Archive for Management

Tinder for cows is online dating for cattle breeders to find their stock’s perfect match

It is not just humans seeking love on Valentine’s Day; a new matchmaking app is bringing cows together.

United Kingdom farming startup, Hectare Agritech, has created Tudder, a Tinder-style app that helps farmers find breeding matches by viewing pictures of cattle with details of their age, location and owner.

When users swipe right to show interest or left to reject a possible match, they hear a mooing sound.

Hectare Agritech chief executive, Doug Bairner, said matchmaking through online dating is well-suited for breeding stock — much more so than it can be for humans.

“You can make a decision based on science rather than someone’s self-proclaimed sense of humour,” he said.

“There’s so much genetic data sitting in the background behind breeding stock.”

Farmers that swipe right on the image of a cow, or group of cows, are then directed to the company’s livestock-buying website.

From there they can contact the owner and make an offer.

“We’ve had over 40,000 searches in the last 24 hours so that equates to one in every three UK farmers putting a search into our app,” Mr Bairner said.

“The app takes it out of the hands of a subjective guess of whether you’re going to get on with somebody and puts it into the realm of genetic science, which can only be good for rearing the right stock and having a successful farm business.

Tudder down under

Mr Bairner said given the app’s popularity the company will keep an eye on downloads in other countries and may launch it outside the UK.

Victorian dairy farmer Adam Jenkins said he would have a crack at the app and sees potential for its use in Australia.

“I think it’s hilarious and something you can have a bit of fun with.

“The people in the cow world, particularly the dairy industry, they love their cows and love showing cows.

“But also on a serious side, its matching cows across the continent, which would be pretty attractive — sitting down and having a bit of a swipe left or right.”

As for what would make him swipe right?

“I’d have to talk to Brownie and a few of the girls and see what they’re really wanting,” Mr Jenkins said.

“We’d have to look at what their genetics look like and how that fits in with our cross-bred system.”

Mr Jenkins regularly expresses his love for his “girls” with videos on Twitter and Valentine’s Day was cause for a special shout-out.

“As farmers we really care for animals and I just want to show some love and appreciation for the job they do,” he said.


Source: ABC News

Dairy Farming as a Business in the Rural Area

Starting a dairy farming business in RURAL AREA is a profitable business idea. It is common question of   “How to Start a Dairy farming business ’’?
Why dairy farming business.
There are lot of reason to start a dairy farming business .
⦁   Dairy farming business is an eco-friendly business ideas.
⦁    You can apply for loan in against of dairy farm.
⦁    To start a dairy farm you and your family get solvency.
⦁    It is great opportunities for unemployed people who are searching a job. Dairy farming business is thousand times better than a job.
⦁    You can play an important role in the total milk production.
How to start a dairy farming business.
Business plan: There is no option to start a business without business plan. In general a successful business plan can help you to get success in any kind of business. Dairy farming is a serious business. Before starting dairy farming business, you should have proper concept about dairy farm. Write a business plan about dairy farm include what is you want to do.
Visit other dairy farm: I suggest you that, you should visit minimum 5 dairy farm. It is very important steps to start a dairy farm. Talk with others how they doing this business. Ask them how they do it. You should try analyze every event of a dairy farm.
Select a location for your farm: It is another important steps to start a dairy farm. Housing and location should be in rural area. When you choose a location you also keep in mind that how you arrange feed. It is better to choose a big area so that your cow can move one place to another place.
Choose a cow breed for your dairy farm: Choosing a cow breed is hardest job to start a dairy farm. There are many kind of cow breeds are available in our Country. Some famous cow breeds Ayrshire, Holstein, jersey, Ayrshire, Guernsey ,etc. I suggest you talk to  a farmer who are already doing dairy farming business.
Feeding: Try to produce green food to get more milk. Along regular food provide clean and fresh water.
Management: As I mention earlier it is a serious business. To avoid risk you should take care and proper management of your dairy farm. You should make stocks proper medicines and other equipment.
Marketing: Marketing of your dairy farm is not a big problem. Contract some shops and also dairy companies that process milk.
Possible costing: It is difficult to say that how much you need to start a dairy farm. Costing is depend on how large your farm is. To start a dairy farm with 5 cows approximately you need atleast ksh 150,000 for calves, mature you will need above half a million.
Possible earning: Dairy farming business is a profitable business ideas. If you can run your business successfully 50 thousands can be earn in a month with 2/3 cows and with 5 cows around 100 thousand. Again it is depend how large your farm is.
Problem to start a dairy farm : The main problem is lack of knowledge. Without proper planning it is hard to start dairy farm. Feeding cost is quit high for this business but if you can provide nature food then it will be easy for you.
Every business have advantage and also disadvantage. On an average dairy farming business is a profitable business ideas.
Best of luck for your success.
Source: The eHub

Kerrygold promoting ‘grass-fed dairy’ in new global campaign

Kerrygold has launched a global advertising campaign as part of a “major expansion drive” for food exports.

A digital campaign called “a true taste of Kerrygold” has been launched to promote Ireland’s grass-fed family farming system and will be rolled out across the UK, the US, Germany and Ireland.

A household name in the Republic, the butter brand established in 1962 has grown to be the market leader in Germany – where it sells faster than any other food brand – and the number-two butter brand in the US. Both the German and US markets performed well in 2017, the latest year for which figures are available, reporting double-digit volume growth. Some 34 new product launches in the Kerrygold range form part of Ornua’s strategy to build it into a €1 billion global dairy brand “in the coming years”.

“For decades Kerrygold has been synonymous with the benefits of grass-fed dairy and has authentically told the story of Irish dairy farming to the world,” said Róisín Hennerty, managing director of Ornua Foods.

Grass-fed grievance

Kerrygold’s focus on promoting its grass-fed product comes after tensions emerged between parent Ornua, and Glanbia, which owns 25 per cent of Ornua, over the latter’s decision to launch a new dairy brand in the US called Truly Grass Fed, a brand that farmers fear may erode Kerrygold’s position in the US market.

Glanbia has launched Truly Grass Fed in the US initially as a cheese brand, but a butter may yet emerge, the company told The Irish Times in November.

Kerrygold’s campaign features three farming families – one from Waterford, one from Monaghan and one from west Cork. Ms Hennerty said the brand had always been an “intrinsic part of the Irish identity” and was owned by a “community of Irish farming families who have passed down their farming values and methods from generation to generation”.

Ornua is the State’s largest exporter of dairy products, with sales of more than €2 billion per year. Kerrygold expects that its new campaign will reach more than 36 million people.


Cows Get Own Tinder-Style App for Breeding

Cows and bulls searching for “moo love” now have a mobile app to help their breeders.

A U.K. farming startup introduced a Tinder-style app, called Tudder, that lets farmers find breeding matches by viewing pictures of cattle with details of their age, location and owner. Users hear a mooing sound as they swipe — right to show they’re interested or left to reject possible matches.

Hectare, which designed the app, says it “seeks to unite sheepish farm animals with their soulmates.” Selling animals using social media can speed up a process that often involves transporting animals long distances for breeding.

“Tudder is a new swipe-led matchmaking app, helping farm animals across the U.K. find breeding partners in the quest for moo love,” according to the Apple app store description.

Farmers that swipe right on an image of a particular cow — or group of cows — are directed to Hectare’s livestock-buying website, with a chance to contact the owner or make an offer. The listing website includes information on the animal’s character and any health issues.

Working Bull
Profile descriptions range from “nice big strong sorts make nice suckler cows” to “quiet well grown young bull ready to work,” and farmers can also restrict their online search by whether the animal is organic, pedigree or on a farm where tuberculosis has been detected.

Marcus Lampard, a farmer in Carmarthenshire in southwest Wales, has one pedigree beef shorthorn breeding bull listed on the app and says it’s a lot easier to sell livestock online.

“Going to market is a nuisance,” he said by telephone. “If I go to an open market with a bull, and then maybe bring it back, it shuts everything down on the farm for at least two weeks.’’

Lampard, 76, said his daughter lists the cows online for him. “At my age we think we’re quite techy, but our grandchildren think we’re hopeless,” he said.

Hectare raised over 3 million pounds ($3.9 million) from investors including government programs, author Richard Koch and tennis player Andy Murray, according to its website.

About a third of U.K. farms use Hectare’s platforms to trade livestock and cereals, Chief Executive Officer Doug Bairner said by email, after the app was described in the Sunday Times.

“Matching breeding livestock online should be even easier than matching people,” Bairner said. “Sheep breeding is similarly data driven so maybe ‘ewe-Harmony’ should be next.”


Source: Bloomberg

Reduce Your Dairy’s Risk for Violative Residues

Responsible use of antibiotics plays a significant role in helping protect animal and human health. Proper training on use and administration of antibiotic products play a key role in ensuring all antibiotics are used responsibly and administered appropriately to avoid violative residues. Dairies have made significant improvements toward decreasing the number of residue violations in milk, specifically a 70% reduction in bulk tank milk residues in the U.S. food supply over the past 10 years.1,2 Despite this, dairy producers are also beef producers and still have work to do. Dairy cows accounted for 67% of residue violations from inspector-generated samples across all species of animals from October 2015 to September 2016.3 Dairy producers, under the guidance of their veterinarians, should continue to focus on steps that mitigate the risk of residues to protect food integrity. 

There are four things you should focus on to minimize your risk of residue violations in meat from cull dairy cows.

  1. Involve your veterinarian in all treatment decisions. Without veterinary involvement, your dairy’s risk for residue violations increases significantly. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 70% of cases involving violative drug residues had no veterinary involvement in treatment or protocol development.4 Your veterinarian is the expert in choosing the correct products that prevent and treat disease, as well as how to prevent residues by complying with label directions for use. This means he or she should be engaging with you not only in setting treatment protocols but also in determining what animals are treated in the first place. Regular visits and communication with your veterinarian — an established partnership called a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) — allows your veterinarian to maintain a relationship with you and your key employees and have a good understanding of your animals and preventive care to provide thorough guidance and recommendations.
  2. Set and follow protocols. Even if your dairy has set protocols, a study found an estimated 43% of employees administering treatments on well-managed dairies were not following protocols when observed.5 Compliance matters for treatment success and protecting the food supply. Talk with your veterinarian to make sure there aren’t any outdated or missing protocols and that they are easy to understand and follow. Regularly train employees who administer medications on accuracy of diagnosis and review proper protocol application. Also, effective protocols should include steps for how to give the medicine, including following label instructions, the proper route of administration and administering products for appropriate duration of therapy. 
  3. Keep accurate treatment records. Inaccurate or incomplete records can be big contributors to human errors at the farm level that can lead to residues, including misidentified animals, animals not receiving the appropriate amount of treatment at the proper time or even animals being moved from the hospital pen or sent to market before the withdrawal period has passed. After treating a cow, record all the information about the cow and treatment administered in your record-keeping system. This will help the veterinarian and herd manager know how well treatments are working and provide important information to help avoid mistakes and, therefore, avoid residues.
  4. Respect the beef market. The beef market is an opportunity to place another quality food product into consumers’ hands, and it should be treated with the same respect we give the milk market. You can’t make healthy beef from unhealthy cows. Animals should be healthy, not simply past the residue withholding period, before being considered viable candidates for the beef market. The first step is to appropriately identify the disease process at hand and evaluate which animals should and shouldn’t be treated. Then, work with your veterinarian and herd manager to establish guidelines for identifying animals that leave the farm intended for human consumption. 

Today, thanks to the hard work of dairy veterinarians and producers, there are fewer residues in dairy cull cows than ever before.3 The amount of milk dumped from positive tankers also continues to decline.1,2 However, a single violation can erode consumer confidence in milk and meat. That’s why it’s critical to work with your veterinarian to establish and train employees on protocols, ensure proper record keeping, and only send high-quality healthy cull cows to market that are suitable for human food. Remember: you are in the beef business, too. 

For more tips on avoiding residues, review these additional resources and ask your Zoetis representative about the Residue Free Guarantee™.

About Zoetis

Zoetis (NYSE: ZTS) is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 60 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products, genetic tests, biodevices and a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2017, the company generated annual revenue of $5.3 billion with approximately 9,000 employees. For more information, visit


Dairy Farmers Can Now Benchmark Against the Top Dairies

Dairy farmers can now benchmark themselves against the top five percent of farms following an update to AHDB Dairy’s key performance indicators (KPIs) which were revealed at Dairy-Tech .

The addition of this new category to the existing bands for the top 25% and industry average farms enable farmers to see how they compare with others and identify areas for improvement.

The KPIs have also been refreshed using the latest available data and include changes to the definitions and calculations following discussions with farmers and industry consultants.

Mark Topliff, AHDB lead analyst said: “We listened to feedback from our strategic farm meetings plus consultants from across the industry and updated the KPIs to make sure they are relevant to all and stretch the best.”

Launched in 2017, the KPIs form part of AHDB’s optimal dairy systems programme, which is encouraging farmers to focus on either all year round or blocking calving.

The KPIs are split into six physical measures for each calving system as well as three financial measures which are applicable to both.

As well as other minor changes, the ‘Income retained’ KPI has been replaced with ‘full economic net margin’ and ‘total purchased feed costs’ now exclude forage and youngstock feed.

A full set of definitions along with guidance about how to calculate each measure can be found on AHDB Dairy’s website alongside an online calculator where they enter their own figures to see how they compare.

The KPIs are built into Farmbench, AHDB’s recently launched online benchmarking tool to help farmers compare themselves anonymously with other farms.

“Dairy farmers need to be in good shape to deal with future challenges. Our updated KPIs enable farmers to review their performance, identify areas for improvement and make changes to ensure they’re performing well for years to come” concluded Mark.


Source: The Cattle Site

World produces more cattle feed in 2018

The global total compound feed production reach 1.103 billion metric tonnes (MT) in 2018. Over 237 million MT of this volume was cattle feed.

Trends in dairy cattle feed

If we look at dairy and beef feed production, we see that in 2018 this volume reached 213.3 million MT (Figure 2). In 2017, dairy was one of the few sectors that saw growth across all regions. A year later, in 2018, the global production of dairy feed grew with another 3%, with little regional differences. Dairy feed production remained relatively flat in Latin America and the Middle East. There was steady growth in North America and even more in Africa and Europe. Africa’s growth was primarily due to a significant increase in both Morocco and Nigeria. Also in 2017, Africa showed more than average growth figures (+ 10%) for its dairy feed production. Europe’s shining star this year was Turkey, which saw an increase of 10% in dairy production. Of the total compound feed production of Turkey (25.5 million MT) around 27% is dairy feed. Other contributors in the region include Ireland, Russia and the UK. The growth for dairy feed in the Asia-Pacific region was mainly seen in India and Nepal.

Trends in beef cattle feed

If we look at global production volumes of animal feed for beef cows, we see a flat second year in a row, mainly due to consumer preferences. North America has always led beef feed production and continues to do so. The region therefore saw an increase of 3%, which will ensure it maintains its lead for now. Europe saw a small decline at barely 1%, mainly caused by declines in France and Lithuania. In the past, Europe has been followed by the Asia-Pacific region, but many of the countries in that region saw declines in beef feed production, including Bangladesh, Mongolia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Pakistan. China and Australia both saw growth, but not enough to offset the overall decline in the region. Latin America saw strong growth of about 8%, and Mexico and Argentina primarily contributed to this. As a result, the Latin American region now takes third place in beef feed production. Growth in Africa was seen in Sudan, Seychelles and Morocco. It is worth mentioning that the Middle East also produced a lot of feed for other ruminants such as sheep, goats and (racing) camels. The ‘other ruminant’ feed in the Middle East is 11% of the total compound feed production in this region.

Have a look at all the data from world regions and European countries in our Feed Production tool on sister publication All About Feed.

The big 7 countries

The top 7 countries (the big 7) when it comes to total feed production are (Table 1):

  1. China
  2. the US
  3. Brazil
  4. Russia
  5. India
  6. Mexico
  7. Spain

These countries can be viewed as an indicator of the trends in agriculture. All countries showed an increase, except for Brazil, which showed a small decrease in total feed production in 2018 (68.7 million MT versus 69.9 million MT in 2017). China remains the ultimate winner with 187.9 million MT in 2018. This is 5.4% more than in 2017.

Trends in other animal species

The Alltech Global Feed Survey also looks at the trends in other animal species. 152.6 million MT layer feed and 304.6 million MT broiler feed was produced. Major growth areas for layer feed included Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific. Africa showed 9% growth, demonstrating an overall trend that as populations grow and become wealthier, interest in protein, particularly in palatable chicken, does as well. 293.2 million MT pig feed was produced. This is nearly 1% more than 2017. The primary producing region for pig feed is Asia-Pacific, but this was also the only region that saw a decline in pig feed production with Mongolia, Vietnam, China, New Zealand and Japan experienced decreases. 40.1 million MT aquafeed was produced. Overall, aquaculture feeds showed growth of 4% over last year. This was primarily attributed to strong increases in the Asia-Pacific and European regions. Lastly, a growing sector is the pet food market. In 2018, 26.6 million MT pet food was produced. The pet food sector saw growth of approximately 1%, primarily attributed to an increase in the Asia-Pacific region, which was offset by a decrease in the Latin American and African regions. North America and the Middle East both remained relatively flat.


Source: Dairy Global 

How to make money with your dairy in a down economy?

When milk prices are low, investing in a cow monitoring system may not be the first thing on a farmer’s mind. However, studies have shown that reproduction and health monitoring technologies should always be focused on, even in a down economy.

Accurate information about a cow’s performance is essential to success in dairy farming. The better you know how your animals feel, the better equipped you are to take the right action at the right time. Adequate intervention will result in higher pregnancy rates, improved lactation, a better health status, and fewer cow losses. CowManager’s revolutionary ear tag provides this information for each individual cow, and fully supports the needs of the dairyman, resulting in not only saving money but in making money indeed.

