Archive for Management

Happy, Healthy Cows Give More Milk

Southwestern Missouri dairy farmers find that cows housed in compost bedded pack barns are healthy, happy and produce more milk, says University of Missouri Extension dairy specialist Ted Probert.

Bedded pack barns are structures used to house livestock by continually adding new bedding to the living area. Large, open-air bedded barns provide comfortable resting and walking areas instead of individual stalls and concrete alleyways typically used in freestall operations.

Probert says southwestern Missouri’s many sawmills give livestock owners an ample supply of finely ground sawdust for packing. The sawdust provides livestock with soft, safe resting and walking areas. Livestock operators till the sawdust, which contains animal waste, and it builds into compost over time.

Sawdust prevents foot and leg injuries commonly associated with concrete and hard dirt surfaces, Probert says. Compost bedded pack barns tend to create less odor than other manure storage systems. Farmers clean barns once or twice yearly and apply the nutrient-rich material to cropland.

Cow comfort is king, Probert says. Most farmers equip their barns with curtains that lower during rain, snow and windstorms. Ceiling or side fans circulate air and cool cows. Some barns have sprinkler systems to cool cows during periods of excessive heat.

The barns allow animals to walk freely to feeding, watering and grazing areas.

These barns offer great value at a low cost, Probert says. He says cost sharing for pack barns is now available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s EQIP program. For more information, go to in new window).

One southwestern Missouri dairy producer received advice on compost bedded pack barns from numerous MU Extension specialists, including Probert, Joe Zulovich, Bob Schultheis and retired dairy specialist Barry Steevens.

They guided Mountain Grove dairy producer David Gray through the decision-making for his pack barn. Gray Family Dairy includes David, wife Rhonda and three children.

Gray says he has seen improved milk production of 15-18 pounds daily per cow since building his 60-by-140-foot pack barn in 2014. His entire 78-cow Holstein herd has access to the barn.

Gray uses sawdust from area sawmills for bedding. He tills the compost daily and spreads it on 55 acres of cornfields used for silage twice a year. “We’ve seen a big benefit in organic matter and fertility,” he says.

Gray’s barn features large overhead ceiling fans that cool cows and ventilate the barn. He raises or lowers side curtains as temperatures change. Lights are on a timer. They provide extended “daytime” for cows. Research shows that this increases milk production.

He also has seen lower somatic cell counts, a main indicator of milk quality. Milk buyers pay higher prices for low herd SCC. Buyers also refuse to buy milk with levels above targeted amounts.

Cows also eat more when comfortable, Gray says, and his herd has increased feed intake significantly. Increased comfort reduces feed intake lags during heat stress. Cows also have ready access to feed in nearby feed barns.

Gray notices other signs of improved cow comfort. He sees fewer foot injuries, and improved udder and teat health. Their relaxation level is so strong that he is sometimes unsure if cows are relaxing or dead when he walks into the pack barn. Another benefit is improved heat detection. Comfortable cows and better footing improve mounting. Producers can better monitor breeding because animals are located in a central area.

Cows are free to roam to other areas but they return to the pack. “What do they choose? They choose to go to an open gate but they choose to come back to where the comfort is,” Gray says.

The barn provides comfort for dairy herd owners too, he says. He sleeps better on cold winter nights knowing that his cows are not lying on snow-covered pastures.



Australian Dairy Farmer paying $100,000 a month to keep dairy cows fed in Hunter drought

TOUGH TIMES: Fifth-generation dairy farmer Jamie Marquet with his son Cameron, 17, on the family farm at Wallarobba. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

ONE hundred thousand dollars – that is the cost for fifth-generation dairy farmer Jamie Marquet to stay afloat for another month. 

With his usually lush paddocks dry and dusty it is the only choice he has to keep his business afloat.

The story is all too similar at the handful of other dairy farms in the Hunter. 

It raises serious questions about the future of the dairy industry in the region. 

“We haven’t got any feed, we are spending $65,000 a month on hay alone, $40,000 on grain and we’re also buying liquid molasses,” he said.

“I didn’t think it would come to this point. It’s getting harder and we are running tight for water.”

On top of that, he only receives 49 cents a litre for his milk and he needs at least 65 cents to break even in this climate. 

If the Wallarobba farmer stops pouring feed into his 260-strong milking herd they won’t produce any milk. Holstein Friesians are like racehorses. They need to be fed the very best of everything to make milk and each one drinks 200 litres of water a day. 

He also has to keep his 290 dry cows, heifers and calves fed as they hold his future income. With the high price of dairy cows – and genetics playing a key role in milk production – he cannot afford to sell them and buy others later. 

One hundred millimetres of rain fell in late October and early November, which was promising, but then the heat kicked in and fried everything. He spent $20,000 planting a crop of sorghum but it was too dry for it to thrive.

“It is in four different stages of coming up and the little bit of it that was fit to graze is toxic because it was starved of moisture, so we got bugger all out of it which was a shame,” Mr Marquet said. 

Ironically, in the past three years he has battled two floods. 

It’s the true irony of nature. Now he is praying for decent rain, but not that much.

Mr Marquet, his wife Gaylene and 17-year-old son Cameron, rely on a creek that runs through the farm and it is dangerously low. They pump out of various creek holes to give the cattle a drink, and when that dries up they don’t know what they will do. 

“It’s not just us, all of the dairy farmers are facing similar problems, and the water is the key thing, the water is going to get us if this keeps going on,” he said. 

The Marquets have access to town water, but only through a 20ml pipe that is shared with two other nearby properties.

If they are forced to rely on the pipe there will not be enough pressure for all of them. He has approval to put two bores down but he isn’t allowed to irrigate out of them.


Is dust the reason dairy farmers are more likely to have respiratory problems?

A new study in the Irish Medical Journal has found a high prevalence of work-related respiratory and upper airways symptoms among dairy farmers.

Researchers at the School of Health Sciences National University of Ireland Galway studied respiratory symptoms in a cohort of 126 dairy farmers. 

Some 34.4pc had cough symptoms, 29.4pc had upper airway symptoms, 31.7pc had eye symptoms. 

The authors suggest that the symptoms may be related to work-related dust.

Exposure to organic dust and its microbial constituents such as fungi, allergens and endotoxin have all been linked to the development or exacerbation of respiratory diseases or respiratory symptoms among farmers.

Recent research has shown that Irish dairy farmers can have high and variable levels of organic dust and endotoxin exposures, often in excess of recommended health based exposure limits.

In recent years there have been significant changes in work practices and processes in the farming community.

Despite these improvements dairy farmers continue to experience a high rate of work-related respiratory morbidity.

Dairy farming practice in Ireland still differs from that in other countries where enclosed or semi enclosed animal houses are normal practice.

The levels of dust exposure did not differ between automated or manual feeding methods.

In this study no difference was noted in the symptom profile whichever feeding method was used.

In French dairy farmers it has been suggested that dust exposure on dairy farms carries the same risk of developing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as cigarette smoking.

Previous studies have also found a high level of nasal polyps and rhinitis as well increased inflammatory markers in famers in Germany.

Different inflammatory responses may occur in human nasal and bronchial epithelial cells on exposure to dust on a dairy farm.

Despite improvements in work practice farmers continue to have significant work-related respiratory symptoms.

The researchers said further studies are required to define the nature and significance of these symptoms.


Source: Farm Ireland

Know her body weight: Don’t play the weight-guessing game

Antibiotic dosages are determined by individual cattle body weight.

Zoetis defines “responsible use of antibiotics” as administering medication under the guidance of a veterinarian, following the directions on the approved product label and using only the amount needed to treat the problem. Therefore, we are using antibiotics responsibly only when we factor in appropriate dosage based on accurate, individual body weight.

