15. Top candidates will be required to attend a two-day program briefing and press announcement March 14-15, and the three-day final interview process at which the new Alice will be selected will be held May 9-11 in Green County.


Source: Ag Daily

US dairy sector wary of NZ trade deal

Dairy export rival the United States has sounded the alarm about New Zealand’s latest trade agreement, saying it’s critical the US accelerates efforts to hunt new export trade deals.

The United States Dairy Export Council (USDEC) said US dairy competitors were “aggressively” pursing new trade deals in key US export markets, noting the Comprehensive and Progressive Trade Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which includes New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Japan, took effect from December 30.

In a message to USDEC subscribers, chief operating officer Matt McKnight said for US dairy farmers to stay competitive it was critical the US upped efforts to pursue bilateral negotiations with “high potential” markets like Japan, the United Kingdom, Vietnam and “other agriculture importers”.

The Trump administration had announced its intention to start talks with Japan, the UK and the EU this year and had expressed interest in a model trade agreement with an African nation, McKnight said.

One of the big questions for 2019 was how quickly would markets shift in response to competitors’ trade deals, he said.

“The other big question is: even though trade negotiations can take considerable time to finalise, will we see US progress in advancing talks with Japan and other markets to match or counter our competitors’ efforts?”

USDEC is pushing for the US dairy industry to build exports from the equivalent of about 15 per cent of all milk solids produced to 20 per cent.

Last year, the first full year of its plan, US dairy exports were equal to 16.3 per cent of total US milk solids, which was a record.

McKnight said how far further USDEC’s growth plan developed in 2019 depended on what he called signposts that would shape market opportunities and direction.

These included the need to chase trade deals and efforts to remove Chinese and Mexican retaliatory tariffs.

A report from Texas A&M University had forecast US dairy export losses from these tariffs as high as $800 million a year, resulting in American dairy farmers losing up to $2.8 billion a year in lost sales and lower milk prices, said McKnight.

USDEC was hopeful for a resolution with Mexico and was heartened by a temporary truce in December between the US and China, with the agreement to postpone additional tariff hikes set to kick in on January 1. The two sides had set a deadline of March 2 to reach a deal and avoid escalation of the trade conflict.

“The retaliatory tariffs won’t grind all US dairy exports to a halt, and on their own, do not doom growth aspirations,” said McKnight.

“Indeed US suppliers have had some success redirecting product to other markets like Southeast Asia. But the tariffs make us less competitive in two critical markets and heighten the challenge of getting to the next 5 per cent.”

China’s dairy consumption was another signpost to the outlook for this year, he said.

China’s dairy imports grew by more than 7 per cent by volume in the first 11 months of 2018.

“China continues to drive global dairy trade, even though second-half buying slowed. Much will depend on China’s economic health in 2019, but if the nation’s imports are up 5-10 per cent again as many expect they could be, coupled with tighter supply and little to no stock overhang, we could be in for a sizeable shift in market sentiment in the second half of the year.”

Another factor affecting dairy exports in 2019 would be the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union, a controversy due to be settled in March, said McKnight.

Whether the outcome was no deal or a “hard” Brexit, there would be a ripple effect on global dairy markets and US export ambitions.


Galys-Vray dies


One of the most popular show cows in the world, Galys-Vray has died as the result of an accident. Bred by Frenchman Jean-Paul Bichon and was owned by Junker, Staub & Al.Be.Ro. In 2016 this Atwood daughter became the European Champion. She leaves about 50 daughters and sons behind, including a number of AI bulls.

Jared daughter tops Holiday Harvest Sale at $125,000

BGP Jared Heart topped the Holiday Harvest Sale in Michigan (US) at $125,000.  This Jared daughter has a 2932 gTPI/1034 gNM and is out of BGP Modesty Havana (Missy family), and was sold to Peak Genetics. Heart’s full sister Havana sold for $27,500, as did her half-sister by Big Bubba.

Support given by U.S. farming organizations for a dairy supply management program

After four years of a depressed dairy economy, the two major farming organizations in the state known as America’s Dairyland are both on board with the possibility of developing a dairy supply management program.

Last month, 240 delegates of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation voted to be open to the option of a Canada-style program that would coordinate supply and demand for United States dairy products, and ultimately give dairy farmers a more consistent, fair price for their product.

The Farm Bureau Federation vote followed a similar endorsement made by the Wisconsin Farmers Union earlier in 2018.

“We are willing to consider a dairy supply management system,” said Joe Bragger, a Buffalo County dairy farmer who sits on the board of directors of the state’s Farm Bureau Federation. “The organization historically has always been very strong free market supporters, but I believe the delegates wanted all options on the table.”

But Bragger said he doesn’t believe Wisconsin farmers want to copy Canada or any other country that manages agricultural supply and demand chains.

“Make it unique to the U.S. and maybe take some responsibility in managing that supply,” he said. “A lot of discussion will have to go on, but the door is now possibly open.”

Mark Stevenson, a dairy industry expert, said supply management programs like those in place in Canada and other countries can be effective.

“If you restrict the amount of milk that gets to the marketplace, you can keep prices much higher, but if you do that, there has to be a lot of restrictions in place,” said Stevenson, director of Dairy Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The state of Wisconsin, for example, couldn’t decide to do that because we would be inundated with milk from outside the state. It has to be done at the national level.”

Stevenson said if the U.S. designed its own dairy supply marketing program, it will have to be very restrictive in the amount of dairy product imports from other countries, or the program won’t work.

“I think it’s going to be a difficult thing to pass,” Stevenson said. “Which is not to say there aren’t some versions of that program that can be a little softer than a Canadian system that certainly might help moderate these prices when we get into these deep downturns.”

Stevenson said while Wisconsin dairy farmers have been used to short-term high and low cycles, since 2014 they’ve endured a sustained period of depressed milk prices.

“Normally it’s been a year or year and a half and this time we’re going into our fifth year of low milk prices,” Stevenson said. “Farms have exhausted those safety supplies like cash or feed and it’s causing a lot of financial stress on dairy farms.”

The federal government sets the minimum milk price paid to farmers based on a weekly survey of what consumers pay for dairy products like cheese and butter.

“As those product prices move, so does our milk price (paid to farmers) move,” Stevenson said. “We’ve seen those product prices be down for quite a period of time, in no small part recently because of exports of dairy products. The U.S. has become a big exporter in world markets and when we don’t export as much, we simply aren’t able to retain our prices as well.”

