At Your Service: Fabian Bernal

Written by Kara Petrovic

Fabian Bernal | Dairy Production Manager | Medina, Ohio

Fabian Bernal starts every day the same way his grandfather did on their farm near Bogotá D.C., Colombia — with a smile.

From an early age, Bernal, a native of Bogotá, knew he was destined to work in the dairy industry, but says he didn’t realize in what capacity until 2001. He was studying at the University of La Salle in Colombia when he decided to take advantage of a study abroad opportunity at Western Kentucky University (WKU) in Bowling Green, Ky.

“My grandfather and father instilled in me a passion for nature, dairying and farming, but it was my professor, Dr. Jenks Britt [DVM] who taught me how I could be of service to dairy farmers,” Bernal says.

Bernal enjoyed his WKU experience so much that he transferred to the school and graduated with a dual major in agri-business and ag-economics and also earned a master’s degree in animal science. With a special interest in livestock and farm management, dairy nutrition and milk quality, Bernal joined Dairy Farmers of America’s Mideast Area in October 2011 as dairy production manager. In this role, he’s charged with overseeing the Area’s milk quality results, dairy performance evaluations and program development as well as helping improve member farms’ milk quality. In addition to his regular duties, he is developing a consulting training program for the Area’s 33 field representatives and staff.

“I’m working on this program so that we can offer a higher level of service to our members,” Bernal says. “It is important to have an experienced and proactive field staff who are engaged and can use new technologies to better serve our farmers.”

Prior to joining DFA, Bernal spent four years as dairy manager adviser at Alltech Inc., a global animal health and nutrition company based in Nicholasville, Ky.

Thanks to his studies at WKU, international travels, his time at Alltech and DFA, Bernal has worked on more than 650 farms throughout the United States and around the world.

Since joining DFA, Bernal has hosted training sessions with field staff and attended several producer meetings to update members and staff on new technology, research and performance techniques. Over the next few years, Bernal’s main goal is to enhance DFA’s field staffs’ expertise in milk quality and dairy performance.

“We are helping our staff move into the next level of service,” he says. “I started my consulting career because it allowed me to combine what I love [cows], with the chance to help farmers use better production techniques and new technologies. Our field staff also recognizes that these are key for the future of the industry.”

In the last six months, more than 20 Mideast Area members have seen positive changes to their operations thanks to tips from Bernal and enhanced support from their field representatives. In particular, Bernal recently assisted a southern Pennsylvania member in lowering his somatic cell count (SCC) by 280,000 cells per milliliter in less than three months.

“This particular farm had been doing everything the same for the last 40 years,” Bernal says. “I asked them to take a different approach for one week, and in that week, we lowered their somatic cell count considerably. When they got their first results, they couldn’t believe it. By the end of the month, they were profitable and united in their goal of better milk quality and better animal health.”