Commonly, dairies determine antibiotic dosage based on visual estimates of weight for large and small cows. Generally speaking, a large cow is a large cow; however, this practice of “eyeballing” presents a big risk in under- or overdosing of antibiotics, as doses vary greatly given differences in body weight. For example, recommended antibiotic dosage differs for a 1,500-pound cow versus an 1,800-pound cow. Although first lactation cows should have fairly uniform body weights, we have seen more than a 600-pound difference in fresh heifer body weights on a dairy with a scale. The spread can be even greater with older cows.

The impact of under- and overdosing antibiotics

Without capturing accurate, individual body weights, cattle may be underdosed, which can decrease antibiotic efficacy or create poor response to treatment. This can result in increased treatment and labor costs due to disease relapse. Even more, dairies may be at increased risk for residues if other antibiotics are introduced and Federal Drug Administration-mandated withdrawal times aren’t followed. On the other hand, overdosing cows with antibiotics increases risk of violative residues in milk and meat and increases treatment costs, as more product than needed is being used. Keep in mind that overdosing isn’t just administering too much of a product — cows also can be overdosed based on volume of antibiotic administered per injection site.

What can you do?

• Stop guessing.

• Capture individual weights with a weight tape or digital cattle scale.

• Weigh cows at freshening, one month post-calving and at dry off to monitor for weight fluctuations that could indicate potential metabolic issues that may require treatment.

• Follow product labels.

Through responsible use of antibiotics, we all can help maintain the effectiveness of these important resources. Accurate body weight data allows for more accurate antibiotic dosing, resulting in improved treatment efficacy and prevention of residues in milk and meat. Work with your local Zoetis territory business manager to have a discussion on how to build a more strategic plan on proper dosing of antibiotics.


Source: Zoetis

Dr. Robert James to host free calf management webinar series

DeLaval, the industry’s leading supplier of dairy farming solutions, is offering a free webinar series to anyone who raises and cares for calves. Known as Calf College, the series of eight webinars will be taught by Dr. Robert James, professor emeritus of Dairy Science at Virginia Tech University.

“The productivity of a dairy cow starts way before she enters the milk parlor,” said Dr. James. “We can help calves achieve their milking potential by offering quality care, adequate nutrition and a comfortable environment from day one. Incorporating new calf rearing technology is also essential to achieving good results.”

Calf College participants will begin by learning the fundamentals of calf rearing and progress towards topics on calf housing systems, facility requirements and auto feeding technology. The dates and topics of each webinar are as follows:

Calf College dates and topics

March 16          Critical points for calf rearing

April 13             Dry cow and calving management

May 4               Feeding the newborn

June 8              Feeding the pre-weaned calf

July 6               Pro/cons of different calf housing systems

September 7     Choosing the calf feeder system

October 12       Facilities for group housing systems

November 2      Managing the calf feeder system

As an innovator of calf feeding technology, the latest calf care offering from DeLaval is the calf feeder CF1000S, designed to help ensure calves receive their full daily rations. “We understand the importance of helping customers transition to new technology,” said Joaquín Azocar, DeLaval Market Solution Manager. “DeLaval Calf College is designed to help these producers – and those interested in the system – increase the efficiency of their operations and achieve better results with their herds.”

For more information about DeLaval Calf College and to register for the webinars, click here. Participants should register for each webinar they’d like to attend.


Why do some farms leap ahead in technology while others wait?

Nicolaas and Wilma Zeldenrijk operate one of the most technologically advanced farms in Canada, with automated feeding, milking and bedding. Photo: John Greig

Four robots at New Galma Dairy near Ingersoll, Ont., milk the cows while a second automated system finds its way around the barn feeding cows and heifers by itself and a third machine beds the cows without human intervention.

Calves can decide when they want milk from a machine that identifies them and gives them their allotted daily feeding over several times per day.

New Galma is one of the most automated dairy farms in the country, and for Nicolaas Zeldenrijk, it feels like each decision has led to the next as the family learns to manage not just by expert cattle stockmanship, but by data.

For example, when the family automated both its milking and its feeding systems, it found there were never any times when all the cattle were up out of their stalls simultaneously, which would have been their best chance to bed them, so they added a new automated bedding system from Denmark that runs above the stalls on a rail, dumping whatever bedding is used and separating manure solids.

All the technology has paid off in labour savings, as Nicolaas and Wilma Zeldenrijk and their children run the farm where about 200 cows are milked.

The Zeldenrijks’ dairy farm is an example of the type of labour-saving technology being adopted across the agriculture sector in Canada.

The productivity of Canada’s on-farm labour has spiked in the past eight years, especially compared to the previous 50 years. In fact, our agriculture labour productivity growth is going up at a faster rate than that of the total Canadian business sector.

Canadian agriculture labour productivity has increased by 50 points between 2007 and 2015 from a base of 100, a more than six per cent annual growth rate, according to Statistics Canada.

By comparison the total business sector has only increased by 4.4 points since 2007.

The Statistics Canada category includes forestry and logging, but a close look shows crop farmers have done the most to increase their labour productivity, up 51 points in 2013 over the 2007 base of 100. Livestock farmers are at 21 points over 2007. (Forestry and logging performed reasonably well too, up 26 points over 2007.)

Unlike farmers, efficiency in the agriculture support sector achieved just a seven-point increase by 2015. That’s a bit under one per cent per year.

This trend is not new. Statistics Canada’s numbers back to 1961 show that between that year and 2007, agriculture labour productivity outpaced that of the total business sector. That means a 3.7 per cent per year increase in agricultural labour productivity from 1961 to 2015, says Matthew MacDonald, assistant director of the national economic accounts division at Statistics Canada.

There are several factors that go into measuring labour productivity, says MacDonald. “To understand the factors behind this growth, the multifactor productivity program (MFP) divides this growth in labour productivity into its key determinants: capital intensity (changes in capital per hour worked), investment in human capital, and MFP, which includes technological change, organizational innovation and economies of scale.”

At New Galma dairy, the Zeldenrijks were like many farmers who adopted robotic milking, but they were the second in the country with a robotic feeding system, using a robot that moves around the barn autonomously feeding the cows. They were approached by Lely to trial the system and they agreed.

“In the beginning there were some issues, but there have been a lot of fun things too. We’ve had so many visitors,” he says during an open house day for Lely where dairy farmers roamed the New Galma barn and others in the area, learning from each other.

As with the Zeldenrijk operation, farms are more likely to add new technology if they are also continuously focused on getting better sources of production insights.
photo: John Greig

The driving of productivity and the adoption of new technology from farmer interaction isn’t a surprise to Eric Micheels, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

Micheels and fellow researcher James Nolan published a paper in 2016 in the academic journal Agricultural Systems that looked at how farmers adopt technology, focusing on how they access their networks of sources and peers. They also looked at the capacity of the farmer and farm to implement the technology.

Productivity increases and technology “go hand in hand,” Micheels says.

“Productivity from a sector level is all fed by individual farm-level decisions on being more efficient. If the goal of Canadian agriculture is to increase productivity, one way to do that is to help farmers in that adoption process.”

The technology has to be available, but adoption comes down to the willingness to embrace change, skill level, and the availability of peer groups of farmers.

“I looked at concepts of social capital and absorptive capacity, how connected that producer is to their broader network,” says Micheels. That includes connections to other farmers, extension specialists, researchers, input suppliers and people who have knowledge of how technology has functioned on other farms.

The research identified several factors that influence technology adoption. One is farm size, as most readers might expect, but it’s actually farm size based on employees, not acres. Again, it is the access to more diverse ideas that matters.

“It’s the employees as a source of ideas. Maybe they’ve worked on other farms, maybe in another industry,” says Micheels.

Other factors include the presence of successors, and tied to that is the stage of life of the business. Farms closer to being wound down or sold will have fewer reasons to adopt technology.

Even though farmers continue to age, however, the rate of labour productivity isn’t declining, according to Statistics Canada figures.

“They might be 57 and they might say they’re going to farm until they’re 77,” says Micheels. “There’s no defined retirement date.”

That’s why stage of life of the business is more important than the age of the operator in judging technology adoption.

For instance, Bryan Cook’s son Jeff was finishing secondary school and wanted to farm, so it was time for the Cooks to reinvest in the long-running family dairy operation. Their farm was located in Caledon, on the edge of the rapidly growing municipality near Toronto.

They sold that farm and bought an empty farm an hour north near Stayner, Ont., building a dairy barn with extensive technology, including automated milking, feeding, bedding and automated monitoring of milk for a cow’s heat, pregnancy, ketosis and mastitis detection. They also milk close to 200 cows with four DeLaval milking robots.

For Cook it wasn’t just about making work easier for him, it was also about providing the best environment for cows to be productive too — another productivity outcome.

“The cows go about their day without interruption,” he says. “I let them be the boss pretty much of where they want to go.”

The lack of human intervention means less labour for the humans involved in the operation.

Cook’s barn was also part of an open house that drew dairy farmers from across the province.

Micheels found too that the income of the farm wasn’t as much a factor in technology adoption as the desire of the farm to grow to another level.

If a farm has $1 million in gross sales and wants to get to $1.2 million, that would drive innovation, says Micheels. But the desire of a farm with $500,000 in gross sales to get to $600,000 would also drive similar innovation.

Micheels also found that managerial experience was more an indicator of technology adoption than education level.

“It’s more important to maintain that (education) flow,” he says. “What is your investment year by year into learning about changes in the industry?”


The top three ways to make genetic progress

Progress is a good thing…

And that rings true as much with genetics as in any area on your dairy operation.

In the simplest of terms, genetic progress is making better cows, faster. Before we can share tips on how to make genetic progress in your herd, it’s important to understand the actual equation for genetic progress. It depends solely on four factors.

Genetics Progress Equastion

Selection intensity:  the proportion of the population selected to become parents.

Do you use artificial insemination rather than a herd bull? Do you code cows with poor production, udders, or feet and legs as Do Not Breeds? Do you flush your best females and use your low end animals as embryo transfer recipients?

A yes to any of these questions means you are increasing selection intensity on your dairy by simply being more selective on which males and females you choose to be parents of your next generation of cattle.

Accuracy of selection: the average reliability of genetic evaluations used to make decisions about parents of the next generation of animals.

In the world of genetics, accuracy is primarily measured in terms of reliability. And in terms of genomics, accuracy is a function of the size of the reference population that is used to compare against a genomic-tested animal. Currently, the genomic reliabilities for production traits are often 70% or greater in North American Holsteins, which is twice the level of reliability that we used to achieve with traditional parent averages computed based on pedigrees.

Genetic variation: the degree of difference that exists between the best animals for a given trait and the worst animals for that trait.

If all animals were clones of one another, the variation among animals would be zero, and the opportunity to make genetic progress in any and all traits would cease to exist. Different genetic makeups and pedigrees lend way to variation among animals.

Genetic variation can be quite different from one herd to another. A herd that has used a focused genetic plan to select AI service sires for many years will have much less variation than a herd that has purchased animals with unknown pedigrees.

In comparison with other factors in the equation for genetic progress, little can be done to increase the amount of genetic variation within a given population. However, since inbreeding decreases the effective population size, by avoiding overly excessive inbreeding levels we can prevent a decrease in genetic variation.

Generation interval: measured as the average age of the parents when an offspring is born.

As the prevalence of genomic sires has increased over the past five years, the generation interval has been on the decline. Now, instead of waiting a minimum of 4.5 years to use traditional progeny-tested bulls, both farms and AI companies can more confidently make use of genomic-tested bulls in their on-farm AI programs or as sires of sons by the time an elite sire is roughly one year of age, decreasing the generation interval on the paternal side by more than three years.

So to put these factors of the genetic progress equation into play on your farm, what management strategies can you implement to make the most genetic progress possible?

1. Set your own genetic plan

You can make genetic progress in a variety of ways. First and foremost, you want to ensure you’re making progress in the right direction. To do this, set your own customized genetic plan, placing your selection emphasis only on the traits that matter to you – whether that’s production, health or conformation, and any specific traits within those categories. This way, you’ll not only make progress, but it will be in the direction of your goals in order to maximize progress and profit on your dairy.

2. Use the best bulls to suit your genetic plan

Once you’ve set your genetic plan, select the best bulls to fit that plan. You can take advantage of the amplified selection intensity put into place by your AI company, knowing that from the thousands of bulls they are genomic testing each year, they select only the best of the best to be parents of the next generation.

If you also select only the elite sires that fit your genetic plan from your AI company you maximize your on-farm selection intensity as compared to using just any cheaper bull off the proof list.

3. Utilize a group of genomic proven sires as part of your genetic program   

There is no need to fear genomic-proven sires. By making use of the best and brightest genomic-proven sires available, you make strides in all areas of the genetic progress equation. You decrease the generation interval as compared to waiting to use daughter-proven sires. You also step up the genetic selection intensity on your farm.

The accuracy gained from an ever-growing reference population of genomic-tested males and females is another benefit of selecting from a group of genomic-proven sires. And by utilizing a group of these sires, rather than one individual, you can maximize the genetic variation when pedigrees differ among them.

You can take these tips one step further using a strategic approach with the females in your herd. However, these are the top three, simple ways to make genetic progress on your dairy.

If you implement these steps, you will increase selection intensity, accuracy and variation, while decreasing generation interval. The progress you make will be in the direction of the goals you’ve set for your farm, so you can capitalize on the genetic profit and progress potential.


UNH Research Finds Feeding Pregnant Dairy Cows Niacin Improves Quality of Milk

Feeding pregnant dairy cows the vitamin niacin prior to giving birth improved the quality of their colostrum, which is the first milk calves drink, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire. Colostrum is essential to building the immune systems of calves, and thus, their survival.

“Calves are the foundation of the herd and are necessary to replace the cows that leave the herd for various reasons,” said Peter Erickson, professor of dairy management who conducted the research with Kayla Aragona, a doctoral candidate in animal science. “They also are the third greatest cost for the dairy producer, behind feed and labor, respectively. Reducing health costs and improving growth will result in a better bottom line for the producer.”

“Sixty percent of the colostrum produced in the United States is considered poor quality. Our goal is to provide dairy producers with ways to improve the health of their replacement heifers,” Erickson said of the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station funded research.

The United States is home to 51,500 dairy farms and nine million dairy cows. New Hampshire has approximately 106 licensed dairy farms, according to the NH Dairy Sanitation Inspection & Licensing. The state’s dairy industry impacts state and local economies with more than $141 million in total output and more than $19 million in labor income, according to Granite State Dairy Promotion. Dairy farming also helps support many businesses related to the production of milk such as feed companies, milking equipment suppliers, tractor dealerships and milk processors.

In this study conducted at the experiment station’s Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center, researchers fed 0, 16, 32 or 48 grams of the vitamin niacin to pregnant cows – called dams – each day for four weeks prepartum. Niacin may function in two ways. First, it has been theorized to increase rumen microbial protein production, which results in more protein for the cow. More protein should result in more antibodies produced for use in colostrum. Second, the niacin increases blood flow, resulting in more antibody transport to the udder.

Researchers found that supplemental niacin to dams increased the immunoglobulin G – the main antibody for cattle – concentration and yield when dams were fed niacin for four weeks before calving. In addition, calves fed this colostrum responded by increasing feed efficiency. This suggests that there is a component in colostrum that actually might stimulate intestinal development, resulting in an enhanced uptake of nutrients.

