Dairy Tour Connects Producers to Resources and Ideas

Chris Mondak, Dairy Field Specialist and Kris Kohl, Ag Engineering Field Specialist, Northwest Area; Angie Rieck-Hinz, P&S Agronomy; Leo Timms, Faculty, Animal Science

Problem Statement:

Dairy producers who attended the 4-part Focus Group series on Decision-making in Fall 2007-Winter 2008 worked on clarifying their vision for themselves and their farm business, and worked on setting goals and action plans to work towards attaining a long-range vision. Most in the group were from small/medium-sized farms, and are members of the dairy community typically under-represented at winter time large group dairy educational meetings. Many in the group set goals to upgrade facilities or change/improve management practices, and requested a farm tour to sites that would demonstrate the management topics of interest:  milking parlor upgrades, cow housing and herd management system options, and manure management and storage options.

Programmatic Response:

ISU Extension organized and coordinated a local dairy tour for the dairy producers in the Focus Groups to address their specific topics of interest, and sent an open invitation to all others in the dairy community in the NW Iowa region.  The bus tour took participants to a variety of farms in order to demonstrate management options for facilities and herd management. Participants viewed a pasture dairy system, 2 milking parlor renovations, 3 different manure management systems, 4 different cow housing systems. The tour included visits to new and long-existing farms that have modified facilities recently. Herd sizes at the farms visited varied as well: 70 cows, 60 cows, 1500 cows, 75 cows, 200 cows, 3000 cows, thus providing examples of management systems at all size levels. Local builders and suppliers who were involved in recent upgrades at the farms on the tour were on the bus or at the site to answer questions and to visit with tour participants about their particular building ideas/plans. ISU staff (Leo Timms, Kris Kohl, and Angie Rieck-Hinz) provided technical information on the bus and at the farm sites, and technical specialists from industry provided materials and presentations at lunch time.


This tour, and the preceding Focus Group series, accomplished the general goal of involving dairy producers from smaller/medium size farms in an educational program to address their concerns about ways to stay profitable and competitive for the long haul. This audience is under-represented at the typical large-group winter time dairy education meetings.

The Focus Group and tour also succeeded in getting producers talking with each other and learning from each other.  Two sites on the tour were farms owned by Focus Group participants.

The tour accomplished the goal of connecting dairy producers in the target audience to the local builders, suppliers, and resource people.  It was encouraging to see dairy farmers actively seeking information from builders/vendors, and to see the venders actively seeking involvement with these local farm owners.

The tour accomplished the goal of connecting the dairy producers, consultants, and agri-business to the vast body of knowledge that ISU staff hold on manure management, manure regulations, and herd management systems.

Finally, the tour accomplished the primary goal of raising awareness and knowledge levels about pasture systems, milking parlor styles and upgrade options, manure management practices, cow housing facilities for healthy, comfortable cows. 

Twenty participants turned in an end-of-event evaluation: 13 dairy producers, 4 agri-business/consultants, 1 economic developer, and 2 “other” occupations

·       13 dairy producers indicated increase of knowledge and awareness about milking parlors, cow housing, and manure management

·       4 agribusiness and economic developer indicated moderate to strong increase in knowledge/awareness on 3 target topics

·       11 dairy producers indicated changes or actions they would likely take based on the information learned on the tour:

o       Bedding material changes

o       Use of pasture for heifers

o       Manure management changes

o       Consider sand lanes to recover sand from manure, and re-use sand (2)

o       Cow housing changes

o       Adjustments to milking equipment in existing parlor

o       Consider cross-ventilation in cow housing barn

o       Ideas to change parlor workers’ attitudes

o       Plan to build a compost barn (3)

o       Consider a pasture system for the herd


110  Dairy Tea

Page last updated: August 25, 2008
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu