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MOUNT PLEASANT, MI -- It was a full crowd at the 2016 Great Lakes Regional Dairy conference as over 450 dairy industry enthusiasts gathered in Mount Pleasant, Michigan on February 4-6th to hear about the global dairy market and learn from other dairy producers on various topics.

Market prices were on every dairymen’s mind and Christophe LaFougere of GIRA, a strategic consultancy and market research firm, provided a global outlook for dairy markets and summed up his comments with “We will never see the prices of 2014 again.” He explained that 2014-15 has shown us that it is when a number of events come together that commodity prices become highly volatile. This is even more the case when it happens near the end of a three year price cycle. He went on to explain that the recent debacle on world markets is probably over now. Its immediate causes have now been digested by world markets by widening the client base, diversifying the product mix and returning to reasonable prices.  LaFougere said we can probably expect prices to return to their ‘comfort zones’ relatively soon.

Production practices highlighted the three day conference with an emphasis on reproduction and genomics.  Dr. Richard Pursley of Michigan State University facilitated a panel discussion on reproductive practices of three dairymen and their veterinarians: Luke Haywood of Sand Creek Dairy with his veterinarian Dr. Jeremy Boge, Merle Coffee and his veterinarian Dr. Bob Vlietstra and Kerry Nobis with his veterinarian, Dr. Jerry Kehr. Each of the dairymen shared their reproductive management practices to increase pregnancy rates

A genomics panel discussion led by Corey Geiger, the Managing Editor of Hoards Dairyman included dairymen from New York to California.  Hailing from Oakfield Corners, New York was Johnathan Lamb of Oakfield Corners Dairy while Steve Maddox of Maddox Dairy came in from California. The Michigan producers included Luke Haywood of Sand Creek Dairy in Hastings and Gary Blair of Double Eagle Dairy.

The discussion centered around how they use genomic testing to improve their herds and the importance of good genetics.  The panel concurred that the identification of animals is extremely important and using the best genetics will always improve your herd quickly along with using the genomic tools that are available.

Human resources are a valuable asset to any farm and a presentation and panel discussion including John Mueller of Willow Bend Farm of New York and Tom Oesch of Swiss Lane Dairy in Michigan reinforced the importance of treating employees like family. John Mueller commented, “Sometimes you just have to smile even when you don’t feel like it and the Golden Rule applies 100% when interacting with employees.”

Henk deVor of deVor Dairy gave a compelling presentation to a standing room only crowd on how they rebuilt their dairy after a tornado touched down in the summer of 2015. deVor explained that twelve hours after the tornado touched down in the center of the 3500 cow dairy, three competing milk equipment companies rallied together to get the milking parlor running again and two hours later they were rebuilding what was lost.  Over 200 volunteers showed up to help with clean-up and twenty-one workers were on the job six days a week, working twelve hour days for six months to get the farm fully operational again. deVor emphasized the importance of a good insurance policy especially when disaster strikes.

When the spotlight shifted to recognition, Hank Choate of Cement City was named the 2016 Michigan State University Dairy Farmer of the Year while Louis and Rosemarie Stieg of Hersey were named Michigan Holstein Association’s Master Breeder.

The 2017 Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference will be held February in Frankenmuth, at the Bavarian Inn. For more information visit http://glrdc.msu.edu/

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