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GMO, ‘carbon footprint’ topics for 3-state dairy meet

By MICHELE F. MIHALJEVICH
Indiana Correspondent

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Uncertain economic times make events such as next month’s Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference especially important, an organizer said.

“What better time to attend?” said Maurice Eastridge, a professor of animal sciences at The Ohio State University. “Producers are looking at pretty close margins and high feed costs. It’s important to help identify any possible strategy to help producers. We’re all looking to help the producer.”

The 18th annual conference is April 21-22 at the Grand Wayne Center in downtown Fort Wayne. It is designed for feed industry personnel, veterinarians, county extension officials, dairy producers and anyone interested in the dairy industry.

This conference is sponsored by Purdue University, OSU and Michigan State University. More than 450 people attended last year’s conference.

On the first day of the conference, speakers will share information on the latest research, Eastridge said. Topics include preventing ruminal acidosis, the impact of heat stress and using genetically modified plants as animal feed.

The second day, speakers will focus on current issues in the industry, such as the idea of measuring the carbon footprint of a farm, he said.

“We’re looking at a variety of subjects, because the price of milk is low but the price of feed is high,” he said. “How do you price corn for silage? How can you get the most out of your corn? We’re hoping to provide feed companies with information that will help keep costs low and provide profitability for the operators.”

Along with increasing production, dairy producers have been improving the carbon footprint of their farms for decades, said Judith Capper, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Animal Science at Cornell University. Capper will speak during the conference’s second day about carbon footprints and dairy farms.

In 1944, milk production averaged about 5,000 pounds per cow per year, she said. That number has recently increased to 20,000 pounds per cow, per year. At the same time, the carbon footprint for a gallon of milk has decreased 63 percent, she explained.

“Farmers may not have been aware that they’ve been doing it, but the carbon footprint has been decreasing over time,” she said. “Anything that makes your cow more productive, makes more milk (produced) per day. And by increasing that production, the more milk you make, using fewer resources.

“This is important both to production and to the environment.”
When looking at the carbon footprint of a farm, methane and nitrous oxide must be taken into consideration, as well as carbon dioxide, Capper said.

“Methane and nitrous oxide are both more potent than carbon dioxide,” she said. “Methane is in the cow and the waste, and nitrous oxide in the waste and fertilizer.”

Ideally, Capper said she would love to see another 5 percent decrease in the carbon footprint per gallon of milk. But her message at the conference will be that producers should continue to do what they’ve been doing.

“The more we can continue to improve milk yield, the better,” she said. “The carbon footprint will continue to come down. We’ve been doing that for 50 to 60 years, and they should keep on doing that.”
The conference begins at noon April 21, with speakers and sessions scheduled into the evening. Day Two of the conference begins at 7 a.m. with breakfast and concludes at about 12:30 p.m. The early registration cost is $155, which includes refreshments, a breakfast and a copy of the proceedings.

The early registration deadline is April 3; an additional $30 is added to registrations after that date. For more information, an agenda and a registration form, go to http://tristatedairy.osu.edu or contact Eastridge at 614-688-3059.

3/18/2009