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Upselling is defined as “a sales technique whereby a seller induces the customer to purchase more expensive items, upgrades, or other add-ons in an attempt to make a more profitable sale.” If there is any industry that has been exposed to the full range of upselling, it has to be dairy farming. 

The Good the Bad and the Upsell!!

Having access to the right products is good.  Wasting time searching for the right match is bad.  Spending beyond your means can signal an upsell.  You don’t want to finish a transaction and discover that you have just purchased something you either didn’t really need or don’t know how to use.  Especially annoying is realizing that the salesperson driving out your lane feels great about discovering a vein of gold on your operation or at least some silver to mine. Meanwhile, you may feel used or, at the very least, somewhat tarnished by a transaction that ended in an upsell.

“FACT:  If you are in the business of running a dairy operation, you very likely have been upsold at one time or another.”

Everyone connected to milk production wants to dip into your pot of money. Equipment. Semen. Feed. Ration Formulation. Health services. You feel constantly pressured by those whose input or product is necessary for your business.  You need them.  However, every supplier takes some of your time and a lot of decision making and, at the end of the day, you may not be fully convinced that you are getting the best value for the money.  For instance:  where was the value in all that time taken to listen?

The litmus test for every purchase should be based on results.  Increased income or reduced costs must be assessed from a measured-results perspective. Perhaps two pieces of equipment save operator time or do multiple tasks but what impact do those features have on your primary dairy operation goals? Is it better for the cows or for the ego?

Upselling works best when it provides a win for both parties

Regardless of the product or service that you need, you should always look for ways to get the best value out of a purchase. You should look for ways to go beyond the simple exchange of money paid for a service or product.  Find an option that meets specific needs. For example, it is a definite plus if smaller dairy manager can benefit from the hands-on experience of larger operations.  If that information can impact change in a positive – and measurable – way, that’s great upselling. If it merely makes you spend beyond your limit…it’s bad upselling!

How Well-Trained Are Your Up Sellers?

If the salespeople coming unto your farm are well-trained by their companies, they know the art of upselling.  That’s their job.  Should you automatically resist and fight for a lower price?

Not always! Instead, see if these four conditions are present. 1. They want your money. 2.  They want your business. 3.  They care about your cows. 4. They care about your business.

These are four facts that must be present for you to interact well with sellers. There is no value to you of the person is only looking out for their own numbers exclusively and isn’t interested in what’s best for your dairy operation. Although financial stability is the goal of every dairy operator, dealing with sales pressure goes beyond fighting against upselling.  It’s all about better results.

Here are five upsells and what they mean to dairy owners and managers.  

  1. “Would You Like Fries with That?”
    One of the most common forms of upselling are the six words, “Would you like fries with that?” We recognize it and often say “Yes!” while in the drive through, but it is also happening in our dairy operations.  Representatives of vet services, nutrition and feed suppliers and equipment salespeople offer their version. “Would you like more semen?” “More tonnage?” “More horsepower? This a classic upsell. The most common reaction is “sure,” and bingo, you’ve just added an extra cost to the bill. Money has changed hands but are the results better?
  2. Go ahead. “Take if for a Test Drive.” OR “Try Before You Buy.”
    Personally speaking, this is the upsell method that often works to get me to spend.  The value of seeing how the product works converts most skeptics to supporters – providing that the product does what it claims. It’s natural when faced with spending a lot of money that there can be a reluctance to get off the fence too quickly.  The opportunity to use the product can often result in them selling themselves. The further effect of this is that the person who has taken the test drive or used the product becomes part of the company sales team because of their endorsement of the product.
  3. “For a Limited Time, we have This Offer JUST FOR YOU!” 
    We all love to be appreciated. To be appreciated with a gift is especially rewarding. LOL. How do you respond when you hear, “This month’s order comes with a windbreaker?” If you’re like me, you quickly feel that jacket cutting the early morning chill.” Some folks are most susceptible to a new cap! Who among us would turn down a pass or trip to World Dairy Expo or the Royal Winter Fair? At first, it sounds like an irresistible freebie. After all, you have to wear the proper clothing. Why not make a fashion statement? If one of your favorite dairy getaways in Dairy Expo or the Royal, why not accept a pass or invitation that comes with a purchase that you’re going to make anyway? Provided you were going to make it anyway.  And provided there are no other strings attached such as sponsorships or donations or endorsements?  Darn.  It is always best to ask those pesky second questions.
  4. Work with us. We know how to WALK THE TALK.”
    Glib buzz words must include action. Some salespeople do all their talking on the phone.  Others stand in your doorway or barn alley and expect to close the sale without looking closely at your operation.   Look for the salesperson, vet or nutritionist that wants to see their product in the setting it will work in.  These people make recommendations based on your specific needs.  They don’t read them from an instruction manual or sales pamphlet or product brochure. A bad upsell turns into a good upsell when the person you’re working with is committed to matching what works best for dairy and for the cows. 
    How refreshing would it be to have someone who is willing to walk the cows? A person who provides a knowledgeable second pair of eyes from a vantage point that is closer than the farm lane or telephone?  A great second question to ask anyone selling to your farm is, “Do you see what I see?” Sometimes familiarity blinds us to gradual changes. An objective viewpoint an be very valuable. They may catch BCS as being too low or too high.  Or they could spot impending herd lameness. Or see that there is not enough sand in the free stalls.
    Don’t look at too narrow a window, whether it’s yours or a salesperson’s.  You have to go beyond simply adding to inventory, or tools or equipment.  There is a temptation to make a purely monetary exchange and ask the seller to beat the competition on price only.  This is a short-term gain.  But, in the long term, neither side wins.
  5. “Let’s talk about VALUE ADDED.” “For EVERYBODY.”
    Offering and receiving value added is part of upselling. The key here is that both the buyer and the seller must understand exactly what value is being provided. A vague promise of future benefits is not a real value-added proposition. Although the idea of a quick fix is appealing, the very nature of operating a dairy business means that the simple answer could in itself be a problem. Value turns on ability. Sustainability. Profitability.  Dependability.

There are many ways to add value.  

Great companies know how to provide value.  They work the numbers. They provide formulas.  They provide logistics. They can demonstrate with examples. They are willing and able to set up training that helps staff in responding to a variety of situations, “If this happens … do this.”  Value-added must clearly demonstrate how slightly added cost or changed protocols will provide measurable improvement.

Seek out a vet, supplier or sales rep that has a meaningful story of what the product could do for the operation. Be open to new information. Training and follow up is invaluable. It’s not upselling if you have been shown respect for your goals and the time and effort it takes to achieve them. The right person is not afraid of investing their time and effort into achieving a good outcome. This will build a relationship that goes beneath the surface transaction. That is why these sellers are not afraid to ask for a decision. They know how to interpret trends. Is it a downturn? Or an opportunity? Or is the product or procedure outdated? When you find the person that fits all these requirements…there is nothing to fear in being upsold!”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

“The thing about dealing with salespeople is that the minute someone gets on the phone or walks in the door, you are in danger of being upsold. Squeezing clients for short-term profits from upselling is not just bad for customers. It’s bad for business. When it’s done right, a good upsell leaves both sides—customer and seller—feeling like they’ve won. High five!!

Categories : Management

We love identifying winners. Dairy winning includes identifiable achievements such as winning showmanship at a regional 4H show, Grand at WDE, Junior All-American in milking form, top gTPI Heifer for the month or having a young bull that enters AI with over-the- top health and fertility indexes.  These are all about standing in the winning limelight of our dairy world. However, winning in the show ring or on financial, health or genetic records, always comes back to the human team as the foundation.  A-Team scrutiny raises key questions. How was is it selected? Where was the talent found?  How were the all-star bits and pieces managed into becoming an all-star dairy team?

Drafting and Managing an All-Star Dairy Team

I love this time of year in North America.  Sports lovers are inundated with the two extremes of playoffs and new seasons occurring simultaneously.  Baseball. Football. Soccer. Basketball. On the field and in the headlines, every sport has one goal.  Winning. Whether the season is ending or just beginning, winning depends on picking the best and then managing a Team of All-Stars.

Just like sports managers do, successful dairy managers must form teams that can win. The team must work to carry out their most important initiatives.  It isn’t unheard of to build dairy teams from whoever is available.  However, the most successful dairies consistently select their very best talent, to tackle the dairy’s highest priority issues: monitoring health, ration balancing, feed mixing and heat detection.  The list can seem endless but basing team choices only on availability can result in enormous missed opportunities. Using well-selected teams can make a measurable difference in achieving goals.  It can be even more significant if this is an under-achieving area of the operation.

Know Your Best Talent.  Put them in the Most Effective Position.

Perhaps everyone on your dairy team knows all the basic skills of the operation. But that is very seldom the case, unless the size of your team is less than three individuals. What separates an all-star from the also-rans, is knowing who has a special talent for specific assignments.  Who has the patience to manage difficult calvings without resorting to pulling too soon?  Who has the eye to recognize changes in eating behavior, resting or mobility patterns and cares enough to learn how to respond effectively? Who walks the animals and pays attention to the manure? Who has the interest in tracking data that may impact the discovery of weaknesses in your breeding program? Who can use a cell phone to capture and transmit herd events? You may know that some of your team have better skills but you may not fully recognize just how much better they are because day-to-day logistics are done pretty much the same way all the time.  

When it comes to daily routine the aim is for everyone to perform at a high level.  This is achieved if each team member is committed to performing the tasks with consistency and care.  That works for the repeatable, routine tasks. However, for creative or highly unstructured work, like bunk management or delivering first calf heifers or using observation to discover issues, the best team members can be many times more effective than the average. It isn’t about carrying out the routine.  It is about responding to the exceptional issues, including animals under stress.  The best do more and do it better.

How Many “Bests” are on Your High Priority Teams?

Dairy team managers make a great start when they accurately identify the strengths of each dairy team member.  Teaming great talent together multiplies the force and exponentially multiplies productivity and effectiveness.  After all, two heads are almost always better than one.  But with star talent, this relationship becomes more extreme.  Imagine putting your best heifer handler together with your best nutrition manager and then bring them under the direction of your best logistics person.  A three-member team, comprised entirely of A-players, can produce much more output than an average team. They set new protocols.  Achieve new benchmarks.  And look for “better” all the time!

How Many Jobs?  How Many Teams?

A milking-pit crew can be compared to NASCAR pit crews.  There are many jobs and many ways to get the best flow-through, while not sacrificing the priority goals – speed (in racing) or production (in milking). 

One of my vicarious enjoyments is watching pit crews in NASCAR races. Their performance can be objectively measured. Research tells me that a standard pit in a NASCAR race involves more than 70 separate tasks, such as refueling and changing all four tires. The best complete a standard pit in just 12.12 seconds. It’s remarkable to watch!   Now ask yourself what would happen if one of those all-star, year round trained members was to be replaced with an average tire changer.  You would still have strength on the team but with each average replacement, the productivity of the entire team declines.

Saving half an hour in milking time will reduce the cost for milkers or allow workers to use the saved half hour to conduct herd walks to find animals off-feed or not going to the manager to eat.  A players provide invaluable flexibility to adapt to change and resolve potential issues.

You have a great team.  Do you have a great manager?

Working under great leaders or managers further magnifies the production of extraordinary teams. Not all dairy team leaders are alike – in the same way that not all coaches are alike.  Great coaches get better performance out of their teams than mediocre ones do.  They are effective because they are better at encouraging each member of the team to play up to his or her full potential.

Economic studies have found that leaders that rank in the top 10% of their industry can affect the productivity of an average team. If they only do that by about 10%, on a nine-member team that would be equal to adding another team member.  It seems to be born out that they can raise the output of an all-star team as well, even though that all-star team was already significantly higher to begin with.

Great sports managers and great team leaders are able to improve the performance of whatever team they are working with —regardless of whether it’s average or all-star.

On a dairy farm, having nine highly effective workers, instead of ten to eleven average workers, provides a top manager with the ability to remunerate the nine at a higher rate and still have savings. Proper remuneration is not only a motivator but it also is part of the A-team philosophy of recognizing the value of always targeting improvement and achieving dairy goals.

Five Actions to Bring out The All-Star Qualities of Your Dairy Team

  1. Identify star talent

Identifying and managing extraordinary teams offers the potential for exceptional dairy productivity and performance.  Unfortunately, too many dairies fail to realize this hidden potential. You may have done a good job of setting up protocols and following them.  Is there a method of feedback for finding people who care about making a good method better and better achievement the best?

  1. Assemble all-star teams

Putting together scarce star talent can’t be done if it is reduced to an afterthought that happens by lucky accident. Real winners know that finding the A dairy team goes beyond identifying exceptional abilities. It means putting them together to raise the bar on the results being targeted. If the measure of success is accepted as daily average achievement, you will only find average performers.  Seek out those who have a willingness to go beyond what is expected.

  1. Target three priorities as all-star initiatives

If you are more interested in statistics — bank numbers, production numbers or herd size numbers, your dairy will likely become a statistic and not necessarily an exceptional one. There is a very real danger at both ends of the number game.  You either target too many priorities or you are using too narrow a focus.  Instead, start with three areas where you will assemble your all-star talent.  Three examples might be feeding, breeding and milking.  Don’t expect everyone on the team to star at all three.  Find the best.  Give them the training, tools, and empowerment. Let them show what they can do. Quite often the recognition of individual talents inspires whole teams to raise their level of effectiveness. Another area that might gain from A-team input is the need to analyze and improve calf management.

  1. You can’t rest on last year’s record.

Don’t underestimate the competition. Don’t underestimate the impact of changing conditions. Nothing surprises leaders and managers more than being surprised by failure. Exceptional achievement doesn’t mean doing everything the same as you did it, when you won last time.  It means being effective today.  Winning isn’t a static formula.  It’s an attitude. It’s not the system that is to be relied upon.  It’s the winning attitude. Every day.  Every way.

  1. Manage team member egos

Perhaps the biggest limiting factor from that works against having an all-star dairy team is the fear that, by seeking out and using all-stars, it will mean that personal egos will get in the way of team effectiveness.  The 24/7 nature of dairy managing would seem to be best served when the drama of competition and recognition are reduced to the lowest common denominator.  But, unless all members are inspired by personal contribution to the team goals, the effectiveness of the team will also slide toward that “lowest common denominator”.   

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Too often dairy managers follow outmoded practices for assembling their feeding, breeding and milking teams. They are then easily outperformed by All-Star managers, who aren’t afraid to identify, assemble and manage all star dairy teams.  Go ahead. Put together an A-team and then make sure that they are given A-team remuneration! What will happen? Without a doubt, your dairy team will have a winning season!!  

 

Categories : Management

How Much Ag Education Is Too Much?

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

These early days of September see many students starting back to classes.  Parents, teachers and the students themselves are focused on making sure that the education they are receiving is the one that will best prepare them for a life career that is rewarding.

Every industry requires a specialized set of skills — and the dairy industry is no exception.

Recently on The Milk House, Thomas Lilley had questions about Ag education as it applied to his current goals and life plan. 

The first question was put this way. “Hey guys, I am just wondering, at what stage does a university graduate become “over educated” to be employable as a farm hand?”

Thomas Lilley, then narrowed down to, “I’m wondering as I’m currently finishing my third year studying at University and I could graduate with a degree in Agriculture, or could return for a fourth year and graduate with a degree in Agricultural Sciences with or without honors, both with a focus on Animal Science and Genetics.”

The third part dealt with seeking further guidance, as the questioner zeroed in on mentorship advice, “I was just wondering your opinions as employers and in terms of possibly obtaining financial backing to purchase my own farm someday.”

When Does Enough Education Become Too Much?

Calling someone overeducated is often meant as an insult or used without justification by people of less education, simply as a means of tearing down someone’s accomplishments when you don’t like them. The education in question may actually be perfectly suited to the task at hand. However, since we don’t walk around wearing our degrees, the evidence of our education should be in the work completed not in the statement that we have it.

Advice from Those Who are Willing to Share.

The discussion on the Milk House was good. One member encouraged Lilley to “Finish your education. You never know where you might be in the future. If something happens down the road that you aren’t working on farm or owning your own farm, you will need a degree most likely to work in industry. You don’t want to lose out on a good job because you didn’t finish your degree. ” Another member, Emily Hill, summed up a great answer by saying” If you won’t be bored, finish now.  Even if you go on for another eight years, you will not be “annoying” to an employer or co-workers if you are humble, respectful, hard-working and patient. In farm work, everyone is busting their ass. The annoyance comes when you act like you’re somehow better. That’s NOT just in farm work. That’s just good life advice. ”

Making the Best Educational Choices

Getting an education that will prepare you for a career in agriculture starts with the two-pronged decision of where you will study and what your education will focus on.  It isn’t unusual for young students to be confused about the vast number of choices they’re facing.  It is, therefore, wise to seek input and mentoring.  Keeping an open mind and not settling for “easy” or “fast” are part of the first steps to consider.

Students are faced with a full spectrum of career studies. They vary enormously and include everything from genetics, engineering, science, finance and general labor. In addition to the hard skills learned in formal studies, employers today recognize that it is important to grow the soft skills that will make it possible for you to stand out in a competitive agricultural work environment.  Competition is the modern reality. Indeed, competition continues beyond classroom test results, is highlighted throughout job interviews and then is a driving force of achieving goals and priorities in the workplace.

Is Agriculture Facing Degrees of Ineffectiveness?

The more people that have the extra degrees, the more companies will expect them as standard. This becomes the new normal.  The bachelor’s degree is already a standard prerequisite. Some employers insist on a Master’s Degree, or Ph.D. Education has become a commodity, and further education has moved from furthering knowledge to a check-off for being employable. It is important not to lose the effectiveness of education.  A wall of framed certificates is useless if it doesn’t contribute to Ag business outcomes.

AgBackground and Work Experience Are Cumulative Assets

Although it’s rare, it’s not impossible, for someone outside of agriculture to be interested in seeking an agricultural career.  In the case of the young person seeking advice on the Milk House, there already was a connection to dairying. “I have been raised on a dairy farm, and have worked on other dairy farms for the past five years.” This can certainly be an asset but, having said that, it’s never too late to start to build or continue building a resume of experience that supports success in the ag industry.

Four Skills to Develop in Tandem with Education

Education doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  Everything you are exposed to can add to your education and prepare you for success in the dairy industry.  Four that are often identified by employers, consultants, and financial planners are:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Interpersonal communication skills
  3. Time management and organization
  4. Tech Savvy

Adaptability

Being able to adapt to changing situations is important to most careers in agriculture.  Whether you are on the farm or consulting or supplying the industry, the very nature of agriculture means that there are constant seasonal and economic changes to respond to. It is exciting, when studying, to be exposed to the leading edge of science and technology relating to the industry.  Then it is absolutely vital to be able to adapt what you learned in the classroom to develop a solution and come up with a plan for situations faced on the farm or in an ag job. Being able to do so, could mean the difference between the success or failure of the farm operation.

Ag business also benefits when adaptability is a polished skill. Ag professionals need to learn to adapt quickly to meet changing consumer demands, not just as a group but from farm to farm. New challenges are always presenting themselves. Not only must ag professionals respond to arising challenges, but they will also be expected to have skill in predicting what new challenges lie ahead.

Interpersonal Communication skills

For agriculture professionals, interpersonal skills are incredibly important.  They are required to interact with farmers, other industry professionals and with labs and production sites producing materials for use on the farm. This requires an understanding of the communication styles of a wide range of individuals.  It also depends on clearly communicating the assessments and possible solutions that will work best to resolve problems and move the business forward. Effective professionals must be able to listen to the needs of their suppliers and consumers.  The goal is to ensure all needs and targets are met while developing good business relationships that contribute to longevity. Finally, strong interpersonal skills are necessary for those involved in public relations, sales, advertising or any area of expertise that relies heavily upon effective, strategic communication.

Time management and organization skills

Quite often the development of strong time management and organization skills is a byproduct of extended educational studies. These skills are a tremendous asset when breaking into the agriculture industry. It goes without saying, that agriculture professionals working in logistics must have effective organizational abilities. Many agricultural professionals not only work with a variety of products but they also interact with a variety of farmers and numerous clients.  Time management and organization are also important to laborers, farms and machine operators.  With the constant variables of weather, seasonal price fluctuations and workforce supply and demand, it can be a challenge to maintain schedules and consumer and client demands.

Tech-savvy

Technology is a leading change producer in all areas of agriculture.  Knowledge of where it is going is incredibly important to anyone desiring to work effectively in the industry. It is absolutely necessary to maintain competence in computer skills, including using a company or farm specific software and interpreting data. Technology is always evolving and will require a selective focus on things ranging from genetics to nutrition to health advances.  Technology is there to assist in improving methods and techniques of breeding, data collection, finances and feed harvest, storage, and transport.

Agriculture professionals need to embrace technological development.  Professionals, particularly farming owners and operators, should always be aware of what new technologies may offer and determine whether adopting new techniques, instruments and advancements are beneficial to their dairy venture.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

When it comes to getting an agricultural education, it is not about learning a set of skills and then being “prepared” for life.  It’s about learning to continuously learn over the course of your whole career.  Progressive employers, farm owners, and farm managers look for lifelong learners. They never say, “Stop! That’s too much!”

 

 

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Categories : Management

Remember in the 50’s when Paint by Number sets allowed anyone to produce recognizable scenes using oil and brushes?  It smelled like art.  It used artist’s tools.  But, unfortunately, just simply following the numbers did not make the best artists?

In a different way, the dairy industry loves reducing our industry to numbers!  Statistics.  Data.  Every day a new analysis listing percentages and totals flashes across the screens and headlines in front of us. If not, we can seek them out ourselves.  Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that seeing and hearing the numbers … even daily…will turn us into better milk producers any more than painting by numbers will turn us into great artists.

California Top Numbers

For example, recent headlines focused on California milk production reported all those statistical numbers that grab our attention. “59 counties produce 50%” “13 counties account for 25%” and “California continues to produce roughly 20% of the nation’s milk supply.”  The final statement by numbers reported, “USDA’s analysis shows that 826 counties increased milk production in December 2016 compared to the previous December. One thousand thirteen counties decreased production in that same period. Most of the reduced production came in the central and southeast regions of the country.”

This is all well and good.  I like knowing what 25% are doing?  But beyond that, I ask, “Are the other 75% doing something different? Or is 25% a large number in this context?”

Living for almost fifty years with a master of statistics, I am trained to ask the second question,
“What do the numbers mean for what I am doing?  Should I or could I do something different?”

“Dairy Farming is the Leading Cause of Statistics.”

That subhead may seem to emphasize humor. In fact, there are numerous mathematical ways to look at the dairy industry. When you reduce U.S. milk production to numbers, you learn that milk production is highly concentrated. The USDA reports that 50% of California and Federal Milk Marketing Order production is found in just 59 counties. Looking closer at those 59 counties, you learn that they are just 3.6% of the 1,632 counties that produce milk in California and the Federal order system.  Further analysis, reveals that 13 counties account for 25% of that milk production and 7 of them are in California.  Those 7 California dairies account for nearly 18% of milk production.  And one county – Tulare County in California’s Central Valley, accounts for nearly 6% of all milk produced in California and the Federal Order system.

Some Dairy Numbers Cause Excitement. Some Dairy Numbers Cause Exits.

Depending on where you farm, you must determine what it means to the success of your dairy operation.  Should you move?  Is it better to be outside the main concentration area? Should you consider becoming pro-active for increased federal support? At the day-to-day operations level, do the statistics inspire you to seek out suppliers and dairy support teams who can provide input on increased milk production or better profit margins based on your logistics?

Where you fall in the statistical analysis is important but even more important is knowing how to use the statistics to meet your business goals. Does the size of leading national producers affect my operation?  Perhaps the biggest question revolves around the scale of the consumer base that directly affects my dairy operation.

“Are we using statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts for support rather than illumination.”

If the only use we make of statistical analysis is to prove that what we are currently doing is right, eventually the dairy industry will move on and leave us behind.  Dairy managers must always make pro-active decisions every day.  The hardest of those decisions will involve determining what numbers are most relevant.  It is absolutely vital to know your own numbers and how they compare to your local, state and national peers in the dairy community. Here are six that you can’t afford to overlook.

  1. Weight of milk
  2. Weight of animals
  3. Ration numbers
  4. Comparison by age group
  5. Comparison by period
  6. Geographic impact. What effect does your location have on all the above?

First, you must collect all the data, and then you should be creative in using it to make informed decisions. 

PROFIT BY THE NUMBERS

Sustainable success is measured by numbers up, down and location east versus west

Up:

USDA’s analysis shows that 826 counties increased milk production in December 2016 compared to the previous December.

Down:

One thousand thirteen counties decreased production in that same 2016 period. Most of the reduced production came in the central and southeast regions of the country. During the same time, there has been a drop off in production in California due to the pressures relating to drought and low milk prices. Three California cooperatives have petitioned USDA to join the Federal Order system, with a vote expected later this year.

West is Best:

Twelve of the top 13 counties are in the West. Others on the list include Yakima, Wash., Weld, Colo., Pinal, Ariz., and Chaves, N.M. When all the numbers are totaled, California continues to produce approximately 20% of the United States milk supply. 

East is Least:

Lancaster Pennsylvania is the only county east of the Missouri River to make the top 13 counties list

The Bullvine Bottom Line

What do the CALIFORNIA NUMBERS mean to you? Is it entirely geographical or is there a logistical component? Simply knowing the numbers, will not ensure dairy success. However, we can learn from looking at the big picture they provide. Then we must decide how to turn the numerical science into dairy profitability.  That’s the art of using numbers!

 

 

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Categories : Dairy Industry

Some might say that artist Andrea Jorgensen, of Webberville Michigan, is an overnight success.  You might agree, especially after hearing her say, “I didn’t start painting until the fall of 2015.” Since that time her paintings are drawing considerable attention and have given her the opportunity to build a career from commissioned pieces. The Bullvine recently had the privilege of interviewing Andrea and finding out about the evolving story behind her art.

Everyday Objects Are Given New Life

All good success stories must look back to the earliest beginnings. “I have always been artistic starting from a very young age,” says Andrea as she looks back to pastimes where creativity sprang from whatever was close at hand. “I can remember constantly creating random DIY projects with trash around the house, building nonsense wood pieces in my grandpa’s workshop, sewing anything I could think of with my grandma’s scrap fabric, and always drawing.” It is obvious that Andrea’s loving family surroundings impacted her artistic talents.

Studying Art Has Always Been a Happy Choice for Andrea

As a child growing up in Williamston Michigan, Andrea was drawn to the creative subjects at each different level of the school curriculum.” I took almost every art class possible all the way through high school. That was my time to really be myself and to create and to learn art with different mediums.” From the beginning, Andrea knew she had found something she enjoyed and excelled at. She recalls, “I mainly leaned towards drawing with a pencil because it came easiest for me. Even through college, I took art classes because it was fun and exciting.”

Through the Eyes of an Artist

Andrea Jorgensen now living and loving life on Ri-Val-Re Farm in Webberville, Michigan unexpectedly declares that her journey to becoming a bovine artist wasn’t the usual one of lifelong familiarity with cows. “I wasn’t raised on a farm, so the whole dairy industry has really opened my eyes.”   Andrea’s eye-opening experience has art also opened the eyes of dairy art lovers. Those familiar with her art, admire her eye for dairy anatomy and the way her paintings capture the nuances of the different personalities or her subjects.  From a single painting or a hanging of several pieces, it is easy to see what set’s Andrea’s work apart. Her unique, ultra-colorful paintings, are comprised of layers of bright acrylics that enhance and expand our usual perception of the black, white and brown dairy cows that dairy folk love to admire. (Read more: BREEDING RI-VAL-RE: Where Looking Good in the Stall Is Just As Important As Looking Good On Paper)

 

 

Andrea Began by Using Her Gift as A Gift

So, let’s return to consideration of the relatively short amount of time that Andrea has been painting. “I didn’t start painting until fall of 2015.” says Andrea giving the time and then goes on to explain the reason, “My husband, Jerry, had gone on a hunting trip and I had an urge to surprise him with a painting of one of his donor heifers, Hope. Plus, we had moved into our farm house earlier that Spring and I wanted a cow portrait in our living room. Next thing I knew I was painting a 4 x 6 ft. portrait of my husband’s beloved cow, Redwing.” She might just as well say the rest was history, because she explains, “After that Jerry really encouraged me to continue painting cows and that’s when I created Artwork by APJ.”

From One Love-Inspired Gift to Creator of Many Gifted Paintings

You might say that Andrea was inspired by a favorite from her husband Jerry’s stable and, as a result, Andrea has created a stable of painted favorites to send out into the world. Much of Andrea’s painting has been done on commission and frequently the products of her talent, like the gift she painted for her husband, become gifts given and shared between other dairy admirers.

“The World is My Inspiration!”

When asked who has been the biggest influence on Andrea, her answer is as unique as the pieces that she produces. “Art wise, I can’t really think of anything or anyone particular that has had a significant influence on me,” she says and then expands dramatically. “The world, in general, is my inspiration and influencer.” She shows her artistic awareness when she analyzes how that inspiration affects her work. “I can look at a bowl of strawberries and automatically get inspired to do a red scheme background.” I think having that perspective has really helped me find my known style.”

Andrea Paints Bold, Colorful Bovines

Andrea’s artwork is a bright representation of her subjects, and she doesn’t aim to be low key.  “Bold and colorful! The more colors, the better. My style also involves visible brush strokes with every layer I paint.” It is unique and immediately evokes a response.  For more of her work visit her website. Scrolling through Andrea’s canvases, photographs and projects will quickly highlight and showcases her love of animals, nature, family, home, and farming.

Love Inspires the Artist’s Journey

As we get to meet this artist, we are in the fortunate position of being able to use hindsight to discern what events were responsible for getting Andrea’s artistic career started.  Andrea gives credit for her introduction to dairy to one her husband Jerry Jorgensen, known to many as a successful dairy breeder and recognized dairy judge. “I probably wouldn’t be painting at all if it wasn’t for him. Not just because of the support and encouragement but because of the family dairy farm. I wasn’t raised on a farm, so the whole dairy industry has really opened my eyes. I always thought cows were dumb, stinky creatures before I met Jerry.” It is an understatement to say that he changed her initial perceptions of cattle, “Yes, they can still come off (as smelly) but I have a different respect for their beauty now.” 

 

 

 

Andrea Reveals Love That Goes Beyond Cows

At this point, I must make sure that my reporting does not limit Andrea’s artistic talent to cow portraits only.  As much as this is what drives The Bullvine, it isn’t fair to this gifted artist to limit the reporting of her talents to dairy only. Indeed, when asked to list her favorite works to date, Andrea responds the same way that dairy breeders, cattle judges and show string historians do, by first proclaiming what a difficult question that is. “It’s so hard to choose one! I have an attachment with all my paintings! There’s a top 5 favorites list which is constantly changing as I do more paintings.” Her diversity shows in the list she provided us with, which included what is hanging in her own home.” Right now, I would say my top 5 favorites are (in no particular order): Burt & Ernie (a painting of 2 pigs that is hanging in our living room), Antoine (a ram), Gizzard (a longhorn), Alfred (a rooster that is hanging in our kitchen), & Gatsby (a custom Jersey).

Andreas Goes Beyond an Exact Likeness to Painted Poetry

If, until now, you’ve never seen Andrea Jorgensen’s work, you are in for a treat. In a world of photographic realism and real-time animal videos, it is especially refreshing to find a talented artist who uses deft strokes to create unique portraiture.  She doesn’t target a perfect likeness. Her clients already know what the subject looks like.  What makes Andrea’s work unique is that it goes beyond the restrictions of a portrait or video frame to a composition that skillfully reveals a deeper understanding of her subjects. Which inspires the question, “How do you decide what to paint?” Andrea gives us a look behind the scene with her answer. “Ninety-five percent of my paintings are commissioned, so I work with the customer to get a good reference photo before I start painting. Otherwise, I will randomly find a picture on Facebook or Instagram that really catches my eye.” Andrea’s business portfolio “Artwork by APJ” continues to grow at the pace of her enthusiasm and growing recognition.

Andrea’s Advice

Whenever you see someone doing a successful job of using their talents to build a career, it is human nature to want to understand how they have managed to do it. As a successfully productive artist, Andrea is in the position of not only growing from her own life choices but also being able to help others who wish to start their artistic journey.  Her suggestions, like her art, are bold, forthright and forward looking. Here are the three that she urges others to use.

