“Dairy changed in 2018! How did we deal with it?”
Happy New Year! Traditionally The Bullvine enjoys an annual ritual of reviewing and sharing the Top Editor’s Choice articles. It won’t be news to any dairy folks, that 2018 was unique.
Of course, the dialogue with readers of The Bullvine continues to be a highlight of our dairy activities. However, 2018 stands out more for its difficulties, dangers and damages than for it’s delights. This is a watershed year. Things aren’t going to get better. We can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. That is the definition of insanity. We will always celebrate this industry we are passionate about, but 2018 has taught us that now is the time to start DEALING with CHANGE. Thus our New Year’s Day pick of the TOP 10. Hope you enjoy this review. Let’s discover what’s not working? What is working? What’s missing? What’s emerging. We hope you will take a look to see if you are changing with the industry.
Looking at 2018 let’s start with how we market ourselves? Have we adapted to new sources? Or are we doing the same old things, while expecting different results? Whose hands are dipping into dairy breeder’s profits. There are too many forks in the pie. It’s time to admit that there isn’t any money to waste being ineffective. Print is expensive inflexible, tough to track the effectiveness of and doesn’t attract breeders under 40. Marketers must adapt to change. There are more dairy breeders on Facebook than read all the dairy print publications combines. Go where the market is going! If we’re going to make a difference, we have to start being the difference!
Another place where 2018 presented a large dose of reality came with the honest facts regarding the consumption of dairy products. While it would be more comfortable to consider only those things that happen to our product before it leaves the farm, reality says that we not only have to provide what the consumer wants but we need to consider the picture in our states and provinces and even beyond our borders. We all rally for our own side and our particular dairy interests. But as one analyst said, “It’s fiendishly complicated.” When the final negotiations go into action, who will be toasting dairy success? Who will be toast?
Looking back at 2018, the dairy industry was never very far from making political headlines. That may be a good result if you are newspapers, magazines or political activists but dairy breeders and the dairy industry need to make profits. Nobody wins if the dairy industry closes up shop. “Over production is the biggest threat to the dairy industry.” This isn’t fake news or a dramatic sound bite. “The current overproduction is a race to the bottom.” No business survives if it irresponsibly produces more than the market is prepared to consume. Success for US and Canadian dairy producers will come when progressive, dynamic producers support and lead the necessary changes to have milk supply match the demand. Producer-leaders will need to be visionary and able to bring groups with diverse positions to a mutual benefit.” We need to change our strategy before the consumer changes to the competition.
“Somewhere back in time the dairy farming industry decided that cows and their information was important but that dairy heifers were not important.” Extensive data for all dairy heifer traits and characteristics are needed from conception all the way to herd removal. The average female spends sixty months in a herd. Data for twenty months or 33% of an animal’s lifetime, is being ignored. This can’t help but have an effect on animal longevity and productivity, but also on dairy profitability and longevity. Change is going to happen no matter how much we fight, protest or procrastinate but it’s our own fault if we choose to ignore decision making information.
Are today’s dairy genetics suited for heat, new bugs and grazing? Eventually the decision will come down to economics. Where can cows be expected to produce milk the most efficiently and the most economically? What is the long-term viability of competing with climate change, land use and exponentially growing populations of people, bugs and diseases? We cannot keep postponing the development of genetics that produce cows that can be productive on grazing systems and live in warmer and warmer climates. The time for effective breeding in the right location is now.
Before the days of the information explosion through digital access, it may have seemed that there was time to think about trends and changes before they needed a “yes” or “no” answer on your particular dairy operation. Those times are gone. If you are still postponing decisions in 2019, your next planning session will be an exit strategy. In this article, The Bullvine looked at both sides of the decision to choose or reject Genomic Testing. If you plan to be here, genomic testing needs to be viewed as an investment rather than a cost.
The Bullvine takes our role as information providers very seriously. We recognize that everyone has different breeding strategies, so we try to make the research and data accessible and actionable for our readers. We can’t be so focused on this particular moment in time that we don’t prepare for the future that is coming headlong down each dairy farm lane. This article draws on the depth of experience of Jack Britt, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean Emeritus from North Carolina State University. His vision is bold. “Dairy farmers in 2066 will meet the world’s need for essential nutrients by adopting technologies and practices that provide improved cow health and longevity, profitable dairy farms, and sustainable agriculture” says Britt. Furthermore, “larger dairy farms will continue to make greater use of automation to reduce costs. Improvements in genetic selection will lead to dairy cattle lines that re healthier, produce milk more efficiently, and are more disease and heat-resistant.” New market demands can’t be postponed. Real world challenges mean real time changes in the way we manage.
The Top Three Editor’s Choices of 2018!
As you can see, questions kept coming at the dairy industry in 2018. The most asked questions about responsibility, new consumer choices and new methods, inspired our 2018 selection of the top three editor’s choice articles.
We have often written about and criticized the blame game. Sometimes it’s big government. Sometimes it’s big business. Sometimes it’s big consumers and their influence on the industry. In this article, we brought accepting responsibility right back to each dairy farm. We faced up to the fact that successful dairies don’t make excuses, they make changes. Furthermore, motivation starts at the top and it needs to be positively shared on both good days and bad. Too often responsibility can become one side versus the other. Whether you are management or staff, it is essential to recognize that there is nothing to be gained by falling into a pattern of blame and shame. When everyone learns how to accept responsibility and is willing to be held accountable, the operation has found the two building blocks that are the foundation of a successful dairy.
And so we come to the top two Editor’s Choice picks. They aren’t about successes. They aren’t about wins at shows or international trade deals. They both come right down to day to day decision making. Number two tells us that the future isn’t built on what if’s and pie-in-the-sky We must deal with changed consumers’ choices and a changing global marketplace. Producers need to think about the proportions of components in the milk they ship off-farm. “Forward-looking breeders will need to use sires that give high % fat improvement, minimal % protein improvement”. In this often read and discussed article, charts and bull lists wrestle with the reality of a do-it-sooner-not-later breeding problem.
And so we come full circle. If we are going to “Stop the Insanity”, we need to be ready to change. The changes we make need to be significant ones. We took your feedback and input and looked at ways to implement breakthrough new approaches. This article challenged everyone. “Even though our industry has traditionally thought of inbreeding in negative terms – there are positives in using inbreeding to fix the desired genes in our dairy cattle. Inbreeding is a good thing if it is actively used as a tool “to eliminate the undesired gene and have only the desired gene in our cattle.” If we are to survive into the future, this type of breeding change must go beyond a someday hoped for improvement to today’s necessity
The Bullvine Bottom Line – You are the Difference!
The very nature of working passionately in a 24/7 industry means that there will always be controversy, challenges and concerns. The silver lining for us at The Bullvine is that once again in 2018 our readers continued to debate with us and with each other…and then they implemented actions that will move, not just their own farms, but the entire dairy industry forward!
We are so proud of you for facing each rising crisis and finding ways to turn them into an opportunity! The Bullvine wishes you and yours all the best in 2019. You don’t just make a difference … you are the difference!