“I thought it was a very good tour because it gave us the full spectrum from the producer all the way through to the retailer….”

“I learned a lot regarding the interaction between the veterinarians and the dairies and the industry in general (and) how each piece impacts the other piece.”

Last month, approximately 50 people participated in the Dairy Food Systems Tour, sponsored by Dairy Herd Management. Some of them were familiar with farms, others weren’t. Even the ones with an extensive farm background were in for a learning experience, given the unique nature of the farms visited and also the “full-chain” view provided by processors, retailers and service-providers along the way. (Comments from two of the participants are shown above.)

During the three-day trip in Colorado, people saw how one part of the dairy-production chain can impact other parts down the line. For instance, at a bottling plant in Longmont, Colo., managers said they want clean, cold milk coming in because it will produce the best possible product for customers. They buy from five to six selected farms with a high regard for quality. And, one of the plant managers is a former herdsman who often visits the farms to offer constructive advice and keep the lines of communication open.

Tom Gruenberger, dairy-category manager for a major supermarket chain in the Denver area, shared his insight as well. Talk about a man on the “front lines.” He does a good job fielding customers’ questions, but even he could use some help from the dairy-promotion organizations when it comes to answering certain questions — and having the right point-of-purchase materials on hand. (Dairy-promotion representatives were on hand and noted what Gruenberger had to say; in fact, it was one of those seminal moments when everyone in the room re-dedicated themselves to improving dairy’s position in the marketplace.)

After having toured several dairies earlier in the week, participants got a “full-chain” view of the dairy-production system.

  • They heard Temple Grandin, a nationally recognized authority on animal behavior, comment that “customers are driving change” with regard to animal ID, food safety and other issues.
  • They heard the manager of a large calf ranch in Gill, Colo., talk about the importance of source-verifying animals to people down the chain. (The ranch even uses retinal scanning to accomplish this.)  

We need to take a full-chain view of the dairy industry rather than focusing myopically on just one area. That is why Vance Publishing Corp., parent company of Dairy Herd Management, recently unveiled its Food360° initiative to complete the circle from farm to consumer.

As the dairy tour demonstrates, we don’t just talk about the full-chain
perspective, we live it.