  1. DO NOT compare your work to other artists.
  2. Find your style
  3. Don’t be afraid to push your comfort zone

It seems obvious that artist Andrea also has talents to share as a mentor.

The Artist.  The Mother.

Now that we have glimpsed what goes on in Andrea’s studio, our natural curiosity leads us to find out more about Andrea herself.  Readers of The Bullvine can all relate to the fact that there are times in life when our passion for our work inspires our daily lives and prepares us for new pathways. This is true for the Jorgensen’s too as we learn from Andrea’s update. “By the time you read this, I’ll be working on something different. I have a few custom pieces I’m finishing before I have to take a pause, we are expecting, a little girl the first part of August. I’m also getting things organized for my dream-come-true-booth at World Dairy Expo.” We all look forward to seeing her at Dairy Expo, but her other life benchmark also has us applauding.

Congratulations to the Jorgensen Family

We are thrilled to join with friends, family and Bullvine readers in congratulating Andrea and Jerry on the arrival of their baby girl. Izadore Irvette Jorgensen was born on August 1st.  We wish you all the best as you hold this work of art in your arms and create a beautiful family together.  

Hand in Hand.  Romance.  Cows and Art.

Andrea concludes our interview with a special thank you for those who have helped her get this far in her career. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for my husband. He has encouraged me from day one.” It takes special support to pursue art the way Andrea has, and she is grateful. “A huge thanks to everyone that follows me on social media and those who have commissioned or bought a painting. Their support keeps me motivated to continue creating new pieces of art. It means more than they will ever know!” As a result, Andrea has built on this exceptional support, to grow an impressive following in just two years. She is justifiably enthusiastic about the future. ‘My goal is to keep creating colorful pieces of art for other people to enjoy. I hope to keep growing and evolving with all of life’s changes being thrown at me. I could not be more excited.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The Bullvine wishes Andrea Jorgensen all the best with her growing business and growing family.  We enthusiastically hope that she will continue to open her gallery doors and continue painting until the cows come home.

 

 

 

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Categories : The Bullvine

Is Milk’s Healthy Halo Trendy or Tarnished?

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Canadians have long looked with jealousy, envy and/or admiration at the school milk program in the USA.  We think what a huge difference that could make to national production requirements.

In the US that is 50 million milk drinkers. It often appears to us that this is a subsidy that isn’t acknowledged front and center like the backlash we get for having a quota system.  Having said that, it is a long-term marketing plan that could keep the dairy market growing.

“A positive experience with school milk can build lifelong consumers.”
Tom Gallagher is Chief Executive Officer of Dairy Management Inc.™, 

It is logical for the dairy industry to consider positive ways to keep milk consumption rising and discovering new ways to attract new consumers.  That’s the only way to sustain the dairy industry. Regardless of what support the industry receives, long term industry success will depend on the consumers’ opinion of milk as their choice of beverage.

This has had me tuning in more carefully to the way we make our beverage choices.  I haven’t yet heard myself, or any other social hosts, restaurants or meeting organizers say, “What would you like to drink? I have soda, beer, wine and ice cold, delicious whole milk!”

If we are looking for the long term survival of the dairy industry, we must consider the future consumer and how they will make their choices. I did a super mini survey among my eight grandchildren – five of whom have free milk at school.  We are fortunate that none of them are lactose intolerant, but it is interesting to note that it isn’t whether it’s free or good for you that is driving their selection processes.

Kids Interest in Beverages is Learned from What They See!

I sometimes ask myself if milk should be restricted to certain age groups.  Can you imagine a child reaching the age of consent and looking with delight to having their first glass of milk?  Would milk bashes become the new drive-your-parents’-crazy party gathering? Of course, I’ve wandered far from the (beaten) path. My point, such as it is, is that we don’t do enough to promote the product (from which we earn our living).

Probably I spend too much time at the refrigerator door, replenishing my glass of milk.  Having said that, I am delighted to see the modern trend toward smoothies.  Here is a yummy place for milk, cream, yogurt, and cheese to add new dairy product consumers.  Granted there are non-milk milks that are used here such as soy and almond milks but, in general, this is a growing potential market. Even the beverage leading coffee chains are expanding their brands with new lattes and cream flavors.

Learn from Other Beverage Industries

More attention is being placed on the benefits of healthy eating.  Whole industries from bottled water to micro-brewers to winemakers and specialty coffee shops are cashing in on the healthy and tasty ways their beverages provide what the consumer is looking for.

Beverage Industry Trends

That isn’t to say that there aren’t trends that are changing the beverage industry.  In January of last year, the Business Insider reported, “The beverage industry is experiencing some major changes heading into the new year. ” The article went on to point out health and wellness trends such as “all-natural, energy-boosting, relaxation and fortification.” Concerns are rising in the beverage industry. “As the demonization of sugar increasingly paints big beverage companies as the enemy, the industry is eager to humanize itself.”

Does Providing Good Food Translate into Doing Good Business?

Are we teaching kids to drink milk? Schools represent more than 50 million current and future consumers who have the option to consume milk and other dairy foods at least 180 days a year. Tom Gallagher, Chief Executive Officer, Dairy Management Inc. sees this as an opportunity to affect the health of young consumers. “Youth wellness is a longstanding priority for dairy farm families. In the USA the dairy checkoff is seen as a way carrying out this commitment as part of its daily mission.”

In Canada, there is no government involvement, but John Leveris, Dairy Farmers’ of Canada assistant director for market development, speaking for the not-for-profit initiative ESMP (Elementary School Milk Program) says

Typically the milk is sold to the schools at prevailing market prices. Schools then determine a ‘fundraising’ profit (generally $0.05 to $0.10), after which families pay approximately $0.65 per carton.”

It’s a significant discount from what one would pay for a 250mL carton of milk at a restaurant or convenience store,” he adds.

Is Milk’s better-for-you health halo Trendy? Tired? Or Tarnished?

As an industry, we must not just maintain but grow consumer support.  Our future depends on it.  Is our long-held image of milk and milk products a product of seeing our industry through rose colored glasses?  As long as we receive our producer’s checks, do we need to worry about what beverages are the most popular?  Maybe milk isn’t even in the top 10.  What is the beverage consumers are sipping?  Is the dairy industry slipping?

Does the next Generation of consumers care about what is “Good for you?”

A little carton of milk may seem like a minor thing, but it can have far reaching benefits for both the producing and consuming sides of the dairy industry. Statistical analysis has important considerations. “There are approximately 200 days in the school year which means there are 200 lunches, or in other words, 200 opportunities for children to make healthy food choices.” Although the intentions are good, it may be a bit presumptuous to assume that merely being presented with a nutritious beverage will tip students choices toward milk now or in the future.

As Food Producers Are We Required to Set an Example by Consuming Our Product?

If you work for a car company, you drive the company car.  If you produce computers, you use the company brand.  Many companies require that employees wear company uniforms, colors or logo.  It’s considered part of the job to promote and support the product produced. Is there a similar requirement for milk producers? Is there a line in the sand between producing milk and drinking it and serving milk products?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The dairy industry is at a turning point as it responds to the continuous changes that keep the beverage industry evolving.  There is much to learn, and it’s no time to distance ourselves with the excuse that passion for our industry is the only branding producers need to be involved in. There is a need for all milk stakeholders to be much more aware of the many forces that impact the milk consumer.

 

 

 

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Categories : Dairy Industry

Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation

Breeding a legendary dairy sire isn’t automatic. It is not as simple as crossing the right sire with the right dam. However, although it isn’t easy, it does happen.

In one of the most famous cases of all, that of Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation, it is somewhat surprising that the tremendous impact that was to become legendary was not immediately obvious.

It took a little time for the world to recognise his greatness. But, in the end, Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation changed  an entire breed and the dairy industry.

The Breeding of Elevation was Far from a Sure Thing

It would take time for the world to recognize the presence of greatness. Elevation was the product of a great mother, Eve, and a questionable father, Tidy Burke. As it happens, Elevation brought together the best from the Burkes, Rag Apples, Triunes and Winterthur bloodlines.  That is one of the reasons why Elevation would never have been totally missed.  Furthermore, Elevation did many important things well.  There are five that stand out: 1. Production 2. Udders 3. Mobility 4. Fertility and 5. Longevity. Measuring any one or all of these traits shows you what made Elevation special, for these are just a few of the characteristics that contributed to his popularity.  However, Elevation went way beyond mere popularity.  This legendary bull made a tremendous impact on the genetics of the Holstein Breed. He changed dairy organizations.  He affected dairy breeding around the world. The fact that Elevation has 10,000 registered sons in the United States alone speaks volume to both his acceptance and impact.

Was Elevation a Product of Genomics or Ahead of Genomic Times?

Today Elevation would have had hair pulled and submitted to DNA testing.  But in the 1960’s, if you can imagine it, here was a bull entering a sampling program from a slow maturing mother and a never classified father. A father who physically significantly lacked both size and mobility.

George Miller

The mating that resulted in Elevation used the combined knowledge and ‘go for it’ attitude of two men: breeder, Ron Hope from Virginia and his advisor, George Miller.  These two were first cousins, and they started three generations back to produce Elevation.  That is the way it was done in those days.  To arrive at Elevation’s dam, Eve, Hope and Miller stacked three sires: Ivanhoe, Gaiety and General.

By the way, in her early life, Eve carried more condition than normal. This is something that is also seen in Elevation daughters.

It is not any wonder, therefore, that Elevation passed on good fertility, given what we know today about the positive correlation between fertility and body condition score.

After completing a Master of Science degree at Virginia Tech, George Miller spent his career in A.I. starting at the field level, then as a state A.I. manager and eventually as Director of Marketing and Development at Select Sires.  George knew Holsteins, and he had access to bull performance information.  There must have been many interesting discussions between these first cousins about who would be the best mate for Eve, in order to produce a son that could enter A.I.

As mentioned previously, Tidy Burke Elevation, Elevation’s sire, was an ugly duckling but he did produce outstanding daughters.  Four of those daughters earned Honorable Mention All-American Get of Sire.  Today, it is evident that an artful breeder and a top notch A.I. man were indeed able to find the best sire available for Eve.  Remember that these men were making their decisions before the world had ever thought of using DNA information to aid in mating.

Elevation Made an Impact on Organisations

Charlie Will, who is the Holstein Sire Program Manager at Select Sires, gives perspective to the impact that Elevation has had on the company that originally purchased him. “Elevation put Select Sires on the map.  He was so far ahead of all other bulls for his time.  He had exceptional production and amazing type at the same time.” He explains what that meant over time, from the beginning and up to and including the present time. “Elevation made it possible for Select sires to grow as a new company.  Today Elevation still ranks #1 at Holstein USA for the most genes in common among today’s active proven sires (14.5%).  His impact continues 52 years after his birth.”

The WOW Factor of Elevation.

It’s easy to reiterate what set Elevation apart from the competition. Charlie keeps it simple. “Elevation had extraordinary type and production in one package.”  He sees this combination as almost miraculous.  “he dominated the mating no matter what kind of cow you used him on.  He could make a Great Cow from a Poor dam.  This is why he could have a huge impact in a single generation.”

Elevation Didn’t Just INFLUENCE the Future, He MADE the Future!

Breeders always pay attention to cow families.  But in order to influence an entire population, you must go beyond sires and look at their descendants.  Elevation influenced one generation after another: his kids, his kid’s kids, his kid’s kid’s kids.  This is what made Elevation’s influence stellar.

Facts Alone Don’t Spark Legends.  Results Do.

In any business, repeatable results are the only true measure of legendary success.  Popularity and memories fade.  In dairy cattle breeding, generations of descendants tell the real story. 

Charlie Will
Holstein Sire Program Manager
Select Sires

In describing Elevation daughters, Charlie Will starts with a somewhat modest description.  “His daughters had great legs and feet.  A straighter leg but with healthy hocks and strong loins.” Warming to the topic, Charlie adds “Elevation daughters are tall enough, but not extreme, with ideal dairy strength and proportional width for the stature.”  He concludes with what made the difference. “The typical Elevation daughters were short headed heifers but, when they were called into line, their exceptional udders, high and wide Rear Udder, and the great shape and symmetry of their udders, quickly made a breeder proud to own her.”

The first appearance was not always the final answer with Elevation daughters that became long- lived high production cows.

Once proven, everyone recognized that Elevation would continue stamping out great daughters, as he moved the Holstein breed to new heights.

Elevation’s Legacy Lives on Through His Sons and Daughters

Since almost all sires active in the breed today trace back to Elevation, Charlie Will finds it hard to pick from a list where the greats are almost too numerous to mention.  For him, Elevation’s most impact sons include, “Bova, Starbuck, Pete, Mars Tony, Sexation, and Lime Hollow Mars.”

On the daughter side, Charlie lists many attributes. “Elevation has had many class winning daughters, including at World Dairy Expo and the Royal Winter. Elevation also led the list, at one time, for the number of Excellent daughters and also for the number of daughters who scored 95, 96 and 97.” His daughter list reads like an all-star lineup, from EX97 All-Time All-American’s Ella and Twinkie to EX-GMD Cora and Lindy, the dams of Carnation Counselor and Townson Lindy, respectively.

Elevation Surpasses All Heights

When we recognize a dairy legend, it is great to hear some stories from behind the scenes.  Charlie tells one about the time that Elevation was classified 96. “Jim Patterson was head of the Holstein USA classification program at the time that Elevation was raised from 95 to 96.  Later, after he retired, he told me that he only made one mistake, in all the years that he classified. He wished that he would have made Elevation 97 instead of 96!” (Learn more: CHARLIE WILL “A CAREER WITH IMPACT” – SELECT SIRES 50TH ANNIVERSARY)

Northcroft Ella Elevation EX-97-4E
1980 – Grand/Supreme Champion – WDE
1981 – Grand Champion – RAWF
1977, 1980, 1981, 1982 – All-American

Elevation’s Impact is Felt

With the perfect vision accorded to us by hindsight, we can clearly see that Elevation didn’t only influence genetics. Elevation has also had a tremendous impact on sales, new research and the success of countless breeders and organisations. Dairy strategy and development have also felt his influence. And, ultimately, the dairy show ring was also impacted by Elevation.

The World Wide Elevation Influence

Elevation, often known as RORAE, made friends for United States Holsteins around the world.  Therein lies the engine that drives the legend.  Fundamentally, around the world, one bull, through his progeny, significantly changed the profitability of the Holstein cow.  But the measure of Elevation goes beyond mere financial success.  Elevation made many dairymen into successful dairy breeders.  How did he do it? Elevation stamped out daughters that provided what dairymen needed. Production. Longevity. Fertility. Mobility. Functional mammary systems. These are the characteristics passed on by a one-of-a-kind, legendary bull.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Elevation forever lifted the worldwide dairy breeding industry to a new level.

Greatness can have many definitions, but in Holstein breeding, it can be said using a single name, Round Oak Rag Apple ELEVATION.

 

 

 

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I am really excited because you are actually starting to read this article on Heat Stress. At The Bullvine, we know that the frequency of Heat Stress articles might work against your decision to read one more.  The normal reaction would be to say, “Oh yeah.  I know Heat Stress like the back of my hand.”  The problem is we have all heard about it. We agree with the idea of dealing with it.  But, have we eliminated the effects of heat stress from our dairy herds? No.

The facts tell different, but likewise oft repeated, stories of failure.   Reduced feed intake. Less milk production. Lower butterfat percent. And, topping the list, poor or even stopped reproductive performance!

Knowing heat stress is not so much about learning to know it like the back of your hand. It’s more like fighting to keep it from slipping to the back of your mind.

We all know what it’s like to try to work in extreme conditions. Or do we?  Recently a friend was called for Jury Duty.  No problem.  Well, no problem until the AC in the courthouse failed, and everyone there spent the morning with no relief from the rising heat or the increasing stress.  Long story short. Later that night, there was an emergency trip to ER and much concern about heart, lungs and respiration. The verdict.  Don’t ignore the signs of heat stress.

If You’ve GOT HEAT, you’ve GOT STRESS!

Coming from Ontario, Canada or areas of the Midwestern USA, we might have only six or seven days of excessively high heat occurring one or two times during the summer season.  But, even if it isn’t extended as it is in many southern states, it is important to remember that cows start to be stressed at sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit or 18 degrees centigrade. When the outdoor temperature is above 80 degrees (27 degrees Centigrade) for extended periods, problems turn into high-risk situations.  This is where the good managers are separated from everyone else.  They don’t settle for losses.  They don’t aim for mediocre.

Do You Know the EARLY Signs of Heat Stress?

Of course, if cows are panting rapidly or going down, you can be sure they are at risk.  But long before the obvious signs of crisis, cattle are beginning to suffer from heat stress.  Continuous hot days and nights don’t provide any break in the cycle of high temperatures and cows quickly stop eating in an effort to reduce the heat coming from rumen fermentation. One thing leads to another.  Less feed in the rumen means less fermentation.  Along with less volatile fatty acid production, there is a reduction in rumen microbes and metabolizable protein.  This reduction in feed intake reduces milk production by more than 10% or down as much as a gallon or more per cow per day. Heat stress also reduces the butterfat level (0.2-0.3%). These conditions now open the door to other health issues, including reduced reproductive performance. 

Reproduction Declines as Heat Stress Rises

There is a direct correlation between heat stress and fertility. A three-year US trial reported on the winter to summer drop in confirmed pregnancies.  In winter 30% were confirmed, results dropped to 10 to 15% in summer.

Be Alert to the Ongoing Heat Stress Effects

As mentioned, reduction of feed intake is an automatic response by cows suffering from heat stress. Several points should be noted about the effects that this produces:

  • Digestion of forages causes more heat accumulation than the digestion of grains.
  • Animals on a higher forage ration are more inclined to heat stress than animals on higher grain
  • Cows will sort vigorously to eat more grain than forage.
  • Early lactation and higher yielding cows are the first to be affected.

It is good management to be alert to these signs when they occur in the cattle we care for. Careful observation of the condition of the feed in the feed bunk is an absolute must do.

Once into a cycle of hot days and nights, cows experiencing severe heat stress, produce less milk.  In extreme cases, death from heat stress can occur.

What Can Be Done?  What Must Be Done?

There are three main areas to consider when trying to relieve bovine heat stress.  First look at the exterior sources of heat.  Then consider what can be done to affect heat producing digestion. Finally, look for opportunities to provide direct and indirect cooling of the cows.

  • Under the Sun: It seems almost too obvious to say that we must be aware of direct solar radiation from the sun.  Whether your cows are on pasture or in the barn, it is important to do what you can to moderate exposure to extremely high temperatures. Many dairy cattle are dark colored and this too raises their susceptibility to heat stress. Out of doors make sure that cattle have access to shade and fresh feed and water.  Watch out for wet conditions that can add high humidity to the risks coming from high temperatures.  If the outdoors isn’t an effective solution, keep cows in the barn.
  • Inside the Barn: Getting proper air flow around the cattle in the barn will make a huge difference in cow comfort during excruciating weather conditions. Set up the maximum natural ventilation, preferably cross ventilation, and use fans to effectively increase air flow.
    With the air moving then turn your attention to ways to use water to cool the air and the cows. A fine mist will work to cool the air and thus make it easier for cattle to breathe.  In addition, it might be necessary to provide direct wetting of the cows.  This will enhance evaporative cooling on the skin surface of the cows.  Once again, too much wetting is not necessarily better. You don’t want to have so much water that it washes off the teat dip, wets the bedding or raises the humidity to unacceptable levels. It is especially important to avoid overcrowding!  A reduction in cows could have a positive effect on the production of the remaining cows.  This solution could offset the losses in milk production caused by overcrowded, heat-stressed
  • At the Feed Trough: Work with your feeding team and nutrition consultants to provide a ration that include high quality, highly digestible forage. Feed your highest producing cows the best quality feed. Consider formulations that involve using fat to maintain energy intake during declining feed intake.
  • In the Milk Line: Little adjustments in all areas of the dairy cow day have the potential to reduce heat stress. If it is an option, increasing milking frequency might be one way to moderate heat stress. 3x milking means less heat stress, particularly on heavily producing cows.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Managing heat stress in cows is up to you. Don’t procrastinate. Reduce exposure to the environment.  Take direct steps to keep cattle feeling cool.  Use ration formulations that reduce as much as possible heat from metabolization. Don’t accept meltdown. Keep good records.  Keep your cool.

 

 

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Categories : Management

DAIRY FARMERS are DEFINITELY ODD

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

We had an enlightening moment recently when my Michigan Granddaughter who is studying American History thought it would be fun to Play Canadian History trivial pursuit.  Her mother and father did extremely well (both Canadians), but she was disappointed in the gaps in her knowledge.  In true Canadian fashion, we apologized for the one-sided viewpoint of this Canadian game and urged her to seek historical bridges between the two countries. We found it.  It is in our agricultural roots as descendants from farmers. However, it didn’t take much reminiscing until we came to this conclusion.

Farmers — on both sides of the border —
have a lot in common with each other.
And there is a lot that isn’t in common with anyone else!

Farmers are Odd

It seems that any time we look into our farmer past; we always land on one of those one-of-a-kind memories. The phrase “hard to believe” is the golden grail of family farmer stories and it seems that every generation has many to draw on. We love to see the looks of disbelief, when a story starts out with,” There was a farmer…” As I seek to polish my farmer’s wife role in tandem with writing for The Bullvine, I have a growing file on the oddities of the dairy farmer. Some of them are scientifically proven, others go beyond science to the undeniable truth which is found, of course, through four decades of marriage to a farmer.

Even Oddities Can Be Measured

Today everyone wants proof. Thankfully some farmer oddities can easily be monitored by the speed at which they occur. When it comes to walking, farmers are faster.  When it comes to talking, farmers are slower.  I haven’t had the opportunity to simultaneously test the two, but we all know that, when something unexpected is happening two fields away, the farmer is off and speed walking to the rescue. After the emergency is taken care of, the final five-word assessment of the successful outcome almost always seems to take longer to say than it took him to get to the scene. “She wasn’t due until tomorrow!” Apparently, the slowness of the delivery adds to the significance of the pronouncement.

Farmers Have an Odd Sense of Hearing

When I got the opportunity to join a farm family, I was mightily impressed by the attention they gave to listening.  Coming from the fast forward of a house construction family, it was delightful to be heard at the board room table, which like farmers was also the kitchen table.  However, not only do farmers listen better, farmers think about what you say.  If I was prone to wild pronouncements in my early farm days like “that looks easy” or “I could do that,” it would quickly earn me the privilege of becoming more farmer-like myself.  To this day, handy experiences magically appear to prove whether I actually have managed to fit in with these odd folks. You see, real farmers are not only hands-on, but they are also hands in.  Most things non-mechanical will only get you dirty or smelly but it’s a fact that farmers get the oddest satisfaction from going beyond hands on to get up to their elbows in mud, dust, manure or baby calf deliveries. I’ve done most of the dirty jobs, but I usually try to have water, rags, and soap on hand for the inevitable clean-up. 

Odd Sense of Smell

Which brings me to the biggest oddity that sets farmers apart — their smell.  No.  I don’t mean their sense of smell.  It goes beyond that. You too probably know one of those odd farmer dudes who is absolutely convinced that he is still huggable even when he is covered head to foot in manure, and other unidentifiable ride longs gathered on his around-the-farm journey. That charm can only go so far.  However, it also makes him a prime candidate for diaper changing, should the opportunity arise.  But first, you have to convince him that he notices it.  Remember farmers are odd.  They love those dairy airs perhaps a little more than smells coming from their dairy heirs. Truth be told, I have learned to accept that oddity, until or unless it invades my car or suddenly wafts down to where I’m sitting in the church choir.  “What is that smell?” remains a subject of investigation, but somehow or another folks are learning to check out that guy up there in the men’s section.  You know the one with a little bit of something on his shoe.  As for the car, I must be a real farmer.  The other day, the neighbor surreptitiously put the window down when I was driving her to a card party. Farmers are odd!

Farmers Are the Oddest Volunteers

Although hubby’s family have lived on this farm for 101 years, there seem to be less and less farmers in the surrounding community every year.  Having said that, if you want to test how many farmers belong to the group you’re volunteering for, whether it’s Lions Club, community theater or any other group that needs a big effort, just call a work bee, and the conversation you hear will quickly tell you where the odd farmers are. 

Farmers cannot get together – ever – and not have their conversation start somewhat harmlessly with the weather and then turn to a variety of farm related experiences that most of the neighbors wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.

Of course, I have proof. Recently, when setting up tables for the Annual Ladies Salad Luncheon, I clearly overheard two of these odd fellows as their conversation moved easily from broken water mains to mastitis.  They didn’t have any concern that their heartfelt problem solving might not be entirely appropriate to the rest of the team who was preparing for white tablecloths and teaspoons. If this occasionally happens to you, remember farmers are a declining breed. It is best to make sure your normality meter can handle a conversation that is as free-wheeling and organic as the food they produce. 

Dairy Farmers Produce Experiments

When I am spending time with my city friends, that’s when I notice that they are oblivious to the excitement that being married to a dairy farmer can entail.  Although I don’t think my hubby actually plans to scare me, nevertheless I sometimes feel that he ponders the deep question of, “Let’s see if this will go through the washing machine!” more frequently than his innocent expression is intended to display. Although the quantity of rattles and bangs has started to decline, I still experience the mystery of discovering everything from binder twine to invoices in the washer. This recurring problem would be eliminated if the machines didn’t get turned on without inspection.  But remember farmers are hands on.  They are not hands- emptying-the-pockets-first on! Then, of course, there is stage two. “If it makes it through the wash, let’s try drying it.” Ear tags, cotter pins and anything else that can be zipped into a pocket to keep it safe will eventually send you running to the crash banging of the clothes dryer.  “Well it may not be safe anymore, but it sure is dry!” (This is delivered slowly and with an eye on the nearest exit). Odd indeed!

Farmers Remember Differently

I have learned from being married to a farmer, that there is satisfaction in repairing and maintaining the family homestead.  In the past 100 plus years, there are unique stores of items all over the farm that can be used for landscaping.  Family history wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t join around the fire pit to hear the tales of days gone by.  So, when I needed some especially flat stones for edging, I was told to drive the front end loader to the rock ridge.  Well, folks.  After one hundred years, the rock ridge is no longer rocky or a ridge. Thanks to erosion, tree harvesting, and rock picking, it is currently only slightly more than a rise in the rolling terrain. However, if you have to ask for more defined directions, the ensuing argument ranks right up there with trying to create a mountain out of an old hill. 

Likewise, when you think it’s time to replace a split rail fence that has seen better days, you better get approval from any guys still living that had a hand in building it.  “Dad and I built that when I was fifteen.  We hauled all those rails from the bush to the barnyard.  It is not only beautiful, but it’s also part of our history!” Yup.  Farmers remember things differently. They’re odd. 

The Bullvine Bottom Line

As the sun sets each day beyond the now empty milkhouse, I often reflect on the myriad of ways that the man I married is different from the men and women I meet in corner offices.  Although he is comfortable there too, he really shines when he takes a farm project into his own two hands.  Today that might have more to do with writing and consulting, but he always comes home to the farm and delves into the next ‘real’ work that needs doing. He’s there when the neighbors need help training calves. He’s there to build tree houses and forts with his grandchildren. He works hard.  He sometimes smells funny.  He loves the land and his long, long days almost as much as he loves passing on his long, long history to the next generations of his family.

You might call that odd. I think it’s inspiring!!

 

 

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We all want to pay our bills. After all, most people don’t get a great feeling watching debts accumulate. But things happen unexpectedly and, suddenly, you can’t make payments for everything on time.  Although you need to correct things quickly, making an ill-considered decision may mean wasted speed and wasted money!

When milk prices decline, the quickest response is to immediately cut an expense! 

Most often, somebody else’s bill becomes the first target: vet; nutritionist; feed supplier. What may be overlooked in this quick decision, are the positive ways these providers and consultants can contribute with solutions for the tight cash flow problem. It is short sighted to think that changing nutrition or health from monitored and managed to least cost or elimination will be the best decision. It is in everyone’s interest to work together to make the dairy profitable.

“My Business is the First Priority.”

Take note the important word is “business” not “bottom line.” Although the two may seem inseparable, a well-run, well-planned dairy business always comes ahead of dollar based decisions only.  Focusing on how you run the dairy will absolutely pay off to the bottom line.  Focusing on the bottom line could mean a savings today that is irreparably costly tomorrow. If you choose to cut something out of the chain, you may also be cutting profits due to losses from sick or dying animals and the resulting lost production and expensive solutions.

Everyone in the barn lane …. better be prepared!

This is not to say, that everyone in the dairy lane should be kept on your team. You want your cows to produce.  Your consultants and suppliers should contribute to that goal too. Let’s look at bills from both sides now:

The Nutrition Bill:

Engage a nutrition company that is willing to work with you not simply there to sell you product.  Make sure the nutrition company has a proven track record with dairies your size. The biggest is not always the one interested in solving your problems.  Find a nutrition company who has a person willing to check every cow – in the pen – from input to output, including manure.  You want to be presented with choices that have actual measurable outcomes, beyond the quick, “our price is lower!” answer.

The Vet Bill:

On the one hand, if the bill hasn’t changed much it may seem to be the easiest to complain about and then the easiest not to pay!

On the other hand, if the vet bill is actually higher than it’s been before, finding the reason is crucial, or you could be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  It’s one thing if a business is solving its own cash flow crisis by charging higher rates, but if there are rising health issues or ongoing medication or medical emergencies, these need to be identified with both action and financial planning. Sometimes it’s a talk about brand versus generic medicines. Perhaps it’s as simple as reducing the age at first calving.  An example recently cited a dairy farm where age at first calving was 28 months.  The suggestion given by the vet was that lowering that number to 23 months would pay the vet bill for an entire year. What can you do better?

Are you Saving Money to Lose Money?

Perhaps you haven’t cut out the expertise on your team, maybe you have inserted your own.  When saving money, sometimes it seems that I did it myself is a good solution.  Some dairies mix own detergents, teat tip, pipeline cleaner.  Great!  If it works!  However, if the SCC raises the dominoes mentioned earlier start falling: SCC rises and you don’t get premiums

Don’t Get Caught up in the least Cost Solutions

Don’t get caught up in finding least cost solutions: whether they are yours or someone else’s. You decide to make little changes … cut back a couple of steps in corn growing schedule … less yield.  Lower quality corn silage …. Once again the dominoes start falling as a monetary cut back in the spring could cause significant financial losses during the winter.

What Effect is Loyalty Having on Your Bottom Line?

Every dairy farm has loyalties.  Those include a best friend, twenty years or more of service, a hunting buddy or a next door neighbor.  These can all be rewarding but let’s look through the lens of business. It all comes down to cash flow and the bottom line.  Goods and services are on the expense side of the ledger, and every manager must determine if loyalty is maximizing or draining this return over cost.

A sound financial plan will identify both sides of this relationship: “whom do you need the most?” and “Who needs you the most?” Write each supplier line down and assign a priority: labor, vet, nutritionist, feed supplier, equipment supplier.  Which ones are first and last on the list of improvements you a targeting to improve your bottom line.  Do you have every latest product line or piece of equipment from the supplier you’re loyal to?  What does it cost you?  Is there a way to balance what you are buying with the effect it has on making you more efficient or productive?  When was the last time that a consultant suggested modifying or cutting back to get through a downturn? Again… these must be measurable results, not just heartfelt feelings.

Whom are you Going to Cull? Do you keep Unproductive Cows Too?

It is perhaps easier to cull people sending bills to your inbox than it is to cull cows in the milking line. However, both are an important part of your cash flow (story).  Herd turnover and the milk quality produced not only affects the price received for the milk you send out, it financially impacts every step from calf to the milking line. How much money are you spending on raising calves that will never produce?  Consider all your options from breeding programs and sexed semen to setting up defined culling strategies.  Put your money where the milk is long before the animal is in the milking line.

All cows are not created equally profitable! All numbers are not created equal.

Don’t live or die, meaning kill your business, by blinding maintaining some magic number of total cows on your farm. Are you keeping everything to maintain a number that you consider ideal?  A pen of sick or low producing animals is costly.  Not only because of the effect on the net return over feed per day but also because of the potential for sharing their diseases.  Furthermore, the time and attention and FEED took away from better-producing animals is money and time wasted.

Planning for the Future means Planning to Survive.

