Archive for November, 2010

CSI-Dairy: A cow-side investigation into the mystery of milk fat depression & healthy cows

Each month, DairyBusiness Communications will check the case files of lead dairy ‘investigators’ to uncover another ‘CSI-Dairy’ mystery.

Numerous ‘culprits’ exist on dairy farms, robbing herd performance and injuring the dairy’s bottom line. Identifying and arresting the offender isn’t always easy, and often requires a full investigation, gathering and analyzing evidence on the farm and in the lab. One mystery was widespread in 2010: Milk fat depression in herds of healthy cows.

By Elliot Block

The first phone call came at the most unexpected time. A dairy producer I had worked with for 10 years, Gary, called with desperation in his voice. I struggled to hear Gary through the crackling connection. It was then I heard his cry for help.

“You won’t believe what’s happening at the dairy,” Gary gasped at the other end of the phone. “My milk tester was here last week; butterfat levels continue to fall and I can’t figure out why. We need your help now!”

I could sense the tension in his voice and knew Gary was not my only producer client watching milk fat levels head south. Grabbing my investigation cap, I headed to Gary’s dairy operation.

The investigation: Not the normal culprits

Gary met me in the farm office with his DHIA records, a printout of the lactating ration and his latest forage analyses. After reviewing the records we walked pens, inspected the ration and conducted a Penn State shaker box test to evaluate ration particle size. While I could sense Gary’s frustration, the cows looked healthy and the ration looked good. I too, was a little stumped.

Based on previous encounters with low milk fat tests, we tweaked the ration slightly by:

• Decreasing ration starch levels. High dietary starch levels can reduce rumen pH and shift volatile fatty acid (VFA) production, reducing acetate and increasing propionate. Acetate is responsible for half of the fat destined for the udder.

• Evaluating free fatty acid levels in the diet. High levels of corn byproducts can have high and variable amounts of free fatty acids that can quickly contribute to milk fat depression.

Just to be safe I took a new ration sample and submitted it for dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) analysis. I told Gary I’d be back in two weeks to check in.

The follow-up visit: Time for a change

When I arrived at Gary’s operation two weeks later, I had a sneaking suspicion things hadn’t improved. Gary looked even more frustrated; he still hadn’t found the culprit and milk fat levels were wavering.

Just as I sat down to review the ration one more time, a piece of mail fell on the floor. It was the DCAD balancing testing results. And it was then we had our breakthrough.

The DCAD analysis showed high levels of chloride in the diet. Chloride, I explained to Gary, is one of the two anions that lower DCAD levels. A positive DCAD of +35 to +45 is important for lactating diets to maintain milk and component production. Also, new research is showing that potassium – one of the two cations that increase DCAD – could help increase milk fat production.

By the time I left that evening, we had decreased all unnecessary dietary chloride sources (all but chlorides found in the forages) and began feeding a high-quality potassium carbonate source to boost ration DCAD to just over +35.

Mystery solved: Milk fat climbs

My most recent visit to Gary’s dairy showed our ration changes were beginning to alleviate the problem. DHIA records showed milk fat levels increased from 3.3% to 3.7% in just 14 days. The increase led to additional Income Over Feed Cost for Gary. And another mystery solved.


Elliot Block is Senior Manager, Technology, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition. Contact him via phone: 609-279-7517; e-mail:; or website:

■ Access Arm & Hammer’s online

Foundation Starter: NMPF’s Policy Proposal Seen as Part of Future

The author, a Wisconsin dairy farmer, shared her thoughts on dairy policy at a recent Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin/Wisconsin Farm Bureau dairy  forum. Excerpts of her comments follow.

By Miranda Leis

If anyone would have told me three years ago that I would be discussing supply management in the dairy industry, I never would have believed them. I would have said I truly believed in the power of the free market,  and the occasional bumpy ride is part of the business. Who could have predicted the rollercoaster the next three years would send us on?

Miranda and Corey Leis operate Leis Farms LLC – a 300-cow, 800-acre dairy and small custom harvesting business – in partnership with Corey’s father, Wayne, near Cashton, Wis. They have three daughters, (left to right) Katherine, Grace and Brianna. (Photo courtesy Krystal Muellenberg Photography)

In 2007, we were told we were living in a new world and that inflated prices and overextended demands were the new normal. Along came the second half of 2008, and the milk price crash which spurred the discussions we’re having today.

Over-supply alone, of course, did not cause the price crash. The seemingly insatiable export markets shriveled. Record supply sent dairy markets crashing, eventually reaching lows not seen in recent memory. We were receiving less for our milk than my father received in 1989. The sharp rise in input costs sent many producers into negative margin situations.

With some good forward milk marketing, locking in input costs, some cost reductions, and the diversified nature of our farm, we were able to remain profitable in 2009. It wasn’t easy, but it is something my husband is proud to say.

However, it begs the issue: Just the mere act of remaining profitable was a shining achievement for 2009. This hard truth left my husband and me unnerved for the future of our farm.  We want to make sure our farm is there for our girls, should they decide to take that path in life.

As 2009 ground on and the pain did not let up, the “q” word – “quota” – began to be uttered at our dinner table. The stability a quota system would bring became grudgingly palatable.

However, the looming concern of what that would mean to producers trying to enter the business and those trying to expand was more powerful. It would stifle expansion and severely impede our ability to establish our position as a premier world supplier. When the demand cycle reaches its peak, we must be able to respond with supply, or other markets will, and we will be left with limited market share. And if expanding a current operation requires acquiring capital to purchase quota in addition to fund the expansion, then why take on the extra risk?

We dismissed feelings that quota programs were a viable solution for our future, or for the future of the American dairy industry.

So what are we left with? With the current system, we can see very pleasing and comfortable profits.  But if we are not properly protected – or if we simply are the victims of bad timing – we can see lows so devastating that we may be forced to exit the business.

Exiting a farming business is not a matter of changing jobs or even changing a career. It is a complete change of life, something that should be done on the terms of the producer – not due to financial necessity.

I was skeptical when first reading the National Milk Producers Federation’s “Foundation for the Future” document. The more I read, the more it began to break down my defenses.

One of the programs goals is to rid the market of direct dairy payments and government purchases of dairy products. This is music to my ears. I don’t want to sound unappreciative of the assistance, as it has helped our operation in the past. But those types of programs are simply Band-aids and don’t do anything to fix the real issue. Uncle Sam’s money could be spent in ways which would still help the dairy industry, but would do so more productively.