The CowManager users tell you how!

Upgrading your herds’ health status saves money
The key to success in all transition and fresh cow programs is keeping cows healthy. The transition period is also the moment when a cow’s peak for lactation will be determined. CowManager will alert you immediately whenever a single cow is not eating or ruminating. The resulting early intervention will save you money on labor and antibiotics and will reduce milk drops. However, some results, such as the benefits of improving the herds’ health status, are hard to measure.

Michael Johnson of Trailside Holsteins LLC (500 cows) in Fountain, MN, finds that the CowManager Health module offers great support in detecting cows in the early stages of a disease. A typical disease that is hard to catch is sub-clinical pneumonia. Because of the early detection, the affected cows can be treated in an earlier stage, resulting in healthier cows that don’t drop in milk production. Moreover, early detection will decrease the cost of treatments.

“With CowManager early detection of mastitis, fresh cow illnesses and sub-clinical infection has been substantial. I am catching the majority of sick cows earlier. In most cases, there is a faster recovery and cows bounce back soon”, according to Michael Johnson. His dead loss also dropped from 8% to 4% since he has been using CowManager.

Drew Johnson, manager of Santiam Dairy (500 cows) in Turner, OR, which is owned by Chris DeVries, also sees huge savings in the medical costs due to early detection by the system
We’ve saved 8,000 dollars on drugs in seven months”, he claims. “Next to that, our death loss also greatly decreased. It saves us time finding and treating cows that are truly sick. You wouldn’t believe how soon the tags pick up illness. Now we can save time and money because we’re only treating cows that need it, and not treating those that don’t.”

John and Meghan Palmer of Prairie Star Diary (100 cows) are running an organic dairy farm in Iowa. During the winter of 2017-18 they had a pneumonia outbreak in their milking herd. This


showed them the benefits of CowManager right away. “At one time during this challenge, we had 17 cows that the CowManager Health module alerts identified as being sick; using the data available within the system was critical to our ability to manage the treatment process. We only ended up with a few cows that we had to give antibiotics to save, which resulted in these cows having to be sold to a conventional dairy. Without the early alerts from CowManager, we would likely have decided to treat more cows than we needed to, so CowManager saved us from having to cull a larger percentage of our herd. Having the CowManager system available during this health event was a huge benefit for us.”

Brody Stapel of Double Dutch Diary LLC (215 cows) in Wisconsin explains that CowManager supports them in improving their herds’ health status. “CowManager finds sick, lame and feverish cows before our employees do.”

Improve your profit with timely insemination
For years, dairy operations have depended on timely and efficient breeding in order to maximize profit. The biggest challenge dairy farms face in this area is ‘heat detection’ or knowing when an individual cow goes into heat.
CowManager provides reliable data on heat intensity and heat stage. By combining these alerts with cow data, the system gives valuable insights into the cycles of your individual cows. The system offers you all the information you need for maximizing heat detection.

“Thanks to CowManager, we don’t need to use the same hormone program anymore, we use very few shots. Our pregnancy rate went up from 24 to 32%. And, it takes us about 10 minutes to select the cows that are in heat”,Michael Johnson mentions.

“Prior to having the CowManager Fertility-module, we were using synchronization at 100% of the herd. Now we are detecting cows in heat and breeding more cows naturally. Our pregnancy used to be 15% and it increased to 22%”,testifies Larry Gartner of Rumpus Ridge farm (500 cows) in Minnesota.

In terms of saving time, we used to spend about two hours every day chalking tails, watching for heats, and checking fresh cows, but we don’t do that anymore. And we’re having better results”, according to Drew Johnson.

Many dairy farmers installed CowManager mainly to improve the reproduction status. Ray Nebel, Vice President of Tech Services at Select Sires Inc, explains that we usually see a 3 to 5% increase in 21-day pregnancy rate after installing CowManager. “But there are always nice outliers to share, like Milco Dairy (2.000 cows) that raised its pregnancy rate with 12% (18 to 30%) and Prairie Star Dairy that saw a rise of 11% (24 to 35%) in just a couple of months.

The figure shows the improvements in pregnancy rates with 7 CowManager users in the United States.

CowManager has a great return on investment
Early intervention with an accurate cow monitoring system helps you to improve the health and fertility status of your herd. Resulting in a better performing and healthier cow, that needs less medication and (no) hormones. Not only can CowManager help you to be more profitable, it also saves time and labor. Those figures are hard to define in numbers. But our customers can tell you how fast their return on investment was.

“The payback time is 1.5 year maximum, but some results are hard to measure,” Michael Johnson explains.

CowManager is a money maker,” says Brody Stapel. “We installed the CowManager system mainly for the reproduction benefits. Before installing CowManager, we were running a pregnancy rate of around 18% and currently it’s around 27%. We found that the Fertility module itself has paid off in one year. In summary, this system actually makes us money instead of just saving it.”

CowManager offers different payment solutions that fit easily within the investment plan of each dairy farm business. This way, each dairy can generate more profit with its investment.


About CowManager

CowManager develops and produces innovative cow-monitoring solutions to improve productivity and profitability on the modern dairy farm. Thousands of producers in over 30 countries rely on CowManager’s easy-to-install, user-friendly ear sensor system. It maximizes profit by monitoring your cows’ fertility, health, nutrition and location, with impressive accuracy. CowManager has revolutionized the world of cow monitoring systems with groundbreaking innovations, and has invented the active ear tag technology, based on generations of knowledge, science and the drive to improve every day. CowManager is available all over the world, distributed and supported by a growing number of dealers.

For more information, visit or follow CowManager on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

7 innovative financial tools for better milk price certainty

Fonterra will introduce a new financial tool to help their farmers gain more certainty about what they will be paid for their milk for the season.

The new Fixed Milk Price can help them with budgeting, planning, and managing on-farm profitability. Fixed Milk Price joins a set of 7 innovative financial tools to assist farmers in sharing up and investing in their farms. These tools include:

  1. share-up over time contract
  2. invest as you earn
  3. dividend reinvestment plan
  4. strike price contract
  5. contract fee for units
  6. farm source’s reward dollars for shares
  7. smart finance.

How it will work

In the development of this new tool, Fonterra incorporated feedback from its farmers on previous pricing tools and ensured that Fixed Milk Price is more transparent, flexible and accessible. How it will work:

  • All Fonterra farmers will have the opportunity to participate on a monthly basis (excluding January and February).
  • The Fixed Milk Price will be referenced to the NZX Milk Futures Market, minus a service fee of no more than 10c/kgMS initially.
  • Over the course of a season, farmers will be able to fix up to 50% of their estimated milk production per farm.
  • Fonterra will make at least 1 million kgMS available at every event and up to a total of 5% of New Zealand milk supply available in a given season.

Farmers were also updated today on the Co-op’s plans to provide them with more meaningful recognition and rewards in season 2019/2020 for producing high quality, safe, sustainable dairy.

Once all input is received, the new approach will be finalised for introduction in June 2019.


Source: Dairy Global

Producers Need Disposal Plan for Dead Livestock

The death of animals is part of any livestock operation.

“With lambing underway and calving just around the corner, now is the time for producers to have a plan for disposing of the mortalities quickly,” says Mary Keena, North Dakota State University Extension livestock environmental management specialist at the Carrington Research Extension Center. “Timely disposal of these mortalities is critical to preventing the spread of disease, as well as protecting water quality.”

Rendering, incineration, burial and composting are approved methods of carcass disposal in North Dakota.

“Carcass abandonment is not considered an acceptable disposal practice,” Keena stresses.

Rendering is the process of converting animal carcasses into pathogen-free, useful byproducts such a feed protein. The process involves using high-temperature, pressurized steam. However, rending no longer is a common disposal method in North Dakota because of the lack of facilities and the cost.

Incineration is the thermal destruction of carcasses using fuel such as propane, diesel or natural gas. It requires considerable energy. The cost of incineration may be a limiting factor for some producers. Also, large carcasses often exceed the incinerator’s capacity. Open-pit burning of carcasses is an acceptable last-resort disposal option.

Burial is a common method of carcass disposal, but selecting the proper burial site and maintaining it are important. Areas with sandy or gravelly soil and a shallow groundwater table must not be used a burial site.

Also, burial is difficult during the winter and isn’t an option during flooding or in areas prone to flooding. The disposal site should be away from residences, drinking water wells or shallow aquifers.

Keena says the best option might be composting, which is a naturally occurring process that breaks the carcass into basic elements via microorganisms and heat generated during composting. Composting is a simple process that requires few materials and minimal maintenance.

Here are Keena’s tips for composting:

  • Build a pile if composting one animal.
  • Build a windrow if composting several animals.
  • Use material such as straw or old hay for the base, manure or spoiled silage for the bulking material, and straw, old hay or sawdust as cover material.

This is the process for composting:

  • Start with 2 feet of base material in a windrow or pile, depending on how many carcasses will be composted.
  • Lay the carcass on top of the base. Have at least 1 foot of base material between the perimeter of the carcass and the edge of the base.
  • Cover the carcass with 8 to 10 inches of bulking material.
  • Cover the entire pile or windrow with 2 feet of cover material. The cover material should be placed on the top and sides, with no part of the carcass showing. The pile needs a good cap to keep predators out and seal in heat.

To maintain the compost site:

  • Leave the pile or windrow undisturbed to keep heat sealed in during the very cold winter months.
  • Aerate the pile every two months using a loader from early spring until late fall.
  • Make sure the pile or windrow always has sufficient cover material.

For more information:

Improving Dairy Cow Feed Efficiency Begins with….

Frequently dairy producers are being encouraged to implement ways and means to improve the efficiency with which their cows and herds convert their feed into milk. For herd feeding and management, some solutions already exist yet for accurate genetic indexing the answers are yet to be found. The Bullvine has written about feed efficiency in the past (read more: Should You Breed for Feed Efficiency?, A Guide to Understanding How to Breed For Feed Efficiency and Fertility  and Feed Efficiency: The Money Saver), however, let’s further consider both the facts and the challenges.

The Growing Power of Small Wins

In the past 25 years, the matter of feed efficiency has gone from giving cows a “least cost” balanced diet and accepting the resulting milk production to monitoring both feed intake and milk production to arrive at maximum net profit per day.  Why? This is in a major part because the cost of production now, 50-60% of which is feed costs, is much higher relative to farm gate milk price than 25 years ago. Yes, the margins on dairy farms, the world over, are much narrower and the cost of feed is therefore under scrutiny. So even a slight gain of $0.25 to $0.50 on Income Over Feed Costs (IOFC) per cow per day can make the difference between a farm staying in business or exiting the industry. With most other items in the cost of producing milk increasing every year, it leaves feed cost as the target for change.

The challenge of cost savings is not the only matter producers face when it comes to feed.  Consumers want access to certifiable information on how the cows were fed to make the milk. Organic. Were human edible feedstuffs used? What ingredients were added? The list is expanding. Where producers once ignored customers questions on feedstuffs, there will need to be accurate records of feeds and feeding methods.

Past Progress Not a Stop Sign

Before we continue, it must be noted that US dairy farmers have put in place many improvements over the past seventy-five years. Comparing 1944 to today, cows produce much more milk per year (443%). As well as modern milk production requires 23% of the feed, 35% of the water and 10% of the land to produce a gallon of milk than was required in 1944. All impressive numbers.

The reality is, that like in many businesses, dairy farming will need to continue to operate on tight margins, all the time with more monitoring and the need to a guaranteed product.

Establishing Milestones to Feed Efficiency Improvement

There are two aspect to monitor feed efficiency – the herd and the cow.

  • Herd Analysis Through Data Collection
    Working with their nutritionist, dairy farmers can now monitor and specifically manage their herds, strings and pens for feed costs by recording feed inputs and milk output. There are programs that also consider the effects of a feeding program on udder health, fertility, animal health and more. For pasture-based herds, it is only the concentrates feed that can be closely monitored. My experience in working with dairy herd improvement clubs, producers can increase their income over feed costs anywhere from $0.50 to $2.00 per cow per day by fine-tuning both the nutrition program and the management program. $150 to $600 more net per cow per year – that’s well worth the extra work and effort.
  • Animal Analysis Through Genetic Ranking
    On the genetic side of the improvement equation, it is not possible to currently sort or rank animals for feed efficiency. It is costly to capture individual cow feed intake. The Bullvine article, “The Genetics of Feed Efficiency in Dairy – Where are we at?”, published in May 2018, covers in detail the current global studies to establish genetic ranks for sires and the approximations for Feed Efficiency sire rankings that A.I. organizations are currently producing.  As well, most national total merit indexes, including NM$, TPI, LPI and ProS, include in their formulae a discounting factor for cow maintenance. This is an attempt to, for equal production performance, reward smaller to moderate-sized cows relative to larger cows. It is noteworthy that LPI considers Dairy Strength, an approximation of size, as a positive in its formula not a negative. Within, especially the Holstein breed, there is a   trend around the world to favouring moderate stature and medium-sized cows.
    Achieving national sire genetic rankings, for all proven sires based on 100+ daughters for Feed Efficiency, are years away due to the cost of data capture and the variation in data capture systems. At the present time, some breeding companies (A.I.) and an increasing number of precision dairy companies are extensively studying the capture of individual cow feed intakes and matching that with production performance and genomic information. They will be producing genomic indexes for feed efficiency. Within a few years, breeders can expect to see company genomic indexes for feed efficiency in the 55-70% reliability range.
    USDA (Beltsville) researchers have studied heifer and milking cow feed efficiency and found that on a genetic basis for equivalent performance $0.21/day can be saved in heifer feeding costs and $0.23/day can be saved in cow feeding costs. The number of animals in the study are limited but it does give hope to having genetic indexes for animals in their ability to convert feed to meat or milk. The USDA numbers are in the same range as feed cost savings published in literature explaining STgen’s EcoFeed® sire ratings. In time dairy managers will be able to choose between sires of equal genetic merit for production where one sires whose daughters cost $0.20 more or less in feed costs per day.

Start by Improving Selection Criteria  

At the herd, string and pen level dairy managers need to work with their nutritional staff or advisors to routinely record feed inputs and milk production. Then calculate the Income Over Feed Costs. Always keep in mind that the Income Over feed Costs number is not the total answer as animal health and fertility are very important for a dairy farm to be successful.

At the sire selection level, dairy managers should consider the feed efficiency values that are published by A.I. As mentioned above, many national total merit indexes already factor in the cost associated with cow maintenance. As yet, the reliabilities for feed efficiency genetic ratings are only in the 45-55% range but they are a good start. Expect within a few years to see genomic sire and heifer indexes for feed efficiency. Our best advice, at this time, is to use the published feed efficiency numbers for animals as a supplementary piece of information. Total merit, production, health and fertility genetic indexes should remain the primary sire selection criteria.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Feed conversion efficiency is important now. It will be even more important in the future.  Dairymen need to record feed intake and using it for herd feeding and management purposes.  As sire genetic indexes for daughter feed efficiency become available to eliminate the use of sires that do not rank in the top 25% for feed efficiency.




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Canadian Top Managed Herds of 2018 Announced

CanWest DHI, Guelph, Ont., and Valacta, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que., are proud to recognize excellence in dairy herd management by releasing the Canadian top 25 herds based on the 2018 Herd Management Score results. The evaluation was done at a national level amongst a total of 7,000 herds.

The Herd Management Score allocates points for performance in different management areas (including milk production, udder health, reproduction, heifer rearing and longevity) and is an excellent indicator of overall herd performance. It is a great tool for herds to monitor their progress from year to year and also allows herds to benchmark themselves against others, including within their unique production system (free stall, tie stall, robotic, organic).

We congratulate these producers, whose sustained efforts have led to an outstanding performance.

  1. Ferme Estermann inc., Martin Estermann, Sainte-Agnès-de-Dundee, Que.
  2. Ferme Drahoka enr., Francis & Sylvain Drapeau, Kamouraska, Que.
  3. Ferme Seric inc., Éric Grégoire, Napierville, Que.
  4. Ferme Pierlie SENC, Pierre Guévin & Julie Michel, Saint-Adelphe, Que.
  5. Ferme Vert d’Or inc., Serge Morin & Anne Bégin, Sainte-Hélène, Que.
  6. Heidi Farms Inc., Oeggerli Family, Bainsville, Ont.
  7. Ferme B. Lehoux & Fils inc., Germain Lehoux, Saint-Elzéar, Que.
  8. Ferme Labrise inc., Guy Lebrecque & Lynda St-Jacques, Saint-Césaire, Que.
  9. Ferme M. & R. Boutin, Martin & Renaud Boutin, Saint-Georges, Que.
  10. Ferme Collette & Fils inc., Nicole Boulet & Daniel Collette, Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, Que.
  11. Ferme Trois Chemins inc., Enrico Lefebvre, Saint-Bernard-de-Dorchester, Que.
  12. Ferme Beljacar inc., Carmen & Jacques Vincent, Acton-Vale, Que.
  13. Pauferlou inc., Marc-Antoine Rousseau, Pohénégamook, Que.
  14. Haag Farms Inc., Roger & Karen Haag, Brussels, Ont.
  15. Albadon Farms Ltd., Mark & Josh Ireland, Teeswater, Ont.
  16. Lone Willow Farm, James & Alan Cook, Bridgetown, N.S.
  17. Gorweir Holsteins, Chris, Jessie & Brandon Weir, Guelph, Ont.
  18. Sierra Colony Farms, Thomas Kleinsasser, Shaunavon, Sask.
  19. Milky Way Dairy, Frank & Debbie Les, Chilliwack, B.C.
  20. Stewardson Dairy Inc., Stewardson Family, Thedford, Ont.
  21. Alexerin Dairy Inc., Ron & Todd Nixon, Manotick, Ont.
  22. Rollingview Farms, Nelson & Leon Weber, Wallenstein, Ont.
  23. Ferme Carmel, François & René Carmel, Ange-Gardien, Que.
  24. Ferme Franguimel inc., François Pouliot, Saint-Odilon, Que.
  25. Pfister Dairy Farm, Hans Pfister & Family, Mitchell, Ont.

