CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. — Dairy enthusiasts who attended the recent Kentuckiana Dairy Exchange (KDE) had a firsthand look at some of the most productive dairies in Kentucky, along with a multitude of information to help all dairy producers become more productive.
The event marked the seventh year for the exchange, which began as a way to share ideas from two of the most respected agricultural schools in the country, the University of Kentucky and Purdue University. Maury Cox, executive director of the Kentucky Dairy Development Council (KDDC) – one of the sponsors of the KDE – said the event rotates between Indiana and Kentucky each year.
Cox added through the years, those attending have had quite a variety of dairy innovations to see, including robotic milkers and grass grazing systems on a diverse set of large and medium-sized dairies, and those run as partnerships.
This year’s stops included Hutchison Holsteins in Columbia, Tony and Ben Compton in Fairplay, Corbin Dairy and Cowherd Dairy in Campbellsville and Sidebottom Dairy in Greensburg.
"All of these farms were similar in size, but the impressive thing is, we went to five different farms and we had production range from around 23,000 pounds per cow up to as much as 29,000 pounds per cow (rolling herd average), with some milking twice a day while others milked three times a day," said Cox. "It’s amazing that all of them had somatic cell counts of 225,000 and below. One was below 100,000."
He also said the dairies included a mixture of free stall barns and pack barns, but one common denominator was the attention to cow comfort observed on each farm.
The event also included a presentation by Nicola Blackie, a lecturer at Writtle College in England, who spoke about the dairy industry in that country and her work in managing lameness in dairy cattle.
Tamilee Nennich, Purdue extension dairy specialist and one of the event’s co-planners, said one of the biggest benefits of the KDE is the opportunity it gives dairy farmers to interact with one another. "Producers get the chance to see other farms and to get ideas they can implement to improve their own operations," she said.
Nennich has seen the ups and downs in the dairy industry, having helped plan this event before the tough 2009 year when milk prices fell. She said it is nice to be in a time when prices are good and feed prices have come down some.
"It’s been interesting to watch the industry and nice to be in times where it’s a little bit more comfortable and you can feel more optimistic for producers, and see more opportunities for expansion," she said.
Nennich said the Exchange has afforded the chance to see a wide variety of dairy operations. "A lot of what comes along with that is you get to see how different dairy producers are making it work," she explained.
One stop on this year’s tour was at the dairy farm of Tony and Ben Compton from Adair County, located in the south-central part of the state. The father-son team were presented the KDDC Milk Quality Award last year for an operation that boasts a somatic cell count that is consistently "well under" the 100,000 mark and a rolling herd average of about 22,000 pounds of milk per cow.
The Comptons credit their success with some basic fundamentals and keeping their cows comfortable. Nennich said it is evident they put much effort into keeping their cows clean and comfortable, which translates into good production and milk quality.
"While on the dairy tours, we saw that when it comes to dairy farming, a lot of it is management. If you really stick with the basics and take care of the cows, pay attention to their nutrition and health, you can really do a great job regardless of how old the facility is and what technologies you’re using," she said.
Cox estimated attendance to be close to 100, which would make it one of the best-attended Exchanges to date.
Other sponsors included the Indiana Dairy Producers, Indiana Soybean Alliance, NorthStar Cooperative and Perdue Ag Solutions.