Early Dairy Digests Now Available Online
Posted: August 10, 2007
Ever wonder what the hot topics in the dairy industry were 45 years ago?
If you're interested in the dairy industry, you'll be interested in knowing that a collection of the first Dairy Digests, the monthly newsletter from Penn State's Department of Dairy and Animal Science, is now archived at www.das.edu/dairydigest .
Now readers can check out what was of interest to dairy producers in the early 60's. Topics in the first newsletter, distributed in January 1963, included: dairy outlook for the year, the arrival and use of liquid nitrogen by A.I. organizations, USDA sire summaries, sanitation in the milkhouse, milk and radioactive iodine-131, and DHIA data.
The first issue was edited by Stephen Spencer, with dairy specialists including Joe Taylor, Harvey Shaffer, Ivan Parkin, and Larry Specht contributing. In 1964, Specht took over and edited it until his retirement in 1996. The newsletter, still called Dairy Digest, continues today and is edited by Dr. Michael O'Connor.
Originally, the intent was to offer current information to county extension agents, who could then use the material in their own newsletters. In his initial letter to extension agents, Spencer wrote, "Enclosed is our first attempt with a dairy newsletter designed to keep you up-to-date in a fast-moving industry. You may use the information contained in the newsletter as you see fit or you may want to re-write the material and localize it for news releases or radio."
Spencer said he recalls a certain amount of frustration with producers having their heads in the sand. "We wanted to get them out of the rut, and provide up-to-date information which was useful for the county agents to distribute."
Dr. Specht recalled, "Readers were pleased to have a source of current information that was well written and readily understood. County extension agents would choose among these articles to include in their own newsletters."
Other topics in the early years included the use of rubber mats for dairy cows, the growing popularity of freestall housing, radioactive fallout, and udder preparation. Recent topics include: production of methane, the cost of feeding milk replacer, immigrant farm workers, and somatic cell count levels in Pennsylvania.
What was the most consistent topic over the years? Specht said nutrition was the topic that always got the most space, but added, "The principles of good management were always reinforced. Many of the topics remained consistent over the years, with slight modifications." He credits other departments within the College of Agricultural Sciences with providing relevant, useful information.
Dairy Digest today continues to be mailed, but is also available on the DAS Web site. From a distribution of a few hundred at its inception, the information is now available to anyone with Web access.
Sally Bair, News EditorDepartment of Dairy and Animal Science