Going global: Economic, other challenges cross geographic, political boundaries

On the heels of World Dairy Expo, Alltech hosted its second Global Dairy 500 conference, attracting more than 330 producers and advisors from 31 countries.

By Dave Natzke

Dairy producers in nearly every corner of the world share common challenges: economic, environmental and social. It’ll take an integrated approach to address those challenges, a task made easier if the global industry learns from each other and works together, according to Pearse Lyons, founder and CEO of Alltech. Alltech hosted its second Global Dairy 500, Oct. 4-7, in Lexington, Ky.

Lyons estimated only about 2% of the world’s dairy farmers are profitable at current world prices. “We’re living in a new dairy world, but underlying every crisis is an opportunity,” he said. To survive in that new world, producers must take an integrated approach.

Lyons outlined six critical issues producers must address:

1) efficiency of production

2) more lactations per cow

3) quality of production systems

4) investment in education

5) using branding/traceability to return a larger share of dairy sales dollars to producers

6) environmental/sustainability issues.

Other highlights

• Addressing dairy producers making ration changes to reduce feed costs, University of Illinois dairy nutritionist Mike Hutjens reminded producers that high-producing, pregnant and healthy cows make more profit, and that any feeding adjustments negatively affecting these three areas will be detrimental to the dairy’s bottom line. He urged producers to focus on forages and by-product feeds.

• Jay Johnston, Ritchie Feed and Seed, a Canadian firm, urged producers to emphasize a ration based on the digestibility of feedstuffs. He warned that diets are not always what they appear on paper, with wide variations between what is formulated and what is fed to the cow. He recommended use of rumen modifiers, consideration of volatile fatty acids, and consistent and accurate feed testing.

• Juan Tricarico, Alltech research manager for ruminant nutrition, called cows “walking fermenters,” urging producers to monitor feed efficiency under today’s economic and environmental climate. At some point, he said, the addition of nutrients faces the “law of diminishing returns.” Maximizing production does not always maximize profitability, and excess nutrients are excreted in manure/urine, with an environmental impact.

• Declan Coyle, Andec Communications, Ireland, identified “pillars” of building a high-performance management and employee team, including: establishing a vision and goals; communicating core values; selecting optimistic and persistent team members and putting them in the right positions; keeping team members fully engaged; showing appreciation for a job well done; and using “constructive, productive” conflict when changes are needed.

• Nigel Lok, South Africa, stressed the importance of accelerated heifer growth to maximize milk production and reproduction in second and third lactations. He said growth during the first six months of a heifer calf’s life determined her lifetime performance. p

5 things I’d do differently

Bill Prokop,  U.S.A.

1) Get smarter (on the business side)

2) Listen louder

3) Commit more spontaneous acts of appreciation

4)  Sweat the small stuff

5) Recognize that figures lie, and liars often figure

Nigel Lok, South Africa

1)  Feed cows properly and individually to manage milk, condition and fertility

2) Focus on body condition, using body weight, height and condition to remove as much subjectivity as possible

3)  Recognize critical nature of dry/transition period

4) Grow heifers out to genetic potential;

5) Do not crossbreed.

Simon Timmermans, U.S.A.

1) Focus on lean muscle mass in dry cows and heifers

2)  Incorporate more “fun’ on the farm

3) Overhaul early calfhood nutrition to maximize biological growth potential

4) Redefine trace mineral nutrition (both in terms of levels and forms)

5) Practice nutrient-based rather than ingredient-based nutrition

Bruce Woodacre, United Kingdom

1) Record right information and act on it, especially dry matter intake

2)  Listen to the cows

3) Manage body condition scores

4) Make adequate forage (quantity and quality)

5) Manage the transition period correctly.


For more information on the Global Dairy 500 conference, visit www.alltech.com/globaldairy500/default.htm.