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NMSU to host dairy training for Extension agents

A new professional development training for agents in New Mexico State University’s Cooperative Extension Service will focus on New Mexico’s vast dairy industry, offering a comprehensive and interactive look at the issues facing the statewide industry that generated more than a $1 billion in milk sales in 2016.

A group of dairy cows.
The NMSU Extension Dairy Training, a profession development training for Cooperative Extension Service agents, will take place Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 in Clovis. (NMSU photo by Andres Leighton)

The NMSU Extension Dairy Training will take place in Clovis, New Mexico, and kickoff Oct. 31 with a tour of the largest cheese manufacturing facility in the world. It will continue until Nov. 2, under the direction of Robert Hagevoort, associate professor and dairy specialist in the Extension Animal Sciences and Natural Resources Department of NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

“The dairy industry is one of those fast-moving, fast-paced industries,” Hagevoort said, “and many Extension agents may not be familiar with what exactly is happening in the industry. This training is meant to give agents an in-depth update on the status of the dairy industry while addressing the current issues.”

New Mexico is one of the top contributors to national milk production, Hagevoort said.

In 2016, New Mexico was the ninth largest milk-producing state, providing 7.7 billion pounds, or 4 percent, of the 212 billion pounds of milk produced annually in the United States, according to data released by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That same year, New Mexico’s dairy industry also produced 776 million pounds of cheese and earned an estimated $1.19 billion in milk sales.

However, Hagevoort said, New Mexico is experiencing a decline in dairy operations, a trend also occurring in other states throughout the U.S.

“The industry is under tremendous financial pressures, and there’s been a lot of consolidation,” he said, explaining that today’s dairy owners are having to operate multiple dairies. “Nowadays, dairy owners are managing people versus managing cows. That’s a huge shift from what owners and managers grew up with.”

The goal of the upcoming training, Hagevoort said, is to educate NMSU Extension agents about the changes in the industry so they can share best practices with dairies in their communities. Hagevoort and Shelly Spears, dairy Extension program coordinator, organized the training along with the Southwest Border Food Protection and Emergency Preparedness.

Participating agents will first tour the Southwest Cheese plant in Clovis. Hagevoort described Southwest Cheese as the “largest cheese plant in the world.” According to its website, the plant processes more than 3.8 billion pounds of milk and produces more than 388 million pounds of block cheese and 29.1 million pounds of value-added whey proteins powders each year.

The training will feature presentations by Hagevoort that will focus on topics ranging from dairy labor issues and workforce development. The agenda also features presentations by Dairy Producers of New Mexico, an association of New Mexico and West Texas dairy producers, and the NMSU’s Agricultural Research Center at Clovis.

Agents will get hands-on training in dairy safety and animal handling before the workshop wraps up Nov. 2 with a tour of Caprock Dairy in Muleshoe, Texas, Hagevoort said.

To register for the training, visit http://rsvp.nmsu.edu/rsvp/dairytrain.