Stephenson said the federal government has been setting minimum monthly milk prices for dairy farmers for decades to level the playing field after some unusual pricing pressure was place on the dairy markets in the early 1900s.


Government shut down hurting U.S. agriculture

The federal government shutdown could wreak havoc on U.S. agriculture and the rural economy as farmers wait on subsidy payments, loans and data they need now to make plans for the spring.

As a result of the shutdown, applications are now on hold for a $12 billion emergency aid package Trump and the Department of Agriculture announced for farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs from China and other nations.

A Jan. 15 deadline for that program may have to be extended.  

That’s a significant barrier to Midwestern ag, whose two biggest crops — corn and soy — have been hit particularly hard by Trump’s trade war and rely heavily on federal government subsidies to remain profitable.

Some close observers of California farming, however, say the shutdown’s effects are limited in the Golden State — so far.

“(California growers) are used to operating with limited federal government oversight,” said Joel Nelsen, California Citrus Mutual CEO and USDA adviser. “Here in California, we have such a robust CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) that we aren’t missing the federal government yet.”

Josh Rolph, California Farm Bureau’s manager of federal policy, agreed. 

“The shutdown will have no big impact (on California ag) in the short-term,” he said. “Most growers are not directly affected unless they’re getting tariff or commodity payouts.”

More: All Sequoia, Kings Canyon entrances closed as ‘chaos in the parks’ escalates amid shutdown

More: Government shutdown leads to Sequoia, Kings Canyon park closures

Nelsen says he’s more worried that the shutdown is a distraction for larger, existential threats impacting the ag economy in California and across the country.

“(During the shutdown) we likely won’t see trade negotiations, no breaking down of trade barriers,” Nelsen said. “That’s a bigger problem.”

Nelsen said local farmers so far have dismissed the shutdown as political theater. 

“As long as we’re not feeling any pain, we’re ambivalent,” he said of Central Valley farmers. 

If the shutdown continues, as Trump has promised it could for “months or even years” if border wall funding demands aren’t met, it could put an end to sunshine and green pastures for California ag. 

“It’s a bad deal. The entire operating budget of the USDA is at stake,” Nelsen said. “(If the shutdown continues) We would have to ask the state to declare a state of emergency, which would put a greater burden on the ag commissioner and county offices.”

More: Government shutdown 2019: Homebuyers with USDA mortgages can’t close on house sales

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More: Government shutdown: How it could hurt the economy

Tough times for farmers 

Farmers count on the USDA for a wide range of services, many of which are now suspended during the shutdown that began Dec. 22.

It’s especially troublesome as farmers have been caught in a downward spiral of lost markets, low prices for milk, crops and livestock. Also, the shutdown threatens the implementation of the 2018 farm bill and its program aimed at helping small dairy farms endure one of the worst downturns in the dairy industry in recent memory. 

The rules and policies to put the massive piece of legislation in place are largely written by USDA employees at many levels. 

And that’s a mad scramble.

More: $867 billion farm bill signed into law by Trump ‘a home run’ for California ag

“They really work hard to get all that in place as quickly as possible,” said Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The shutdown is “coming at a bad time, for sure,” Stephenson said.

USDA isn’t “writing the checks or doing the things to get payments out to dairy farmers, corn and soybean growers. So that’s a problem,” he added.

When farmers are hurting, it’s felt throughout the rural economy.

Each dollar of net farm income results in an additional 60 cents of economic activity as farmers spend money in their local communities, according to University of Wisconsin research.

That translates to millions of dollars in urban centers as well since most of the items farmers buy come from other places. 

And to some degree, farmers are gamblers. They borrow money in the spring to plant crops, betting that the fall harvest will cover their loans and generate a profit. They borrow money to raise livestock, hoping the price they receive when the animals are sent to market will be sufficient. 

“There are a lot of farmers who count on FSA loans to pay bills. And that works its way through the community,” said Jim Goodman, a board member of the Wisconsin-based group Family Farm Defenders who recently retired after 40 years of dairy farming.

During the shutdown, the government continues to inspect meat, poultry and eggs. It’s also releasing data needed for setting farm milk prices. 

Certain USDA activities will continue if they are related to law enforcement, the protection of life and property or are financed through available funding.

But a lot of farm data, necessary in forecasting global agricultural trends, isn’t getting processed and that could undermine commodities markets. 

“We have not seen export sales figures since the shutdown began. And it’s at a time when China supposedly has been making some new soybean purchases from the U.S.,” said Todd Hultman, a markets analyst with DTN/The Progressive Farmer in Omaha, Nebraska.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re not able to get confirmation in the markets. I think traders would have a little more confidence if they could see, in black and white, the reports from USDA about what sales are being made,” he said.

If the shutdown doesn’t end this week, Hultman said it’s likely the USDA will have to delay a major report, scheduled for Jan. 11, expected to contain data which influences global markets. 

“We are just a little bit in the dark at this time,” he said.

As traders, investors and farmers look ahead in 2019, many of their concerns remain the same as they were in 2018, said Alex Breitinger with Breitinger & Sons, a commodities futures brokerage firm based in Indiana. 

“Trade disputes with China, Mexico, and Canada still hang over all markets, especially major U.S. exports like grains, livestock and machinery. The United States seems to have won some battles in the ongoing trade wars, but the long-term damage suffered by both sides may exceed any gains notched so far,” Breitinger wrote in a recent column. 


Eight Dairy Export Signposts for 2019

A look at the key variables that will impact dairy trade this year.

In 2016, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) devised a plan we called “The Next 5%.” It was a set of strategies and tactics aimed at providing a foundation for U.S. dairy suppliers to build U.S. dairy exports from the equivalent of about 15 percent of U.S. milk solids to 20 percent.

In 2018, the first full year of that plan, the industry used that foundation to build the first floor. Through 10 months, U.S. dairy exports were equal to about 16.3 percent of U.S. milk solids, a record. By comparison, exports in 2017 were 14.7 percent of milk solids; the previous high was 15.5 percent in 2013.

How far we get in completing the building in 2019 is the subject of this article. What follows is not a forecast of U.S. growth expectations, but rather eight signposts that will shape market opportunities and direction in the year ahead.

1. Efforts to remove retaliatory tariffs.

A report from Texas A&M’s Center for North American Studies forecast U.S. dairy export losses from Chinese and Mexican retaliatory tariffs as high as $800 million per year, resulting in U.S. dairy farmers losing up to $2.8 billion per year due to lost sales and lower milk prices. We are already seeing erosion in the U.S. position in China in skim milk powder, whey and cheese, and slower growth for U.S. cheese in Mexico.

