I am now more than two months into my internship with Hoard's Dairyman. It is pretty incredible to realize how fast it has gone and how much I have learned. I think one of the biggest lessons I have gained so far came on the road. In June, I was sent on a cross-country tour of the dairy industry. In one week, I visited farms in Ohio, North Carolina and Kentucky. The old green work van and I got some quality time on the road while I gawked at parts of the countryside I had never seen. Now, this past week, I have been exploring Pennsylvania and New York.
Each of the farms I visited fill a niche in the ever-diversified dairy industry. Some were larger dairies that house their animals in freestalls and feed total mixed rations, while others were grazing dairies that balance their grazed forages with supplemental nutrients. Some had more than 300 cows, while others had fewer than 100. They sell their milk to different co-ops and receive different milk checks at the end of the month. However, the thing that they all have in common is that they are finding ways to keep their operations running.
For a Kansas kid who has not seen many types of operations, it was encouraging to see the variety and scope of the industry. I gathered many ideas for improving my family's operation, and on the long drives between farms, I never hesitated to call my dad and tell him about what I was learning.
I can attest to the ease with which dairy farmers make excuses for not traveling. My idea of a vacation is going to the county fair. However, there is something to be said for traveling. Seeing new operations and hearing speakers at conferences can spark ideas for adaptations to protocols and building designs. They can help keep you informed, excited and ready to face the almost certain changes of the future.
As I was trekking across the country, I was reminded of a saying of one of my former 4-H leaders, "If you're not growing, you're dying." After my travels this summer, I can say the industry is changing and growing. Get out, get about and check out the opportunities that await the industry.
A special thanks goes out to all the dairies I visited on my trip. Thank you for showing me around and talking with me about your operations.
The author is the 26th Hoard's Dairyman editorial intern. This fall she will be a senior at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. At KSU, Maggie is double majoring in agricultural communications and journalism and animal sciences and industry. Seiler grew up on a 130-cow registered Holstein dairy in Valley Center, Kan., near Wichita.