In every business success hinges on finances.  You may be willing to have a less flashy lifestyle, but you must always pay the bills.  How can you generate more income?  How can you hold costs under control?  Revenue maximization is a planned response to both rising or falling milk prices.  It is a major challenge. The up and down cycle of change occurs every two or three years.  Producing a product that garners a premium is one of the few ways a producer can affect the milk price received.  Having a plan in place for both events is the only way to manage this volatile business.  Following a plan, will make surviving any crisis more likely.

The Bullvine Bottom Line:

Suppliers, vets, and consultants have bills to pay as well. Nothing in the dairy industry happens in a vacuum. If everyone reduces feed supplies, stops vet visits and decides to put the cows on a “recession diet,” the domino effect will go into play.  Soon there are expensive health, feed, and sourcing problems, that are even more costly than the initial lower milk price or cash flow crisis that prompted the short-sighted response. Everyone in the dairy chain benefits from looking at diary bills from both sides now!

 

 

 

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I didn’t see all the rounds of voting for the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, but my ears did ring to attention when the subject of supply management was discussed by the election night panel.  “It affects only 11%.”  That phrase and the notion that it was too small a portion of the electorate to be an election game changer went by very quickly. I remember thinking. “Yes, it’s a small group.  But there are so many others affected by that small group. 

Food Chain Lingo Should Not Be Disparaged

“From Farm to Fork” and “From Stable to Table” are popular lingo used in support of the good chain. When analysts decide the group is too small to have national, or political, significance they are writing off a much larger group than just the primary providers. From the stable to the table applies to all the suppliers, consultants, financial institutions, truckers and grocery stores that make a portion of their living from the sustainability of the dairy industry.  And that’s not to mention consumers.  Too often that silent majority also gets overlooked in the hoopla of election forecasting and numbers analysis.

Who is Andrew Scheer?  Why Does He Care About Supply Management?

On May 27th, Andrew Scheer, Regina-Qu’Appelle MP, became the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. He pulled ahead of Maxime Bernier to win.  Once again, the modern day election results of “By a slim margin” came into play. A CBC article quoted Franck Groeneweg, a grain farmer from Edgeley, Saskatchewan as saying “It was a nail-biter to the end.”  Hindsight being 20/20 political pundits are now saying that Scheer seemed to have the support of many (dairy) producers” and that made the difference.

 The Rural Vote Rallied Around Scheer

Election platforms come and go and sometimes the ones that win never get put into action, but Andrew Scheer voiced support for supply management and for abolishing Prime Minister Trudeau’s carbon tax.  Rural voters took notice of what he claimed and also were not as supportive of Maxime Bernier’s statements that he wanted to abolish supply management.  Thus the expected winner became the election-night loser.

Who Likes Him Now?

The Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) also proclaimed its support for the new leader in a congratulatory post.

“Dairy Farmers of Canada would like to congratulate Andrew Scheer on his win in the Conservative leadership race,” says the DFC post.  “Mr. Scheer was supportive of supply management as a Member of Parliament, and has continued to be supportive throughout this leadership campaign; on behalf of all Canadian dairy farmers – thank you!”

Farming Is a New Political Game Changer

It hasn’t been that long since we wrote about the turmoil, rural interests are causing for US President Trump (Read more: Trump Fabricates False Dairy War with Canada – US Dairy Farmers Stuck Paying the Price). Whenever two or more people gather together to solve the problems of the world, you can be sure that Trump’s position on NAFTA, supply management and Canadian impact on Wisconsin dairy farmers, will be a hot topic. It isn’t surprising then that the Conservative Party had to choose who they felt was ready for that challenge on top of putting their agenda in the forefront of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

The Winner Had a Farm Strategy

Over the coming months, there may be many who try to determine how someone from a smaller province like Saskatchewan can rise to political prominence or even become Prime Minister.  As Scheer himself put it in an interview, “John Diefenbaker did it.” and he obviously has his eye on the prize. Ag supporters noted that, throughout the campaign, he valued the needs of farmers.  He campaigned in Quebec where he met directly with dairy farmers and earned the support of many of them. His strategy worked, and now he will be using those insights to power his opposition in Parliament.

So Who’s TOO SMALL Now?

We all love to read statistics that confirm that our position – political or otherwise – is the most popular.  I know I’m not the only one who is wondering why election polls seem to be missing the mark more and more often these days.

I think pollsters are asking the wrong questions of the wrong people.  They are so immersed in the take and take of traditional politics that they are missing the shifting mood of the times.  No one would ever call election campaigning and international politics as “normal, ” but we keep trying to look at modern issues through the distortion of the past.  Bluster, bravado, and name-calling have risen to new heights.  In the real world, there are many who don’t conduct themselves this way.  Nevertheless, they want their position to be acknowledged on the world stage.  That’s when what they would do themselves is sublimated, and they vote for the candidate who can get the job done.  If they think it takes bluster, they mark the “X” for that manner of candidate. If they are against smooth, big money politics, they put their vote where the candidate doesn’t spout those values. It doesn’t make a huge number to make the winning difference in an election. Twenty-five percent of the population is a landslide in most modern elections. Winning agricultural support is not often considered a mainstream election platform. Yet it is a good strategy when it brings out the passionate group who is ready to challenge mass production, mass advertising and mass conformance to money issues. The average voter – him or her— are ready to take the unlikely route when choosing who best represents what satisfies their average needs. That’s where majority wins are made.

Speak Up and Stand Up for Agriculture

There are so many times when headlines regarding agriculture broadcast the negative (Read more: Country vs. City – Bullying, Rejection, and a Total Lack of Understanding). It is refreshing to see a high-profile opportunity to celebrate the positive values of producing healthy food products. The challenge for Andrew Scheer will be where he goes with this foundation of support.  He saw the sector and recognized that they wanted their voice heard.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It wasn’t a landslide victory for Andrew Scheer, but many analysts feel his insight into supply management did make a difference!  Now let’s see if he will continue to do so on Parliament Hill.

 

 

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From Hamilton, New Zealand to Grand Rapids, Michigan there appears to be an unsettling addition to the growing disconnect between the realities of farm life and city sensibilities. Headlines proclaim bullying, rejection from stores and verbal abuse as the new normal for city-country relations.

Who Is the Bully? Who is Being Bullied?

Regardless of when it happens, we are always dismayed to hear about bullying.  When this headline “Dairy Farmers’ Children Bullied” came out of New Zealand, it struck a chord within the agricultural community.

Comments from DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle were reported in NZ Farmer. DairyNZ is the industry organization that represents all New Zealand dairy farmers. At a speech given at the organization’s Farmers Forum near Hamilton, Mackle said there had been “two or three incidents” of children who were being singled out in school because their parents were dairy farmers. He referred to it as: “The saddest story I’ve heard.”  He concluded that the behavior was an indication of the negative treatment “many felt the industry was receiving from the media.” He added. “It’s fair to say that across the country, dairy farmers are feeling a bit beaten up right now and that’s been going on for the last 18 months.”

Halfway around the world in Grand Rapids Michigan dairy farmer, Leslie Van Houten Parrish, went to Facebook in outrage over her son being kicked out of a Lush Store. Here are the highlights from her post that has since gone viral.

“Her teen son was shopping for a gift for his girlfriend when an employee allegedly asked him to leave the high-end beauty retailer known for its “100 percent vegetarian” products.  The 17-year-old, who was wearing clothes that indicated he worked on a dairy farm, was told the beauty retailer “didn’t support farmers and stood against cruelty to animals and refused to sell to him,” Van Houten Parrish said her son explained how his family’s farm goes “above and beyond to care and nurture our animals. “When the Lush employee refused to relent, Van Houten Parrish says her son said “I farm you eat!” before leaving. The angry mom says she will never shop at Lush again, and unleashed her fury on what she sees as the ignorance about the connection between farms and food.

Is ignorance the problem?

We tend to brush off the occasional bad urban-rural interaction as ignorance.  We glibly use the words that “They don’t know enough!” If that was the case, all we would have to do is inform critics loudly, clearly and often. The thing is ignorance is not really the problem between country and city.  With the world of communication being what it is today, it isn’t that we don’t know about differences in our respective jobs and locations.  The real problem is that city, and country lifestyles are so disconnected that too many think of all farmers … as dirty, poor people. Rather than an understanding of the nature of animal-based food production, our interactions are reduced to a quick judgment. It’s bad enough when it’s all in the mind, but in many cases, it’s all in the nose!  “What’s that smell?” is the new country nose rage offense. Unfortunately, no concession is given to extenuating circumstances that might have brought the farmer to the store, bank or pharmacy before showering and changing from work clothes into shopping wear.

We don’t need to inform each other. We need to engage each other.

Although headlines grab attention, we need to recognize that the priority isn’t that we need to expose our sight and smell differences. It’s that we need to communicate our shared goals. The angry Mom in Michigan tried very passionately to state the farmer side of the issue.  Her post said, “Maybe you don’t realize that the ingredients YOU USE (soy yogurt and soy milk) in your products are available because of FARMERS!!!*** I supported your business because you didn’t test on animals. We treat our animals with love and respect. But I refuse to support you when you can’t support those who help make your business profitable.  This world needs farmers more than it needs bath bombs.” Mrs. Parrish later followed up after talking to the store’s manager. “At first he thought it was a miscommunication. But after telling him, it clearly wasn’t when the clerk made a statement to him ‘how would you like to be chained up most of your life?’ He was caught a little off guard. This was not what was told to him by the employees working that night. I am continuing to work with them to educate their staff.”.

Bully, Bullied or Bystanders.

Clearly in both instances described here, feeling “in the right” doesn’t make the inflicted adverse actions any more justifiable. In these instances and many more, disconnectedness causes and, unfortunately, encourages bullying of a targeted group. In this case, it’s farmers. We especially feel for the one being bullied. Even more so, because we too are part of that shrinking group. I always encourage reasonable people to ask the second question. “Are we willing to do anything about it or are we okay with remaining bystanders?”  Do we or should we bully back? After all, it’s not hard to find instances of poor hygiene or fashion flops in city crowds.  Or do we become enablers, simply standing by and bemoaning the ways of the world?

Disconnection Is Fertile Ground for Growing Lack of Trust

The most dangerous outcome of not trying to meet on common ground is that a lack of trust develops on both sides.  In the Lush Store headline, the issue went beyond smell detection to blaming the identified farmer as an animal abuser. This radical leap is made too quickly by those who are at best three generations from the farm. On the farmer side of the equation, we are too quickly taking the position, which everyone on the “other” side is misjudging and abusing us! Neither position benefits consumers or animal agriculture.

Many farmers feel a great sense of frustration that people don’t understand how life, in general, is connected to life in the soil and life on the land.

Having said that, if something as simple as the smell can trigger abuse and rejection, the issues have gotten further than the mere excuse of not knowing where your food comes from. It isn’t lack of understanding.  It is a lack of respect.  Even worse, it’s the idea that expressing that respect in word or action is entirely acceptable.

What does it matter if people don’t understand where their food comes from?

I must admit there are many other occupations that I don’t understand.  I drive a car.  I live in a house. I read and work extensively on the Internet.  Certainly, problems arise.  However, I don’t believe it would serve my needs to attack all providers and malign them as a group. I don’t believe that, but I do acknowledge that seeds of dissension are happening much more often in today’s society. In politics, communities, schools and sports we first react with outrage and division.  That is at the core of what is happening between consumers and farmers.

Conflict, frustration, depression, anger, and other miseries in life are but a symptom of our disconnectedness. It’s one thing when it’s just a headline that you’re reading.  It’s another when it happens to someone you care about.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

No matter which category you fall into, bully, bullied or bystander, this response to city-country life comes at a high price.  Not only does it point out a growing disconnection between food providers and consumers, but there is an increasing disconnection between two vital parts of the community. City-country cruelty hurts everybody!

 

 

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The Quest to Eradicate Mastitis!

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

If there is one long lived, rarely defeated dragon in dairying, it is Mastitis.  Despite heroic efforts, many a knight in shining armor (aka vets, farmers, researchers) has tried to save fair damsels (aka cows) and lost. Furthermore, the dragon Mastitis has grown ever more powerful and costs the dairy industry $2 billion dollars annually because of treatment costs, discarded milk, lost milk production, vet services, lost premiums and reduced cull values. And the list keeps growing!

When a quest takes place in a movie or fairy tale, there are tests and challenging obstacles to overcome.  In the dairy quest for Freedom from Mastitis, there have been countless very real challenges to overcome.  Here are five outcomes of some of these battles and forecasts of more to come:

  1. In 1986, compliance with the federal bulk tank somatic cell count (SCC) standard of 750,000cells per milliliter (cell/mL) was instituted.
  2. The limit could be lowered again to 400,000 cell/mL in the near future.
  3. There is the ongoing challenge of being profitable in a market of ever-volatile input and milk prices.
  4. The mounting concern about antibiotic resistance in human medicine is causing antibiotic mastitis therapy to be looked at more critically.
  5. Because the goal is to seek to prevent mastitis infections from happening at all, the quest is changing from defense to complete elimination

From Defense to Elimination

Eliminating mastitis is indeed a quest of very large proportions as explained by Lorraine Sordillo, a mastitis researcher at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, “When I began researching mastitis 30 years ago, we concentrated heavily on epidemiology and microbiology. Now we are placing much greater emphasis on immunology and enhancing the cow’s natural defenses to minimize mastitis infections.”

Sordillo expresses that progress in managing mastitis owes a lot to adherence to the “5-Point Plan for Mastitis Management,” issued decades ago by the National Mastitis Council.

The hallmarks of the 5-Point Plan are (1) teat disinfection; (2) dry-cow antibiotic therapy; (3) use of functionally adequate milking machines; (4) antibiotic therapy for clinical mastitis infections, and (5) culling of chronic cows.  Steve Nickerson, University of Georgia Professor of Animal and Dairy Science suggests nine more ways of reducing mastitis prevalence and SCC levels:

  1. herd surveillance and
  2. recordkeeping,
  3. environmental sanitation,
  4. strategic culling,
  5. vaccination,
  6. teat sealants,
  7. herd biosecurity,
  8. dietary supplementation and
  9. mastitis control in bred heifers.

Now the Quest is for Immunity

A quest always has to be larger than life. When you take into account that 137 organisms cause mastitis (Watts 1988), trying to develop vaccines for all of them certainly qualifies as a huge undertaking. Even though that quest is unlikely to be entirely won, Sordillo, nevertheless, has positive expectations about the prospects for mastitis vaccine technology. “The mammary gland is unique in that you can vaccinate it separately, targeting individual cell populations to trigger an immune response,” she said and goes on to explain, “Sub-unit vaccines, which target specific peptides that contribute to disease progression, are the focus of current research.” Sordillo calls for “fresh thinking in development of the adjuvants that serve as the carrier for vaccine delivery.”

In the fight against invasive pathogens, the ultimate goal is to enhance cows’ immune system so that they can ward them off.  There are commercially available mastitis vaccines called bacterins.  This means that because they help the cow’s immune system recognize the core structure of the target bacteria, they are more effective at helping cows fight new infections rather than preventing them.

Immunity Through Nutrition and Supplementation

Another option is to enhance immunity through nutrition.  Today this is Sordillo’s primary area of research. The concept is that immunity is affected by all health events.  If there is a challenge in one area – such as uterine infection, metritis or another condition — the immune system is busy healing in the challenged area and, as Sordillo notes, “It lets down its guard in other areas.” The goal is optimal immunity being derived from optimal nutrition. Both Sordillo and Nickerson feel that nutritional supplements have the potential for supporting immunity. “Dietary supplements with trace minerals and vitamins can have immune-modulatory effects on the mammary system.” Nickerson foresees that supplement uses will expand. “We believe supplemental yeast acts as a probiotic, supporting rumen microflora and digestion, particularly in early lactation,” he said.

Using Genomics to Breed for Disease Resistance

Genomics is another area that holds promise, but it is clear that progress in this area could be a long way off. “It is important to recognize that in trying to zero in on mastitis immunity with genomic selection, there is the risk of an adverse impact on other immune channels.  This is an evolving area of genetic selection and more data, research and trials are needed to keep the forward momentum.  Optimizing host defenses especially during times such as dry-off would have a tremendously positive impact.

The Role of Antibiotics Has Dramatically Changed

Researchers agree antibiotic therapy always will be part of the mastitis offense; many feel that its role will change. “Through regulation and our own proactive efforts, I think we will be seeing increased veterinary involvement, and more emphasis on susceptibility testing in the future,” Sordillo said. “Prophylactic antibiotic use, such as whole-herd dry-cow therapy, probably will not continue as we know it today.”

Immune-stimulating additives explored

The bigger the challenge, the more opportunities there are for exploring new frontiers.  Feed additives that can support the immune system are attempting to do that. The goal is to develop the ability of the animal’s body to discern between its own naturally occurring molecules and substances that are foreign. Supplements that can achieve this without risk of toxicity of tissue damage are being developed.

Micronutrient Supplementation

Researchers such as Sordillo and Streicher (2002) target development of micronutrient supplements while keeping main priorities: 

  1. increasing effective and sustained immunity
  2. without adding risks of toxicity of tissue damage.

Georgia Trial with 40 Prefresh Heifers

It is informative to review the results of a commercially available additive that was evaluated by researchers at the University of Georgia.

Overview of the Trial:  A dietary supplement containing B-complex vitamins and yeast extract was fed daily to 40 prefresh heifers from five months of age until calving. Using a control group of 40 untreated heifers, researchers compared the health and milk production of the two groups.

Summary of the Research Findings:

  • From 5 to 20 months of age, supplemented heifers had higher systemic levels of the molecule L-selectin, which is a measure of the ability of white blood cells to be mobilized from the blood stream and attack invasive organisms.
  • After 30 days of feeding the supplement: White blood cells collected from heifers in the treatment group were more active in engulfing two important mastitis-causing bacteria, E. coli, and Staph. Aureus.
  • At Day 3 of lactation:          
    Mastitis incidence for the supplemented group was 11%,
    Mastitis incidence for the untreated controls was 20%
  • Three days Post-Freshening:
    Somatic cell count (SCC) was 221,000 cells/mL for treated group
    Somatic cell count (SCC) was 535,000 cells/mL for control group
  • Milk production at freshening:
    Not significantly different between the two groups,
    Production advantage for supplemented heifers as lactation progressed.
  • By five weeks in milk: Treated group produced 7.0 pounds per day more than untreated controls.

(For further information check these sources: Journal of Animal Science Vol. 90, Suppl. Three/ and Journal of Dairy Science. Vol. 95, Suppl. 2, Abstract 220)

Research Conclusions:

Researchers concluded that `dietary supplementation with immune-supporting additives shows promise in preventing mastitis infections and promoting udder health and milk production. With more research and product development, immune-supporting additives may become a standard recommendation in dairy nutrition.

Nickerson says, “If we can reduce new mastitis infections, and successfully equip the cow to use her own defenses to manage those that do occur, it’s a victory for animal welfare, drug residue risk, milk quality, production and profitability and consumer confidence.” 

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We may be without the fairy tale ending, but we are moving the quest to eradicate mastitis a little closer to reality. 

 

 

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Categories : Management

The President of the United States benchmarked 100 days on Saturday, April 29th. Throughout the weekend, there was a flurry of analysis, assessment, and judgemental summations.  The hope is to clarify what the future holds and if it will be productive.

Although we can easily get wrapped up in the drama of a new presidency, it is important that our dairy livelihood takes a serious opportunity with each calf to set the stage for a lifetime of production. While a President may recover from setbacks or early missteps taken in his administration, the future health and productivity of your dairy cows depends on what happens to your calves during those first three months. There are no referendums, replays or recalls in calf rearing.

It’s Okay to be Unique.  But Protocols Must Be in Place.

Every successful dairy sets up protocols.  To have every opportunity for success, you must have a standard to compare to. The ideal is that calf protocols are not only posted but that there are regular training and review sessions for all those involved in this role. We have all heard those directions many times. The difference between success and slipping into failure is that successful dairies have a “NO Tolerance” for less than perfect compliance.

Don’t Let a Difficult Calving Dictate the Whole 100 Days and the Future!

Every dairy operation has had to deal with an unusually difficult calving. Sometimes unforeseen environmental challenges before, during and after calving have an impact. The calving itself may result in malformations. Any or all of these can all negatively affect the vigor and progress during the first few days of the calf’s life. Proper observation and care protocols must be in place in order to survive the uphill battle of getting the calf off to the best start.  This is no place for a survival of the fittest attitude.  Use every intervention available to overcome these initial hurdles. For just two examples, every calf handler should be aware that calves are often prone to diarrhea and navel infection during this period.  The calf should receive every possible attention to treat these challenges during first days of life.

Don’t Accept Less than Perfect

If you’re willing to accept less tan the best, in the beginning, be prepared to end with less profit too!  For example, where calf protocol says, “move to a clean and comfortably bedded hutch” …. a hutch that has not been completely cleaned … with bleach … after the last occupant is NOT the place where a newborn calf should be placed.  In the first twelve hours of life, a new calf needs two bottles of high-quality colostrum (the sooner, the better), proper vaccinations and placement in a clean, comfortably bedded hutch with access to fresh feed and water.  Providing one or two of these, will not get your calves off to a start that will positively impact the future of your dairy herd.

No Tolerance for “the Easier way.”

In the first days of calf rearing, familiarity can gradually backslide into slipshod attention to detail.  Providing fresh water, calf starter and one bottle of milk twice daily is an absolute that cannot be done to the highest level of timing and cleanliness.  It is crucial that careful inspections of the eyes, nose, ears and manure are done every morning.  Skipping any of these steps is not optional. It is dangerous to think that a routine overview will catch problems.  Without the certainty that the procedures and inspections can be 100% relied upon, there is no way to make an informed decision, if a problem does arise.  The easier way may seem to help staff but, eventually, there will be longer hours dealing with more difficult problems.

Time, Space and Repetition

I am not going to print a list of calf rearing protocols.  I am not raising calves. I am (maybe) raising awareness.  My excuses of time, different goals, and space are the ones that are holding me back. What holds you back from having a fully operational calf rearing protocol that is posted in your barn and adhered to every day? Excuses don’t fill milk buckets.  Poor calf rearing protocols can actually empty them!  

You Must Put it in Writing

As each step of the plan is noted, posted and carried out the beginning of each stage is the most crucial.  With every change in routine, the observation of calf responses is key to ensuring that the transition is smooth and healthy.  Once again steps ensuring cleanliness of hutches must be scrupulously adhered to.

What Impact do Proper Calf Protocols Produce in the First 100 days and Beyond?

  • Increased growth in calves. Growth rates during the first 60 days of life determine the future production potential of a dairy cow. A slow growth during these first 60 days of life cannot be compensated by speeding up the growth later in life.
  • Healthy calves equal Healthy cows: Well-grown dairy cows produce high quantities of high-quality milk. It’s too late to question calf rearing protocols when the cows are in the dairy line, and you see less than expected
  • Early Treatment and Prevention are the goals: Worse than poor production is having to face health issues. A serious episode of, for example, scours may kill the calf, but even if it survives, the chances it will meet expectations with regard to future milk production are slim.

Where Would You Start, If You Were Going to Do It Wrong?

The 24/7 nature of dairying sometimes puts you in a position where repetition makes it hard to see what it is that is preventing success. We can all analyze political gaffes and missteps because our spectator viewpoint gives us a different perspective.  Try distancing yourself from your own calf-rearing operation.  What would a reporter, interviewer or competitive peer point out as being “wrong” if they inspected your calf operation?

Are any of these “Don’t Do’s” present in your calf operation?

Temperature Stress: Too cold or too Hot.

Wet:    Wet calves. Wet bedding

Poor hygiene: Fecal or other contamination of milk, feed or water

Non-existent or poor air flow: Are calves exposed to draftiness or poor ventilation.

Lack of attention to detail: No posted protocols.  No recorded observations.  

Exposure to germs and bacteria: irregular or haphazard cleaning. Exposure to other sick animals or by feeding or handling of young calves after older animals

Mishandling of unhealthy calves: Not isolating calves that show any sign of disease.

Are You Making Your Young Calves Sick?

Even with the best intentions, you could be setting yourself up for failure by the way you carry out your calf care.

Here are five things you don’t want to make part of your calf raising routine.

  1. Feeding older calves before feeding and handling the youngest calves. This could spread infections from the one group to the other.
  2. Feeding unpasteurized milk and waste milk containing antibiotics
  3. Allowing calves to drink milk in an incorrect position. Calves drink best by sucking from a bottle where the milk is placed higher than the teat so the calf sucks more naturally.
  4. Rapid changes of milk type and concentration of milk replacer
  5. Using milk replacer not adapted for young calves

These two steps could make a tremendous difference in your calf-rearing success.

  1. Check calf health at least twice daily and re- cord, inform and act immediately on issues
  2. House sick or weak calves separately until they have recovered and are vigorous

A Calf’s First Weeks Shape the Cow’s Future

The first 100 days is where even the most seasoned dairy managers -and Presidents – make a lot of critical missteps. It’s too easy to manage by getting the job done rather than by managing the results. When you catch the signals as early as possible, there is a chance to make corrections so that the future isn’t compromised.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Make sure that your first 100 dairy days don’t close opportunities. Whether you’re presidential or not, it is much more than simply fulfilling promises. It is all about fulfilling potential.

 

 

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Categories : Management

“I am still feeling the spirit of the New Year because it’s a time when change and renewal fills the air, and we celebrate the bright new beginnings taking place as we begin 2017.” New faces. New headlines. Here at The Bullvine, we are right on trend as we look to expand our team and our coverage of the dairy industry. We don’t have a crystal ball to forecast the unknown, but we do know that we will be providing many more real-time pictures! And that means introducing you to our new intern, Emily Goins of Kentucky.  This 20-year-old is eager to make dairy photographer a big part of her plans for the future.

Cowtographer Emily “The Thrill is in Capturing the Special Moments.”

Even though Emily is not yet a seasoned pro, she already identifies with the thrill of creating images that capture unique moments in the dairy ring. “I absolutely love getting to capture special moments for people to save and look back on. I really enjoy being behind the scenes of events. There is so much more than just pointing a lens and pushing the shutter button. I love how much detail and effort is put into getting a great photo.

Emily Goins: “Getting Up Close to Cows Inspired This Photographers Passion.”

Passion for the dairy showring is often a spark that is passed from generation to generation and, occasionally, ignites what will become a different but related version of the flame. “My dad and granddad (names if Emily would like) showed Ayrshires when they were young. So it was expected that when I was old enough to join 4-H, I was next up in the family to show Ayrshires. When I turned 9, I got my first 4-H calf and began the journey. I absolutely hated showing at first, but I pushed through and started to enjoy it. I showed Ayrshires for nine years before I switched over to Jerseys. Valentines Day 2015, my boyfriend Logan bought me my first Jersey cow from Keightly and Core Jerseys here in Kentucky. I’m glad that I stuck through all of the many, many 4-H meetings in my nine years because I wouldn’t have had the incredible opportunities that I have had and I wouldn’t have gotten to meet some of the greatest people. I’m looking forward to next show season which will be my last time in the ring as a junior.” For Emily, there is always a new beginning just beyond each ending.

Emily Goins: “It only takes a spark to get an album growing.”

At the same time, as she had her first 4H calf, she also was introduced to cameras. “I got started in photography when I was nine years old and joined 4-H. I was in my county’s 4-H photography program for one year but then decided to stop the classes and experiment on my own. I got my first camera when I was about seven years old and it was a tiny, hot pink, Sony digital camera, I thought I was all that and a box of crackers. I got out of taking pictures for a while, then when I saw photos from the Bullvine, it sparked the passion again, and I had to get back behind the camera, so for my 18th birthday I got my first DSLR, a Canon EOS Rebel t5.”

Emily Goins: “Emily is on the Hunt for Photographic Skills.”

There are many opportunities to be inspired in this modern age of technology, with its access to worldwide communication twenty-four hours a day.  Sometimes a seemingly small moment can have a significant impact on our career choices.  Emily explains how this connection happened for her.  “Andrew Hunt has helped me develop my passion for photography. I fell in love with his photos when I discovered him on Facebook just a few years ago. I love the new idea of the lower shots that he introduced to the show photography world. I was super anxious to meet him in person; he is a superstar in my eyes! Andrew is very, very helpful with any questions I have or if I need advice. I really enjoy getting to work for him.” It is great to see Emily setting out on her own adventure.

“Emily’s Career Time Frame is Clicking Along “

There can be many reasons for what makes a picture great. In Emily’s case, it doesn’t have to do with setting, lighting or camera angle. Her choice isn’t about the picture itself, but it’s about the feeling that is captured.  She explains, “My favorite photos are the ones that really show the emotion between the cow and the lead person.” For Emily, the story of photographic success in the show ring isn’t about reproducing a true-type-model moment.  For her, it is about telling the story of success so that everyone looking at the photograph feels connected to the moment and the people and animals that moment represents. “I’m in love with getting what once was “the slap, ” but I reckon now it’s “the handshake” pictures. I was thankful enough that my first time taking photos was at Expo and I was able to really improved my timing to get a great handshake shot in the first few days of shooting. I also really like taking pictures of my dog Lulu. He’s very photogenic.”

“Emily is Keeping Her Focus While Studying and Hoping for Big Picture Opportunities.”

“I am majoring in Photojournalism and minoring in Agriculture at Western Kentucky University. I hope to improve my photography skills majorly and also take a few writing classes while I am there. I would love to continue working for The Bullvine because it has absolutely been a dream come true getting to shoot for my favorite photographer. I hope to have my own photography business covering dairy shows and other events such as beef shows, rodeos, and weddings later in life.” It’s a big undertaking, but this young photographer is glad she can take the first steps. “

I just want to thank Andrew for his help and support with starting this new photography adventure. I really appreciate getting to learn from the best in the business.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Emily Goins photography journey, like the beginning of each new year, is a story waiting to be told.  No doubt her story will continue to be recorded in pictures that shoot for the heart of the dairy showring.  We encourage her to keep on shooting.  Like her, we are committed to our dream by providing expanded coverage for our passionate dairy followers. “Good luck Emily.  You inspire the dairy dreamer inside all of us to keep on growing.”

 

 

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Categories : The Bullvine

Dairy producers are the first to acknowledge that proper functioning farm equipment is critical if they are to run a dairy farm successfully.  Robots, tractors, harvest equipment and milking parlors are kept in top condition to produce the healthy milk that sustains our business. The same is true of our own equipment – also known as mind and body.  Like our dairy equipment, as we age, some parts, for us our mind and body, start to wear out. It is unfortunate when we accept this as something we can do nothing about. 

One particular ailment – namely Alzheimer’s – is not only overlooked it is often underdiagnosed and dangerously ignored. 

There are many of us in agriculture, who have watched memory loss or dementia gradually take its toll on a family member, farm worker, supplier or consultant. The loss is personally devastating, but we put our heads down and continue on.

Show Me the Numbers

In dairying, we live by numbers: the number of cattle, the production numbers… You name it numbers are important.  When it comes to health issues, numbers have a lot to say about where we find ourselves. In 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease facts and figures reported, “An estimated 5.3 million Americans have AD; 5.1 million are age 65+ years, and approximately 200,000 are age <65 years and have younger-onset AD. By mid-century, the number of people living with AD in the United States is projected to grow by nearly 10 million, fueled in large part by the aging Baby Boom generation.”

Two major fears. Fear of stopping dairying.  Fear of asking for help.

Because of lifelong dairy connections, farmers could end up in a double bind if they begin to have problems relating to mental health. Traditionally farmers continue working long after usual retirement age. On the one hand, problems like dementia can become particularly acute for farms in terms of operating and managing both the business and physical sides of the operation. As well, fear of negatively affecting the dairy business, farmers are even more reluctant to ask for help.

What is Dementia? 

Dementia is characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving abilities, and other cognitive skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is the number one cause of dementia, and an estimated 5.4 million Americans had Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.

The Farm and Rural Connection

As we become more knowledgeable about things that impact the environment we live in, studies are beginning to suggest possible links that are associated with agriculture.  The following statistics were reported in Iowa Farmer Today in August of 2013. There might be a connection to farming and rural livelihoods. Although the causes of Alzheimer’s have not been fully determined, there is scientific evidence growing up in a rural area may double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

A meta-analysis of how growing up in rural and urban areas affects the development of Alzheimer’s, published by University of Edinburgh and London researchers in 2012, indicated nonurban people had twice the chance of incurring Alzheimer’s later in life. The researchers theorized access to healthcare, socioeconomic well-being and exposure to unknown substances could be contributing factors.