One issue with the current Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program is the payment cap on 2.985 million lbs. of milk. Our current annual production is around 9 million lbs. We estimate when the payment will be put to best use and let the program work as designed. It was helpful in the sense that it allowed us to pay in advance for inputs or other expenses, but I do not feel it helped solve any industry problems.

In addition, as estimated by NMPF, these programs – particularly the Dairy Product Price Support Program (DPPSP) – have probably been more beneficial to outside markets than to our own. I am not sure we can continue affording to be such good neighbors.

Another goal of the FFTF is to redirect the money previously spent by the government on the DPPSP and MILC to a new Dairy Producer Margin Protection Program (DPMPP), a creative program designed to protect margins. It proposes a base level of protection, allowing producers the flexibility to purchase additional margin protection. By the estimates of both NMPF and the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI), this program should be budget neutral. I feel this program, once established, may indeed be a better expenditure of dollars than the current Band-aid approach.

The system does place some limits on new producers by only allowing them to apply for base protection until the passage of a new Farm Bill. Due to the length of Farm Bill cycles, I do question potentially leaving new producers in a lurch when they are least able to afford margin shocks. As FAPRI points out, the margin level at which base DPMPP kicks in is very low.

Lenders have become extremely, even harshly cautious about lending to farmers in general, but to young dairy farmers in particular. Although, technically, lending to a young producer under the FFTF program would be less risky than today, I fear it may not be enough to put lenders’ minds at ease.

Very closely tied to the DPMPP is another goal of the FFTF program: Dairy Market Stabilization Program. This piece of the plan truly involves dairy supply management. It establishes minimum margin thresholds at which producers will “feel the pain” through milk check reductions. The lower the actual national margin, the more severe the payment reductions.

The intent is to encourage producers to reduce the milk supply quickly. The money from the payment reductions would go to purchase dairy products for Women, Infant and Children (WIC) and school nutritional programs, as well as efforts to increase exports and new product development.

A second element of this program is to begin a Voluntary Sales Assistance Program, designed to cultivate new export markets. This program would be operated on a bid basis with individual producers, in a similar fashion to the way Cooperatives Working Together is currently managed.

The supply management program sounds harsh at first read. As someone who is partial to the free market, this is the portion of the plan which gives me the most reason for pause. Even before the actual payment reductions are enforced, we would adjust the ration to pull the herd back. We would plan for more culling to bring our production to near base levels, hopefully reducing the shock of the reduced milk check once the program is triggered.

The market reaction to reduced supply never happens quickly enough. However, I feel the intention of the plan is good, and a solid starting point for working through the legislative process.

The ramifications of the market conditions in 2009 cannot be ignored. Many producers are still suffering the effects, and some may not recover. FFTP is a creative and innovative program, and its time for consideration has come. I support moving this program through the legislative process. I will be following it closely in the coming months.

When I look into the eyes of my children, I am not content to let this current system – which does not serve farmers – continue to exist unchanged. If we do not at least attempt to enact change, I can’t say with any certainty that there will be a place in the market for my children. I want to help Brianna, Grace and Katherine follow in Daddy’s boots.

Conversations: Ask your nutritionist about forage consistency

Feed ingredients and forages can be nutritionally volatile, creating significant starch variation in a dairy ration. As producers and their advisors meet in the conference room (or kitchen), the conversation should lead to a better understanding of this volatility, and how managing it can greatly improve the efficiency of a ration.

By Kevin Leahy

The stability of a herd’s ration directly affects milk production stability and efficiency. Here are some questions dairy producers should consider when evaluating ration consistency, and discuss with their herd nutritionist to consider options to improve the consistency.

1) What are some of the causes of nutritional volatility in a ration?

Nutritional volatility in a ration can be caused by a number of things. Some of the main causes can be a change in the type of feed ingredients being used, the harvest/storage/fermentation of forages included, and even the genetics of the forage crop. Often, these variations can be extreme even within the same bunker or truckload of feed, further adding to the volatility. Forage and feedstuff starch digestibility can vary greatly in both the speed of which it is digested, and where – specifically – in the digestive tract it is broken down. The key is knowing how to manage these differences to reduce negative “volatile” effects.

Consider factors that could change content within a ration. Ask your nutritionist if more frequent tests of ration content would be beneficial.

2) Are there signs that might indicate there is a challenge in a particular ration?

Yes, there can be many signs of trouble. The real challenge is realizing that it is in the ration, and doing so soon enough to avoid a train-wreck. One of the more common, short-term signs may include abnormal fluctuations in herd production – especially in butterfat composition of the milk. Longer-term effects might cause reduced reproductive performance. Unfortunately, the latter often occurs long after the problem began.

Carefully review milk component and production fluctuations and work with your nutritionist to evaluate how these may align with forage input changes in the ration.

3) What options are there for measuring starch content of a ration?

Measuring starch content in a ration has been an important step for nutritionists to evaluate inputs to a ration. Measuring crude – or total tract starch digestibility – can be done very effectively by sending feed samples in to a laboratory. These tests indicate the total amount of starch digested in the rumen and the lower gastrointestinal tract. More recently, we have gained technology allowing a nutritionist to test and balance starch content digested specifically  in the rumen.

Ask your nutritionist for the latest insight and advice on various starch measurements.

4) How should test results and insights be used?

Knowing the starch content and expected speed of digestibility in the rumen is important, because of the potential effect on rumen parameters. For example, pH and the digestibility of other nutrients – and the resulting effect on milk production and component yield – can help guide ration balancing decisions that will allow for more optimal nutrient management. This may even help identify ways ration ingredient costs can be reduced or substituted with less expensive inputs, without sacrificing the nutrition needs for production goals.

Spend time with your nutritionist carefully evaluating your herd performance goals, and how ration changes might help achieve them – while still improving economic efficiency.

5) What can a producer expect as a result of more precisely managed starch?

When rations can be calculated to maintain optimum starch digestibility, improved feed efficiency and stable milk production can be more easily attained. From an efficiency perspective, rations can be developed that maximize production without wasting expensive starch sources, like corn. Or, alternative, less-costly feed ingredient options can be considered if you know what their digestible rumen starch might be, and how the ration consistency can be maintained.

Explore your options for various feed ingredients to help reduce ration cost. Working closely with your nutritionist to better understand rumen starch digestibility might help identify alternative, convenient and less-costly options that would allow you to maximize production goals and further minimize feed costs.


Kevin Leahy is technical services manager for Calibrate™ technologies.  Contact him via phone at 877-595-1361or e-mail:

Miss a 2010 Conversation?

