Last October, I had an opportunity to visit Wisconsin with a group of expert-consultants from La Coop's network. The group, comprised of the network's top expert-consultants, experienced a memorable journey to what is still referred to as America's 'Dairy State'. Despite the fact that California has been exceeding Wisconsin in terms of milk volume since the mid-1990s, dairy production still remains a very significant industry. Let's not forget about Madison's prestigious annual World Dairy Expo!
The Wisconsin landscape and its weather conditions are very similar to our own, in both summer and winter. And it has nothing in common with the country’s southern states! In fact, dairy production, breeding conditions and farmer profiles are also pretty similar. There are commercial farms where dairy production represents the primary income and, obviously, there are breeders who focus on superior genetics and expos to diversity and grow their sources of revenue.
Such trips abroad are very instructive for your consultants. The key theme of last fall’s journey was to study how others deal with transitioning (transition period). In the course of our farm visits, this was certainly an element that captured our attention and was fodder for discussion for the people we met. In fact, a dinner-conference with Pr Garret Oetzel from the University of Wisconsin, co-inventor of the transition cow index used by Valacta, was greatly appreciated by attendees and led to several very interesting conversations.
Another topic of interest was cow comfort - and everything aspect involved, from stall size to floor coverings to ventilation and space surrounding the feed trough. The Sunburst Dairy Farm, with an average over 14,000 kg (31,000 lb) per cow and a 500-head herd, stood out from all the others. Nothing is left to chance when reaching for top performances. Rosendale Dairy, a division of Milksource Genetics, also caught our attention with its impeccable management of ensiling recovery and more than 8,500-head herd.
And how can we not even mention the two days spent on the World Dairy Expo grounds? Just like every other year, it was absolutely huge! Americans really know how to put on a show! The arena in which the judging occurred has always provided a spectacular and unique spectacle from one year to the next, including an awe inspiring grand finale to make your jaw drop! The fact that we, Quebecers, could see some of our own breeders - especially Ayrshire and Holstein breeders – shine brightly during this incredible event gathering together all of North-America’s dairy breeds, made us very proud. The expo had more than 2,500 beasts and enough stands addressing dairy production to keep us busy for a lifetime; we couldn’t help but stare in wonder. Once again, and in the words of an infamous Quebecer, Elvis Gratton, think big takes on its true meaning!