Top Herds by Category

Top Tie-Stall

Ferme Drahoka enr., Francis & Sylvain Drapeau, Kamouraska, Que.

Ferme Seric Inc., Éric Grégoire, Napierville, Que.

Ferme Pierlie senc, Pierre Guévin & Julie Michel, Saint-Adelphe Que.

Top Free-Stall – Parlour

Ferme Estermann Inc., Martin Estermann, Sainte-Agnès-de-Dundee, Que.

Heidi Farms Inc., Oeggerli Family, Bainsville, Ont.

Albadon Farms Ltd., Mark & Josh Ireland,Teeswater, Ont.

Top Robot Herd

Ferme Beljacar inc., Carmen & Jacques Vincent, Acton-Vale, Que.

Haag Farms Inc., Roger & Karen Haag, Brussels, Ont.

Gorweir Holsteins, Chris, Jessie & Brandon Weir, Guelph, Ont.

Top Organic Herd

Ferme Leriger enr., Lucien Bouchard, Hemmingford, Que.

Ferme Fleuralic, Louis Fleurent, Nicolet, Que.

Ferme Denijos Inc., Bryan Denis, Saint-Cyprien/Rivière-du-Loup, Que.


Top Herds by Province

British Columbia

Milky Way Dairy, Frank & Debbie Les, Chilliwack

West River Farm Ltd., Grant & Gene Sache, Rosedale

Kish Farms Ltd., Darren Kish, Abbotsford


Richards Farms Ltd., William Richards, Red Deer County

Deerfield Colony, Andy Waldner, Magrath

Milford Colony Farming Co. Ltd., Mike Wipf, Raymond


Sierra Colony Farms Ltd., Thomas Kleinsasser, Shaunavon

University of Saskatchewan, Department of Animal & Poultry Science, Jay Olyniuk, Saskatoon

Bench Farming Co. Ltd., Samuel Wurtz, Shaunavon


Readore Farms, Rheal Simon, Notre Dame

Isaac Dairy Ltd., Brent & Victoria Isaac, Kleefeld

Labass Holsteins Ltd., Jan & Tracy Bassa, La Broquerie


Heidi Farms Inc., Oeggerli Family, Bainsville

Haag Farms Inc., Roger & Karen Haag, Brussels

Albadon Farms Ltd., Mark & Josh Ireland, Teeswater


Ferme Estermann inc., Martin Estermann, Sainte-Agnès-de-Dundee

Ferme Drahoka enr., Francis & Sylvain Drapeau, Kamouraska

Ferme Seric inc., Éric Grégoire, Napierville

New Brunswick

Jolly Farmer Products, Joy Weir, Northampton

Clarke Farms, Matthew Clarke, New Canaan

Salisdairy Farm, Auke Leenstra, Boundary Creek

Nova Scotia

Lone Willow Farm, James & Alan Cook, Bridgetown

Sunny Point Farms Ltd., Phillip Vroegh, East Noel

MacGregor Dairy Farm Ltd., John MacGregor, Churchville

Prince Edward Island

Jewell Dale Farm Inc., Logan Jewel, Meadowbank

Carruthers Farms Ltd., Mike Carruthers, Kensington

Tiny Acres Holsteins, Wade Bryanton, Miscouche


Sunrise Dairy Ltd., Jeff & Olive Greening, Musgravetown

N & N Farm Ltd., Lee Noel, Cormack

Larch Grove Farms, Ian Richardson, Cormack

Calf Management Tips for Cold Weather

Just like people, calves attempt to maintain a constant body temperature regardless of the outside temperature. Within a certain range of temperatures called the thermoneutral zone or TNZ, calves can maintain body temperature without needing extra energy. The boundaries of the TNZ are called the lower critical temperature and the upper critical temperature. But these boundaries are not constant and are not determined by the outside temperature alone. The effective temperature experienced by the calf depends on part on wind, moisture, hair coat, sunlight, bedding, and rumination.

When the temperature drops below the lower critical temperature, or LCT, calves must use energy to support basic bodily functions and maintain their body temperature. The LCT is affected by the age and size of calves. During their first month, calves are most comfortable at temperatures between 55 and 70°F. Cold stress in these calves can occur when temperatures remain below 50°F. Between one month and weaning, the comfort zone is much wider and includes temperatures from 46 to 80°F. At this age, cold stress is not likely until temperatures drop below 28°F. The biggest reasons for these differences are in the calf’s size and rumen function. Small calves have a larger surface area relative to their weight than larger calves, which allows much more heat to be lost rapidly. Also, as calves reach one month of age they are typically eating noticeable amounts of starter. Fermentation of this grain in the rumen produces heat. This can be extremely important to the calf as it becomes a ruminant.

The calf environment also affects the LCT. A clean, dry hair coat provides greater insulation from cold than a wet, matted coat, and calf blankets can be used to further insulate young calves. When using calf blankets, be sure that calves do not sweat under them during the day. The resulting wet hair can quickly chill calves when nighttime temperatures drop. This would clearly negate the positive effects of the blanket. Blankets are most useful for calves less than 3 weeks of age that are not yet eating grain. Radiant heat from sunlight also can increase body temperature. Radiant heat loss is another consideration. If calves must lie on a concrete, rock, or sand surface, heat will be transferred from their body to the resting area; thick, dry straw or sawdust provides more insulation. In some situations it may be beneficial to change bedding type change with the season, adding straw as temperatures begin to drop. In addition, drafts must be avoided because they encourage heat loss.

Most feeding programs are designed to limit the amount of milk or milk replacer fed to calves in order to encourage grain intake and rumen development. In addition, young dairy calves have very little stored fat they can use for warmth. As a result, cold weather can place extra demands on the calf. We can help the calf cope with cold stress by increasing her feed to provide extra energy. Remember, if calves are fed less energy than they need to meet their increased maintenance needs, they will lose weight. In addition, the stress of using body tissue to maintain energy levels causes the immune system to be depressed and less responsive to challenges. So we may need to feed extra to account for the amount of energy the calf spends keeping herself warm.

The 2001 Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle (NRC) provides equations to estimate how much extra starter or milk replacer would be needed as temperatures drop. The LCT used by NRC are conservative; for calves less than 3 weeks of age the LCT is 59°F, and for calves over 3 weeks the LCT is 50°F. Although energy requirements may start to increase below these temperatures, it is likely that normal feeding practices prevent true cold stress until temperatures fall further.

The NRC equations were used to develop the table below, which shows the additional amount of feed (starter, milk replacer, or milk) that a calf would need to eat to compensate for extra energy used to keep warm during cold weather. The table assumes that all of the additional energy is provided from one feed source, not a combination. While increased energy can come from milk or grain, calves less than 3 weeks of age often do not eat enough starter to provide much extra energy. For these calves, the best way to provide extra energy is by increasing the amount of milk or milk replacer fed. With milk replacer, it is recommended that the volume fed be increased as well as the amount of powder. This enables you to maintain the same dry matter concentration. The additional milk can be offered in an extra feeding or added to the regular feedings. Based on the requirements calculated from NRC, one additional feeding (0.5 pounds of powder) of 20% protein, 20% fat milk replacer will meet the added maintenance energy needs of calves when the temperature drops to 20°F. At -20°F calves would need 2 additional feedings. Additional amounts would be similar for waste or whole milk containing 3.5% protein and 3.9% fat.

Of course, repeated changes in the calf’s diet to accommodate changing weather are not practical for you or desirable for the calf. Consider using calf blankets or additional bedding to get through times of temperature transition with frequent fluctuation. Feeding changes are more effective when cold weather sets in for at least a week and daily highs remain below freezing.

Increased Dry Matter Intake from starter, milk replacer, or milk needed to compensate for increased maintenance energy needs during cold weather.

Temperature °F Calf < 3 weeks old1
– Starter3 lb/d
Calf < 3 weeks old1
– Milk Replacer4 lb/d
Calf < 3 weeks old1
– Milk5 lb/d
Calf > 3 weeks old2
– Starter3 lb/d
Calf >3 weeks old2
– Milk Replacer4 lb/d
Calf > 3 weeks old2
– Milk5 lb/d
32 0.7 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.2 0.2
20 0.9 0.5 0.5 0.6 0.4 0.3
10 1.1 0.7 0.6 0.8 0.5 0.4
0 1.3 0.8 0.7 1.0 0.6 0.5
-10 1.5 0.9 0.8 1.2 0.7 0.6
-20 1.6 1.0 0.9 1.4 0.8 0.7

1Calf < 3 wk: body weight 100 lb; LCT 59°F
2Calf > 3 wk: body weight 110 lb; LCT 50°F
3Starter containing 1.12 Mcal/lb of NEm, 18% protein
4Milk replacer containing 1.86 Mcal/lb NEm (20% protein, 20% fat)
5Milk containing 2.13 Mcal/lb NEm (28% protein, 31% fat on a dry matter basis; 3.5% protein, 3.9% fat as fed

Calves that are eating starter, especially those over 3 weeks of age have a lower LCT and can more easily cover their increased energy needs by voluntarily eating more grain. An additional 0.6 pound of a typical 18% protein calf starter will meet increased maintenance needs 20°F. If calves consume an extra pound, they can meet additional energy needs down to 0°F, and eating 1.4 pounds more will provide enough energy at -20°F. Notice that table values for both milk and grain intake are in addition to normal milk or starter intake.

The sooner calves start eating grain, the more benefit they will get in terms of generating heat. Anything we can do to encourage starter consumption will have a positive effect on calves’ ability to withstand cold temperatures. Offer small amounts of starter during the first week of life and be sure to have water available to all calves because drinking water stimulates starter intake. In cold weather, provide warm water three times per day for a minimum of 30 minutes each time to ensure calves have ample opportunity to drink. One of the most common challenges calves face in the winter is getting enough water—it’s hard to drink ice! Added benefits of relying on starter intake, rather than feeding extra milk, are improved consistency in the calf’s diet, lower feed costs, and better labor efficiency. In addition, reducing the temperature loss from the calf by means of dry adequate bedding that has insulation properties and reducing drafts on the calf will reduce the maintenance heat requirements of the calf.

In conclusion, the first step to maintaining calf health and growth during the winter is checking the calf housing to ensure that it provides a comfortable environment that reduces heat loss as much as possible. Consider calf blankets, particularly for young calves housed outside. The next step is to evaluate the calf feeding program and ensure calves have early access to grain and water.


Counting the Cost of Silage Losses in Your Operation

Silage is often the base forage for the diets of growing cattle and the cow herd.  This past year, due to the drought, thousands of acres of drought-stricken corn and sorghum were harvested as silage.  A hidden cost of silage is associated with the shrink due to fermentation, storage, and feedout.  Total shrink from harvest through feeding can result in the loss of 5 to 40% of the dry matter harvested.  This is generally a hidden cost on most operations due to the lack of accurate records to measure shrink.  However, a few basic principles can help reduce losses.

The first is the correct harvest moisture.  Plant material should be 32-35% dry matter at harvest.  Lower dry matter content often results in fermentation by clostridia bacteria and an increased amount of seepage from the silage mass.  This condition results in increased amounts of butyric acid, increased ammonia, increased pH, and the potential for decreased intake by ruminants.  Silage with more than 38% dry matter generally results in greater losses during fermentation and a greater potential for increased losses from the silage face during feedout. Most of these losses are associated with the poor packing and the increased amount of oxygen that must be eliminated during the fermentation process and the increase in oxygen infiltration into the exposed face of the silo during feedout.  This results in increased secondary fermentation by yeast and mold, resulting in increased losses of energy and other nutrients by the heating of the silage.

Once harvested at the correct moisture, producers should concentrate on quickly packing and covering the silage mass.  We will never eliminate the loss of dry matter and energy due to residual plant respiration and the fermentation process.  The silage will have an initial increase in temperature due to these factors.  However, these can be minimized by reducing the oxygen level to a minimum with effective packing and applying an oxygen barrier and a plastic cover immediately after finishing the packing.  Generally, it is advisable to fill the silo in one day or less to avoid surface losses.

If effectively packed to reach a density of at least 45 pounds/ft(on an as fed basis), most of the oxygen will be eliminated and heating minimized.  There are available engineering equations that combine the silage delivery rate, hours of packing and the weight of the tractors to estimate the finished density of the silage mass.  The goal is to apply per ton, a minimum of 600 pounds of weight per hour.  This will also result in a silage face density that will be more impervious to oxygen infiltration during feeding.  The two main silage acids, acetic and lactic, are volatile, meaning they will quickly disassociate to the atmosphere when exposed to oxygen.  Thus, the pH of the exposed silage mass increases allowing yeast and mold to grow which results in increased secondary fermentation loss.  Total losses of dry matter during the feeding phase can reach 25%.  However, if one feeds at least 6 inches off the silo face each day, this type of loss can be nearly eliminated.

You will need to maintain the silage cover during storage and feeding.  Generally, used tires are laid over the silage cover to prevent damage from wind and to further reduce the amount of oxygen exposure on the surface of the mass.  Repairing damage to the cover from equipment, weather, and/or rodents is necessary to reduce oxygen intrusion into the silage mass.

Planning the size of your silage mass will aid in determining if you will be able to feed at least 6 inches off the face each day.  If you plan to daily feed 20 pounds per animal and you are feeding 200 animals, then you will feed 4,000 pounds each day.  If packed correctly and harvested at the correct dry matter, the face should contain about 45 pounds/ft3 on an as fed basis.  Thus, one would need to feed about 89 ft3 each day.  If the silage mass was 8-ft high and you are feeding daily 6 inches from the face, the maximum width of the silo would be 21.5 ft.  Widths or heights greater than this would result in greater face exposure over time, resulting in increased losses of dry matter and nutrients.

One needs to keep in mind that heating of the silage mass, either during initial fermentation or due to secondary fermentation, results in the loss of the most-digestible energy of the crop.  Once converted to heat energy by the yeast and mold, it is no longer available to the animals.  Research at KSU has shown that feeding spoiled silage can significantly reduce the intake of growing animals, resulting in reduced performance.  This results in a double-edged sword: reducing the intake and reducing the available nutrients in each mouthful for the animals.

What does poor silage management cost?  Just the loss of dry matter alone can range from 10 to 40%.  If silage packed in the silo is worth $50/ton as feed, then the potential loss on an as-fed basis could range from $5 to $20 per ton.  This results in a real cost of silage of $55 to $70 per ton as the feed goes into the ration.  If the silage fed is spoiled and it reduces the animal performance, then an operation suffers additional losses associated with lost animal performance.

When determining if silage is an economical feed in your operation, be sure that you consider the impact of shrink and how you can reduce the shrink.  Harvesting at the correct moisture is simply timing and planning.  Plan to get it done correctly.  The use of silage inoculants can aid in silage fermentation, reducing losses and improving the quality of the finished product.  This can lead to increases in animal performance, which reduces the cost of gain.  Thus, when considering the economic benefits, make sure you consider how each ton of silage may impact animal growth and performance.  Using a silage inoculant, applying an oxygen barrier, and using a plastic silo cover will decrease the cost of your silage by $7 to $10 per ton.  The potential return due to decreased loss and increased production is often from $20 to $40 per ton.  This represents a good return on investment and an opportunity to increase farm profitability.


10 ways to increase dairy profitability in 2019

Dairy producers across the United States continue to face countless challenges as they experience low milk prices and shrinking margins. It is no secret that net farm income has been on an almost steady decline over the past several years, leading to a large increase in the number of producers exiting the business.

Unfortunately, dairying will likely continue to be a challenging endeavor as milk prices remain volatile. Despite this, herds of all sizes can make profitability a reality with increased efforts focused on management, animal genetics, nutrition programs and increases in overall efficiency.

The following are ten recommended areas of focus for 2019 and beyond:

  1. Enroll in the2019 Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program: Congress signed the most recent Farm Bill into effect in late December 2018, and it brings a new and improved Dairy Margin Coverage program to life, replacing the less beneficial Margin Protection Program (MPP). In the new DMC program, dairy producers can lock in $9.50 margin coverage at $0.15 per hundredweight (cwt) for up to five million pounds of milk shipped for the next five years. Based on futures prices for feed, economists estimate feed costs will average $8.55 in 2019. If you add $9.50 margin coverage, the DMC protected U.S. all-milk price would be $18.05. The enrollment period is expected to open in late February and will last for 90 days at your state’s USDA Farm Service Agency location.
  2. Create a “forage first” nutrition program: Make it a priority to produce and utilize as much high-quality forage as possible to feed your herd. With the help of a trusted professional, work on increasing the return per acre for forage and grain crops on your farm in order to maximize both the quality and quantity of feeds grown. Additionally, work with a trusted nutritionist to monitor forage inventories and maximize forage inclusion into the rations, which should decrease the need to purchase feed throughout the year. Forage quality is a key factor in reducing purchased feed costs.
  3. Make sure you are properly grouping cows: The appropriate grouping of cows can improve health, boost production and raise income over feed costs. Added benefits of proper grouping include reduced prevalence of metabolic disorders, lowered feed costs, improved reproduction, increased lifetime milk yields and optimized parlor flow. Consider utilizing grouping strategies based primarily on parity and stage of lactation.
  4. Reduce feed shrink: Minimize feed losses at key control points to include: feed ingredient handling and storage, the mixing and feeding process, feed bunk management, and weather-related disturbances. Develop protocols to help employees reach reasonable shrink goals while properly tracking feedstuff inventory. Storing feed in upright bins can limit shrink losses to between 1-2 percent, compared to the 5-15 percent commonly experienced with open-sided community bays. Proper silage face management can also greatly reduce shrink losses. Giving attention to cleanliness and feed area organization is critical.
  5. Increase feed bunk management: Design a feed management schedule that aligns with the milking schedule. Deliver fresh feed when cows go to the parlor, and organize a bunk push-up within 90 minutes of the cows returning. Schedule additional push-ups throughout the day to ensure cows have access to feed that is within reach, not just in the bunk. Maintain an even distribution of feed across the feedline to ensure all cows have access to feed at their desired eating location. Remember: every additional pound of dry matter intake equals two additional pounds of milk.
  6. Maximize Energy-Corrected Milk (ECM): Profitability is driven by healthy cows in their milking prime. The typical range of ECM between the top and bottom third of herds in the U.S. is around 20 pounds of milk per day, or 76 cents of net farm income/cwt. This is primarily due to the effect of marginal milk, as the last pound of milk is always the most profitable. High-ECM herds also tend to have improved 21-day pregnancy rates, lower feed cost/cwt. of milk, fewer days open, lower death losses and reduced somatic cell count.
  7. Ensure success during the transition period: Formulate close-up dry cow rations to minimize metabolic concerns. Maximize cow comfort by providing adequate space for lying down and eating while minimizing pen moves. Manage the feed bunk by dialing in intakes and utilizing only good-quality forages with adequate amounts of fiber. Close-up cows should have more than 30 inches of bunk space and a minimum of four linear inches of clean, fresh water available from two water sources in each pen. Implement daily cow-level monitoring, which should include an examination of body temperature, changes in activity and changes in feeding behavior.
  8. Continue to improve herd reproduction: Getting cows bred is a key aspect of profitable farm management. Implement systematic breeding programs and/or wearable technologies to improve the efficiency of heat detection, achieve timelier first service, improve the 21-day pregnancy rate, minimize labor demand and, ultimately, improve the overall reproductive performance of the herd.
  9. Utilize organic trace minerals: One of the quickest and easiest ways to maximize your herd’s genetic potential is by supplementing with more bioavailable organic trace minerals across all stages of life. Recent research has shown that doing so leads to increased efficiency benefits, including maximized milk yield, higher reproductive performance, better hoof health and decreased somatic cell count. In addition, supplementing with organic trace minerals instead of inorganic sources reduces excess excretion into manure, making this a far more environmentally friendly option.
  10. Surround yourself with trusted professionals: Successful dairies are built around a trusted team of advisors working with a producer, often individually and, on occasion, as a group. This team may include nutritionists, veterinarians, agronomists, reproductive specialists and farm managers, among others. Each of these individuals must bring something of value to the table in order for your dairy to prosper. A successful team will set goals on a regular basis and communicate a vision, maintain priorities and hold each other accountable in order to reach those goals. The farm manager/producer must be the one to facilitate and own the plan through the help of each team member’s area of focus.

Times are definitely difficult, but you can still create a culture of continual improvement on your farm. The best way to do this is to set goals for changes you want to make to your business in the next year; make sure to write them down so you can monitor your progress over time.

Success often largely depends on consistent teamwork. Herd managers should consult with their team of experts and employees so everyone is working toward the same objective. Contact your local Hubbard Feeds dairy representative for further guidance on any of the recommended changes mentioned above, which could help you not only reach your goals but also add to your bottom line.

Dairy genomic project closer to feed efficiency number

The Canadian portion of the project hopes to gain more funding to complete its work

The Efficient Dairy Genome Project (EDGP) is looking for another year of funding so it can complete its work and create breeding indices for feed efficiency for Canadian dairy farmers.

The project recently held an international symposium in Guelph to check in with the co-ordinated research around the world being done on dairy feed efficiency.

Why it matters: Genomics have revolutionized the international dairy genetics system, and researchers have now turned to more difficult-to-measure, but highly valuable traits like feed efficiency.

Filippo Miglior, chief of research and strategic development at the Canadian Dairy Network, and one of the leaders of the Canadian EDGP said that another year of funding will also allow the researchers to look at other traits studied elsewhere in the world, such as tolerance to heat stress.

The EDGP is a huge project in Canada involving the University of Guelph, the University of Alberta and various other dairy organizations and agencies across the country.

Numerous doctoral students are involved in the research, including seven graduate students at the universities of Guelph and Alberta who gave summaries of their research into the links between feed efficiency and estimated breeding values for farmers.

Their work varies from identifying the genes that are tied to feed efficiency to how to screen animals for selection.

Canada is behind some other places in the world which started earlier than Canada at creating a genetic index for feed efficiency. Jennie Pryce, of Victoria Agriculture and La Trobe University in Australia, said that Australian producers already have access to a Feed Save breeding value, thanks to a significant investment in Australia in feed efficiency measurement facilities.

The challenge with feed efficiency is that it takes a long time to measure and requires dedicated cows and equipment. That makes it incredibly expensive compared to other traits which can be measured with on-farm data collected by milk recording organizations like CanWestDHI and classifiers who evaluated cows on farm, like Holstein Canada.

However, less expensive measuring technology, and the potential to establish baselines upon which genetic markers for feed efficiency can be created, have resulted in the creation of projects around the world.

In Australia, Pryce said generating the needed phenotypic, or real animal test data is expensive — $1000 per cow per year.

The Australians are also looking to create genomic indices for heat stress and methane emissions, based on the research done at the AgriBio Centre. There are now 400 people employed at the centre, most of them genomicists, said Pryce.

In Canada, much of the work is being done at the University of Guelph’s dairy research station near Elora, where cow feed intake is being measured individually.

In Alberta, on JP Brouwer’s farm, many of his cows also have individual feeding station’s installed. Brouwer’s farm is the Canadian on-farm co-operator and that has meant a lot of challenges for him.

He told the meeting that the system is working better after he dealt with the rodent and wiring issues as well as issues with the fibreglass troughs. Tag loss continues to be an issue. They also recently added weight measurement units in front of waterers to keep track of animal weight gain.

He’s now seeing usable information for his farm management, beyond collecting data for the national feed efficiency project. They are culling cows that don’t meet feed efficiency benchmarks.

Researchers are also addressing whether farmers will adopt genomics, now that feed efficiency is a possibility.

Farmers need to see a return on investment, said David Worden, a research associate at the University of Guelph. That will depend on individual farm circumstances. If they make breeding decisions based on genomics and don’t see improvement, then the use of feed efficiency traits won’t see growth, he said.

Ellen Goddard, of the University of Alberta is also working on farmer adoption of feed efficiency in breeding programs. She said that feed efficiency is a significant trait for lessening environmental impact of dairy farming, but that’s not enough for farmers to adopt it. They also have to see improved financial sustainability on their farms, she said.


Source: Farmtario

Calf care and handling videos now available online

Having properly trained employees is critical for the health, growth and development of dairy calves and for the profitability and sustainability of a dairy farm. A new series of resources is available through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to provide training in calf management including; newborn calf care, colostrum management, animal handling, automatic calf feeder management and hygiene and sanitation. Each of the videos are less than 3 minutes in length, utilizing video demonstration of on farm practices to emphasize key calf management practices.

 “Employees who manage calves should thoroughly understand why and how to test colostrum, importance of low stress handling and proper nutrition from birth, and hygiene for health and future animal performance” says Jennifer Bentley, ISU Extension & Outreach Dairy Field Specialist.  “Long-term, these training resources will provide better training and understanding of calf care, increased employee engagement and retention, better calf performance and increased farm profitability,” Bentley noted.

 Funding for this project was provided by the North Central Risk Management Education Center, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture under Award Number 2015-49200-24226.

Below is a list of the videos available in English and Spanish.  All the videos are included in the link below. 

Newborn Calf Care

  1. Passive Immunity
  2. Processing newborn calves
  3. Harvest and storage of colostrum
  4. Evaluation of colostrum quality
  5. Recommended colostrum feeding techniques
  6. Proper us of an esophageal feeder
  7. Evaluating protein absorption from colostrum


  1. Importance of hygiene
  2. Monitoring cleanliness of the calf kitchen

Low-stress handling

  1. Importance of Low-Stress Handling
  2. Determining flight zone & Defining Point of Balance
  3. Handling newborn calves
  4. Heat and cold stress
  5. Transportation and moving calves

Automatic Calf Feeders

  1. Automatic calf feeder management
  2. Group housing facilities
  3. Nutrition & health considerations
  4. Cleaning and sanitation of automatic calf feeders

Click here to view all the videos. 

Forget the past, dairy cows in the future will look very different…or will they?

Often a story begins with looking back-back to the good old days. Have you recently heard a dairy cattle breeder speak or write about how cows used to last until they were ten years old and that today cows are one lactation wonders? Should Bullvine readers accept this perception as fact? Especially knowing that breeding dairy cattle is about creating a superior cow for the future? Let’s think this one through.

Unique Comparison to 1960

Holsteins with the genetic merit of the 1960s have been maintained for study and comparison purposes at a University of Minnesota research station.  The photo below shows the physical appearance of cows from back then.

This cow from the U of M Morris Research Dairy is a living representation of genetics from the 1960s.

Compared to present day US Holsteins the cows from the 1960s were shorter, beefier, had udders that deepened quickly with age and they produced half as much milk (35 pounds per day from first calving to herd removal). Heifers calved for the first time at 27-28 months of age and a significant percentage of first calvers were culled after difficult calving or for low production or physical problems including undesirable udders. Also, twice as many calves died before weaning as happens today. By comparison to today, there were fewer genetic indexes and they were less accurate. The theory of comparisons that utilized BLUP had yet to be developed by Dr Charlie Henderson at Cornell.

The fact is those good old days of the 1960s were not actually that great. Breeders lamenting for those years are selectively remembering that only the top 10-20% of first lactation Holsteins excelled and those breeders are not remembering that 20-30% of cows one month into their first lactation had health issues, low milk, low-fat test, deep udders or weak median suspensory ligaments.  Over half the first lactation cows classified Good or lower in Canada in 1965.  Breeders thought in terms of their best animals and not what their herd average was.

Globalization of Single Purpose Dairy Cows Has Occurred

It is not just in North America where the dairy cow has changed.  Dual purpose cows have gone by the way and single purpose dairy cows have become the desired milk cows in “dairy” countries.

The picture below of the President of the German Holstein Association holding two cow models shows how fifty years of selective breeding has changed German Holsteins.

The next two pictures are pictures I took of a prize winner and a class line-up at the 1976 World Holstein-Friesian Conference Show held at Stoneleigh England. ‘Holsteinization’ of the Black and Whites were just underway in 1976 in the UK and the judge at that show was still looking for the dual-purpose cow.

Other breeds have also experienced significant changes in the ideal conformation of their cows.

The Present-Day Mature Cow

Below is a barn shot of a ten-year-old Holstein cow that checks many boxes for today’s dairy cattle breeders.

  Riverdown Baxter Marina,  VG-2yr/5E,   7 lactations  97,512 kgs 4.3%F 3.4%P
                    (Sire Stack – Baxter x Goldwyn x Lee x Lindy x Prelude x Inspiration)

Marina first calved at 2-02 and in the next eight and a half years (3060 days) of her life, she averaged 70 lbs. of milk per day. That’s 70 lbs. for every day – milking days plus dry days. It is interesting to note that Marina was just slightly above the average milk yield to her herdmates throughout her productive life while excelling in fat % and protein %.

As a young cow Marina ranked top 10% for her genetic indexes, however, today she falls to the top 50% level, due mainly to the very rapid genetic improvement that the Holstein breed has made in the past decade. As ever, time marches on.

In today’s purebred dairy breeder circles, much discussion can be heard on whether the ideal cow is the great old cow, like Marina, or the productive, low maintenance first to third lactation cow. However, it is A.I. studs and their commercial dairy breeder customers that are now driving the overall genetic progress and for which traits. But that is in 2019 terms. What about the ideal dairy cow for the future?

Tomorrow’s Cow

In a recent Milk House post about the cow of the future, which was commented on by almost sixty group members, there was equal support for wanting cows to remain much as they currently are and for wanting cows to be more – more functional, fertile, healthy, efficient converters and to be evaluated on a daily net profit basis. So, that would appear to say in breeders’ mind that the jury is still out on future selection criteria for both sires and cows. However, as dairy farming continues to evolve into a finer and finer tuned business with average herds size, in the US, moving towards 500 milking cows we can expect significant changes in the traits breeders include in their animal selection programs.

The first question that traditional breeders will ask about the cow of the future is – ‘What will the cow of the future look like?” The Bullvine sees that body form will not be as important as it has been in the past for purebred breeders. Breeders have enhanced the body form of dairy cattle as much as is possible using visual evaluation. In the future, it will be body part functions that will determine the body form for commercial cows. So, breed ideal or true type models will not be used by over 95% of future herd owners, as each owner will have their own ideal.  Final score and body parts genetic indexes will not be used. And descriptive scoring will be the primary conformation indexes (udder depth, teat placement, legs rear view, thurl width and hoof form) used in sire selection and mating programs. It is entirely possible that the conformation data will be captured using photo imaging. (Read more: Are You Breeding for the Correct Conformation to Produce the Greatest Lifetime Profit?, Does The Current Conformation Evaluation System Work for Commercial Breeders? and She Ain’t Pretty – She Just Milks That Way!)

Dr Jack Britt, Professor Emeritus, North Carolina State University along with a group of associate researchers and ag extension specialists have done extensive work on predicting what the dairy industry, globally but primarily in the US, will be like 50 years from now. Dr Britt has presented the group’s predictions many times over the past two years, including at the 2018 World Dairy Expo in Madison Wisconsin. They are predicting that in twenty years US cows will average over 40,000 lbs. milk per year and in fifty years over 55,000 lbs.  One slide from his presentation is shown below for traits and processes that will be commonplace.

– Future Dairy Cow Selection Criteria and Processes as seen by Dr Jack H Britt

Dr Britt has other slides that show: 1) that seven countries (US, India, China, Brazil, Germany, Russia and France) produce 50% of the global milk and twenty countries produce 75%; 2) that with global warming dairy cows will change from an animal that functions best in temperate climates to be heat tolerant; 3) that increased technology and epigenetics will be commonplace; and 4) that there will be enhanced ways of feeding the rumen microbes.

The fact is that dairy farming, including the genetic side, will undergo major changes in the next ten, twenty and fifty years

The Bullvine Bottom Line

For sure yesterday’s cows got us here… Definitely, tomorrow’s cows will be different.

In the future cows will function trouble free for many years in large groups on automated farms. They will live in a multitude of environments and will need to be able to produce a high volume of milk solids. They will efficiently covert non-human food to milk. And genetic selection will turn on net returns over a lifetime and how body parts function most effectively.



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Could once-a-day milking work on your dairy farm?

Teagasc is not promoting once-a-day milking for every farmer in the country, but it is a system that can work and is already working for some, according to Brian Hilliard of Teagasc.

“Over past number of years there has been a growing interesting in once a day milking from advisors around the country.

“We are not here to promote it for every farmer in the country but it is a system that can work and is working for some. It has a future and it does work well,” he told the recent Teagasc once-a-day milking seminar.


One of the main attractions of once-a-day milking, he said, is the ongoing issue of labour on dairy farms.

“We’ve had more queries from farmers last year that they can’t find labour or good labour. Last year was a particularly difficult year for farms.”


Lifestyle, he said is also a huge factor. Even if it’s to pick up the children from school in the evening, while it makes farming a more attractive career for young people to see there parents having a life.


Walking Distance

The reduced amount of walking for cows, he said, means things are also a lot easier for cows if they are currently walking a distance.

Outside Farms

With the increased number of outside farms, many farmers are looking at a twice a day herd at home and looking to establish a second dairy unit on outside bock and milking once a day on it.

Off-Farm Jobs

He also said that once-a-day milking will allow more and more farmers an off-farm job and can offer farmers a means to retirement.

“Many farmers in their late 50s or 60s want to keep up the routine of milking cows, but don’t want to retire. There is less stress on the operator and it’s hard to put a value on that.”

Impact on Cow Health

While herds will experience a drop in yields, there will be better fertility and health and potentially a higher price/litre.

Cows are healthier so less vet bills, he said, while there are lower costs for labour, electricity and the parlour.

According to Gillian O’Sullivan, the Zurich Insurance/Farming Independent Farmer of the Year, moving to once-a-day milking saw an immediate drop in milk solids.

But, once a day suited the farm layout and landscape. “It’s fragmented, with one block 5km away and a 400ft climb for cows to get to the milking parlour.”

She said that by halving walking distances lameness became virtually non existent on the farm.

Fertility improved, she said, but it was a profit V profit, lifestyle and family decision for her and her family.