Find these ‘Conservations’ columns at

• January: Direct-fed microbials

• February: Lagoon management

• March: Corn silage quality

• April: BVD management

• May: Heifer management

• June: Udder health

• July: Pregnancy detection

• August: A TMR audit

• September: Transition cow nutrition and management

• October: Alfalfa seed selection

• November: Energy status at transition

Marketing: Emotional Response

Milk price gyrations test producer commitments to marketing strategies

by Matt Mattke

The volatile and roller coaster-like pattern to milk prices in 2010 provided an ideal market for testing a person’s commitment to a marketing strategy. The price moves resembled a smaller version of the bear market/bull market cycles that tend to play out over a couple years. While 2010 price moves were not as large as the rallies and selloffs in 2007-2009, there was a great deal of volatility and emotion involved in the swings.

These swings can provide marketing opportunities, but can also create a real test of your mental commitment to marketing, gyrating between wishing you had milk contracted or wishing you didn’t, and between following through on a planned action or not.

The year in review

Here is a brief and generalized recap of 2010 milk price movement and, correspondingly, how emotions and commitment level to marketing could be challenged.

Milk prices trended lower from January through June. All milk futures contract months from March 2010-July 2010 steadily made new lows month after month, until a bottom was reached in the middle of June.

• From June through mid-October, prices changed trend, climbing higher. By mid-September, prices were making new highs for the year. This rally – into new and uncharted territory for 2010 – lasted about a month.

Mid-October is when November and December contract months started to drop.

• During November, the December 2010 contract collapsed and fell to the lowest price since April and May.

All this volatility resulted in milk prices moving to three different extremes throughout 2010. In the first half of the year, $15/cwt. milk  dropped to $12-$13/cwt. In the second half of the year, prices rallied from $13/cwt. to almost $17/cwt., and then dropped all the way back to $13/cwt again. This pattern of new highs, then new lows, then new highs, and then back to the lows, resulted in similar swings in emotions.

Emotions unravel discipline

The topic of emotions is probably the most frequently overlooked, least talked about, but arguably one of the biggest factors determining marketing success. It is inextricably linked to discipline and execution. Emotions can unravel a disciplined, well thought-out marketing strategy, or prevent necessary execution. It is pure emotion that causes people to sell and get most bearish at market bottoms, and buy and get most bullish at market tops. Major price moves start with technicals and fundamentals leading the way, climaxing with high human emotions taking prices to a top or bottom.

It is normal and expected for your emotions to swing with markets: Your incomes and livelihoods are dependent on where prices go. The consequences of emotions can have big impacts on your marketing strategy.

The large and frequent price swings during 2010 lead to questions which assess what impact, if any, emotions had on your milk marketing. Did emotions:

• cause a failure to execute on any targets?

• make it hard at times to make a decision?

• cause you to deviate from the original marketing strategy?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then actions must be taken to resolve this. With volatility rising year-over-year in the milk market, as well as the feed markets, learning to control your emotions and stick to a pre-planned marketing strategy will become even more important than ever. Getting caught up in the emotion of the price move can take your sight off larger-picture marketing goals.

Stick to strategy

A first step to overcoming marketing emotions is to develop a marketing strategy focused on your overall average price. Crunching the numbers so you are comfortable with their overall average price – under any market scenario – can help you steer clear of emotional pitfalls.


Matt Mattke, Market360® dairy advisor at Stewart-Peterson, can be reached via e-mail:, phone: 800-334-9779 or visit

Rearview Mirror: Beware the ‘tight margin’ underpass approaching

Editor’s Update,

by Dave Natzke

As U.S. House Democrats leave Washington, D.C., and the nation’s Capitol gets smaller and smaller in their rearview mirrors, the hindsight of a full year probably also brings your 2010 dairy year into better focus. The view has something for everyone.

If you’re a “glass half full” kind of person, you have a lot to look back on. Milk prices were much better than 2009, and dairy export totals were great. Your communication skills improved markedly, especially with your banker, who now knows all your kids – by age and name. You met a lot more nice dairy farmers with common issues, and they all like the same beer. You learned more about dairy ration ingredients and prices, and maybe even a little about “marketing.” You turned the odometer over on your pickup truck.

If you’re a “glass half empty” kind of person, you also have plenty to hang your hat on. The economic balm of 2010 didn’t cover all the financial pain of 2009. You watched everybody else increase cow numbers and milk production as the year progressed. A lot of people talked about volatility, but it didn’t go away; and Congress pushed dairy policy discussions into 2011 (or beyond). You gained weight and developed diabetes from eating all the chocolate in your banker’s candy dish while he studied your financial records. Your lender now knows all your cows – by age and name. You’re sick of reading about M&Ms (marketing and margins). You turned the odometer over on your pickup truck – again.

Don’t stare in the rearview mirror too long, though. There’s big challenges directly out your 2011 windshield. Like driving a 13-foot truck under a 13-foot underpass, the margins during the first quarter or two could be really tight. The global legal tender is corn, and if you’re buying, you’re paying. Figure out now if you can make it through the “tight margin” underpass, or if there are optional routes. Putting the pedal to the metal and hoping you get through probably won’t work.

Make it, and the second half of the year should be better, based on information from dairy financial map readers.

Perhaps my age is showing, but the two biggest revelations for me in 2010 had more to do with people than policy.

First, in what has become virtually a day-to-day pissing match and nearly everything has a political component, I think I could identify about a eight young women who I would trust to fix most things “dairy” (I wouldn’t wish federal milk marketing order reform on anybody). They’re fueled by a combination of brains and passion for the dairy industry – driven by attitude as much as aptitude. I’ll refrain from naming them for fear of putting them in an unwanted spotlight. But maybe more entrenched dairy leaders should be looking in their rearview mirror, too.

Second, I went to a Wisconsin Badger/Minnesota Gopher football game in October, and was reminded of what is was like to be back on the UW-Madison campus I attended 25 years ago. I met a group of students at Babcock House, a cooperative house made up of mostly farm kids. Today, Babcock House is co-ed, with about 25 farm women and men living in the same house. They have a cumulative grade point of 3.64, and are extremely active on campus. (I was on academic probation for most of my college career, was extremely active at watering holes, and it would have taken me and two classmates adding our grade points together to get to 3.64.)

Then, I went to the football game and saw the student section. They misbehaved, were vulgar and crude. On the other hand, they were creative, enthusiastic and fun. Given their current job prospects, if they can maintain those three things, I’m all for it.

Sure, I question their work ethic sometimes, but I believe the future will be well-served by the young people (who usually don’t appear on reality television programs), if they are given the opportunity.

While “efficiency” is on the agenda of many dairy organization meetings this fall and winter, there’s at least one area those organizations could get a lot more efficient – producer education opportunities.

I get it that dairy organizations generate money at many of these events through registration fees, renting trade show space and sponsorship fees. These funds help finance important programs and organization operations to benefit their members.

But if the recent past has taught us anything, it’s that duplication of effort and resources – time and money – is wasteful. Yet, I get more press releases and calendar listings for meetings and seminars serving the same regional audiences with the same topics and speakers, chasing virtually the same corporate sponsors.

Dairy organization leaders could do well to sit down with other organizations serving the same region and audience, planning seminars and events that avoid this duplication. How many groups, for example, need separate “social media” training sessions? I’m all a-Twitter.

Undoubtedly, political and personality differences create barriers to collaboration. But as we’ve witnessed in current dairy policy discussions, many more producers are in the same car – looking in the same mirrors and windshields – with their neighbors than ever before. Dairy organization education planners should do the same. It’s about time – and money.


• To offer your own opinion or response, e-mail Dave Natzke, national editorial director, DairyBusiness Communications, e-mail:

Technology/Innovation: Cow-side computer power

Smartphone ‘apps’ are among the newest innovations for dairy producers, bringing management  power closer to the cow – whether she’s in a field, freestall or hospital pen.

By Susan Harlow

Advanced dairy computing ability and connectivity are proliferating, thanks to applications (or ‘apps’) for smartphones, like iPhones and BlackBerrys. Agribusiness is taking advantage of the technology to help staff and customers do a better job. Academia is hustling to put information at producers’ fingertips. And, producers themselves are getting in on the action, tailoring apps for their own use and, sometimes, making a business out of it.

Roger Heeg, a Dunnville, Ontario, developed SmartCow Mobile, a dairy management app to bring bringing management power closer to the cow.

Take SmartCow Mobile, a dairy management app developed by producer Roger Heeg, a Dunnville, Ontario, farmer. Heeg found recordkeeping more complicated as his herd grew.

“We’d gotten over 100 cows, so I decided paper and pen were getting tiresome and, besides, I kept losing them,” said Heeg, who farms with his father, Gerrit. “In the barn, I would see a cow in heat, take her number and look her up on the computer. Diagnosing a cow like that would be difficult, especially if you have more than 100 cows. By the time you get back to the barn, there’s another one there.”

About five years ago, Heeg began using a calculator to record data on his herd, then went on to a Palm personal digital assistant (PDA). “Slowly, I began building the app for a smartphone,” he said. “It came out of necessity – instead of running to the barn, it was handy to have the information in my hand.”

Once he’d roughed out what he wanted in the application, he took the concept to a couple of software developers. Last February, Heeg started selling SmartCow through his website for $100 ($ Canadian).

The latest app version allows him to enter cow production information into his BlackBerry. With SmartCow, he can immediately see a cow’s days in milk, whether or not she’d been bred and the date of last service. Then, if need be, he can call the AI technician on the spot.

He uses it to make notes on individual cows. “Is she limping and needs the hoof trimmer, or not cleaned and needs infusion?” he said.

SmartCow comes with a version that runs on a PC – essentially a cheaper version of herd management software. Heeg is working on versions for other smartphones, starting with the iPhone. He plans other features, including one that will allow smaller producers to store the photo and ID number of each cow.

Extension is getting in on the action. One such innovator is Roger Schmidt, computer specialist for University of Wisconsin Extension, who works in horticulture.

“We are aware it is an emerging trend and plan to offer our agriculture outreach content in a format the smartphones can use,” he said.

Using a grant from a regional integrated pest management (IPM) group, Schmidt is developing the UW-Madison IPM Toolkit iPhone app. It will have three core tools, with more to be added. Some tools will require an Internet connection; others can be used without it.

This first-generation app will have an RSS news reader for the Wisconsin IPM and Crop Manager blog, a picture gallery to help in IPM field observations and scouting, and a small but expandable publication library for off-line reading  materials from the UW-Madison IPM program and UW Extension.

“We’ll take some content already on the website and format it for mobile devices,” Schmidt said.  “Users will have more places they can read it – they don’t have to be home in front of their computer.”

Schmidt hopes to roll out the app as a pilot program in the middle of next year’s growing season, then keep track of how many people use it to gauge success. He’s got other plans, such as linking to Extension pest management videos on YouTube. “It’s another way of reminding people of what’s going on in the field,” he said.

One of the next apps will be a nutrient management calculator. Growers will be able to enter their soil type and crop rotation and get  university recommendations for fertilizer.

Smartphones offer capabilities without special apps, Schmidt said. “Farmers can just use smartphones for e-mail, taking field pictures and checking market prices on the go.”

Meanwhile, agribusinesses are busy designing specific programs to help their dairy customers – and help sell products and services. Virtus Nutrition, for example, has developed a free iPhone app to help users evaluate omega fatty acids for dairy nutrition. The Omega Value Calculator analyzes how feeding their products impacts transition cows.

Dairy Records Management Systems (DRMS), of Raleigh, N.C., which created PCDART management software, was one of the first to recognize the power of cow-side digitalization. A decade ago, DRMS came out with its first mobile application, PocketDairy, for use with the Palm Pilot.

“At the time it was the only hardware producers could use easily and was affordable,” said Phil Dukas, who developed PocketDairy. “For farmers, we find that it needs to be under $200.”

DRMS later came out with versions of the app for the Windows smartphone, and is currently working on it for Android and Apple mobile devices.

“On one hand, producers need questions answered  about the cow when they’re out there in the barn,” Dukas said. “They can look at the animals, then look at data and have that readily available.

“The other advantage is, if they enter data, they have to do it only one time,” he continued. “For instance, if they breed a cow, they enter it right there, then synchronize it to a desktop. The larger the dairy, the more important that becomes, because data entry is a significant task.”

Producers are also more likely to enter information they didn’t in the past, such as calving ease. “Once it’s stored and available, you use it,” Dukas said.

Part of Kurt Ruppel’s job as “technology leader” for Cargill Nutrition is developing apps for his field staff. “Smartphones have definitely penetrated through our field staff,” he said. “We need to take advantage of that computer power that’s sitting in their pockets.”

To decide what capabilities will be useful, Ruppel talks to his customers about their needs.

“I’m thinking about spreadsheets that could record locomotion scores or economics, or a quick and accurate resting time calculator, so you could enter the time in the milking parlor, the time to walk to the holding area, and determine if a cow is getting enough rest and if not, how much milk the producer is losing,” Ruppel explained. “Just to have that at your fingertips while walking through the barn with a producer is really, really powerful.”


SmartCow Mobile:

Dairy Records Management Systems:

• Contact Roger Schmidt, University of Wisconsin-Madison horticulture computer specialist, e-mail:

Technology/Innovation in Bigger Packages

If dairy technology is on your Christmas wish list, companies exhibiting at 2010 international dairy shows unveiled some items too big to fit under your tree, but they might fit in your dairy’s future.


DeLaval introduced its robotic rotary parlor, the DeLaval AMRTM, at EuroTier 2010, in Hannover, Germany.

According to the company, the system is best suited for herds larger than 300 cows. The first commercially available rotaries will have a 90 cow/hour capacity, with up to five robots operating simultaneously: two robots for teat preparation; two for milking cup attachment; and a fifth robot to handle post-milking teat disinfection. That system can milk a herd of 540 cows 3X per day, or 800 cows 2X per day. Producers can start on a smaller scale, with one robot for teat preparation and one robot for milking cup attachment, with a capacity of 50 cows per hour.

The entrance gate includes electronic ID, accessing pre-stored individual cow teat position information. Teats are washed, stimulated and dried, followed by teat cup attachment. The DeLaval AMRTM performs individual quarter milking, measuring flow rates, total yield, blood and conductivity. The system comes with an automatic deck flush module, including scraper blade and water jets.

For more information, visit To view a video of the system in operation, visit

BouMatic SmartDairy®

BouMatic® introduced its newest version of SmartDairy®, a fully integrated dairy enterprise management system, at World Dairy Expo 2010 and several European dairy shows. Engineered in modules, SmartDairy allows dairy operators to build a management system ideal for their dairy and style of milking.

SmartDairy® software allows control and management of a dairy’s milk flow and system operations from a single point. In the milking parlor, it manages pulsation, meters and detachers so dairy managers can evaluate cows, milk production and employee activity. Efficient cow traffic flow is achieved with SmartDairy® controls for crowd gates, stall operation, entrance, exit and sort gates. Outside the parlor, it manages and monitors milk flow through receivers, chillers and more, all the way to the milk tanker. Cow health and comfort are managed through hoof care, feeding and HerdMetrix herd management systems. For more information, visit

BouMatic also gave dairy show visitors a preview of its newest robotic technology, the SR1™ post milking robotic spray system. The SR1™ (pictured) provides speed, durability and efficiency in a compact, robotic system for post milking application of teat dips for nearly all external rotary systems.

GEA ‘Total Solutions’

GEA Farm Technologies introduced the UV Pure™ calf milk purifier at EuroTier 2010, as part of its “Total Solutions’ integrated approach to dairy automation, time management, animal health, productivity and future sustainability.

The UV Pure™ uses ultraviolet (UV) light to purify waste milk, at a lower operating cost and in less time than heat pasteurization systems. The UV light kills pathogenic bacteria, without significantly affecting nutrient value or immune factors in fresh milk.

Fully automated, it is available in several configurations to fit any size dairy operation. For more information, visit

Expanded tax options give farmers more flexibility

New and expanded tax incentives for farmers and small businesses provide more flexibility in tax management this year, says Purdue Extension agricultural economist George Patrick.

The “Creating Small Business Jobs Act of 2010” offers a larger Section 179 expensing deduction of up to $500,000 for tax years 2010 and 2011.

“Section 179 allows a taxpayer to deduct or expense part or all of the cost of an asset in the year of purchase, rather than depreciating the cost over several years,” Patrick said. “The Section 179 deduction is typically limited by the amount of qualifying assets acquired or the taxable income of the taxpayer, but it provides great flexibility in managing taxes.”

Most depreciable assets qualify for the 50 percent additional first-year depreciation, which was extended to include qualifying property placed in service between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2010.

What this means, for example, is that farmers who purchased property for $50,000 can take $25,000 as additional first-year depreciation. They also can take the regular depreciation on the remaining $25,000.

“The property eligible for additional first-year depreciation is broader than that eligible for Section 179,” Patrick said. “For example, a shop or machine shed qualifies for the additional first-year depreciation but does not qualify for the Section 179 deduction. Both Section 179 expensing and additional first-year depreciation result in faster cost recovery for producers, which helps stimulate economic growth.”

For 2010, self-employed individuals can deduct the cost of health insurance for both income and self-employment tax purposes. “This puts the employee and the self-employed on a more level playing field with respect to the after-tax cost of health insurance,” Patrick said.

Farmers interested in learning more about tax provisions and management can attend a free webinar Dec. 9 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. “Income Tax Management for Farmers” will be led by Patrick and David Frette, a certified public accountant who specializes in agriculture. More information is available at

Indiana and Ohio tax professionals also can attend two-day update programs that will cover these and other tax law changes and can receive continuing professional education credits. More information on the Indiana programs is available at and in Ohio at

California/Arizona DairyBusiness


California Department of Food and Agriculture, (CDFA) recently conducted nomination procedures in order to receive industry input for filling four of the 12 producer positions and four of the twelve handler positions on the Dairy Council of California board of directors.

CDFA received the exact number of nominations as available positions and so no preference voting by the industry was required. Based on the nominations submitted, CDFA has appointed the following individuals to serve new terms on the Dairy Council. All terms end in October 2013.

Producer Members – Brad Scott, San Jacinto; Jim Quist, Fresno; Andy Rynsburger, Strathmore; Chris Sawyer, Waterford. All were reappointed.

Handler Members – Laura Burns, Kraft Foods, and  Kimberly Clauss, Hilmar Cheese Co., were both new appointments to the board. Jeff Foster, Foster Farms Dairy; and Mike Newell, H.P. Hood LLC, were both reappointed to the board.

Clauss, a third-generation dairy producer on both sides of her family, oversees the day-to-day management of her family’s dairy business, Clauss Dairy Farms in Hilmar, Calif., and is also one of the family owners of the Hilmar Cheese Company. Clauss and her family recently expanded their dairy operation by starting farming operations in Dalhart, Texas under the name CDF Dalhart. They are also part of the Dalhart Heifer Ranch with six other families. She earned an agribusiness degree from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

“Children are the key to the future in dairy consumption. If kids enjoy dairy products and are educated along with their parents on the benefits, they will continue to consume dairy over their lifetime,” said Clauss. “Dairy Council’s nutrition education programs educate our children and I look forward to continuing my family’s long history of involvement with the organization.”

