CARLISLE, Pa. — As Covid-19 continues to cause restrictions and inhibiting Extension’s ability to hold in-person workshops, we are continually looking for ways to reach our farmers and provide educational messages that are accessible by all. The Penn State Extension Dairy Team has been producing numerous webinars ranging from calf and heifer management to financial planning. These recordings are all available on the Extension website in addition to new content being added regularly. Although online materials are being produced in place of on-farm and in-person workshops, we must extend our educational messages to those that do not utilize the internet or have access to online materials. The Dairy Team is exploring different options to stay connected to our farmers and producers until we can safely meet again.
The Dairy Team has been committed to individualized farm assessments and working one-on-one with those who request help in all areas ranging from facility improvements to milk quality issues. Visits from Extension educators have always been free of charge as we provide unbiased educational advice to tackle problems that arise. Even with the current restrictions in place, educators are still performing these on-farm visits. Mask-wearing recommendations are in place as educators continue to visit farms across the state helping to solve problems and looking at ways to effectively cut costs to help farmers and producers wherever they can. A simple call to the Extension office is the first step in setting up a visit with a Dairy Team member specializing in the problems occurring.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 restrictions, Extension educators have been hard at work designing and implementing online webinars covering a wide variety of dairy related issues. A popular fall series that gained international attention focused on calf and heifer management. The first three webinars of the series focused on young calves discussing rumen development, colostrum, navel care, housing and ventilation, and nutritional requirements. The last three webinars of the series revolved around the growing heifer, focusing on nutritional requirements, feeding styles, growth benchmarks, and economics. There are also recorded webinars focusing on financial planning, facility design, best milking practices, crossbreeding beef and dairy, and more. All of the recorded webinars can be found on the Extension website at https://extension.psu.edu/animals-and-livestock/dairy/see-all-dairy/shopby/webinars.
Also, on a virtual format the Penn State Extension Dairy Team has released a new podcast series called Bovine Banter. Each season contains four episodes and discusses hot topics in the dairy industry that will help dairy producers become more profitable. Guests that are interviewed for each episode will compare research with experiences of what has and has not worked on their farms and provide tips to help make producers more successful. Season 1 is focused on calf care where dairy educators ask producers questions about their calf management practices and what has worked best for them. For season 2, dairy educators talk with researchers at Penn State University about the dairy research they are working on. A new season airs every other month with season 3 beginning on March 2, 2021. All seasons of Bovine Banter are available on the apps Apple Podcasts and Spotify on a smart phone or computer. You can also listen by going to the Penn State Extension website at www.extension.psu.edu/bovine-banter.
While there are many options available online, the Dairy Team is now offering a new way to reach those that choose not to use or are unable to use the internet. Recently, there has been a hotline created for people to call and hear educational messages and tips relating to various aspects of the agricultural industry, dairy included. By dialing 1-888-655-2407, producers can choose between a variety of species including dairy, sheep and goats, beef, horses, and eventually poultry. A new message is posted on Monday mornings of each week. In the first few weeks, the dairy hotline has covered topics of milk culturing, cow comfort, and gathering the financial data needed for year-end analyses. At the end of the message, there will be an additional phone number provided from the educator delivering the message if you are interested in learning more about that week’s message.
Extension Educators are working hard to stay connected to the farmers and producers that they serve. There are numerous online webinars available, online courses, downloadable materials, recorded podcasts and now an informational hotline to call. So, while the current Covid-19 restrictions are still in place, please take advantage of the multiple ways that Extension is still here for you. For questions or more information, please call the Franklin County Extension office at 717-263-9226 or email Cassie Yost, the Franklin County Dairy Educator at email@example.com.
–Cassie Yost, Penn State Extension