Erickson will present his research findings Feb. 2 at the NH Farm and Forest Expo. This material is based upon work supported by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station, through joint funding of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 1001283 and multistate project NC2042, and the state of New Hampshire.


Source: UNH Today

Non-nutritional factors that influence dairy feed intake

Bolstering a dairy farm’s bottom line involves convincing cows to consume proper amounts of the feed on their plate.

Since both management and facilities issues can cause factors that negatively influence feed intake, a closer look at each may be necessary, Dr. Dan McFarland, PennState Extension, told listeners during a recent webinar.

His list of manageable factors that limit feed intake includes feed bunks standing empty for an unacceptable amount of time, as well as cows not being around to eat. Typically, they’re spending too much time in the milking center.

If feed is present, it may be just out of the cow’s reach or she’s not inclined to eat it because it is of poor or variable quality.

A cow’s appetite is also affected with she is sick or not feeling well, McFarland added, and her drive to visit the feeding area will diminish if she’s lame or injured.

Another consideration is the quality of the cow’s drinking water. “Does dry matter intake drive water intake, or does water intake drive dry matter intake?,” he questioned. “Either way, if poor quality drinking water is offered, the cow’s water intake will likely suffer.”

Overcrowding is another common issue. Not only does it reduce the amount of feed and resting space available to each cow, but the animals occupying the lower rungs of the group’s social ladder shoulder greater negatives regarding feed intake.

Facility concerns

Facilities can contribute to issues that undermine feed intake.

Elevated levels of moisture, gases and other pollutants in the air can affect animal health and crank up heat stress during hot weather. Heat stress adversely affects feed intake and metabolic status, resulting in greater tendency for disease, McFarland pointed out.

Uncomfortable resting area or freestalls that do not allow the cow to use them easily will typically lead to more lameness and dirtier conditions. Slippery floors make cows move gingerly and can cause falls and serious injury.

Limiting the number of drinking water units or making them difficult to drink from can influence feed intake, as does feeding areas that are hard to get to and, therefore, can lessen a cow’s desire to use them for those profitable bites of feed.

Cows tend to drink water soon after eating and after being milked, McFarland said, with studies indicating 30-50 percent of total water intake occurs soon after milking.

Research suggests providing enough drinking water space so 20-50 percent of the group can drink at the same time, and spacing drinking units so cows are no further than 50 feet from water.

McFarland advised a minimum of two water stations per group, providing about 3.5 inches of accessible perimeter per cow. Each unit should allow multiple cows to drink at the same time and, since cows can drink up to five gallons per minute, be able to supply 6-10 gallons of water per minute.

Feed access & availability

The feeding area should provide a comfortable feeding experience for the cows and convenient management for the caretaker. The design should both encourage and allow proper dry matter intake for each cow, make feed available and adequate, and be easy to clean and keep clean.

The physical and social components create an environment that should provide an adequate amount of time to feed, drink and rest, so the cow can consume the proper amount of dry matter so she can be healthy and productive, McFarland noted.

He advised limiting the time cows spend away from the pen to less than three hours a day and making cows and feed available to each other at least 21 hours a day.

For all the cows  in a group to eat at the same time, provide at least 27 to 30-inches of linear feed space per cow. With good TMR, good access and time management, 18 inches per cow is considered the absolute minimum, McFarland said.

Locating crossovers every 60 to 80 feet, or every 15 to 20 stalls, gives cows easier access to the feed alley and results in more uniform feed consumption. This fits in nicely with the 50-foot water spacing recommendations, McFarland noted.

“Proving a convenient path between feed, water and the resting area seems like a good formula for influencing good feed intake,” he observed.

With flat mangers, it’s important to push feed up regularly on keep it within the cows’ reach. One successful strategy is half-hour push-ups for two hours after feed delivery, but McFarland advised each farm’s timing be guided by regular observation.

A quality resting area offers many benefits, including reduced stress on feet, less injuries, cleaner cows, increased longevity and improved milk production.

The easiest ways to improve resting area performance is to modify the stall structure to allow more freedom of use, improve resting surface comfort, use more bedding more frequently, groom stalls more frequently, and don’t overcrowd the group.

Design and management matters

The design and management of each component in a dairy shelter influences a cow’s willingness and ability to consume dry matter. Fortunately, McFarland said, most existing facility components that negatively influence feed intake can be improved.

“Good management may be able to overcome poor design, but good design does not make up for poor management,” he added. “Good management is always a key ingredient for success.”

For additional information, layouts, suggested freestall dimensions and features, and other “Idea Plans”, visit  Penn State Agricultural and Biological Engineering Extension website.

Source: Wisconsin State Farmer

5 Factors for Choosing Mastitis Treatment

Know which treatments are the most effective for managing mastitis

Determining the true cost of a mastitis cure requires more than just comparing the price per box of mastitis tubes. Consider these five factors when weighing treatment options:

1.Treatment efficacy: When looking at treatment efficacy, how can you tell if the product really works? Is it clearing up the infection and eliminating mastitis-causing pathogens on the dairy? If not, you will see higher rates of relapse and higher somatic cell counts.

2.Cost of treatment per day: The price per box of mastitis tubes can be misleading. Look at the number of treatments per box and the frequency of treatment (every 12 hours versus every 24 hours).

3.Cost of milk discard: Read the product label for milk discard. Shorter milk withdrawal periods are often more economical because producers can resume putting milk back in the bulk tank sooner.

4.Potential for residue risk: Managing products with high-residue risk profiles can compromise operational efficiency. It also can increase the potential for shipping contaminated milk. Choose efficacious products with low-residue risk profiles.

5.Relapse rate and somatic cell count: An incomplete cure can lead to relapses and chronically infected cows. Monitor treatment success to make sure you’re seeing high bacteriological cure rates, lower relapse rates and lower somatic cell counts. It’s the only way to know whether the treatment is working.


There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mastitis treatment. Explore options for flexible mastitis treatment that not only knock out physical mastitis symptoms but also eliminate mastitis-causing bacteria to achieve a bacteriological cure. When you achieve a bacteriological cure the first time, you limit the need for re-treatment and using additional antibiotics. This is important for the health of your cows as well as critical for your dairy’s bottom line.


How to feed heifers for cost efficiency

Calves and heifers need nutrients to grow. Although this statement may seem like common knowledge, applying it to calf and heifer programs is not as easy as it sounds.
Nutrients are valuable, which means it costs money to feed additional nutrients. Whether the nutrients come in the form of milk replacer, calf starter, minerals or forages, they all come at a cost. Raising heifers in a cost-effective manner requires a focus on strategies to reduce the costs per pound of gain instead of only paying attention to daily feed costs.
Here are three areas of focus to achieve cost efficiency with your heifers:
1. Calves need more nutrients to grow faster. 
Growth and average daily gain are based primarily on how much energy and protein the calf is consuming. Calves need to consume large amounts of nutrients to achieve growth rates outlined in the Gold Standards of doubling birth weight by weaning and being 55 percent of their mature weight at first breeding.
One of the challenges to getting calves to consume enough nutrients is intake. Young calves will only consume a small amount of solid feed and may not always consume enough nutrients to maintain or achieve target growth rates.
2. Feed efficiency is not the same for all feeds consumed. 
The digestibility and availability of nutrients can vary greatly for different feeds. For example, the nutrients in milk are much more readily available to a calf for growth than the nutrients in calf starter. Therefore, if a calf consumes 1 pound of milk, it will have much better feed conversion than a calf consuming 1 pound of high-quality starter grain.
Similarly, feeding grain results in improved feed efficiency per pound of gain as compared to feeding forages. The efficiency of growth for different feeds is especially important to keep in mind when it comes to post-weaned and growing heifers. The complication is that feeds which are typically less efficient from a feed efficiency standpoint are often less expensive. Low-efficiency feeds are why determining the cost per pound of gain is important.
For example, let’s say we have two heifers eating 12 pounds of feed per day. Heifer A is fed a diet that allows her to gain 1.8 pounds per day and costs $160 per ton. Heifer B eats the same amount of feed, but a higher quality diet with greater digestibility and nutrient concentration allowing her to gain 2 pounds per day. Even if the diet for Heifer B costs $175 per ton, it will be less expensive ($0.533/lb gain for Heifer A as compared to $0.525/lb gain for Heifer B) to feed the heifers to the target breeding size of 55 percent of their mature body weight.
3. Age does matter. 
Heifers do not grow at the same rate throughout the growing period. Younger heifers can grow frame and increase muscle growth more quickly than older heifers. Once heifers reach puberty, the rate at which they can increase frame growth slows down tremendously. Because of this natural growth curve, taking advantage of opportunities to increase growth rates early in a heifer’s life can be advantageous for both the overall growth rate and cost-effectiveness to achieve each pound of gain.
Raising heifers is a balance between nutrition and economics. Heifers need to be fed a ration that provides them enough nutrients to keep them growing and healthy. But, the costs to achieve those gains are also an important consideration. Using diets and feeding strategies to reduce the cost per pound of gain plays a valuable role in developing an efficient dairy heifer growth program.