Calf Health: Developing a Better, Faster Diagnostic for Cryptosporidiosis

Cryptosporidiosis is the primary cause of diarrhea in 1-3 week old dairy and beef calves, with conservative estimates placing the economic impact of the disease at $175 million per year in the U.S. in cumulative losses from death, treatment expenses and decreased production. Unlike the other major causes of neonatal calf diarrhea, no effective drugs or vaccines are presently available to combat the costly parasitic infection. The disease is of particular interest to Dr. Michael Riggs

, a veterinarian and professor in the Department of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences . Riggs researches the immunobiology and molecular pathogenesis of parasitic protozoal diseases of zoonotic importance including Cryptosporidiosis, or Crypto, which is caused by the microscopic parasite Cryptosporidium. The the parasite infects not only humans, but also domesticated mammals, fish and poultry, and young livestock, such as calves and lambs, are especially susceptible. For its victims, Crypto creates a multitude of problems. What starts as nausea can quickly bloom into abdominal pain and full-blown diarrhea, followed by a fever and dehydration. In most instances, healthy people recover within two weeks. But for people with weakened immune systems, an extended, persistent infection can be much more dangerous, causing rapid and sometimes life-threatening weight loss and dehydration. The tiny bug is spread through any contact with infected feces and is frequently contracted via water sources ­such as mountain streams, public pools or contaminated municipal drinking water. It can be found on babies’ changing tables and in the pens of newborn calves. Given the dangers of infection and how quickly the parasite can spread, early diagnosis is key in keeping it under control. To that end, Riggs and UA research specialist Deborah Schaefer have developed a panel of monoclonal antibodies that have proven useful for detecting Crypto. To maximize the impact of their work, the team has been working with Tech Launch Arizona , or TLA, the office of the UA that commercializes inventions stemming from research. As a result, the UA has licensed the first group of reagents to Kerafast , a Boston-based reagent company. Plans are to continue to add additional reagents in the future. “Ultimately, the goal is to get this technology out into the world where it can help the most people,” said Tod McCauley , senior licensing manager for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at TLA. “Kerafast will be a great partner to make that happen.”

Toward Faster, More Accurate Diagnosis

Riggs’ research concentrates on characterizing immune responses to Crypto – specifically on the development of recombinant vaccines, immunotherapies and drug discovery for Cryptosporidiosis – and improved methods for diagnosis. Current means of detecting and diagnosing Crypto present challenges including cost, performance, clinical significance and assessment of co-infection with other pathogens. In addition, the use of a wide variety of diagnostic methods and the inconsistent application of techniques makes it difficult to compare results from clinical and veterinary studies. Microscopy, for example, requires simple instrumentation and inexpensive consumables, but the process is laborious and lacks sensitivity and specificity. Molecular methods of detection such as polymerase chain reactions can be used identify the parasite at the species level, but testing for Crypto is not routine in most laboratories. The reagents developed in Riggs’ laboratory offer the opportunity for the creation of a rapid, highly sensitive diagnostic test for Crypto. “We are now making a characterized panel of mouse monoclonal antibodies available to the community for a variety of applications including rapid, simpler diagnostic assay development, antigen characterization and immunotherapeutic development,” Riggs said. “These antibodies are a useful resource for a broad range of research and development purposes,” he continued. “After years of development and characterization, we decided to make them available to others for a variety of applications which are expected to advance the field. TLA has been the perfect liaison to partner with Kerafast and allow this to happen.” McCauley says the university-industry arrangement is doing much more than getting this specific technology out into the marketplace; it represents a relationship and a pathway that will continue to serve both organizations going forward. “We are exploring ways we can work with Kerafast long term to add additional value to particular reagents and create new research avenues for antibodies through technologies available to create customized antibody sequences.” Kerafast’s Director of Business Development Matt Takvorian is likewise optimistic about the opportunity for impact. “At Kerafast, we are committed to accelerating scientific progress by facilitating access to the unique and useful research reagents developed by academic laboratories,” Takvorian said. “We are excited to partner with the Riggs lab to make these antibodies more easily available to scientists worldwide to advance research toward better Crypto diagnosis and treatment. We look forward to continuing to expand our relationship with the University of Arizona to bring more of its lab-made reagents to the wider scientific community.”

Source: University of Arizona

Canadian agriculture moves to lift stigma of mental health talk

The topic of mental well-being is growing in recognition and acceptance in the Canadian agricultural sector.

Topics once never talked about on coffee row, or maybe, not even in a household, are more likely to be shared. This new openness may be one of the only ways to change perceptions and actions – whether that be recognizing when someone isn’t themselves, offering wise advice if someone says they are facing challenges or even knowing when to reach out yourself.

Mental health on the farm

Mental wellness is an issue on the farm. How could it not be? Largely solitary work, production factors like weather and markets that aren’t controllable, short growing seasons, start-up and seasonal investments, finances and the tremendous responsibility of producing safe consumer products that meet a basic human need – food.

The good news is that along with more discussion, there’s tactical action.

4-H launches new support

Earlier this week, 4-H Canada announced a two-year, multi-partnership agreement that supports the emotional and physical well-being of rural youth across Canada through the 4-H Canada Healthy Living Initiative, beginning in spring 2019. The partnership brings a total of $150,000 in funding from Farm Credit Canada, UFA Co-operative Limited, Corteva Agriscience Agriculture Division of DowDuPont and Cargill together for the healthy living initiative.

FCC encourages dialogue

Also this week, Farm Credit Canada released a new publication, Rooted in Strength: Taking Care of our Families and Ourselves. It’s being delivered through the mail to 165,000 rural mail boxes this week. 

“Our desire is to help lift the stigma around mental health by promoting awareness, encouraging dialogue and enabling people throughout the agriculture industry to seek support if they need it,” writes Michael Hoffort, FCC president and CEO, adding when it comes to mental wellness, the ‘just tough it out attitude’ isn’t the right one.

Lift the stigma. Canadian agriculture is talking about mental health, whether it’s one-on-one with neighbours, staff or family, in federal committees, or with new resources and programs.

“I shared my own journey with anxiety because if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone,” says Kim Keller, a Saskatchewan producer featured in the publication.

Open the conversation

As co-founder of Do More Agriculture, a Canada-wide non-profit focused on mental health in agriculture, Keller is a public advocate and presenter on self-care, but she’s well aware that stigmas still need to be broken.

She promotes noticing when someone deviates from normal behaviours and checking-in with them in a genuinely compassionate way.

“It’s OK to say, ‘Hey, I’ve noticed you haven’t been yourself lately,’” Keller says, explaining it opens the door for conversation even if there’s fear.

Also at the federal level, mental health challenges in agriculture are currently being studied by the Federal Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. It’s hearing from individuals and groups in agriculture and mental health organizations to understand the issues facing the sector and share best practices, review available resources and identify gaps related to mental health in the agriculture community. Records of all the presentations are on the Standing Committee website.

Canada, unlike other countries, doesn’t track data about suicide in the agricultural community but stories shared with the Standing Committee show it’s happening. A 2016 reported study by the Centre for Disease Control found agriculture, forestry and fisheries workers in the United States five times more likely than the population at large to take their own life.

Mental health first aid

To help address the fear of talking with someone in a mental health crisis, the Mental Health Commission of Canada offers Mental Health First Aid training for individuals across the country. MHFA is like CPR training, but instead of learning the basics of helping someone in physical distress like a heart attack, it helps assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Courses on becoming a certified trainer are offered at the MHFA website.

Bottom line

Avoiding mental challenges doesn’t make them go away. A newly released booklet on the topic is an easy-to-read resource to learn more, whether it’s for self-care or used as the door-opener to initiate a conversation about mental-wellness.

Source: FCC

How dairy farm is controlling Johne’s while buying-in cows

When Jonathan Lovegrove-Fielden decided to covert Longden Manor Farm back to an organic autumn-block and expand to 300 cows his farm manager, Colin Bowen, knew they would have to buy-in cows to facilitate the move in a reasonable timeframe.

But having made good progress in reducing the prevalence of red and yellow Johne’s cows within the herd from 9% to 1.5%, he was keen not to undo the farm’s hard work.

The farm had begun whole herd testing for Johne’s some two years earlier, in April 2014, with tests carried out every quarter as part of their milk testing regime.

Although it wasn’t a requirement of their milk contract at that time, Mr Bowen believes that further down the line milk buyers could create a two-tier milk market and wanted to get ahead of the game.

Farm facts

  • 303ha owned
  • 285 autumn-calving crossbred cows (Holstein, Norwegian Red and Fleckvieh)
  • Grass-based, organic system
  • Producing 8,000 litres at 3.89 fat% and 3.36% protein
  • Supply OMSCo
  • Employ two full-time staff plus a calf rearer for six months

Whole herd testing involves sampling milk from individual cows and is deemed much more accurate than bulk tank sampling, as their farm vet, Nathan Loewenstein from Shropshire Farm Vets, explains.

“Bulk milk testing is still being offered to people, but it is a complete waste of money. For a tank not to be low you need a minimum of 15% of cows in the herd to be a high [risk]. So, a lot of herds that did bulk milk test came back negative and thought they were fine.

“But the number of herds that are false negative is massive and by the time they go positive you have to dig yourself out of a massive hole.”

As well as converting to organic, they decided to streamline their system and reduce labour by getting rid of their spring block of cows and becoming a solely autumn block. 

Buying-in animals

Being short of numbers and not wanting to extend their autumn block any further by rotating cows from spring to autumn calving, their only option was to buy in.

Their shopping list was extensive; cows had to be organic, good health status and autumn calving, which left them with limited vendors.

The first bunch of 13 animals was purchased this spring and as the herd they were buying from had limited Johne’s data they decided to pay £5-6 a head to blood test the animals for the disease during the pre-movement TB test.

“The Johne’s risk was accepted and it meant that if any cows were Johne’s positive they could then be managed as such. If you’re going to have to buy something you buy with as much information as you can,” says Mr Loewenstein.

“I think as an industry we are very poor at asking questions. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it, but we do buy most stock without knowing the disease history.”

Questions to ask when buying in animals:

  1. Ask for the Johne’s testing history
  2. Find out what management protocols the farmer and vet use to control Johne’s. Are they better than or as good as yours? If not, you need to consider how you manage those animals when they arrive.
  3. If your herd has a lower prevalence (<14% total and <4% red cows) then you need to manage bought-in cows as medium risk until you have more information about them.

Even though only three animals tested Johne’s-positive, all animals were treated as yellow rather than run the risk of them joining the herd and failing a test at a later date (see box: “six ways they have controlled Johne’s spread”).

Another 23 milkers and 13 bulling heifers were bought in September, but this time extra precautions were taken with lessons learned after buying in the spring.

“We looked for herds that had done a more significant level of Johne’s investigation and requested results for all of the animals we were interested in,” says Mr Bowen.

As a result, none of the animals bought in had a positive test, although animals were kept in isolation for four weeks after arrival and were milked separately to limit contact with the main herd. During this time, they were vaccinated for BVD and IBR.

This approach, while not bullet-proof, has helped the herd manage the risk and as a result keep the number of red cows within the herd constant.

In the next three years, they hope to be milking 300 cows at Longden Manor and have surplus replacements to sell for a premium.

Mr Bowen hopes that being organic and having a good disease status will make them attractive to other organic herds.

So, what’s his one piece of advice for other farmers starting their Johne’s journey?

“Don’t try and do it all at once. Gradual improvements are a lot easier to manage than trying to have a big impact at the start.”

Five ways Longden Manor Farm have controlled spread of Johne’s

  1. When an animal tests positive for the disease they are tagged with red ear tags. Cows that are deemed medium risk (yellow) are treated as high risk (red)
  2. Initially, staff separated red and yellow cows out at transition stage (one month before calving) on to a separate dry cow block of grass. Now they are separated at drying off and calve in a separate area.
  3. Yellow cows are bred to beef and red cows are not bred. Instead they are culled at the end of their lactation.
  4. Calves from Johne’s-positive animals are moved to a separate area away from other calves.
  5. Previously heifer calves were fed powdered milk, but the conversion to organic has meant this would have been very costly to continue so a necessary progression has been to pasteurise all colostrum and feed whole milk to calves. Only colostrum and milk from low-risk ‘green’ cows are fed to calves. The cow number is recorded so staff know which cow’s colostrum each calf has been fed.

About Johne’s disease

A slow-developing, incurable disease caused by MAP (Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis). Clinical form causes thickening of the intestine which means cows are unable to absorb nutrients.

At a sub-clinical level, it affects the immune systems and results in poor fertility, lower production, and other disease. It is spread through muck, milk, colostrum and in the womb.

It is closely related to avian tuberculosis and therefore, can affect the top lump on the TB test.


US dairy farmers struggle to make ends “meat”

Because the price of milk has been marginal for the last four years, Dairy Farmers have been struggling with keeping their farms going. Dairy Farmers like Scott Sawyer have turned to beef cattle as a means to supplement their income, but Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Jeff Miller tells us it’s not an easy choice.

“There are examples of people that have made that transition, or maybe I’m going to say not transition, but kind of that addition of that diversification of dairy production, but again it’s not going to be the answer for everybody.”

Other farmers are turning to soy beans, hay, grains, and even hemp, but Scott Sawyer of Hidden Hill Ranch isn’t ready to go that route.

“Certainly we could do it, but I don’t see us doing it. I can understand other people going that way, and I think it’s going to be very interesting to see it develop. I think it will develop actually, but I’m a cow guy. I like cows.” (laughs)

Cornell Cooperative Extension held a discussion with local farmers interested in what the beef industry might have to offer, but the interest was low. You’re probably not going to see a massive number of farmers making the transition from dairy to beef, but given the financial stresses of the dairy industry, farmers are likely going to look to diversify into other markets. It might sound like an easy answer, but each farm has individual challenges.

Jeff Miller says: “So there’s no cookie cutter… ok if you’re in dairy now and you’re finding it really tough to stay in because of the margins, here’s your answer. It’s going to be on an individual case by case method.”

Hidden Hill Ranch is hoping to sell their beef products in local farmers markets, an already established group of buyers, and right on his own farm.


Tips to Keeping Livestock Healthy During Winter Months

Most animals need some shelter during the winter months, however their natural winter coats allow them to endure cold temperatures. ( Drovers )

Winter has arrived in full force in Michigan. Cold temperatures can cause some challenges in our barns, but utilizing some easy techniques on your farm will help you manage your herd successfully during the winter months.


Ensuring your herd has access to fresh, clean water is essential to their health. In the winter, battling frozen water buckets and tanks can be a challenge. By utilizing tank heaters, heated buckets or automatic waterers, water is kept ice-free and at a temperature the animal is comfortable drinking.

Products that utilize electricity, such as tank heaters and heated buckets, should be checked with a voltmeter to ensure there is no current running through the water. Any electrical current will deter animals from drinking from the water tank or bucket. By inserting one end of the voltmeter in the water tank and the other into the ground, you will get a reading that will indicate if there is a problem. Make sure to check this often.

The University of Wisconsin Extension has published a water consumption chart that outlines the amounts of water certain species will consume per day. Ensuring that your animal is consuming enough water each day is critical to their overall health and well-being.

Amount of water livestock will consumer per day
Species Water needs, gallons per day
Cattle 7-12
Goats 1-4
Hogs 6-8
Horses 8-12
Llamas 2-5
Poultry Up to 1
Rabbits Up to 1
Sheep 1-4


Most animals need some shelter during the winter months, however their natural winter coats allow them to endure cold temperatures. Providing shelter or wind breaks that can be easily accessed by animals is key. Humans oftentimes are prone to making the winter environment for their animals too warm, which is unhealthy for animals.

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following factors to consider when evaluating the housing of your animals:

  • Air quality. Is there adequate ventilation to help dispel respiration gasses and manure odor? Depending on the type of barn you have, there are various ways the barn can be ventilated. Ridge vents are more prevalent in newer barns and are based on the premise that heat rises. Older barns may require opening doors or windows to allow for air circulation. Poorly ventilated spaces can cause irritation in the animals’ lungs and lead to respiratory infections such as pneumonia. If you notice condensation on walls or ceilings, that is a good indication your air isn’t ventilating enough for the number of animals occupying the space. You will need to adjust accordingly.
  • Dry bedding areas. Dry bedding provides insulation from the cold ground and helps decrease the amount of energy animals use to keep them warm. There are many options for bedding you can use; straw, wood shavings and with cattle in particular you can use corn stover or similar crop residues for cows and bulls.


Animals must maintain their energy reserves in order to endure cold temperatures. Before the weather gets cold, asses the body condition of each animal and adjust the nutrition they are receiving to adequately prepare them to thrive in winter conditions. It is critical to continue to assess body condition scores throughout the winter, as it may be necessary to increase the amounts of good quality feed and forages. Supplying adequate amounts of feed is essential in your herds well-being through the winter months.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit

More Women Returning to the Farm in Management Roles

Knowing that women approach business with different priorities can help farm and ranch families maximize their effectiveness in management roles.

This was the theme of the “Making Room for Women Managing Family Business” workshop, presented by Jeanne Bernick, principal and market strategist with KCoe Isom, at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 100th Annual Convention.

“We’re seeing more and more women come back to the farm – and all kinds of family businesses,” said Bernick.

Today, women comprise 31 percent of all U.S. farmers and ranchers, run 14 percent of all U.S. farms and ranches, and own 30 percent of all farmland in the country, said Bernick. Forty-four percent of FFA students are girls.

“Yet women are still less than 10 percent of senior executives at major agribusiness companies. But that’s changing,” she said.

Bernick helps families transition businesses between generations. She has worked with many daughters, nieces and sisters-in-laws who are returning to the farm and are interested in management roles.

Women want fulfillment in their work.

“Women bring heart to business. They want to do what they’re passionate about,” said Bernick.

Women also want to leave a strong legacy.

“They’re interested in what is going to happen to the family business in the next generation and beyond. ‘How do we make this legacy stick?’ This is what I hear most,” she said.

Having a plan is an effective way to maximize a woman’s success in a leadership role.

“It works well for women in managing a family business when they run from a plan rather than off the cuff,” said Bernick. “Map out a one-year plan, a five-year plan. Once they have a plan, women are incredibly focused. This makes them incredible leaders.”

Women are also more inclined to continue learning on the job, proactively seeking knowledge in books, trainings, online classes and support groups.

Women in leadership roles make great mentors; they’re interested in paying it forward.

“Women supporting other women is really important. They’re really community-based. When we feel like we have a community we can be a part of, we blossom,” she said. 