The impact of Insecticide Exposure

Here are some updates on research in the area of insecticide exposure.

“A review of 2.6 million death certificates by Dr. Robert Park of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health indicated a greater risk for degenerative brain diseases, especially Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, among farmers and persons in several other occupations where chemical exposures were likely to occur.” (for more see ‘Five Occupations Linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s).

“Other studies of farmers, in particular, have suggested exposures to commonly used agricultural insecticides in the organophosphate and chlorinated pesticide families and certain fumigants are well known to contribute to the onset of Parkinson’s and may be precipitants to Alzheimer’s.

Not enough research has been conducted to adequately sort out the relationships, but a body of confirmatory research findings is developing.”

Research is Growing a Worldwide Data Base

There are several studies underway which are adding valuable data regarding dementia. One such study is underway at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom. They found that memory loss can be especially destructive to farmers and their families.

Another study is underway in Canada. Professor Andria Jones-Bitton, Department of Population Medicine at the University of Guelph, analyzed more than 1,100 responses nationwide to an online stress and resilience survey, conducted on agriculture producers from September 2015 to January 2016. Early findings report that stress, anxiety, depression, emotional exhaustion, and burnout are all higher among farmers than among other groups.

Dementia Can Be Dangerous on the Dairy Farm

A serious concern is especially relevant relating to farmers who contract Alzheimer’s or Dementia and present a danger to themselves and others as they attempt to continue working with animals and large equipment. Adding to the problems, are the additional stresses of trying to care for someone with dementia.

Farmers in Jeopardy Because of Isolation (of mental health issues)

Farmers may be especially susceptible to escalating mental health issues because they tend to be reluctant to ask for help. Here are some reasons that farmers acknowledge have delayed proactive progress when farmers face Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

  • Stigma
    It is difficult to open up about their symptoms or need for therapy.
  • Severity
    Waiting too long to seek help, means that the issues are deeply entrenched.
  • Getting Started
    Many are unsure of how or where to start.
  • Time and Energy
    It takes time and energy to deal with treatment options. Both are hard to find after the full days put in on farm operations.
  • Money
    Therapy can be costly, and options and accessibility may not be widely known in rural communities.

There can be other reasons to avoid treatment, and any or several of them can lead to isolation and hiding problems from the outside world.

Medical Disclosure Practices Could be Adding to the Problem

There are times when the health care system and patients are at odds with each other – perhaps unintentionally. Research reports that “Among people with a diagnosis of AD or another dementia, fewer than half report having been told of the diagnosis by their health care provider. Though the benefits of a prompt, clear and accurate disclosure of an AD diagnosis are recognized by the medical profession, improvements to the disclosure process are needed. These improvements may require stronger support systems for healthcare providers and their patients.”

Need to Ask for Help

The Bullvine encourages anyone dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts to find someone to talk to and to ask for help.  It’s a fact that farmer suicide rates are among the highest of any occupation. (Read more: Thinking about Ending It All).  The most important part of dealing with depression is talk.  Talk removes of smashes apart stigma and brings new ideas, proper advice and sources of help.  Talking about depression in farming at agricultural shows and events also helps.  We know depression affects farmers.  We need to bring the issue into the public as a workplace health concern that is talked about at these venues.  The old saying, “The more you know…” goes a long way in dealing with depression.

We need to ask for help and talk.

Good News

in researching this article for The Bullvine, I fell into a common defensive mode and began looking for some glimmer of light in this bleak forecast.  This led to a reference in Scientific American Mind (June 2016) which reported regarding an article entitled, “Banking Against Alzheimer’s.” Among other things, one part takes a longer view of the disease. “Choices we make throughout life, from learning a second language or studying music in childhood to finding purpose and remaining physically, intellectually and socially active in retirement, can build a cognitive reserve and dramatically reduce the risk of developing dementia.” This is not a cure, but it is something to actively share and discuss with the next generation.

Taking Action

The real key is to take action when and where it is needed in the present. A cure for AD and Dementia will take considerable time, money and research.  In the meantime, understanding and reaching out for proactive resources for dealing with mental health issues is something we can do right now.

One such plan is being undertaken by previously mentioned Prof. Andria Jones-Bitton, a Professor in the Department of Population Medicine. “We are building a team of producers, industry representatives, veterinarians and mental health professionals to create, deliver and evaluate a mental health literacy training program for farms.” She reports that this program is intended to train people to recognize and respond to mental distress and reduce the stigma around mental health issues in Ontario’s agricultural sector. “We need to do something,” she says.  “Farmers want help, and we’re going to find ways for them to receive it.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Our mental health is one of our most precious commodities. It should never be taken for granted. We all recognize farmers as being the first ones we can turn to when we need help.  Now we need also to recognize that keeping our farmers healthy is important for everyone. 

 

 

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Why Successful Dairies Have More Pull

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

There are many half-truths out there about what makes some dairies significantly more successful than others. They range from “they’re lucky” to “they have a lot of money behind them. In our family, we have an old saying we haul out whenever we hear people using these truths.  We say, “Don’t believe everything you hear and only half of what you see.”  What this means is that, there are many ways to be successful and judging others on surface appearances or hearsay isn’t going to provide any insight into ways to move your own dairy forward. In our opinion, action is the ONLY way to forge ahead.  In the same way that exercise builds heart muscle, action builds the dairy success muscle.  Here are three take-action exercises that successful dairies actually use.

  1. They Pull out MORE Data
  2. They Pull for MORE Longevity
  3. They Pull for MORE Profitability

At first glance, those three directives may seem too vague to be of help.  But short and sweet is always easier to remember. If you want longer lists, you might be interested to find out that there are almost 100 measurable variables that contribute to the bottom line on operations.  Or, you could learn from the extensive experience of others. Our source for saying this is an eleven-year study conducted by Zoetis and AgStar of herds ranging from 500 to 4,715 cows, to look at 90 variables in the management and financial records of 90 Midwest herds starting in 2006. The herds are based in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota.

Focus for Success

If you find that you are doing the six main things that separate top herds from their peers, then you will be a believer in the statement that,” Just six factors account for 85% of variation in farm profitability, says Mike Lormore, Director of Cattle Technical Services for Zoetis. “Herds which perform well in these factors are being propelled forward by healthier cows, higher profits and likely greater staying power in the industry.”

Everyone connected to the dairy industry has a vested interest in finding ways for dairy operations to make money.  Consultants, veterinarians, banks and consumers all lose when margins are too narrow to support everyone who draws on dairy success.

Walking into the barn every day with 90 variables on your mind isn’t likely to make your job easier, your herd healthier or your bottom line more profitable.  However, it is somewhat easier to use the idea of looking at the data (pulling out the stats) reducing the problems (pulling out the stops) and always improving (pulling ahead).

You have waited patiently long enough. Here are the six factors that the Zoetis study identified as separating those who perform best.

  1. Somatic Cell Counts
  2. Energy Corrected Milk Per Cow
  3. Death Losses
  4. Net Herd Replacement Costs
  5. Pregnancy Rates
  6. Heifer Survival

So, let’s look at the six factors in terms of our three simplified areas:

NUMBER 1: SUCCESSFUL DAIRIES PULL OUT MORE DATA

Progressive, successful dairy operators know that they are only as good as the data they use for decision making.  For some that may mean the cow-sense they were born with.  That is not a problem, if it’s working.  But how many times, have they called in a consultant or supplier to help them do some problem-solving.  If you’re unwilling to change your approach when results start to slide, you’re not recognizing that the dairy industry is continuing to become more complex in response to the huge number of issues that impact it.  So, keep an open mind and start with data on somatic cell counts and pregnancy rates.

Data on Somatic Cell Counts

You can’t help but love it as strategic dairy managers, when data and research come up with significant findings. In the case of this study, somatic cell scores showed that “for every 100,000 increase in bulk tank somatic cell count, milk yield declines 5.2 lb. per cow per day.” This is 3.9 lb. more than the results of the 1980s work done by George Shook at the University of Wisconsin.

In the 30 years between the two studies, milk production per cow has nearly doubled.  Furthermore, today it is recognized that SCC impacts several other areas, including health, reproduction and culling.  Lorimore makes another important point, “The death rate is much higher in high cell count herds and you get more lifetime milk production with lower cell counts because your cows live longer.”

Data on Pregnancy rates

Limited data in this area affects conclusions, however, preliminary results show higher pregnancy rates drive higher profits to the tune of about $50 dollars per cow per year.

Higher pregnancy rates equate to cows spending less time at lower production at the end of the lactation.  It means less time in the dry pen and older cows producing at a higher level.  This translates into owners being more willing to spend more money on higher merit semen which impacts the success of future generations.

NUMBER 2: SUCCESSFUL DAIRIES PULL FOR MORE LONGEVITY

The road to success doesn’t need more “STOP” signs.   As grim as it is, death is definitely a stopping point on the road to dairy success.  Heifer survival, herd replacement costs and death for any reason, are “Stops” that pull down the lifetime longevity of your dairy herd.

Successful Dairies Constantly Strive (and succeed) at Reducing Death Losses

This is another area where you want your numbers to be low.  Your animal health and husbandry skills will decide whether you are in the top one-third of herds or the lowest.

Successful Herds Go Beyond Good Calf Raising to Excellent Heifer Survival

Only 2% points separated the herds in the study, when it came to doing a good job of raising heifers. The highest profit group managed to achieve a score averaging 95%. Low profit herds had an average heifer survival rate of 93%.  Certainly, heifer survival is good but keeping them past their first and second lactation is even more desirable. “By culling cows early, farms are giving up tremendous volumes of milk each and every day.” says Mike Lormore.  Herds with high culling rates often have a higher proportion of first and second lactation animals. Lorimore points out, “These younger cows don’t produce nearly as much milk as mature animals. A second lactation cow will produce 15% more milk than a first lactation heifer, and third lactation cow will produce 10% more milk than a second lactation animal.”

Successful Herds Know Their Net Herd Replacement Cost

Finding effective ways to interpret data means we can find effective ways to take action. In the Zoetis-Ag Star study a formula is used to determine Net Herd Replacement Cost.  NHRC is defined in the study as number of cows removed from the herd times their replacement value minus the salvage value of culled cows (including dead cows) divided by the amount of milk shipped during this time period. As NHRC increases, profits decrease.

As already noted by Mike Lormore, “You’re making a ton more money if you have more aged cows in your herd,” He urges dairy managers to change. “As an industry, we need to move from an average age of 2 ½ lactations in herds to 3 ½ lactations to get to more optimal profitability levels.” It is tempting to get into a debate on this point, especially if cull cow prices are high. Some would reason that it doesn’t cost anything to replace cows because high beef prices offset heifer raising costs. “That’s wrong,” says Lormore. “Every time you cull an aged cow, it costs you a lot of money and time to get her replacement to the same point of production.”

NUMBER 3: SUCCESSFUL HERDS PULL FOR HIGHER PROFITABILITY

As discussed throughout this article, actions taken are the drivers that put successful dairies out in front of the crowd.  Success needs to translate into profitability and here is what the study found, results that you can actually take to the bank.

Higher Profit from lower SCCs: 

Little things can make a big difference.  In the case of somatic cell scores, there were not big differences between top herds and the lowest herds and yet bulk tank SCCs were shown to be one of the greatest drivers of profitability. The top third profitability herds have bulk tank SCCs that average 196,000 cells/mL while the lowest one-third of profitability herds had SCCs that averaged 239,000 cells/mL. There is a difference of only 19 lbs. “But the high herds average 91 lb/cow/day of energy corrected milk versus 72 lb/cow/day for the low herds.” Here is where the numbers prove the profitability point. “On an annual basis, it translates to $1.14/cwt in more profit, or for the average size herd in the study, $115,000 more net income.”

Higher profit from lower NHRC: 

Once again dollars are available. “The herds with the lowest NHRC were seeing $2.04/cwt more profit than herds with the highest NHRC, or some $60,000 more profit per year. The herds with lowest NHRC were also seeing 10 lb. more milk per cow.”

Higher profit from lower Death Losses

Everyone can acknowledge that death losses have a direct affect on profitability, but perhaps it is surprising at how much this is. The study reports, “The top one-third of herds with the lowest death losses were 86¢/cwt more profitable than the lowest one-third of herds. That translates to $70,000 per year more income.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Use your data.  Don’t settle for roadblocks.  Target continuous improvement. Success isn’t a matter of luck, inheritance or entitlement. You must be willing to take action.  Don’t fear change. Never settle for the status quo.  Do this and you too will take your place with your peers at the top of the dairy industry and that is definitely worth pulling for!!

For a more detailed look at the results read Six Degrees of Separation

 

 

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When food marketers start fighting with each other, nobody really wins. At best the consumer will become confused.  At worst, the daily headlines will grossly overuse clichés and puns (aka will fight ‘til the cows come home”). If I see “Crying Over Spilled Milk” once more, I am going to start crying for real.

Is Milk Champion Voting for “More” milk or “Less” Milk? Or “More REAL” Milk?

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has introduced the DAIRY PRIDE ACT bill. It has quite the detailed acronym:  Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday. If you note the starting letters it may be clearer to you.  Words are a very important component of this bill. The aim is to suppress the use of the word “milk” on non-dairy plant-based beverages such as almond, soy and coconut milk.  If this bill becomes law, all non-dairy items which currently present themselves as milk, would have to undergo name changes.  The goal is that everyone buying milk would be getting real milk and not plant based food and beverages.  However, according to the Executive Director of the Plant Based Foods Association, Michele Simon, “There’s no evidence to show a connection between the rise of plant-based milks and dairy milk’s decline.”

MILK:  You can spill it and You can spell it.  But DON’T Misuse it”

Rightly or wrongly some people are convinced that erroneously non-dairy drinks as milk, has resulted in people choosing beverages for the wrong reason.  Those supporting the DAIRY PRIDE Act are looking to reinvigorate U.S. milk consumption by bringing consumers back to real milk or as they put it, to milk that is only from mammalian secretions. The non-dairy milk market is a $2-billion-dollar market reports Michele Simon. Her argument is that there is much more information beyond the word milk on the containers and that consumers are not confused about what the product actually is.

It isn’t about SPILLED milk, it’s all about DOLLARS DOWN THE DRAIN!   

Sales are the measure of success for every food producer.  Over time, trends develop which contribute to informed decision making.  Since 2015 dairy milk sales have decreased by seven percent. By 2020, forecasts suggest that these numbers could decline by another 11 percent. If you look at your own experiences, it isn’t hard to accept that the past forty years have seen major changes in dairy consumption.  We used to drink nearly 22 gallons of milk per person per year in 1970.  By 2012 that quantity has dropped to 14.5 gallons. For analysts and financial planners, the desire to be able to definitively pinpoint the causes and effects of the decline is driven by the need to have a sustainable dairy industry.

Consumers are Going with the (Milk) flow!

Eating habits shift over time.  In the past 50 years technology and lifestyle changes have impacted milk sales.  The arrival of convenience foods in the 1970’s and ‘80’s, had a major impact on milk consumption. Along with eating out more frequently, consumers shifted their choices to more versatile and convenient alternatives to fluid milk.  There has also been an increase in consumption of such dairy products such as yogurt and cheese.

“If it’s made from Canadian Milk, it’s worth crying over!”

In the midst of all this tugging and pulling, one marketing group has decided to face the tears head on.  A new campaign has been launched by The Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) which is choosing to highlight the value of tears.

“The Dinner Party” is a theatrical promotion which opens on the scene of an elegant tableau frozen in time.  Slowly the camera moves down the beautifully appointed table revealing that each of the party guests have been caught with tragic facial expressions and tears streaming down their cheeks. As the camera reaches the head of the table, the source of the tragedy is revealed. There is a toppled pot of cheese fondue which is about to spill off the edge of the table onto a man’s lap.

“Everyone knows spilled milk isn’t worth crying over, but it’s a whole different story if that milk happens to be Canadian,” says Paul Wallace, Executive Creative Director, DDB Canada Toronto. “In this campaign, we communicate the high quality of Canadian milk by showing different characters crying over spilled dairy products – because losing even a single drop of ice cream made with quality Canadian milk is a real tragedy.”

Name Calling “Milk by Any Other Name”

The drama over the way milk is advertised goes beyond the highlighting of the benefits of milk from dairy cows. One reason for the rise in nondairy plant milks is because of taste. Over the last decade, consumers have been seeking options beyond the traditional whole, low-fat, 2%, or skim milk. Spokesperson Simon highlights that “There are many options to choose from.

While almond, coconut, and soy are among the most popular, there are nondairy milks made from hemp seeds, flax seeds, oats, rice, macadamia nuts, pecans, and cashews.” She summarizes, “They’re all piquing consumer interest.”

For Crying Out Loud Are Milk Drinkers Too Smart? Or Too Stupid?  

We always think laws are good if they keep or put money in our pockets.  However, we aren’t as impressed if the assumption is that we are not smart enough to make good choices or to recognize bad ones.  There is a fair question posed by plant-based food supporters, “Why would a consumer say ‘It’s no longer being called almond milk so I’m going to go back to drinking dairy’?” They also add, “Tell Congress to Dump the “DAIRY PRIDE Act. No one is purchasing plant-based milk, cheese, or yogurt because they’ve been tricked into thinking it’s a cow’s ‘lacteal secretions.’” The precedent for siding against the dairy industry has already been set by a case adjudicated in 2015. a California judge ruled in favor of Trader Joe’s after the grocery chain was sued over the use of the word “milk” on its nondairy soymilk product. “No reasonable consumer” would confuse soy with dairy, cited U.S. district judge Vince Chhabria. The federal standard identity for milk “does not categorically preclude a company from giving any food product a name that includes the word milk,” Judge Chhabria said in his decision.

“OUT of ORDER!” Who Will Get Hammered in Court

Sometimes the issues need to be taken to a higher court. It isn’t the first time that the agri-food industry has appealed for legal support.  In 2014 Unilever was in court on behalf of its mayonnaise brand, Hellmann’s. They felt that the product “Mayo”, an eggless spread, marketed by Hampton Creek Foods, violated FDA definition of mayonnaise because it didn’t use eggs. In the end Unilever dropped the lawsuit and, eventually, launched its own version of eggless mayonnaise.

FDA Expected to Churn Things Up with Milk Rulings!

Both sides of this argument are confident that the FDA will rule in their favor. Accurately defining the word “milk” is one of the expected outcomes.  The recognition of the health benefits of milk are also owned by both sides who claim heart health, strong teeth, weight loss and health benefits for growing children. At the end of the day it isn’t about who’s right or wrong.  Although legislation may temporarily seem to clear up confusion or commercial conflicts, the real drivers of consumer choices are too varied to be reduced to a simple legal decision.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In a world that is promoting everything “alternative”, it isn’t surprising that the dairy industry is also getting caught up in the turmoil. Regardless of which side of this beverage argument you support, there is only one thing you can be absolutely sure of. “Both sides will be milking it for all it’s worth!”

 

 

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“NO ONE PLANS TO WASTE RESOURCES.”  A lot of planning and hard work goes into growing, purchasing, and formulating the best feed rations.  But then what do we do with it?  Are we throwing away all that hard work, before it has any opportunity to affect the health and production of our dairy herd?”

“It’s not what a few cows get fairly often, but what the whole herd gets consistently that shapes the success of a milking herd.”

#1 “You forget that the HOW can be as important as the WHAT.”

Simply placing feed in front of the cows and leaving the rest up to them, is a recipe for failure.

This is one of the most important places to use our knowledge of cows’ feeding behavior. We have lots of evidence to build on, using the particular conditions of our own herd.  Have you ever analyzed the difference in the feed from the first cattle to it until the last?

#2 “You’re okay with Survival of the Fittest!”

It could be that the first to the buffet have the pick of everything. The last ones have something quite different. The subordinate cows do not get the same feed. First cows mow down on what’s right in front of them. Like people, cows will eat the stuff they like first.  A knee-jerk solution might be to raise the energy of all rations.  But, once again, you could just be giving more to the boss cows.

#3 “You Don’t MAKE ROOM for ALL your Cows to Reach the Feed!”

Use observation to confirm that the second ones to the feed you are providing have a different selection to choose from.  You will probably be able to confirm that they are getting the sloppy leftovers. If animals are preventing other animals from getting to the best feed, you have to make some changes.  Or not. The goal is to provide enough bunk space to allow all animals to eat simultaneously. You might also decide to add a physical solution such as headlocks or a partition. These steps will limit the number of cows that can eat at one time, but they will also make it harder for one cow to push another one away from feed.

#4 You provide WAITING room, not EATING room!”

It may appear to be normal behavior for cows to be waiting to get to the feed bunk.  The only problem with this assessment of normal is that it is causing abnormal problems in other areas of the daily dairy cow routine.  While waiting, the cows lose resting time and, in turn, this will decrease milk production.

#5 “You WON’T sort the Cows! “

There are many reasons given for not sorting cows.  You can run through them in your head.  In reality, when cows are fed a TMR they have a natural tendency to sort through the feed.  They then toss it forward to where it is no longer in reach. This is the reason that shy cows have to reach and lick even to get “seconds.” This is particularly problematic when feed is delivered via a feed alley.

#6.  “You Let THE COWS SORT the Feed!”

When you are told about the benefits of grouping you prefer to follow a more familiar, but probably less effective, path. There are benefits to creating a first lactation group.  Older cows will not be able to push smaller ones away from the feed bunk. With specific grouping, the ration can be modified for the specific needs of these younger animals.

#7 “To save work, you accept the DOWNSIDE of Less Frequent PUSH UPS.”

When it comes to getting cows to make milk from the feed you put in front of them – it makes sense that the feed must actually get in front of them.  Frequent push ups stimulate cows to eat.  Adding more feed to push ups will attract cows that haven’t had enough feed intake for the day to get up and eat. When feeding dairy cows, it’s good to let push come to shove!

#8 “Your Cows are Lying Down, and Your Infections are Rising”

Okay, we are now behind the #8 ball.  Suffice it to say cows that are laying down are not merely contented especially if it occurs right after they’ve been milked.  Here is what research has proven. “Results suggest that management practices that discourage cows from lying down immediately after milking, such as providing fresh food frequently through the day (near the time of milking) may help decrease the risk of intramammary infection.  For robotic milked cows, which milk frequently throughout the day, ensuring continual access to feed in the bunk via frequent fresh feed delivery as well as feed push-up is important to promote standing time after milking and reduce the risk of intramammary infection (DeVries et al., 2011b).”

#9 “You Mistakenly believe that cows CAN make up for LOST TIME!”

It is important to understand that cows do not make up for lost time.  The idea that they will self-manage by coming back to the feed bunk is….bunk. What actually happens is that cows will eat 25 percent faster and eat larger meals. “This will lead to ruminal acidosis, which happens when the pH of the rumen drops drastically for an extended period of time.  Acidosis in dairy cows can result in lower milk yields, lower milk fat yield, and sole ulcers.”

#10 “Your cows need MORE WATER, and Your PROFITS are DRYING UP TOO! “

Another forgotten nutrient is water. Water is perhaps the most necessary nutrient (NRC, 2001), yet its quality and availability is often overlooked.  Interestingly, in a recent field study of free-stall herds in Eastern Ontario, Sova et al. (2013) found that that milk yield tended to increase by 0.77 kg/d for every 2 cm/cow increase in water trough space available in the study herds.

This result illustrates the importance of water availability for group housed cows and provides further evidence that resource availability has the potential to greatly impact productivity. (Read more: USING KNOWLEDGE OF DAIRY COW BEHAVIOUR TO IMPROVE NUTRITIONAL AND HOUSING MANAGEMENT)

#11 “Increased Frequency is too much for you to consider!”

No doubt you are aware that problems listed here for making better use of your feed dollars are repetitive.  We are aware of that, and we are striving to make the point — over and over again — that dairy cows need to be able to eat frequent, small meals when they want to.  Feed less feed more often.  (Read more: CALF FEEDING FREQUENCY: The more often, the merrier?)

#12 “Small Changes (see #’s 1-11) Make a BIG Difference! Do you care?”

We all would like someone to “Show me the money!” and “Show me the research” question too.  Because nothing will help if you aren’t willing to take action. Here’s some useful facts to start you planning your action strategy. The results are measurable. 

Bach et al. (2008) found in a cross-sectional study of 47 herds, fed the exact same ration, that 56% of the variation in observed milk production was explained by non-dietary factors (i.e. presence or absence of feed refusals, free stall stocking density, and whether feed was pushed up in the feed bunk).

Sova et al. (2013), found in a cross-sectional study of parlour-milked, free-stall herds that every 10 cm/cow increase in feed bunk space was associated with 0.06 percentage point increase in group average milk fat and a 13% decrease in group-average somatic cell count.  

Research suggests that feed push-up does not have the same stimulatory impact on feeding activity as does fresh feed delivery (DeVries et al.,2003); nonetheless, push up does play a vital role in ensuring that feed is accessible when cows want to eat.

IT’S TIME FOR A POSITIVE TURNAROUND

Managing a profitable dairy isn’t about what you DON’T do.  It’s time to turn those negatives into positives.

  1. How you feed dairy cows is just as important as WHAT you feed them.
  2. Provide equal opportunity feed access for ALL dairy cows.
  3. Start by making room for ALL cows to reach the feed.
  4. Provide at least the recommended bunks space of 24 inches.
  5. Sort cows. Create a first lactation group.
  6. Find an effective way to prevent feed sorting
  7. Push feed up frequently.
  8. Prevent excessive lying down time right after milking.  Cut down on infections.
  9. Recognize that managing cow behavior also manages your profits.
  10. Provide clean, easily accessible water.
  11. Feeding frequency can positively affect milk production.
  12. Have an action plan so that the small things can actually make a BIG difference.

THE BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE

There are many steps from field to feed bunk.  Each small decision along the way can affect the outcome in the milking line. Profitable dairies don’t squander dairy feed dollars. The future of the herd depends on achieving the best results from all your feed all the time.

“It’s not what a few cows get fairly often, but what the whole herd gets consistently that shapes the success of a milking herd.”

 

 

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Even in the best of times, small farms struggle to remain profitable. Dairy producers have come through years of pressure from all sides of the industry – economic, political and environmental – to name only a few.  Many, regardless of size, are having serious concerns about the future of their dairy farm.

Before we look at this question, we have to set some parameters. Let’s begin with a look at what defines a small farm. Are we talking the romanticized version of dairy farming which non-dairy perception mostly pegs at 30 milking cows or less? Or are we closer to today’s reality? In the USA small now means herds with fewer than 100 milking cows. In Canada, the cross Canada numbers might peg small at 50 milkers.  

The second major question is, “Do we want small farms to merely survive? Or do we want them to thrive? The global and North American dairy community has been through almost a decade of economic crisis.  If you’re small and still here, you have figured out how to survive?  But is survival a benefit to our families, our communities or the dairy industry?

Popular advice would say that smaller farms should cut back during adverse periods. Others would say, focus on highly specific market segments. Both options assume that small dairy producers are willing to be proactive and aggressive even as the economic returns continue to shrink. At this point, either option seems somewhat ludicrous. 

In the worst of times, when waning consumer demand combined with falling milk prices is hitting their bottom line right beside rising labor and feed costs, small farms face an even steeper climb. Admittedly, some small businesses, usually outside of agriculture, adapt to adversity by turning to new products, services or processes.  Small dairy farms in survival mode are in no position to take these initiatives.  Like deer in the headlights they are almost frozen in place not thinking of aggressive strategies.

Reports to the National Milk Producers Federation recently stated that, “Its far more lucrative to operate large-scale dairy farms with 500 cows or more.”

At the same time that small dairy farms struggle, their larger dairy counterparts who produce larger volumes can take advantage of their greater income to consider automation of their milking operations. This means they have more strategic options despite economic downturns.

Some analysts still say that small farms have the advantage.  While large farms are hampered by their size, small farms can change their plan or tactics much faster. While the larger operations are studying options, small farms can make a quick turnaround.  This looks good in theory, but in actual fact all dairy farms are dealing with live animals, financial constraints, and the immediacy of providing the cash flow necessary for the maintenance of the operation and the day-to-day needs of the people and livestock depending upon it.

Larger farms, and particularly growing ones, are more competitive, invest more, offer better wages and benefits and are more likely to contribute to export markets.  Put simply, growing farms, not small ones, drive economic growth. Governments should want more growth but policies are sending exactly the opposite signal: “Stay small.  Don’t grow.”

Small may be beautiful but not when it gets to the point of recklessness.  We cheer when headlines announce that government plans to give small farms and small business in general a break.  Surely, they deserve special help – in order to survive in a world that is more and more dominated by everything big: big business, big box stores, big, big, big.  Ironically there may be farms that are consciously choosing to remain small to remain eligible for government assistance.

Small may be beautiful, but not if it becomes a roadblock. It’s unfortunate when popular politics doesn’t actually represent what is good for the economy. Handouts and tax breaks may even cause harm by creating a perverse discouragement for growth.  It takes growing companies to drive economic growth. For small farms that means that political and financial policies are sending exactly the opposite message: “Stay small. Don’t grow.”

It’s time for governments and lenders to encourage strategies that encourage growth.

For example, in 2013 the Canadian Federal Finance department pointed out that small businesses, which would include smaller farms, “play an important role in the economy,” and tax breaks help them “retain more of their earnings for investment, expansion and job creation.”  However, there is no evidence to support these objectives and one is left to conclude that the voting block represented by 600,00 voters is more of a political incentive than an economic one.

Will Political Agendas Backfire?  Further along this line of considering how political agendas diverge from farm reality, are the issues of international trade and protectionism.  On the one hand watching government leadership proclaim support for agriculture by making protectionist moves against trade agreements and foreign goods being blocked from competition, seems to support both small and large dairy operations.  In reality, in the US, when such barriers come into play, it merely allows other international competitors to scoop up markets that, before US withdrawal, saw themselves as too small to compete in. While North America goes into “I don’t wanna play in your yard” mode, the rest of the world greedily anticipates cherry picking in their former markets.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

For small dairy farms, these continuing periods of financial turmoil and the competition from more and more large dairy farms, means that they face a unique set of challenges. Selecting a strategy for the future will directly impact whether small dairies thrive, survive or give up.

 

 

 

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Every dairy needs to build a great team.  Building a great dairy team has two parts: making sure you put the right people on it and quickly getting the wrong people out!

Hiring and training are the fun parts of team building. (Read more: Great Dairy Employees Need Great Starts). Getting off to a great start is a necessity, but dairy managers sometimes overlook or downright ignore signs of trouble on their dairy staff (Read more: If You’re Staff is Negative Your Dairy Will Positively Suffer). That’s a problem because, while firing might be uncomfortable, it’s even more important than hiring and it needs to happen at all levels. (Read more: Fire Yourself! 8 Signs that your time has come.)

There are Always More Than Two Sides to Every Firing Story!

Even when you’re talking to your BFF and he’s telling you about a friend who was “let go (from an ag company) for no reason” or, even when you’re listening to a relative who heard from a friend of a friend that “they have unreal job expectations at that dairy operation and then they fire anybody who falls short”. Even then, there’s always another side to the story.

  • From The Employee Side: From the employee side, reasons for leaving a job might have to do with low morale, excessive work or low pay. These are problems which can be solved by open communication between both sides.  However, if an employee is unable to do the job or chooses to do it incorrectly, then it may be time for termination of employment.  It sometimes appears that an employee is, “Asking to be fired!”
  • From the Management Side: From management’s viewpoint, under-performing employees are toxic to your dairy team. Not only do they undermine productivity but, by not doing the job they are supposed to do, it means that others have to work twice as hard to pick up the slack. On top of all this, when the others see that underperforming is acceptable, they lose their motivation. Allowing poor performers to avoid responsibility, only serves to alienate and annoy your best people. Eventually, they will choose to leave, and all you will be left with are the people you shouldn’t have kept in the first place.

10 Telltale Signs That You’ve Reached the Firing Line

Sometimes you may have an employee who is finding that the dairy farm system is no longer a good fit. Times do come when a person’s season of contribution is over.  This can even happen to owners (See Fire Yourself! 8 Signs that your time has come) and it happens with employees.  We make things unpleasant if we do not recognize this time and make a healthy, respectful farewell.  It is important to recognize that there are definitely times when firing is the correct and only option.  Here are ten signs that it’s firing time.

