BURLINGTON, Vt. — Ever changing markets, advancements in technology for cow care and crop production, increasing focus on climate change and environmental protection – these are just a few of the evolving challenges facing Northeast dairy farmers. Its why those farmers strive to continually learn. Several hundred conference goers had the chance to do just that at the 2020 Vermont Dairy Producers Conference.
Six speakers were on hand to cover a range of topics vital to the success of the industry and the farms that uphold it. From animal feed management, to empowering leadership on the farm – having these national experts speaking in Vermont allowed dairy farmers in the Northeast the opportunity to grow and learn without having to travel too far from their farms.
The conference is an opportunity for farmers and industry partners to network, make connections and to support one another. While dairy economists do foresee an uptick in milk prices, farmers have had to fight through years of low prices on the farm – impacting the ability to make a profit. Despite the challenges, dairy farmers in Vermont and the northeast are working to remain positive, and provide the best care possible for their cows, land and community.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott as well as Vermont Congressman Peter Welch spent time at Tuesday’s conference and spoke to the crowd, commending farmers and producers on their hard work and commitment to the working landscape and economy of Vermont and the Northeast.
“The conference has been happening for twenty-plus years. It’s longevity says a lot about dairy farmers willingness to do things better – to make sure their cows are happy and healthy, to make sure they’re growing and harvesting their crops with the planet and our climate in mind, to make sure they’re being good neighbors in their towns,” stated Joanna Lidback, a Northeast Kingdom dairy farmer and the Conference Committee Chair. “Dairy farmers are at the heart of this state’s identity. We all want to be successful; we all want to improve this industry and help keep Vermont the amazing place it is to live and work.”
Now more than ever, consumers want to know where their food is coming from, whose producing it, and if it’s being made in a responsible way. Farmers strive for transparence in all they do, to have their neighbors and those consumers trust in their practices. “Farmers are trust-worthy. Consumers trust in farm families and farmers as people. What we need to do is make sure those same consumers believe in the innovative practices being used by farmers,” described Amy te Plate-Church with the Center for Food Integrity. “Sixty-five percent of consumer are interested in knowing more about farming and food production, we have a responsibility as an industry, as farmers, to reach those people.”
As dairy evolves, so too does the technology farmers are using to produce their milk. Each day farmers are in their barns amongst their herd, health-tracking technology gives them better insights into how their cows are feeling. Real-time updates and information are accessible at farmers’ fingertips, allowing them to react more quickly to challenges, or to head them off before health issues even occur. “Sensors and health tracking monitors can help farmers better manage their time and better manage their cows. Behavioral, physiological, and performance indicators can help farmers stop potential illnesses to keep their herds happy and healthy,” explained Dr. Julio Giordano, Dairy Cattel Biology and Management Laboratory, Cornell University.
Other conference speakers included: Dr. Trevor Devries, University of Guelph; David Green, Kiefer & Associates; Dr. Richard Pimentel, Milt Wright & Associates; and Dr. Daryl Nydham, Cornell University.
In Vermont, multi-generation dairy farms remain the backbone of the state. Dairy farms directly support 4,000 jobs, and indirectly support another 12,000 in the Green Mountain State. Vermont is home to 16 methane digesters, technology used on dairy farms to recycle manure into renewable energy, and Vermont farmers have planted more than 26,000 acres of cover crops since 2015 – a practice that keeps a growing crop in the ground year-round, keeping important nutrients in the soil.
–New England Dairy
Vermont Dairy Producers Conference
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