Dairy Farmers of America kicked off its Annual Leadership Conference on Monday, March 16, with informative workshops, engaging presentations and lively discussion, setting the tone for the remainder of the three-day event.
The program began at 8 a.m. with two preconference workshops. Jamie Zimmerman, vice president of farm practices and chief executive officer of Dairy One, kicked things off by introducing the Utilizing Technology to Advance Dairy Management workshop.
The workshop featured two panels. An industry panel, including Steve Eicker, the founder of Valley Ag software; Fabian Bernal, manager of dairy science and farm practices; and John Gloss, team leader of agricultural management resources at Dairy One, spoke about using technology to consistently implement protocols for various areas of farm management, including disease prevention and treatment, milking procedures and milk quality.
Beyond implementing protocols on the dairy, Bernal said during his presentation that it’s important for farm employees to understand why the protocols are in place.
“We’re not milking cows anymore,” he said. “We’re making food for human consumption, and it should be at the highest quality possible.”
Panelists also highlighted several examples of technological tools and software available to members.
In the second half of the workshop, David Darr, general manager of Farm Services and vice president of sustainability, moderated a member panel featuring Chris Kraft from Fort Morgan, Colo., Todd Tuburgen from Ionia, Mich., and Travis Fogler from Exeter, Maine. Panelists discussed the technology they have implemented on their dairies and its impact on farm management. Kraft spoke about his use of on-farm video cameras, which he says are used as a teaching tool, not a “gotcha tool.”
“Just last week, we found a shift of workers who had a protocol drift, and we were able to correct it,” he said.
Following the technology workshop at 10:15 a.m., DFA Risk Management staff hosted an informational workshop highlighting risk management tools and resources available to DFA members.
Ed Gallagher, president of DFA Risk Management, spoke first, giving an overview of risk management programs and focusing on how these tools complement the Margin Protection Program (MPP) to offer superior opportunities for DFA members.
“[The MPP is] a really strong program, and it has a place in a good risk management strategy,” he said during his presentation.
Ben Parks from INTL FCStone Inc. provided perspective on feed and energy markets, and a member panel discussed how they incorporate risk management strategies and the MPP into their operations. The panel included Brian Rexing from Fort Branch, Ind.; Jared Myers from New Plymouth, Idaho; and Lowell Mueller from Hooper, Neb.
The members used various price risk management strategies and opted for various levels of MPP coverage.
“I think the MPP is a much better program than what we had,” Myers said. “I think there’s some great value in what it has to offer.”
DFA’s Annual Leadership Conference started in the afternoon with an update on the Cooperative from President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith, who touched on several important issues in the minds of DFA’s member-owners. His presentation included mentions of last year’s merger with Dairylea Cooperative, as well as global growth, DFA’s commitment to innovation and more.