  1. Criminal Acts: It goes without saying that a criminal offence (such as stealing or mistreating humans or animal cruelty) is cause for immediate dismissal.
  2. Job Apathy: Apathy takes many forms including neglect, indifference, and unresponsiveness. It prevents people from doing their own jobs and is quite contagious.
  3. Disappearing Acts: When staff duck out beyond regularly scheduled breaks, it’s a sure sign they feel they’re above and beyond the job. That affects the morale of everyone.
  4. Arguments: When someone frequently argues with you, other management, fellow employees, or clients, it’s definitely a sign that it’s time for that employee to go.
  5. Declining Productivity: If the employee spends more time with their attention in places other than their work, it’s time to bring that employee in for a chat.
  6. Secrets: Deal with huddled employees who scatter when you appear or deal with much more severe problems later.
  7. Pot Stirring: This one of the most damaging behaviors you’ll find on the dairy. Locate the source, or you’ll never calm things down.
  8. Unreasonable Demands: When an employee becomes dissatisfied with either the job or the work environment, they’ll start asking for things that aren’t realistic. They are practically begging for you to let them go. If you find this to be the case, oblige them!
  9. Redundancy: Economics might lead you to the hard decision to reduce staff a bit and rely on a contracted hire, if and when the situation requires it. Technology may also be replacing certain jobs.
  10. Internal affairs: Try to avoid this altogether by creating a strong policy concerning relationships in the workplace. If someone breaks that policy – they have to go.

Don’t  Be Too Slow!

In speaking with employees, it is important to always be honest and open.  It is your job to make sure the employee knows why you are not satisfied with their performance. You do not fire someone for no reason.  Write down the reasons and give the person an opportunity to improve or correct the situation. You might choose to place the employee on paid suspension for a specific amount of time.  This gives them time to look at the situation from a different perspective and perhaps reconsider how they can be part of the team. However, if the employee is not prepared to commit to improvement, terminate employment.

And yet…Don’t Rush to Judgment

Rushing to judgment with farm worker doesn’t help anyone.  It’s up to management to recognize that employees probably needed time to adjust to living and working in a new country or at jobs they hadn’t done before. Furthermore, they may be dealing with the challenges of speaking and learning a new language, which can make it harder to understand what is expected. The dairy operation may be unlike anything they ever knew before.  What experience, if any, did they have with working with animals?  Milking cows? Feeding calves? When you add in making hay and silage, building and mending fences, sowing grass and crops, fixing mechanical equipment, safely and skilfully handling powerful machines, helping cows give birth and much, much more, you may have a little more empathy for the employee that finds it overwhelming.  It requires a lot of hard work, skills, intelligence, and common sense.

Delivering the News to Other Staff

Whenever someone leaves the dairy farm, they remain a part of the system to the extent that their contribution in the past is still having an effect.  One of the unfortunate things we do is to lose sight of what people have contributed.  Although it’s much more enjoyable to celebrate a good work record, this can also happen when someone leaves in a negative way.  Sweeping effects under the rug or otherwise overlooking the impact of a negative dismissal will cause ongoing problems. Misunderstandings or lack of information are to be avoided, while still maintaining a dignified respect for private information. Respect all parties.

You Can Only Move Forward with A Good “End” in Sight

Hiring is only half of building a great team. You also need to have an effective system for getting the wrong people out. You can’t have one without the other. Not knowing how to end the working relationship, has a severe impact on setting goals for all employees

  1. All staff members need to know what is expected and how and when they will be monitored for achievement and what failure to achieve means.
  2. Employees should know whom they answer to and that communication lines are always open. A culture of feedback can prevent problems from getting to a place where there are no options but parting of the way. There should be a trail of paperwork to prove it.
  3. Having said that, when the time has come to an end the working relationship, be firm in your decision making. Never deliver the news of the firing, as if you don’t stand behind it.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It is financially important to have hard working, reliable employees working in a low-stress environment. When the bad outweighs the good and when the employee is causing problems not solving them, continuing to employ that person sends the wrong message to the rest of the team. When it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

 

 

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Every day we are actively researching and creating articles that we believe followers of The Bullvine will benefit from reading. Then, every December, we take an enjoyable look back to see which Bullvine articles were the ones we felt resonated most with our readers.  Here are our top 12 from 2016. They were arrived at with a little bit of head counting but also by including that indefinable something that made 2016 a year we think was best defined by the word “more”. Please enjoy this look back, as you prepare to continue your dairy journey into 2017. We hope you will agree that each one has something more to offer.

#12. Dairy Cattle Show Photographs Are Not Free

Dairy Cattle Show Photographs are NOT Free

When choosing only 12 articles, it’s easiest to start with ones that come instantly to mind.  In this case, let’s start the 2016 selections off with an article that illustrates a little more of the tough love that The Bullvine is known for.  In 2016 we continued to break new ground in providing more and better coverage for the dairy industry and that meant putting great pictures right alongside our interviews, analysis and behind the scenes coverage.  The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” was proven to be true over and over again. At the same time, it was also true that those pictures are not free and having them stolen or misrepresented was something their increasing popularity meant that The Bullvine had to defend against.

#11. The Winds of Change Are Blowing Hard

The Winds of Change Are Blowing…Hard

Death and taxes are often named as the only two things we can be absolutely certain about.  In 2016, political change became such a certainty that it became almost normal to hear on a daily basis about some previously unheard of situation arising as accusations, scandals and upheaval rocked the leadership and elections of more than one country around the world. Although we would sometimes like to run for cover, the dairy industry is not immune to change. In this article, we called for the courage necessary to face change. “Breeders will need state-of-the-art animal and herd improvement services. The vision and actions of breeder and industry leaders are critical. Advancement will occur even if current organizations do not adopt and adapt the future technologies and systems.”

#10. Genetic Evaluation Reviews and Highlights

US – August 2016 Holstein Genetic Evaluations Highlights

Sire Proof Central April 2016

The Busy Dairy Breeder’s Guide to the December 2016 US Genetic Evaluations

The repercussions from the United States election are far from settled.  We are learning far more than we ever thought we needed to know about methods of analysis and how much we can rely on statistics, trends or advertising slogans.  With much less drama and challenge, the dairy industry has been steadily moving forward with regular genetic evaluations and proof reviews.  This type of information service would not usually rank high on an “editor’s choice” list of published articles, but in 2016 they asserted themselves as a worthy tool for making informed decisions and The Bullvine analysis of the highlights are welcomed, discussed and acted upon by breeders seeking to be on the leading edge. Here are two that provided “more” analysis.

#9. Genomic Testing Discovers New Cow Family

Genomic Testing Discovers New Cow Family

Everyone loves to hear success stories.  Even better we love to hear stories that seem to beat the odds in some way.  That is the story of Alexerin Dairy and Oman 993 who can best be described as every breeder’s dream. By using genomic testing, Alexerin Dairy found that they had a breed outlier who’s DGVs exceeded her pedigree index by an astronomical amount. The Bullvine headline read “Genomic Testing Discovers New Cow Family.” The outstanding result was not expected, maybe even unusual. However, getting results from hard work, focused breeding, and a clear vision are the keys to Alexerin’s success. You simply can’t ask for more!

#8. An Open Letter to All Dairy Farmers

An Open Letter to All Dairy Farmers

Sometimes being an industry information provider means taking an unpopular position.  Such is the case with #8 on our Editor’s Choice list. The article was an open letter which began, “To the hard-working dairy farmers who get up before dawn every day so that the rest of us can enjoy wholesome, healthy milk on our cereal and in our morning coffees, “Please sell your cows!”  This call to action arose from simple fact that production is far outstripping consumption, even though the world’s population is growing. Sometimes facing more challenges means being able to say “Goodbye!”

#7.  Gen Com Live Stream and Holstein World Conference Video

Gen-Com: Crown of Roses Sale Results

Why NOT to Crossbreed – 2016 Holstein World Conference Video

Sometimes it’s simply too hard to choose only one representative from many that were presented.  Such is the case when it came to new ways that The Bullvine is expanding beyond the written word. The live streaming of the Gen Com Crown of Roses Sale brought immediacy to Bullvine coverage.  In the same way, when The Bullvine presented real time video of the Holstein World Conference, hosted in Argentina, it marked another step forward in news that was relevant, in real time and accessible to an audience that otherwise would be limited to after the fact, word only reporting.

#6. Stud Wars Episode IV the Force Grows Stronger 

Stud Wars Episode IV: The Force Grows Stronger – 2016

What started as The Battle for A.I. Supremacy back in July 2013, has seen many changes in the power struggle when it comes to sire lineups. Many of the smaller A.I. units have been purchased by larger genetic players, and the rate of change has accelerated considerably. This Bullvine article provided more behind the scenes perspective on who is coming out on top and who is falling behind in the genetics race.

#5 The Subtle Art of Not Caring What Everyone Thinks

The Subtle Art of Not Caring What Everyone Thinks

We all enjoy popularity and The Bullvine is energized whenever those times occur.  The danger is that in seeking more approval we might be losing more relevance.  The goal is to provide what breeders and readers need.  It’s not a popularity contest.  That’s why #5 for 2015 highlights the article Andrew produced about being true to one’s own vision despite resistance or challenges. “Those times I have not given in have made all the difference.  Since starting The Bullvine, I have tested my ability to keep the eye on the ultimate goal and not care what people think about us, but rather understand what we are trying to achieve.  As we enter our fifth year, I am very proud of the work we have done and the actions we have taken, because it has led us to the position we are at today.  A voice for breeders during uncertain times.” Perhaps less comfortable.  Definitely opening The Bullvine to more criticism and controversy.

#4 Introducing The Bullvine All-North American Awards

Introducing The Bullvine All-North American Awards

As we look back we move from not caring what everyone thinks of us to an article that is very concerned about what our readers care about. With a five year developing tradition of not pulling any punches, The Bullvine never shies away from finding ways to put more thought and action into one of the most passionate areas of the dairy industry – namely, the recognition of animals that represent “the best of the best”. In 2016 that meant more innovation from the editor of The Bullvine. In his own words he wrote, “There is no question that North America has some of the greatest show cattle in the world. They have All-Canadian awards and All-American awards, but those are little more than sales tool for two print magazines.  Their nomination processes leave most people scratching their heads and the results are pretty much just a rubber stamp of the results from World Dairy Expo and The Royal.  So, in order truly find out who are the best in North America, the Bullvine is excited to announce the All-North American Awards.” The result was even more than we expected.

#3. More Ways to Communicate and Connect

Throughout the year, we inaugurated new ways to get our stories in front of our dairy industry peers (i.e. Live streaming. See #7). We are convinced that one of the best ways to learn how to improve our herds, dairy operations and the dairy industry happens, when we can learn from those who have found ways to reach the success we are aiming for.  The Bullvine was honored to interview individuals, breeders and companies that are finding more and better ways to move the dairy industry forward. These are the leaders we want to emulate. 

The next two stories brought so much more to all of us than mere words can convey.  These final two selections on our 2015 editor’s choice list rise to first place because they affect us at every level of our passion for dairy cattle.  They are stories about people.  They are stories about courage in the face of adversity.  They are stories about digging deep to set goals, live passionately and achieve dreams.

#2 Inspirational Little Girl and a Medical Miracle

This is a story of heroes, courage and medical miracles. Reese Burdette celebrated her 9th birthday at home after almost two years in Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit where she was recovering from the severe burns she suffered in a fire at her grandparents’ home over Memorial Day weekend in 2014. There will be much to celebrate for the Burdette family and caregivers.  “Reese’s treatment will soon be featured in medical journals. It is discussed already at conferences about the machines that supported her heart and lungs as they healed. She spent longer with ventricular assistance than any other known patient.” Reese loves the farm and her favorite Holstein calf and set an astounding example of giving everything to an almost insurmountable task because of her desire to get back to those places and times. Her dedicated doctors, who joined her extended family, were constantly amazed and reported that. “She persevered and succeeded at everything we asked of her.” May more wonderful benchmarks continue on her journey to health and happiness at home!

Reese Burdette: An Inspirational Little Girl and a Medical Miracle is Going Home

#1 There are MORE IMPORTANT Things in Life Than a Cow Show  

There are more important things in life than a cow show

Take a lesson from Logan Chalack and use your strength to live well and be an inspiration to others. It certainly reminded all of us all that there are more important things in life than a cow show, but also how a cow show can certainly help in the healing process. Logan Chalack passed away on June 28, 2016 at the age of 32 years. As with Reese Burdette, Logan was not defeated by fear of the future but was totally focused on what is possible in the present.

The Bullvine Bottom Line for 2016

More international.  More connected.  More relevant. Here at The Bullvine we have thoroughly enjoyed giving more effort to achieving those goals in 2016.  Please accept our heartfelt thanks to you, our readers, for being with us during another wonderful year.  We are looking forward to 2017 and hope you continue to share our passion for, commitment to and active pursuit of excellence in the dairy industry.  

May your holiday season be filled with more special memories and together let’s continue wanting and achieving “MORE” in the New Year!

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Categories : The Bullvine

Want MORE Milk? Put More Focus on Frequency!

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Dairy headlines, scientific data and discussions over the farm fence are piling up data that says the move to robotic milking sees ever higher levels of uptake among dairy operations.  The focus has moved beyond the simple analysis of pros and cons to finding more data on ways to get the most milk production per robot. The simple conclusion is that everything that impacts the cow — before, during and after visits to the robot — could affect her milk production. As complicated as that sounds, it is simply a question of focus.

“Use Both First Hand Experience and Second Hand Information”

There are many ways to learn how others get more milk from their robots.  Robotic milker suppliers can point you to their successful clients.  They will dazzle you with positives. An internet search will give you many more names to consider and perhaps even reach out to. Be prepared to learn that some of these dairy operations have had remarkable accomplishments. No one will direct you to someone who is struggling with an automated milking system.  Nevertheless, you should seek out things that have been proven, how problems have been corrected and, most of all, how to get more production. Regardless of our sources of information, it’s up to you to do your due diligence.

“We Hear About LESS Labor and MORE Milk. Are the Claims True?”

The attraction to robotic milking pulls dairy operations toward making the change with the promise of decreased labor and increased milk production.  These claims are backed up by the majority of research which shows that installing robots and increasing milking frequency from 2 times per day to 2.5 or 3.0 times on average which results in 6 to 10 pounds more milk per cow per day. You will find that any claim beyond that is impacted by factors not directly robot related such as cow comfort, improved reproduction, and superior management. The facts regarding less total labor aren’t as dramatic.  It is different. Start times may be later, and there is definitely  more flexibility. But, to have the best management, you have to be on call at all times.  Finding a positive way through this learning curve is the first challenge faced by both the human and the bovine teams.

“Scientific Studies Draw Conclusions That You Can Act Upon”

We should always acknowledge that we could be taking results out of context.  Furthermore, we tend to judge what we learn based on our experience, and those experiences create bias.  All we can do is make decisions based on the best information available. There are several Canadian studies and also reports from the University of Minnesota and some out of the Netherlands as well.  These are just a few samples of what is available online. They have a lot of information, and they report what strategies have the biggest impact on milk production. Here are six that rise to the top of the lists.

“LET’S LOOK AT THE TOP SIX  MORE-MILK MAKERS”

  1. Come again!  And Again! Frequency wins!
    You hear it from every source.  One of the main factors impacting robot milk production is the frequency of visits.  If cows could read, we would post signs encouraging them to “Visit the Robot!  Don’t Stay Long!  Come back often! “It’s simple. If you want more milk, you have to have more frequent milking times. This begs the next questions, “How do you get cows to voluntarily come to the robot more often?” How often is often enough? What is the best? Most experts and studies suggest that the goal should be to average 2.7 to 3 milkings per cow per day.  When dairy operations fail to meet this benchmark, they make it a priority to review robot efficiency, nutrition programming, and pre-and-post robotic farm environment setup.
  2. “Effective Management Makes More Milk”
    Robots require a high level of management to be successful.  You may work less (than in parlor setups), but you must manage more! When you have the cows coming to the robots frequently, you have to stay on top of every detail that can impact the success of those visits.  
    At herd level: Monitor visits per day. Target average milking speeds. Provide sand or water beds for cow comfort. Remove hair from udders and trim tails. These and some tasks, such as treating cows, can take more time than in a parlor setup.
    Around the Barn: Slatted floors, robotic scraping and keeping up with equipment maintenance have proven to increase milk production.
    Genetic Selection: Not all cows are well suited for robotic milking. Sire selection and breeding for cows with easier attachment rates and improved milking speed present new challenges. 
    In the Office: Effective dairy managers take responsibility for the success of the dairy, and a large part of that is effectively managing all the incoming data captured by robotic systems.
  3. “Feed is the MAGNET That Pulls in More Visits!” 
    The single biggest factor affecting voluntary visits is the feed that is fed at the robot.  Typically, cows receive a pelleted feed at the robot: some farms feed ground corn or other grains. If only we could learn from fast food drive through restaurants, we would have the cows lining up at all hours of the day. Since we don’t gain from feeding extra large unnecessary portions that lead to overweight, we will have to settle for the idea of attracting our cow-customers to the robot.
    In contrast to the “junk” food that some humans crave, the feed offered at the robot must be of consistent high quality and palatability or cows will be discouraged from visiting the robot and thereby decrease the number of milkings per cow per day. Feed offered should complement other feeds being fed to the cows at the feed bunk.  It isn’t necessary to feed a full ration at either place.  Ideally, the feedbunk provides a partial mixed ration formulated at a lower energy content. The balance of the energy needs are provided at the robot.  Pellet quality, ingredients, quantity and palatability all play a role in getting the cows to voluntarily return to the robot and, thereby, they help increase (or decrease) milk production.
  4. “Provide More Robot Availability. Avoid Lineups and Crowding”
    Since there isn’t a robot for every cow, any time that there is blocked access to a robot it negatively affects milking efficiency. Blockage may be caused by cows congregating around the entrance either before or after milking. Proper design of robotic milking facilities can prevent some of these blocking events from occurring. If the area in front of the robot is small, locate water sources and cow brushes away from the entrance to the robot so as not to encourage cows to congregate in the area.
    A higher stocking density (cows per robot) can also result in fewer milkings per cow.  A target of 60 cows per robot is typically recommended.  In the study, dairy farms averaged 55 cows per robot. A survey of robotic miking dairy farms in Pennsylvania found an average of 56 cows per robot with a range of 47 to 64 cows per robot.  In general, farms in the Pennsylvania study with fewer cows per robot had greater milking’s per cow per day and greater milk production per cow. The conclusion:  Crowding costs cash!
  5. “Robot Access Means No Obstacles, More Space and Good Footing”
    Cow traffic to and from the robot is a large part of robot success. Easy access to the robot is a significant factor in the frequency of visits per cow per day. Obstacles interfering in the path to the robot as well as difficult entryways can deter cows from milking. Cows also need to have adequate space between the robot and surrounding areas. If holding pens or the area in front of the robot are too small, cows will be discouraged from entering.
    Access to the robot can also be encouraged through proper care and management of your herd’s feet and legs. Cows need to have good locomotion and sound hooves to be comfortable walking back and forth to the robot. Scheduling regular hoof trimmings and providing access to footbaths can prevent issues from developing.
  6. “Yes! More Milking Speed Counts!” 
    You can’t deal effectively with getting cows into and out of the robot, without giving consideration to the actual speed of getting the milk. Slow milking time reduces cow throughput and decreases the amount of milkings achieved each day. Many of the top producing robotics herds measure milk flow as compared to milkings per cow per day. From entry to exit, the milking process should take, on average, seven to eight minutes per cow. It’s recommended that herds should strive for less than seven minutes and start to investigate potential issues when milking length exceeds eight minutes. The actual milking unit attachment can also influence time taken per cow in the robot. Milking units that locate the teats quickly and efficiently will reduce the time per cow spent in the robot, freeing up extra available time for other cows. The more time the robots actually spend with cows who are putting out maximum flow will result in greater production than just counting the number of cows per hour or visits per day.  That is why many top herds allow their top producers to visit more frequently while cows that are later in lactation or lower producers allowed fewer visits.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Robotic dairy operations continually strive to improve efficiency and increase production. The starting point for more milk is more frequency. Work with your whole dairy team – nutrition, environment, herd health and staff – to get their best input on ways to make sure you are doing everything possible to attract cows to visit the robots more often. When you effectively focus on getting more robot visits per cow, you will automatically produce more milk!

 

 

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We all prefer to be seen in the best light but, in the case of milk, the very lighting that attracts us to the dairy aisle could be causing problems. At least that’s what the headlines are saying.

The LIGHT that Shines on Milk Could Be Spoiling It!

Bottles, boxes, cartons and bags. There are growing varieties of ways to bring your milk home from the grocery store.  As dairy producers, we would like to think that after milk leaves the farm, it will arrive at the table in the same healthy condition that it left in.  On the contrary, some recent news reports are suggesting that packaging methods may not have a positive effect.  Are we to understand that some packaging causes milk to go bad? Wrong! Well then, is the problem all about light getting to the milk through the packaging? Wrong again! In actual fact, when it comes to milk going off, the contributing factor is the light itself. E

The Latest Bad Milk Buzz Concerns LED Bulbs.

You know of course that LED bulbs are the ones that we all thought were a good thing to support and switch to. Now headlines are suggesting that LED lights ruin milk by making it deteriorate faster. “LED-Exposure causes milk to degrade more quickly.”   (newfoodmagazine.com   June 10, 2016).

Are the Headlines True? Do LED Lights Make Milk Go Bad?

To shed more light on this topic, we have to seek out a new study from Cornell (news.cornell.edu) entitled “Consumers sour on milk exposed to LED light” which states:

 “Cornell researchers in the Department of Food Science found exposure to light-emitting diode (LED) sources for even a few hours degrades the perceived quality of milk more so than the microbial content that naturally accumulates over time. Their study determined milk remained at high-quality for two weeks when shielded from LED exposure, and consumers overwhelmingly preferred the older, shielded milk over fresh milk stored in a typical container that had been exposed to LED light for as little as four hours.”

Attention: Please re-read the previous paragraph and take special note of the words ‘perceived’ and ‘preferred.’

The Cornell Study Confirms Things We Need to Remember

“Exposure of fluid milk to LED light negatively affects consumer perception and alters underlying sensory properties.” Furthermore, it confirms that we have recognized for decades that light affects the flavor of milk.

 “Light-induced flavors in dairy products are in no way an unexpected or novel observation (Browne, 1899). This study differed from earlier work in the use of more modern LED light illumination and the incorporation of a large consumer study with descriptive sensory measures. Light-activated flavors have been shown to produce robust negative consumer response (White and Bulthaus, 1982)…. Producing milk in packaging protected from sunlight has been discussed for almost 100 years.”

We Are Being Told That It’s the Color of the Light That Matters.

“Although the wavelength of LED lights is of lower total power than fluorescent lighting, they emit strongly in the blue spectrum (Heffernan et al., 2007; Narukawa et al., 2010). This isn’t far from the 450nm absorption maximum of riboflavin.  Riboflavin has been found to be the most destructive (by Choe et al. 2005). Thus it may be more effective in degrading riboflavin and releasing energy to the milk.”

Two Things Speed up the LED Reaction: 1. The Color 2. The Brightness

So what?  Well, the data is showing that even a relatively short exposure to LED light (4 hours) will readily induce light-oxidized flavor, thus reducing consumer liking (Hoskin and Dimick 1979.

So next time that “Why Does the Milk Taste Bad?”  conversation comes up, here are four tasteful points that will prove especially enlightening.

“Bad taste.  Bad milk.  That’s NOT the truth. “

  1. The milk is not going bad.

“The whole problem starts with trying to be too bright.”

  1. Light is having an effect on consumer perceptions and taste buds.

“Blue Light May Be COOL Cool, but it is NOT the RIGHT light.”

  1. The real culprit is blue light which is causing the deterioration. LEDs can be mixed to any color temperature, so those making the selection need to turn to “warm white” instead of “cool blue.”

“When good Milk leaves a bad taste, put the BLAME where it belongs.”

  1. Marketing studies proclaim that lighting done right will increase retail sales. Now managers need to combine this art of attraction with results that also prove that milk may need special consideration to prevent the taste going off.

“It’s All in the Eye of the Beholder”

If retail stores remember that the customer is always right, they will accept the “perceived” reality that taste is being affected by the lights and make sure that they don’t try to make milk sales by providing too much bright blue light. If they ignore this, public perception will turn to the reality of deteriorating milk.  I tend to agree with the viewpoint that sums up the situation this way, “This research points the way to home milk delivery, in brown or blue glass bottles, as is used for other beverages whose flavor we care about.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

At the end of the day – or when you’re in the grocery line — it seems that milk producers and consumers are destined to keep getting caught between LEDs and a dark place. Is it too bright?  Or too blue?  Milk’s journey from stable to table has many twists and turns.  The one thing that we want is for it to arrive healthy, fresh and delicious. We can all drink to that!!

 

 

 

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Categories : Dairy Industry

More and more often these days you will spot a little bracelet on the arms of friends, neighbors, and strangers.  The health trend for monitoring daily footsteps is catching on. Since I now sport one of these, I have the advantage of having actual proof that I am not moving around enough.  Ironically, before I ever was gifted with this performance monitor, I was fascinated at more than one dairy trade show to see the growing number of activity monitoring systems which have been developed for use on dairy farms. In fact, activity monitors are just the tip of the dairy tech iceberg.0914ca_drankhan_smartphone1

When you’re in the barn, how much technology should you use?

There is always the need to improve reproduction, reduce labor and lower costs. Is technology this generation’s miracle worker?  We are told, it can make managers faster, smarter and more profitable.  The promise is that technology brings myriad benefits to dairy progress but where is the line between too little and too much.  Growing demand means that an ever-increasing number of companies see the potential in developing and marketing these systems.

The Million Dollar Question

“When does a greater technology presence provide the most benefits.”

The 21st Century Answer

Our dairies aren’t using too much technology.

They’re not using enough!

If we intend to be relevant for future generations of consumers and farmers, we have to prepare ourselves for the world that is going to exist.  To put it simply.  It’s all about evolution. As you read this, children are growing up with technology.  We are moving into a futuristic dairy world. Fewer and fewer producers are having to produce more and more products.  This agricultural shift alone means that we need to understand and use technology. Admittedly ongoing economic situations in Europe and fluctuating or declining markets in other countries have some feeling reluctance to invest in the future.  But if there is to be a viable future for dairying, investing is exactly what must happen.

How Do These Systems Transform Dairy Processes?

When you work in an industry with as much passion and persistence as the dairy industry has, you don’t have to go far to hear find partnerships of – breeders- science- and business people who are creating new products that are revolutionizing day to day performance.

“No one is talking about what their product might do, they’re talking about what it does.”

Like a well-oiled team, technology developers send out their most charismatic people with videos, brochures, and hands-on displays.  If you are exposed to one of these presentations, it’s hard not to feel that you have had a peek into the future.  But there is no cause for trepidation.  Even though the technology is leading edge, the best presenters keep the explanations (and implementation) grass roots simple. They know that information is key to being successful and profitable in the modern dairy business.  They say, “The better you align your goals with your profitability, the clearer your technology needs will become.  Whether it’s labor, nutrition, production or genetics, technology can assist the potential in each area.”

Do Monitors Eliminate Interaction with The Cows?

The goal is not to eliminate the need for interaction with the dairy herd. It is to make it easier to focus effectively on priorities.

“Now your cows can talk to you!”

And it isn’t just the dairy manager that gains an advantage. There are applications for consultants and nutritionists too.  Modern technology is putting tech in the hands of every person who is on the dairy team.

“Like all tools, the technology works best when it is properly implemented.”

Tech is ready to change the way we think about making thousands of daily management decisions.  The great thing with most of the new products is that the learning curve for anyone interested is almost instant and is well supported by the developers.  We have all wanted to take advantage of new technology and had to work through the slow process of learning, re-learning and fixing the accompanying software.  Dairy technology companies that will have an impact and thrive in today’s market know that solving learning hurdles is key to everyone’s success.

Know What to Ask Before Making the Decision to Purchase a Technology Monitoring System

  • Is training or support is provided with the system?
  • What warranty period is there on the system and its components?
  • How large an area is covered? Can the system read activity tags in all parts of the barn or pasture?
  • How large of an area will the tag reader or antenna cover?
  • How long will it take to pay back the cost of the system?
  • What is the warranty period on the system and/or its components?
  • Is there another farm in the area using the system that I could visit?
  • Is the activity system compatible with my current herd management software?
  • What other technology will I need (i.e. Internet connection) for this system to work?
  • When you talk to users of the technology, be sure to ask them what problems they had and how they overcame them.

You are now prepared for the fun of taking a day (or more) away from the farm to bring yourself up-to-date on the latest innovations in livestock production. Here are some that catch the interest of The Bullvine.

0914ca_drankhan_medriha1vetMEDRIA SENSOR – Cow Monitoring System is Dedicated to Reliable Real-Time Data

The Medria system provides information on heat detection, rumination, feeding behavior, health monitoring and calving time monitoring.  It uses cellular communication instead of the internet, and it is an integrated system- HeatPhone, FeedPhone, VetPhone, SanPhone.  They system sends text messages about group changes in water or feed consumption and rumination. It reports cows at risk due to changes in behavior, as well as cows in heat, etc.  When I first learned about this system in 2015, there was tremendous interest around the World Dairy Expo booth. At that time Medria Technologies founders Jean-Pierre Lemonnier and Emmaneul Mounier (2004 in Brittanny France) pointed out, “Medria Technologies has a full line totally oriented to farm management.” and they reported that over 4000 farmers in more than 10 European countries were already using Medria’s monitoring solutions. Those first eleven years were providing positive results, proving “how need this device is and how successful it can be in the monitoring and early detection of reproduction and animal health problems.”

Now WIC has Been Added to the GEA MixFeeder

DairyFarming_FreeStallFeeder_1_1200x675px.jpgIn July of 2016, GEA introduced the Wireless Integrated Control (WIC) system which is an intelligent software for its proven MixFeeder.  The new system ensures that every performance group receives the optimal mix ration of raw feed, concentrated feed and minerals in the right volumes at the most appropriate intervals. The WIC delivers the feed precisely and reliably around the clock.  This benefits milk producers and herd managers as it ensures that their cows are always performing at their full potential, thereby improving milk volumes and quality and reducing workload and costs.

The WiIC software enables staff to access the system from the PC, touch panel or their smartphone, wherever they happen to be, via the local network or the internet.  This gives producers and herd managers greater freedom, while still enabling them to have full control over the entire feeding process. The system can also send alerts via SMS if required.  These messages can then be acknowledged with a simple reply text.  Staff can also manage individual functions and get basic information on the touchscreen on the feeder itself.

There are numerous great products on the market and many more that will be introduced and demonstrated at upcoming shows.  EuroTier is held every two years in Hanover, Germany and from November 15 to 18 this year, there will be exhibitors highlighting products to support breeding, feeding, husbandry, management, logistics and animal health.  Once again, the future beckons!

rover-robots-alimentation-produits-rovibec1Introducing the Robot Named, “ROVER!”

Rover is a new self-propelled robot whose debut appearance will be at EuroTier.  Rover will show how it can not only automatically mix and feed and dispense it to the cows but also push up that feed as it passes. This new robotic feeding system was developed by Rovibec in Quebec, Canada and will be distributed in parts of Europe by Schauer Agrotronic in Austria.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Modern technology developers are just like every one of us who has a piece of dairy in their DNA.  They are eagerly taking a bold and imaginative place in the product line between the stable and the table. Whether you walk the aisles of World Dairy Expo in Madison or the Euro-Tier Show in Hanover Germany, you will be inspired by visionary companies with the courage to lead.  Technology is an area of dairying that is moving at the speed of change and helping dairy operators to take a progressive, sustainable and profitable step into the future. Where are you? Too much?  Or Not enough?

 

 

 

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Categories : Management, Technology

We talk about the way family farm founders, dairy managers, consultants and suppliers need to be passionate, committed and courageous in leading their dairy businesses. We enjoy giving glowing praise to those who have inspired us to take exceptional action or to dig deeper to solve a problem or gave us the guts to make uncomfortable changes. We include ourselves in that group of aging role models. But what happens when there is an ever-widening gap developing between the measurable achievements? Indeed, what happens when those who lead the pack are not ready or willing to hand over the baton.

These Days Are We Still Proud or Are We Just Loud?