It’s also important to teach women their value.

“I find women tend to see their value in what they do, like raising kids or meal planning. I help them remember they’re also valuable for who they are. Their ideas are valuable.”

While it can be a change for a farm or ranch to have a woman assume a leadership role, there are many advantages to be gained.

Bernick quoted Kevin O’Leary, “Mr. Wonderful” from the Shark Tank TV show: “My most successful business ventures are those with women leaders.”

“There are lots of reasons for this, but the one that sticks out: women can multitask,” said Bernick. “There’s a reason for the old saying, ‘If you want something done, give it to a busy mom.’”


Source: Southeast Ag Net

High-tech Holsteins: Robots run Smiths Grove dairy

Elkins, a fourth-generation dairyman, is one cowpoke who these days does his poking at touchscreens on an operation that would be more at home on an episode of “Star Trek” than on the set of “Green Acres.”

A typical day for Elkins might involve checking a computer report to get data on how production is going, troubleshooting a robot or making sure a device called a Juno does its job of pushing grain so it’s within reach of the 410 Holstein cows on this farm.

Those contented cows eagerly munch the grain and then dutifully head into a chute that leads to one of the eight bright red robots that do the work once done by hand.

Lasers guide mechanical nozzles that do the milking while the cow – outfitted with a unique ear tag and collar for identification – is weighed. The robot, after enticing Bossy with a food pellet, gathers information on the volume and temperature of the milk and the animal’s milking history.

Welcome to the brave new world of dairy farming, one in which depressed milk prices and a depressing scarcity of farm labor have made such automation almost as necessary as calcium in your diet.

“The biggest thing with these robots is the labor savings,” said Elkins, a 37-year-old who runs Knob View Dairy and the nearby Elkins Dairy with his father, Tim Elkins, and brother Chad Elkins. “We’re milking 600 or so cows at the other dairy, and it takes six or seven people to do the milking. That labor is getting harder and harder to find.”

Despite that need to save on labor costs, the Elkins family didn’t jump into the world of high-tech farming overnight. They ruminated for months over how best to handle this herd of ruminants.

“We probably thought about it for a couple of years,” Bradley Elkins said. “We visited some dairies that already had robots.”

Watching many of their fellow dairymen get out of the business as milk consumption and bulk milk prices both headed south, the Elkins family members pondered if there was a future in the business.

Such thoughts are understandable when you look at the numbers. U.S. milk farm prices, which floated above $25 per 100 pounds as recently as 2014, sunk down to the $15 range last year.

With U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics showing that Americans, on average, are drinking 37 percent less milk today than they did in 1970, that market price isn’t likely to rebound.

Small wonder that the number of Kentucky dairy farmers has plummeted from 2,000 to around 600 over the past 20 years.

Rather than join the ranks of ex-dairymen, Bradley Elkins explained that he and his family decided on the bold survival strategy of investing in eight Lely Astronaut robots listed on the website of the Netherlands-based company at a price tag of about $200,000 apiece.

The Lely machines started milking in June, making Knob View the biggest robotic dairy operation in the state.

“We’re all in,” Bradley Elkins said. “There’s no turning back now.”

In fact, the Knob View dairy barn was built to accommodate eight more robots, although Elkins said any expansion will depend on milk prices.

For now, he’s pleased with the results.

“It was an adjustment for the cows and for us,” he said. “But the cows are getting used to it, and they will typically give more milk in these systems.”

Elkins explained that cows are normally milked twice a day on traditional dairy farms. In a robotic operation, he said: “Each station can handle 60 cows per day and milk them three times a day on average.”

Knob View’s cows are producing 33,000 pounds (nearly 4,000 gallons) of milk per day, and Elkins believes the “cow comfort” features of the robotic operation can potentially help that number go higher.

As a result of increased production and lower labor costs, Elkins reasons that the robots that have a useful life of 15 years will pay for themselves in 10 years.

Another local dairy farmer, Carl Chaney, can vouch for the efficiency of the Lely robot. The dairyman and owner of the Chaney’s Dairy Barn restaurant and ice cream shop converted his 60-cow operation to the robot in 2016 and doesn’t regret it.

“We’ve been extremely happy with it,” Chaney said. “We had milked in the old barn from 1962 through 2016 twice a day, every day. It got to where we were always working around the schedule of those who were milking for us. It was very difficult. Dairy help is very hard to find.”

So Chaney eliminated his labor costs and also made his dairy more efficient by investing in a robot bought from Lely dealer Dairy Express Services in Columbia.

“You usually expect a 15 percent increase in production when you go from a standard operation to the robot,” Chaney said. “That’s what we based our budget on. But we’ve been getting about a 25 percent increase in production.

“The robot milks 24 hours a day, and the cows are able to go in at any time. We had figured the robot would pay for itself in a little over 10 years, but now we’re figuring about eight years.”

Josh Kemp, co-owner of Dairy Express Services, said the trend toward automation is here to stay as dairy farms look for efficiency.

“The market is definitely moving in that direction,” he said, adding that Lely continues to produce newer and better versions of the robot milkers. “The lack of a labor force is the No. 1 factor.”

Elkins, while saying he never dreamed just a few years ago that he would be milking with robots, now embraces the trend.

“It’s amazing how fast technology has taken over,” he said. “In another 50 years, there’s no telling what this business will look like.”


Source: Bowling Green Daily News

Nitrate Nitrogen (NO3-N) or Nitrate (NO3-) – Know the Difference

When you test your hay or corn stalks or cover crop for nitrates, look closely at the report to see what method your lab used to report your nitrate results. Photo courtey of Troy Walz, NE Extension.

I just got the forage test results back from the lab and the nitrate score was 3,000. Am I in trouble?

Every year I get multiple questions similar to this one. Unfortunately, with just this information I’m unable to give a useful answer. So – the first question I ask is “Was this reported as nitrates or as nitrate nitrogen?”

Why is it important to know the difference between nitrate nitrogen and nitrates? Well, using the example above, if the score was 3,000 parts per million of nitrate nitrogen, then the forage may have a nitrate concentration that is almost 50 percent higher than what we often consider to be the potentially toxic level for nitrate nitrogen. It would be risky for cattle to eat this forage without taking some precautions.

However, if the score was 3,000 parts per million of nitrate there should be no worries since this is less than one-third the danger level for nitrates. So the same score or value can range from quite dangerous to perfectly safe depending on how it is reported.

So what is the reason for these big differences? Basically, it comes down to how each individual laboratory tests for and then reports results for nitrates. When a laboratory reports directly the concentration of nitrate, it is referring specifically to the nitrate ion, which is designated chemically as NO3-. Most labs and advisors consider a level of 9,000 to 10,000 parts per million of the nitrate ion to be the level where toxicity concerns begin.

Some labs, though, report the amount of nitrogen that is in the nitrate ion and call it nitrate nitrogen and report it chemically as NO3-N. Nitrate is one part nitrogen plus three parts oxygen so nitrogen only makes up about 22.6 percent on the nitrate ion. Thus, a much smaller amount of nitrate nitrogen is needed to produce the same effect as the entire nitrate ion. As a result, the danger level for nitrate nitrogen begins somewhere between 2,000 and 2,300.

Is one method better than the other? No – both give the same result and either one can be used to determine the safety of your feed. In fact, it is easy to mathematically convert between nitrate and nitrate nitrogen by using the following formulas:

Nitrate = Nitrate Nitrogen x 4.43
Nitrate Nitrogen = Nitrate x 0.226

Next time you test your hay or corn stalks or cover crop for nitrates, look closely at the report to see what method your lab used to report your nitrate results. Then, if you want to talk with someone about the safety or feeding alternatives for your forage you can be sure both of you are talking the same language.


Feeding baby calves in winter a chilly proposition

 When Old Man Winter and Mother Nature start two-stepping through the short days and long nights of winter, big changes can happen quickly for baby calves. 

During the first three weeks of life, calves rely almost solely on the milk ration to meet their nutrition needs.

“Calves are more susceptible to cold stress than older animals, due to their low body fat reserves and larger surface-area-to-body-mass ratio, which causes them to lose body heat more rapidly,” says Skip Olson, technical services veterinarian for Milk Products.

“While young calves have the ability to consume and digest small amounts of starter grain, their energy needs come primarily from the milk ration,” says Olson. “Calves over three weeks of age consume more starter, providing them with more energy to resist cold weather challenges.”

Since baby calves depend on milk for most of their energy needs, it’s especially important to adjust the liquid ration for cold conditions. Olson says not doing so can have a snowball effect on young calves.

“Calves can stop gaining and possibly even lose weight,” he notes. “Their immune system can become compromised, leading to health challenges.”

Pour on the nutrients

Here are three main ways to adjust the milk ration and help baby calves meet the demands of cold weather:

1. Increase the volume fed per day by feeding more often, a larger quantity at each feeding, or both.

2. Increase the concentration of the milk offered by adding more solids to the existing volume.

3. Increase the fat content of existing milk volume.   

“By far the best method to feed more nutrition is to feed the same diet more frequently during the day,” Olson advises. “Not every farm can adjust to feeding three times per day, but if they can manage to do it for just baby calves, an important need can be met.”

Feeding higher solids, or added fat, to the existing milk increases the total solids fed and may subject baby calves to a higher risk of bloat. The following chart using the National Research Council (NRC) calf model equations comparing different feeding rates of milk – one with fat added and two with increased volume – clearly shows that a little extra volume goes a long way in meeting the energy needs of a young calf.

Beyond the liquid ration

Boosting milk replacer feeding rates requires attention to other details to keep calves in balance. Olson offers the following advice for effectively transitioning calves to winter rations:

1. Timing – Pick a date in advance of when you are going to change the feeding program in the fall and stick with it until spring, despite weather fluctuations. One of the worst things you can do to a calf is change the rules.

2. Water – Do your best to deliver warm water shortly after milk feeding. Calves will reward your effort by drinking more water, eating more starter grain and continuing to grow during the coldest weather.

3. Starter – Even during cold weather, pay close attention to the starter bucket. Make sure the grain is available and palatable to encourage young calves to eat as much as they can. 

4. Housing – A clean, dry, draft-free environment, with deep bedding and possibly calf jackets, will help calves reserve energy and channel their metabolic efforts toward immune function and growth.

5. Milk Preparation – Milk prepared for feeding during extreme cold will cool rapidly outdoors. Adjust the initial temperature accordingly to achieve a milk feeding temperature of 100-105 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry milk replacer stored in cold conditions will affect the final feeding temperature when mixed. Adjust warm water accordingly with an accurate thermometer to achieve consistent feeding temperatures.

“Cold weather can be challenging for raising calves,” says Olson. “But it doesn’t have to make raising healthy calves impossible. With careful attention to the liquid ration and other surrounding details, many farms successfully raise healthy, well-grown replacements through the most brutal conditions.”


Preventing and preparing for barn fires

Have you ever thought about how you can prevent a fire in your barn? Read this tips for reducing the risk and being prepared for a barn fire.

Have you ever considered what you would do if you had a barn fire? How would you protect your animals and all the other assets you have in your barn? What could you have done to prevent it? The thought of a fire is very scary. Although you cannot completely eliminate the risk that there could be a fire in your barn, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk and be more prepared.

Tips for reducing the risk of a barn fire

Contact your local fire department to have them do a “checkup” of your barn and offer more recommendations for your individual situation. The University of Kentucky’s “Preventing Barn Fire: Tips for Horse Owners” recommends the following steps in reducing your chances of having a barn fire.

  • No smoking! Bedding and hay can easily be ignited by a person smoking in or around the barn. Enforce a strict no smoking policy in your barn. Post signs inside and outside your barn.
  • Place a fire extinguisher next to each exit, utility box and at roughly 30-40-foot intervals in your barn. Inspect and recharge each extinguisher every year, and use a ABC (general purpose) extinguisher.
  • Clean off cobwebs and pick up loose bailer twine. By making sure your barn is clutter-free, you are helping eliminate ways for fire to spread.
  • Electrical devices need to be professionally installed and encased in conduit. Pay attention during winter months to water tank heaters and heated buckets—they continue to generate heat even if there is no water present, which can cause the plastic to melt and a fire to ignite bedding and hay. If you are using electrical cords, make sure that they are professional grade, inspected often and are not overloaded. Keep lights caged and only use lights that are designed for barn use.
  • If possible, keep hay and bedding stored away from a barn housing animals. If you only have one barn, like many of us, make sure hay has properly cured before storing it in the barn. Check the internal temperature of curing hay by poking a thermometer into the middle of the bale. If the temperature reaches 150 degrees, the hay should be monitored. If it reaches 175 degrees, contact the fire department.
  • Keep tractors, fuel, other petroleum products and machinery away from the barn. Clear any grass, hay, leaves or other combustible materials from equipment before storage.

Tips for being prepared in case there is a barn fire

Mentally prepare yourself so that you can act calmly and safely in the case of a fire. Remember that human safety is the top priority—ensure your own safety and the safety of others before taking care of animals. The University of Kentucky’s “Preventing Barn Fire: Tips for Horse Owners” recommends the following steps for preparing yourself and being ready if a fire does occur in your barn.

  • Identify and designate a safe place for your animals to go if you can get them out of the barn safely. This location should be away from the fire and allows fire crews enough room to do their jobs.
  • Handling equipment such as halters, leads, etc. should be quickly accessible. Consider the materials these items are made of. Remember that plastic and nylon will melt in heat.
  • Talk about the plan with members of your family and any employees you might have so they can also be prepared in an emergency.
  • Mark gates, pens or stalls with reflective tape or glow-in-the dark paint. This will make it easier to see where you are going in the dark.
  • If you are removing animals, start closest to the exit first and handle animals one at a time or by groups if they are herd animals. Always maintain control of the animals to help reduce their stress, which can prevent other injury risks.

If there is a fire, call 911 and get people out of the barn. Only get animals out if you can do so without risking human safety. Follow the directions from the fire department or 911 dispatcher.

No one ever wants to think about the risk of a fire, but it is best to be fully prepared so that you can react fast and appropriately.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension.

Dairy Genomic Indexes Stand The Test of Time

A major new study of Holstein dairy sires has confirmed that genomic indexes are a remarkably reliable predictor of actual daughter performance. This provides reassurance to the thousands of UK dairy producers who select service sires on the strength of an index based on their DNA.

Our study included every genomic sire marketed in the UK in August 2014 and compared its genomic index at that time with its daughter-proven index in August 2018.  

Some 7,745 bulls were included in the analysis which showed there was little difference between their average genomic index in 2014 and their proven index four years later.

Marco Winters, head of animal genetics for AHDB Dairy says: “This study should give complete reassurance that UK genomic indexes are amongst the most stable and reliable in the world. Provided they chose their service sires wisely, the many producers who put their faith in genomic indexes should have made substantial genetic gains in their herds.”

We introduced genomic indexes for bulls marketed in the UK in 2012. At that time, the technology to calculate the indexes was still in its early stages, and producers were made aware they were more likely to change over time than indexes for proven sires which already had many daughters milking.

However, the attraction of using these young sires was their generally superior genetics which would help producers breed better replacement dairy heifers. Thousands of producers took this opportunity and some now breed 100 per cent of their replacements from genomic sires. Across the UK, around 70 per cent of dairy replacements are now bred from these young bulls.

Full results from the study group are shown in Table 1. The correlation figure, also in the table, gives an indication of how close all of the sires are to that average change figure. Correlation figures for all traits were generally considered high, indicating there was a narrow spread of bulls around the average. In other words, as well as the average index in 2018 being close to, or the same as, the average in 2014, there was not a wide spread of bulls around that average. This means that most individual bulls’ indexes were close to their former prediction. The graph depicts this information in figures and indicates that between 2014 and 2018, 34.2 per cent of bulls’ indexes (in this case for Lifespan but equally applicable for other indexes) did not change at all and most others have changed very little.

A second analysis of a smaller sub-set of bulls which now have far more daughters showed exactly the same pattern. This gives further reassurance that as large numbers of daughters finally contribute to a bull’s index later in life, their indexes are still unlikely to see much change on average from their initial genomic predictions.

Marco continued: “We were confident in the system when we launched genomic indexes in the UK in 2012, and this analysis confirms the reliability of the techniques we used.”

Remarking that the UK teamed up with the USA, Canada and Italy to provide one of the largest reference populations in the word, he said this helped ensure the reliability of the UK indexes.

Table 1: Aug ’18 PTAs for daughter-proven sires compared with their genomic indexes in Aug ’14

Predicted Transmitting Ability (PTA) Aug ’18 (average) Change since 2014 Correlation between Aug ’14 and Aug ’18
Reliability (milk, fat and protein) % 83 15  
Milk kg 452 30 0.85
Fat kg 15.0 -0.6 0.85
Protein kg 13.7 0.1 0.86
Fat % -0.03 -0.02 0.90
Protein % -0.01 -0.01 0.87
Reliability (SCC) 83 14  
SCC -11 0 0.83
Reliability (Lifespan) 69 9  
Lifespan 0.25 -0.01 0.80
Reliability (Fertility Index) 72 9  
Fertility Index 3.2 0.3 0.85

 7,745 sires contributed to the data in this table

 Graph 1 Distribution Of Percentage Change Of Genomic Indexes


Graph 1: Distribution of percentage change between young sires’ genomic indexes for Lifespan PTA in August 2014 and the same sires’ daughter-proven indexes in August 2018


Genomic reminder

What’s a genotype?

The genotype is the genetic make-up (or gene-set) of the animal. It is measured from a tissue sample containing the animal’s DNA (its genetic blueprint) and expressed as a raw code which goes on to be interpreted by AHDB Dairy, through its contract partners, Egenes, and converted to a genomic index.

