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Great Lakes Dairy Conference provides milk price outlook

Melissa Hart for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 March 2016
Steve Maddox of Maddox Dairy

The 2016 Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference attracted more than 450 dairy industry enthusiasts to Mount Pleasant, Michigan, on Feb. 4-6 to hear about the global dairy market and learn from other dairy producers on various topics vital to production and profitability.

Market prices were on every dairyman’s mind. Christophe LaFougere of GIRA, a strategic consultancy and market research firm, provided a global outlook for dairy markets and summed up his comments with, “We will never see the prices of 2014 again.”



He explained that 2014-2015 has shown us that it is when a number of events come together that commodity prices become highly volatile. This is even more the case when it happens near the end of a three-year price cycle.

He went on to explain that the recent debacle in world markets is probably over now. Its immediate causes have now been digested by world markets by widening the client base, diversifying the product mix and returning to reasonable prices. LaFougere said we can probably expect prices to return to their “comfort zones” relatively soon.

Jary Gox of Browns Dairy Equipment

Production practices highlighted the three-day conference with an emphasis on reproduction, genomics and resource management. Dr. Richard Pursley of Michigan State University facilitated a panel discussion on cattle reproductive practices. Three dairymen and their veterinarians shared their goals and the methods of increased pregnancy rates followed by a question-and-answer opportunity from the standing-room-only crowd.

A genomics panel discussion included dairymen from New York to California. Hailing from Oakfield Corners, New York, was Johnathan Lamb of Oakfield Corners Dairy, while Steve Maddox of Maddox Dairy came in from Riverdale, California. Michigan producers included Luke Haywood of Sand Creek Dairy in Hastings and Gary Blair of Double Eagle Dairy in Middleton.


The discussion centered around how they use genomic testing to improve their herds and the importance of good genetics. The panel concurred that the identification of animals is extremely important, and using the best genetics will always improve your herd quickly, along with using the genomic tools available.

Mason & Katelyn Horning of Horning Dairy

Their mating criteria varied according to what factors they emphasized as important. Maddox focuses on type, functionality and production in his herd, while Haywood of Sand Creek Dairy leans more toward production and health traits.

Human resources are a valuable asset to any farm, and a presentation and panel discussion including John Mueller of Willow Bend Farm of Clifton Springs, New York, and Tom Oesch of Swiss Lane Dairy in Alto, Michigan, reinforced the importance of treating employees like family.

John Mueller commented, “Sometimes you just have to smile even when you don’t feel like it, and the Golden Rule applies 100 percent of the time when interacting with employees.”

Henk deVor of deVor Dairy in Decker, Michigan, gave a compelling presentation to a standing-room-only crowd on how they rebuilt their dairy after a tornado touched down in the summer of 2015. He explained that 12 hours after the tornado touched down in the center of the 3,500-cow dairy, three competing milk equipment companies rallied together to facilitate an operational milking parlor, and two hours later they were rebuilding what was lost.


More than 200 volunteers showed up to help with cleanup, and 21 workers were on the job six days a week, working 12-hour days for six months to get the farm fully operational again. He emphasized the importance of a good insurance policy, especially when disaster strikes.  PD

The 2017 Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference will be held February in Frankenmuth, at the Bavarian Inn. 

Melissa Hart is a freelance writer based in North Adams, Michigan.

PHOTO 1: Steve Maddox of Maddox Dairy in California gave an overview of the differences between dairying in the West and the Midwest for a crowd of Michigan dairy producers.

PHOTO 2: Jary Fox of Browns Dairy Equipment visits with GLRDC attendees during the trade show.

PHOTO 3: Siblings Mason and Katelyn Horning of Horning Dairy in Manchester enjoy some cheese at the trade show reception. Photos provided by Melissa Hart.