Food scarcity has become an ongoing issue in Ukraine throughout the country's war with Russia.
To aid this, the Ukrainian Milk Producers Association has become committed to increasing milk production, reaching out to MSU for help.
MSU Extension educators Phil Durst, Phil Kaatz, Stan Moore and Barry Bradford pieced together a webinar for the farmers titled “Feeding a Nation by Feeding Cows.”
The presentation focused on how to ensure the feed animals receive are nutritious and ensuring the harvest of the right amount of forage for livestock.
The webinar included information on the Michigan dairy industry and how it has achieved the success it has through placing importance on the feed the livestock is given. 75 consultants and farmers attended the webinar and it was recorded for anyone unable to attend it live.
The webinar wasn’t the first time MSU Extension had contact with the Ukrainian Milk Producers Association. Durst first had contact with the association in 2014 when he offered to speak at the Ukrainian dairy conference. Although the conference was postponed due to a revolution that had occurred during that time, Durst returned three weeks later to visit with the association. He spoke at the conference the following year.
During his time in Ukraine, Durst and a his colleagues talked with Ukrainian farmers to compare how they approach milk production. Durst didn't imagine that the next time he would converse with them would be to give them aid during a war, he said.
“I think we take food security for granted,” Durst said. “Ukraine was called the breadbasket of Eastern Europe. It has fertile soils, it has lots of farmland, but to be able to feed their people in a wartime takes an extra special effort."
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine occurred, Durst reached out to the association to see how he could help. To his surprise, they responded asking if Durst and his colleagues could do a webinar for them on how to increase dairy production.
“I was surprised that they were still thinking in terms of how can they get better as a dairy industry, how (to) improve their milk production,” Durst said. “When you’re in a war, certainly doesn't seem to be the first thing on your mind, but it’s still important to them and they still want to feed their nation.”
According to Kaatz, the nutrition of the cows is the key to production, and if forage quality isn't good, there's nothing that can magically improve it. The group shared how to properly process feed, store forage and allocate a limited amount of feed.
At the end of the presentation, the group helped the Ukrainian farmers set new goals for their milk production.
Bradford said he worked to adapt the presentation to fit Ukraine's situation. The push for increasing milk production comes amongst a labor shortage. Since many able-bodied people were sent to fight, the farms there have been short on labor, Bradford said.
The MSU Extension Dairy Advisory Team also wrote cards for the farmers to be shared after the presentation.
“It was really an encouragement to them, that our farmers be able to share some things with their farmers," Durst said. "To encourage them and to help them to look ahead and to grow and survive."