Dairy Excel: December dairy conference: Let’s talk cows

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Interesting people, talk about cows, nice surroundings, talk about cows, good food, talk about cows, time away from the farm, talk about cows, more good food … another county fair? Nope, it’s the upcoming Ohio Dairy Conference.

Scheduled for Dec. 16 and 17 in Columbus, this year’s extensive lineup of topics and speakers promises a good day and a half for anyone who makes the time to participate.

And it is a participatory event. You can come and nod off in the back of the room, but listening, asking questions and discussion are the preferred method of participation in any of the 17 planned sessions.

Beginning at 1 p.m. on Monday (registration opens at 11:30 a.m. with some good refreshments available until 1 p.m., each participant can choose eight sessions to participate in by noon on Tuesday. This earlier ending time will give you a half day to enjoy some of the other features Columbus offers – or get you back home in time for evening chores.

What’s on tap. Sessions at this year’s conference focus around five topics that continue to be important to every dairy operation in Ohio: herd management, financial management, labor management, expansion and personal time management.

Two separate producer panels, always popular sessions, will address the issues of expanding from 40 to 100 cows and managing Hispanic labor.

A panel of representatives from the Ohio Department of Development, the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, Ohio EPA’s Department of Environmental Financial Assistance (didn’t know there was one of these,) and the USDA will focus on “Government Programs You May Not Know About.” These would be programs that offer assistance of some type.

Plum Island, home to USDA’s foreign animal disease research laboratories, is home base for David Huxsoll who will be discussing foreign animal diseases.

Additional sessions will be presented by Robert Van Saun, Penn State University, addressing transition cow management; Bill Beal, The Ohio State University, addressing new strategies in getting heifers bred; and Bernie Erven discussing “What is a Dairy Farm Manager’s Real Job Description?”

Expansion, big and little. While going out and buying a robotic milking system may not generate the highest return to the dollars invested, Jack Rodenburg, from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, will look at the opportunities it may offer to farms wishing to expand from 60 or 80 cows up to 150 cows without having to add additional employees. Ideally, net farm income should also improve.

On the permitting process front, Kevin Elder from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, will discuss (what should be) the final rules involving confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and farms in “sensitive” watersheds.

While we don’t have room to look at each topic here, a complete agenda and registration materials are available from your county agricultural extension agent or can be printed from the http://dairy.osu.edu Web site.

Evening reception. Monday evening features an hors d’oeuvre reception (some of that “good food”) and a short program featuring Deiter Kreig, editor of Farmshine, a weekly dairy newspaper in Pennsylvania.

Following the reception, the Ohio Dairy Producers organization, newly formed as a result of the merger of the Ohio Dairy Farmers Federation and the Progressive Dairy Producers of Ohio, will sponsor a membership kickoff event.

I sincerely hope that all of you, Ohio’s dairy producers and industry types, will join this organization that speaks as a single, unified voice for all of us.

Pre-conference. Finally, for those who get up early anyway, a pre-conference workshop focusing on milk marketing and the MILC program begins at 8:30 a.m. Monday morning and wraps up in time to grab lunch and choose your first conference session.

Seating for the pre-conference is limited, so preregistration is essential. The real deal is that there is no additional charge for the pre-conference if you are registered for the conference.

Registration. Conference registration is a bargain at $99 per person, or $185 per couple (you will share a proceedings.) Your registration includes speakers, refreshments during the breaks and reception, one lunch, a registration packet and a copy of the proceedings.

To secure the $99 fee, registrations must be received by Nov. 29. After Nov. 29, registration fees will increase to $129 per person.

The conference will be held at the University Plaza Hotel and Conference Center on Olentangy River Road, close to the ag campus. Rooms are being held at the hotel for a special conference rate of $85 per night. Red Roof and Cross Country Inns are also located nearby.

While this does not qualify as a vacation, participating in events such as the Ohio Dairy Conference is equally important to your dairy operation. Getting away, visiting with dairy folks from around the state, exploring new ideas and relaxing for a few minutes allow us to come home and look at all that is familiar with a new and perhaps enlightening perspective.

At the very least, you will certainly have good conversations, talk about cows, eat good food, talk about cows …

(The author is the northeast Ohio district dairy specialist with OSU Extension. Send comments or questions in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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