Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) members from 33 states and eight countries gathered April 9-11, in Madison, Wis., for the DCHA Annual Conference and business meeting. The conference provided a well-rounded mix of technical information and practical advice to help attendees take their dairy operations to a higher level. More than 400 dairy calf and heifer growers, dairy farmers and allied industry professionals attended the conference, which offered numerous networking and learning opportunities.
“The conference featured world-renowned speakers who shared ideas and technologies that are implementable on many dairy operations,” said DCHA President T.J. McClure of Prairie Wind Heifer Development, Johnson, Kan. “Despite the dairy industry’s current economic challenges, attendees left with renewed energy and enthusiasm for raising calves and heifers.”
DCHA’s Gold Standards – industry benchmarks and best management practices for raising dairy calves and heifers – remain the foundation of moving dairy operations forward, McClure added. “The information, knowledge and experience gained at this year’s DCHA Annual Conference complement and support the organization’s Gold Standards.”
Keith Poulsen, with the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, keynoted the DCHA Annual Conference. Sharing a message of business growth, he said, “Calf and heifer raisers, like any other business, need to be in a perpetual state of growth to maintain viability and vitality. Growth keeps us on top of the curve and able to be agile to adapt to changing markets and industry standards.”
During the DCHA Annual Meeting, McClure thanked four retiring directors – Lane Sollenberger, Newburg, Pa.; Vickie Franken, Sutherland, Iowa; Bob James, Blacksburg, Va.; and Brent Caffee, Decatur, Ind. This year’s board of directors are: President T.J. McClure, Vice President Elizabeth Quinn, Schaghticoke, N.Y.; Secretary/Treasurer Sam Gardner, Huddleston, Va.; West Regional Director Megan Kissel, Wendell, Idaho; Central Regional Director Jamie Franken, Sutherland, Iowa; Northeast Regional Director John Balbian, Amsterdam, N.Y., At-large Director Tamilee Nennich, Freeport, Minn.; Academia Director Theresa Ollivett, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.; and Corporate/Company Director Kerry Nieuwkoop, Merck Animal Health, Chowchilla, Calif.
Conference highlights included:
Tours: This year’s conference kicked off with stops at ABS Global’s Dekorra and Windsor facilities. Dekorra features a state-of-the-art calf facility where guests learned about top-notch biosecurity and animal health practices. The Windsor location is home to IntelliGen, which processes sexed bovine genetics. From there, the group headed east to Crave Brothers Farm LLC, Waterloo, Wis., which recently added three all-in, all-out calf nursery barns. The conference concluded with a tour of STgenetics’ testing site in Middleton, Wis.
Educational sessions: During the conference, DCHA members heard thought-provoking presentations that addressed diverse topics, including colostrum management, fly control, disease outbreak prevention, treatment and control, sustainable environmental practices, labor, cost and risk management, animal and human well-being, custom heifer-raising contracts, beef quality assurance, calf scours, dry period heat stress, gut health, alternative milk sources and animal welfare.
Hands-on seminars: Don Sockett and Theresa Ollivett from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine demonstrated deep nasopharyngeal swabs and lung ultrasounds, respectively. Seminar registrants learned how to perform these tests.
Trade Show: More than 60 innovative calf- and heifer-focused companies showcased the latest products, technologies and information at their booths.
The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association was founded in 1996 based on the mission to help dairy producers, calf managers and those professionally focused on the growth and management of dairy calves and heifers. With a national membership of producers, allied industries and research leaders, DCHA seeks to provide the industry’s standards for profitability, performance and leadership, serving as a catalyst to help members improve the vitality and viability of their individual efforts and that of their business.