It's been about 18 months since Dairy Star first started "A closer look," which has been found in the first section of nearly every issue.
This feature was originally created for you - our readers.
Its intent was to break down complicated topics and trends in the industry and get to the core of what you need to know to be a better producer. We have been able to accomplish this task twice each month with the help of industry professionals and dairy producers, alike.
Admittedly, and unfortunately so, 2016 was a good year to develop this feature. We covered topics that ranged from FARM 3.0 to international trade deals to the milk market and even land prices.
We've delved into breeding techniques, facility structures and bedding choices, among many more.
In this issue, we broadened our horizons to a sector that greatly affects many dairy producers, but is often on the back burner of the farm operations - the beef industry.
I had the opportunity to speak with the USDA, area sales barn owners and field representatives, as well as producers who routinely visit the sales barns with their feeder calves or market-weight Holstein steers, about the plummeting Holstein prices in the beef market.
It's devastating to hear the vast price differences and assumptions for those discrepancies. I was frustrated as I learned more, and thought of the frustration my dairying friends are going through - perhaps hardly breaking even with their investments at the sales.
There are options, of course.
Sexed semen might become more popular to wait out this stagnant period. Then, what about the growing population of cull cows that are sure to be a result of the breeding practice?
Crossbreeding the lower percentile of the herd to Angus could result in a better price at market. But then, is the beef-cross worth the sacrifice in milk production if replacement heifers are needed rather than market cattle?
Feeding to a greater finishing weight is also an option, but a costly one.
Just as we've seen with low milk and grain prices, dairymen and women carry on. You're resilient and passionate for your work, knowing the hard times can't last forever. There's always hope.
I gained a wealth of knowledge throughout this particular assignment and am still left with questions that would lead into topics for another issue.
Through this feature and with every article composed, I have learned a little bit about a lot. With each planning meeting for the next issue, I get giddy thinking about the possibilities and the chance to expand my horizons that much further.
But what I learn needs to benefit you, too.
As the year gets underway, many topics and trends will be sure to arise and need to be dissected - ranging from animal care, employee management, building design, nutrition, hoof health and much, much more.
So what should you know? Please tell us which topics you'd be interested in reading more about, and I'll take a closer look.