June 1994 // Volume 32 // Number 1 // Research in Brief // 1RIB3
Information Dissemination in Dairy Nutrition
Forty employees or owners of nutrition service suppliers and 145 dairy farm managers were surveyed to identify the type of information requested and transferred to dairy farm managers, and to identify the role nutrition suppliers perform in technical information transfer to farm managers. The results indicate that feed industry personnel, private consultants, and veterinarians have become major distributors of technical service information to dairy farm managers. This implies communication between Cooperative Extension and dairy farm managers will diminish, while information transfer between suppliers and dairy farm mangers will not. Extension program leaders will have to adapt their role in the dissemination of dairy nutrition information to include nutrition service personnel in technical programs.
Dairy nutrition Extension programs have traditionally focused on direct education of the dairy producers through farm visits, newsletters, meetings, seminars, and field days. The nutrition service industry, consisting of feed industry personnel, veterinarians, and private feed consultants, have become more prominent and technically competent. Because these service industry personnel have routine contacts with dairy farm managers, they've become a regular source of information. Progressive Midwest farm managers depend largely on sales personnel as well as written media for technical information (Schnitkey, Batte, Jones, & Botomogno, 1992). This shift to more private nutrition personnel serving as the medium of technical information exchange to dairy farm managers has implications for dairy nutrition Extension education programs.
Objectives and Methods
A survey was administered to dairy farm managers and nutrition service suppliers to identify the type of information requested and transferred to dairy farm managers and to identify the role nutrition suppliers perform in technical information transfer to farm managers.
Nutrition service supplier respondents were employees or owners of progressive, growing organizations that attended the Cornell Cooperative Extension New York State Feed Dealers Seminars in November 1990. Dairy farm manager respondents attended regional Extension meetings over the period of January to April 1991. Eighty-five percent of the dairy farm manager respondents were members of a Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) with average herd size of 87 milk cows and mean milk production average of 18,674 pounds/cow/year (range 11,315 - 27,600). Surveys from 40 nutrition service suppliers and 145 dairy farm managers are summarized in this report.
A large percentage (74%) of the nutrition service suppliers reported providing basic (forage sampling and ration balancing) and extended (custom feed formulation and production record analysis) nutrition services. Basic nutrition services were used by 75% of dairy managers and 45% used extended nutrition services. However, 69% of dairy farm managers with more than 100 cows and those with herd milk production levels in excess of 20,000 pounds per cow used the extended nutrition services. This result reinforces the conclusion that larger dairy farms adopt new technology more readily, which then leads to a higher animal productivity (Weesink & Tauer, 1991). Thus, managers of highly productive or large farms or both require a different level of technical information.
Feed industry personnel formulate a high percentage (68%) of rations for dairy farm managers; however, dairy farm managers depend on more than one person to formulate herd rations. Survey results reveal Extension agents formulate feed rations for just four percent of dairy farm managers. The source of nutrition information for dairy farm managers and nutrition service suppliers is different (Table 1). Dairy farm managers rely primarily on feed industry personnel or a company nutritionist as their single source of nutrition information. These results coincide with an Ohio survey that identified sales people as the major source of specific information (Schnitkey et al., 1992). Cooperative Extension was the first choice of information for only 17% of farm managers. In contrast, nutrition service suppliers rely equally on three sources of information: company nutritionist, magazines/journals, and Cooperative Extension.
|Table 1. Source of Nutrition Information*|
|Farm managers using forage analysis depend 20% on Extension|
for information. Farm managers using record (DHIA) analysis
depend 17% on industry consultants with other values
* Multiple responses allowed.
** Includes 8% from combined responses.
*** Includes 4% from combined responses.
The results of this survey can be generalized only to the group of people who completed it. However, the results suggest that feed industry personnel, private consultants, and veterinarians have become major distributors of technical service information directly to dairy farm managers. Movement toward an industry information distribution system means direct contact between Cooperative Extension and dairy farm managers will diminish. This implies Extension dairy nutrition educators must use private nutrition suppliers more effectively in transferring information to the farm. Extension will need to initiate more collaborative group efforts and develop creative technical programs to entice these busy, highly educated, nutrition service personnel to Extension education programs. Thus, as the pattern of information dissemination changes, Extension program leaders must adapt their role in the dissemination of dairy nutrition information.
Schnitkey, G., Batte, M., Jones, E., & Botomogno, J. (1992). Information preferences of Ohio commercial farmers: Implications for extension. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 74, 486-496.
Weesink, A., & Tauer, L. W. (1991). Causality between dairy farm size and productivity. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 73, 1138-1145.