USDEC has made the dangers clear in comments to the U.S. government, letters to policymakers and meetings with officials. We are hopeful for a resolution with Mexico, where the retaliatory tariffs are specifically related to U.S. Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum. China’s retaliatory tariffs, however, are related to much broader U.S.-China economic differences and likely will take more time to resolve.

On the plus side, after months of stalemate, U.S. and Chinese leaders came to a temporary truce in December, agreeing to postpone additional tariff hikes that were set to kick in Jan. 1, 2019. The two sides are back at the bargaining table and have set a March 2, 2019, deadline to reach a deal and avert further escalation of the trade conflict.

The retaliatory tariffs won’t grind all U.S. dairy exports to a halt and, on their own, do not doom growth aspirations. Indeed, U.S. suppliers have had some success redirecting product to other markets, like Southeast Asia. But the tariffs make us less competitive in two critical markets and heighten the challenge of getting to The Next 5%.

2. Impact of supply and demand realignment.

The main anchor to dairy expansion over the past two years has been oversupply: Aggregate milk production growth from the major supply regions around the world has outpaced global demand, exacerbated by 380,000 tons of skim milk powder (SMP) languishing in EU intervention. In 2019, that market anchor is poised to be hoisted.

Collective milk production growth from the four largest global dairy suppliers (Australia, the EU, New Zealand and the United States) eased significantly in the second half of 2018, the result of poor weather, fodder shortages and rising margin pressure for most farmers.

Historically, milk production from those four has increased about 1.5 percent per year. This year it will be less than 1 percent. In the first half of 2019, we could see growth close to flat—a rare occurrence.

Aided by strong overseas demand, the EU executed an orderly and minimally disruptive draw-down of intervention stocks in 2018, selling more than 277,000 tons. We expect the remaining 100,000 tons, mostly older product, to exit intervention bound for the animal feed sector over the first quarter of 2019. The last time EU SMP intervention stocks were at zero was mid 2015.

Supply conditions are setting up to be markedly different than the past two years. Should demand continue as expected (U.S. NDM/SMP exports soared 25 percent over the first 10 months to 617,095 tons, a new annual record with two full months to go), we could see markets tighter than they have been for quite a while.

For example, expectations for continued steady demand for SMP without the backdrop of the EU stockpile could see U.S. NDM/SMP prices averaging above $2,000/ton in the coming year, a level unseen since a brief spike in mid 2017.

3. USMCA approval and implementation.

While USDEC argued for deeper market expansion and stronger dairy disciplines on Canada in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the deal meets the biggest U.S. dairy objectives. It maintains the overall U.S.-Mexico trading structure of the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) while incorporating new commitments to strengthen U.S. dairy export prospects throughout the North American region, including scrapping Canada’s trade- distorting Class 6 and 7 milk pricing schemes and tackling the misuse of geographical indications to restrict U.S. cheese trade.

Whether the beneficial provisions of USMCA foster U.S. dairy export growth in 2019 lies in part with the deal’s congressional approval and implementation.

  • Approval in 2019 is not assured, and the path forward is filled with unknowns, including what might happen should President Trump follow through on threats to withdraw from NAFTA prior to a USMCA vote.
  • The ultimate impact of the agreement will depend on how it is then subsequently implemented by the three countries involved.

The U.S. dairy industry will engage with both parties in Congress to seek their support for the agreement’s passage while at the same time seeking assurances that Canada will comply with its commitments in a fair and transparent manner.

4. Progress on other U.S. trade talks as competitors implement new deals.

To ensure U.S. dairy suppliers remain competitive, it is critical that the United States accelerate efforts to pursue bilateral negotiations with high-potential markets like Japan, the UK, Vietnam and other agriculture importers. The Trump administration announced its intention to start talks with Japan, the UK and the EU in 2019 (although EU and U.S. officials have yet to agree on agriculture’s role in the EU talks and Brexit uncertainty overhangs the prospect of talks with the UK) and expressed a desire to establish a model trade agreement with a nation in Africa.

U.S. headway on new trade deals is so important because our competitors are not only aggressively pursuing new deals, they are implementing two pacts in key U.S. dairy export markets this year. The Comprehensive and Progressive Trade Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)—which includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Vietnam and others—went into effect on December 30, 2018, to allow Year 2 tariff levels to kick in in 2019. The new EU-Mexico trade agreement is expected to enter into force soon.

One of the big questions for 2019 is: How quickly will markets shift in response to these competitors’ trade deals?

The other big question is: Even though trade negotiations can take considerable time to finalize, will we see U.S. progress in advancing talks with Japan and other markets to match or counter our competitors’ efforts?

5. Global economic growth.

Strong demand driven by a robust global economy was a big reason behind this year’s record U.S. dairy exports. The recovery in oil prices, which began ramping up at the end of 2017 until they peaked in mid-2018, was particularly helpful in reviving demand from oil-producing nations.

For 2019, the economic picture is growing cloudier. To start, oil prices began to tumble again in the fourth quarter on concerns of oversupply and worries over the global economy. They ended the year well down from the 2018 peak.

Groups like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization are all sounding warning bells on trade and economic growth. Economic indicators from individual countries—China, Germany, Japan—point to what Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell called “a bit of a slowdown” that is “concerning.”

At the same time, Rabobank warned that geopolitical tension, the El Niño weather system and the potential spread of livestock diseases suggest higher world food prices in 2019. Coupled with slower economic growth, they could provide some dairy demand headwinds.

6. Chinese dairy consumption.

China dairy imports grew more than 7 percent by volume over the first 11 months of 2018, compared to the same period the previous year. It was another strong year for the world’s largest dairy buyer.

The country purchased 2.6 million metric tons of dairy over that period, nearly 180,000 metric tons more than the first 11 months of 2017—a record pace. Most major product categories posted gains: WMP imports rose 7 percent; SMP grew 10 percent; whey increased 7 percent; butter jumped 30 percent; and lactose soared 35 percent. Cheese fell 3 percent, one of the few to see a decline.

China continues to drive global dairy trade, even though second-half buying slowed. Much will depend on China’s economic health in 2019, but if the nation imports are up 5-10 percent again (as many expect they could be), coupled with tighter supply and little to no stock overhang, we could be in for a sizable shift in market sentiment in the second half of the year.

7. Global cheese demand direction.

The world’s cheese suppliers—particularly in New Zealand, the EU and the United States—have been gearing for export growth by investing in new cheese capacity for some years now. No one doubts that demand growth is imminent, but those expecting it in 2018 faced some disappointment.

Cheese exports from the top 20 suppliers declined 0.4 percent in the first 10 months of the year, compared to January-October 2017. New Zealand shipments were down 7 percent and EU exports were up only 0.4 percent over that period. Given the flat market, the U.S. export gain of 3 percent (in the face of retaliatory duties in China and Mexico) looks like a healthy showing.

The United States, in fact, was on track to retake the crown as the largest single-country cheese exporter in the world through the first 10 months of 2018—a title that alternated between the U.S. and New Zealand since 2014.

In 2019, pending other factors such as global economic development, we expect to see global cheese demand growth recover and will watch if U.S. suppliers can continue to build share even as they face retaliatory tariffs and other hurdles to cheese trade like restrictive geographical indications.

8. Brexit progress and fallout.

With less than three months until the Brexit deadline, the UK and the EU have yet to finalize the terms of their divorce. The two agreed to a tentative deal but that deal faces so much opposition from Britain’s Parliament that most experts are certain it will not pass.

Should it (or a replacement) fail to pass, the UK could try to extend the March 31, 2019, deadline or face a “no deal” or “hard” Brexit. Either way, what happens will have a ripple effect on global dairy markets and U.S. export ambitions. Uncertainty abounds, but the eventual outcome could:

  • Impact and possibly displace up to $4 billion in dairy products exported each year from Ireland to the UK and about $1.7 billion from the UK to Ireland.
  • Upend operations at Irish dairy processors—aggressive global exporters—who currently utilize about 800 million tons of raw milk annually from Northern Ireland to run their plants.
  • Limit the UK’s freedom to negotiate free trade deals outside the EU, including one with the United States.
  • Limit the UK’s right to make independent decisions about geographic indications, potentially limiting U.S. and other non-EU cheese exports to the UK.
  • Impact how tariff rate quotas are handled for shipments to the EU and UK, hindering export efforts to both.

With the deadline looming at the end of the first quarter, we won’t have long to wait to learn more.


Source: U.S. DEC

Milk Markets Mixed Wednesday in Chicago

At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Milk futures on were mixed at midweek with European dairy prices improving while the shutdown weighs on the market. Class III milk ranged from five cents lower to seven cents higher.  January class III milk futures closed down three cents at $14.05. February down nine cents at $14.32. March unchanged at $14.88. April up a penny at $15.32. May through September contracts were two to four cents higher. Class IV milk was mixed as well. February added three cents, March was up 13 and April lost three cents.  

Dry whey up $0.0050 at $0.4875 cents. Blocks down $0.01 at $1.37. Barrels down $0.0325 at $1.2450. Eight trades were made ranging from $1.2550 to $1.2675. Butter up $0.0050 at $2.2350. Three trades were made ranging from $2.2275 to $2.2350. Nonfat dry milk up $0.0125 at $1.0025. Four trades were made ranging from $1.00 to $1.0050.

Dairy Wins Major Gains in the Farm Bill

Last year was extremely challenging for dairy. But as the year drew to a close, it ended on a very positive note. On Dec. 20, with NMPF Chairman Randy Mooney in attendance, President Donald Trump signed the new farm bill into law – with dairy the biggest winner. This key moment represented nearly two years of critically important work by congressional agriculture leaders and dairy champions.

The bill enhances protections against low prices and offers greater flexibility for producers of all size operations to choose the programs that are best for their needs. It caps several years of consistent effort by NMPF and dairy farmers throughout the country to impress upon Congress the unique challenges our sector has faced in recent years and the need to tailor legislation to meet those challenges.

It shows just how powerful a voice dairy can have in Washington – and not just because the president introduced our chairman by name when he welcomed farm leaders to the White House for the bill-signing. It shows how, when we unite toward common goals that improve the health of our industry, and when we work with the optimism that’s just as necessary in crafting policy in Washington as it is in sustaining a dairy operation, we can help build an environment in which dairy farmers’ needs for an economic safety net to offset milk price volatility can be met.

We’ve provided extensive information about this bill since Congress passed it on Dec. 12, and we will provide even more once the federal government re-opens and USDA can begin implementing the improved program in the weeks to come. Our website already features numerous resources where members can learn more about the bill and begin planning for its implementation next year.  At the center of the law’s dairy provisions is an improved safety net, now renamed the Dairy Margin Coverage program, that gives both smaller and larger producers new incentives to enroll and greater protection when they participate. These changes benefit all producers and build upon the gains we made last February in the Bipartisan Budget Act. Some highlights of the new safety net:

  • Affordable higher coverage levels that will permit all dairy producers to insure margins above $8.00 on their Tier 1 (first five million pounds) production history, the previous limit under the Margin Protection Program. By going up to $9.50/cwt., producers will have greater opportunities for assistance during difficult price environments like the one we are currently living through.
  • Affordable $5.00 coverage that lowers premium costs by roughly 88 percent. This aids larger producers, creating a baseline for meaningful catastrophic coverage at a reasonable cost without distorting the market signals needed to balance supply with demand.
  • Greater flexibility to participate in a suite of USDA programs, including the DMC, the Livestock Gross Margin insurance program and the Dairy Revenue Protection program. That helps producers of all sizes choose programs that best fit their needs, allowing them to effectively manage their risk and plan their business for the next five years.

We owe a sincere debt of gratitude to several members of Congress who fought to enact these reforms both in the Farm Bill and in the Bipartisan Budget Act. In the Senate, Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) championed efforts to improve the dairy safety net, with support from Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) as well. In the House, newly-minted Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) and then Chairman (now Ranking Member) Mike Conaway (R-TX) both spearheaded dairy policy reforms, with important support from senior committee members Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Jim Costa (D-CA).

The farm bill also strengthens the industry as a whole – and that came through industry-wide teamwork among NMPF and the International Dairy Foods Association which, beginning in 2017 preparations for the bill, forged an unprecedented industry consensus. 

The farm bill includes an agreement reached between the two organizations on risk management that will help producers, cooperatives and processors to better hedge price risk. The bill will change the Class I fluid milk price mover from the previous higher of Class III or Class IV to the average of Class III and Class IV, plus a $0.74 adjustor. The so-called “Class I mover” provision aids the entire supply chain, showing how all can benefit when we work in unity to accomplish a common effort.

That momentum will continue into the new year.

Now that Congress has passed the law and the president has signed it, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is committed to making sure dairy is at the front of the line when it writes the rules and implements the law. Even before the farm bill was signed, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department is “looking forward to prioritizing” dairy-program implementation. NMPF will work closely with the USDA, answering questions, providing analysis and advocating for our members to make sure the law’s good intentions become a fruitful reality. 

This is not to say the new law alone turned 2018 into a positive year. It didn’t. Congress’s attention arose from the unfortunate reality that dairy farmers needed help – and that need doesn’t vanish with a new law. A new farm bill doesn’t bring back strong prices. It doesn’t restore access to foreign markets that farmers need to flourish. It doesn’t solve supply gluts, and it alone won’t keep every dairy afloat. These are hard realities – and they don’t go away with the stroke of a pen.  

But an improved safety net can relieve some of the financial pressure that’s kept hard-working families awake at night. It can give producers renewed reason for hope. And it’s a motivation to keep working – we didn’t give up simply because the farm bill looked too difficult to pass or the budget environment was too difficult to navigate. That was true at the beginning of 2018 – but by year’s end, we got a bill in which even observers outside our sector acknowledged that dairy was a big winner.

We at NMPF don’t have a crystal ball for 2019. We know we have fights ahead – on trade, on immigration, and on labeling, just to name a few. And we know that 2018 wasn’t easy. We do know that, heading into this year, dairy’s safety net is stronger than it was a year ago – and, more importantly, so is our unity. That first fact will provide comfort in the new year. The second will help bring us continued success.


Dairy producers concerned over revisions to the Canada Food Guide

Health Canada is set to publish a revised Canada Food Guide later this month.

Indications are that the document would de-emphasize the scientifically proven nutritional value and health benefits of dairy products by eliminating the Milk and Alternatives group and actively advocating that Canadians shift towards consuming more plant-based sources of protein.

Not only could this be detrimental to the long-term health of future generations by leading them to erroneously think that dairy products are unhealthy, it will also have an effect on a sector that continues to be negatively impacted by the concessions granted in recent trade agreements.

“There is no scientific justification to minimize the role of milk products in a healthy diet as they are a key source of 6 of the 8 nutrients that most Canadians already fall short of. The current scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that the daily consumption of 2 to 4 servings of milk products has a beneficial role to play in promoting bone health and preventing several chronic diseases that Health Canada wants to address with the new Food Guide such as hypertension, colorectal cancer, type 2 diabetes and stroke,” said Isabelle Neiderer, Dairy Farmers of Canada’s (DFC’s) Director of Nutrition and Research, and a registered dietitian.

Research continues to confirm that milk proteins rank as some of the highest quality protein available, and are particularly important for growing children and preserving healthy bones and muscles in aging Canadian adults.

This is especially true when compared to the plant-based proteins Health Canada is considering prioritizing over dairy within the new Food Guide. Unlike milk products, these plant-based sources of protein do not even meet Federal requirements to be called “source of protein” on their packaging.

“Milk products and other protein foods are not interchangeable. Milk products provide different nutrients aside from protein that are important to health. Lumping milk products together with other protein foods will lead to inadequate intakes of important nutrients,” she added.

To make matters worse, these changes to Canada’s domestic health guidelines come at the same time when the dairy sector is still reeling from the latest rounds of concessions made by the federal government to secure recent trade agreements. “This would cause further harm to the dairy sector by deliberately diminishing the nutritional value of dairy in the eyes of Canadians – in spite of scientific evidence,” said DFC president, Pierre Lampron. “Not only will this harm the dairy sector and the hundreds of thousands who depend upon it for their livelihoods, it also risks harming Canadian consumers by creating confusion about the nutritional value of dairy”, he continued.

For more than 75 years, milk and dairy products have been clearly recognized within Canada’s Food Guide as playing a key role in a healthy, balanced diet. The scientific evidence supporting a role for milk products in the prevention of chronic diseases, is stronger than ever, and new evidence continues to accumulate. As highlighted by members of Canadian Clinicians for Therapeutic Nutrition, which consists of nearly 3,000 member clinicians, in a letter written to the Health Minister, there are many scientific studies now showing the benefits of full fat dairy.

The direction proposed by the new Food Guide is not evidence-based, and could have further long-lasting consequences on a sector that has already been placed in a difficult position by this Government. Dairy Farmers of Canada asks that Prime Minister Trudeau direct the Minister of Health do her homework by considering and taking into account all available scientific evidence prior to the release of the new Food Guide. The health of Canadians, and the health of a vibrant Canadian sector, are at stake.


Source: Dairy Farmers of Canada

Chemists Can Determine If Organic Milk Is Fraudulent

Food fraud is a substantial problem.

Though it doesn’t pose much of a health risk — food is still food, after all — the consumer is being deceived. If you ask for a really expensive fish at a restaurant, you should get that fish, not a cheaper imitation. Likewise (even though we think organic food is a waste of money), if you buy something that is labeled “organic” at the grocery store, it ought to be organic. That’s simply a matter of honesty and truth in advertising.

Alas, those selling food aren’t always so upright. It is very tempting to purposefully mislabel a product if you can make extra money and get away with it. Often, they can, because it is nearly impossible for consumers to tell the difference between, say, conventional and organic crops. That’s how three farmers in Nebraska were able to get away with selling conventional soybeans and corn as organic for seven years before they were finally caught.

Though consumers and regulators may be easy to fool, it is exceedingly difficult to trick scientists. A new paper in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry shows how chemists can use isotope analysis to discriminate between conventional and organic milk.

Got Isotopes?

The main challenge for chemists in determining a unique “fingerprint” that identifies milk as conventional or organic is identifying a feature of each product that is relatively consistent across time. The concentration of individual nutrients may not be a good measure, as these may fluctuate. Isotope ratios, however, generally do not fluctuate, so the research team focused on these.

Isotopes are atoms of the same element (say, carbon) that have different numbers of neutrons. Carbon-12, for instance, is the most common isotope of carbon and has six neutrons; carbon-13 and carbon-14 are less common isotopes, and they possess seven and eight neutrons, respectively. Though isotopes are chemically identical, they can be easily detected by chemists in the laboratory.

Furthermore, the isotope ratios (e.g., the ratio of carbon-13 to carbon-12) in a given sample can serve as a unique fingerprint. In this case, because cows raised on conventional or organic diets are fed different plants, the isotope ratios in their milk should be different.

And that’s exactly what they found. As shown, linoleic acid and myristic acid — both types of fatty acids — had discernibly different isotopic signatures. (This signature is known as the δ13C. You can learn how it is calculated here.)

The authors admit to using a very limited sample for this analysis, so this should be thought of as a proof-of-concept. To determine global biomarkers of conventional and organic milk (if they exist), samples from all over the world must be analyzed. Still, food fraudsters are on notice.


Source: ACSH

2018 Holstein Canada Master Breeders Coast-to-Coast

The announcement of the Master Breeder recipients has become an annual tradition at Holstein Canada, and this year is certainly no exception. Holstein Canada is pleased to announce the 21 Master Breeders who will be honoured at the 2019 National Holstein Convention Master Breeder Gala in Charlottetown, P.E.I. on Saturday, April 27, 2019.

Of the 21 breeders who received exciting news today, 66% (14) are first-time recipients of a Master Breeder shield, while the remaining are previous winners. The winners come from coast to coast, with breeders in six provinces receiving the Shield! Eight breeders are from Ontario; five are from Quebec; three are from British Columbia; three are from Nova Scotia; and one each from Prince Edward Island and Alberta. 

Congratulations to the 2018 Master Breeder Recipients:

Benco Holsteins, Chilliwack, B.C.

Brabantdale Farms Ltd., Ottawa, Ont.

Francis Colin Campbell (Brookvilla), Cape Breton, N.S.

Cormdale Genetics Inc. (Calbrett), Cambridge, Ont.

Paul Martin Carroll (Carrollview), Milford, N.S.

Dari Delite Farms Ltd. (Daridelite), Sicamous, B.C.

Fleury Holstein, Victoriaville, Que.

Fermes Verhaegen Inc. (Front View), Clarenceville, Que.

Gerann Holsteins, Cardinal, Ont.

Hamming Holsteins Ltd., Vernon, B.C.

Ferme Rolandale enr. (Jolibois), Saint-Flavien, Que.

Stanley White (Kennetcook), Musquodoboit, N.S.

Wayne & Karen Martin (Marfloacres), Mount Forest, Ont.

Gert & Sonja Schryver (Marsfield), Stettler, Alta.

Misty Spring Holsteins, Little Britain, Ont.

Ferme Okadale Inc., Oka, Que.

Red Oak Farms, Oyster Bed, P.E.I.

Rodveil Holstein, Saint-Simon-les-Mines, Que.

Sprucecho Farms Inc., Moorefield, Ont.

Tim & Diane Groniger (Weeberlac), Carlsbad Springs, Ont.

Woodbridge Holsteins, Neustadt, Ont.

2018 Master Breeder Contact Information

Contact information for the winners is available on the Holstein Canada website. For more information, contact Steven Spriensma at 519-756-8300 ext. 234 or

Since its beginning in 1929, the Master Breeder program has become the most coveted Holstein Canada award. Including this year’s winners, 1069 Master Breeder shields have been handed out in the award’s 89-year existence. These breeders are recognized for having mastered the art of breeding balanced cattle – high production and outstanding conformation with great reproduction, health and longevity. Congratulations to the 21 2018 Master Breeders who have joined the ranks of the most elite breeders across Canada!

Indiana loses 10% of its dairy farms in 2018 as tough times continue

The state of Indiana once featured more than 2,000 dairy farms. However, according to Indiana Dairy Producers, that number has now dipped below 900.

“It’s not a state by state issue,” said Executive Director of the Indiana Dairy Producers Doug Leman, citing similar struggles across the Midwest and the entire country. “It’s a general industry issue.”

In 2018 alone, Leman says 10 percent of all Indiana dairy farms stopped production. One of those farms was Kelsay Farms, which stopped milking on November 20.

“Just walking around here, it’s like the rapture happened and we didn’t go,” owner Joe Kelsay said while walking through the building that once housed 500 cows, most of which have now been sold. “It’s so quiet and lonely and empty.”

It was a tough decision for Kelsay and his brother to make. He says after crunching the numbers, the move was an obvious choice to make financially. However, the emotional connection to the land and the business made the obvious choice the more difficult one.

“I grew up here,” said Kelsay as he motioned to the house on the property. “My brother and I in the house here, it’s difficult to walk outside and not see milk cows.”

Founded in 1835, Kelsay Farms has been run by six generations of Kelsays on their Whiteland, Indiana property. While dairy was their main business for decades, Kelsay says the farm is now shifting its focus to corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat. It’s a tough but necessary change.

“You really somewhat kind of identify as ‘I’m a dairy farmer, and I take care of these cows and they take care of me and my family,” Kelsay said. “To get to the point where you need to choose to do something different… It’s excruciating.”

At one point in time Kelsay farms was producing 12 million pounds of milk a year. But with the rise of alternative dairy products, lower prices and a slew of other factors, it only took four years to bring the 184 year old family business to a halt.

“2014 was probably one of the best years the industry ever experienced,” Leman said. “Since that time it’s just been in the doldrums.”

Leman says in 2014, Indiana had about 1,400 diary producers in the state. He can’t remember a time when the state featured less than 900 operations.

“It’s a sad day for the farmer, it really is,” Leman said. “They feel like their way of life is changing.”

Leman knows the struggle firsthand. It wasn’t too long ago that Leman himself was a dairy farmer, faced with the decision to close down his operation.

Today, he talks from experience about how challenging that time was. He can also tell you from experience that everything will be okay, because the resilience of a farmer is second to none.

“Life does go on,” Leman said. “The sun will come up tomorrow… and God is good.”


Ireland records fastest-growing milk supply in the EU

Milk production in Ireland has increased rapidly in the last year.

Ireland has seen the most rapid increase in milk collected, according to the most recent figures from the EU MMO.

The country has seen a 20% increase in the 12 months between October 2017 and 2018.

View image on Twitter

This was followed by Bulgaria, which recorded an 8% increase and Romania with 7%.

Milk deliveries also increased by 2.8% in Ireland, while Bulgaria recorded the highest increase with 10.5%.

The EU MMO milk delivery figures from Jan to Oct 2017 to 2018.

Deliveries remained steady across big milk countries such as France and the UK, but dipped in The Netherlands.


Source: Irish Farmers Journal

Changes to Dairy Provisions in the 2018 US Farm Bill

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the Farm Bill’s official name) was signed by the President on December 20. In this article we discuss several important changes to federal dairy programs as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill.

