Hundreds of dairy farmers and agricultural leaders from New England and New York gathered at the 18th annual Vermont Dairy Producers Conference in Burlington on Tuesday, February 21, to hear from a panel of experts about strategies to ensure dairy farms continue to be a vibrant part of the local economy.
“Farmers continually look for innovative ways to be more efficient and sustainable – this conference delivered helpful new perspectives we can use to remain competitive,” said Keith Lanphear, of the Lanphear Family Farm in Hyde Park and 2016 Vermont Dairy Farm of the Year.
Carrie Mess is a dairy farmer, blogger, speaker and advocate for agriculture from Lake Mills, Wisconsin. Mess said most people are two or more generations removed from the farm, and spoke to attendees about increasing their community outreach to share with people how dairy products are made.
“The conversations we have today with our customers will shape the future of our industry – we are responsible for our future by being proactive and reaching out,” Mess said. “I challenge you to say thank you to the next person you see buying dairy products…share a little bit about your life in agriculture.”
Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts thanked dairy farmers for their contributions to the state.
“I grew up in Cabot on the land – we had dairy cows, sheep, and maple sugaring – it’s a true honor to be in this field, it’s where my heart has always been, in agriculture and in farming,” Tebbetts said. “You should all be very proud of yourselves today – you’re working to make your industry better, and your Vermont economy better, thank you for doing that.”
Dr. Lance Baumgard, of Iowa State University, is the Norman Jacobson Professor of Nutritional Physiology in the Department of Animal Science. Baumgard spoke about his primary research on the consequences of heat stress on animals.
“As we’re seeing more hot days every year, farmers need to understand how to adapt to give the best care to their cows for the future of our farms and our food supply,” Baumgard said. “The primary strategy is for farms to work with their nutritionists to formulate their cows diet to make sure that cows stay healthy even when temperatures rise.”
A topic that every farm faces is how to stay positive despite the challenges facing the dairy industry today, said speaker Damian Mason, an Indiana dairy farmer and professional speaker, who had a positive and humor-filled message for farmers.
Kati Hale, a third generation dairy farmer at Gervais Family Farm in Enosburg, where she is the herd manager, said that the conference helped her to gain information she wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to.
“It’s very important to our farm’s legacy to address the challenges we face every day – it’s a huge responsibility – coming to this conference gives you innovative ideas you can bring home and implement on your farm,” Hale said.
Conference organizer, Reg Chaput, and dairy farmer from North Troy, said over 300 dairy farmers and industry professionals attended the conference.
“From the seasoned dairy farmers to the next generation of agricultural students, we all have a shared goal to strengthen the dairy industry,” Chaput said. “Over 7,000 jobs in Vermont are created through dairy, and by working together we’re strengthening our future and the economy in Vermont.”