Candace Lease from Wayne County is the editor of the April 9, 2018 Growing our Generation, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.
Hey everybody, my name is Candace Lease, and I am a reproductive adviser and sales manager with ST Genetics, mainly working with dairy producers here in the great state of Ohio. I originally hail from Seneca County. Two years ago, I graduated from The Ohio State University, started my sales career with ST, and moved from Columbus to the Amish paradise that is southeastern Wayne County. I have had the pleasure of spending weekends and evenings helping on a small family dairy, milking and feeding the bottle calves on the farm. I will soon be starting weekend employment at Troutman Vineyards, a local winery south of Wooster.
I chose to join our county Farm Bureau when I moved here to become more informed and involved in my new community. I have been fortunate enough to join the Wayne County Farm Bureau board of trustees. We have been working to breathe some life into our county’s Young Ag Professionals group, which I am very excited about. I also recently graduated from Ohio Farm Bureau’s AgriPOWER Leadership Institute Class IX, an experience I would recommend to anyone (the application is still open if you are interested!).
It should not be a surprise to anyone that the dairy industry is facing a tough time, like most commodities. A surplus of milk has driven down prices to record lows, and while eating more cheese is a noble task I can get behind, it’s going to take some time to find our way out of this deficit. With tight margins, the time has come for producers to get creative to be able to continue to work in this industry.
In my line of work, I believe it is my job to help with that creativity to find a profit in these trying times. One method many dairy farmers have started to take more seriously is breeding beef genetics into their dairy cattle to decrease the excess replacement heifers they feed. Creating these crossbred calves increases their value in the sale barn or on the rail due to their faster growth and improved carcass quality. It also complements the opportunity to use sexed female semen to breed for replacements out of your best cows, rather than overstocking heifer calves. This is one of countless adjustments that can help farmers weather the storms of a tough dairy market.
Do you ever just sit back and look at all the varying technologies that have come to be in the agricultural industry? From GPS to automated feeding systems, there are no lack of advances in our industry, making it a very exciting time. Commercial producers must make decisions of which technologies are worth their weight, and which are going to be under-utilized on their farm.
In the dairy breeding business, these advances certainly exist as well. One technology that has gained popularity with commercial dairy producers is utilization of genomic testing, by taking a snip of DNA from an animal and mapping their genetic potential. Years ago, a dairyman would milk a cow, and compare her milk production, body conformation and other traits to her contemporaries to find their herd’s genetic rock stars. Today, you can take a small bit of skin or hair upon birth, send it to a lab, and know within a couple of months where she will compare to her peers. This tool can be used to select which excess heifers to sell to save on feed expenses, and in the long-term, the data can drive breeding decisions. When used correctly, this information is worth its weight in gold.
After our class’ trip to Florida, I wrote a blog about our experience. Many of the problems facing production agriculture in Florida do not feel different than the issues we face here in our state. During our trip, we saw farms making dynamic decisions to keep their operations strong.