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Vita Plus Dairy Summit: ‘The Sky is the Limit’

PD Editor Peggy Coffeen Published on 17 January 2014

Dr. Don Niles, Chad Carlson and Dan Smits at Vita Plus Dairy Summit“The Sky is the Limit” was the theme for the 2013 Vita Plus Dairy Summit. As Rod Martin, Vita Plus sales manager and a member of the dairy technical services team, pointed out, the sky certainly is the limiting factor for those in the dairy business. Whether it be rain, snow or sunshine, what comes from above impacts crops, markets and attitudes.

Held in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Dec. 11-12, the annual event drew more than 375 people, including dairy producers, Vita Plus consultants and industry representatives. The two-day conference brushed the surface on broad industry outlooks and sent dairy producers home with practical ideas to incorporate on their farms.



Direct from the mouths of dairy producers, attendees heard the pros and cons of raising heifers at home or through a custom raiser. Wisconsin dairymen Dan Smits of Double S Dairy and Dr. Don Niles of Dairy Dreams LLC shared the stage with Minnesotan Chad Carlson of Carlson Dairy LLP.

Cody Heller of Heller Farms and Cowz R Us Consulting led the conversation on empowering Hispanic employees by understanding cultural traditions and values.

He was joined by Ignacio Escamilla, his long-time herdsman who came to America as an illegal immigrant and is now a U.S. citizen, along with Vicente Ramirez, the feedlot manager for T&K Red River Dairy in Arizona. Communication was stressed as the key to improving employee relations and loyalty, along with providing clear goals and advancement opportunities.

Among other highlights, University of California – Davis’s Dr. Frank Mitloehner shared his message that production efficiencies and technology will continue to be key components in reducing the environmental footprint of dairy and livestock.

He noted that the carbon footprint required to produce one glass of milk is two-thirds smaller today than it was 70 years ago.


A keynote from Andy Vance of Feedstuffs reiterated the importance of communicating the value of technology in production agriculture, as well as transparency, to consumers. “There is no margin of error for us in the industry,” he warned.

Dr. Jeff Bewley of the University of Kentucky covered precision dairy technologies, from heat detection to inline somatic cell count monitoring. He told producers to look at these innovations with “cautious optimism,” keeping in mind both economics and people factors.

He said, “The ideal technology explains an underlying biological process and translates that to a meaningful action.”

During the conference, Vita Plus also introduced their plans to take an active role in promoting on-farm safety. This included distributing safety manuals to dairies in attendance, as well as safety vests to be worn by farm employees and Vita Plus consultants while out on farms. PD

Check out a slideshow featuring various activities at the Vita Plus Dairy Summit.

Dr. Don Niles, Chad Carlson and Dan Smits shared insight into their choices to raise heifers at home or work through custom growers. Photos by Peggy Coffeen.


Peggy Coffeen

Peggy Coffeen
Progressive Dairyman