Conference Highlights Opportunities for Southeast Dairy Industry

February 25, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – At the inaugural Southeast Dairy Revitalization Conference in Charlotte, N.C., this week, nearly 200 producers and agribusiness professionals gathered to discuss changes in the region’s dairy industry and how producers can seize opportunities to grow, partner and prosper. The two-day event was sponsored by Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. (DFA).

DFA Board Chairman Randy Mooney and President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith kicked off the meeting by challenging attendees to be open-minded to the future, and to learn from others in the industry to identify opportunities for continuous improvement and growth. They discussed changing market conditions in the United States and globally, and how these dynamics create opportunities for producers in the Southeast.

“Despite the challenges facing the dairy industry, there is a lot of positive activity,” Mooney said. “It was exciting to interact with a diverse group of producers, and to learn about changes they are making to plan for the future of the industry in the Southeast.”

The conference featured opportunities for peer learning through interactive producer panels. In the first producer panel, dairy producers from North Carolina, South Carolina and Indiana discussed how they are structuring their businesses for growth in the future. They described family business structures, experiences working through dairy expansions and price risk management strategies on each of their operations.

Producers from North Carolina, Texas and Virginia participated in a second panel focused on operational issues such as quality management, and how they have continuously improved their operations over time. Examples included transitioning from mattresses to sand bedding, changing types of stalls in barns, working with Dairy Herd Improvement Association and animal health organizations on milk quality improvements, and recalculation of feed costs each time new commodities are purchased.

Industry experts also contributed their knowledge to conference attendees, including:

  • Dr. Ron Hanson, Neal E. Harlan Distinguished Professor of Agribusiness at the University of Nebraska, who reviewed characteristics of dairy farms with strong family and working relationships, and discussed working through challenging times in a positive manner
  • Dr. Greg Bethard, assistant director for dairy technology and dairy records management systems at North Carolina State University, who shared tips for managing a successful dairy business, including key metrics for animal health, reproduction, herd replacement, labor and feed costs

To conclude the conference, a final panel brought together industry partners who work directly with producers. They discussed producer assistance programs in North Carolina and Georgia, and opportunities for producers in Virginia to participate in financial benchmarking groups.