TIFTON, Ga. -- John Bernard had to work for his weekly allowance when he was a child.
Bernard grew up on a diversified farm in east Tennessee where he was responsible for his own herd of cattle. It was a tough job -- milking every morning -- but one Bernard grew to love.
"I enjoyed working with the cattle. I enjoyed producing the forages," he said. "When my father passed away (recently), I went home for a while and actually ran the farm, including milking and taking care of the cows. It was fun to do things and see how the cows respond and kind of put into play some of the things I had learned over the years."
Bernard, a professor of animal and dairy science at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is involved in numerous research projects on the UGA campus in Tifton, ranging from improving the use of byproduct feeds as alternatives to corn to using winter annual and perennial grass for lactating dairy cows. Byproducts, such as whole cottonseed and grains, are cheaper than corn and provide the energy, protein and minerals that cattle need. Bernard aims to feed cows and get the most out of it from a nutritional standpoint without endangering their health.
The dairy industry is big business in Georgia, ranking seventh on the top commodity rankings, according to the 2011 Georgia Farm Gate Value Report. It rakes in more than $332 million.
The dairy process has fascinated Bernard for years. He started raising and showing heifers at 4-H events as a child. As an adult, he's taken that childhood interest and used it to help dairy farmers across the state make the most of their herds.
"It's pretty interesting to kind of see how everything fits," he said. "The average consumer goes to the dairy case in the grocery store. You pick up your milk or your cheese and you assume it's always going to be there. Most people really have no idea what all went in to getting it to that point. It's interesting to have that viewpoint and be able to know how things come together."
The knowledge Bernard attained at a young age has helped establish him as one of the foremost experts on cattle and forages at UGA. He fields calls from dairy producers in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and even Virginia.
In addition to conducting research, Bernard serves as an advisor to the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association. In 2011, he was the recipient of the Pioneer Hi-Bred Forage Award, which recognizes outstanding research and/or educational contributions in forage production, processing, storage or use. In April, he received the Cady Award for his service to the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association.
All his life Bernard has been involved in the dairy process, whether it's milking cows or hauling milk during his collegiate years. It's no surprise Bernard is a regular consumer of milk on a daily basis.
"A good cold glass of milk is hard to beat," he said.