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Hands-on learning in New Mexico

Ryan Curtis Published on 25 August 2009

The following are quotes from students who attended the Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium conference held in Clovis, New Mexico, May 18 - June 28.

Students spent six weeks immersed in lectures and field training on large New Mexico dairies.

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So far in the program we have covered genetics, mastitis, and this past week, herd management and care. While all of the topics covered in this class are vital for understanding dairy management, I believe the one which is important at this time is animal care.

While animal care has always been important to producers, it has seen an increase in attention from consumers and activist groups. Last week, we had lectures on assessing dairies and the management procedures producers are using to operate the dairy and care for the animals. Issues in animal care are focused on current husbandry practices and their future, proper forms and methods for euthanasia and what concerns consumers have with their dairy products. Understanding these processes and consumer opinions will help students make informed decisions in regards to animal care, discuss the issues with concerned consumers, and to develop new guidelines for animal care which can benefit producers, as well as ease consumers' concerns about the dairy industry's treatment of animals.

Francisco A. Rivera
Graduate Student
Animal and Range Sciences
New Mexico State University

A big advantage of the Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium over the regular university classes is the great exposure of the students to proactive producers. I observed how proactive producers are always involved in their farms, improving their production without fear of trying new things. I recognized how proactive dairy producers take the time to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each decision made on the farm, and they base these decisions on reliable information from updated records and economic data that can give the producer a better idea of where to improve and do things in a more efficient way. This course helped me understand how, as in other businesses, each decision made on the farm has an economic cost, but in order to be profitable this decision has to give an economic return to the farm in a specific time.

Xavier Ortiz
Graduate Student
Animal Science/Heat Stress Behavior
Kansas State University

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The specific area of the dairy that interests me the most is reproduction; and there is no question that dairies nationwide are striving for improved reproductive efficiency. With so many variables on the dairy affecting reproduction, it is obvious that this is one of the most difficult areas to manage. Even so, I am very interested in helping to improve the reproductive efficiency of dairies through a career in reproductive management.

The faculty at the SGPDC-T enforced the importance of an effective management plan in order to achieve the highest reproductive performance. In week three of the program, Dr. Tom Fuhrmann from DairyWorks Inc. discussed the importance of proficient management. Although I have always been interested in working directly with the cows, Dr. Fuhrmann made it clear that people management is just as important as cow management. Additionally, Dr. Fuhrmann demonstrated the importance of effective record-keeping on cows and employees in order to achieve reproductive success.

Kathryn Kyllo
Senior
Animal Science
University of Arizona

The most important thing I learned at the consortium that I have consistently overlooked in all my previous classes is the importance of records management. Since my previous experience primarily involved 200-cow dairies and smaller, the consortium was eye-opening. Every instructor at the consortium used real-life examples to explain how having a good record-keeping system benefits a dairy.

When managing 2,000 to 3,000 cows, the best way to put everything into perspective is to have it spelled out through organized charts and tables. Of course managers will be aware of all issues at hand, but they might not be able to tell how things can be related. For example, Dr. Shearer pointed out an example of a farm having a higher number of cows become lame. The manager is aware of this, but questions if he is aware which pen all the lame cows are located. Maybe the majority of cows are all coming from the same pen, and there was recently construction in that pen; workers might have overlooked some debris that is injuring cows.

Good records go beyond troubleshooting problems. Records let producers know how the farm is performing in relation to goals.

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Chad Mullins
Graduate Student
Dairy Nutrition
Kansas State University

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