Penn State Dairy Alliance’s new name reflects growth

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State Dairy Alliance – the industry’s source for educational programming based on unbiased Penn State dairy research – is getting a new name, announced Dr. Terry Etherton, head of Penn State’s Department of Dairy and Animal Science.

Penn State Dairy Alliance will now be known as the Penn State Extension Dairy Team, a name that reflects the growth of the unit to include Penn State Extension educators. “The Dairy Alliance name is changing, but the program’s reputation for excellence in educational programming will remain unchanged,” explained Etherton.

Also remaining unchanged are the faculty and staff from the Department of Dairy and Animal Science who played a key role in building Dairy Alliance. This core group will continue its programming activities under the new Penn State Extension Dairy Team banner.

Penn State’s Department of Dairy and Animal Science has a long-standing tradition of offering dairy education at the graduate, undergraduate and youth levels derived from research that is respected internationally. “Even in a time of budget uncertainty, as the Commonwealth is experiencing now, we recognize our obligation to continue sharing this quality dairy research with the industry through continued Extension programming,” noted Etherton. “Therefore, we want to stress our commitment to Pennsylvania’s dairy producers and agribusiness professionals and let them know that, while the Dairy Alliance team is changing its name, we are not changing our mission to provide quality educational programming based on unbiased Penn State research.”

Pennsylvania producers are expressing support for the retention of the programming and personnel. “For producers, Dairy Alliance has always been a resource on specific topics, whether its human resource, nutrient, or business management. The team has the expertise to show us how to manage our farms better, and I can be confident that the information they provide is unbiased,” said Glenn Gorrell of Gorrell Dairy in Milan, Pa., Bradford County, president of the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania.

 “We think Dairy Alliance helps us a lot or we wouldn’t bother going to their programs,” added Gorrell, whose employees have attended various educational programs over the years. “The value is definitely worth leaving the farm to attend the training. What we learn either confirms we’re heading in the right direction or shows us where we need to make adjustments to manage our operation better.”

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.

Today, this new focus has led to programming that teaches producers and agribusiness professionals how to manage risk, animal well-being, people, nutrients, and technology in order to increase profitability on the farm through educational programs and online tools such as the Penn State Profitability Assessment (PA) Dairy Tool, the Penn State Income over Feed Cost Tool, and the Penn State Cash Flow Planning Tool.

Program planning is already under way for this fall and winter. On the agenda are two conferences:

  • Middle Manager’s Conference, designed to help dairy middle managers and supervisors manage people and cows better, scheduled November 8 at Harrisburg, PA
  • Penn State Nutrition Conference, a continuing education program for feed industry professionals and nutritional consultants, scheduled November 9-10 at Grantville, PA

Also, customized training on planning a dairy cash flow and/or calculating a farm’s income over feed cost is currently available to individual producers or agribusiness groups. In addition, Dairy Discussion Groups for producers and consultants, Technology Tuesdays webinar series, Calf Health Management Workshops, Feed Management Plan Writing Workshops for Certified Feed Management Planners, and the online Friday Facilitator Forums for Dairy Team Facilitators are coming this fall and winter. Dates and details will be announced in July.

For more information, contact the Penn State Extension Dairy Team in the Department of Dairy and Animal Science at 888-373-7232 or visit www.das.psu.edu



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