The annual Dairy Discovery program provides New York youth with fun, hands-on science-oriented learning experiences on dairy production and management topics which feature the unique facilities, industry professionals, and staff of Cornell University.
Dairy Discovery is a hands-on workshop held annually at Cornell University in late March. It is a state-wide program for youth ages 14-19 years old. Each year the youth spend the 1½ days (Friday afternoon until Saturday late afternoon) here on campus learning about dairy careers and rotating through a series of hands-on stations which focus on a specific aspect of the dairy field each year. The focus of the Dairy Discovery workshops changes each year but includes the following areas: Dairy Herd Health and Management, Calf and Heifer Production Management, Quality Milk and Milk Production, Whole Farm Management Planning, and Maximizing the Feed Management Program.
Who: Due to the hands on approach of the sessions, participation is limited to the first 60 individuals to enroll by deadline. Youth who are 14-19 years of age as of January 1, of the current year and have an interest in dairy cattle and production management are eligible and strongly encouraged to attend (with their parents or chaperones). 4-H project members and FFA youth with a dairy interest or desire to learn about dairy are strongly encouraged to attend.
Why?: Participants will get to meet Cornell faculty and students, learn about different aspects of dairy production management and dairy industry related careers. They will also be able to interact and exchange information with professional producers, industry experts, and more! Hands-on workshops are planned for each focus area.
Cost?: The cost of $45 for youth covers basic handouts, materials, dinner and activities on Friday evening, and lunch on Saturday. This year, all adult chaperones attending with youth must register separately so we have accurate counts. An $10 fee is charged for adults to help cover meals.
Lodging is NOT included for this program but a group of hotel rooms are normally blocked prior to this event each year and detailed information for making lodging accommodations is included in the program. For tax exempt status with these rooms, you must work through your county 4-H offices.
How?: You are strongly encouraged to contact your county 4-H office to register for this event through them.
What?: Workshop presenters and topics are selected by a planning committee that looks at trends and current issues. Youth input on topics is also solicited through statewide advisory committees and educator feedback.
Rotating Program themes: Youth will understand, observe and participate in technical skill training related to such topics as the following:
Dairy Herd Health and Management– Dairy herd health and management are critical in determining the production potential of dairy enterprises. Management of the dairy herd includes: fresh cow monitoring and treatment, foot care, disease control and management, reproduction, genetics, nutrition and records. All of these areas combined with cow comfort and animal handling make for good animal health stewards. Having a good herd health program and managing risk effectively lead directly to a healthier herd, both physically and financially.
Calf and Heifer Production Management– Replacement heifers are an investment in the future of a dairy. The heifer enterprise represents the second largest cost on a dairy farm second only to dairy feed. The average age at first calving for Holsteins in New York is 26 months with a body weight post calving of 1170 lbs. This extended age and low body weight increases the herd cost of production. For every month that the “Age at First Calving” is delayed beyond the 22-month target, the cost to producers is about $100 per animal, primarily because of lost milk production opportunity and a loss in the number of days in an animal’s productive life.
A quality dairy replacement system is a management system that consistently generates quality heifers. Calving practices and newborn calf care play a critical role in the management of a heifer-raising program. Technical and analytical skill development in the areas of: Calf delivery, newborn calf care, colostrum management, and monitoring growth are necessary for assessing and optimizing the heifer raising programs potential.
Quality Milk and Milk Production– Milk quality and milk production represents the most critical enterprise of dairy production management. The tighter margins of today and the consumer concern about food quality make milk producers more aware than ever of the importance of milk quality.
Better milk means quality dairy products and more money. Dairy producer’s today are in the business of making food. The producer’s definition of quality milk is the level of quality, which provides the greatest value for your milk and provides the highest quality product for the consumer.
The environment, nutrition, cow comfort, milking equipment and milking procedures all affect milk quality and milk production.
Whole Farm Management and Analysis–
Dairy Discovery is an opportunity for dairy interested youth of various knowledge levels to come together and learn about many aspects of the dairy business and production management. It is bringing the future of the industry together in one location to share knowledge and experience’s to better prepare and gain a broader perspective of the dairy field. Having a general understanding of nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health, housing, and financial management is important for operating or owning a dairy business and preparation for dairy careers. Along with having an understanding of these areas, it is important to apply this understanding to the real world of a working dairy business.
Maximizing the Feed Management Program– Nutrition management is a critical factor in determining the production potential of dairy enterprises. The feeding program can influence the prioritizing of expenses. In many cases, as the graph depicts, over 25% of the variable costs associated with operating a dairy are directly incorporated into the purchasing of feeds. Furthermore, harvesting techniques, feeding methods, housing strategies, and monitoring these areas can play key roles in the growth and milk production responses animals express to a particular nutrition program.