EAST LANSING, Mich. – Dairy farmers know as well as anyone that learning doesn’t end once one’s left the classroom. Those attending the ninth annual Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference (GLRDC) Feb. 3–5 at the Bavarian Inn Lodge and Conference Center in Frankenmuth, Mich., will have their pick of five in-depth, educational workshops designed to help them improve their farms’ bottom lines.

"The purpose of the GLRDC is to provide timely information for the dairy industry in the Midwest,” said Faith Cullens, chair of the conference planning committee and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension dairy educator. “These workshops are just one piece of that puzzle and give producers an opportunity to learn about subjects that are most relevant to them.”

Starting at 1:30 p.m. Friday, producers can choose from four concurrent workshops, ranging from milk marketing risk management to instruction on the Spartan Dairy 3 nutrition program to tips on becoming a successful “business-first family” and enhancing calf and heifer management practices.

For those producers interested in learning how to integrate retail sales into their dairy operation, MSU associate professor of food science and human nutrition, and animal science Dr. John Partridge will be facilitating a panel discussion titled “Vertical Integration of Dairy Farms.” Panel members will be Doug Westendorp from Mooville Creamery, Nashville, Mich.; George Crave from Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, Waterloo, Wis.; Jon Plummer from Moomers Ice Cream, Traverse City, Mich.; and Wendell Van Gunst from Country Dairy Inc., New Era, Mich.

“Each of these producers brings valuable experience and knowledge to this panel,” Cullens said. “Whether they’re making and selling cheese or ice cream, they’ve figured out how to add value to their operations. We think this is something that many other producers throughout the region would be interested in learning about.”

Producers interested in learning more beyond this panel might also be interested in attending the Saturday morning session at 9 a.m. featuring George Crave. He will share how Crave Brothers Dairy Farm and Farmstead Cheese has come to be named the Dairy Farm Family of the Year, Dairymen of the Year and runner-up in Farm Progress Magazine’s Best Managed Farms Contest through sustainable farm methods, local partnerships and cheese making.

If learning helpful tips and best practices for navigating the challenges associated with family-owned and -operated businesses is a priority, “The Facts of Life: When Family and Business Collide” workshop, also held on Friday at 1:30 p.m., may be the right choice. Jolene Brown, a family business consultant from Iowa who understands agriculture and the families that live it every day, will be discussing the steps to follow and the conversations to have in order to become a “business-first family.”

For those wishing to focus on farm management, producers will want to decide between three workshops. Dr. Sam Leadley, a calf and heifer specialist with Attica Veterinary Associates, P.C., will be facilitating the “Calf and Heifer Management Strategies” workshop, and Dr. Chris Wolf, MSU professor of agriculture, food and resource economics, will be leading the workshop titled “Milk Marketing Risk Management and Positioning Your Dairy for the Future.” In addition, Dr. Mike VandeHaar, MSU professor of animal science, will conduct a training workshop on the Spartan Dairy 3 nutrition program.

“No two dairy farms or farmers are alike, so it’s important for us to hold workshops that tackle a variety of issues producers might face,” Cullens said. “Based on feedback we received from producers around the state, we think we’ve created a great line-up that has a little something for everyone.”

Registration forms and a complete program schedule are available online at www.glrdc.msu.edu. Participants can also register and receive more information on the conference by calling MSU events coordinator Megghan Honke at 517-353-3175, ext. 229. Registrations received before Jan. 21 qualify for a $50 early bird discount. Online registration closes Jan. 28. On-site registrations are subject to availability.

Source: Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources