For a record number of attendees who braved a pending nor’easter, the trip to the Penn Stater Hotel and Convention Center in State College, PA, a new venue for the fifth annual event, proved to be the ideal location. With more than 400 dairy industry professionals attending the two-day event hosted by the Center for Dairy Excellence and the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania (PDMP) on Feb. 12 and 13, organizers were extremely pleased with the turnout. Over 60 exhibitors offered their support for the annual event, with an industry trade show that lined hallways and side rooms at the convention center. During breaks and at times specifically devoted to the exhibits, participants enjoyed the opportunity to visit with agribusiness product and service providers.
Featured as this year’s Business Showcase, Ahold USA/Giant Foods was represented by Senior Vice President Larry Stover, who emphasized his company’s commitment to Pennsylvania’s dairy industry. He said his company’s entire private branded fluid milk is being sold under the PA Preferred ™ labeling throughout the company’s Pennsylvania and mid-Atlantic stores. According to Stover, with this commitment, dating back to mid-2013, Giant Foods is relying upon Pennsylvania dairy producers exclusively, for their fluid milk. With Lehigh Valley Dairy headquartered in Lansdale, PA serving as Giant’s bottling company, together they serve the Giant/Martin food markets in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, with Pennsylvania-produced and bottled milk. As a result, John Frey, Executive Director for the Center for Dairy Excellence, presented this year’s CDE Pacesetter Award to Lehigh Valley Dairy.
As this year’s Producer Showcase presenters, Bill Morgan and Jon Gilbert, owners of Scipio Spring Dairy, offered their innovative business model as a viable alternative to conventional planning. A New York State operation milking approximately 800 cows with a rolling herd average of 30,700 pounds began as a cows-only operation. From its inception, Morgan and Gilbert have purchased all of their feed and forage, harvested from acreage owned by others, and more recently, some that was purchased in an LLC. Scipio Spring has grown to include land totaling approximately 600 acres, however the crops are still being custom-farmed with the feedstuffs grown and harvested under contract to others.
Meanwhile Morgan and Gilbert acquired a second dairy operation, Windsong Dairy, an operation that is some two hours distant from Scipio Springs. Windsong Dairy, near Watertown, NY, was purchased in 2008. That operation is under the oversight of farm manager Diesel Kitt, a partial owner who was retained following the farm purchase from the previous owner.
At Windsong, Kitt’s team milks approximately 600 cows that average 28,900 plus pounds of milk production. Windsong, unlike Scipio Springs, has a larger land base of approximately 1,400 acres, however the crops there too, are custom grown and harvested. According to Morgan, this method of crop management gives Morgan and Gilbert more control over the feed quality and it has proven to be a successful business model that has not required extensive equipment ownership and maintenance. This method of crop and labor management has been in place since Scipio dairy’s inception in 2002.
More recently, the Cayuga Marketing Group, a farmer-owned and operated milk marketing organization headed up by Morgan and of which his farms are members, has embarked on a building project that includes a new milk solids production plant due to begin operation in mid-2014. Together Cayuga Marketing along with a new company Cayuga Milk Ingredients will begin processing milk from the marketing group, turning it into milk protein concentrates and milk protein isolates for sale on the world market. Cayuga Milk Marking members will be working with Ingredia, a French company contracted to market the products under an agreement with Cayuga Milk Ingredients. In this way, the producers will have an ongoing resource to sell their milk under which they have more control and their plan it to reap more consistant income from this endeavor.
Other presentations during the PA Dairy Summit included a motivational keynote address by Adam Taliaferro, former Penn State football player who recovered from an extremely serious neck injury he received during a game. His recovery, despite odds of being totally paralyzed, has been an inspiration to others who suffer the same fate. Taliaferro and his family head up the Adam Taliaferro Foundation to assist individuals who suffer catastrophic head or spinal cord injuries.
Mary Kay Williams, an associate for Penn State Corporate Learning in State College, gave tips on how to negotiate with others, both off and on the farm. Her “hands-on” approach to sharing her ideas, gave attendees the opportunity to interact as they learned ways to negotiate for various outcomes.
Other breakout sessions during the afternoon included presentations by Dr. Katy Proudfoot, on Transition Cow Management; Ron Hoover and Eric Risser on Double and Triple Cropping; Dr. Mike Van Amburgh on Calf Care and Immunity; and Ray Prock on Dairy Apps and Technology. Prock, a dairy producer from Denair, CA, who was scheduled to attend but whose flight was cancelled because of the impending nor’easter, was able to share his ideas via Skype during Wednesday’s afternoon sessions.