Tom Overton Featured at Empire Farm Days Dairy Seminars

Joel Hastings, Editor & Publisher

Dr. Tom Overton was keynote speaker on dairy at Empire Farm Days

To download Tom Overton's presentation on Adapting to an Evolving Northeast Dairy Industry, click here (PDF).

Cornell’s Dr. Tom Overton was billed as the keynote speaker at the Dairy Profit Seminars held at Empire Farm Days on Aug. 6 – 8 at the Rodman Lott & Sons farm near Seneca Falls, N.Y.  He didn’t disappoint, delivering a presentation titled “Adapting to an Evolving Northeast Dairy Industry.” He set the stage outlining national and regional dairy trends, then zeroed in on New York pointing out both challenges and opportunities faced by the Empire State.

As a professor at the College of Ag and Life Sciences (CALS) with a specialty in dairy nutrition, director of the PRO-DAIRY program and associate director of New York Cooperative Extension, he knows whereof he speaks about the state of the ag industry in the region.

Speaking on Aug. 6, he concluded with his “top ten” characteristics of successful dairy operations.  His list is here and can be applied pretty much universally…

Top ten characteristics of high performing, resilient dairies

  1. Know and understand their numbers (financial, efficiencies, etc.) and are very self-aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their business
  2. Understand that the dairy is a business, make business-based decisions, and are entrepreneurial in approach
  3. Promote a culture within their teams / employees of continuous improvement
  4. Focus relentlessly on forage quality
  5. High emphasis on cow comfort / well-being/health
  6. Know how to best tap into the expertise of the resources around them (e.g., allied industry and agribusiness, CCE, other programs at Cornell and elsewhere)
  7. Invest in owners, managers and employees (education, self-improvement)
  8. Owners/managers balance short-term decision-making and reactions with the need to have a longer-term plan for their dairy
  9. Open to reconsidering approaches upon availability of additional information
  10. Are engaged internally and externally within the dairy industry

Other PRO-DAIRY and Extension staff presenting on the show’s opening day were Betsy Hicks and Lindsay Ferlito presenting research on cow comfort in tie stalls; Joe Lawrence talking about planning for corn silage harvest; and Curt Gooch on calf housing and ventilation.  Robotic milking technology was the topic for Bob Church of Finger Lakes Dairy Systems.

On day two, the focus was on dairy economics.  Christine Brodeur, manager of DFA’s risk management program, talked about opportunities to protect a milk price while Catherine de Ronde of AgriMark provided her outlook for dairy in the Northeast.  Farm Credit’s Gregg McConnell, a business consultant, spoke about keys to making the dairy farm business work well while Dr. Larry Jones took apart a farm milk check reviewing the key components that result in a mailbox price. PRO-DAIRY’s Jason Karszes moderated a panel discussion with these speakers to conclude the day’s program.

On Aug. 8, Debbie Grusenmeyer put through their paces some 30 graduates of the Junior Dairy Leaders Program.

Smokin’ Pete’s pork barbecue, Upstate Cooperative’s popular single serve flavored milks and cheese samples from Craig’s Creamery added to the enjoyment of the attendees.



The seminars were presented by Northeast Dairy Producers Association, PRO-DAIRY and with support from Empire Farm Days.  The sponsors making it all possible were these leading firms: Ag Modeling and Training Systems, ASAP Interiors, DFA Northeast, Farm Credit East, Farm Family Insurance and Pikeside Enterprises.

Plans are already underway for the 2020 show which will be held a week early on July 29, 30 and 31.

For 2019, DairyBusiness would like to thank our sponsors for another successful event:


Innovative Tools for Animal Agriculture Agricultural Modeling and Training Systems (AMTS) is a global company offering expertise and software for ruminant ration formulation and management. Now featuring an on-farm milk mixing application! AMTS.MixALot takes the guesswork out of mixing milk for wet calves. The AMTS.MixALot is an on-farm mobile app for wet calf management. Our family of products also includes AMTS.Pro ration formulation for dairy, beef, and small ruminants; and AMTS.GrowingCattle for feedlot financial analysis. AMTS products maximize milk, meat, and fiber production while minimizing cost and nutrient excretion. AMTS products, based on the latest science, are highly accurate, have a user-friendly interface, and come with excellent company support.

Established in 2001, ASAP Interiors, LLC, offers complete turnkey projects from freestall barns, calf and heifer facilities, commodity buildings, and shops to manure and feed storage, remodeling and design consultation, and machine-cut concrete grooving, as well as curtain systems, fans, watering equipment, gates, headlocks, LED lighting, cow mattresses, tunnel ventilation systems, soaker system and tie stalls. Introducing MAXIMUS… complete environmental control from your smartphone. For more information contact us at 315-727-5661, or visit

Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is a national, farmer-owned dairy cooperative focusing on quality, innovation and the future of family dairies. While supporting and serving more than 14,000 family farmers, DFA works with some of the world’s largest food companies to develop ingredients that satisfy their customers’ cravings while staying committed to social responsibility and ethical farming. DFA works to maximize net returns at the farm by securing and enhancing milk markets and milk marketing relationships, by investing in commercial businesses that add value to m embers’ milk and by providing services and programs that create real economic value for its members. DFA’s mission is to b e a member-focused cooperative as it continues to grow its farm-to-consumer global food business.

Farm Credit East provides a full range of credit and financial services to more than 13,700 customers in our seven-state territory of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. Farm Credit East’s 21 offices serve people involved in the business of agriculture, including farmers, nursery and greenhouse operators, forest products producers, fishermen, lobstermen, part-time growers, agribusiness owners and country home owners. In addition to loans and leases, Farm Credit East provides financial services, such as payroll, tax preparation, record-keeping, and consulting to help Northeast farm businesses be successful. For information on the largest lender to Northeast agriculture, visit

The Farm Family Group of insurance companies headquartered in Glenmont, NY, is part of the American National Family of Companies. Farm Family has been providing insurance protection for families and businesses in rural and suburban areas since the 1950s in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions. Over the years, Farm Family has earned a solid reputation with an established tradition built on integrity and trust. Farm Family agents take a personal interest, protecting what you value most. Many of our agents come from agricultural backgrounds and some even began their relationship with Farm Family as clients. We’re big enough to meet a wide range of coverage needs, yet small enough to listen to your concerns and provide the personal attention you deserve. Visit our website at or call 1-800-THE-FARM (1-800-843-3276).

Dedicated to providing solutions to manure handling challenges, Pikeside Enterprises provides consultation, design, and equipment for manure separation and bedding systems. We provide equipment from pumping to separation to land application. Pikeside represents the following lines: Bauer producers (, the market leader in separators and manure bedding recycling; Bazooka Farmstar ( dragline pumps and application bars; Artex Manufacturing ( manure spreaders and silage trailers; and Vaughan pumps ( chopper pumps and pit agitators. We cover all of New York, and beyond ,with our products and service, including replacement parts and scheduled maintenance programs for all separation systems. Nobody has more real-world experience in manure separation and bedding recycling. For more information: 585-739-3761 or

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