What’s a genomic index?

A genomic index is a genetic index which is calculated from the gene-set or genotype of a young animal, rather than from its own, its daughters’ or its parents’ and ancestors’ actual performance. In reality, the genomic component of an animal’s index is used alongside other genetic information from these alternative sources, in a smooth transition towards an index which will ultimately be based on actual or daughter performance.

What’s a reference population?

A reference population (also called a training population or a predictor population) comprises several thousand animals whose phenotype (actual performance/appearance) and genotype (or gene-set) are compared. This allows relationships to be established and from these, genomic Predicted Transmitting Abilities (PTAs) are calculated.

What do the correlations mean?

Correlation figures indicate how widely spread the population is around the average (in this case, the mean). To demonstrate with the extremes, a correlation of zero would indicate that the spread around the average was huge – in other words, while the average change in index for all sires may have been small, large numbers of bulls would not have been close to their former prediction.

Conversely, a correlation of one would mean that every bull’s daughter index was identical to its former genomic index. Obviously that would be an impossibility, and wouldn’t even happen between index runs for a group of daughter-proven sires!

What’s the recommended usage of genomic sires?

Genomic indexes remain marginally less reliable than daughter-proven indexes which means their likelihood of change is greater. However, this study has indicated the indexes used over the past four years have been extremely accurate. Ultimately, farmers have to take their breeding decisions based on their attitude to risk. Usage should continue to be based on the existing advice, which is to limit the use of any single young sire to 12.5% of the herd, which – if all inseminations are to genomic sires – means using a minimum of eight young sires each year. Current young sire usage runs at about 70% of dairy inseminations in the UK.


Source: AHDB Dairy

Dairy farmers feel the strain as feed prices keep climbing

Prices climb: The year opens with milling grade Hard 2 wheat trading at $451 a tonne delivered to Melbourne end users, a $172 hike over the same time last year.

THE drought-starved production sector and limited volume grower selling is supporting cereal grains.

The year opens with milling grade Hard 2 wheat trading at $451 a tonne delivered to Melbourne end users, a $172 hike over the same time last year.

Australian General Purpose wheat prices have strengthened more in the past year and have been trading in limited volume at $429 a tonne delivered to Melbourne.

The tail end of the southern harvest continues following the delays caused by rainfall last month. The 90mm of rain that has fallen in the southern Wimmera and Western District during November and December has caused some wheat to succumb to the enzymatic breakdown of starches in the grains.

Growers in the west Wimmera have achieved falling number readings of 230 to 250 seconds, below the 300 seconds minimum required for milling wheat classification.

The dry winter and early spring combined with the wet and mild finish to the growing season in the Wimmera and Mallee has had some unexpected consequences. Wheat crops that had reached harvestable yields have produced Hard grade 1 quality.

With a small number of grains in each head that all filled in the mild conditions, protein levels of over 15 per cent were achieved.

Feed grade one barley prices are also firm trading at a nominal $390 delivered to stockfeed mills in Melbourne and the Western District. After trading at a $5 a tonne premium to AGP wheat during August, the price discount for F1 barley has extended to $49 a tonne. This is an attractive discount for barley buyers in Victoria as most of the east coast market is being set from the price of wheat and barley imported from Western Australia.

The price discount for F1 under AGP in Western Australia is currently $30 a tonne.

Livestock operators who depend on grain for their production are struggling with the ramped up grain prices. While barley is a cheaper grain in absolute terms, AGP wheat and F1 barley are priced at a similar level when considered on a cents per megajoule basis.

For most livestock producers the high grain prices are biting deeply into their profitability. Dairy farmers in the Goulburn and Murray Valleys are struggling and the level of grain and concentrates in many herds has fallen from 8kg per cow to under 5kg.

Any claim arising from the information contained on the eDairy News website will be submitted to the jurisdiction of the Ordinary Courts of the First Judicial District of the Province of Córdoba, Argentine Republic, with a seat in the City of Córdoba, to the exclusion of any another jurisdiction, including the Federal.

Source: The Weekly Times

Averages Don’t Tell the Whole Story: Cost of Raising Dairy Calves

Periodically, UW-Extension Specialists and Agriculture Agents have collected farm level data to benchmark calf and heifer raising costs. Our first fact sheet The cost of raising dairy calves using individual or automated feeding systems covered the key findings comparing individual feeding systems (bottle or bucket) to using an automated milk feeding system.

In the factsheet Averages don’t tell the whole story, UW-Extension St. Croix County Agriculture Agent Ryan Sterry digs deeper into the variation in costs to rear calves in both systems. The lowest cost producer was $232 per calf, and the highest was $816 per calf, a significant range of $584.

For more information, please visit UW-Extension Dairy Replacement Management.

Investing in success The pay-offs of boosting milk production

Being a dairy producer is more than a job or even a career — it’s your life. With faith, drive and mindful decision-making, you can help your dairy succeed by identifying opportunities for increased profit potential.

You are in the business of making and selling milk, so to the extent that you can make more milk on a pounds per cow per day basis, the more profitable you are going to be. In fact, a study by Zoetis and Compeer Financial found that herds with high milk production increased their profitability by $192 per cow per year.1,*

The study analyzed 11 years of herd data from 489 year-end financial and production-record summaries to identify key areas driving profitability on dairies. When adjusted and sorted, the difference in individual cow production between the top third and bottom third of herds in this study was 20 pounds of milk per cow per day that’s a difference of $209,000 per year in net farm income.1

Produce more milk to outpace production costs

Here’s how. You have low variable costs, such as the small incremental cost of additional feed needed to make more milk. As milk production goes up, maintenance costs, on a per-hundredweight (cwt) basis, go down. The revenue increases from producing and selling more milk will outpace any additional costs associated with making that milk. Subsequently, dairies that generate an additional 20 pounds of milk per cow per day are generating more net farm income.

The bottom line is making more milk makes you more profitable.

Milk production and profit drivers: It’s all relative

The study also found that increased milk production correlated with other dairy financial drivers and positive management benefits. Herds producing more milk also had an improved 21-day pregnancy rate, lower feed cost per cwt of milk, fewer days open and lower death losses, as well as reduced somatic cell counts.

Prioritizing reproduction helps increase productivity, profits

Milk production positively correlated with increased 21-day pregnancy rates in the study.1 Cows get pregnant on a faster basis and we see fewer days open, benefiting dairies because the cows are not in late lactation for extended periods of time. Average milk production per day goes up, as does herd profitability and net farm income.

Additionally, it is my opinion that producers managing high-producing herds have increased confidence in their ability to get cows pregnant. Therefore, they invest more in their breeding program — purchasing semen from top sires and increasing the rate of genetic progress in their herds at a faster rate than herds with more moderate levels of milk production. Over time, these progressive dairies enhance their herd genetics, health and wellness, improving the overall herd. This results in healthier cows that produce more milk and higher profits. This positive feedback cycle allows producers to differentiate their operation from others across the industry. 

Older cows are more productive, profitable

Keeping cows healthy, so they can produce milk in the prime of their careers, helps drive profitability. Managing death losses and somatic cell counts are important profitability drivers and pushing these rates lower can help reduce herd turnover and increase milk production.

Herds in our study with higher average levels of milk production per cow had lower death rates. I believe this is credited to excellent animal husbandry within those high-producing herds. Excellent animal husbandry improves animal wellness and performance, partly by reducing overall health risks, therefore reducing death losses and elevated cow turnover rates, so we can keep older, higher-producing cows in the herd longer.

Finally, increased milk production had a strong negative correlation to somatic cell counts. Not surprisingly, when cows are exposed to intramammary challenges, such as mastitis, they produce less milk. However, we also saw herds with higher energy-corrected milk were milking more older cows, ultimately producing more milk per cow on a per-day-of-productive-life basis.

Three tips to make more milk

Now that we understand the connection between making more milk and improving net farm income, let’s discuss how to make more milk on your dairy. 

  1. Optimize reproduction. Recent reports show that energy-corrected milk production is positively correlated with 21-day pregnancy rates, as well as profitability.1 Use a high conception fertility synchronization program to help increase the number of cows that become pregnant at first service with fixed-timed artificial insemination.
  1. Reduce somatic cell counts. Cows with a somatic cell count (SCC) greater than 200,000 cells/mL can experience a loss of 576 pounds of milk.2 To reduce somatic cell counts, start by monitoring first-test SCC data from your most recent Dairy Herd Improvement test records. Then, work closely with your veterinarian to establish best practices for culturing, record-keeping, hygiene, parlor management and employee training. Your prevention efforts can help achieve more marginal milk for your dairy.
  2. Keep the right cows in your herd longer. It is well established that third-lactation cows produce about 25% more milk per day than first-lactation cows. Could adverse health events be threatening your herd’s longevity and milk production? By conducting genomic testing with CLARIFIDE® Plus, you can identify and invest in the right heifers — those with the lowest risk for disease and greatest livability. 


New Zealand Dairy Farmers: enough is enough

But dairy farmers not compliant on effluent matters can be easily fixed.

Waikato dairy farmer Ross Wallis feels effluent non-compliance in the Waikato region can be easily fixed – by cracking down on offenders.

The Waikato Regional Council (WRC) recently announced that 31 per cent of “high-risk” Waikato farms inspected for effluent compliance were found to be significantly non-compliant. The Council targeted 239 of the 3800 farms in the region – those that are known to have less than seven days effluent storage, those on high risk soils or repeat offenders.

Wallis, a member of DairyNZ’s Waikato Dairy Leaders Group, says the non-compliance figures in the Waikato are “unacceptable”.

“If you look at farmers across the board, about 95 per cent nationally are compliant,” says Wallis. “So what’s happening in Waikato is not fair on them – and a lot of farmers are now saying enough is enough and that there needs to be more enforcement, especially on repeat offenders.


Having said that, my personal view is that most of the non-compliant farms are easily fixed; it is only a minority who have big problems and who need to be held to account.”

The WRC farm services team has inspected 239 “high risk” farms since July 1. Of the high-risk farms inspected, 34 had upgraded their effluent operations. However, 31 per cent were found to be significantly non-compliant, including some who had been non-compliant the previous season.

While the inspections focused on high-risk farms, the team emphasised that the bulk of the regions 3800 dairy farmers were “outstanding ” with their compliance.

Wallis, who farms at Raglan, says dairy farmers who were putting in the effort with good effluent management were now looking out for non-compliers, and were reporting them.

“It’s not as if dairy farmers can’t get help to manage this issue,” he says. “There have been so many tools put out there to help farmers with this over the past three years – there’s really no excuse for not addressing it.

“From a personal perspective, my interaction with the WRC has been terrific – I couldn’t speak more highly of them and their engagement officers who helped me get an effluent plan together and helped me with planting round waterways.

“I know too that companies like Fonterra have been actively employing more sustainable dairying advisors to help with this kind of problem and others.”

Dr Caleb Higham, catchment engagement leader for DairyNZ, said the increased detection of non-compliance stemmed from the council’s decision to target high-risk farms.

His role, amongst others, is to help coordinate farmers’, council’s and dairy companies’ efforts to improve effluent compliance and he agreed with Wallis that the regional council officers had been “very pro-active” in their work.

They had reinstated aerial monitoring and “because they had that specific focus on high-risk farms, they have confirmed that despite much effort aimed at addressing effluent compliance, there are still a number of farmers who are not meeting requirements.

“The monitoring is a good thing – effluent compliance has to be addressed – and I think the increased effort will help bring the minority in line with the rest of farmers who are prioritising effluent management and meeting the rules. A lot of the farms that have been found to be non-compliant generally have less than seven days’ storage of effluent.

Jim van der Poel, Waikato Dairy Leaders Group chairman, says a well-designed and constructed effluent storage pond is not only good for the environment but also great for the farm.

An effluent pond is a big investment on farms but there is no doubt they provide better environmental management, peace of mind, flexibility to spread effluent in the right weather conditions and reduce the risk of effluent non-compliance, he says.

“The pond, and how the effluent system is managed, will deliver good farm performance and prevent environmental harm. It’s win-win.

“Most farmers care deeply about the environment and are doing everything they can to protect land and waterways, and prevent any environmental risks.

“Nationally, most farmers follow the rules and are very concerned about other farmers who do not. Those who are seriously non-compliant with local councils’ effluent management rules are damaging the reputation of all dairy farmers.”

Higham says he had recently attended the Dairy Effluent Expo in Waikato which drew a crowd of 1600 people, a really encouraging number for such a forum.

“The numbers reflect the interest and the willingness of people attending to learn more about the issue, and upskill on the systems available.


Breeding focus nails results with Sexed Semen

A trial of sexed semen three years ago ignited one Tasmanian dairy farming family’s passion for breeding.

And the decision has laid down a foundation for the business’ future.

Stuart and Kylie Nailer milk 215 cows at Ringarooma, in Tasmania’s north-east, with their children Sophie, 14, Kaiden, 13, McKenzie, 11, and Oaklea, 8.

They moved from Queensland to the farm six years ago, initially buying the farm in partnership with Stuart’s parents.

Since 2014 the herd has recorded a 425 per cent rise in Balanced Performance Index (BPI), a measure of the traits that contribute to profitable dairy businesses. It now sits at about $105.

The sexed semen result provided a boost for the family in what was otherwise a tough year, with the farm gate milk price cut and drought.

“That year we did the experiment with the sexed semen, it was a really good result,” Stuart Nailer said.

“We had 25 heifers and got 60 per cent in calf — we were stoked.”

From this joining, the couple decided to focus on breeding Holsteins, rather than the Jersey-Holstein and three-way cross which they had been breeding.

They believe there’s more opportunity for gains with Holsteins and have made the most of tools such as genomics and corrective mating in recent years.

They ramped-up their use of sexed semen across both heifers and cows and this coming year plan to sell no bobby calves. Instead, they will use sexed semen to breed replacements and an Angus mop-up to provide calves for the local F1 market.

Last year they joined with two sexed semen sires; one delivered a 72 per cent in-calf rate and the other 55 per cent.

But using sexed semen for the first time wasn’t the Nailers’ first foray into changing breeding at their farm.

Their first priority — when they took over the property — was to tighten the seasonal calving. It was initially spread across four months and they now have it back to August and September, following three weeks of artificial insemination.

“We had to take a whack to tighten-it,” Mr Nailer said.

“We had an empty rate of about 20 per cent for two years, but then it tightened-up.

“It was then, we woke up to the fact we needed higher fertility bulls and bulls with high daughter fertility. It was then we got some really good results.”

The Nailers use the Good Bulls App to make breeding decisions. Calving ease and daughter fertility are “paramount” and they look for sires with a reliability of at least 70 per cent. BPI has also been a focus.

Mr Nailer said the Good Bulls App made decision-making easier, by narrowing-down bulls which suited their breeding focus.

“We don’t get caught-up in the nice pictures (of bulls) or anything like that,” he said.

Genomic testing has started to play a larger role in the Nailers’ decision-making.

“We now have numbers to play with and hope to eliminate the bottom 20 per cent (through genomic testing) by culling early and before we spend money on them for rearing,” Mr Nailer said.

They would like to sell these calves to local farmers as replacements, putting the income towards paying for genomic testing.

The Nailers currently service a local market for F1 calves and hope to continue this to make the most out of every animal on-farm.

“Our goals are to maximise every calf that’s born,” Mr Nailer said.

“Our attitude would be that if we have a good 60 replacement heifers, they are the ones that get sexed semen, and the best cows.

“Everything else gets, if possible, F1 beef sires to maximise the calf value. That’s our ultimate goal in the back of our minds for two-to-three years’ time.”

Changes have also been made across the entire farming system.

Ten per cent of the farm undergoes pasture renovation each season, initially planted out for a summer crop and then back into perennial rye-grass. This crop — which includes pasja and millet this year — provides feed for the warmer months on top of 60 ha of irrigation.

The farm is about 82ha, with some agistment.

The herd is fed about 1.8 tonne/cow/lactation in the bail. Production has lifted from a herd total of 75 000 kg of milk solids three years ago, to 96 000 kg MS last year and the herd is on-track for 105 000 kg MS this season.

During this time the total herd has increased by 30 cows but production per cow has lifted 40 kg MS. Average production is now 500 kg MS/cow and the cows’ weights about 550 kg.

Starting a career in dairy was something Kylie Nailer had never considered. Her husband, on the other hand, had completed a dairy apprenticeship in Tasmania, after school, before moving to Queensland where he worked at a power station.

Stuart’s parents were farmers in north-east Tasmania, but Kylie, a Queensland girl, had never milked a cow before venturing down south.

“I saw Stu working in the power station and he was not really enjoying it in the end and I knew he wanted to get back to farming,” she said.

“I didn’t know anything about it, I had never milked a cow, but then Stuart had an accident (got kicked in the calf) and from there it was a natural progression for me and I’ve become more involved as time goes on.

“For me, especially the last two years, the progress with the cows themselves has kept the passion there when the price certainly hasn’t been there.”


The deadly stress of farming

It is widely known that military veterans have among the highest suicide rates in our country. Sadly, in any given year, 38 of every 100,000 veterans take their lives.

We know too well why they end it all — they saw things overseas that none of us could ever imagine, they battled post-traumatic stress disorder, and they could have had disabilities ranging from traumatic brain injury to dismemberment.

Many reading this column will be surprised to learn that there is segment of our population that has a suicide rate rivaling that of our struggling veterans: Farmers.

Those who put food on our tables are taking their lives in unprecedented numbers. Just a few years ago their rate of suicide was 85 per every 100,000 farmers — 2.2 times the occurrence among veterans and 5 times that of the general population. Although last year’s numbers aren’t available, it’s well known in ag circles that that number is growing.

Even though this is a rural social crisis of epic proportions it has received little attention in the public eye and, therefore, a similar amount of concern from the masses.

That said, it’s probably mind blowing to most Americans because they have a vision of the farming life that is made of serene, pastoral landscapes, healthy country living, strong men and even stronger families.

They know little of the incredible stresses put upon farmers.

First, there’s the weather. They have to hope that Mother Nature accommodates their needs and business cycles and ensures a timely planting and a productive harvest. But, in many years, she’s not very helpful. Western New York farms were hit hard by drought in 2016 when unirrigated, rain-fed fields and orchards had crop losses between 30 and 90 percent. They prayed hard for rains after that, and the skies responded in 2017 with too much, which delayed plantings and harvests while damaging crops.

Then there’s animal disease. Back in 2015, deadly strains of bird flu killed off unbelievable numbers of chickens and turkeys throughout the central United States. Even if it didn’t, the poultry farmers had to cull their flocks to prevent the spread of disease. Halfway through that year, 50 million birds had died and the losses to farmers and producers exceeded $3.3 billion.

Farmers are also besieged by the economy. Dairy prices have plummeted over the past few years. In 2014, dairymen were getting $24 per hundredweight for their milk. Now, that number sits around $13. Farmers are producing and shipping milk because they have to, yet are losing money every single day for doing it. In Wisconsin alone, 500 dairy farms closed their doors last year. Here in New York, last year’s net farm income was a third of what it was in 2014.

Then, there’s the opioid crisis. The stereotype is that it’s hitting the cities and suburbs the hardest, but three-quarters of farmers say it is affecting them or their workers. It’s easy to see why. Farming is physically demanding work, from heaving hay bales to lifting feed bags to picking vegetables to bending down to milk cows. Back injuries and other aches are common. To work through it, they were prescribed pain killers, which in turn became an addiction.

There you have just four factors of many that make it seem like there’s no hope for farmers. Too often, the odds are stacked against them and there are so many things beyond their control. Seeing the very real chance of losing the farms and homes they love so much — the places that receive their attention, blood, sweat, and tears 24/7/365 — they see suicide as the only way out. It’s sad.

There is help available for those living those dark days. NY FarmNet is a free and confidential consulting service available to any farm located in New York state to discuss financial and health issues. They have a 24/7 hotline at 1-800-547-FARM. Crisis Services of Erie County has a 24-hour hotline (716-843-3131) to serve anyone contemplating taking their life. The YWCA of Genesee County has one, too, at 585-344-4400 and so does Niagara County’s Department of Mental Health at 716-285-3515.

I encourage those reading this paper who are not farmers or counselors to lend a hand. Outreach can be done in any number of ways, from checking up on your neighbors to supporting local farm stands to buying only local or American-grown produce, meats and dairy products at the grocery store to writing elected officials about foreign trade and frustrating price controls on milk and foods.

As Paul Harvey once said: “And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.”

It’s time that we, as good citizens, acted as caretakers for them. These are some dark days in agriculture. Farmers need help. They need to know that they can ask for it and we need to know we should give it to them.


Variation Makes all the Difference for Researchers

Just as variety is the spice of life, it’s also a key focus for those behind the “Efficient Dairy Genome Project”.  As they seek to apply genomics in breeding dairy cattle that are more feed efficient and produce less methane, scientists know that genetic variance could be the difference between success and failure.

“We’re examining the transcriptome (RNA) and genome (DNA) of dairy cattle to improve feed efficiency and reduce methane emissions,” said Stephanie Lam, a PhD student working with Dr. Angela Cánovas and Dr. Filippo Miglior at the University of Guelph.

Can you spot the difference?

Using public data available from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO), Lam and her colleagues developed a methodology for accurately detecting structural changes or variations in dairy cattle DNA. They then applied the method to another dairy cattle population from the center consisting of Holstein and Jersey cows. The goal was to find genetic variance in the genome – such as insertion, deletion or duplication of base pairs – of animals with high feed efficiency.

“Essentially we are seeking genetic clues to help us determine what makes certain animals more feed efficient than others. When we see structural changes in DNA between two extreme groups of animals with high and low feed efficiency, it’s possible that these changes in the high efficiency group are behind their improved metabolic performance.”

Through their research, the team found about 14,000 SNP’s that were unique to either the high or low group. A SNP or single nucleotide polymorphism is a variation at a single DNA site, and is the most frequent type of variation in the genome.

Of course, not all variations will necessarily have a functional impact on metabolic pathways or biological processes, so the next step was determining which SNP’s or genetic markers were causal. Using specially designed software, the team found 400 – 500 SNP’s that may have a functional impact on feed efficiency.

“We then took the 400 – 500 SNP’s and, using the same software, found that the genes containing these SNP’s were mainly associated with metabolic pathways related to fat metabolism and protein digestion and absorption. That suggests that these markers may play a role in regulating feed efficiency and helping cows perform more effectively when it comes to milk production.”

Though the work itself is highly complex, the possible implications for the dairy industry are both easy to understand and exciting to ponder.

Panel discussions

“Once we identify these key markers, we can incorporate them into SNP panels or even make custom panels to specifically select for feed efficiency in a herd. By evaluating two different cow populations, we are confirming genetic information and narrowing our focus to what is most important. In doing so, we can provide producers and industry with applicable results that have more functional data and reliability.”

Lam is pleased with the progress thus far. At the same time, she is encourage by how the work to date could fuel further research and possible breakthroughs.

“These results help us decide what we can do in our next studies. For example, we have a lot of genes associated with fatty acid metabolism and protein digestion, so we may want to look at more specific target tissues related to those pathways. When we find common genes across breeds, it can assist future studies in deciding what genes to focus on regarding genetic markers that relate to feed efficiency.”

Few would argue that variety is the spice of life. If research can fully tap the potential of genetic variance, there could be more spicy findings for the dairy sector in the years to come.


Dairy producers switching to beef should do research

Logan Edenfield with Equity Livestock in Stratford discussed beef cattle marketing techniques and what buyers are seeking at a workshop on transitioning from dairy to beef held in Baldwin. Photo by Heidi Clausen

With milk prices stuck below the level of profitability for many dairy farmers this past year, more have been getting out and making the transition to raising beef cattle.

About 20 farmers and others attended a Dec. 11 workshop entitled “So You Want to Raise Beef?” in Baldwin. A similar workshop was offered the same day in Eau Claire.

“It’s getting to be a more popular topic for us,” said Ryan Sterry, UW-Extension agriculture agent for St. Croix County.

Rooted in the heart of dairy country, NorthStar Select Sires has seen its beef semen sales skyrocket by 300 percent this past year, according to the company’s Scott Ellevold, who also raises beef cattle north of New Richmond.

Ellevold said not only are more people breeding their whole herd over to beef as they exit dairy altogether, but many dairy farmers are breeding their best cows with sexed semen to increase their odds of getting heifer calves that will grow into replacement animals and their lower-end cows to beef bulls, as beef bulls generally fetch a better price at market than their Holstein counterparts.

Holstein bull calves are bringing anywhere from nothing to $60 at market, while a black part-beef calf from a Holstein dam might be worth $100 to $300, according to Logan Edenfield with Equity Livestock in Stratford. Edenfield grew up on a 50-cow dairy farm in Ohio that has since transitioned to beef. He came to Stratford in 2017.

He said farmers exiting dairy and going into beef must change their way of thinking. Those still milking cows and looking to retire should breed everything to an Angus bull, which will result in black-hided calves that tend to be worth the most, he said, and “then, you automatically have put a date on when you won’t have replacement heifers. It gives you a deadline and, in the meantime, gets you more value out of the calves you are selling.”

Edenfield recommends dairy farmers sell those calves at 3 to 5 days of age to reap the most benefit.

“Don’t keep them as beef cows,” he said. “You’d be starting behind the eight-ball. (The next generation) would be one-fourth Holstein, and those calves wouldn’t bring much.”

The other optimal time to sell these animals is after they’re finished.

None of the major packers, including Tyson and Greater Omaha, want those partial dairy animals, he said, and those slaughtering Holsteins won’t pay extra for animals with a black hide.

“There’s going to be a lot of them around and a lot finished,” he said. “Just know they’re black Holsteins, not beef animals. Some may bring close to beef prices, but not all will.”

With more black calves now entering the market, Edenfield said, those prices could move lower, but they’ll still be better than prices for Holstein bull calves and, currently, more than Holstein heifer prices, too.

“Over time, if you can make those cattle look uniform, it will help you, no matter what they are,” he said. “If finishing animals, there’s not much difference in hide (color). if you’re selling feeders, uniformity is the main thing. Black-hided cattle typically bring more; they don’t have to be quite as good to bring as much.”

He said it’s not so much about the color of the cattle as all the other details regarding management, and that’s why Beef Quality Assurance certification — now required by a growing number of packers — is increasingly important. Dairy farmers are automatically covered under the national FARM Program, but once they sell their herd, they must become BQA-certified. Certification is available free online.

“The buyer wants to hear the story. They want to know they’ve been cared for the right way,” Edenfield said.

Fast gain is the goal

Edenfield said there are a lot of opportunities for those entering the beef industry, but before dropping off a load of cattle at market, producers would be wise to talk with their sales barn manager to learn more about what buyers want. Many marketers are happy to visit farms and help producers figure out their next phase, he said. Producers also should consult with their UW-Extension ag agent, veterinarian (especially if buying calves), feed company representative and nutritionist before switching from dairy to beef.

“Too many dairymen … want to fatten them like your dairy heifers when you fatten steers. It doesn’t work,” he said. “Feeding steers, you want to shorten their life as much as you can” in order to minimize feed costs. In contrast, the goal with dairy cattle is to keep them productive for as long as possible.

“You can’t make them gain too fast or go (to market) too young,” Edenfield said of beef cattle.

If the decision is made to finish cattle, Edenfield said, farmers should be prepared to feed more energy than they did with their dairy herd. He encourages producers also to consider implants, which can be especially beneficial with Holstein steers.

“It’s not worth it to go implant-free,” he said.

Silage-fed Holstein steers may be discounted because they’re too old and too big, he said. Cattle may be discounted if older than 30 months; age is determined by looking at the teeth.

“There’s nothing wrong with feeding silage, but you could feed them all the silage they want and nothing else,” he said. “They can use a lot of forage, but you have to have the energy to back it up.”

The two packers killing the most Holsteins in the U.S. are in Green Bay — JBS and Green Bay Dressed Beef. JBS tends to want a smaller animal than Green Bay Dressed Beef will buy, according to Edenfield. The only option with animals weighing more than 1,600 pounds is Green Bay Dressed Beef, he said, so aiming for between 1,500 and 1,600 pounds gives producers more competition for their cattle because they could go to either plant.

“You gotta go at it with a game plan,” Edenfield said of transitioning from dairy to beef. “The first thing to do is get the stalls out of (the barn) to prevent injuries and aggravation, and make sure to figure out a way the barn can go cold.”

Old stall barns are best suited for backgrounding calves — taking them from 300 to 400 pounds up to 700 to 800 pounds, “correcting” any problems and creating a bigger lot, he said. Certain advantages often come with size and scale and being able to fill a semi-load for market.

“If your land base is limited, consider backgrounding,” Edenfield said. “There’s where your profit is.”

If going the cow/calf route, he recommends buying straight-bred beef cattle and keeping with “something standard” such as Angus or Hereford.

“You don’t want to be the odd calf in the bunch; you probably will take a discount,” he said. “Don’t bring in a Swiss cross if you’re going to do Holsteins. If you’re going to fatten, it doesn’t matter as much because they’ll sell on their individual merit.”

Edenfield also advises farmers to buy a good mineral. Animals lacking a certain mineral may not be best using all the other nutrients they consume. Also, proper castration of steers could mean the difference between getting 85 cents per pound at market or 40 cents, so it’s worth taking the time to do it correctly.

Grass-based and organic may be good options for some, he said, and with the down dairy market, there could be some opportunity in buying and fattening Holstein heifers.


Improve pregnancy rate to help maximize profitability

Quicker pregnancies equal more profit. When cows get pregnant quickly, they produce more milk, have shorter calving intervals and generate more replacements. Managing cows for higher milk production requires a solid reproduction program to optimize your pregnancy rate.

According to a field study by Zoetis and Compeer Financial that analyzed 11 years of herd data from 489 year-end financial and production-record summaries,1 the impact pregnancy rate can have on your profitability is too large to leave to chance.

The profit opportunity

According to the study, a 9% difference in pregnancy rate between the top one-third of herds and the bottom one-third resulted in an additional $143/cow/year in net farm income. Additionally, the top herds in the study also produced almost 7 pounds more milk/cow/day than the bottom herds1,*

Associations between a 21-day pregnancy rate and other financial drivers revealed the impact quick pregnancies can have across a dairy.

Quicker pregnancies produce more milk

In the study, increased energy-corrected milk production was associated with a higher 21-day pregnancy rate and fewer days open.  As animals get pregnant at a more rapid pace, overall milk production on a per day basis goes up. This is because cows spend more time at the front end of the lactation curve, when milk production is higher— ultimately driving profitability. 

Conversely, an elevated somatic cell count (SCC) was associated with a reduced 21-day pregnancy rate. This is due to the negative physiological effect a high SCC has on reproductive performance. When SCC is high, pregnancy rates are sure to be reduced.

Three tips for improving pregnancy rate

Maximize profit opportunities on your dairy with three tips to improve pregnancy rates:

  1. Get cows pregnant earlier in lactation. — Staying at the front end of the milking curve means more efficient milk production. Optimize pregnancy rate by implementing a high-conception rate fertility synchronization program followed by an intensive heat detection program to identify open cows for prompt re-insemination.
  2. Keep your fresh cows healthy. — Good fresh cow care is key to ensuring fresh cows are ready to breed. Evaluate your fresh cow program to make sure stress is minimized, rations are balanced, and health evaluations are done at the front and back of a cow. Look for signs of illness such as loss of appetite, drooping ears, depressed attitude, increased temperature, abnormal tail carriage and vaginal discharge, in addition to the telltale foul smell which may signal a metritis infection. If metritis is an issue, eliminate the need for hospital pen moves and avoid the cost of discarding milk by using a proven, on-label treatment.
  3. Calve in the right heifers for your dairy. — First-lactation animals typically make 15% less milk than second-lactation animals. Therefore, it’s important to manage and monitor heifer inventories closely with the goal of balancing your heifer and adult cow population. Having the right number of heifers with genetics that achieve your herd goals will allow you to minimize replacement costs while avoiding milk production gaps. Genomic testing with CLARIFIDE® Plus can help identify heifers that will live longer in your herd.

Don’t leave pregnancy rate, or profitability, to chance.


Gain a net farm income advantage with thriving heifers

Two months isn’t a lot of time, but it can make a big difference for profitability. In fact, getting heifers pregnant two months earlier can result in an additional $200 to $250 in lifetime net farm income per cow.1,*

Age at first calving is an important metric in terms of managing heifer inventories and is, therefore, important in helping minimize net herd turnover cost. Young stock health is paramount in allowing animals to grow properly so that they reach appropriate breeding age in a timely fashion. As such, it is no surprise that a recent study Zoetis conducted with Compeer Financial found that heifer survival rate is one of the top six factors affecting dairy net farm income.2 The analysis of 11 years of herd data from 489 year-end financial and production-record summaries quantified the value of decreased heifer survival rates on lifetime net farm income. The top one-third of herds in this study achieved an earlier age at first calving of approximately two months compared with the bottom one-third of herds. This had a significant compounding effect on the number of animals in a herd over time, which contributed to an average of $200 to $250 in additional lifetime net farm income per cow.1,2 

Let’s look at a couple of ways you can help heifers not only survive but thrive like the top herds in the study.

Getting a higher heifer survival rate

It’s a no-brainer that a dairy needs heifers that survive to be profitable. Scours and bovine respiratory disease (BRD) are responsible for decreasing calf and heifer survival rates. Scours is the leading cause of calf death and sickness, responsible for 56.5% of mortality among pre-weaned dairy calves.3 Pneumonia during the first 90 days of a calf’s life is more likely to increase mortality before first calving.4

Vaccination of healthy pregnant cows and heifers with SCOURGUARD® or oral vaccine before colostrum uptake can help prevent death loss from scours. Along with this, proactive management — including a clean, dry calving area, optimal nutrition and minimizing exposure to environmental contaminants — is important to help prevent scours and ensure vaccine efficacy. To help prevent BRD, early detection of these respiratory disease symptoms and treatment with an antibiotic approved for use in calves, if needed, can help get health back on track.

Getting heifers that thrive

Guarding against these diseases is an important factor for lowering age at first calving and for future productivity as well. Calves that survive scours can face lifelong setbacks, including delayed growth, and are slower to reach the milking string as heifers.5 Pneumonia during the first 90 days of a calf’s life is more likely to increase their age at first calving, among many other challenges.4

Also, producers have a better chance to get heifers pregnant sooner by raising the right heifers. Raising heifers is expensive. Herd owners have reported spending between $1,860 and $2,263 for each heifer raised.At this cost, producers need heifers that have a better probability of adding value to a herd now and into the future. Genomic testing can help ensure the right heifers are being raised to pass on better traits to their offspring. 

Finally, getting heifers inseminated as early as possible can have an enormous impact on age at first calving. And, it will get them to the milking herd sooner. Read a few simple steps to improve your heifer reproduction program, including more timely pen moves, use of LUTALYSE® HighCon Injection (dinoprost tromethamine injection),  which is approved for use with EAZI-BREED™ CIDR® Cattle Insert (progesterone intravaginal insert), and routine pregnancy checks.

With heifers that survive and thrive on a dairy, the opportunity exists to increase net farm income and stay among the top one-third of dairy herds across the country.


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