To boost dairy exports, U.S. dairy farmers traveled around the globe to see firsthand what potential consumers want. Last November, Hooper, Neb., dairyman Lowell Mueller and three other U.S. dairy farmers took a 7,500-mile, 10-day trip to look at dairy consumption in Japan and Hong Kong.
Mueller, who serves on Midwest Dairy, Nebraska division, and is a board member for Dairy Management Inc. in the export oversight committee, went with the other farmers on the checkoff-funded U.S. Dairy Export Council trip to investigate ways to boost “the next 5%” in dairy exports.
Speaking recently at the Nebraska State Dairy Association (NSDA) convention in Columbus, Neb., Mueller told farmers that about 15% of current domestic dairy production is exported to other countries. “We’d like to take that up another 5% and increase it to 20% exports,” Mueller said.
Japan has good dairy production, but only produces enough dairy products to cover 70% of its domestic demand, Mueller said. “Japan has 127 million people,” he explained. More than 37 million live in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
“Japan is the largest cheese importer in the world,” Mueller added. “Japanese consumers like high-end cheeses, but they are also interested in our whey protein and protein supplements.”
That’s why U.S. dairy producers have partnered with the Curves fitness gyms in Japan. Of the 800,000 members of Curves in Tokyo, more than 300,000 consume whey protein.
“We visited one of the culinary schools in Tokyo,” Mueller said. “We’ve focused on cheese opportunities and developed programs with the culinary schools in Japan in the hopes of selling more. The chefs like to work with cheese.”
He noted that some U.S. cheeses are on the shelves in Japanese supermarkets, but there is room for growth.
Hong Kong, which operates like an independent country, is closely associated with China. With a population of more than 7.4 million, farmers focused on meeting with food service operators in Hong Kong and explaining how U.S. dairy farmers work to protect the environment. That is something Hong Kong consumers are focused on.
Mueller, who is co-owner and partner at Vi-View Farms dairy near Hooper with his brothers Dennis and Larry Mueller, was named by Dairy Person of the Year by NSDA at the annual convention awards banquet.
The three Mueller brothers operate a fifth-generation dairy and are working to bring another partner, Dennis’ son Jordan, into the operation. Vi-View Farms milks 200 registered Holsteins and also sells breeding bulls and heifer replacements. They raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa.
During the NSDA business meeting, Bill Thiele of Clearwater was retained as president. Mike Guenther of Beemer was elected as the new vice president, and Roger Sprakel of Crofton remained as secretary/treasurer.
Along with current NSDA board members Dwaine Junck of Carroll, Jason Nuttelman of Stromsburg, Brooke Engelman of Jansen and Erin Marotz of Wahoo, new directors were named to the board. Heath Snodgrass of Royal replaces retiring board member Linda Hodorff of Broken Bow. Bob Larson of Creston is the new board member replacing Rick Larson of Creston.
Broken Bow Dairy ranked first in the NSDA milk quality category with the lowest average somatic cell count among the state’s dairy producers. Ranking second was Tuls Dairy, with Crook Dairy and Double Dutch Dairy tied for third. There were 18 entries in the contest.
Dairy Herd Improvement Association herd awards also were announced for the top herds based on pounds of milk and pounds of protein, with a minimum of 10 tests recorded.
Broken Bow Dairy won first place in the Holstein division, with second place going to O & W Dairy and third going to Steffview Dairy. Nuttelman Dairy at Stromsburg won the crossbred and mixed breed division, with Crook Dairy placing second and Steffen Ag. Inc. taking third place.
Richard Bruegman of Norfolk was honored with the Industry Service award. Beth Stark of Inland won the Holstein Association Service award.
Christopher Galen, senior vice president of member services and strategic initiatives for the National Milk Producers Federation in Arlington, Va., gave the keynote address for the evening awards banquet.