Central Plains Dairy Expo gives glance at milk's future

Dairy producers from across the country came together to learn about the newest advancements in the dairy industry and ways to make their operations more efficient.

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Producers attend the 2023 Central Plains Dairy Expo.
Ariana Schumacher/ Agweek

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Around 4,500 dairy producers and industry leaders made their way to the Central Plains Dairy Expo March 28-30 to learn about the latest and greatest in the dairy industry, while also learning about methods and practices they can implement as they expect to face a tough year ahead.

“Producers love the Central Plains Dairy Expo,” said Kristy Mach, executive director of the Central Plains Dairy Association. “It’s almost like a family reunion to them. They get to see not only other producers and pick their brains and find out best practices that work for them, but they also get to visit all of their vendors at one time and if there is anything new happening in the industry, this is where they are going to find it.”

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Lucas Jungemann looks at new equipment during the Central Plains Dairy Expo.
Ariana Schumacher /Agweek

Dairy producer Lucas Jungemann travels from Wolsey, South Dakota, every year to attend the expo.

“It’s one, just nice to see familiar producers, we are a little ways away from the rest of the dairy community so it’s nice to see people that way, it’s nice to see what new products and the industry, what they have come out with,” Jungemann said. “The social aspect is nice just to see a lot of people in your field of work.”

Throughout the expo, producers were able to attend educational talks, as well as visit with over 270 vendors about their products and services.


“They can really come here, get a good education, visit with their vendors and find out what’s the latest in new technology,” Mach said.

“I’ve seen a lot of interesting things in the large equipment and improvements they have made in that with the technology and it’s nice to see some available replacement parts for the stuff that we have because we can’t always buy new or afford new,” Jungemann said. “But with the economy the way it is right now, it’s a lot of just look and see.”

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Dairy producers walk the show floor at the Central Plains Dairy Expo.
Ariana Schumacher /Agweek

One of the major topics on the minds of dairy producers this year is the high costs of inputs combined with a lower milk price right now.

“This year with the economy the way it is and with prices the way they are, it’s all about feed efficiency, what can we tweak, how can we protect our margins,” said Anthony Anderson, owner and operator of Stone Dairy in Henning, Minnesota.

“Dairy can be a very boom and bust industry so after last year’s boom, this year is going to be quite a bit tougher,” said Sarina Sharp, commodity risk manager for dairy producers. “Thankfully, I don’t think it’s going to be a total bust this year, but kind of a slog. Feed prices are still high, milk prices have come down, we have seen cheese prices in particular bounce back over the past 30 days, so that’s really significant for producers in this region because so much of their milk goes into cheese.”

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Producers listen to one of many educational talks happening at the Central Plains Dairy Expo.
Ariana Schumacher /Agweek

Last year, the drought across the Midwest contributed to the high feed prices. A change in weather patterns could help make an improvement in the feed costs, but Sharp says that will not be any time soon.

“We haven’t even planted this year’s crops yet, farmers are gearing up for that, so I do expect that we should see a bump in corn acres relative to last year, and I am hopeful that we will have better yields than last year,” said Sharp. “That will allow prices to come down, but of course we are dealing with the weather and that’s very fickle so the price is not going to come down completely until we are confident that the weather is going to accommodate a good crop this year.”

Sharp says this is a difficult year to determine which way prices will go, especially with inputs.


“So on any of your inputs, whether that’s feed or energy, fertilizer, those types of things, I think if you see the price come down to what looks like a reasonable level compared to the very high numbers that we have seen for the past few years, I would buy a little, I would just take it in small bites,” Sharp said. “You are probably not going to hit the low, but if you are proactive and doing that kind of incrementally, that’s really going to pay off.”

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Dairy producers talk with vendors during the Central Plains Dairy Expo.
Ariana Schumacher /Agweek

Over the next six months, Sharp expects to see a decrease of dairy cattle across the United States and see slower growth in milk product, which will eventually lead to higher milk prices.

“American dairy producers are the most efficient in the world and they are much less regulated than dairy producers in Europe or New Zealand so we have a real opportunity to supply the world’s dairy products, so I am really confident in the long term prospects for American dairy producers,” Sharp said.

This expo helps producers find ways to navigate the dairy markets and make their operations as efficient as possible.

“It’s a great opportunity to just get ideas from other producers, we are using this bi-product to cut down our feed costs or we switched to this kind of bedding and it’s really helped our milk quality and our milk production, here’s a little thing that we’ve done to cut our labor expenses, those types of ideas are circulating around the room and they are really helpful for producers,” Sharp said.

“There’s always questions that you think about asking, but the answers may not be available online, so getting that first-hand experience and getting your question answered directly,” Jungemann said. “You don’t get a real-world experience by seeing it through a screen all the time.”

There are other learning opportunities in the central plains for dairy producers, including the upcoming Dairy Calf and Heifer Association annual meeting. You can find more information at .

Ariana is a reporter for Agweek based out of South Dakota. She graduated from South Dakota State University in 2022 with a double major in Agricultural Communications and Journalism, with a minor in Animal Science. She is currently a graduate student at SDSU, working towards her Masters of Mass Communications degree. She enjoys reporting on all things agriculture and sharing the stories that matter to both the producers and the consumers.

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