Last week, more than 55,000 high school students gathered in Indianapolis, Ind., for the National FFA Convention. Crocket Bruce from Jo Byrns, Tenn., and Brad Laack from Plymouth, Wis., were named as dairy production national winners. Both young men, in their early 20s, are optimistic about the future.

“I’m always trying to be progressive,” Bruce said. “[I’m] always trying to make things better and better and see how I can take better care of my cows, raise them better, better genetics.”

Bruce started his dairy enterprise by following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps. He has worked to increase milk production through better nutrition for his Holstein cows. He also works to better understand animal performance records and works to improve the genetics of his herd. 

“I see a lot of people starting to process their own milk, bottle it and make their own cheese,” Bruce said. “So, you can kind of count on some kind of steady price for your own product. I see a lot of that coming up. Mainly, we are going to really have to cut down on our costs and just make things more and more efficient.”

These are some of the things, Bruce believes, that will help dairy farmers step up and feed a growing world population.

“The world is changing,” Bruce said. “If we don’t take steps to change and grow with it, we will fail at feeding the world. And that is a something I don’t want to see happen.”

Brad Laack has a similar outlook on the industry, even though his experiences have been slightly different. Laack is employed at two dairies in his hometown as a night herdsman and weekend milker. He hopes to breed his own cows and slowly build up his herd. 

Laack has seen the joys and difficulties the lifestyle brings, as well as the challenges the industry faces with a growing population to feed.

“There are obviously going to be ups and downs no matter what,” Laack said. “So, you just have to take the good with the bad and make the best out of it. Do what you enjoy doing and hope you can turn a profit out of it.”

 Bruce and Laack were recognized during the National FFA Convention for their successes in the dairy industry and awarded the National Proficiency Award.