Dairy Professional Heifer Growers Regional Conference

Dale Thoreson, dairy field specialist

The national Professional Dairy Heifer Growers Association (PDHGA) is divided into multi-state regional districts. It has been the tradition of the north central region to develop an educational conference for their members and others interested in the heifer business. However the leadership is all volunteers and they needed the assistance of other organizations to hold a multi-state and conference. Meanwhile, demand for information on growing heifers has increased in northeast Iowa. We get several requests each year for information on this expanding business. It was natural that we cooperate on this conference.

A 10-member planning committee was developed that contained PDHGA members, agri-businesses and members of the Extension service from Minnesota and Iowa. Early on it was decided that the conference site should be the Hotel Winneshiek, in Decorah, so this Field Specialist became the coordinator of the conference. Weekly teleconferences were used to develop the program, speakers, goals, budgets, and facilities. A two-day conference was designed with the first day on a heifer-growers farm. Five mini-sessions were designed to give participants hands-on experiences with the business. These were body condition scoring, physical assessment of wet calves, TMR mixing demonstration, CIDR/AI over view, and use of ultrasound in heifers.

The conference included an evening session to unveil the new Raising Dairy Replacements handbook and CD. The next day involved nationally recognized speakers from industries, universities and a panel of professional heifer growers. A proceeding was offered and it contained 52 paid ads. Agribusinesses were permitted to have booths that related to the heifer industry with 32 (our maximum capacity) participating. This was the first major conference for the recently restored Hotel Winneshiek. This brought additional economic activity to northeast Iowa. The total conference was just short of $17,000 of economic activity. One hundred and fifty people participated in the on-farm sessions and 175 were in attendance at the conference.

A formal 6 to 9 month follow-up survey still needs to be finished, however there were many reactions form participants. Some comments received about the conference were: "An excellent learning experience for myself professionally," "We had some of the best dairy producers and heifer-growers in the Midwest attend," and "We now have a sophisticated network group of calf and heifer growers analogous to the best dairy producers in the region." Visits with the agribusiness exhibitors resulted in very positive reactions to the conference.

All 202 of the proceedings were sold and an additional 50 have been printed. The scope of the regional heifer conference allowed the committee to have a nationally recognized private veterinarian as a speaker and on-farm demonstrator. It provided a large group of heifer-growers, university workers and ag media to see the new Raising Dairy Replacements materials. The conference also led the way for a new Decorah business to attract additional Midwest conferences, such as the Wind Energy conference, thus increasing the economic activity of the area.


Page last updated: July 9, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu