IFAJ Alltech Young Leaders trip to Minnesota 07/19

IFAJ Alltech Young Leader group

Here in New Zealand, we often feel isolated and overlooked by the rest of the world.  But my trip to Minnesota in July helped me see otherwise.

I was fortunate to be selected as one of the IFAJ Alltech Young Leaders.  The award included a leadership bootcamp, led by Alltech and the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ), as well as an invitation to the IFAJ annual congress.  As it was in USA this year, we also got to attend their annual Ag Media Summit, which ran alongside the congress.

Our first day included a visit to a dairy farm that milks 400 cows year-round.  The cows are housed indoors and most of their feed is grown on-farm.  This farm milks three times a day, with cows producing 45 kilograms of milk per day in a 45-week lactation period.
Their rations consist of ground corn, a custom protein mix, cottonseed, dry hay, ryegrass silage, haylage and corn silage.  The herd is run in four mobs, based on production level and stage of lactation.  The different mobs are fed the same mix but in varying amounts, from 24-29.5 kilograms of dry matter (DM) per cow.
Their milk goes to a local cheese factory, and the products are sold on domestic and international markets.
We had lunch with a view of the Mississippi River and heard from the owner of Compart Family Farms, who has worked extensively to breed top genetic merit pigs, wihch he exports around the world.  The pork has marbling like Wagyu beef.
In the afternoon we visited a cropping farm.  It was a massive operation but had been wiped out by a tornado last September.  There were 15 members of the family involved in the business, and they showed great resilience.  The facilities were being rebuilt, bigger and better.
One observation from my Australian colleague was how we have the opinion that America over-capitalise on farm equipment.  But the reality is, they have such short windows in their seasons that they need the appropriate machinery to get the jobs done!
The rest of the bootcamp and the congress itself was full of great talks, workshops and an information expo, with great learning opportunities for developing our writing and leadership skills.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know people from a range of cultures and my awareness of the world has increased because of it.
On the last day of the congress, I opted for the dairy farm tours and visited two very different operations.  One was a large-scale operation, milking 9,500 cows.  They are all housed in a massive shed with 12 lanes.  The farm has 40 employees and belongs to an enterprise that employs 1,200 people.  Once you have worked on the farm for two years, you can buy shares in the business.
Their rotary has 106 bales and is milking for 22 hours a day.  Each rotation takes 7.5 minutes; it is extremely efficient.  They milk directly into the truck tank and fill one every three hours.
Although the scale was huge, they only utilised basic technology.
In complete contrast was the next farm we visited, Redhead Creamery.  They milk 200 cows, and 7% of their production is used to make cheese in their on-site creamery.  It is a family operation, with mum and dad running the farm and their daughter running the creamery.  They also run farm tours, which show a variety of people where their food comes from.
My key takeaway from my time in Minnesota is that there is a big difference between how we farm and how the Americans do it.  But despite the operational differences, the farmers I met talk about the same challenges we face here.
Labour was one of the biggest issues, while trade and markets were other common themes.  There were also mentions of difficultry with broadband, rural healthcare and climate change.  It all sounded very familiar.
It was an absolute privilege to be offered such an incredible opportunity, and I am very grateful to Alltech for the experience!
Samantha Tennent
IFAJ Alltech Young Leader winner
July 2019
For more articles on Samantha's trip to Minnesota, please checkout the following links:

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