When we start something, and grow it into a successful enterprise, we are justifiably proud of the distance we have come.  We know how much hard work, inspiration and vision went into getting the operation off the ground. We are proud of growing and maintaining the legacy of those before us.  But sometimes we get so hung up on simply hanging on that we are a detriment to continued growth. Loud whining is very different from proud leading.

Sometimes Taking the Most Important Step Means Stepping Away

There are definitely times when you look back and congratulate yourself on taking center stage.  Tough or easy, you had the target painted on your back, and you accepted responsibility.  Being in the driver’s seat of a dairy business means traveling down a long and winding road. We sometimes need to be reminded that, on any journey, it’s important to pay attention to the stop signs! Here’re eight stop signs that you may be missing or ignoring.

129495-simple-red-square-icon-signs-road-stop-sign-sc441 #1: “No one could do what I do as well as I do it!”

If you just shouted “Right on!”, then please step away from your computer! It’s wonderful to have a great track record but what does the record show recently, when it comes to moving ahead with new technology, new management methods, new breeding strategies and a new nutrition program?  The belief that the status quo is the way to go just means that YOU need to go. And furthermore-  If you use the phrase: “By the time I show someone how to do it, I could just do it myself” Step aside. If your team really can’t do the work as well as you can, whose fault is that? Did you fail to train them? Or train them to fail?  Fire yourself!

129495-simple-red-square-icon-signs-road-stop-sign-sc441

#2: You resent young upstarts who haven’t struggled like you did and yet seem to feel that they are entitled to be your equal.

This is a big one.  If you hold resentment toward people (family, staff, partners or consultants) who haven’t been through what you have and who, heaven forbid, rely on book learning instead of years of experience, this could be a sign that you have passed your own best-before date. The measure of success isn’t the path taken or the length and bumpiness of the road.  Success is measured in results.  Are you interested in results or longevity?  Progress or control?  What are you afraid of.  If you answer is “I am afraid of retirement!”  Fire yourself!

PS If the only ones you resent are “those girls” or “the women” who aspire to work in your exclusively male domain.  Fire yourself!  Do it now!

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#3: You’re worried about the financial Implications.

Are you waiting for the economy to improve, before you’ll give up control? You have come through challenges. Have a little faith that others can do the same. You may not be ready to let others make financial decisions, but are your decisions making or breaking the bank?  Do you find yourself cutting corners to save money, doing the best you can on your own in order to avoid paying someone else for services? Are you cutting costs on feed or supplies even though it may affect your herd health and production and therefore reduce your actual profits? Cutbacks can be costly.  At the other extreme, when seeing ourselves in the role of “top” boss, we give ourselves permission to break some rules by giving bigger discounts for our products or services to our “special” customers?  Do you find your customers or suppliers always asking for a deal? Are you demonstrating your power or are you eating away at your margins?  You need to recognize that your control may be inefficient, wasteful, and inducing costs that work against the very profitability you are hoping for. If you don’t fire yourself at this point, you will eventually be out of work.  Fire yourself!

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#4: You think long hours are a measure of success.

Dairying is 24/7, but burnout is not a benchmark for success. Past a certain point, working more hours rarely makes you more productive. A study showed that, if you’re regularly working past 50 hours a week, your productivity is likely going to drop. That same study from Stanford also reported that people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours. “But” you object, “they’re probably not farmers!”  You’re right.  That is why pacing yourself and delegating and strategically planning workloads is something that successful dairy farmers become very good at. There is no point in becoming an ornery, grumpy curmudgeon just because your martyr complex won’t let anyone else share the load. If you feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders – fire yourself.

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#5: You expect praise for your efforts but don’t hand much of it out.

Do you insist on doing your job and other people’s jobs too? We all have strengths and when you have capable family or staff, let them lead with theirs. Strong leaders recognize where others add value, and make space for true collaboration. Don’t try to do it all. Especially when someone else might do it better. Do you find yourself detouring around family or staff in any meeting with suppliers, customers, or strategic partners?  If you are the only star, what does that make your staff.  Do you feel frustrated with staff who are not proactive, who only do what they’re told, who depend on you for decisions and seem unable to think strategically? Do customers always ask to speak to you instead of your staff? If you’re the reason, fire yourself!

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#6: Everything has to go through you.

If your team can’t make a decision, or work is held up because you’ve not yet reviewed or approved it, it’s time to question how enabling you really are. You may not even be conscious of the tone you set, but sometimes a team’s hesitancy to make a call stems from your bad habit of reversing decisions. It’s either that or they’re unclear about what you want. Do people know what you expect? It’s great to be a champion, a guide, and even a director when needed. But don’t be a bottleneck. Learn to be clear on your expectations. Learn to take a backseat in decision making.  If you’re hired as “Manager,” you may not be prepared to or able to fire yourself. But you should always have the best interests of the dairy business at heart. Learn to appreciate the new technology and ideas that the younger generation may bring. If you own the operation, learn to change your title from “Farm Manager” to “Farm Owner.”     For those of you who are at this stage, Congratulations!!  You’ve built your dairy business.  Now it’s time to enjoy seeing it evolve further.  I hope you can let go quickly enough to take advantage of it. Fire yourself!

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#7: You don’t trust your team to represent your work.

Clarifying roles and responsibilities is helpful. Once you’ve done this, it’s important to stay in your lane. If a project is heading into a ditch, by all means, step in. Otherwise, clarify your goals and expectations, then trust people to get the job done. Don’t insert yourself just because you can, or because you feel the need to appear in control. Leading from the sidelines has its place. If we want to enable meaningful contributions from everyone and maximize the talent available, it’s important that you either find your correct place…and learn to occupy it gracefully … or fire yourself!

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#8: You are not ready or willing to change roles.

When you first started out in farming, you handled everything: chores, milking, breeding; finances; planting and harvesting; buying and selling; builder; plumber and all round handyman.

Over time and with the changing nature of modern dairying, you were probably required to focus on other things, and you coped with that.  Now changes include team building, training, and management, to name a few things that need to be on the priority list. When we as owners or managers refuse to relinquish control, we negatively affect growth. Call it fear or call it pride; that hesitation causes harm.  We have now become stumbling blocks.  Don’t get me wrong!  Many of us have used our strengths and still have some to offer. But if we are not very good at running today’s operations under changed circumstances we have to admit it. Change happens whether we are ready or not.  For many of you, your operation still needs you… For some of you, your business can do without you.  Either accept your new role or fire yourself!

8 STOP SIGNS PLUS ONE!!

So, there you have it.  If you read through this list of stops signs and recognized yourself —- check, check, check, check, check —then it’s time for you to check out. Fire yourself!! 

THE BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE

Don’t make your biggest regret that you waited too long to fire yourself. If you have the best interest of your dairy operation at heart, then you will be wise enough to know when the time has come to be the “wind beneath the wings” of the next generation.  Are you ready to give your dairy an advantage?

 

 

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Categories : Management

One thing that has never gone out of style is the fun we get from referring to those we love by their nicknames. Elvis was “The King.” Bruce Springsteen “The Boss” and Bette Midler “The Divine Miss M.” But even in dairying, where pet names for our dairy cows are common, very few would have expected the Grand Champion at World Dairy Expo 2016 to be called, “Thomas”!  Sheeknoll Durham Arrow was given the name “Thomas” by her first leads person. He was the five-year-old nephew of Arrow’s breeders. Obviously, the little guy already saw Thomas (aka Arrow) as a star because of his fondness for his #1 hero, Thomas the Tank Engine!

Winning “Grand” at World Dairy Expo is Rarely an “Overnight Success Story.”

Everyone will tell you how much hard work goes into being selected for first place in any class at World Dairy Expo.  To be named Grand in a breed is the culmination of dedication, commitment and unrelenting attention to details.  This is true for the 2016 Holstein Grand Champion, Sheeknoll Durham Arrow. Jeannette Sheehan outlines some of the behind the scenes effort that that took. “At Sheeknoll Farms, our primary focus has always been on developing a quality, healthy herd of Registered Holsteins with high milk and good type traits. We’ve used our passion for dairy judging as a guide to help develop the ideal type of cow for our farm. For decades, our family has been showing in 4-H and local Holstein Association shows, but it’s only been in the past ten years or so that we started showing at open shows, including the MN State Holstein Show, the Midwest Fall National Show and a few times at World Dairy Expo. Andrew began attending shows with his friends, Adam and Dana Johnson of Lida Acres, Pelican Rapids, MN, and Luke Olson and his family from Raylore Farm of Hutchinson, MN. Their group has quietly done well over the last decade showing home-bred cows at the regional shows and having fun in the process.” She concludes by noting that it is not all hard work and no play, “We’ve made some great friends because of our love for cows and dairy farming.”

“Arrow Will be a Great Show Cow Some Day.”

Success in the show ring can be achieved in many ways including genetics, showmanship, training, fitting and preparation.  For the family at Sheeknoll, it started with the identification of Arrow’s potential. “Thomas was a solid, well put-together young cow with a great udder. When she was a recently fresh Jr. 2-year-old, we took her to the MN State Holstein Show, where she placed 5th in her class. We never thought anything of it until the judge that day, Callum McKinven, specifically told us after the show that she would be a great cow someday.” That observation was indeed prophetic because it encouraged Arrow’s owners to look at her from a different perspective. “At that time, Thomas was on TMR year-round with all the other cows until she was about four years old. After she had won Grand Champion at our state Holstein show as a 4-year-old, we realized she had show potential, so we created a separate pen for her. Thomas has calved in April every year for five straight years, which has helped her gain maturity and prove her worth both in conformation and functionality.” In 2016 she proved to be the best of the best!

Typical World Dairy Expo? Or Was it Exceptional?

When the day began, it was like any other day showing at World Dairy Expo.   The usual anticipation of seeing the rewards for a lot of hard work.  Nervous excitement is there for everyone, whether you’re behind the scenes, in the showring or in the audience.  But then the judge pointed to the winner of the Aged Cow Class. That was a turning point for Jeanette, on the halter and the extended Sheehan family, wherever they were watching from.We were so excited to win the class that we didn’t even think about Grand Champion honors at all until the Champion Bred and Owned class was in the ring. Because all the senior cow class winners, except the 4-year-old, were in that class, we suddenly realized that cow named Champion Bred and Owned could win it all.”

Thomas Takes the Spotlight in An Unforgettable Showcase

Each year we return home from World Dairy Expo with good memories.  But can you imagine what it must be like for Sheeknoll Farms and the Sheehan’s after this 50th Anniversary crowning achievement?  Jeanette gives us a look at how it was for her. “There were two memorable moments that stand out for us. One was getting pulled into first during the Aged Cow class. For some reason, Thomas wouldn’t lead well during that class, so we were all silently willing Thomas to start leading better. When the judge pointed at her for first, the crowd erupted like nothing that we had ever heard before. Andrew was watching from the floor, but couldn’t see the judge point at Thomas. So he actually thought the cheer was for a well-known cow people had picked out to win. Our friends, the Olsons, were watching the class with us and could see him point at Thomas. When Andrew asked them what happened, they were so shocked that all they could do was put up one finger to signify Thomas was in first. We were so excited because we had never won a class at Expo before! The second memorable moment was during the selection of Grand Champion, when the judge walked around the entire ring and worked his way back to Jeannette and Thomas to select her for Grand with an enormous and joyous high-five! It was an incredible and emotional moment- one we will never forget!”

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There is Nothing More Exciting Than a Cinderella Story

With the crowning of Arrow, we all witnessed the rarity of homebred royalty.  That it happened at the 50th Anniversary of World Dairy Expo meant that there was an additional element of a dream come true for the Sheehans.This has been an incredible honor for all of us – a real dream come true! Honestly, it has taken a while for Thomas’ accomplishments to truly sink in! One of Jeannette’s all-time favorite expo memories was visiting World Dairy Expo and seeing Gene-Acres Felicia May Fury win Grand Champion. And now we and Thomas are on that same list of honored cow champions. It’s amazing.” It truly was a fairy tale day for Arrow from winning her class to becoming Grand of the Holstein Show.  Even the Supreme Ball was a momentous achievement. Jeanette describes the excitement. “2016 has been a successful show year for Thomas, even before attending World Dairy Expo. She was named Grand Champion of both our MN State Show and the Midwest Fall National Show. However, the competition at Expo each year is extremely tough, and we knew that if we came in with high expectations, we could be humbled quickly. Quite honestly, we knew Thomas was a good cow, but we didn’t know how she would fare against the best of the best. That’s why we were so stunned when Thomas was named Grand Champion of the Holstein show. We’re proud to be both the breeders and owners of the cows we show, so having one of our home-bred cows win Grand Champion Holstein, and Reserve Supreme Champion was a dream come true!”

Arrow is Hitting the Target of Worldwide Recognition

While Arrow may not appear too changed by her achievement, her owners are amazed by the overwhelming response to Thomas’s success.  “The reaction has been unbelievable!  We’re amazed at all the support, congratulations, and notes of encouragement we’ve received from people worldwide. We’re so thankful that World Dairy Expo streamed the show online so our families and friends who couldn’t make it could watch Thomas in the ring, especially the Sheehan family members who were home taking care of the farm and Jeannette’s mom, Olive, who watched the entire show from start to finish. They could experience the emotion and excitement of that entire day too. Now that we’re home from Expo, we’re back to our normal farm life of doing chores, harvesting crops and milking cows. But twice a day as we milk Thomas, we’re reminded of that day at Expo and the unbelievable thrill we felt when she won!”

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Arrow’s Owners Won’t Test Their Psychic Powers

Now that we have learned more about Sheeknoll Farm and Thomas we are inspired by their success and hope to learn how to do the same.  Having led Thomas to the pinnacle of show ring at World Dairy Expo, we asked them what they foresee for her in the future. They make it clear that they don’t have a crystal ball but, at the same time, it isn’t surprising that they do have short and long term action plans for her. “We plan on implementing an IVF program to obtain more females and embryos from Thomas. We only have a few daughters currently on the ground, so we hope to add offspring from her to our herd in the near future. We also plan to merchandise females and embryos from her soon. She also has a June 2016 Doorman daughter, Sheeknoll Doorman Arrow, selling in the Sale of Stars next month.” That sounds well thought out, but that’s what you would expect of the Sheehans. The unexpected Sheeknoll Farm has also already achieved.

 

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Dairy cattle breeders dream of leading a winner on the colored shavings at World Dairy Expo.  Doing that and leading a winner that you bred is a rarity.  The Sheehan family modestly insist that not much has changed since their World Dairy Expo achievement. “Arrow’s life isn’t much different than before she won – except she has a few more visitors to her pen and she appears in more selfies now!”  And of course, in dairy circles, “Thomas” (aka Durham Arrow) is now a household name!

 

 

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Are We Puppet Masters or Yo-Yos?  There are many things that can be a bother to hard working dairy managers but the one that comes up most often under “it drives me crazy” is the dairy yo-yo effect of rising and falling milk prices. Asked about the state of the dairy industry, 95% of the time you only get two answers from producers:

  1. Milk prices are up.
  2. Milk prices are down.

For some reason these two answers never seem to change.  They’re a constant source of stress to everyone in the dairy industry. If they were the only two fluctuating prices it would be one thing but the same dizzying rise and fall happens with commodities such as corn, soybeans, canola, corn gluten, cotton seed and whatever you need at a particular time! Is it predictable?  Is there anything to be done about it?  Well if there is absolutely nothing that can be done, I find myself asking, “Why stay in the dairy industry?”

Up is Good!  Right?

You might think that rising milk prices are a good thing.  But unless you have control over keeping them in that beneficial position, you end up feeling like a puppet on a string.  Today the show goes on.  Tomorrow you’re jumping to someone else’s tune.  Instead of always responding to extremes, is there anything to be said about risk management that considers a less reactive and more proactive response?

THE MILK PRICE IS THE UNSEEN HAND MANIPULATING DAIRY MANAGEMENT

Dairy managers will tell you that they buy feed, nutrition rations, replacement cows and other inputs based on the price of milk.  Some members of the Hunt family object to this strategy saying, “That is like buying my car based on the price of gas.”  Another Hunt responds, “If that were true, we would all drive Chevy volts.” On the farm, reluctance to take a different approach means that we drive ourselves into over-supply situations. When everyone does that it means more total national production. Even when there are farms exiting the industry the total national production goes up. This is definitely not a good scenario.  You might even say it’s wooden headed!!

PAST MARKET STRING PULLING FAILS

Back in the 1980’s the publicity over the whole herd buyout program was so negative many were sure that that particular string would never be pulled again. Well not until 2002 that is, when prices dropped from $15 per cwt in 2001 and $12 per cwt in 2002. The terms were different this time but the critics are still debating whether the program actually worked.

Between July 2003 and February 2006 the USA cow numbers which initially went down by 100, 000 head rebounded to the original levels by 2006. Milk prices briefly averaged $26 per cwt in 2004 and $15 per cwt in 2005.  But by 2006 prices again averaged less than $13.

2016 MARKET MILLION DOLLAR STRINGS

There are many strings that get pulled on the dairy industry at any given time, but in an election year, The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) asked USDA for $100 million to $150 to offset milk surpluses from increased production and declining export sales. The response was unusually quick, but the string was shortened to a $20 million purchase of cheese that was donated to food shelves.  This string-pulling had the unforeseen effect of causing cheese prices to fall and had only a negligible effect on cheese inventories which continued to rise.

 

WHO PULLS YOUR MONEY STRINGS?

As a (Canadian) outsider looking in, it seems that Banks have a lot of say in how dairying Is carried out in the US.  They have a lot of pull in Canada too, where we market under Supply Management.   We sometimes have asked our American neighbors why they don’t moderate their herd numbers in response to the fluctuating price of milk.  They respond, “To keep our banker happy we must maintain our level of income. So the only way to do that in a time of low farm gate price is to milk more cows, ship more milk and personally work longer hours”

HIDDEN PUPPETEERS

Are any of these puppeteers in control of your dairy operation.  Whether it’s a nameable politician, political party, banker or government subsidy, we are all too willingly to put the power in their hands.  Which puppet master is pulling your strings?  How high are they making you jump?

YO-YO or NO GO?

Today’s dairy economy has been dangling on a string in a “sleeper recession for several years.  The world dairy economy spins at the bottom in many countries.  Everyone wonders how long the “spin” will continue before we witness total collapse of the market.  It’s hard to tell whether dairying is improving or not because the economic indicators keep yo-yoing between signs of improvement and indications of collapse

POOR LITTLE PUPPETS

Of course, once you acknowledge you’re being controlled by puppeteers, the inclination is to cry over the manipulation.  Perhaps before that dairy farmers need to admit their role.  Are we manipulated? Or responsible? Sometimes we are so sure that the market manipulation we support, whether it’s subsidies, supply management or government buy-outs, is right and we insist that our position is right long after failure is right in our face. “It’s not my fault!” is no more believable than “The dog at my homework!” The end result is still failure. Your failure to control your own purse strings!

WHO YA GONNA BLAME

When you like dancing to someone else’s tune then you will likely choose to keep things the way they have always been. Fluctuating markets have always been part of the industry.  “It’s not in my hands”.  Having said that, it’s 2016 and there are new technologies and approaches.  There are consultants who recognize that their only way to survive in the modern dairy industry is to make sure that your bottom line survives.  There are many who think assigning blame will keep their hands in your pocket.  Actually, you don’t need to know who is at “fault”. You want to know what your nutritionist, genetics company, feed supplier or veterinarian is going to do to help you make money on the correct side of the market. Yes, there are many who will try to talk you out of your different approach.  But who wants to be that 80-year-old dairy farmer who remained in the rut so long that he now looks back and blames someone else for not letting him dance to his own tune!  Today he would maintain, “I should have taken the risk!” Those who did appear to be thriving.

LET’S BE HONEST

You don’t have to be a market strategist or political economist to recognize some truths about dairy markets.  First of all.  Do you know of any market on the face of the earth that only moves up?  What is your experience?  What direction are markets moving?  Is your milk market growing? The answer is not, “Wait and see!”  It is,” We need to be promoting what is working and getting rid of what isn’t.” We have been through these ups and downs, so we should be planning for them before they come. Being reactive does more harm to dairy business and jobs than being proactive which allows us to take control. We can wait for the invisible hand (the ups and downs of the many players in the dairy industry) to work things out, or we can try out different strategies for getting optimal results based on current conditions

BETTER or WORSE?  SMARTER OR STRONGER?

Sometimes we hesitated to take more control because we feel we are not smart enough or strong enough to be in charge. We trade individual independence for group think.  We hand over our own strings to someone “Smarter” or “Stronger” rather than take control of our own risk management. We comfort ourselves by saying, “It could be worse” as we look at the dairy convulsion we’ve seen in the UK.  The downside is that we could be next.

The dairy marketplace has untold possible outcomes.  Its complexity comes from the tremendous variety of inputs that come from countless permutation of ways to do achieve milk production from dairy cows. Furthermore, it is complicated by the many numbers of individuals simultaneously trying to do the same thing and simultaneously affecting the outcomes for each other.  Dairy market rules are not written down anywhere.  They are not controlled by a single entity.  The industry is constantly evolving.  Individuals, businesses and governments are all players. At any given time, they may think they are in control.  But are they players or being played?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Puppets and Yo-yos may be good analogies to use in describing aspects of the dairy industry marketplace.  However, at the end of the day, we are NOT about playing GAMES, but we are about DOING BUSINESS! … Who’s responsible? … Are you the puppet or the puppeteer?

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Categories : Dairy Industry

On a dairy farm, delivering a calf is a normal, healthy process.  But, if the health of the cow and calf are to be assured, all that normality cannot be left to nature.  Poor preparation, unsanitary conditions, and unidentified problems can result in weak or dead calves or injured and sick cows. Calvings are one of those dairy journeys where the road to hell can be paved with good intentions.  All the good intentions in the world won’t make up for poor training, inadequate observation or badly executed assistance.

KNOWLEDGEABLE TEAM:  Must recognize risks and potential problems

How your employees deal with cows and heifers that are in labor is one of the most important things you must prepare them to handle well. There can be many problems that can arise during a delivery, but the first step is to avoid assisting when assistance is not actually needed. Cows will deliver without any assistance 70% of the time.  Even 50% of heifers will do that.  From that basic understanding, the team needs to be well versed in recognizing an abnormal or difficult delivery.  Patience and training can tip the process toward success and make sure that nothing staff does contribute to the injury or death of the animals involved. Knowing if the service sire is rated easy or difficult for calving ease is often another very useful piece of information. As well, it is increasingly helpful to know the dam’s sire’s rating for maternal calving ease.

PROPERLY TRAINED: Correctly Identify the Stages of Calving Training

There is heightened attention on farm, whenever a calving is about to happen. Rather than anticipating the worst, calving teams must learn how to work with the calving instead of against it. It starts with recognition of the signs of parturition.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Every stage in the calving process must be handled well in order to reduce negative outcomes ranging from stillbirths to inflammation of the uterus (metritis). Improper management of calving always has a negative impact on the health of your cows and calves.  Of course, there is a correspondingly negative impact on the financial success of the dairy as well. Accepting a 505 calf death loss or a 10% slow down in recovery should never be acceptable. As dairy farms become larger and new staff originate from non-bovine backgrounds, a trained team is a dairy operation necessity.

USE TECHNOLOGY: Observation and Monitoring are Indispensable

Even the best training program won’t be effective if the dairy staff doesn’t put what they know into action.  Not being attentive enough to catch the calving signals, whether they are early, on time or overdue, is a costly mistake.  This is one place where modern technology can be a very useful tool in the close-up pen.  Tools have been developed to monitor rumination and activity.  A cow commonly decreases feed intake before calving and monitoring rumination can signal calving. As well, a cow may show more up and down movement as she moves toward calving and then, no movement, as she starts into final labor. By using video monitoring, producers can be much more thorough in their calving preparation.  Multiple members of staff can view from different locations using cellphones or computers. The entire process is less intrusive on the cows and, provided the proper viewing angles are available; technology makes it easier to keep track of the stages of labor.

MANAGE EACH STAGE: Recognize.  Assess.  Act.

Be ready for the start of calving. Typically, cows go into labor on approximately the 280th day of gestation. Make sure your records are accurate and giving you the best information on which animals are ready to begin the process. 

STAGE ONE: Pre-calving Preparation

Stage one coincides with the calf moving into position, and the cervix begins to dilate. Observable signs are frequent changes from standing to lying down, raised tail head, vocalization, increased urination and defecation, full udder and mucus discharge. Typically stage one lasts for two to six hours.  If there has not been any progress in four hours, then the cow should be examined. 

STAGE TWO:  Calf is Born

In stage two labor, the cow or heifer is fully dilated, and the calf is born. Normal presentation is front feet first with the head between the knees and shoulders.  Any other presentation is a signal that assistance is needed. Stage two normally can last from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

STAGE THREE: Passing of the Afterbirth

In stage three labor, the placenta is expelled eight to 12 hours post-calving. If it takes more than 24 hours, it is considered a retained placenta and a veterinarian should be contacted. Years ago it was considered necessary to manually remove the attached membranes.  Modern best practices have shown that his can be detrimental to uterine health and could have a negative impact on future conception rates.

SIX CRUCIAL SKILLS YOUR CALVING TEAM MUST HAVE

At this point we have looked at what you see and what you know.  These are vital skills but the rubber really hits the road with what you “DO.”  When everything goes smoothly, there is nothing more beautiful than welcoming a healthy calf onto your dairy operation.  But, as we all know, there are many things that can go wrong and the skills needed to respond to those challenges are the ones that will determine the success or failure of your calvings.

SKILL 1: VAGINAL EXAMINATION 

Early in the labor process, a skilled person should examine the cow to determine if there is a need to correct an abnormal position or if assistance will be needed. There are exceptional practitioners who are skilled in distinguishing between front or rear legs. Employees can gain valuable experience in how to reposition a calf by learning from a veterinarian or skilled independent consultant.

SKILL 2: ASSISTING LABOR  

Knowing how and when to assist a cow is one of the most important SOPs (Standard Operating Protocol).

Assistance may be needed if:

  • The cow is straining, but no part of the calf is showing after two hours.
  • The feet and/or nose are showing, but the calf is not delivered after two hours.
  • Rest periods between laboring are lasting more than 20 minutes.
  • The cow or calf is showing signs of stress or fatigue.

SKILL 3: USE OF CHAINS OR STRAPS   

Assistance in these situations may require proper placement of chains or straps.  This should always be done in a manner that does not cause injury to the calf.

Important considerations are:

  1. Calf jacks and manual extraction can easily exceed 600 pounds of force and break leg bones or vertebra or permanently injure the cow.
  2. Sterile chains and straps are best, but they should at a minimum be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between uses.
  3. Farms that do not have proper equipment should contact a veterinarian for proper assistance.
  4. Improvising, such as using twine, can result in injury to the calf. 

SKILL 4:  Know the Right Person to Call   

Contact your veterinarian if you cannot assess what is wrong during a delivery, you do not know how to correct something or if you have been assisting for more than 30 minutes and have not yet made any progress. If you find yourself in a situation that is beyond your capabilities, do not hesitate to seek help.  Make sure you and your team are prepared with contact information for a veterinarian or someone with more calving experience than you have.  A little research and taking the time to have them provide necessary training is well worth it. 

SKILL 5: Proper Moving of Cows   

Moving cows when they are in labor can have a major detrimental impact according to recent research. “When cows were moved during late stage one labor, they had 40 minutes longer stage two labor and spent 50 percent less time lying down,”  “This longer stage two labor was associated with increased inflammation post-calving, and in other studies, it has been associated with stillbirths and dystocia [difficulty calving].”

Moving cows early in stage one labor typically does not have an impact on calving time. Closely monitoring close-up pens is very important, as is moving cows calmly during active signs of labor.

SKILL 6: Proper Assistance to Prevent Metritis.  

Metritis is an inflammation of the uterus, caused by a bacterial infection, following calving. It most commonly occurs after difficult calvings, retained placenta, twins or stillbirths. Metritis can range from mild to severe and includes symptoms such as a fever, a foul uterine discharge, depressed attitude and decreased appetite.  Metritis can result in lower feed consumption, decreased milk production, increase days to conception and increased services per conception, leading to longer calving intervals and higher breeding costs. Fertility can be affected and result in a higher culling rate. Even mild cases can cost producers up to 350 dollars from these losses in milk production and cow health. 

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The process of delivering a calf is a natural one. That said, this is not the place to leave everything to nature.  Proper preparation, planning, and training is necessary for everyone on the calving team. At every stage, they must thoroughly monitor, assist, record and provide optimal care. The goal is to create a safe and healthy environment that supports the best health of the cow and the arrival of her healthy newborn calf. Know it.  See it.  Do it.

 

 

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Categories : Management

Robots, Digital or Real People?

Monday, October 17th, 2016

It’s the modern era. Can we handle dairy details digitally or do we have to wade through good and bad field representatives of several organizations and service providers in order to get things done efficiently.  A dairy farmer’s time is valuable.  There isn’t time to do a lot of spreadsheet comparisons even though it might be needed.

As a result, the 21st century dairy industry is beginning to look more like an episode from STAR TREK than I ever imagined it would.  Robotic milking, banks of computer screens in our offices, hand-held devices and cell phones giving us “always there” “24-7 access” for problem solving and production delivery. It’s a wonderful world. Well…almost.

We Need Human Engagement

Like the dairy operations we depend on, we are complex in our needs.  Keeping everything precisely computerized (cloud based) is great but there are times when we need old-fashioned human support networks.  It’s a tricky balancing act to be sure.  Here’s one example.

PROs and CONs

It used to be that there were people parading in and out the barn lane with the latest genetics, farm equipment or nutrition plan to promote to the farmer.  With the growth of larger and larger dairy herds, there is less and less time to sort through these potential problem solving consultants.  Online research and sorting has replaced those live sales pitches and even led to discouragement of cold-calling by dairy supply businesses.  Having said that, nothing is perfect.  The new focus returning to human input comes from the problem solving and profit side of the equation.  This is driven by the question “How can you solve the problem I am facing RIGHT NOW?”

Service companies that are excelling at working with progressive modern dairy businesses are the ones that keep improving their online, digital products while still maintaining their focus on what matters most to their dairy customers. It’s great to know that your genetics supplier, or robotic milking system or computerized farm management system is an industry leader (aka financially successful) but at the end of the day you want them to be there when you need a problem solved or are seeking an answer to your business challenge. It’s great to own an industry leading product, system or genetics but real success very much depends on the effective combination of product and customized customer service.

“Who Ya Gonna Call” or “On the Fly”

Even at the Bullvine – or should I say especially at the Bullvine – we are aware of the challenges of long distance commutes, air travel and the difficulties of scheduling face to face time.  There are digital ways (iPhones, Skype etc.) that at least bring human voices to the scene but sometimes nothing works but actually being there. Suppliers, health providers and consultants face the very real challenge of trying to have the right person in the right place at the right time, while remaining financially viable. The challenge we face, is providing both convenience and the human touch.

“Wait until I tell you what I want”

There was a time, when we enjoyed the research phase of buying a new operating system, buying replacement cattle or upgrading farm equipment.  Time today is more precious.  Today a large part of the research and decision-making process can be carried out online via and through social outreach.  This basically means that face-to-face touch points are not necessary until the dairy manager is ready to make the final purchase or request specific assistance.

Good People Behind the Scenes

When I’m ready to choose between competing brands, it often comes down to a determination of what grade of support will they give once I have made the purchase.  Intelligent, accessible assistance is what we are all looking for. Don’t make me wade through the FAQs on your website.  When I’m stuck I want being able to access through real conversation, offers a huge uptick in terms of customer satisfaction. In an ideal world having on site support would be just that…ideal.  But having an established relationship with a person that is prepared to personalize answers to my needs is also pretty close to perfect. Don’t wait until the situation has escalated and it becomes complex and emotional. Companies that achieve the ‘human touch’ will always be the ones that get repeat business.

Know Yourself Best!  Know Your Consultants Better!  

We all recognize that the dairy industry is changing all the time.  We may not be prepared to adopt all the changes as soon as they happen.  We need to know our own comfort level with new ideas and be able to express to our vets, nutritionists and genetics suppliers, where that comfort level is. Whether you are progressive or conservative, you want to work with a team that can meet you where you’re at.  A key area to resolve is how much of your data you want others to have access to. Full disclosure.  Better solutions.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The day is closer than we think, when total interactive access between all dairy shareholders will be done by voice, video and text.  Then, if we could just master teleporting, our dairy world.

