June is Dairy Month

Bill Hammel, Dairy Specialist (507) 273-1882

Once again it’s time to salute dairy farmers across the nation for their supreme efforts in providing all of us with nutritious/tasty foods which is necessary for proper nutrition, both here and abroad. Despite the economic shortcomings of the past couple of years, there are still 455,000 milk cows in Minnesota as of January 2018 ranking us seventh in the U.S. and eighth in milk production.

With these cow numbers, it’s not surprising that we are fifth in alfalfa hay production and corn for silage production. An interesting contrast is that in 1934 there were almost 1.9 million dairy cows in Minnesota with those cows obviously producing only a fraction of what cows do today. Despite having a population of 5.5 million, we depend on exports as an aid to keep our product moving so we can continue to produce milk at an astounding pace. Minnesota ranks 5th in overall agricultural exports in an attempt to keep the pipeline full.

A lot of effort of many people and millions of dollars of producer’s money is used to promote dairy products and to just advertise the farming way of life. We have to be diligent in discovering new ways to interact with the non-farm public in an attempt to find out what it will take to engage them, especially with all of the confusing and somewhat misleading advertising out there today. With social media available at everyone’s fingertips so much information can be sent to millions of people at the press of a button. (Yes I know the phrase fake news is now quite prevalent) But the fact is that people spend 5 hours online and 2 on social media alone with food being the number one topic on Instagram and other social outlets.

Promotion is a wonderful website developed through the National Dairy Council featuring the “It’s Undeniably Dairy” logo. At our winter dairy meeting in February, Don Schnidler, Sr Vice President of Digital Innovations lead us in an exercise in advocating for dairy by having attendees draw three circles inside of each other. The outside circle we were to answer what do you do? Most dairy farmers would say “I produce nutritious milk from healthy cows using sustainable environmental practices”. We then had to write down what do you do after this in an effort to expand our informational details when describing them to others. In the next circle came how do you accomplish what you do by writing down 3 proof points. On the inside circle we needed to answer why do you do it. During this thought provoking exercise it was emphasized that we need to keep the needs of our customers foremost in mind by not only telling what and how we do things, but why and how can we best serve our customers. How can we help families meet their nutritional needs? In 2015 the United Nations launched a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) program with goals of decreasing poverty and hunger across the world. The dairy community is dedicated to doing its part by including:

People -dairy foods are the number one contributor of calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and other nutrients for both children and adults.

Planet – U.S. dairy cows generate the fewest greenhouse gases emissions per gallon of milk. The U.S. dairy industry is committed to environmental stewardship.

Prosperity – Up to 1 billion people globally have livelihoods connected to dairy.

Peace – Food security and sustainable food systems are a critical part of a peaceful society. Dairy is valuable for its nutrient contributions as well as employment opportunities for people around the world.

So, despite the recent economic difficult times you can see that dairy people are still vital and committed in meeting the nutritional, economic, and societal needs of our nation and world. There are many ways that you can promote what, how, and why you do what you do. For a start, bring up that previously mentioned website and get informed about our industry and think of ways we can make it better. Thank you dairy people for your efforts as we all enjoy the fruits of your labor this summer.

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