Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Midwest Regional Dairy Conference

I've finally gotten time to write another blog post.  Last weekend I attended the Midwest Regional American Dairy Science Association-Student Affiliate Division (ADSA-SAD) meeting in River Falls, Wisconsin.  Delegations from dairy clubs across the midwest, ranging from South Dakota State University and Kansas State to The Ohio State University, gather at a different host school each year to learn about various topics in the dairy industry and have fun in the process.  This was my third ADSA regional meeting and I served as the Officer at Large this year.  Every ADSA has been enjoyable because I've learned a lot, had fun, got to meet new people, and got to see old friends from other universities as well. UMC has always had the smallest delegation at Midwest ADSA, likely because it is the smallest school represented at the conference.  I drove to River Falls with two others from the UMC dairy club, while the U of M-Twin Cities had I believe around 40 students in attendance.

One of the many things I love about any ag-related conference is being able to get together with so many others that are passionate about the industry I love.  There at least 300 students at ADSA last weekend and it is always nice to see that there are many other college students out there who understand the dairy industry as well.  I loved going to rabbit shows because I enjoyed raising rabbits and rabbit shows were a chance to be around others who understood that; ADSA is similar in that regard.  It's refreshing to be able to go to a conference where talking about milking procedures is not unusual.  Liking cows is not considered odd to anyone at ADSA; it would actually be odd for anyone there not to like cows.

One of the points that came up a few times during ADSA was the media and animal welfare.  I attended Track One, which was business-oriented, whereas Tracks 2 and 3 were production oriented.  One of the sessions I attended was focused on the media and how to respond to consumers who have questions about dairy in a way that is not combative and is non-threatening so that they understand what dairy farmers do.  Another session addressed farm audits that looked at whether or not farms were doing the best job they could regarding animal care and milk safety.  We looked at issues such as housing and milking procedures and examined the best practices to ensure that cows are healthy and comfortable and that the milk is safe and milking is done effectively.  The keynote speaker addressed animal welfare from the meat packing standpoint and how that related to the dairy industry. He noted that it is the dairy farmer's responsibility to ensure that he/she knows that the transporter they use to transport cull cows is doing an adequate job.  The speaker also noted the importance of sending cows directly to the meat plant rather than to an auction, because when they go to an auction it could be days that they go without being milked and they end up with massive udders as a result, which is not good for the cow.

I certainly learned a lot from ADSA this year and am a bit sad that it will be my last year but it's been a great experience.  It's always nice to see fellow dairy enthusiasts, though at the same time it's exciting to be able to come back to college and have a chance to inform those who are not as familiar with the industry.

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