Other producers agree on the continued need for the type of programming offered by Dairy Alliance. “Education continues to be a strong need in our industry,” noted Walt Moore of Walmoore Holsteins, located in West Grove, Pa., Chester County. “Reaching out to producers to offer a spectrum of education is vital to our industry, and that’s what Dairy Alliance has always done.”
“My employees and I have attended everything from labor management to financial benchmarking programs and I think the broad spectrum has provided us with a lot of thoughts and ideas that, over the years, we’ve brought back and implemented on our farm,” explained Moore.
Brandon Weary, co-owner of Weary’s Dairy of Newville, Pa., Cumberland County, echoes the need for education during the current economy: “My belief is that the number one priority is to educate dairy producers on how to be more profitable in these difficult times in the industry. The only way to stay on top of change is to continue educating yourself otherwise you get left way behind.”
Weary’s Dairy monitors their monthly feed costs with the Penn State Income Over Feed Cost Tool created by the Dairy Alliance. “The IOFC tool shows us how we stack up against other dairy farms in Pennsylvania in terms of our profitability. The cost of feeding has increased dramatically over the last two years, really tightening our margins for profitability. Using the tool helps us feed our herd efficiently and turn a profit,” said Weary.
The dairy also has benefitted from using the Penn State Profitability Assessment Dairy Tool in conjunction with the Dairy Alliance team. The tool has pinpointed a bottleneck with their heifer raising program, particularly age at first calving. “Thanks to running the tool, we were able to identify this problem and I’m confident we will make definite improvements in this area.”
Penn State Dairy Alliance was founded in 2000 as a collaborative effort between Penn State’s Department of Dairy and Animal Science and Cooperative Extension. Its team members included faculty and staff from the Department of Dairy and Animal Science who worked with industry partners to create and deliver educational programming in the areas of business management, human resource management, information management, and nutrient management to Pennsylvania‘s progressive dairy producers, their employees, and advisors.
As the industry’s needs changed over the past decade, so did the Dairy Alliance. In fall 2009, the team expanded to include county Extension educators, as well as faculty and staff from other Penn State Departments, such as Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences. This expansion in expertise allowed Dairy Alliance to shift to holistic programming that encouraged a whole-farm view of dairy management.