Once-a-day versus three-in-two milking in NZ

In response to a very wet spring followed by a hot, dry start to summer some dairy farmers are looking to reduce milking frequency as a strategy to help with the resulting challenges.

The dry weather has seen DairyNZ recently fielding questions about milking frequency, both once-a-day milking and milking three times in two days (or 14-18 hour milking intervals).

Reducing milking frequency, especially milking once-a-day post-Christmas, is a common strategy and particularly so in a hot, dry summer. Done early and with enough feed, it can increase cow body condition score gain through autumn and therefore extend lactation.

Once-a-day milking:• takes the pressure off cows by reducing energy expenditure and the incidence of heat stress in summer, especially if walking long distances to be milked• reduces stress on staff and gives managers more time to plan and manage• helps cows reach body condition score (BCS) targets during dry summer periods and sets the farm up to maximise days in milk from autumn pasture growth.

What is three in two?DairyNZ scientist Paul Edwards says while many farmers are confident with milking once-a-day, less is known about milking three times in two days.

He says the three in two strategy is often used in summer and is commonly used in Canterbury to reduce lameness in late lactation.

“This option can be used to help reduce time and energy spent walking and can also help extend the grazing rotation. This is because on many farms you move from feeding four paddocks every two days to three paddocks every two days,” says Edwards.

“However, be careful to ensure cows are still well fed when switching from twice-a-day.

“Research on the impact of milking interval on milk yield indicates that the rate of milk secretion is largely unaffected up to about 18 hours – though there is variation between animals. Therefore, if cows are fed the same amount, there should be little to no loss in milk production, when cows are switched from four milkings to three in two days.

“Also, many farmers don’t stick rigidly to 16 hour intervals – 14,16,18 or 12,18,18 are common options to suit milking teams and avoid a late-night milking.”

Edwards says feeding levels need to be monitored if moving to three in two.

“You could go from feeding four paddocks every two days (12 hour breaks) to three paddocks every two days. Although this does help to slow down the rotation, pasture covers and supplementary feed allocation need to be managed carefully to prevent a drop in production due to reduced feed intake.”

For more information on reducing milking frequency visit


Source: Stuff

Enhancing herd profitability through the evaluation of milk fatty acids

Producing more milkfat and protein is a sure way to enhance herd profitability. And, the best way to increase milkfat and protein is to enhance rumen fermentation. Over the past year, a group of scientists led by Dr. Dave Barbano of Cornell University have been studying the link between on-farm management, nutrition and milk composition with a focus on bulk tank sampling.

This test is derived from a series of bulk tank samples that are taken on-farm and immediately shipped to a lab for milk fatty acid composition. The test is conducted by an infrared (mid-FTIR) milk analysis machine, which provides levels of de novo, mixed origin and preformed fatty acids (grams of fatty acids per 100 grams of milk) of that specific bulk tank sample.

De novo fatty acids and rumen fermentation

De novo is a Latin expression meaning “from the beginning.” De novo fatty acids are the short chain fatty acids (C4 to C14) that comprise 20–30 percent of total milk fatty acids. These fatty acids are derived from acetate and butyrate precursors that are produced in the rumen by forage fermentation (Figure 1.). There are also preformed, long-chain fatty acids (C18:0, C18:1 and C18:3), which make up about 35 to 40 percent of total fatty acids, and the mixed group of fatty acids (C16’s) which comprise the remaining 35 percent of milk fatty acids. University research has shown that the percentage of milk de novo fatty acids is positively correlated with the percentage of fat and true protein in the milk. Continuing research is being conducted with the goal of determining the optimal relationship among these three groups for peak milk component output.

The de novo fatty acids are important for two reasons: first, de novo fatty acid levels reflect rumen function, primarily fiber fermentation, which produces the acetate and butyrate needed as building blocks for short-chain de novo fatty acids. Second, milk fat and protein yields are two key areas of focus for dairy profitability, with pounds of components per day positively related to net milk income over feed costs. In addition, rumen conditions that enhance microbial fermentation should stimulate microbial protein production, thereby increasing milk protein content. Higher de novo fatty acids in the milk reflect healthier rumen conditions.

Rumen pH and milk fatty acids

It is commonly known that nutritional factors, such as fat percentage in the diet and its composition, may influence milk fermentable carbohydrates and forage particle size. Rumen pH has an incredibly large impact on fiber fermentation because nutrient factors such as too much fermentable starch in the rumen will lower pH and decrease both rate and extent of fiber digestion. Poor feeding management can influence rumen pH, subsequent fiber digestion and microbial protein production.

Improving rumen pH and maximizing de novo fatty acid synthesis

Below are some tips to improve de novo fatty acid content and produce higher milk fat and true protein content:

  • Don’t overstock. Herds with higher de novo synthesis are 10 times more likely to have feed bunk space of at least 18 inches per cow and are five times more likely to have stall stocking density less than or equal to 110 percent. The relationship between stocking density and de novo fatty acid content in milk makes sense given that overstocking increases feeding rate and aggression at the feed bunk, depresses rumination and increases risk for lower rumen pH. In addition, some research shows that overstocking has a greater impact on rumen pH than does physically effective neutral detergent fiber (peNDF).
  • Feed more frequently. High de novo free-stall farms are five times more likely to feed twice a day, which presumably results in better rumen conditions for microbial fermentation. For tie-stall farms, high de novo farms are 11 times more likely to feed at least five times per day. Overall, greater frequency of feeding enhances milk components and the de novo fatty acids, which reflect rumen pH.
  • Feed fat properly and meet fiber requirements. From a nutritional standpoint, low de novo herds typically have diets with higher dietary fat content. These herds are also three-and-a-half times more likely to have a total mixed ration (TMR) containing greater than three-and-a-half percent ether extract. We still need to learn more about the composition of dietary fat and how it contributes to lower de novo fatty acid synthesis, but it is apparent that feeding more fat is a risk factor for reducing de novo milk fatty acids. Feeding too much unsaturated fat will depress rumen fiber fermentation.
  • Excellent fermentation of forage is needed. A high level/output of de novo fatty acids in the milk indicates that the rumen fermentation is working very well and that high levels of acetate, propionate and butyrate are being produced in the rumen. Excellent fermentation of forage produces a larger microbial biomass in the rumen and provides more essential amino acids in support of milk protein synthesis.

De novo fatty acid measurement in milk is an excellent tool to evaluate the effectiveness of rumen fermentation and forage digestion.

