Dairy Processors: Are you interested in designing and implementing an environmental monitoring program (EMP) to improve your food safety program? This course may be for you.
In this eight-hour online course, you will learn alongside virtual dairy processors and apply concepts in the context of a dairy facility. This online course is available on-demand and adapts to your understanding of the materials. These features provide you with the flexibility to progress at your own pace with the confidence you will understand the content.
Dennis D’Amico, our Extension educator in the Department of Animal Science at UConn was one of the educators who developed this course. For more information, or to register, please visit NCSU Food Safety.
Small-scale dairy operations in Connecticut and throughout the country offer cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products direct to consumers and through wholesale distribution. The popularity of local food has increased interest in these operations, and led to a greater need for food safety education and training.
Dennis D’Amico is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Science who focuses on food technology, quality, and safety. His applied research is integrated with his Extension work. D’Amico works closely with the dairy industry to develop risk reduction interventions and technical outreach programs. When he first started at UConn he worked directly with several Connecticut producers, learn- ing the unique issues they face.
D’Amico takes small-scale producers’ challenges back to his laboratory to test and develop interventions to see if they will actually work. He defines an actionable intervention as something a producer can implement without significant expense. A team of undergraduate and graduate students work in his laboratory researching each aspect of a problem.
“My work with Extension is rewarding, there’s nothing better than hearing about a problem, and then making someone’s day by helping them solve their problem. Having that immediate impact is what makes me smile,” D’Amico says. “Extension provides diversity to my day, I meet with different people with various needs and it makes me think about dairy food science and safety from new angles.”
In-person trainings are limited to time and geography in some cases. D’Amico and his colleagues are using technology to address the limitations. An online food safety course for artisan chessemakers was created first, and launched in 2017. A website of resources was built to accompany the course in partnership with the American Cheese Society, and is available to anyone at www.safecheesemaking.org. Feedback for the course is positive, and has led to additional projects.
“We’re building a repertoire of dairy food safety resources,” D’Amico concludes. “Many of the next steps in my research and Extension program build off of previous work. Producers need solutions they can implement now, but there is a gap in education and interventions available, and that’s what we’re trying to fill. We don’t want producers operating blindly.”
D’Amico is currently working with another group of colleagues to build an online course for small- scale ice cream producers. “Recent foodborne illness outbreaks have shown that ice cream is not the safe haven some thought it was,” he says. “There are food safety issues specific to ice cream that need to be addressed.” An accompanying website is also under development for ice cream food safety resources.
Team members know that training people to identify environmental pathogens in a dairy plant is best done in person. However, time and geography constraints still exist. D’Amico is collaborating with his colleagues at North Carolina State University on a virtual reality simulator that will provide this training. The simulation includes case studies to further enhance learning.
A Food Safety Plan Coaching Workshop for small-scale dairy producers helps producers comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The three- year project funded by USDA offers six workshops per year. “We’re focusing the workshop on underserved regions where there aren’t dairy foods specialists avail- able,” D’Amico says.
A core group of trainers, including D’Amico, serve as national coaches and travel to each region, collaborating with regional resources and connecting producers. There is one regional coach for each six participants. At the workshop, participants form groups based on their stage in the FSMA process, and leave the work- shop having made measurable progress on their written food safety plan.
Best Practices guides are another project undergoing a digital transformation. “We first published the Best Practices Guide for Cheesemakers in 2015, and it’s updated every two years,” D’Amico says. “However, the next version will be click- able and user friendly. Instead of a 300-page PDF, the user can click directly on the section they need. We are also developing a similar toolkit for retailers. This is another collaboration with the American Cheese Society.”
Consumer demand will continue to drive consumption of dairy products and local food. Even in best case scenarios, food safety issues will arise. Small-scale dairy producers and consumers can be confident that D’Amico and his team of students are searching for solutions and developing tools to share new actionable interventions.
On October 26, 2017, UConn Extension and CT Farm Risk Management program teamed up to host the Robotic Milking Conference at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT. The conference program boasted an impressive lineup of farmers, researchers, and industry professionals. All seemed to advocate highly for the incorporation of the technology into the dairy industry. The event was attended by a range of local CT dairy farmers, most of whom who have already employed the technology in their dairy farming operations.
Robotic milking machines are hardly a novel technology, being commercially available since the early 1990’s. Since then, the technology has evolved to include a range of benefits to both the farmers and cows alike. The robotic milking machines are voluntary meaning that the cows only get milked when they are ready. Upon entering the system cows are weighed and the teats are cleaned. The systems utilize a quarter-milking strategy, allowing for each teat to be milked individually. After the milk has been extracted cows return to the herd.
Much data is provided during the milking process that gives farmers a better idea on the health of the cows as well as the quality of milk collected. This information allows farmers to make more informed decisions about the herd and provides for the early detection of health problems. Measurements such as somatic cell count, total plate count, and milk fat percentage determine the quality of milk. Farms which have adopted the use of robotic milking machines tend to see an increase in both somatic and total plate count within the first year. This is especially important for larger farms where somatic cell count tends to be lower than in smaller operations.
As times change, it is important for businesses to evolve. Robotic milking machines are playing an integral role in the evolution of this industry. The availability of reliable labor in agriculture is becoming incredibly pressing issue. This technology provides for the adaptation to a changing environment and allows farmers to spend their time doing more important things such as marketing and developing plans for the ever-growing agrotourism industry. For more information on this technology please visit the UConn Extension or CT Farm Risk Management website.
There is still time to register for this year’s Connecticut Dairy Conference, which will be held on March 20, 2019, at the Doubletree Hotel, Bradley. We have a full day of presentations on timely topics. Our afternoon speakers and topics are included below in this update.
In addition, we are offering a special opportunity for those attending the CT Ag Day events; you can attend our program in the afternoon free of charge.
Please register for the full day or half day so that we can plan accordingly.
Also, there is a reduced rate for students; $25.00.
How would a dairy or livestock business survive if a Foreign Animal Disease arrived in the United States? Using Foot and Mouth Disease as an example, participants of this week’s Biosecurity Work shop heard from Dr. Richard Horowitz about the New England Secure Milk Supply’s steps to maintain a permit to ship milk when the disease has not reached your farm. These included: secure the perimeter, clean and disinfect sources of the virus, and daily monitor for the disease.
Dr. Cantor, New England Emergency Coordinator for USDA APHIS, related the threat that other countries have experienced and how a two-week delay in notification increased the severity of the control measures drastically. It is not, IF, but WHEN the disease is transported into our country again. The last occurrence was in 1929 in San Francisco, but world travel by farm visitors and importation of animals is so much more common now.
Dr. Andrew, UConn Dairy Specialist, presented the map of the UConn dairy and livestock barns, and the many visitors and vehicles travel between barns and from the community. The group provided their recommendations for the Line of Separation to establish the safe zone on the farm, and the outside to keep out sources of infection.
And finally, Dr. Lis, CT Department of Agriculture, requested that all dairy farms submit a self-assessment to her of their farm readiness to remain disease free in the case of an outbreak. Knowing the commitment of each farm to disease prevention will help in the decision to allow milk pick up during the outbreak. The farmers and staff from the University, State Departments of Agriculture, and USDA APHIS left the workshop ready to continue this discussion at local farm meetings, more aware of the challenges that will be faced by our important food producers and government decision makers when a foreign animal disease arrived uninvited.
For more information, contact Joyce.Meader@uconn.edu.
During the month of March, the Put Local On Your Tray program is partnering with school districts across the state to feature local dairy. Put Local On Your Tray helps Connecticut school districts serve and celebrate locally grown products. Through a combination of technical assistance and promotional materials, the program works with schools to build a culture of health in the cafeteria, celebrate school nutrition programs, and support local agriculture.
Why local dairy? “Dairy is produced year round in Connecticut,” shares Dana Stevens, Program Coordinator for Put Local On Your Tray. “Dairy farming is an important part of our agricultural landscape, and the majority of Connecticut schools already purchase dairy that is regionally produced in the form of milk. Milk arrives at the school just 48 hours after leaving the farm. Food service directors, students, administrators, and parents should feel good about the fact that schools are supporting our hard working New England dairy farmers and providing nutritious meals for our kids”.
“Milk is the number one food source of nine essential nutrients in the diets of American’s children—including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium—that are required for proper bone growth,” says Amanda Aldred, Program Manager for New England Dairy & Food Council for School Nutrition in Connecticut. “The benefits go beyond building stronger bones. For instance, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods improve overall diet quality and help reduce the risk of various chronic diseases like heart disease.”
There are over 35 districts that participate in the Put Local on Your Tray program (you can see a map on the website here). The program is open to any interested school district, charter school, or private school.
This month, more than 15 districts are planning to host a Local Tray Day featuring dairy. Events include: Celebrating National School Breakfast week with a parent breakfast and smoothie sampling in Meriden; Taste-testing green spinach smoothies for St. Patrick’s day in Windham and Waterbury; Making mozzarella cheese in Groton; Hosting a dairy farmer visit in Wethersfield; Local yogurt parfait tastings in New Haven, and more! All districts organizing dairy events are eligible to win a dairy farm field trip organized by NEDFC for up to 25 students.
UConn Extension’s Put Local on Your Tray program has posters, stickers, newsletters, and recipes to support school districts connect students to dairy during the month of March and other local foods throughout the year. Contact your school administrator or food service director to encourage participation in the program. For more information please visit http://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu or call 860-870-6932. Put Local On Your Tray is a project of UConn Extension, in partnership with the CT State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).
About New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC)
New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC) is a non-profit nutrition education organization staffed by registered dietitians. NEDFC is a state and regional affiliate of the National Dairy Council® (NDC). Our goal is to ensure that health professionals, scientists, media and educators have a credible body of nutrition information upon which to base health recommendations.
How would a dairy or livestock business survive if a Foreign Animal Disease arrived in the United States? Using Foot and Mouth Disease as an example, participants of UConn Extension’s Biosecurity Workshop heard from Dr. Richard Horwitz about the New England Secure Milk Supply’s steps to maintain a permit to ship milk when the disease has not reached your farm: Secure the Perimeter, Clean and Disinfect sources of the virus, and daily Monitor for the disease. Dr. Cantor, New England Emergency Coordinator for USDA APHIS, related the threat that other countries have experienced and how a two week delay in notification increased the severity of the control measures drastically.
It is not if, but when the disease is transported into our country again. The last occurrence was in 1929 in San Francisco, but world travel by farm visitors and importation of animals is so much more common now. Dr. Andrew, UConn Dairy Specialist, presented the map of the UConn dairy and livestock barns, and the many visitors and vehicles travel between barns and from the community. The group provided their recommendations for the Line of Separation to establish the safe zone on the farm, and the outside to keep out sources of infection. And finally, Dr. Lis, CT Department of Agriculture, requested that all dairy farms submit to her department a self-assessment of their farm readiness to remain disease free in the case of an outbreak. Knowing the commitment of each farm to disease prevention will help in the decision to allow milk pick up during the outbreak. The farmers and the staff from the University, state departments of agriculture, and USDA APHIS left the workshop ready to continue this discussion at local farm meetings, more aware of the challenges that will be faced by our important food producers and government decision makers when a foreign animal disease arrives uninvited.
Steep land with rock outcroppings is not appropriate for tilled crops and machinery. These farms are using fencing and paddock rotation to feed their livestock efficiently. With proper fertilization, and liming, forage quality and density can be improved. But adequate grazing pressure is necessary to reduce wasted forage as the animals trample and pee and poop across their dinner plate. Following last summer’s sampling which found 82% average utilization of the pasture forage on thirteen farms, UConn Extension summer intern, Holly Lewis will visit additional farms to encourage farms to analyze the forage quality as well as measure pasture quantity consumed. Interested participants can email at Holly.Lewis@uconn.edu for May-July study visits. Rations will be evaluated by UConn Extension Dairy/Livestock educator, Joyce Meader.
Hoard’s Dairyman recently provided a comprehensive review of total milk production in the United States. The data is summarized in the report by region.
Milk production in 2015 was a new record of 208.6 billion pounds, a modest gain of 1.3 percent. The story of the Northeast, including Connecticut, is that it added 500 million pounds for a 1.7 percent increase in 2015 over production in 2014. The west region had a major decline in milk production due to the California drought.
Statistic highlights for 2015 include that Connecticut dairy farmers lead the dairy farmers in the six New England states in milk production per cow at 20,842 pounds. This record is achieved with 120 dairies and average herd size of 158 cows (Vermont is second at 155 cows per herd). Production per cow beats Vermont by 3 percent. Connecticut dairy farmers also lead in average total milk production per herd at 3,299,983 pounds, beating Vermont by 5 percent.
Connecticut dairy farmers achieved these impressive records with the largest herd size in New England because our farmers are willing to invest and increase herd sizes to produce that recent record of 396 million pounds of milk in 2015. Innovative practices and cow comfort allows our dairy farmers to maximize efficiency. The dairy farmers confidence comes about from support the State of Connecticut provides through the safety net payments in the dairy support fund, which is part of the Community Investment Act.
The Community Investment Act was signed into law in 2005, and the dairy support program began in 2009. It counterbalances the drastic price swings of national milk pricing. According to a study led by UConn and Farm Credit East, dairy production and processing has a $1.3 billion economic impact statewide, and generates 4,286 jobs. As dairy farms continue to thrive, the economic benefits to Connecticut will also grow.
Lynn & Marjorie Brown: Promoting and Supporting 4-H for a Lifetime
By Nancy Wilhelm, Program Coordinator, 4-H Youth Development
Marjorie and Lynn Brown have spent a lifetime promoting and supporting UConn Extension and the 4-H Program. Both grew up on farms in Iowa where they were 4-H members – Marjorie participated in home economics and poultry projects and Lynn in the dairy cattle project area. Their 4-H participation provided some exciting opportunities. Lynn attended National 4-H Dairy Conference while Marjorie attended State 4-H Conservation Camp. It was not until their college years that they met at a Rural Young People’s dance in the late 1940’s. They have been together ever since, contributing countless hours of support to 4-H youth across Connecticut
After graduating from college with a degree in Agricultural Education, Lynn got a job teaching agriculture to veterans coming back from World War II. Six months later he was drafted into the army and served two years in the Korean War. Marjorie was a 4-H member until age 21. She attended Iowa State University as a Home Economics major and obtained her master’s degree in Home Management and Family Economics and worked for a short while for Iowa Extension. They were married on March 22, 1953.
Obtaining his doctorate in dairy nutrition, Lynn was hired as the University of Connecticut Extension Dairy Specialist in the 1960s, bringing the Brown’s to Connecticut. He has had an impact on hundreds of 4-H dairy project members, providing programs, training dairy judging teams, introducing and working with quiz bowl teams, promoting, selecting and chaperoning 4-Hers to the National 4-H Dairy Conference and coordinating the entire Connecticut 4-H Dairy Program at Eastern States Exposition where he served as Chairperson for the New England 4-H Dairy Show for over 25 years.
“Dr. Brown has always had so much patience. When I was on the CT 4-H Dairy Judging team, there were five teenage girls and Dr. Brown. His lessons on evaluating cows and giving oral reasons still help me as I work with 4-Hers. I remember driving to the national contest in Columbus Ohio in an old Plymouth Valiant stopping at farms and dairy judging along the way. Every morning he would set our departure time early since he had to maneuver our suitcases and pack them in the same very precise manner just to get our luggage to fit in the trunk. He taught us very important life skills, how to remember and visualize classes of cows and how to pack a trunk. I still use both today!” Bonnie Burr, UConn Extension Department Head
Lynn’s involvement didn’t stop with his retirement from UConn in 1994. He has served as Chair of the Tolland County Extension Council. He has been a member of the 4-H Farm Board of Directors for many years, actively working with the Farm Committee to oversee farm operations. He continues to serve as Chair of Farm City Day, and has essentially spent his entire life promoting and supporting agriculture, the dairy industry and 4-H youth.
Marjorie has been a 4-H leader in Tolland County for over 40 years, teaching family and consumer science project skills to countless youth. She has been a strong supporter of the consumer education project of wardrobe planning and worked on a State 4-H Fashion Revue Committee that developed the Smart Shopper Project. She has served as a volunteer judge, coordinator of fashion revue events and served on the planning committee for the 1983 Northeast Regional 4-H Volunteer Forum when it was hosted by Connecticut. Along with her work in 4-H, she has served as treasurer of the Tolland County Extension Council, served on the Tolland County 4-H Advisory Committee and on the Tolland County Agricultural Board of Directors. An excellent seamstress, at 84, she still invites youth and some former 4-H members to her home to sew.
“Marge took every opportunity to promote life skills with 4-Hers. Among other projects and activities, she developed a life skills quiz bowl that was held at the Tolland County 4-H Fair for many years. She believed that both boys and girls needed to know how to understand the needs of younger children, sew, select their clothes, and to prepare healthy foods. Her work was invaluable to both the Tolland County Extension Program as well as to statewide Extension programs.” Rosemarie Syme, Retired 4-H Extension Educator
When asked about the importance of 4-H and the impact it has on youth, both Lynn and Marjorie agree that it gives youth the chance to learn some important life skills like leadership development, public speaking, and also receive recognition for a job well done.
And for so many years, the Brown’s have played an important role in providing those life skills to youth across Connecticut. Thank you Lynn and Marjorie for a job well done.