by Kristina Vaughan
Fireside Inn and Suites in West Lebanon, NH was filled with 90 farmers, industry representatives, government employees, college and FFA students on March 17 for the 40th annual Dairy Management Conference. This conference and trade show is one of a four part series including two sites in New Hampshire, and one each in Connecticut and Maine. Held one day prior, the North Country Dairy Seminar & Tradeshow also had a great turnout, boasting 66 participants at the Inn in Whitefield.
This year’s featured speaker for all sites was Gabriella Varga, Professor Emeritus from Penn State. Varga used PowerPoint slide presentations with graphs and charts, facts and cost analysis to underscore her lessons on pre-fresh and post-fresh dairy cattle management. She included stories of troubleshooting on-farm problems from her work on the dairy profits team in her home state to punctuate her messages, and she challenged those in attendance to return to their farms and see what vast differences they could make with a few small, but significant, changes.
The middle of the day was marked with the presentation of the Green Pastures Award. Lorraine Merrill, New Hampshire’s Commissioner of Agriculture, handed off the 2015 Dairy Farm of the Year sign to Rendell and Karen Tullar. In her comments about Tullando Farm, Commissioner Merrill seemed to echo Varga’s presentation as she described the different aspects of farm and dairy cattle management that the Tullar family focuses on with their herd.
The real story of the day seemed to be the camaraderie shared by the day’s attendees. All day long, across the large room filled with tradeshow booths and workshop seating, laughter and booming voices could be heard greeting one another. Farm woes seemed to fade into the background as people mingled. Seed salesmen greeted long-time clients; former classmates encouraged each other to attend summer cooperative gatherings; and neighbors swapped farm tales from the winter. “You can’t get this sort of social interaction through a webinar or on-line meeting. These farmers seem to really enjoy getting off the farm to come to this,” said Michal Lunak, NH Dairy Practices Committee member and UNH Cooperative Extension State Dairy Specialist.
The NH Dairy Practices Committee is comprised of farmers, industry representatives, UNH Cooperative Extension, Department of Human and Health Services, and NH Department of Agriculture staff and meets several times per year to coordinate the event’s topic, guest speaker, and trade show. The committee will meet again in mid-April to discuss this year’s event and line up next year’s conference.