Dr. Dave Barbano suggests the parameters for bulk tank fatty acid testing analysis:

If you would like a fat test greater than 3.75 percent fat in the bulk tank with a Holstein herd, then:

  • De novo fatty acids needs to be greater than 0.85 grams per 100 grams milk
  • Mix origin fatty acids needs to be greater than 1.40 grams per 100 grams milk
  • De novo and mixed fatty acids needs to be greater than 2.25 grams per 100 grams milk
  • Double bonds per fatty acid in milk fat needs to be less than 0.31. As double bonds per fatty acid increase in milkfat, the output of de novo fatty acids decreases.

In conclusion, de novo fatty acid production has a strong positive correlation with the content of milk fat and protein. The level of de novo fatty acids seems to be an indicator of rumen health and proper rumen function. Feeding and farm management strategies that produce an increase in synthesis of de novo fatty acids can help increase milk fat, protein output and dairy profitability.

For more information on fatty acid metrics or the milk sampling process, contact a member of the Hubbard Dairy Tech Team or reach out to the Stearns DHIA Laboratory at 1-800-369-2697.

Suntor Holsteins – Breeding Goals Revisited

Many factors can lead herd owners to change their breeding goals. They may have bred to participate in shows but haven’t got their animals placed near or at the top of the class. Perhaps their herd is not producing enough milk or milk solids. Others may find that their herd needs to be genetically better for health and fertility reasons.  It could be that the next generation of owners has decided to go a different route in dairy farming. Whatever the reason the implementation of a new selection scheme, with the same breed or by using cross breeding, takes a plan with defined goals in mind.

Suntor Holsteins, Ormstown Quebec, has reached the point where changes are being made in their breeding program. Recently, The Bullvine produced an article on the planning and building of new housing and robotic stall milking at Suntor (Suntor Holsteins – New Baby, New Robot, New Perspective). This article will cover the thoughts of Kevin Sundborg as he decides on the direction of Suntor’s future breeding program.

Suntor’s Past Breeding Program

As described in the previous article, Suntor has been housed in a typical Canadian tie stall barn and has won two Master Breeders Shields. That was after Fred and Ruth Sundborg had started with a grade Holstein herd in 1973 and were fully purebred by 1981. If a proven bull did not leave high type daughters, he did not get used in the Suntor herd and only young sires from high type families were sampled in the herd. Kevin, who is Fred (herd founder) and Ruth’s son and the current co-owner with wife Amanda, told the Bullvine that back in those days, “the goal was to get VG 2year-olds producing 80 lbs at their peak because that is what got the attention of cattle buyers and other breeders”.

Now move forward to the 1990s when TPI and LPI were created.  Initially both these total merit indexes placed approximately 50:50 emphasis on type and production. Suntor adopted the use of LPI when selecting sires both proven (70%) and unproven (30%). With time LPI placed 40:60 emphasis on type and production. When health and fertility traits were added to the LPI, Suntor again followed the breed recommended LPI and considered production, type and health/fertility when selecting sires.

Why Breeding Needs Have Changed

It’s now 2017 and Suntor has two robots milking their herd and Kevin and Amanda have plans for 80 cows producing 140 kgs of fat per day. It does not matter that a first calf heifer is not 60” tall or that she needs to be stylish, but it does matter how much high-quality milk she produces. It also matters that she is fertile and goes about her work without creating issues that require Suntor owners’ attention.

These factors have resulted in Suntor commencing to use sires with a different mix of attributes than the sires that they had used in the past.

New Ideal Young Cow

Kevin described to The Bullvine two first calf heifers currently in their herd. One is 61” tall and the classifier scored her VG86 with a shallow VG87 udder. She is producing 37 kgs (81 lbs) of 3.7%F 3.0%P milk after calving at 25 months. The other heifer is 57” tall, classified GP80, has a GP80 udder, has excellent mobility, and will produce 13,000 kgs of 4.0%F, 3.3%P milk in 305 days after calving at 22 months. In Kevin’s words – “In the past we would have preferred the first heifer, but now we also appreciate the second heifer as well. Today Kevin and Amanda are finding that the robots had no trouble in milking the second heifer and her moderate frame size means a lower body maintenance requirement for feed. Her excellent mobility greatly improves her chances of a long trouble-free life in their free stall-robot operation. (Read More – She ain’t pretty she just milks that way)

Based on what Kevin is seeing in the cows that do the best job in their new set-up, he has modified his sire selection criteria. He says he still wants balanced cows and has added good milking speed, positive indexes for wellness traits and high component production to his must haves in the sires he uses.

Other Breeders Have an Ideal for Young Cows

But Kevin is not the only breeder to be breeding for a different type of young cow than they did in the past.

Alan Andersen of the well-known SeaGull Bay Dairy in Idaho considers their ideal first calver to be 54-56” tall, classifying GP80-82 with an udder capable of producing 110+ lbs of milk (3x) per day. They want cows that will breed back on 1st or 2nd service and have zero health or metabolic problems. The Andersen Family milks 2,400 cows, 25% Holsteins and 75% crossbreds (Holstein x Montbeliarde x Viking Red).  Their Holsteins must keep up with the crossbred for fertility, health and longevity. The picture below is one of their first calvers, 6-7 months fresh, that classified GP81 (2yr). She represents that kind of Holstein young cow that SeaGull Bay wants to breed and work with. In her first lactation she stood 56” tall and produced on 305 days (3x) 29,350 # milk, 4.3%F 1264#F and 3.3%P 966#P. That’s 2230 # (1010 kgs) of fat + protein. She peaked at 121# milk per day. On a relative basis she was 130% compared to her contemporaries for yield.

Aardema Cabriolet 7820

Mark Yeazel, Ja-Bob Holsteins in Ohio, gives serious consideration to his operation’s needs when selecting sires for his 120 cow free stall robot milked herd. Mark wants the productive trouble-free kind of cow. Wide chested, moderate stature, functional udders (good milking speed, no reverse tilt, wide at rear to allow for easy robotic teat cup attachment, teats of moderate length and well-spaced and good udder texture), excellent mobility and wide and properly located thurls. Mark says, ‘If their rear teats cross or they are slow milking, I must sell them as I run my robots to capacity and I cannot tolerate cows that cannot be milked properly or take too long in the robot”. Mark considers all genetic indexes and aAa when mating his cows. In his opinion “high TPI sires often only get to be high because they sire daughters that have short teats, are overly tall, likely lack udder depth and capacity and will lack adequate body width”.

Jotan (Red) x Burket Falls Poll Pledge PP x Lawnboy average cell 101 2-09 305 28829 4.8% 1379 3.6% 1051 365d 31640 4.8% 1525 3.7 %1174 true protein 3 -9 now Bred first service on first lactation, took a couple extra this time. she is GP 81. Her dam was 2nd high cow for protein in state as 4 year old.

The Truth Is

Every day more and more breeders are fitting their breeding goals to their plans and operation rather than just following what was used in the past or that their neighbor use.

Try These Breeding Thoughts on For Size

During our discussions with Kevin Sundborg, he mentioned to us some thoughts that are guiding him as he changes his breeding program. We share Kevin’s points with Bullvine readers, so that they can consider refining or changing their sire selection criteria to more nearly fit the cattle needed in their own operations.

Kevin’s thoughts:

  • “Milk production (milk and milk solids) will be generating our revenue in the future.”
  • “Heifers that calve at 21-22 months and are 55-57” do a lot of growing and easily make 59-61” cows. That’s tall enough.”
  • “Shorter and medium stature cows tend to have fewer problems in free stalls than do taller cows.”
  • “We feel that +5 to +9 CONF or +1.0 to +2.0 PTAT sires with high production and good health & fertility are the ones we need to use.”
  • “We have been and will continue to use Pp and PP (polled) sires.”
  • “We will be using the genetic indexes for health traits when selecting sires in the future.”
  • “We are interested in the sire genetic indexes soon to be available for feed conversion.”
  • “It comes down to how much dry matter a cow can take in rather than how tall or how wide she is.”
  • “In our robotic operation we will likely continue to use type classification and DHI programs.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Do you agree with Kevin’s thoughts? Or do you lean toward the way SeaGull Bay or Ja-Bob are breeding for the future? Do you have additional thoughts?