Dairy Risk Management Programs

The most significant changes in the 2018 Farm Bill, and the ones which will affect farmers most directly, are those to the USDA risk management programs. Producers will now have three programs to choose from:

  1. The new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) which replaces the Margin Protection Program (MPP)
  2. Livestock Gross Margin – Dairy (LGM)
  3. Dairy Revenue Protection (DRP)

DMC is available through the USDA Farm Service Agency, and LGM and DRP are available through crop insurance agencies, such as Crop Growers, LLP.

LGM and DRP remain in place and are not altered by the 2018 Farm Bill. However, a significant change is that producers can now elect to participate in the DMC program and LGM or DRP, if they choose. Previously, producers could not participate in both programs simultaneously. 

Changes to the programs

There are a number of changes from the old MPP program to the new DMC. Just as with MPP, producers who choose to participate make two basic decisions: 1) How much milk to cover, and 2) the level of margin they want to insure. However, both of these decisions now come with more options, and the likelihood of positive payouts have increased under some scenarios.

The first change is that farmers can now ensure up to a $9.50/cwt margin rather than the original maximum of $8.00. Second, farmers can now choose to ensure any amount of their adjusted production history from five to 95 percent.

The DMC program continues the structure of two premium tiers: one for the first five million pounds of milk marketed and a second for milk production levels above that. Tier I premiums are significantly below those of the original MPP program. Tier 2 premiums remain significantly higher. However, DMC has a provision where if farmers elect coverage of $8.50 or higher, they may choose to select a different coverage level in tier 2.

Larger producers with volume that exceeds five million pounds can now choose to take advantage of the expanded coverage up to $9.50 at the favorable tier 1 premiums. For production levels above five million pounds of milk, large producers can then opt for a lower coverage for their additional milk, thus managing their tier 2 premium costs.

One of the reasons why many producers were disappointed in the Margin Protection Program was that producer margins seemed to hover at roughly $8.00/cwt. This margin was low enough to cause economic hardship, but not low enough to trigger payments. Although future margins can’t be predicted with certainty, it is clear that the increase in coverage levels from $8.00 to a maximum of $9.50 will make the DMC much more likely to issue payments. Considering the past five years, a $9.50 level of coverage would trigger a payment roughly two-thirds of the time, and net benefits (payments less premiums) would be significantly positive at the premium levels below five million lbs.

Refund Provision

The 2018 Farm Bill included an MPP refund provision. Farmers who had previously participated in MPP and had net premiums (premiums exceeding payouts) can take 75 percent of that net premium value as a credit towards DMC premiums or receive 50 percent of their premiums as a cash refund.

Federal Milk Marketing Order Class I Pricing

The 2018 Farm Bill also contained changes in how Federal Milk Marketing Order prices are set. Federal Milk Marketing Orders set minimum prices that processors must pay farmers for their milk. Four product classes exist, each with its own minimum price.

Class I, fluid milk;

Class II, soft, high-moisture cheeses, such as cottage cheese, frozen desserts, sour cream, yogurt, puddings and infant formula;

Class III, most spreadable and hard cheeses; and

Class IV, butter, powder, evaporated and condensed milk

Only classes III and IV are traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. This complicates hedging strategies since class I pricing has been based on the higher of class III or IV pricing. Therefore, farmers trying to hedge their milk price wouldn’t know whether the class I milk price would be driven primarily by class III or IV in the future.

To address this issue, Federal Order pricing provisions have been amended to change the class I price mover to the average of the monthly class III and IV prices, rather than the higher of the two. To compensate for the fact that this average will always be lower than the higher of the two, an adjustment factor of $0.74 per hundredweight (cwt) will be added to the average of the two classes.

The exact impact this change will have on farm milk prices is dependent on the relative value of Class III and Class IV milk going forward, but the intent is that these slight adjustments to the farm price will make hedging strategies easier. The USDA has until the end of March 2019 to implement this change.

Dairy Donation Programs

The 2014 Farm Bill included a provision for the USDA to purchase dairy products for donation to public and private food assistance organizations if the Actual Dairy Producer Margin (ADPM) fell below $4.00/cwt for two consecutive months or more. This provision remains in effect, but has not come close to kicking in since it was passed.

The new farm bill includes a milk donation program to incentivize dairy processors to make donations. Previously, donations of fluid milk would have been paid for at the class I price, which made it cheaper for processors to dump milk rather than packaging and donating it.

Under the new donation program, processors have the opportunity to be reimbursed for a portion of costs incurred for donating consumer-packaged fluid milk. The reimbursement is based on the difference between the class I price and the lower of class III or IV prices for the applicable month. The milk would remain pooled at the class I price and would not affect the farm blend price. Up to $5 million per year is authorized for this program.

The Take-away

The 2018 Farm Bill contains several provisions that affect Northeast dairy producers. There are, of course, many more details than can be provided in this brief summary. For more on the expanded risk management options, visit and see their briefing paper. You may also wish to consult with your local Farm Service Agency office or Crop Growers agent.

Much of the information contained in this article is summarized from: “Dairy Margin Coverage – The New Margin Protection Plan for Dairy Producers,” Briefing Paper 18-2, December 11, 2018, by Andrew M. Novakovic and Mark Stephenson.

Becoming an “Employer of Choice” in Today’s Job Market

We’ve all seen the headlines about falling unemployment. In today’s tight job market, many agricultural employers are facing challenges sourcing and hiring employees. Yet hiring isn’t the only area of importance; perhaps even more important is holding on to the good ones you’ve got. If you lose a good employee, what are the odds that you find a replacement that’s a better fit?

Farming, fishing and forestry are not easy occupations, and owners are often being pulled from all sides to “put out fires” and deal with problems. But how many of us focus on “catching people doing things right,” celebrating success and appreciating our team? We often focus on the problems, and neglect to acknowledge when things go right, but that is the precise opportunity to manage your staff in a positive, constructive manner.

With the current economy’s demand for good employees exceeding supply, it’s up to you to become an “employer of choice” and make your business a great place to work. Here are a few tips to becoming that employer of choice.

