PHOTO: Aimee Nielson, UK Agricultural Communications Specialist
Kentucky’s comfy cows caught the eye of the world’s largest yogurt maker. As part of the third annual Dannon Dairy Forum, participants toured the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s forage plots and dairy facilities, including the state-of-the-art cow comfort barn.
“We heard about the compost barn, and that’s something we don’t typically see on the dairies we have on-site relationships with,” said Zack Bosslet, senior manager of farm relations for Dannon. “It’s very interesting, and we like to have a learning piece in our dairy forums. This was a good opportunity to showcase this style of housing and to generate a discussion about cow comfort and data collection capabilities.”
“We want to be more closely connected to the agriculture community and connect the agricultural community to us,” said Axel Lundstrom, Dannon’s U.S. director of farm relationship management. “We are engaging them with the Dannon Pledge, our mission and our business objectives as we move forward. And our farmer partners are a part of all these conversations.”
Lundstrom said they were also visiting to explore possible collaborations with UK and how they might work with the land-grant university.
Jeffrey Bewley, dairy specialist for the UK Department of Animal and Food Sciences, has spearheaded many research projects involving technology and cow comfort. He said the success of all the research goes beyond the university’s gates.
“We have to be more connected to consumers; it’s important for us as dairy scientists to understand what consumers are looking for,” he said. “It’s useful for us, and it’s exciting to have a big player like Dannon coming to visit us at UK and talk about how we may work together in the future.”
Kentucky’s dairy industry is relatively small compared to other states, but there is a lot of room for growth.
“We have a real opportunity to grow the dairy industry in Kentucky,” said Nancy Cox, dean of the college. “We have a good number of dairies in the state. We hope Dr. Bewley’s programs are leading the way for dairy farmers to get the most out of barns designed for cow comfort. We are hoping to help everyone see how useful this system is. We are really proud of our commitment to the comfort of our cows and using high tech to make them more comfortable and to make farming more profitable and sustainable.”
Dannon receives milk from approximately 80,000 cows across the United States. Bosslet said Dannon’s mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible.
Dannon is focused on sustainable agriculture, which includes animal welfare, and committed to more transparency, including labeling any Dannon products with GMO ingredients by the end of 2016. Furthermore, Dannon aims to have products from their three flagship brands – Dannon, Danimals, and Oikos – to be made from non-GMO ingredients by the end of 2018.
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Jeffrey Bewley, 859-257-7543