Potts, S.B.1; Grev, A.M.2
1Dairy and Beef Specialist, University of Maryland, Keedysville, MD, 21756
2Forage and Pasture Specialist, University of Maryland, Keedysville, MD, 21756


Maryland’s dairy industry, comprised of 330 farms and 42,000 cows, is valued at $150 million and makes up 7% of all agricultural income in the state. In addition to recent economic hardships, Maryland dairy producers also face a host of additional challenges relative to producers located in other regions of the country, including high land prices, urban development, and strict environmental regulations. The objective of this project was to formally document the educational preferences and major challenges of Maryland dairy producers to help direct future extension programing. To accomplish this, a needs assessment was conducted during the last quarter of 2019. The survey period began on November 15 and ended on December 23.  Surveys were mailed to all licensed dairy herds in the state of Maryland (n=337) and consisted of 44 questions designed to collect information regarding educational preferences, production methods, challenges, and future goals of dairy producers. Participants had the option to respond online or by mail. A total of 89 responses were received (26% response rate), with 97% of responses submitted by mail. Most responses were provided by males (77%), and over 48% of respondents were age 55 or older. Rank-type questions were analyzed on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 indicating no value/interest and 4 indicating a high value/interest. When asked about preferred sources of dairy-related information, the herd veterinarian received the highest rating (3.2), while state dairy associations (1.6) and social media (1.7) received the lowest ratings. Respondents indicated that they were most interested in obtaining dairy-related information from extension in the form of newsletters (2.9) and least interested in online courses (1.5), social media (1.6), and webinars (1.6). Respondents indicated most interest in learning about topics related to soil fertility and forage production (mean scores of 2.9 and 2.6, respectively). When asked to identify limitations to growing or improving their dairy business, respondents indicated that low profits (3.3), land costs (3.0), and government regulations (2.9) were the most limiting. These results indicate that extension should focus our programming efforts on helping Maryland dairy producers improve profitability and maximize land productivity.

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