  1. People want to be on a winning team, and feel like they are making a contribution. Celebrate successes – even small ones. The current market is stressful, and prices may not be what we would like, but you can always find some positive things occurring in your business. Think about how you interact with employees. If you’re spending more time addressing people “doing things wrong” rather than “doing things right,” maybe it’s time to refocus.
  2. Get to know – and genuinely care about – all your employees. You may know your key managers well, but do you really know all your front-line employees? When people are treated as replaceable cogs in the wheel, the result is high turnover. Making people feel like they are appreciated and part of the organization is essential to retention. Replacing even an entry-level position is not only work, there’s time and expense involved in employee turnover. All of your employees should feel comfortable coming to you with a concern, question or idea. You may find that some of the best ideas come to you from front-line employees. If they speak a foreign language, try learning a few words in their native tongue. In some situations, a bilingual staff member to help translate can go a long way. The key to a successful organization is treating everyone like they matter.
  3. Set people up for success. Too often, people are set up to fail. They are given inadequate training and direction, and then criticized when things don’t work out. Instead, set them up for success and recognize success when it occurs. Provide good organization, training and direction. Give them the resources and tools they need. Your best people really want to do a good job and may leave if they are not given that opportunity.
  4. Recognize and challenge your key employees. Some employees are content where they are, and do not want additional responsibility. But many (including your best people) will want to grow and advance. Does a laborer on your team have the potential to become a foreman? Maybe a shop technician would like to take a welding class. There may also be a task on your plate that could be delegated to one of your staff and serve as a growth opportunity. Whatever level they may be, show employees that their position is more than just a job, but a career path that will allow them to develop their skills.Even with your best efforts, it may be inevitable that you lose a great employee. In the meantime, you had an excellent person and your business benefitted from their presence. While some employees may take the next step in their career, the point is to continuously invest in their growth; if they can’t grow at your business, they will somewhere else.
  5. Develop positive leaders at all levels. As your business grows, you will no longer be directly supervising every employee. It’s not enough for you alone to be a “great boss” – everyone in a leadership position at your company needs to be as well. A toxic supervisor at the field level can wreak havoc, create turnover and lead to poor results. People don’t usually quit because of top management, they quit because they don’t see eye-to-eye with their immediate supervisor. Developing positive, encouraging leadership throughout your organization can be a key to success and functioning as a high-performing team.

You may have gotten into farming, fishing or forest products because you were good at it, and you had a passion for it. But as your business grows, you will find that success requires more than just good technical skills – it requires great people skills. More and more, your role is about leading and developing your people and that may require you to develop some new skills. Some business owners worry about investing time and money into training employees only to have them leave, but think of the alternative – not investing in them and having them stay!

Steps 1-5 may be easier said than done, but they are essential to building a successful business. In today’s economy, help is scarce at all skill and experience levels. Becoming an “employer of choice” is not just a best practice or something to aspire to, it’s essential in today’s environment. If you don’t transform your business into one, you’ll be competing for staff with a business that is.


2019 another year of challenges for Australian dairy industry

2019 shapes up as another challenging year for dairy farmers and the dairy industry. As has been the case for the past eight years, retail pricing and the impact on dairy farmer and processor incomes is still by far the biggest challenge to overcome. Other key issues include the Australian dairy industry plan and biosecurity.

After many years of no change re retail milk prices, finally in 2018 some movement occurred largely as a result of a concerted campaign by QDO. This has led to an increase in prices received by Queensland dairy farmers. For some this increase was very short lived while for others it will lead to an increase in price of around 5 cents a litre for almost a year. 

The challenge in 2019 is to turn these temporary increases into a permanent long-term solution. This needs to occur for all dairy products, across all of Australia and lead to more sustainable prices for both dairy farmers and processors. For this outcome to be achieved we need to have a united industry and run a concerted campaign across Australia.

The dairy industry will develop a plan for the entire Australian dairy industry in 2019. It is very important that this process leads to a small number of clear priorities to help farmers significantly increase profits and manage risk. In addition, there needs to targets set, clear plans to achieve targets and responsibility with resources given to organisations best able to achieve these targets. We need to ensure that significant outcomes for farmers are achieved given the significant investment made by farmers in industry organisations.

In the first half of 2019, QDO will undertake free Johnes disease testing for QDO members. This needs to be undertaken by June 2019. It follows the considerable effort made by QDO, with the assistance of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, in providing education workshops on Johnes disease and helping farmers develop farm biosecurity plans.


Source: North Queensland Register

US milk price drops 66 cents, averages $14.61 for year

The base price paid to dairy producers for Class III milk in December took a tumble, ending the year on a low note at $13.78 per hundredweight. This is the lowest Class III price since last February, when it sunk to $13.40.

The Class III price finished 2018 with an average of $14.61 — the lowest average level since 2010. The December price is down 66 cents from November and $1.66 lower than December 2017.

While milk prices were bleak to end the year, UW-Madison dairy analysts Bob Cropp and Mark Stephenson are optimistic that 2019 will be better, with only weak increases in milk production forecast and, hopefully, a resolution to trade issues with Mexico and China, which both are big buyers of U.S. dairy products.

In their late-December dairy market podcast, Stephenson said butter and cheese stocks ended 2018 at a relatively high level, keeping a lid on prices.

“Normally, we don’t see cheese inventories growing this time of year,” he said.

Where milk prices go from here hinges a lot on U.S. milk production, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects to grow by just 1.3 percent this year. Most of the recent growth has taken place in the western U.S.

“I could see it less than that, even,” Cropp said of growth predictions.

Domestic dairy sales are expected to continue to be positive, except for fluid milk, he and Stephenson said, so a lot depends on the export side of the equation. World milk production has slowed and the dollar is a little stronger, but unless the U.S. resolves lingering trade concerns with China and Mexico, particularly, exports will be down, weighing heavily on farm-level milk prices.

While some market analysts had called for Class III to be near $16 by the end of 2018, that didn’t pan out, Cropp said. He expects prices to move higher in 2019, starting just under $15 in January, moving into the $15s by the second quarter and averaging close to $16 for the year.

But “farmers need more than a dollar improvement,” he said.

After getting off to a slow start due to the holidays, Class III milk finished strong the last week in December, according to the weekly Stewart-Peterson commodity report.

“We saw volume re-enter the market as trading volume in the January 2019 contract surpassed all of 2019 contract volume,” the report stated. “The majority of the volume … came after the spot cheese session that pushed the block/barrel average 3.25 cents higher on the day. This move was driven by Cheddar blocks in a 6-cent up day on one load traded. … The move in the spot market spurred the January and February Class III contracts higher. January gained 18 cents to finish the week at $14.41 and February gained 22 cents to finish the week at $14.67.”


Source: Leader Telegram

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