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Becoming a servant leader and other key dairy producer takeaways from the PDPW conference

Christina Winch for Progressive Dairyman Published on 28 March 2016

Inspire. That was the theme of the 2016 PDPW (Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin) Business Conference held recently in Madison, Wisconsin. Throughout the two-day event, I was inspired with ideas that I can use on my farm, in my classroom and in life. My inspiration actually started the day before the conference.

PDPW’s Cornerstone Dairy Academy is in its third year now and is held on the Tuesday before the conference. This year I participated in the “servant leader” session. Our presenter was full of energy, kept us on the edge of our seats and filled us with inspiration to go forth and be servant leaders. Some takeaways I have are: 1. Hire for character and train for skill; 2. You lead people and manage things; and 3. The importance of showing people you care even through small gestures.

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Over the next two days, there were keynote speakers helping us understand the current global economy in relation to the dairy industry and what consumers are looking for regarding their food. Craig Culver was one of the speakers; he explained how Culver’s restaurants continually improve and respond to what their customer wants. The speaker who wrapped up the conference was a fire chief during the 9/11 attacks and survived the collapse of the north tower. His words of inspiration about getting through a tragic time make my life challenges look minor. These speakers were enlightening, but it was in the breakout sessions that I brought home knowledge and ideas to improve our farm.

My husband and I have the divide-and-conquer attitude when it comes to attending conferences like this. There are so many good workshops to attend; it’s hard to decide which ones to go to. So we split up and then talked through what we learned.

With much uncertainty with the milk price and how we are paid, it was good to hear from Dr. Mark Stephenson about different ideas on what the future might hold regarding what the farmer is paid for milk. There were a couple different workshops on the nutritional side, from making sure cattle are eating enough to understanding how the rumen digests fiber. Developing a better understanding of best management practices for raising calves while exploring the signs of pneumonia were some more great workshops. With many different choices for bedding, listening to results from some research studies helped to confirm that sand is still the best.

It seems every company has some type of technology for monitoring health and reproduction of cattle. Listening to farmers who have detailed experience with some of these technologies will help others make educated decisions when jumping on board with these technologies. We did attend one workshop together, and that was on handling and moving cattle.

As the jammed-packed days came to a close, not only were our minds filled with ideas, but we had many great discussions with businesses and fellow dairy farmers. All of this networking and sharing of ideas left me inspired and ready to take on another year in the dairy industry.  PD

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Christina Winch is a dairy farmer in Fennimore, Wisconsin. Email Christina Winch.

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