Animal programs

UT Department of Animal Science to Lead 12-State Effort to Improve Dairy Businesses | Rogersville

For the past two years, extension specialists from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture have led USDA’s Southeast Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives (SDBII) program in Tennessee, Kentucky and Carolina North.

A new round of funding expands the program’s reach to the 12 southeastern states, including Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Managed by Liz Eckelkamp, ​​UT Extension Dairy Specialist in the Department of Animal Science, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) third round of SDBII funding – $6.13 million – will provide half of its funds directly to businesses dairy farms through a competitive subsidy program. for planning new ventures and implementing new processes to produce higher value dairy products.

The previous two funding rounds offered a host of technical support services and workshops to dairy companies with existing or planned value-added ventures, including approximately $3.3 million awarded through 34 unique projects that have the potential significantly improve the viability of Kentucky dairy businesses. , Tennessee and North Carolina.

“This is a necessary continuation of programs for our value-added dairy businesses,” says Eckelkamp. “We are grateful for the opportunity to continue to partner with our collaborators at the UT Center for Profitable Agriculture, NC State, University of Kentucky, KCARD and KDDC.

From the application numbers we have received, we can say with certainty that this next round of funding is needed, and we look forward to expanding our grantmaking program across the Southeast. Previously, the program received 68 applications from dairy companies totaling $8,053,000 in applications in Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Over the next few years, the SDBII will implement several new initiatives that will complement its existing programming. One of the unique projects that has been implemented during the previous stages of SDBII is the Dairy Gauge Program. Dairy Gauge helps dairy producers understand their production costs and make informed on-farm investment decisions.

With the new USDA funds allocated, SDBII will build on the Dairy Gauge by helping dairy processors better understand the costs of producing finished dairy products. The new value-added business gauge will help processors establish production costs and compare costs and revenues from year to year.

Another of the SDBII team’s new goals will be to conduct surveys to determine what products and experiences consumers are looking for from value-added dairy companies.

One particularly innovative tool that will be used to better understand consumer desires is eye-tracking technology. SDBII staff will use this technology in cooperating dairy farm retail stores to see what their customers prefer and help adapt their marketing practices accordingly. SDBII will also create more educational materials focused on marketing, reaching target demographics, and better understanding potential consumers.

In order to encourage a new generation of professionals with value-added dairy experience, the SDBII will offer an internship program. Through this program, individuals will receive on-the-job training while helping to offset the labor needs of value-added dairy businesses.

Interns will be matched with companies during times of high production demand to provide relief when it is most needed. SDBII will also provide leadership training to dairy business owners through a program called “Mastering Individual Leadership Knowledge” or MILK for short.

SDBII will further broaden the stakeholders it serves by identifying underserved groups within the dairy community. Region-wide surveys will be conducted to determine the number of minority-owned dairy businesses and to identify the unique challenges faced by these groups. This initiative will help SDBII continue to ensure that all dairy companies have access to the opportunities and resources provided by the program.

Value-added dairy farmers who milk small ruminants such as sheep and goats represent a small but growing part of the dairy community. Part of the new funding will further support this community of producers. Compared to cow dairies, limited technical support and learning materials are available for small ruminant dairy enterprises. SDBII will produce publications and resources aimed at addressing the lack of information available to these business owners.

The newly awarded SDBII funds will allow the program to continue to build on the work it has already done to serve dairy producers and processors. This work will now be extended to serve the entire South-East.

Through its mission of land-grant research, education, and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and delivers Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu.