Dairy industry stakeholders provide input to Deans of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine

The past year has been a challenging time for many aspects of MSU’s work, from undergraduate teaching to Extension programming. Learn more about the stakeholder input provided to the Deans of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine.

The past year has been a challenging time for many aspects of MSU’s work, from undergraduate teaching to Extension programming. Even the beloved MSU Dairy Store operations had to be paused for much of the past year due to the lack of students and other customers on campus. These disruptions to the work of the university have led many stakeholders to ask about plans for resuming normal operations.

These conversations presented an opportunity to seek input from dairy industry stakeholders in Michigan to guide program evolution as we emerge from the pandemic. After reaching out to dairy producers, advisors, veterinarians, and processing industry representatives who have engaged with MSU in the past, the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ron Hendrick, and the Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Birgit Puschner, hosted a listening session on March 9.

During the session, stakeholders heard updates from a variety of units with dairy programs, followed by breakout sessions to discuss programmatic needs in teaching, research, and extension mission areas. These breakout groups generated over 160 specific comments on the direction of MSU dairy programs. Follow-up analysis of these comments generated the following key themes, in order of the number of comments per theme:

1. Curriculum and Hands-on Learning

Undergraduate and professional programs need to emphasize practical knowledge

2. Technology and Data

Develop educational efforts to aide technology adoption and assist with decision-making

3. Consumer Demand and Confidence

Help reassure consumers that dairy products are safe, sustainable, and healthy

4. Antibiotics/Prevention

Work to ensure continued efficacy of antibiotics and understanding of these strategies among consumers

5. Sustainability

Continue to develop methods to lessen the environmental impacts of dairy production and communicate progress to consumers

6. Feed and Nutrition

Complement controlled research with field surveys and economics of dietary strategies

7. Reproduction and Longevity

Build on strengths in reproduction to address genetic and management approaches to improve productive life of cows

8. Students Need Soft Skills

Help students gain broader skills necessary for success in the industry

9. Student Recruitment

Make a concerted effort to attract students to dairy programs using technology as a draw

10. On-Farm Outreach Visits

There’s no substitute for face-to-face discussions

11. Employee Training

Human resources is among the most critical factors for a successful dairy and training is needed for both supervisors and employees

12. New Dairy Facility

A modern facility is needed to educate consumers and students about today’s industry

13. Continued Learning Opportunities

Lifelong learning is key to success, and MSU can provide resources

14. Communication

Research needs to be communicated to the industry, including why the work was done

15. Applied and On-farm Research

Demonstration projects aid in adoption of basic research findings

Dairy faculty and staff have already reviewed these themes in several meetings, and we are working on a detailed assessment of where we stand with respect to these needs. In upcoming issues of the Spartan Dairy Newsletter, we plan to highlight ongoing efforts related to each theme, including the articles on the next four pages of this issue. More importantly, we will keep these points front and center when planning curriculum updates, research and Extension programs, and hiring needs.

We ask that you hold us accountable for following up on these themes. Furthermore, if you did not have an opportunity to provide input during the listening session, we would love to hear from you. Please reach out to Barry at bjbrad@msu.edu or Dru at dnmontri@msu.edu. We look forward to partnering with the Michigan dairy industry to strengthen our state!

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