Midwest Dairy Assn., NDSU Ext. Service sponsor Dairy Cow College
Heer discussed the importance of the dairy checkoff funds and the impact they have on the dairy industry.
“The dairy checkoff has proven to make a big difference in the promotion of our dairy industry,” Heer said. “Our mission is to increase the demand for dairy.”
The dairy checkoff began in 1983, and since then, per capita dairy consumption is up by about 79 pounds per year. Dairy farmers contribute $.15 per hundred weight to the dairy checkoff to support local, regional and national promotions.
Heer highlighted successes that checkoff funds have had in North Dakota. “Fuel Up to Play 60” is a program designed to help kids eat right, get active and have an impact on childhood obesity. In 2012, Midwest Dairy awarded nearly $50,000 in funding 12 North Dakota schools that have activated the program successfully.
Midwest Dairy has also partnered with large companies such as McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza, Taco Bell and Quaker Oats in promoting dairy products.
“Those partnerships will grow dairy in food service through the innovative dairy menu items they have added and how they promote them,” Heer said.
McDonald’s will be featuring a dairy farmer from Mandan and may add consumer information on placemats to better connect the food we eat to where and how it is being produced.
Taco Bell is a new partner that joined McDonald’s and Domino’s as a strategic partner of the dairy checkoff. Taco Bell is the largest Mexican restaurant chain in the U.S., using 1.5 billion pounds of milk annually through natural and processed cheese, cheese sauce and sour cream.
Campaigning with Quaker Oats was needed as only 15 to 20 percent of consumers use milk with their oatmeal.
“We are promoting that using milk instead of water will enhance the taste, and it is good nutrition,” Heer said.
For the “Fuel Up To Play 60 super bowl” challenge, students submitted essays which included recipes that contained oatmeal and a dairy product.
“Partnerships such as these create a bond between consumers and the dairy farmers, and create a greater respect for what dairy farmers do,” she said.
Midwest Dairy continues to work with schools to help them identify other ways in which they can offer more dairy items on the menu to improve children’s health.
“Milk on the breakfast and lunch menus makes a huge impact on the dairy economy. Midwest Dairy continues to help schools promote drinking milk through a variety of programs,” Heer said.
Dairy’s most challenging demand sector is fluid milk. That consumption has fallen in recent years and the national dairy checkoff board recently approved more than $14 million in funds to help rejuvenate that category. About $80 million will be provided by industry partners such as processors, focused on items like lactosefree milk, value-added fluid products and expansion in schools.
A new concessions wagon was debuted at the 2012 North Dakota State Fair, called the “Milkshakes and Mooore Wagon.” It features more space for keeping up with the high demand for milk shakes. They had record sales of $25,000 at the State Fair this year.
“Future of Food” forums have extended a new theme for the dairy industry promoting dairy’s contribution to healthy people, healthy communities and a healthy planet. Outreach focuses on how the dairy industry is producing healthy, affordable food to feed a growing population sustainably.
The Midwest Dairy Association District 4 meeting was held, and the 2012 report was read and approved. The officer positions of vice president and secretary were up for election. Newly elected were Craig Miller as vice president and Shelley Schaefbauer as secretary. President Rita Mosset and Treasurer Judy Leier will remain on the board.
Following lunch, NDSU Extension Service Dairy Specialist J.W. Schroeder presented his topic, “Coping with the Times—Feeding Strategies.” He addressed how farmers are coping with the current challenges of the dairy economy.
“Dairy is facing their own fiscal cliff,” Schroeder said. “With the high prices of feed—mainly corn and soybeans—we need to look at management strategies to save dollars, cutting corners but optimizing the cost of producing milk.”
Schroeder reviewed the basics of feeding expenses and the general guidelines for feed proportions.
He said important lessons were learned from 2009 when there was a steep drop in milk prices. In less than two months, milk prices dropped 40 percent and stayed below break even for over ten months.
“That was a financially disastrous year for dairy farmers; however, those lessons have forced us to think of better management practices on the dairy farms,” he said.
Best management practices included using high quality forage as the basis for all early lactation rations.
Another lesson learned from 2009 was the incorrect decision to lessen the amount of feed to the cow.
“Pulling key ingredients out of the diet was not a good decision,” Schroeder said. “Six months later, we began to notice reduced immunity, slower growth and declining fertility.”
Schroeder also discussed how dairy managers can enhance their employee supervisory skills. He said that in the last 10 years, the most challenging aspect for many dairy farmers is labor.Acomment that he hears from those that have been dairy farmers for a number of years is that they are now managing labor instead of managing cows. The objective of this workshop was to assist not only dairy, but other agricultural operations that use hired labor to find and keep them.
Schroeder noted that despite the rising costs of milk on the store shelf, dairy farmers are not breaking even due to the extreme high prices of inputs, especially feed.
For example, according to recent Midwest Dairy budgets, the cow that produces 20,000 pounds of milk per lactation cost the dairy farmer $25.72 per cwt., while receiving $21.04 per cwt. That is a negative return to labor and management of $937.76.
“With all the high-priced feed currently in inventory, simply put, no business can continue to operate at a loss,” Schroeder said. “If the price continues to decline at the farm level, there are going to be some tough times ahead.”
Also on the agenda was NDSU Research and Extension Service Livestock Stewardship Specialist Gerald Stokka. Stokka’s position was created by the state legislature and NDSU, recognizing the need to reestablish relationships with those in agriculture and those who consume agriculture products.
“The livestock industry has lost some respect and the resources to communicate with consumers, and we need to focus on reestablishing that relationship,” Stokka said.
He said the public often hears and reads either misleading or false information about those involved in agriculture.
“Here in North Dakota, we know that most of that information is not true and that we are proud of what we do,” he said.
Stokka’s goal is to explain or correct the misinformation to the general public that comes out in those negative reports. He said it is crucial for farm groups to work together and all move in the same direction in communicating to the public on the positive impact that agriculture has on the whole world.