Burns career in the dairy industry began more than 20 years ago after graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in chemical engineering.  Today Burns serves as plant manager at Kraft in Tulare, Calif. Before Kraft, Burns worked with such companies as Nestle Ice Cream and Haagen-Dazs.

National Dairy Producers Organization formed

Gary Genske and Doug Maddox combined to form the National Dairy Producers Organization (NDPO) in an effort to bring all dairy producers together under one organization and work for long-term stability in the industry.

Other members of the organizing committee include: Arden Tewksbury, Meshoppen, Pa.; Bill Rowell, Highgate, Vt.; David Fitch, West Winfield, N.Y.; Pete DeHaan, Salem, Ore.; Pete Hoekstra, Texas; Paul Rozwadowski, Stanley, Wis.; Robin Berg, Darllington, Wis.; Glen Brown, Coalville, Utah; and Loren Olsen, Hutchison, Minn.

NDPO’s six-point mission statement would:

(1) Secure involvement of every dairy producer in America to unite in one common voice for the benefit of the diary producer and long term sustainability of the entire industry.

(2) Raise and maintain a $2 million annual budget for NDPO to immediately impact the income of every dairy producer in the US. An ever expanding level of power and influence must be brought to bear within the industry and at all levels of government to level the playing field and secure needed change. Numbers, combined with money, are the minimum tools to fight those battles.

(3) Insure we reach all 55,000 dairy producers in America. To reach that goal, NDPO will organize five producer/delegates and two alternates from every dairy state. These delegates will then select a state chair person, vice chair and secretary and begin recruiting county delegates to provide a NDPO structure in each of the dairy producing counties in America. The county delegates working with state delegates will meet with each of the dairy producers in that county. Delegates will take full responsibility to enroll every producer in their county and state to help strengthen the voice of the organization.

(4) Short-term and long-term agendas were developed by the organizing committee and state delegates during NDPO’s first semi-annual conference held in Madison, Wisc., Sept. 28-30, 2010. Agenda items included organizational structure, bylaws, officers, and other issues as were designated by the producer/delegates. The next NDPO meeting will be held during World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., Feb. 8-10, 2011.

(5) With our voice growing louder by the day, we will immediately begin to impact the price of milk paid to producers by focusing greater attention and resolution on the development of a true milk supply management program, restructuring the national pricing formula, and developing proper language and legislation that will prohibit the unnecessary importation of dairy products.

(6) Give notice to the entire dairy industry that no longer will anyone speak for dairy producers except dairy producers. Begin meeting with each dairy organization, co-op, processor and the retail industry to establish change and resolve the continuing problems that exist in the U.S. dairy industry. The message: Dairy producers must receive more money for their milk.

Annual membership fee is $80 and producers can get more information about the NDPO by going online at:

Frazer Frost releases six-month ‘Dairy Farm Operating Trends’

Frazer Frost has released its Dairy Farm Operating Trends for the six months ended June 30, 2010.

The data is compiled from dairy operations in Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley, Kern County, Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Panhandle, and the Pacific Northwest, which consists of Washington and Oregon operating collectively, with a combined milk production of over 2.4 billion pounds and more than 224,000 head of mature cows for the six months ended June 30, 2010.

This report includes a comparison of the results in the regions listed above for the six months ended June 30, 2010 both on a “per hundredweight of milk” basis and on a “per head” basis. Also included are selected financial ratios and other information for the period.

This publication is designed as a reference tool and a management aid for dairy farm managers and advisors.

Frazer Frost, has been associated with the dairy industry since the early 1950’s. At that time, many immigrants from Europe were arriving in California’s “Dairy Valley,” and establishing their farming operations. These early dairies averaged 50 cows and the families provided most of the labor. Frazer Frost, LLP’s partners, were instrumental in creating federal and state laws to help dairymen.

As development expanded in the dairy farming area, our firm helped many dairies relocate throughout California, and other states throughout the West and Midwest.  Many families we are servicing now have their third generation stepping into the operation’s management. We have grown with these families into their multiple operations, often totaling 10,000 cows or more. Today, Frazer Frost, has clients in California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota.  Also, we actively consult with many dairies throughout the United States.

J.D. Heiskell & Company brings 120-year-old tradition into 21st Century

In recent weeks, more than 50,000 underserved children had the opportunity to attend the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games thanks to firms such as J.D. Heiskell & Company.

J.D. Heiskell is one the many companies that donated to the “Giving Kids a Chance” program organized by Alltech, Inc. The program helps promote agriculture to the more than half a million visitors who attended the games recently in Lexington, Ky.

“In a time when businesses and individuals are making fewer donations and watching their costs very closely, we’ve increased the company’s charitable giving and invested in a new way to manage it,” said Scot Hillman, chairman of the board and great-grandson of company’s founder Jefferson Davis Heiskell.

In 2005, the company formed charitable committees composed of local employees from all parts of its business to review and respond to requests for funding. Membership on the committees rotates every year and they are given an annual budget each year based on the number of employees in their local market. Committees in California’s San Joaquin Valley, the southwest market (Texas and New Mexico), Idaho, and Nebraska make all the decisions on how their local charitable monies will be spent.

The two main guidelines the committees have are to keep their giving local, to avoid sponsorships and to concentrate on opportunities to change lives. Members of the committees also undertake “hands on” projects from time to time.

“Our employees have done everything from car washes to selling newspapers to painting Habitat for Humanity houses, all in the name of charity,” Hillman said.

More than 120 years ago, Jefferson Davis Heiskell found a way to support his community by quietly lending money to farmers he met through his business. Today, the feed business that Heiskell founded has evolved into a grain and commodity trading business that also operates livestock feed manufacturing and trans-loading facilities in seven western states and exports gains worldwide.

CMAB, CMMAB receive extension through 2015

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Food and Agriculture recently held a public hearing in Sacramento to consider the continuation of the California Milk Producers Advisory Board and the California Manufacturing Milk Producers Advisory Board.

This hearing is required every five years for both of these marketing orders. Based on the testimony and evidence received at the hearing, the CDFA determined the CMAB and the CMMAB will continue in full force and effect through Dec. 31, 2015.

The assessment rates are currently 10 cents per hundredweight for both market grade milk and manufacturing grade milk. These assessments serve as credits against the mandatory 15-cent assessment of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board. The CMAB and the CMMAB have been in existence for over 40 years.

Grain prices and futures: What does the future hold?

TEMPE, Ariz. –  Joel Karlin, a market analyst and feed merchandiser with Western Milling in Central California, told dairy producers at the  ninth annual Arizona Dairy Production Conference that things could get worse before they get better.

Like most producers, Arizona dairy producer have been subjected to a sharp escalation in feed costs, their number one expenditure combined with a historic plunge in milk prices. Feed values, for a number of reasons appear to have made a structural shift to higher price ranges than seen in the past.

According to Karlin, “Arizona producers fare worse than others in U.S. as larger amount of feed is procured ‘off-farm.’ Large part of ration imported from out of state or even out of country. Hike in rail rates over the years comes on top of steep increase in price of many bulk agricultural commodities.”

Karlin dissected the average Arizona dairy ration. Forage: Alfalfa hay, cottonseed, and silage costs have increased due to high grain corn, better returns from alternative crops, and scarce water. Hay and cotton acreage in west has plunged.

Concentrate: Higher corn and soybean prices linked to rising demand in developing nations, increased usage for renewable fuels, and investor demand linked to falling dollar, desire to own hard goods, and realization that consumption has outpaced production.

Micros: Increased energy prices leading to higher nitrogen costs (fertilizers, urea) and increased tangible and investor demand for key minerals like selenium, copper, iron, magnesium.

Why are feed prices so high?

For 25 years, grain prices were flat to lower providing little financial incentive to increase production via higher acreage or invest in research for higher yielding hybrids. A rise in world GDP growth, especially in developing countries (China, India, Brazil, Russia), has translated into rising personal incomes with change in diet to one featuring increased consumption of meat and dairy protein. This necessitates more feed grains and protein meals to feed cattle, hogs, and poultry, Karlin said.

For many reasons, big push for renewable fuels and this increases competition for bulk commodities. Also, the steady depreciation of dollar has helped buoy prices for a number of commodities that are valued in greenbacks.

Dollar weakness has also undermined performance of traditional portfolio instruments like stocks and bonds. With money managers looking for alternatives, ag commodities are being seen as a separate asset class and a large amount of capital have poured into commodity index based funds helping buoy values of corn, soybeans, and wheat along with crude oil and gold, the analyst said.  After tech stocks and real estate, commodities has been the hot new investment.

What feed markets are pondering

Part I – Trying to reconcile unprecedented deterioration of U.S. corn crop this summer.

– World course grain stocks about the tightest ever linked to drought in large grain producing areas in the Former Soviet Union and 700 million bushel decline in U.S. corn production seen from August to October.

– Function of corn prices now is to move higher to ration demand and encourage huge increase in planted acreage here and abroad.

Part II – World and foreign oilseed situation much more relaxed than that for corn and wheat amid high production and ample stocks.

– Soybeans and protein meals will be supported by booming demand, especially to China and sentiment that South America will not see a repeat of huge 2009-10 production.

– Big acreage battle looming with very attractive forward corn, wheat, and soybean prices. Which one will get short end of the stick?

Part III – Dollar weakness and compelling fundamental grain story has led to huge fund buying.

– Very tepid economic expansion instead of leading to ideas of reduced demand for grain and oilseeds instead has hiked sentiment that Federal Reserve Board will have to resort to extraordinary easing measures, which has depreciated dollar and stoked inflationary expectations, both of which have helped support markets.

– With regard to demand rationing, which of major users; domestic feeders, industry (ethanol and biodiesel) or foreign buyers will blink first?

How quickly things change

Karlin reminded producers that in January of 2010, USDA reports “were very bearish” with record 2009 U.S. corn and soybean production. The dollar rallied through the first half of 2010, which pressured markets. Brazil and Argentina had harvested record corn and soybean crops and record yields were expected in the U.S. Endusers were looking for the lowest corn and protein meal prices since the fall of 2006.

The tide turned, however, starting the second half of 2010. USDA’s June stocks and 2010 planted acreage for corn were much lower than expected. The net impact was loss of 500 million bushels from the 2010-11 balance sheet, Karlin said. In addition, large areas of Eastern Europe endured the worst summer drought in more than 100 years, slashing global wheat and course grain supplies.

The falling dollar, strong Chinese GDP growth, and realization that global grain stocks again shrinking resulted in huge fund buying of various ag commodities. Despite historically high crop ratings, as growing season goes on, market realized that too much rain in certain areas of the Midwest, dryness in others, and generally hot August temperatures had negatively impacted 2010 U.S. corn yield, Karlin explained.

Global stocks remain ‘very tight’

He pointed out that despite record world and U.S. corn and course grain production over the past few years, global stocks have remained very tight. Even before current surge in prices, market was abuzz all spring about largest U.S. export sales to China in 15 years and likelihood that volumes would only increase in subsequent years.

According to Karlin, USDA was coming under increasing criticism for its inability to reasonably forecast U.S. corn feed demand. That task was complicated by increased use of byproducts, especially DDG, and the fact their feed model is horribly antiquated – using a 1970 dairy cow as their proxy for all grain consuming animal units, and budget cuts with on-field personnel and research staff.

Many questions concerning future renewable fuels output, but one of the few bright spots for end-users is realization that we are now on the backside of the huge increase in ethanol production seen over the past few years.

Uncertainty over timing of 15% blending rate, possible loss of both blender credit and import tariff, and negative forward margins imply just a small increase in corn used for ethanol production this year. And a rise in corn prices to record highs will resurrect “food vs. fuel” debate, he declared.

Industry data shows cool years are definitely associated with above trend yields, while hot years lead to below trend yields.

Specifics for protein meals

As opposed to corn, the world oilseed and protein meal situation is framed by rather comfortable stocks helped by record soybean production here and down in South America.

The generally warm and wet Midwest summer appears to have hurt corn yields more than soybean yields though no doubt dryness in August and September did adversely impact some late developing soybeans.

While U.S. is dominant corn producer in the world, we only produce 36% of world soybeans with South America accounting for 46%. So it is very important to monitor weather, trade policies, exchange rates, and other factors in Argentina and Brazil, Karlin said.

The trade will be looking at hog farrowing, egg set, and chick placement data to see if monogastric species are first to cut back on feed. Hogs and poultry consume largest amount of protein meals.

According to Karlin, history suggests further reductions in U.S. soybean yields along with dry September. A lot of attention will be focused on South American growing conditions over the next few months given need for another large Brazilian and Argentine soybean crop and knowledge that La Nina years such as this one can lead to erratic weather patterns.

Bottom line for feed

The horse has already left the gate and now only question is how high prices will go and how much of a setback in corn and protein meal values will occur

Only way for feed values to really set back is if weather is perfect in all areas rest of year, a double dip recession points to steep economic contraction, or stock market takes a major tumble forcing investors to raise cash

Looking for signs of demand  rationing and question is who will start it. Looks like ethanol and biodiesel may be first to slip.

Will need to monitor prospective cash budgets for 2011 to see which crop is most profitable to plant. Not much help from expiring CRP contracts but some marginal land may come back. Some say total U.S. acreage need to rise 8-10 million but that hasn’t happened in years.

All eyes will be on Washington as the trade debates how changed Congress will impact agriculture, Karlin said.

There is a lot of possible changes with regard to renewable fuels policy, EPA decision on blend rate, fate of blending credit and import tariff, with world food stocks tight can grains be used for fuel?

High budget deficits and revolt over increased government role in many areas of business suggests only monetary policy can be used as a tool to stimulate economy. Interest rates are close to zero so what can the Fed do? he asked.

There is a lot of uncertainty with regard to unemployment, interest rates, exchange rate of dollar, trade policy. Will foreign governments limit exports and disturb grain and oilseed markets even more like in 2008?

Dairy producers hurt by rising feed costs but does higher milk prices and component values offset this, especially if milk output increases (marginal analysis)?

A big boost for dairy will come if consumption improves. A 2% drop in demand probably was worse for dairy profitability than higher feed prices. The falling dollar makes U.S. dairy products more price competitive overseas which is important as exports have picked up.

The past two years, higher priced deferred milk futures have lost their gains the closer to expiry. Maybe this year the more discounted deferred contracts will move higher, closer to the more expensive spot contracts.

“Hopefully the pessimism imbedded in 2011 contracts is not justified if the 2010 holiday period shows much better sales of dairy than the past two years, the U.S. and global economies continue to expand, and high feed prices tempers gains in U.S. cow numbers and milk per cow figures,” Karlin concluded.

Evoking dairy’s legacy to build public trust and grow sales

Your Dairy Checkoff at Work

By Tom Gallagher

Change…it’s been a topic of numerous columns I’ve authored over the last few years. We have seen changes with consumers, including how they feel about the companies and industries that provide the foods and beverages they purchase.

The 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual survey developed by Edelman Public Relations, a leader in global public relations, measures changes in consumer trust and perceptions of credibility toward organizations and entire industries. It concluded that, while quality and performance remain a core component to consumer trust, an industry’s perceived performance as a good citizen and “steward of society” is now equally important among the public.

This new paradigm offers challenges and opportunities to the dairy industry. One challenge is that Americans continue to become increasingly disconnected from agriculture; the agricultural sector now employs less than two percent of the nation’s workforce. Also, we know that anti-animal agriculture activists who are well-funded, well-organized – and increasingly focused on dairy – create an increasing threat to ongoing consumer trust in dairy sales.

To address this, we are going to become increasingly proactive in telling the dairy producer story. Dairy producers and the dairy industry today are in a better position than ever to assure trust in dairy, due to checkoff initiatives that offer increases strength: systems and science, commitment to community and multiple pathways to reach consumers.

Systems and science

Over the past several years, the dairy industry and the dairy checkoff have formed several key systems that provide reassurance to consumers. For example, through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, a DMI-formed entity that allows the entire dairy industry’s “value chain” to work together to help grow sales, the industry recently completed a scientific study of dairy’s carbon footprint that sets the record straight on the U.S. dairy industry’s actual impact regarding greenhouse gas emissions. The Innovation Center also formed an industry task force to address food safety challenges and solutions in dairy processing and manufacturing plants.

Further, the National Milk Producers Federation has developed its Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) animal care and quality assurance program, which has the support of producers representing more than half of the nation’s milk supply.

Finally, dairy producers have a decades-long history of funding (through their checkoff investment) credible third-party nutrition and product research that shows the health and nutrition benefits of consuming dairy products.

Commitment to community

Dairy producers’ commitment to community starts with your long-standing legacy of stewardship for the land and water you use. Your commitment extends to the people you employ on your farm, and the other businesses you support in your community – from the feed and equipment you purchase to financial services and on-farm management consulting you require running your farm business. The public needs to know this.

Producers also reinforce their commitment through dedicated children’s health and wellness efforts to provide nutritious foods, including dairy, and physical activity in our nation’s schools through the checkoff-funded Fuel Up to Play 60 program. Dairy producers are the driving force and THE leaders in forming a public-private partnership to help solve childhood obesity, the nation’s leading public health issue.

To support Fuel Up to Play 60, DMI has created a new foundation with the goal of raising $10 million annually to reward schools that provide for better nutrition — including kid-friendly foods like milk, cheese and yogurt — and physical activity. This effort is a critical part of reinforcing the reputation of dairy producers within their communities.

Pathways to build trust, loyalty

Through the dairy checkoff, producers have multiple paths to build trust and loyalty among consumers. One example is the Innovation Center’s Consumer Confidence Committee, which works to help the entire industry speak with one unified voice to food retailers, foodservice restaurants and others about key industry topics such as health and wellness, animal care, food safety, and environmental stewardship.

Another path is through dairy marketing partners that reach millions of consumers. They would like to help dairy producers tell their story to the public. Through checkoff partnerships with companies such as McDonald’s® and Domino’s Pizza®, we can share dairy-friendly messaging with through packaging, in-store promotions and other activities. This also holds true for Fuel Up to Play 60 partners who can communicate with consumers through Foundation efforts to demonstrate that dairy is part of the solution to combating childhood obesity.

Another critical path is the vast human resources of the dairy industry itself. Thousands of people employed by dairy promotion, co-ops, processors, and manufacturers call on businesses, institutions and schools every day. There is a great opportunity to activate them more to help share dairy’s story with the public.

When these strengths work together, they can create a tipping point to establish a new foundation of consumer trust for the industry, where positive voices can drown out the negative. The dairy industry will build this trust from its reputation embodied in America’s dairy producers, who:

n Feed the world

n Fight childhood obesity

n Address hunger and malnutrition

n Bring jobs to local communities

n Provide a path to energy independence

n Assure food security for America

n Care for the land and their animals

That’s the legacy of America’s dairy producers and the U.S. dairy industry. Now is the time to proactively tell this story to build a new foundation of consumer trust in dairy.


Tom Gallagher is chief executive officer of Dairy Management Inc.™ (DMI), the domestic and international planning and management organization that works to increase sales of and demand for U.S.-produced dairy products and ingredients on behalf of America’s dairy producers. For more information on dairy checkoff programs, visit