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Tommy Barron: Dedicated to Dairy


An ice cold glass of milk. Heaping scoops of ice cream in a cone. A plentiful platter of cheese. What's your dairy delight of choice? No matter your preference, next time you sit down to enjoy it take a moment to appreciate the dairy farmer who brought it from their farm to your table.

Some of the hardest working people in the agriculture industry - U.S. dairy farmers produce over 21 billion gallons of milk each year. An overwhelming majority, 97%, of all dairy farms in America are family owned. Regardless if the farm has 30 or over 500 cows, the mission remains the same - to provide high quality milk to the consumer. Southern States is proud to help our customers meet their mission on a daily basis.

Photo of Tommy Barron

Tommy Barron, Southern States Feed Sales and Technical Representative, is one of our employees dedicated to doing whatever it takes to help our dairy customers be successful. A Southern States employee for 17 years, with 34 years experience working in the agriculture industry, Barron is “all hands on deck” when it comes to helping his customers in all aspects of their operation.

"The ways in which you can help a dairyman are unlimited," says Barron. Typical activities Southern States feed reps will help advise dairy farmers on include: inventorying and sampling forage; ensuring high quality forage; bunk management; balance and develop rations; dry cow management; develop sanitation practices for the farm; calf nutrition; and pointing out bottlenecks in the operation. Southern States can truly help farmers better manage every aspect of their daily farming activities.

For Barron, the dedication to farmers comes from his own farming background. "Farmers are salt of the earth, good hardworking people," reflects Barron. "They have a daily commitment to their animals and land which is truly admirable. Dairy farmers take this commitment up a notch as their cows have to be milked twice a day, 365 days a year, rain or shine, through heat waves and polar vortexes. This strong work ethic to provide for their animals each and every day is what drives Barron to be "on call" for his customers whenever a question arises.

Just like the farmers that Southern States serve, our feed reps need to be committed to cows 24/7. "My wife often tells me 'you're not a vet, put your phone away,' however when cows get sick I get calls." says Barron. "When farmers see changes in the milk tank we need to react immediately and make changes to the ration." Changes may need to be made to deal with scours or other ailments. Likewise, a farmer may notice he is running low on feed and needs to reach out to his feed rep to make a substitution to his ration to get through a period of low inventory. Whatever the issue is, Barron is always happy to take the call. "Doing what's best for the customer and being available is what's right for Southern States," believes Barron.

One of Barron's first tasks when starting with a new dairy customer is to assist them in setting production goals. "I just sit down with them and ask them what they are trying to do," remarks Barron. There is no right or wrong amount when it comes to milk production goals. Typically, it's based upon the lifestyle the farmer wants to lead. Does he want a less hectic lifestyle and is happy with 50 pounds of milk per cow per day? Or does he want to get every pound possible out of the cow? Once Barron knows the answer to this, he can help determine a game plan.

Typically, dairy farmers are very conservative when it comes to their farming business. They aren't apt to make drastic changes to their feeding program just because a new feed representative drives up their lane to approach them for business. "Relationships are key when it comes to dairy farmers, they want to work with someone they know," suggests Barron. "When you take on a dairy customer, you have to care about their business and be open and honest with them at all times." Through these interactions the bond and trust with grow over time.

Dairy cows in stalls eating

Once Barron knows what the farmer's goals are, he starts to develop a ration to deliver optimal pounds of milk per cow per day. "It all starts with forage samples," explains Barron. "Knowing what a farmer can and cannot do on their farm is key."

High quality forage is a critical component of any successful dairy. "If you don't have high quality forage, it doesn't matter whose feed or ration you use," insists Barron. "The feed industry cannot overcome poor quality forage."

As forage is the basis of all rations, its management is very important. Quality forage starts with prepping the field, ensuring the land is fertile prior to planting a high quality seed and then harvesting when the plant is at the proper maturity. Once harvested proper silo and bunk management will help protect the farmer's most precious commodity, forage.

After ensuring high quality forage is available for the herd, Barron works on assembling the rest of the ration. In today's high tech world computer programs are available to assist in the effort, from the simplest ration to complex rations balancing amino acids. Barron uses Dalex to create customizable rations to meet the needs of the entire herd.

Once the ration is completed it gets sent to the formulation department at Southern States headquarters in Richmond, VA. The formulation team will double check the ration to ensure the proper amounts of each ingredient are included and come back with the ration's associated costs. "After we get the ration to formulation, the customized feed ration is on the farm within 48 hours," proudly states Barron.

Photo of a baby dairy cow

Part of what helps Barron and other Southern States feed reps develop the best rations for their customers and keeps them on the cutting edge is through certification by the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS). This program recognizes individuals who have a desire to be better at what they do in the agriculture industry. Once certified in a species or multiples species, continuing education courses are required to maintain the certification. "Being ARPAS certified, puts you a step ahead of the average salesperson," maintains Barron. "Having to maintain your certification shows a commitment to the industry and your desire to stay abreast of the latest agricultural breakthroughs."

Just as ARPAS-certified feed reps can't simply be satisfied from achieving certification, farmers should never be satisfied by simply meeting their production goals. Barron is full of pride when his customers meet their production goals. Meeting the goals means mission accomplished on both the part of the farmer and Southern States. However he strongly believes that once you meet one milestone you need to set another one. "You can't ever get satisfied, if you're satisfied you become complacent, if you become complacent you go backwards," insists Barron. It's that dedication to ensuring the farmers are always looking to better their business that puts Southern States feed reps on another level.

It doesn't take long for Barron to see the results of those changing milestones. One aspect of working with dairy farmers he really enjoys is seeing the results of his work immediately. "As the product of dairy is measures on a daily basis via milk production, small changes can be seen almost immediately," says Barron. Compared to working with beef or equine customers where results can take months if not an entire season to see the results ration changes, dairy is instant gratification.

However working with the dairy industry isn't without its pitfalls. Just as with anything these days, there is misinformation spread about the dairy industry and its products which has a negative impact on the farmers we serve. Barron believes one of the biggest dairy myths out there is that organic milk is healthier for you than regular milk. There is no difference in the health benefits. Furthermore, many believe organic milk equals no antibiotics are present in the milk. Barron would like all milk cartons to say antibiotic free, as that is the true story.

Barron would also like to see the milk industry do a better job of touting the health benefits of dairy products. "I believe we do a poor job telling the average consumer that milk and dairy products are good for you," says Barron. "Milk is nature's best food."

The final misconception Barron would like to see addressed is that a cow who produces 90 pounds of milk per day is under distress. "That's just not true," notes Barron. "A comfortable cow is a high producing cow." The notion that the public believes farmers wouldn't want cows to be comfortable couldn't be any further from the truth. In fact, a whole cow comfort industry complete with researchers has become popular in recent years. "The more comfortable the better the ration and everything else works," shares Barron. "Cow comfort helps the farmer's bottom line."

The fact that Barron cares so deeply about the dairy industry that he serves speaks to the high level of integrity of Southern States and its employees. This can be seen through the constant dedication to stay current with the latest research in the industry and passing it along to the customers. "We always do what's right for the dairyman and ultimately that will be right for Southern States in the long run," believes Barron.


Dairy Feeds

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Southern States Weathershed® Revitalize® Conditioning Mineral 50 lb
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Southern States Weathershed® Revitalize® Conditioning Mineral 50 lb
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Southern States Revitalize® 18% Complete (RUM) Medicated 50 lb
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Southern States Revitalize® 18% Complete (RUM) Medicated 50 lb
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Southern States Dairy Heifer CP Mineral (RUM) Medicated 50 lb
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Southern States Dairy Heifer CP Mineral (RUM) Medicated 50 lb
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Southern States Ledger MP with (BVT) Medicated 50 lb
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$76.30
Southern States Ledger MP with (BVT) Medicated 50 lb
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Green Meadows Forage Natural Fill 50 lb
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Green Meadows Forage Natural Fill 50 lb
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ShowBloom All Natural Supplement & Conditioner 25 lb
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$30.50
ShowBloom All Natural Supplement & Conditioner 25 lb
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Southern States Chronicle AP with (BVT) Medicated 50 lb
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$74.15
Southern States Chronicle AP with (BVT) Medicated 50 lb
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Land O Lakes Electrolyte Base 25 lb
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Land O Lakes Electrolyte Base 25 lb
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