DOAG: CELEBRATE JUNE DAIRY MONTH



June 5, 2019

CELEBRATE JUNE DAIRY MONTH

Rebecca Eddy Murphy, Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation

 

June is National Dairy Month—a celebration of the delicious and nutritious dairy foods produced by dairy farm families throughout Connecticut.

Connecticut is home to nearly 100 licensed dairy producers milking more than 20,000 head of dairy cattle, which produce 427 million pounds of milk annually. Milk and dairy products have a market value of $81 million dollars, ranking second in the state’s leading agricultural products.

Dairy is a vital component of Connecticut’s agricultural landscape. Approximately 72,000 acres are utilized as cropland to produce hay and corn to be used as feed for dairy cattle. These farmlands contribute to the quality of life and open space for all residents of the state to enjoy.

As part of June Dairy Month, the Connecticut Milk Promotion Board will be a presenting sponsor at the Hartford Yard Goats, a minor league baseball team, for the second year in a row. In addition to offering samples of Guida’s chocolate milk and Cabot Creamery Co-operative cheddar cheese, dairy farmers will be speaking with game attendees about life on the farm. And, for those who have never had the opportunity to milk a cow in real life, Daphne, a mechanical cow will be present for a simulated experience.

“Last year’s event was a resounding success offering lively interaction with game attendees. The education and outreach efforts funded by the Milk Promotion Board highlight the significant contributions made by dairy farm families and raises their profile in the eyes of consumers,” said Jim Stearns, vice chair of the Connecticut Milk Promotion Board.

The Connecticut Milk Promotion Board also aids in consumer education through CTDairy.org where visitors are able to put a face to their farmers; learn about cow-care practices; receive facts about milk and value-added dairy products; and explore creative, delicious ways to incorporate dairy into their diet.

A mobile device-compatible interactive map helps visitors locate a dairy farm with a retail location to purchase Connecticut Grown milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, or ice cream. Other site features include a calendar of upcoming events to help plan a trip to a local dairy farm hosting a tour.

Dairy Does a Body Good

Dairy farm families pride themselves on producing wholesome dairy food that not only helps their families grow up strong and healthy, but their neighbors as well. Just one eight ounce glass of milk provides nine essential nutrients including calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) reinforced the importance of consuming three daily servings of dairy foods like milk and cheese in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Dairy’s unique combination of nutrients play a key role in preventing heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Knowing the significant benefits of dairy in one’s diet, especially when it comes to building strong bones and teeth in children, Connecticut dairy farm families give back through a partnership with the New England Dairy and Food Council.

Over the past two school years, Connecticut’s dairy farm families have contributed more than $120,000 to support school breakfast and lunch programs through Fuel Up to Play 60. Projects have included installing hot chocolate milk dispensers, smoothie makers, and yogurt bars to encourage consumption of dairy while providing children the opportunity to flourish, both academically and physically.

Future of Dairy

As the world changes, dairy farmers are adopting new technology to be more efficient and improve cow care while remaining viable and sustainable into the future.

Robots are being utilized to milk cows and push up feed. Electronic collars, similar to Fitbits, are used to monitor the activity of each cow—from how much she eats and drinks to how much time she spends laying down. All crucial to identifying any potential issues with a cow to ensure optimum health.

Investments such as these enable producers to better control their input costs, which is critically important during challenging times such as these when low prices for the products they sell threaten their existence.

Earlier this week at the Northeast Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NEASDA) annual meeting in Brewster, MA, a dairy roundtable discussion was held to address the state of the industry. Panelists included Catherine de Ronde, AgriMark Dairy Cooperative economist and Bob Gray, agricultural policy advisor with the State’s Ratification Committee.

As the number of dairies decreases nationally, support from state and federal programs are essential for milk producers. Connecticut’s dairy sustainability grant helps bridge the difference between the minimum sustainable cost of production and the price producers are paid for fluid milk. The 2018 Farm Bill incorporates Dairy Revenue Protection (DRP), an insurance policy, and Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC), a voluntary risk management program, for dairy producers.

Discussion ensued over how to support supply/growth management nationally, international trade tariffs, and the Helping Labor Personnel (HELP) Farms Act (H.R. 2801) to provide a short-term, one-time fix to help the non-seasonal agriculture workforce while talks continue on a rule to allow H-2A visas to be granted on an annual basis rather than seasonal.

“It’s imperative that we continue providing support for Connecticut’s dairy farm families through our various programs including our dairy support program, farmland preservation, and transition grants in order to maintain a critical mass. As a small state a vibrant dairy industry is crucial to the entire agricultural economy,” said Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Bryan P. Hurlburt.

History of June Dairy Month

In 1937, grocer organizations designated June as National Milk Month to promote drinking milk. By 1939, June became known as National Dairy Month to celebrate all things dairy, including the significant contributions made by dairy farm families on a local and global scale.