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Vermont Dairy Producers Association Annual Conference Focuses On Herd Health And Feed Management

Hundreds attend the 2020 Vermont Dairy Producers Association conference
Vermont Dairy Producers Association
Hundreds attend the 2020 Vermont Dairy Producers Association conference

Several hundred dairy farmers and producers met in Burlington recently for an annual conference that targets keeping the industry viable throughout the region.
The Vermont Dairy Producers Association regional conference has been held for over 20 years.  More than 300 attended this year’s meeting, which focused on dairy herd health and feed management and featured speakers from across the country.  Champlain, New York’s Hidden View Farm owner Dale Tetreault is a member of the Dairy Producers conference committee board.  “The biggest reason it was on health and feed this year is because some of the crops in the Northeast and through New England were probably some of the worst that we've had in in history with the wet spring and then the dry fall. So we’re dealing with all kinds of different things. So we had speakers from Cornell University and from Guelph about all kinds of different things that you can feed and what to look for to manage your healthier cows better.”

Conference committee chair Joanna Lidback owns The Farm at Wheeler Mountain in the Northeast Kingdom community of Barton with her husband Adam. She says the conference is different in that it focuses on topics that help dairy producers operate their business.  “We're looking for more things like business education topics, things focused on managing your cows and taking the best care of them that you can as well as you know from time to time getting into some cropping issues. We tend to spend more time on the cows because there are other opportunities with respect to the crop side of things. I mean, I think we're constantly looking for ways to do things better and to consider other alternatives and options. That's how you keep moving forward, especially in times where it can feel like kind of a struggle.”

Tetreault says unhealthy cows produce less milk and are harder to keep in the herd.  Lidback adds that making sure cows are healthy and happy increases the farm’s productivity.  Speakers at the conference discussed consistency in feeding; using technology for health and management and strategic dry cow treatment.  “When we say dry cow we mean that’s a cow that sort of taking a break from milking before she has another calf. Dairy producers tend to spend a lot of time thinking about that transition time. If you can imagine I mean I've got three kids and I know what it was like and sort of the changes that happened to me in my body as I started producing milk. And it's in a similar way it's a change for the cow as well where her nutrition needs are different. Her comfort needs you know how much time she spends laying down or standing up, even how much water she needs is different. And so we spend a lot of time thinking about the best ways to get her what she needs to make that that time of transition comfortable and healthy.”

Technology on farms is evolving and Tetreault explains it is used extensively in barns.  “There's a lot of things on the cutting edge right now I mean as far as monitoring cows, the time they lay down, their rumination, their heat cycles, how much milk they're producing. And it helps us manage them a lot better. And all that technology helps us care more for the cow and keep a healthier cow. And, you know, we definitely want longevity out of our animals. We want an animal to be a vibrant part of our entire operation. And if you make the stalls a proper size, if you milk them properly using everything that technology is offering, then you know that ties into profitability which also ends up with longevity for the cow and for the farm at the same time.”

Speakers at his year’s conference included dairy and cattle management specialists from Cornell University and the University of Guelph in Ontario.