Eventually, from your semen buying pattern, your semen suppliers will know your future genetic requirements. However, in the mean-time, you can help them by sharing your thoughts with the representatives who service your farm.

Breeding dairy cows is dynamic. It won’t be the same tomorrow as it was yesterday or ten years ago. Not every type of cow is the best for every system or environment.

The important thing is that each breeder decides what’s best genetically for their operation and then selects sires that produce daughters that conform to their future herd’s needs.

New York Dairy farmers upset by new waste tire rule

Dairy farmers say they’re getting hit with another costly state regulation just when they can least afford it because of declining milk prices.

Last fall, the Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that old tires used to hold down feed storage covers must be cut in half or have holes put in them to keep water from collecting, which gives mosquitoes carrying diseases such as zika and West Nile virus a place to breed.

The regulation, scheduled to take effect May 2, also limits the density tires may be stored at.

However, farmers say cutting steel-belted radial tires leaves metal exposed that can get into feed and prove fatal to cows.

“These are deadly to cattle,” said Willard Peck, Welcome Stock Farm co-owner and Town of Northumberland supervisor. “Pieces can break off, end up in silage and kill your cattle.”

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said he’s hopeful, after discussing the situation with DEC staff, that the state will extend the deadline for complying with regulations and perhaps modify them as well.

“They seem very willing to listen,” he said. “They clearly did not understand the implication that radial tires are full of wire. It’s a serious issue.”

One option is purchasing truck sidewalls, large tires with sides cut off. But these aren’t as heavy, so they don’t hold down plastic feed covers as well, which causes spoilage and costs money, too.

“And they just aren’t available in the quantity all these farms need,” Peck said.

In addition, if farms buy truck sidewalls, they still have to find a way to dispose of thousands of old car tires.

“We’ve got 10,000 tires on our corn bunker alone,” said Linda Barber, co-owner of Barber Brothers Dairy in Northumberland.

Thousands more are used to hold down haylage covers, she said.

Neil Buckley, owner of Buckley Tire Service in Glens Falls, said disposal costs about $2 per tire.

“We have to dispose of everything we take off cars,” he said. “Unfortunately it’s an expensive thing.”

Buckley said he used to give old tires to farms that wanted them, but stopped doing so because of the new rules.

Barber said people who wanted to get rid of old tires would drop them off all the time.

“Not any more,” she said. “We can’t take them.”

This might prompt people to dump tires illegally in woods and along roadsides.

“It’s crazy,” Barber said of new law. “It’s going to be impossible what they want us to do by May 2. We don’t have time to do this. We don’t have the means, either. This wasn’t thought through at all.”

Restricting tire density on bunk silos contributes to spoilage by allowing air to seep in. This creates a dangerous job for laborers who would have to remove spoilage, farmers say.

The first West Nile virus outbreak in the U.S. was in August 1999 in metropolitan New York when seven of 62 people diagnosed with the disease died. West Nile virus can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

It’s transmitted by mosquitoes that become infected after biting infected birds, a primary host. An infected mosquito may transmit the disease to humans and animals.

A Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences document tells some of the problems associated with trying to make tires less welcoming to mosquitoes.

Leaving tires on rims keeps water out, but makes handling more cumbersome and difficult with the extra weight.

The document says drilling holes in sidewalls “will take quite some time to do just one tire. Also, the bit sometimes snags the steel cords, leaving sharps that can rip fingers and plastic silo covers.” Holes that aren’t big enough will quickly fill with leaves and debris.

Halving tires with a tire cutting machine can present similar safety problems with exposed wire.

Tire bead cutters can remove the tread and leave behind most of the sidewall and the bead. But much of the weight is lost, so adequate anchoring of the bunk silo cover may require more than a single layer of sidewall disks. And remaining tread sections can still hold water if not disposed of properly, the Penn State document says.

Another option would be treating water in full casing tires with a larvicide such as Bti. But these products may only be placed by a certified pesticide applicator.

Barber said she doesn’t believe bunk silo tires are the real source of mosquito problems. Some municipalities target naturally wet areas, where snowmelt and rain collect, with Bti applications each year.

“You don’t see mosquitoes here that much,” Barber said. “They’re more apt to be in a swamp than a bunker silo.”


Source: Saratogian News

Giving fresh cows that extra boost

What goes into the cow before it calves, impacts both health and production in subsequent lactation. Marcos Zenobi, Jose Santos and Charlie Staples from the University of Florida explain.
All dairy cows mobilize stored fat for at least three weeks after calving to help support milk production. Metabolic problems such as ketosis and fatty liver are common during this time if cows struggle to use the mobilized fat efficiently, and that can take a toll on farm profits. Various strategies during the dry period have been proposed to help minimize inefficient fat utilization around calving. Controlling body condition at calving to a range of 3 to 3.5 is one such strategy because fat cows perform poorly. However, cows may store fat in their viscera (kidney and intestines), which is invisible to those who are body scoring cows.
Just as belly fat in people has been linked to diabetes and heart disease, cows that accumulate belly fat during the dry period may be more prone to metabolic problems after calving. For many years, pregnant dry cows have been fed diets above their energy requirements, especially during the close-up period, in order to prepare the ruminal microbes for high-energy diets after calving and to compensate for reduced feed intake during the last one to two weeks of gestation. These diets are often heavy in corn silage or grain.
In some instances, dry cows are ignored and do not receive enough nutrients resulting in under-condition at calving and lack the energy reserves to support milk in the early weeks. Alternatively, feeding diets that include less corn silage and more low-energy forages, such as wheat straw, may be “just right.” These “just right” diets (Goldilocks diets) allow cows to eat as much as they want without gaining much weight.

Exploring the Goldilocks diet

At the University of Florida, 93 multiparous Holstein cows were divided into two groups and fed one of two total mixed rations (TMRs) from dry-off to calving, spanning approximately seven weeks. One diet was 58% corn silage and 8% wheat straw (excessive intake of calories) whereas the second diet was 37.5% wheat straw, 23% corn silage, and 6% triticale silage (evenly balanced, the Goldilocks diet). Brewers grains, citrus pulp, canola meal, and minerals/ vitamins were the other feed ingredients in both diets.
At two weeks before calving, cows offered the high corn silage diet ate more TMR dry matter (12.4kg vs 11.2kg) and more energy (140% vs 109% of their energy requirement) compared to the high wheat straw “Goldilocks” group. Interestingly, during the last two weeks of gestation, cows fed the high corn silage diet dropped in feed intake twice as fast compared to the cows receiving the high straw diet. This rapid drop may predispose cows to metabolic problems upon calving.
Body condition score averaged 3.5 at the time of calving and did not differ between the two groups of cows. Cows were fed the same TMR postpartum (45% corn silage, 14% ground corn, 15% soybean meal, 8% soybean hulls, 8% whole cottonseeds, 6% citrus pulp, and 4% minerals/vitamins). Cows were monitored closely for the first 15 weeks after calving.

Cows fed the “Goldilocks” diet prepartum ate on average 1.18kg more of TMR dry matter daily throughout the first 15 weeks following calving (24.1kg vs 22.9kg per day). The “Goldilocks” cows eating more feed also produced 1.4kg per day more milk (43.1kg vs 41.7kg per day), but this advantage was not statistically greater. Thus, cows eating the lower energy diet prepartum relied less on body energy reserves postpartum to sustain milk production.
During the first weeks postpartum, these cows were in less negative energy balance, had 10% less fat in their blood, exhibited fewer cases of ketosis, and had 20% less fat in their liver as determined from liver biopsies.
Overall, multiparous Holstein cows can be fed a single diet throughout the dry period that is matched to their nutrient requirements for pregnancy and maintenance that will result in a healthier and potentially more productive performance after calving.