 

 

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Categories : Technology

The kids are back in school.  Harvest season is swinging into gear.  Fall fairs are highlighting the 4-H and farm projects of future farmers. It seems that all’s well with the world until unfortunate headlines suggest that there is danger lurking behind the heartwarming scenes of farm kids, calves and trophies.

img_1919FARM KIDS ON THE HIGHWAY. ARE THEY SAFE or SORRY?

A recent discussion on The Milk House raised questions around 10 to 12-year-olds driving tractors, trucks and large pieces of equipment on the highway.

Here at Huntsdale, I look over the top of my computer screen, whenever something passes on the concession road.  It is still rare enough to be interesting!  Lately, I have become more aware of how young the tractor and equipment drivers seem to be these days and how fast they are moving down the road.  When my children were pre-teen, it seemed “okay” for them to drive a truck or tractor between the lanes and field entrances on the farm.  As a grandmother of eight city kids, I am much more concerned about everyone’s awareness.  Not just my own.

City kids have expectations of safety whenever they walk down a sidewalk.  Country kids (and adults) are not always aware of walkers, joggers, and bicyclists who don’t seem to respect the size, speed and blind spots of modern farm tractors and equipment.

Then comes the question of experience.

Some of the modern equipment and the size of the loads can be a handling challenge even for an experienced (aka adult) farmer.  Reaction time is something that takes repetition and judgment to master.  From the opposite perspective, these days we have to take into consideration the fact that there are non-farm drivers who are not paying attention or who are more and more often distracted by texting and cell phones.

Safety of our children and the public is the first priority.

Many kids start to learn to drive on the farm property itself.  However, knowing how to drive and being able to move around in traffic are two different skill sets. Keeping everything in the family, while overlooking the insurance risks, could be a sad way to lose everything, including the family. Everyone should take safety training. All decisions should be within the law.

Do you know the legal limit for drivers in your area? Is playing the odds making you reckless? Responsibility should be taken by everyone – grandparent, parents, children, staff and suppliers. As one contributor wrote on The Milkhouse “It only takes one accident to change everything for life” Another gave his heartfelt support. “To me, it is not worth putting my children’s lives in jeopardy. They are too precious.”

img_1965IS MONEY AT THE ROOT OF ALL FARM KID EVIL?

It is sometimes enlightening to look at things we take for granted from the perspective of those not involved in agriculture or dairying.  Almost everyone waxes nostalgic about their romanticized visions of life on the farm, but they come down hard on the idea of children being pawns in the search for profit.  Of course, if you’ve ever heard a farm kid lamenting pre-dawn chores or harvest season backaches, you might not be blamed for assuming that farm offspring are being taken advantage of.  Milk House comments acknowledge that there is a fine line between working with children and overworking them.  “Honestly, if you cannot afford to hire older experience help, perhaps it’s time to reassess the sustainability of your operation.”  One stated emphatically, “We should be allowing children to be children and not making them free slaves.”

It is best when everyone shares a mutual goal and a vision for a successful sustainable farm. As with any logistical situation, however, there are several ways to get to the same end result.  Good communication will make sure that everyone experiences the passion and success of working on the dairy farm, without sacrificing their personal development.  Children raised on farms often look back and acknowledge how their farm work experiences benefited them in their job searching and securing of employment.

When the experience is positive, it is usually possible to point to the way in which inter-generational teamwork, discussion, and open communication solved problems before they could become urban legends or scare-inducing newspaper headlines.

DOES FARMING TEACH KIDS THE CIRCLE OF LIFE OR THE CIRCLE OF DEATH?

It is only natural for parents to want to protect their children from the unpleasant aspects of life. Sad experiences are part of the package that comes with raising food producing animals.  It seems unfair that the closeness that develops in selecting, training, showing and raising a farm animal can also include illness, sale or (death). The upside is that farm kids can learn and participate in gaining a realistic view of the process and purpose of raising animals for food production.  They can experience justifiable pride in taking responsibility for doing a good job with their animals. Nevertheless, at some time or other all dairy kids experience seeing their beloved first calf sold or auctioned off to a different farm or sent to market for beef.  It was a heart-wrenching experience for all of us when the Huntsdale dairy herd sold. Even at age 10 Andrew was there videoing the memories, while tears streamed down his face. Sometimes unexpected illness has a devastating outcome.  Once a calf had a heart attack and died while being led around the barn yard. The times when there isn’t a logical explanation are the ones that are hardest ones to help young family members to deal with. Avoiding the experience isn’t the answer. It is good to talk frequently about the full range of outcomes that may happen. At the end of the day, everyone looks forward to participating in the next new beginning. Celebrating successes is part of making the goodbyes easier to handle.  Unfortunately, not everyone sees life and death on a dairy farm as natural or even acceptable.

img_2211Farm Youth Are Being TARGETED by Animal Rights ACTIVISTS

When animal rights activists attack the dairy industry or its associations or even particular farm practices, we are becoming practiced at projecting a Teflon image and letting the extremist viewpoints run off while, hopefully, taking constructive steps to address any potential problems.  Having said that, we don’t have such a balanced viewpoint when we are presented with the rising reports of animal rights activist groups disrupting agricultural youth events and activities. Their claim is that “animals are being denigrated, enslaved and killed.” While espousing that they are concerned about the care and respect shown to animals, they have no problem throwing blood on contestants. It is happening often enough, that proactive groups are preparing media statements, appointing spokespersons and establishing and posting animal welfare policies

It would be easy to end our discussion with the feeling that life on the farm is more down than up. That simply isn’t true.  And there really is truth in the idea that we can learn and benefit from the hard times that we find our way through.  As mentioned previously, actual experience in dealing with problems …. good work ethics and intergenerational teamwork and communication means that farm children who grow up actively involved in the dairy operation, also grow up better prepared to enter the workforce – whether it’s on or off the farm.  There are many groups such as the Animal Agriculture Alliance (www.animalagalliance.org) that are prepared to provide resources and advice. A key message that they endorse is “If you do end up confronted by protestors, remember that their goal is to provoke you into conflict and create a scene. They thrive on publicity of any kind – avoid giving it to them by not engaging.”

The BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE

When it comes to the emotional side of farming, there will always be a full range of experiences.  Teamwork and good communication can often sway the potentially negative results toward the positive. It is always better to be prepared by acknowledging that there is a fearful side to dairy farming.  Sometimes it can be controlled by good training, setting safety protocols and establishing animal welfare practices. Other times, we face a challenge that is outside of our own control, and we must respond to unexpected and unpleasant attacks. At all times, we need to proactively support each other and, especially, our youth as we work together to maintain safe learning experiences both on and off the farm.

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Categories : Youth Profiles

As we roll into fall, there is a whole smorgasbord of competitions to get excited about.  Sure the Olympics are over, but the American election, baseball season and football are just getting underway.  Of course, most of us aren’t part of those races, but we love being armchair quarterbacks and statistical analysts.  We have loud and often heated discussions about the basic dishonesty of the candidates, the players or the league themselves. Likewise, when it comes to the dairy industry that we are part of, there is huge debate about whether the competitive aspects of the dairy show ring are worthwhile or toxic.  Beneficial or detrimental?

This year, as in every year up until now, as show season heats up so do the arguments about why competition is bad, pointless or fixed. “There’s no way we are going to win at that show! “some say. And, of course, they’re right! They’re not going to win…because they have already eliminated themselves from the competition. Their bias against competition has guaranteed their defeat.  At Huntsdale we’re biased too!  We love competition.  Kids! Calves! Trampolines or Vacuuming!  Give Murray and I something that needs doing and we will find a way to make it into a competition. (Read more: For Love of the Ring)

Murray teaching three of his grand children to show calves.

Murray teaching three of his grand children to show calves.

“You Can’t Find Excitement if There isn’t a Contest.”

As long as I can remember, for me both fun and work incited passion, if competition was involved. When I had children of my own, this began to change. Most adults reading this article will have been touched by the “competition is unhealthy” trend.  As a teacher, I was strongly discouraged from using competition as a motivator. As a parent, I have watched children completely lose interest in entry level sports where no one keeps score, there are no league winners and no 1st, 2nd or 3rd place trophies.  Everyone gets the same participation ribbon and the end-of-season pizza party. And everyone is bored! The theory is that this avoids the anguish associated with competitive sports for young players. It also bears no resemblance to what they see their parents getting passionate about. Is it any wonder that video games hold so much appeal?

“If you want to Win, you’ve got to be focused on the Goal”

We aren’t so far past the Olympics in Rio that we have forgotten seeing what it takes to be the best in a competition.  Winning Olympic athletes eat, breathe and sleep their sport.  Competitive, dairy farmers and their families are also familiar with the 24/7 lifestyle that is needed to achieve success. And, like athletes, the training begins early in life. In one case, it’s to become the best at a sport.  In the other, it’s to produce the best dairy animal in the ring.  From the outside looking in, it may seem that this desire to win, borders on obsession.  For those young dairy exhibitors who achieve the highest level of success, passion is needed.  Those who “settle for average” or “I got the t-shirt” or “I’m in it for the experience” have never taken their dairy passion to the next level.

“You’ve got to Train and Be Prepared”

Those who reach the podium do so because they have a focused plan and routine. There are daily repeated actions.  You don’t suddenly enter the show ring on show day and automatically have a calf that exhibits proper head carriage, and that is under control at all times. The kind of style that sets winners apart from the group takes training and preparation.  Champions, in any field, take the time to discover what is required to perform at a higher level every day.

“There’s no such thing as effortless competition.  Winners are average dairy people who have made above average effort.”

I thoroughly enjoy working with young people with agricultural backgrounds who compete in speaking or writing about agriculture or by showing their calves at dairy shows.  The challenge for them and I is to stop thinking about the reasons why they won’t win: “I’m too young” “I’m not well-known” or “The judges don’t recognize how much I’ve put into this.” The challenge is to think about how hard the judge’s job is.  I tell them, “Judges have a short amount of time to separate the best from the rest.  Your job is to make their job easier!” Whether it’s speaking from a stage or walking around a show ring, you have to demonstrate what makes you stand out from the crowd.  And by that, it’s not how you draw attention to yourself.  It means that you have done everything in your power to make sure that your calf is the center of positive attention.  Well-trained.  Effortlessly set up.  Your speech is polished, entertaining and unique. Winners gain a competitive edge by doing all those little things every day that the competition doesn’t.

“Don’t Blame Your Results on Bad Judging”

We all know, there can be what appears to be biased judging. However, to use that as an excuse for poor performance is only hurting yourself and your show ring goals.  In the big picture, judges only have their reputations to fall back on, if they want to continue judging and make an impact on the dairy industry.  In the show ring, there is one judge, but everyone at ringside is watching and judging the outcome too.  Leave the excuses at home.  The judges don’t know that you practiced with your calf every morning for three months.  They don’t know that your calf has just recovered from a severe hoof trimming job.  All they see is what is in front of them.  This isn’t about what you did at all the local shows leading up to this competition.  It’s not about how well you do most of the time.  It’s about giving 110% right now.
DSC04112[1]

“It’s not about how far you have come. It’s about where you’re going from here!”

We all know our story.  We are aware the obstacles we have overcome.  We usually have a great support team who build us up with encouragement for everything we have achieved. As we rise to higher levels, we need to remember that that competition is also increasing. The greatest success happens when we do well against those we recognize as being a good or better than we are. Having said that, it’s not about beating particular opponents.  This is no time to worry about who you are up against.  In reality, you are always in a fight against your biggest opponent…yourself.  The weaknesses that could make you lose are your fears, your doubts, and your poor preparation.  Don’t run from identifying these chinks in your armor.  Knowing your weaknesses and those of your calf is the best preparation you can have if you are determined to make it to the podium. Do the best with what you have. Don’t settle for anything less! And when you win, be humble and then…. prepare for your next challenge.

“Nothing is a sure thing.  Problems happen.  Learn how to handle defeat.”

It is especially discouraging when you feel you have given your absolute best effort and still did not win.  It seems trite but sometimes we learn more from failure than from success.  We all feel for athletes who carry great expectations on their shoulders and then face defeat.  The same thing happens in the dairy ring.  Learning how to handle failure builds character.  We get to admire those who accept the better taste of loss and move on—no matter how difficult that might be.  If we want the next generation to be successful in the dairy industry, this is probably one of the most important things to help them to understand. You’re never too young to learn to face challenges and test your will to persevere. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, you’re never out for the count until you fail to get back up!
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Three Ways to Change the “Win at All Costs” Attitude

As much as I would like to proclaim that there is no downside to competition, we all know that isn’t true.  Some evidence suggests that competition can promote anxiety and damage self-esteem.  It takes courage against this evidence to prepare children for the reality of the real world and particularly for the challenges of the dairy industry.

It seems that we seek a middle road that encourages conditions that make competition enjoyable while still enhancing performance. While seeking the podium or the trophy, we want to encourage our children to see the bigger picture of how excellence helps the larger dairy industry.

Our peers are not our competitive enemies.  Instead, they are setting higher benchmarks that we all seek in raising and showing better dairy animals. Three simple steps to make competition healthier include

  1. Encourage more children to get involved in competition.
  2. Recognize excellence and effort when others achieve it.
  3. Be a resource for training and support for those who seek to improve.

These basic steps are aimed at a spirit of cooperation even in the midst of competition. When our children lose, as they inevitably will, they will learn to accept encouragement for the next time.  The goal is to take the emphasis off winning and put it on mastery. In this way, the individual, the team — the dairy — will grow in the process.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

I am always trying to improve my ability to seek cooperation over competition so that I can build stronger teams at home and in the community. One morning recently Murray and I met at the coffee maker after we had been working in separate rooms preparing articles for The Bullvine.  I’m writing on “competition in the show ring.” I said.  “I’m nearly finished the one I started!” bragged Murray and added, “I will send it off soon!” Hmmm. “Not if I send mine first!” I replied. The coffees were forgotten, as we both hastened back to our desks. Competition.  For sure! Cooperation. A work in progress.

 

 

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Categories : Youth Profiles

With a daily routine of cows, off-farm jobs, errands and kids, most dairy connected families find themselves dreaming about smooth running morning routines.  While the dream may not include time for feet up R&R, it is entirely possible to prevent the onset of C&C – or as I know it — chaos and craziness. Bathroom lineups, lost library books, lost keys, and lost homework are just the “last straw” on school mornings. It’s especially upsetting if any or all of these come after breakfast bedlam and the fear-filled observation as you step out the door “you can NOT wear your barn boots to school!”

As parents of three and having the privilege of grand-parenting eight more, hubby and I have learned a few things about getting mornings with school kids off to a great start.  After all, whether they’re headed to school or if we are visiting during school days, no one wants to waste valuable time playing hide and seek with pairs of socks or racing the clock to find that permission slip that must be signed today!

THE KEY: “Don’t Wait Until Morning.”

Four keywords will turn your dairy/school mornings around: Don’t Wait Until Morning.  Those dairy farmers with the best-running operations know that, if they wait until the cows are ready to be milked before they get the feed ready or the milking equipment cleaned, there will be far too much wasted time. Unreported illness (staff or bovine), missing or malfunctioning equipment can also mess up a barn morning.  We all work hard to make sure that mornings are great in the barn.  We can do it with school mornings too.

FIND YOUR CENTER: “Hang it.  Post it. Pack it.”

I have always been somewhat of a morning person.  I say somewhat because there are some who think my mornings start in the middle of the night.  Nevertheless, those are my most productive hours.  I don’t want them to be watered down because I become wrapped up in un-planned crisis management.  These days the early morning chores are different, but I still enjoy time in the morning to see everyone off on the right foot and, hopefully, with matching shoes.

I am always searching for new ways to do things better. Pinterest is my addiction. However, my seeking has also been especially blessed with great role models.  My daughter-in-love is one of mine. Last year she implemented three centers that have resulted in huge time savings in a house with three school children under ten.  One is the command center in the family room the other. The second is the control center by the front door.  The third is the lunch box center, which is a cupboard dedicated to kid’s lunchboxes in the kitchen. These three organized areas are indispensable to a smooth-running school morning.

 

DSC07171COMMAND CENTER

With all the school papers, notes and notices that come into our homes, it is hard to imagine having them corralled in one area that is also attractive and functional.  But such is the case for my Maple grandchildren and their parents.  With three drawers for each of the three kids and three for the adults to share, all of the incoming paper has a place to go.  The four hanging boards are magnetic, attractive and labeled with the name of the child. Chalk painted magazine boxes hold school notices, and the front lets everyone know when library books are due. Event notices, play dates, and doctor appointments are posted here and clearly visible from across the room.

 

 

 

 

DSC07177CONTROL CENTER

At the front door, there are child-height hooks for coats and book bags, buckets for hats, mitts, scarves, and gloves. This amazingly useful area also has cubbies for shoes and a drainage tray for wet boots or Crocs.  There are two extra large baskets which are perfect for whatever is necessary for the current after school sports activities or teams. Sunscreen and hand sanitizers are also stored, where else, but at hand. Once we identify everything that is needed for a quick morning exit, we make sure that it is stored in this easily accessible area.  No adventures in hide-n-seek.  No sending someone back upstairs, downstairs or to who-knows-where-for-who-knows what.

 

 

 

 

DSC07179THE LUNCH CENTER

This is probably the smallest of the three centers, but the lunch center is one of the most important.  This very accessible child height (under the counter) cupboard has some of the key components that make lunch packing quick and easy. This is where the kid’s lunchboxes, thermoses, water bottles, snacks, reusable food boxes and cutlery are kept. Not only, does this make it easy for them to be involved in making lunches, it also dramatically cuts down crisscrossing of the kitchen in search of needed supplies. When the dishwasher is being emptied, everything lunch related and non-perishable finds its way to this cupboard.

My dairy nutritionist daughter also encourages taking lunch preparation into the refrigerator zone.  Since her children are slightly older, they are developing a system of washing, chopping and preparing fruit, veggies and sandwich makings for a few days’ worth of lunches.  Ideally, this happens on grocery day or on Sunday evening. Small containers inside larger ones make it look inviting, organized and easy to select from when the girls make their lunches. It takes up very little space in the refrigerator and again condenses storage for fast access.

EVERY GOOD CENTER NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD ROUTINE

It’s one thing to have things organized.  It’s even better if everyone, kids especially, knows how to make the system work.  In the same way that a good morning milking routine needs to be replicated at every other milking, a good school morning routine has to have a complimentary after-school routine.  With the centers we have been talking about, the kids come in from school … empty their backpacks (dishwasher, garbage, and lunch center), change their clothes, have a snack and play or have personal time for 20 to 30 minutes.  Homework is started and completed before supper.  School notes and homework for checking are placed on the shelf in the command center for Mom and Dad to check when they have time. While my grandchildren don’t live on farms, all three homes are dairy connected with parents working in marketing, semen sales or dairy nutrition. If they were on a farm, they might have chores to complete.  As it is, on many days there are after school activities.  Having an easily repeated routine working is as effective for kids in the house as it is for calves and cows.  The last thing every night is a quick tidy of the control center, moving everything needed to the command center, showers teeth brushing and one load of wash in the machine. This pretty much guarantees that everyone will make a clean exit in the morning.

  • BONUS TIP #1: “Get Dressed”
    Having clothes organized is in the DNA of the female Hunt family and spouses. At our Huntsdale house, the next day’s clothes hang on hooks (five outfits at a time).  Our American grandkids (Michigan and Wisconsin) have been raised with organized closets and drawers.  Here in Ontario, the three kids under ten can find their school and play clothes easily because they are using a labeled drawer system. For them, a night time shower or bath means that just a few minutes are needed in the morning for hair-combing and teeth brushing.
  • BONUS TIP #2: “Find Your Best ”
    Some dairy ladies and their helpers do as much school prep as they can in the afternoon before chores. Others choose night prep. Depending on chore time or dairy priorities, it could affect when the kids do homework … and where.  It’s amazing how much can be done in the barn office (feed alley or milkhouse). Been there.  Done that. The training lies in the commitment to doing the homework EVERY time. You wouldn’t put an untrained heifer into the milking routine.  Don’t expend an unprepared student to excel in the school system.
  • BONUS TIP #3: “Need help? Use technology!”
    Technology loves to help us get organized. You can synchronize Google calendars to your phones. If you can name the time management problem, you can probably find an app to solve it.  When everyone involved in child care, pickups and deliveries are working from the same calendar; it is much more likely to run smoothly.  I have prepared a basic grocery list that is always available for whoever finds themselves near the store on any given day. Like any system, though, you must use it, not lose it!
  • BONUS TIP #4: “Magical Mornings happen when the kids participate too!”
    Even the littlest helpers can keep the household running smoothly. Our Michigan girls have daily chores, and the Maple Loves are very good at putting their laundry away (in the aforementioned labeled dresser drawers) and picking up toys. Everybody is good at setting the table. Things are getting exciting as the older ones are starting to try their hand at meal preparation.

THE BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE

A new school year is always exciting and promises to have nearly as many memorable events on the calendar as a well-managed dairy farm.  Starting each day in a way that builds confidence and reduces anxiety is the goal. Everyone here at The Bullvine wishes you the best school year ever as you find your best way to earn your dairy morning Ph.D.: “Post it. Hang it. Do it!” Whether it’s school mornings or dairy mornings, success is all about being well-prepared!

 

 

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Categories : Management

I will never forget the day that a former co-worker once told me that “farmers will never buy into laptops and personal computers!” That co-worker is now retired! I call myself re-fired! At that time, fifteen years ago, I was a crusader for saving time and money for our national company by making better use of available technology such as laptops, conference calls, and email instead of flying boards of directors everywhere, the laborious taking of minutes and monthly, instead of daily, updates. For me, as the Information Director, everything moved too slowly. Today we have access to devices and platforms that weren’t even imagined then. And, in my opinion, as far as time management goes, traditional methods are as outdated as the grandfather clock that chimes the hours at Huntsdale!

Goodbye offices. Hello, telecommuting!

Traditional time management teaches us to “start with a list of things you want to accomplish today!” In 2016, once you have checked Facebook and email, that list is already unrealistic and woefully behind.

Traditional time management also teaches us to “Set Priorities: 1, 2, 3, etc.” I can’t tell you the number of discussions we have about prioritizing. It seems that everything is “high priority” and “urgent.” I am genetically opposed to crisis management. Well-managed time is not driven by the current crisis. It prevents them!

Traditional time management teaches us to “close the door” to prevent being distracted. Closed door or not, our brains are spinning with incoming lures from the internet, cell phones, iPads, and pagers. On dairy farms and ag businesses, the concept of a schedule is already three hours behind before 8 o’clock in the morning.

Distraction From Work? OR Distraction By Work?

The problem is not that we are getting distracted away from the task at hand. The problem is that we are being distracted by other work continually presenting itself. How many times have you started to complete an important task on your daily priority list, only to be lured away by incoming emails, service providers driving in the lane or Mother Nature putting a special spin on the simple logistics of feeding, raising and moving cattle? Today’s dairy managers are so overwhelmed by incoming information; they spend much of their time “fielding” incoming issues. They end up operating without a big picture look at their total responsibilities. Work is coming at them from half a dozen sources. Interruptions seem non-stop. It feels like there is no time for anything let alone for managing time itself.

Techniques we Learned in the Past Are Failing Us

Look around your office. Are there too many sticky notes beginning to curl up at the corners? Are the paper lists landing in an ever-growing pile of printouts? Does it happen that flagged emails quickly fall below the scroll and get buried? When was the last time you had a day where you didn’t feel you were in a state of constant distraction and multi-tasking?

Are you Busy or are You Productive?

A study out of the University of Illinois (Disruption and Recover of Computing Tasks) concluded that ” More than a quarter of the time someone switches tasks, it’s two hours or more before they resume what they were doing.” (Source: Time Management Doesn’t Work) I don’t know of any statistical analysis of farm routines that compares the effect of multi-tasking, but common sense confirms that if you are always managing distractions, you are consistently reactive instead of proactive. This means that you could be missing the financial benefits of moving your business forward.

The truth is, we have to work differently now.

Effectiveness is the measure of time management success. Employees need to be trained to improve their productivity skills and overcome the challenges of modern day problems.

There are three critical components required in order to build effectiveness:

  1. Manage role priorities rather than task priorities.
  2. Manage attention rather than managing time.
  3. Set up a comprehensive workflow management system for staff.

If employees use these three steps, they won’t spend their time being distracted by incoming issues. Priorities will arise only from those things that are priorities for their assigned role. They gain clarity and focus when they manage their attention.

Dairy Managers Must Align Roles and Goals

One of the hardest habits to overcome is “being busy”. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that your day has been full. However, just as working late doesn’t mean you are working efficiently. A busy day does not mean that you have dealt effectively with your dairy priorities.

If you find yourself balking at taking the time to work out the goals of your dairy farm, then time management will never be a useful tool for you and your staff. Managers and employees need to be very clear on what is expected of each position on the farm. When employees know how to focus on their primary job roles, it is easier to filter out the irrelevant noise and take effective action. For example, when a vet/nutritionist/feed salesperson arrives unannounced at the farm, it should be clear how this interruption is to be handled and by whom. Hubby reminded me of a sign that was posted on a farm: “We shoot every third unannounced visitor and the second unannounced person just left!”

If these distractions and others are handled on a first come first served basis, there will never be enough time to raise the effectiveness in any area to the next level.

Little Things Make a Big Difference

For example, as a dairy manager, how often do you feel that you are spending too much time working at the dairy farm rather than working for the dairy farm.

A renewed focus on clearly defining the role of the dairy manager, calf manager or milking manager can reduce the temptation to spend too much time on email and other day-to-day minutiae or interruptions.

Do You Go with the Flow or Do You Control the Flow?

There are many unique situations that arise every day on dairy farms. These irregularities force changes in order to accommodate weather, planting season, harvesting … equipment challenges and animal sickness. And those are just a few. This is where communication is crucial. Everyone needs to be aware of how their role changes during seasons of added activity or high stress. The temptation is just to put your head down and do whatever it takes to get through everything. Too many of us have been raised to accept that if it means multitasking…so be it. If the days are long and strenuous…so be it. If everything doesn’t get done to the highest standard…so be it. At the end of the season – or a particular stress — the hope is that everything has turned out all right. The question I have each time relates to the fact that, although it’s unusual, the stress does return. Perhaps at some point, it becomes time to plan ahead. We want change, but we are not committed to changing anything. The planning — in 2016—needs to move beyond sticky notes left in the milkhouse … quick notations on a calendar or something you scribbled on the back of the seed delivery invoice.

Measured Success

The modern dairy form doesn’t survive by having the longest list of jobs that got done. Success turns on the interaction between feed production, animal care, nutrition and financial management. The old fashioned “Get a whole lot done!” must evolve into “Get it done right!”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The true measure of time management is its effectiveness. It isn’t easy to be productive and efficient on dairy farms that are overloaded with information and fighting for survival alongside fast changing technology, genetics, and economic pressures. When the right work is done right by using the right resources, the results are intentional, measurable and financially and personally rewarding.

 

 

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No matter where it happens, negativity leads to a breakdown in morale. The strange part is that it isn’t always easy to spot the negative person on your staff.  They could even appear to be positive and supportive but, over time, the underlying negative message they are sending out can do a tremendous amount of damage to your dairy!

On a day to day basis, these negative folks don’t generally make big mistakes that set themselves up as targets.  In fact, they’re usually good at their jobs and, therefore, don’t attract attention.  However, like a contagious disease, their negativity attacks the work and achievements of others and ultimately affects the bottom line of the entire dairy operation.

How Does Negativity Get Started?

Here are six ways that negativity infects a workplace: (1) complaining, (2) exaggerating problems (3) gossip (4) rumors (5) innuendo and (6) criticism. As you looked at that list, you probably recognized each of the negatives.  It is embarrassing to acknowledge that we all, at one time or another, have been guilty of using one or more of these ways of communicating at work. It’s true. Nobody’s perfect.  But it is also a fact that work life and success improves enormously when you strive to eliminate using any of these to negatively affect fellow workers.

Complaints

The whole process of trying to improve obviously starts with the recognition that there are problems.  But there is a difference between trying to correct something and continually complaining about everything. Positive criticism turns on a willingness to be an active participant in finding the solution.  Negative staff merely voice a defeatist attitude and offer up unending complaints.

Exaggerations

There will always be a full range of good and bad perceptions regarding the effectiveness of the day to day happenings on a 24/7 dairy.  It is particularly damaging if problems are reported as threats that are so exaggerated that it spreads concern and hasty or perhaps counter-productive decision-making. For example, it’s one thing to deal with a health problem in calves or heifers.  It’s another to incite panic through emphatic misrepresentation of details on the numbers affected or the ability to turn the situation around. Negative staff love to point fingers at co-workers who are “always screwing up” or “never” in control of their responsibilities.

Gossip

By it’s very nature, gossip causes irreparable damage.  Although it is easily spread, the source of gossip is very difficult to pin down or verify.  The juicier the story, the more likely it may be accepted as true.  Once one employee is pitted against another, real damage can be the result of childish story-telling.

Rumors

Sometimes the worst problems have no actual basis in fact.  The rumor mill spits out a suggestion and, in no time, it becomes accepted as fact. Unfortunately, perception is reality, regardless of whether it is truth or lies.

Innuendo

Rarely does a negative staff member have the courage of his or her convictions.  They proudly and loudly recognize what is wrong, but they don’t go to the source in a spirit of making things better.  Instead they are masters of innuendo.   They prefer to stay well below the radar so as not to draw attention to themselves and, by doing so, the problems are rarely recognized and become even less likely to be dealt with in a timely manner.

Criticism

Teams rely on the respect given to bosses and supervisors, but a never-ending flow of criticism builds a momentum that eventually swamps even the best intentions. Many a good manager has had their authority and effectiveness undermined by negativity getting a grip on their staff.

Stop!  Look!  Listen! And Act!

  1. It’s already too late if the first sign you have of an bad employee attitude manifests itself in major disruption of your dairy
  2. Regularly check for employee actions and attitude that differ from the team as a whole so that you are aware if negativity is having an impact on your staff.
  3. The first step is to identify the actions of the negative staff member and make it clear to him or her that continuing these actions will not be tolerated and to emphasize how it could improve morale and productivity if they were to be positive.

Establish A Positive Policy

It is one thing to criticize negative behavior.  It is much better is to establish a policy for benchmarking appropriate behavior. One example of a policy statement could be something like this:

“Each staff member will demonstrate professional behavior that supports the entire team (insert the name of your dairy) and contributes to performance and productivity.”

Having such a policy in place is the beginning of establishing a good framework. The next step is day-to-day coaching and training that keeps the message getting through to the front lines. It isn’t like a missed step in a machine or feeding protocol.  Negativity is not as obvious as that and, therefore, can be difficult to bring out into the open.

It’s human nature to want to delay having a tough conversation with an employee who has a bad attitude. But that only makes things worse.

And since it’s going to be a tough conversation, it’s recommended that supervisors prepare for the discussion. After all, your goal is to turn a confrontation about negativity into positive communication.  Here are some suggestions.

  • Be specific. Don’t generalize. In the simplest terms, you would like to tell your employee. “You have a bad attitude.  It needs to change!” Even though that is accurate, it is also so general that it could have no effect. Instead, you need a specific example and recommendation. “Your criticism of your co-workers behind their backs is undermining the entire team. From now on, if you can’t offer support, please don’t say anything at all.”
  • Gather Examples. While it is important to have specific examples to illustrate the behavior, it is also important not to dump an entire load on the staff person. You don’t use the problem to cure the problem. The goal is clarity, not an accusation.
  • Expect to hear a defense. It is a sign of respect and positive intentions for the future to allow the negative staff person an opportunity to vent their side of the discussion. If the staffer were adept at accepting and handling criticism, they would probably not be the type to disperse negativity upon others. Furthermore, they could feel they are being judged, and they are, and it is human nature to want an opportunity to mount a defense.
  • Steer the conversation toward results that are good for everybody. Avoid accusation and encourage acceptance of the idea that the identified problem is something that “we need to change.” There can’t be a positive outcome of any kind if the entire responsibility for the behavior is put on the employee.
  • Don’t start a fight. It is all too easy to start off saying, “You have a bad attitude and everybody knows it.” Once those fighting words are out there, there is no turning back to a more constructive situation. Acknowledge your role in either continuing the negative behavior or in turning it into a win-win for everyone.
  • Little Words Can Make a BIG Difference. When we are faced with delivering criticism, we often lead with praise.  For example, “You are doing a good job in the milking parlor” and then we lower the boom with, “but you’re attitude with co-workers is causing a problem.” Not only have you reduced the effect of the praise, but you have also linked it to something negative.  It would be surprising if the employee thought or said, “You can never just give a pat on the back.  You always have to be critical!”
  • Substitute “And” for “But” and “However.” Before you water down your praise of an employee, consider a simple change. “You’re doing a pretty good job, and we need to talk about how to get you to show more respect for all of the dairy team.”
  • Don’t feel you have to fill in the Blanks None of us likes to be on either side of a difficult As the manager, you need to be prepared when gaps develop in the conversation.  Trying to fill every lull will not resolve the problem.  Let your staff person consider and respond, as he or she is able. Sometimes remaining silent is the most effective way for proper consideration to be given to the problem.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Although it takes a combination of teacher, counselor, and sheriff to manage negative people, there are some proven ways to deal with bad attitudes. Letting things work themselves out is NOT an option. Of that, you can be positive!!

