Bus Tour of Dairies Builds Dairy Knowledge and Networking

Chris Mondak, Dairy Field Specialist, NW Iowa


When working with dairy producers to preparing for a management practice or facilities change, a most powerful teaching agent is another dairy producer.  Producers are keen to learn about what works and doesnt work for their peers. The exchange between dairy owners allows for an exchange of knowledge and builds confidence in the person planning to make a change. 


In this region, one of ISU Extensions partners is the Central Plains Dairy Association. The CPDA hosts a bus tour of dairies each summer, and invited ISU Extension to join in with site selection, program planning, and tour logistics.


Over 50 dairy producers or consultants joined the July 2007 tour which traveled to 4 sites in NW Iowa, and 4 sites in South Dakota.  Attendees included in-state and out-of-state producers and consultants.  The tour was an opportunity to showcase NW Iowa as a good dairy region, and provided the opportunity for the on-farm, producer-to-producer communication that is important to the process of planning for management changes.

The responses from the immediate post-event evaluation are listed below:

Central Plains Dairy Association Annual Bus Tour - Evaluation and Feed Back

What were your motivations for taking this bus tour?  Check the statements that apply to you:

o      Not planning to expand, but just seeking ideas to improve my current operation. - 19

o      Seeking ideas for an expansion project.- 8

o      Seeking information to help solve a specific problem.- 6

o      Considering relocating to a different region or state. -2

o      Networking and general information-gathering. -18

o      Relaxing or on vacation. - 13

Check the parts of this tour and program that were most interesting or most useful to you:

o      Dutchland Dairy - 8

o      Greg Galles Heifer Farm - 16

o      Homan Jerseys - 6

o      Sioux Jerseys 19

o      Cy Wakeman presentation - 19

o      John Metzger/ Trans Ova presentation - 3

o      Freeburg Hay Company - 24

o      Dairy Development panel - 6

o      Just talking with fellow dairy producers/consultants - 21

Regarding the educational or informational value of the tour and speaking presentations, please mark the statements that apply to you:

o      I've gained information that increases my understanding of some aspect of dairy herd management, business management, or personal development as a manager. - 18

o      Based on information Ive learned, I MAY make a change in my operation. - 10

o      Based on the information Ive learned, I DEFINITELY PLAN to make a change in something in my operation. - 4

o      This tour program will help be make some decisions or solve some problems - 16

o      This tour was a nice break from the routine, but I did not learn anything useful. - 1

o      Other comments:

In your own words, what is/are the TAKE HOME MESSAGE(S) that you will be thinking about as you return home?

 o     Dairy Development panel very interesting

 o     Variety of dairies was good

 o     Bean stubble works OK for calves

 o     Calves kept nose-to-nose is OK

 o     Everyone has their own way of doing things

 o     There are lots of ways to do things and talking and looking at other operations helps solve problems

 o     Talking with dealers about available equipment without pressure to buy was good

 o     Always a better way to do something

 o     Plan for animal health. Sick/hurt animals are a ticket to disaster

 o     Producers that are considering building should be strongly encouraged to tour other facilities

 o     The tour was just great

 o     The improvements our operation could use

 o     As a field rep, I got good exposure for my cooperative and got a lot of potential leads, future contacts.

 o     What can be done to optimize performance

 o     Make cows comfortable

 o     As a nutritionist, this was a great opportunity to network, and for a client from the SE to see Midwest dairying first hand. I certainly learned things that I can pass on to my clients.

 o     Different people have different ways of doing things that work

 o     Expansion CAN and IS happening

 o     Maybe some crossbreeding

 o     We enjoyed the tours, but especially enjoy networking with other producers

 o     I enjoyed the dairies we visited, and visiting with other dairymen

 o     Calf feeding and management

 o     Rails for cows to push against above the feed

 o     Last two farms were very interesting

 o     I know where to buy hay!

o     My son and I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. He told me I enjoy this more than going to Florida!  We sometimes feel alone in the dairy business because we are in an area where there are few dairies. Getting together with other fellow dairymen and touring other successful dairy farms is just such a needed boost for us. These tours are well run, and I commend you for all the work that goes into it.

What are the things that you are likely to apply or likely to change based on things youve learned on this trip?

 o     Watering/mineral areas

 o     Heifer building changes

 o     Handling sand in freestall set-ups

 o     Calf handling for health

 o     Free stalls and housing

 o     We enjoyed the visit to the dairy that was not finished. Nice to see in the building stage.

 o     Nothing

 o     Manure system design

 o     Calf management

July 2006

110 Dairy Team

Page last updated: September 5, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu