After 28 years of pulling up farms’ driveways,
putting it in park,
popping open the trunk,
sloshing sanitizer into a bucket,
scrubbing your boots and
making your way into the heart of the dairy farm – the parlor –
you know a lot about the dairy industry and you’re especially acquainted with hardworking farmers. Serving as MMPA member representative south area supervisor, Dave Brady understands the effort required to produce high quality milk and is always willing to give a helping hand to MMPA’s producers.
Often working early mornings, late nights and occasional weekends, the culmination of Brady’s dedication and service to the industry was represented in being awarded the 2019 Michigan Dairy Industry Fieldperson of the Year in May. Presented annually at the Michigan Dairy Industry Conference (MDIC), the award serves as recognition for Brady’s outstanding service and as a thank you in an often underrecognized career.
“Dave has served the dairy farmer members in the southeast Michigan area and northern Ohio very, very well,” Gary Trimner, retired director of member services, said. “He has provided the feedback they needed for their operations and has kept farm ratings at a passing level.”
On farms, Brady serves as jack of all trades: cleaning milking systems, writing herd health plans, completing inspections, and helping in whatever way possible. Recently, the changing demand from consumers have led to updates of policies and changes in requirements in the dairy industry. Assisting with implementing these changes has kept Brady busy and his extensive history with MMPA has helped him better understand the needs of the producers he works with.
“We are asking farms to do a lot more now than what they used to,” Brady said. “But instead of saying just do it, we are there to show them how to get to that point. If they need to improve their milk quality, we have services to do that: herds tests, inspections, and wash checks. We aren’t asking them to do anything that we can’t help them with.”
Prior to working with MMPA, Brady worked at Southern Milk Sales, a cooperative in Indiana that had Brady completing many of the tasks he does daily now. This experience, along with knowledge gained working at Hygeia Dairy Company, a bottling plant in Corpus Christi, Texas, let him see the “other side of cooperatives”.
The well-rounded experience paired with his dairy science degree from Michigan State University allows Brady to be any farm’s hands-on investigator – able to diagnose problems and present solutions all in the name of improving milk quality and helping the farmer’s bottom line. Brady is most often called on by farmers asking for help decreasing their somatic cell count, a key milk quality indicator that correlates with levels of infection and can impact the amount of milk premiums they receive.
“If I visit somebody that really wants help getting their somatic cell count down, and we identify and correct something in their operation so that they get it down, they are so happy that they can earn premiums and that they corrected the problems,” Brady said. “There is a lot of enjoyment from knowing that because we were out there and we helped them, now they’re doing better than they were before. And right now, if they are not making all their premiums, with the price where it’s at, they need to be.”
MMPA calls on member representatives to build relationships with members to better serve them during the challenging times the dairy industry has experienced. Brady recognizes the importance of his job and his fellow member representatives, especially when milk prices are low, and the industry is rapidly changing to meet the demands of consumers.
As of 2016, MMPA members have been required to enroll in the FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) animal care program, a national third-party verified animal care and welfare program. Prior to that, the MAEAP (Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program) became a voluntary certification that farms could obtain to implement agricultural pollution prevention practices.
In response to new programs and a change in members’ needs, MMPA member representatives serve as teachers during interactive trainings like Dairy Care Academy, as motivators to ensure that MMPA’s customers’ standards are met and occasionally as shoulders to cry on and a person to vent to when everything gets to be too much.
“Sometimes, we are the bartender,” Brady said. “We hear the problems, and there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. I can help them get their premiums, but I can’t do a thing about the price.”
The tremendous role member representatives play on members’ farms and in the dairy industry as a whole makes them a valuable part of the team. Although recognition is often scarce, the Michigan Dairy Industry Field Person of the Year award serves as a thorough thank you for the time, the effort and the helping hand they provide in an industry that is the backbone of Michigan.
This article was originally published in the July/August issue of the Milk Messenger. Subscribe »