 

 

 

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Great Dairy Employees Need Great Starts!

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Recently The Bullvine initiated some give and take with readers after our article, “From Cow Bossy to Dairy Super Boss” where we discussed the role of managers on well-run dairy operations.  We considered whom to hire, what to pay, how to train and other important issues that arise between dairy bosses and their employees. The ten points that were discussed all have a legitimate impact on dairy success but today we are going to rewind the process a little bit to consider the first day and how it is one of the most important moments in dairy staff relations. If you are building an effective dairy team, it is crucial to get off to a good start.

Great Dairies Are Full of Great Beginnings

We can all appreciate the importance of great beginnings when it applies to genetics, planting seasons and milk records. When we get it right, the effects are visible and measurable all the way to the bank.  Dairy staff is one area where we may experience the effects of poor beginnings without realizing exactly what caused the problem. Unfortunately, there is a big difference between a relationship that gets off to a good start and one that gets off to a bad one.

Day One on the Dairy

Assuming all the due diligence has been done, and you have hired a new dairy employee, it is important to get off to the best start possible.  Regardless of whether there has been a previous relationship, it makes good sense for both sides to be as well-prepared as possible.  Never assume that the myriad of details is “obvious” or “standard.”  It is a sign of respect, to give your new staff member every opportunity to succeed.

Write it Down

While your plans, including starting days and dates, may be very familiar to you, it is always a good idea to write the details down for new employees.  With equipment, buildings and animals to get familiar with, it could be a simple detail such as when to arrive, where to park and what to wear, that gets overlooked or misunderstood by the new person. Confirm all points discussed either by email or in writing.  You won’t regret starting off by making sure everything is clearly understood.  On the other hand, misunderstandings can result in all your careful recruiting, interviewing and negotiating being wiped out by frustrations which could lead to a rocky or terminated start.

A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place

Once again, you may think that everything on your operation is self-evident and easily understood, but an orientation tour not only gives new hires the chance to ask questions, it can also be an unpressured way to start building a good working relationship.  Now is the time to point out special safety considerations, medication storage or details regarding equipment operation.  If your operation is complicated in any of these areas, you can set your new staffer’s mind at ease by explaining plans for training as needed. Whether you have two employees or two hundred, don’t leave new employee orientation to chance.

A New Employee Checklist

Everyone has been a newbie at least once in their life, and so we can identify with the feelings of someone who is thrust into a new environment.  New dairy staff must be helped to settle in comfortably, otherwise they may fail to perform well.  Here are some basic considerations.

The Paper Work

  1. A written description of the job and its responsibilities.
  2. Contact information. A chart that shows how the new position relates to staff organization.
  3. All of the necessary administration and benefits forms.
  4. A handbook, if there is one, for any of the job responsibilities.

The People Parts

  1. Provide an opportunity to meet coworkers, specifically those he or she will work closely with.
  2. You could provide a “buddy” or mentor for the new hire so that they have someone they can go to for more information or help.
  3. Set up opportunities for ongoing orientation and training. Who will provide it?  When? And Where?

Knowing The LITTLE Details Makes a BIG Difference

  1. Where does staff park?
  2. What should I wear?
  3. To whom should I report?
  4. What is the work schedule? Where is it posted?
  5. Where are restrooms, telephones, and computers?
  6. What should be said when answering the phone?
  7. What food, snacks or beverages are provided? Should I bring my lunch?
  8. Is the farm tobacco or smoke-free?
  9. What is the policy regarding use of cell phones or personal computers?
  10. What record keeping is required regarding animal treatment?
  11. What record keeping is required regarding work hours?
  12. What job supervision and review are scheduled?
  13. What opportunity does the employee have to give feedback?

If you take care of these details, the likelihood of a smooth start for the new employee will be increased. Even though you probably won’t micromanage each day’s activities, it is important to make sure that the employee knows that you are available to answer concerns.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We know that employee turnover is expensive and that it is important to retain valuable employees. Is your first-day strategy achieving the desired results? Is it decreasing turnover? The goal is that everyone joining your dairy staff overcomes their fears, fits into the workforce and becomes a productive employee. This is the foundation that successful dairies are built upon.

 

 

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Categories : Management

Bovine Beauty Goes Viral on Facebook

Monday, July 25th, 2016

One of the perks of being a dairy enthusiast is the way it makes us look closely at the work we do every day.  You can’t be successful on a dairy farm or in the show ring by walking with your head down and not noticing the dairy girls who are are at work right beside you.  We all love it when something we are enthusiastic about goes viral on Facebook. Having said that, it isn’t any wonder that there has been huge enthusiasm and support for the “Bovine Beauty Challenge” which asked challengers to post a picture of a favorite cow for 7 days (and nominate 1 person each day) and, thereby to inundate Facebook with Bovine Beauty. When we see how much others appreciate the beauty inherent in raising cattle, it gives meaning to every day work and reminds us why we love doing what we do. Here are some highlights gathered from the stories, memories and pictures from “The Bovine Beauty Challenge” 2016.

This “Sassy” Bovine Beauty Sparks Priceless Friendships!

bbc-brent

One of the stories that highlights the reasons why we love beautiful dairy cows came from Brent Howe who gave the background behind his selection of “Howes BC Sassy”.  Of course, there are many who recognize her name and recall seeing that cow.  What makes this selection special, however, is Brent’s well told story of the friendships, both working and in the showing, that sprang directly from the breeding and sale of Sassy. The story flows smoothly from the interest in Sassy “by a young Frenchman”, Donald Dubois.  When Dubois, the breeder of Boulet Charles, came to the farm in Aylmer Ontario to see the heifer, Sassy definitely passed the test. Before he left, he had purchased Sassy as a springing heifer for $10,000.00 along with 3 other VG cows on top of that price!  Brent sums it up. “It was a very big deal for Howe’s Holsteins!”

“Sassy’s Beauty is Special for the Boulet Family Too!”

bbc Pierre Boulet

In a later posting on the “Bovine Beauty Challenge, Pierre Boulet who had accompanied Dubois added photos and his own comments about the transaction that began this journey. “I tried to drop your price and negotiate but you remained firm in your offer!  We went to lunch and the more I thought about it the more I wanted that Charles heifer to come home with me.  A heifer like that with a sire stack like she had (Starbuck, Sexation), there was no going wrong! So we shook on it and the rest was history!” Pierre credits her as being “my first big time cow and she took me on a ride I will never forget”.  To this day, a lasting tribute to her beauty and impact remains. ”The painting of her is still on the front of my barn, 23 years later.” Reports Pierre “I have lots of amazing cows but she will always have a special place in my heart.”

“Beauty Goes Beyond Financial Benefits”

Sassy definitely lived up to her potential. Brent explains in reporting Sassy’s result that spring, “1st Sr 2 and HM Champion at Quebec Spring show!” The icing on the cake was that Sassy’s picture was the centerfold in the Holstein Journal promotion by W.O.B.I. The fame and friendships continued to grow. “The Dupasquier family at Guelph had purchased a share of Sassy from Pierre and enjoyed success for some time also.  She was All Canadian & All American ’94,’ 95, ’96!!!” Without question, this obvious bovine beauty had tremendous impact on Brent.  He sums it up this way. “I learned never to be afraid to sell a homebred good one because she will always carry your prefix! 

Serenity’s bovine beauty was even greater because she met adversity and overcame it!  Sometimes the beautiful bovine is part of a journey that has many key events that we might not identify as they are happening.  That is the case with another nomination in the Beautiful Bovine Challenge. “Miss Triple-T Serenity is special to me.” Says owner Jennifer Thomas.  Her favorite cow nearly didn’t make the trip to Madison because she became sick. “We said she had to show several signs of improvement in order to go.  I am not going to lie. I sat in the barn and cried. She has kind of always been my pet and has never been sick before that.  She must have wanted to go to the show because she started to show improvement.  She ended up 2nd at WDE. Then in November, I was 8 months pregnant and took a truck and trailer with 4 Jerseys to Louisville with a curly headed 3-year-old in tow.  Thankful for Renee Pierick and her ability to help entertain Kendall!  Nathan was in Canada at the Supreme in Quebec and the Royal with the HOLSTEINS.  Serenity ended up Winning her class and Reserve Grand that day.  It was probably my proudest moment in the show ring. Thanks to my good friend and partner Cybil Fisher and to every else who helped me that week…it was a memorable one!”

Bovine Beauties Inspire Teamwork

bbc Richard Caverly

For Richard Caverly the “Bovine Beauty Challenge” inspired him to consider not one but two cows. He gives an interesting explanation of his double choice. “My choice is not because I have spent countless hours with either of them, or because I have made a difference in either cow’s legacy, but because of the people involved with these two cows and how their passion to see these animals succeed should inspire those who share their dream.”   He gives a basic outline of the events. “ The two weeks I spent with “Monique” and “Hot Mama” in Canada last year was two weeks getting to know some special people. They may not have had the biggest names on these cows’ registration papers, but they are the individuals that through countless hours of dedication, hard work, and never ending effort that put two cows in a light which sometimes casts shadows over those behind the scenes.”  Richard highlights that it takes everybody to make a winner. Their commitment to showcasing Bovine Beauty was achieved through hard work, talent and passionate determination to excel. This team which included the likes of “Joey” and Amber Price, Chris Curtiss, Eddie” Acesse MilkShow, and Mat Smith brought together an interesting array of personalities, who by sharing a common goal gelled into a dedicated team working towards a common goal of “team success”.

“Good Mothering is at the Heart of Bovine Beauty”

bbc Megan Hill

The nomination of Four-Hills Gold Jaslene-ET” given by Megan Hall provided yet another interesting perspective on the many facets of Bovine Beauty.  Megan points out, “I would be lying if I said she didn’t have a Goldwyn attitude, but she sometimes can be calm and loving.  These calm and loving traits comes from her mother, one of our family’s favorite cows, Sequa Linjet Jamie. I’m sure the woman who raised Jasmine also had a little something to do with this.  Sue Brown raised Jaslene when she was born prematurely and helped develop her into the wonderful cow she is today.” For Megan, it took two mothers to realize the full potential of one Bovine Beauty.

“Winning is Beautiful!”

bbc Katie Kearns

As Facebook filled with beautiful pictures and stories, it was easy to ask the question, “Which comes first Dairy Show Ribbons or Bovine Beauty?” For Katie Kearns the show ring was very important to her beautiful bovine nomination  “Ernest-Anthony Thriller EX 95 –on a gorgeous fall day in Springfield in 2010 won the Sr 3-year-old class, Intermediate Champion, Grand Champion, Best Udder and Bred and Owned at the Big E.” She balances that with acknowledgement of her other talents. “There were a lot of special memories with her including other show days and the day she scored 95.  It always puts a smile on my face when I think of her. A sweetheart to work with.”.

“The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express!”

bbc Abe Light

At the other extreme from the show ring is the type of Bovine Beauty described so eloquently by Abe Light. You won’t recognize the cow pictured below.  As a matter of fact, neither do I. In the past six days of recalling some of the best cows that have touched my life, it has reminded me of the many, many cows that shaped my life who won’t have a name or a face that is recognized through the years.  The cows that will never be seen by a kid flipping through an old Holstein Journal or World.  The cows who maybe never got picture, maybe never went to a fair, and maybe never had a special calf to carry on their bloodline.  The silhouettes in the horizon of our memories.”

Passion for Bovine Beauty Starts Young!

Abe treasures many cattle that some might call ordinary but one particular herd had a big influence on his dairy life. “  The cows of Dairysmith Holsteins were the cows that cemented my passion for the Holstein cow.  Citamatt Sapphire, and Skybuck Memphis are the first that come to mind, but at that time I could have given you a name and a pedigree for every one of those 106 stalls.  Jimmy V said a good day is a day that you laugh, a day that you think, and a day that you’re moved to tears.  By that measure, these two cows provided me with more than one Good Day, and I hope that one day I’ll have cows like them in my life again who bring out only the purest form of passion I’ve ever know’ the passion for good cows.” Abe was particularly moved by the responses to his posts. “One message really set itself apart from the other.  It was from a young person in Canada, who messaged to say they were loving the stories and hoped that they would have their own stories like mine to tell one day. Doesn’t get any better than that.  Keep passing the torch.”

 The Bullvine Bottom Line

And so we hope you too will pass the torch and share with dairy and non-dairy friends and neighbours all that is beautiful about the cattle we work with. After all, at one time or another we have felt like Brent Howe, who enthused, “She was the cow of a lifetime, a breeders dream and the opportunities and friendships she created were priceless.”

Our Bullvine wish for each of you is that you can find the BEAUTY in every BOVINE DAY!

 

 

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High-quality, consistent milk replacer is not just a nice-to-have option it is a must-have priority! Some variables such as expression of genetics won’t be seen until further into the future but feeding high-quality milk replacer each and every day is the first step in guaranteeing a healthy start for each and every calf.

Consistency is the challenge. Every step in the process can be undone if consistency is not achieved.  Consistency of mixing the powdered product.  Consistency of the volume of water.  Consistent temperature.  Variation in any of these, can have a detrimental effect on the calf’s digestives system and, therefore, on its health and vigor.

How Hard Can It Be To Follow The Manufacturer’s Instructions?

Because of the simple needs of the newborn calf, we tend to think that meeting those needs with bottled milk replacer is simple too. Not so.  Each manufacturer produces a variety of formulations, and each formulation has specific instructions for mixing temperature, amount of powder and volume of water. It is up to the calf-caregiver to follow the unique mixing requirements that are necessary to achieve the best quality reconstituted product. Close is not good enough.  Creative variations are not okay.  Each step of the milk replacer preparation and delivery must be 100% accurate.

Let’s Start With Mixing Temperature

Milk replacer cannot be hot one time and cold the next. In order to produce the desired healthy results, the replacer must be prepared at the correct temperature.  Recommendations can vary from as low as 110° and as high as 150°. Too cold and the mix may be incomplete or have an uneven dispersion of particles.  Too hot and there will be uneven mixing of the fat. Also, at high temperatures, denaturing of whey protein could affect the digestibility of the product.

How Much Water?  How Much Powder?  Get it RIGHT.

We need to remember that milk replacer is not a treat that improves in flavor or increases in value if it is mixed to a thicker or thinner consistency.  There is that word consistency again.  Here it refers to setting up and feeding perfectly mixed nutrients at every feeding. Beyond whether you and your calf feeding team get it right, there may be errors in the instructions themselves.

Here is an example “For example, let’s say your feeding program is set up for the dry matter in milk replacer at 12.5 percent. That delivers about one-half a pound of powder in two quarts of milk replacer. [125 g/liter delivers 500 grams in two liters]. Some instructions correctly tell you to mix the powder with some water and after blending add enough more water to arrive at the desired volume. This works well – you end up with about 12.5 percent solids. The incorrect directions tell you to add the powder to the final volume of water. For example, add 8 ounces of powder to 2 quarts of water. Instead of ending up with two quarts of 12.5 percent solids you get more than two quarts of an 11.6 percent mix [116g powder per liter rather than 125g. “Poor mixing at the simplest level results in clogged nipples but it also contributes to clostridial bloat.

How Many are Fed Each Time?

When preparing milk replacer, the number of calves that will consume the mix has an effect too.  If it is only being fed to one calf, the difference in concentration doesn’t matter as much because the calf will drink the entire batch. However, as soon as the mixture is fed by volume to two our more, any inconsistencies will be magnified. If more than one person is mixing the replacer — and doing it incorrectly — the calves will suffer from the inconsistent feeding.

Get A Recipe!  Get It Right!

  • Write it down.
    Working from a written recipe is straightforward and easy. Depending on your situation, prepare the basic recipe and note variations based on the number of calves the mix will be fed to. For so many calves, use so much powder and add water to “x” level. Well-organized prep areas use a dry erase board for recording information. Mark down after each feeding the number of calves fed and the mixing amounts for the next feeding.  Note the number of calves that need special attention because they didn’t drink well or were lethargic. Any symptoms should be noted. For further information, check this article on other issues to watch for (Read more: Good Looking Managers Raise Healthier Calves)
  • Stop estimating! Start Calibrating!
    Use precision tools if you are committed to achieving precision results. There are four specific measuring methods that you need to incorporate into your mixing routine: scales, calibrated containers, a calibrated measuring stick and a thermometer.
    There is no better way to measure milk replacer powder than with a scale. Get a gram scale. It will be the best money (approx. $38) that you will ever spend. Using a scale is more accurate than estimating powder by volume which happens when using a cup or spoon.

    1. Hang pail on the scale.
    2. Scoop in powder.
    3. Stop when the needle hits the right place.
    4. Dump contents of pail into water.
  • Customize your calibration:
    Each operation has specific containers that are used for calf feeding. Taking the time to mark accurate calibrations on each tank or pail, will significantly improve the accuracy of milk replacer delivery. It might be worthwhile to calibrate bottles, for accurate records of any replacer that isn’t consumed. Take the time to fill each one with water in graduated known quantities. Clearly, mark the container at each step.
  • Make a calibrated measuring stick for mixing.
    Over time and with the daily repetition that is part of feeding milk replacer to calves, a large repository of suggestions, hints, tips and ideas is available from those who have refined their methods to what is most effective. Taking the time to research ideas and adapt them to your setup is another way to give your calves the best start.  Here are some steps for calibrating a measuring stick.

    1. Select a piece of white 5-inch PVC approximately 1 foot longer than the pail is tall
    2. Glue a cap on each end of the
    3. In preparation for marking, use a file to roughen the PVC surface slightly
    4. Use an ear-tag pen to make a permanent black line.
    5. Put the stick into the pail.
    6. Add water in graduated known steps, marking the pipe at each step (i.e. 2-gallon steps).
    7. Do this for each size of pail: 20-gallon; 5-gallon etc.
    8. Using the calibrated stick, you can further adjust your milking quantities as needed without resorting to guessing.
    9. Always wash the stick after each use.
  • A Temperature Guess Could Result In A Mess
    A guess could result in a mess. Using experience or guesstimating temperatures is another way to mix up your calf milk replacer.  The Ideal situation would be having a temperature gauge on your mixer faucet.  Alternatively, if you use a garden hose or a milker hose for transferring water, try inserting a rapid-read thermometer into the hose. Starting with the right temperature is the beginning. Don’t resort to using your hands to determine temperature. Your perception is notoriously inaccurate, especially in cold weather. Guessing is almost guaranteed not to get you to the warmth that is recommended by your manufacturer.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Calibrate don’t estimate. We have talked about many things that will make feeding calf replacer more effective.  It may not make your work go any easier or faster.  But that isn’t the goal with calf raising. The goal is to provide consistent, accurate feedings that will allow the calf to develop to its highest potential.

 

 

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Categories : Management

Get Ready for I-Saw-What-You-Did Camera

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

There was a funny show which was known for the catch-phrase, “Smile! You’re on candid camera!” People were put in difficult or strange situations, and we were vicariously shocked, amazed or amused to see how they handled it.  It was weird to discover they were being watched.  Today we are watched all the time….and…it’s not so funny. Far from inspiring laughter, being watched by a hidden camera strikes fear into most of us.

The days of the candid camera show have lost the innocence of peeking into someone’s life without intent to cause anything more than momentary embarrassment and then the full revelation of the fun.  Today – surveillance regardless of who is doing it is much more serious in intent and consequences.  Next time you’re working with animals in the field or the milking parlor, look around and ask yourself, “Am I being watched? Or maybe just paranoid?”

Caught in the ACT or Above Reproach?

Setting out to go undercover on a dairy operation may have one of two outcomes: shame or fame. Shame if your operation is captured showing inhumane treatment of dairy cattle.  Credibility for whoever claims responsibility for exposing the bad behavior. There is only one thing you can do if you are the subject of an expose. You must stand up to full disclosure and extend an invitation to media and the general public to tour your facilities.  Nothing short of a full public relations campaign will minimize the damage.

Spy Gate Exposes Sneaky-Dirty
Farm Gate Exposes Squeaky-clean

There is a fine line between watching to see that everything is being done properly and watching to expose or threaten.  Somewhere in between is the sincere intention to use what is seen to make the dairy operation function better. With the instant ability to take and transmit pictures, anyone in the barn can find themselves on that spectrum.  As a dairy manager, it is up to you to clearly communicate the policies you have regarding cell phones.  You can prohibit them entirely, or you can communicate how they are to be used and assign trusted employees to help enforce the rules.

Sneak attacks can be financially costly and emotionally damaging due to the attack on the operation’s reputation.

It goes without saying that if you’re not doing anything wrong, then you won’t have to worry about exposure.  However, if that were entirely true, then there would be no reason to fear exploitation by an undercover animal rights activist. Establish the guidelines. Make sure they are posted.  Provide ongoing training.  Make sure you are aware of how well your planned steps are being followed.  It doesn’t eliminate the possibility of something going wrong, but, if it does, you are more likely to have been the victim of photos or video taken out of context. The tone you want to set on your dairy operation is one that ensures that staff comes to you first, whenever or wherever there are concerns about animal health and treatment.

Hiring Squad or Firing Squad?

Dairy operations vary in size.  Certainly, when very large operations who are hiring hundreds of people and turning them over relatively quickly, it is much harder to be sure that an anti-agriculture activist hasn’t infiltrated your dairy. Even smaller producers, could unknowingly hire an animal rights activist. Everything turns on what you are confident of and how well you know who is on your farm. Modern dairy managing must do everything to make sure they know each new hire.  It takes a lot less time to do the work before problems happen. That starts with searching references. Do it 100% of the time.  Then make sure you provide effect employee training. Do it 100% of the time. If there are infractions.  Fire the person responsible.  Accept responsibility for proper hiring. Take responsibility for necessary firing. Do the first one well and it will be less necessary to resort to the latter.

On Your Own or Backed by a Team?

What if the worst case scenario does happen and you are in the negative spotlight of public scrutiny? This is when you turn to your crisis team. It is not an admission of guilty practices to have such a team in place that includes a variety of professionals.  Call on your human resources person and have speedy access to your attorney and veterinarian as well. Set up protocol that includes a spokesperson with media training and someone prepared to handle social media and press inquiries. It makes sense to have a crisis response team in place to handle a variety of situations which could include not only undercover videos but also food safety issues and manure spills and other events that could impact animal and public safety.

Accusation or Preparation?

It takes a certain amount of time to develop a communications policy but, once it is in place, you won’t face the daunting task of responding under pressure to a crisis. It is all too easy to speak too hastily or emotionally when under the probing eye of the media. Make sure you have a plan in place for who will be handling media questions and who will be responding on social media. Brainstorm each type of issue and establish what is best for your operation and determine who will provide one official statement, rather than bits and pieces from several employees speaking, posting or updating.

Caretakers and Muckrakers

Both sides are looking for proof.  Make sure your records are detailed and up-to-date. When muckrakers are dragging your name through the mud, you have to have evidence on your side of good animal care. Here is a short list of written records you can keep:

  1. Employee training
  2. Animal welfare audits by licensed evaluators
  3. Animal care licenses, certificates, and awards
  4. Voluntary participation in livestock animal welfare programs

All of these demonstrate your commitment to good animal care practices.

Prospects vs. Suspects

In preparing for the worst case scenario, you should consider the possibility of legal action. Here again, you need to have resources that can determine if there are legal claims to be raised against an undercover videographer or the organization which he or she is affiliated with.

Claims may include fraud, perjury, trespass, broken contracts, and conspiracy. Understanding what is viable is something to be discussed with an attorney before deciding whether or not to pursue such legal claims.  

Don’t Close Down Instead Open UP

The public can’t be blamed if they are taken in by negative videos.  If that is all they are seeing, then that is all they have to make their decisions on. More and more operations, large and small, are taking the opportunity of inviting the general public and reports to the operation to have a look for themselves.  Doing this regularly is a proactive step in establishing credibility that can withstand activist attack.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Although it is frustrating to feel that you must be on the defensive against activist attack, it is reassuring to know that by taking the steps we have discussed, you are taking positive action for the protection of your animals, your business, and public safety.

Smile!  It’s Okay!! Your Dairy is Camera READY!

 

 

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Categories : Management

FROM COW BOSSY to DAIRY SUPER BOSS

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

We all know what it’s like to be Bossy.  You give your “bossy” orders, usually using a very loud voice and then hope that the job will get done.  Super Bosses, on the other hand, run their dairy operations without resorting to being the loudest in the room … and amazingly… everything runs smoothly, and when there are problems, they are handled efficiently. As with any other worthwhile achievement, it takes time. Long before you can build a super-dairy you have to channel your inner super boss and get rid of your cow bossy side.

In the offices of The Bullvine, we have combined experiences of working with eighteen different bosses and all three of us have been “the” boss ourselves.   The challenge we share with dairy teams everywhere is knowing the difference between being bossy and being a super boss. Let’s compare and contrast the differences between the two, when applied to running a dairy operation.

  1. COW BOSSY Hires a CLONE.
    A SUPER BOSS Hires the MISSING piece.
    It goes without saying that a Super Boss must have employees.  In choosing employees, Super Bosses do two things especially well. First off they look to hire people who are good at the things they themselves are weak at.  You don’t need a team that has only one major matching strength.  An exceptional team covers all the abilities the job requires and each one is exceptional in bridging knowledge or experience gaps that you or others don’t
  2. COW BOSSY Saves money with LOW salaries and CUTTING corners
    A SUPER BOSS is Not stingy in PAYING for value and SPENDING to make money.
    Super Bosses recognize the importance of paying top dollar for top talent. Matching the right compensation with the right employee is a Super Boss skill. When your staff knows that you recognize their abilities and appreciate them, you are laying the foundation for an efficient People who feel valued are committed to doing their best on the job. Super Bosses are not stingy when it comes to recognizing consistent and valued contributions. Your team is the first line that suppliers, consultants and clients meet.  You want a team that works well and gives a good impression even when you’re not there.
  3. COW BOSSY Sees no REASON to learn more.
    A SUPER BOSS Never STOPS Learning
    As leaders in an industry that is constantly changing and evolving, dairy super bosses know that they can never stop learning and finding better ways to run their operations.  A super boss is not afraid to try something new, even if their current methods are working. Super bosses are comfortable with continually striving to improve. A successful dairy is never finished evolving.  Super Dairy Bosses have an outstanding ability to know what’s important and how to use new learning and training to keep everyone responding effectively to present and future challenges
  4. COW BOSSY Shrouds Success in MYSTERY
    A SUPER BOSS sets the EXAMPLE for HIGH achievement
    The goal of a Super Boss is to build confidence. Bossy bosses more often find their security when their employees are never exactly sure where the benchmark is set on any given day beyond the fact that the staff is probably falling below expectations. Bossy leaders live by the mantra, “It’s my way or the highway!” On the other hand, Super Bosses instill staff with the tools, instructions and intense feedback that keeps them striving to do better, not only for themselves but the dairy. The dairy team doesn’t fear retribution for failure because they are led by the example of the Super Boss. Super Boss teams often achieve results that were thought to be impossible.
  5. COW BOSSY Likes the STATUS QUO AND WON’T ROCK THE BOAT
    A SUPER BOSS is committed to CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
    Even though we want to succeed, there is always the temptation to settle for “good enough”.  It’s easier to wear a boss hat if you don’t have to guide your team through tough changes.  Bossy leaders like the title of Boss and protect themselves from situations that acknowledge that problems exist.  They actually fight against anything that could make them look bad. When problems arise, they respond defensively and try to prove that everything is okay. Rather than work through the difficulty, they put up DETOUR signs.  Super Bosses are all about the movement of the dairy operation from good to better to best. They know that you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge to be broken, so they use problems as signposts to building a better dairy.  Success comes from knowing the operation so well that there is always room for improvement. Even if the journey hits a few rough patches, they are willing to keep going.
  6. COW BOSSY is always PLAYING CATCH-UP
    A SUPER BOSS FACES the future

    Crisis management, while it may be good for an adrenaline rush, is not the way to manage a successful dairy. Letting nature take its course decreases the need for planning but drastically increases the likelihood of problems.  A Super Boss plans for future. Some bosses wear their ability to manage a crisis as a badge of honor never realizing that if they had planned ahead, they may have avoided the crisis altogether. If you’re always running to catch-up, you never get far enough ahead of the situation to feel a sense of calmness as you face the future. Why would anyone allow rising young heifer mortality rates to continue before making changes to nutrition program? Why wait until your dairy is in the red to implement financially responsible changes?  As the world leaps ahead in technology are you moving with it? Are you training yourself and your employees to be mainstream or struggling to keep your head above water? Do you and the staff or employees share a vision for the future?  Is there a clear path? It takes training, commitment, planning and daily adjustments to build a super dairy.
  7. COW BOSSY KEEPS SUCCESS UNDER WRAPS
    SUPER BOSSES Grant access to their dairy experts, mentors and peers/advisors
    It is one of the curiosities of life that cow bossies who manage by intimidation are themselves frightened by the successes of their employees. Rather than seeing the benefits for the dairy, they may feel threatened and start staking out their territory in an effort to keep employees in their place.  Employees who interact with consultants or dairy peers tend to make cow bossy bosses feel threatened or territorial. On the other hand, Super Bosses make the introductions and encourage employees to expand their knowledge and skills through interacting with those who are proficient or even experts in their fields.  Super Bosses see the industry as a vast resource for improvement. They take every opportunity to personally introduce their team to individuals who can make a positive impact on their knowledge and dairy skills. They are not afraid of being surpassed or cut out. They know that there is always more room at the top.  That is the way Super-Bosses build Super-Dairies.
  8. COW BOSSY COMPETES WITH EVERY STAFF PERSON
    SUPER BOSSES GROW NEW SUPERBOSSES

    The difference between being bossy and being a Super Boss has a lot to do with where you put your energy.  Bossy spends most of their energy giving orders and trying to keep their employees in the box they have assigned to them.  Super bosses, in contrast, spend their time and energy finding the right people. They look for creativity and confidence in finding new ways to handle problems and excel at their work. They feel it is natural that talented people will continue to rise to the top.  Career changes are not seen as threatening but as a confirmation that skills and training are achieving the right results. Employees who rise to a new position are not cut off or deemed threatening.  The same interest that got them their promotion is seen as a resource to be maintained and perhaps drawn from in the future. The bossy boss is threatened by peers rising to their level.  Super bosses find it to be a natural and rewarding outcome of selecting and nurturing talented leaders.
  9. COW Bossy is Hands OFF.
    SUPER BOSS IS Hands-on
    The Bossy dairy manager is distant from the daily grind of 24/7 problem solving.  They manage from crisis to crisis.  A dairy super boss doesn’t fear what’s going to go wrong because they are working and communicating with staff to a level that keeps all parties engaged. While Bossy bosses point out the shortcomings when something misses the mark, Super Bosses don’t need to be brought up to speed. They have the people and processes in place that they not only know how things are going but can work alongside the team as needed.

THE BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE

It is hard to be a boss.  Many people don’t want to have one.  Having said that, all of us want to follow a good leader, and we know that dairy operations succeed or fail based on the quality of the people in charge. Super Bosses stop thinking about what their people could do for them and started thinking about what they could do to help their people succeed.  Inspire. Teach. Remove obstacles. Be human. If you cultivate these characteristics, you’ll become the Super Dairy Boss that your people will remember for the rest of their careers.

 

 

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Categories : Management

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