More milk possible

Another feeding strategy for pregnant dry cows is to add ruminally-protected choline (RPC) to the diet. Choline is a water-soluble vitamin found in feeds, but ruminal microbes destroy it during fermentation so that very little choline from the diet is available for absorption from the small intestine. The cow can synthesize some choline in its tissues, but apparently not enough to optimise milk production.
At the University of Florida, we fed O or 60 grams per day of an RPC product from 21 days before expected calving through 21 days after calving to 93 multiparous Holstein cows. Dietary methionine was maintained at 2.3% of metabolisable protein and the lysine to methionine ratio was 3: 1.
Cows fed RPC tended to produce more milk (43.4kg vs 41.3kg per day) without consuming more feed (23.8kg vs 23.2kg per day) over the first 15 weeks of lactation. We continued to follow each cow’s milk production after they went back into the general herd. Again, milk production tended to be greater over the first 40 weeks of lactation (37.1kg vs 34.9kg per day).

Cows consuming RPC were in a more negative energy balance at two and three weeks after calving but without greater mean concentrations of plasma fatty acids or ketones (beta-hydroxybutyric acid) in the first five weeks. Liver fat (triacylglycerol) was also not higher in the RPC group during the first three weeks. Choline has reduced fatty liver in many species, including dairy cows. In this experiment, it may have helped to prevent an increase in fatty liver in the midst of a temporary, more negative energy state.

Choline helped health, too

For the first time, several additional benefits of feeding RPC were documented in our study. The prevalence of subclinical hypocalcemia (less than 8 milligrams of Ca/100 mL of plasma) was reduced from 25% to 10% during the first seven days postpartum when feeding RPC.
The immune status of the multiparous cows fed RPC appeared to be improved based upon 1) dropping rather than climbing rectal temperatures the first 12 days postpartum, 2) a greater proportion of the blood neutrophils killing bacteria at 17 days fresh, and 3) greater concentration and total production of immunoglobulins (lgG) in colostrum.
Using timed A.I. methods, pregnancy tended to be better (41.3% vs 23.6%; P<0.10) at first insemination (10 weeks postpartum) but did not differ by 40 weeks postpartum (69.8% 62.5%). From weaning to 12 months of life, heifers born from dams fed RPC had significantly better average daily gains (0.9kg vs 0.8kg pounds per day). Supplementing RPC for six weeks during transition, costing about £18 per cow, had long-term benefits for multiparous Holstein cows and replacement heifers.
The authors are a graduate student and professors at the University of Florida, Gainesville.


Source: AB Vista

Future dairy farms could see Artificial Intelligence boost milk yields

A Kerry agri-tech company is teaming up with the software research centre at Science Foundation Ireland and the Institute of Technology in Tralee to develop dairy farm equipment, which will use Artificial Intelligence to boost milk yields while reducing the workload of farmers.

Dairymaster, which is based in Causeway, has won innovation awards all over the world and exports its equipment to more than 40 countries.

It was established in 1968 to install milking equipment as dairy farms moved from manual labour to mechanisation.

Today it is recognised as one of the worlds most innovative agriculture companies, manufacturing autonomous milking equipment and exporting it to countries such as the US, Russia, Japan, Germany and New Zealand.

Dairymaster’s ‘Moomonitor’ is worn by cows and takes three million readings per day.

These readings are processed in the cloud and results are sent to an app developed by Dairymaster.

CEO and innovator, Professor Edmond Harty today announced details of a €2 million research project to develop equipment to help the farmers of the future to increase their milk yields and incomes with less work.

He said artificial intelligence, wearable sensors, and embedded electronics could make diary farming easier and more sustainable.

Science Foundation Ireland is providing around €1m of the funding, through Lero, its software research centre.

Recruitment of eight scientists and engineers has already begun and they will join a team of more than 40 researchers at the Dairymaster plant.


Source: RTE

Near-Record Year for Farm Loans in the US

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced another year of high activity in its farm loan programs. Hard-working farm families across the country accessed nearly $6 billion in new credit, either directly or guaranteed through commercial lenders in 2017. At year end, FSA was assisting more than 120,000 family farmers with loans totaling just over $25 billion.

“FSA loan funds have been in high demand the last few years,” said Dr. Robert Johansson, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for the Farm Production and Conservation mission area. “We provide opportunities to qualified small, beginning and underserved farmers who are unable to obtain commercial credit, to help them get started, gain access to land and grow their operations. Family farmers across America also come to us for credit when they face challenges to stay in business. We’re proud to support rural prosperity by providing credit to those who need it most.”

FSA provides a variety of loan assistance, including direct and guaranteed farm ownership loans, operating loans and even direct Microloans up to $50,000 and EZ Guarantees up to $100,000 with streamlined application processes.

More than 25,000 direct and guaranteed FSA loans went to beginning or underserved farmers and ranchers. Over 4,200 beginning farmers received direct farm ownership loans from FSA to make their first land purchase. And of the approximately 6,500 Microloans made in the last fiscal year, three-quarters (almost 4,900) went to beginning farmers, 1,000 went to women and 400 to veterans.

FSA’s direct farm loans are unique in that the agency provides technical assistance in addition to credit. Consistent with efforts to continually improve technical assistance, today FSA announced the publication of two booklets that will serve as important informational tools and resources for existing and prospective farm loan borrowers.

Your FSA Farm Loan Compass booklet was recently developed specifically for farmers and ranchers who have an existing farm loan with FSA. It provides detailed guidance outlining borrower responsibilities and the servicing options that FSA offers. It also addresses common questions borrowers may have as they navigate through loan program requirements and the financial concepts involved.

Originally published in 2012, Your Guide to FSA Farm Loans was designed for new loan customers. It provides information about the various types of farm loans available and guides new borrowers through the application process. The revised version addresses program changes and includes new loan offerings, like the popular Microloan program that was rolled out after the publication of the original Guide.

“Your FSA Farm Loan Compass” and “Your Guide to FSA Farm Loans” are available on the FSA website at Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to download and share them with others in their community who may require assistance in understanding FSA’s loans and servicing processes. For additional information about FSA farm loans, please contact your loan officer or other FSA staff at your local office. To find your local FSA office, visit

Home-grown, highly digestible feeds can bolster a dairy farm’s bottom line

Low -lignin alfalfa and brown midrib (BMR) corn silage offer significant advantages to dairy farmers who want to capitalize on home-grown feeds and keep more cash at home.

More fiber in the dairy diet means less space in the rumen, but intakes can be bolstered with lower fiber, higher digestibility feeds, Dr. David Combs, University of Wisconsin Madison dairy nutrition expert, said during the January “World Class Webinar” presented by Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.

Not all forages are the same. NDF digestibility can swing from 30-50 percent, which can swing milk production by 8-10 pounds, while swings in starch digestibility can swing milk production by 4-6 pounds.

Studies show improving fiber digestibility can significantly increase dry matter intake for a substantial bump in milk yield. “A 2-3 unit change in diet digestibility by feeding higher quality forages corresponds to an extra pound of milk, so it’s very important to get higher digestibility forages in the diet,” Combs said.

Both low-lignin alfalfa and BMR corn silage have higher fiber digestibility than their conventional counterparts

BMR vs. conventional corn silage

Evaluation studies show the fiber digestibility of BMR corn silage consistently runs 3-4 units higher than conventional corn silage, a reflection of the BMR trait.

In the open field, however, growing conditions can grate against the genetics. There is overlap, with some conventional corn testing  high on fiber digestibility and some BMR corn testing low.

 On average, however, BMR corn tests higher. “The BMRs with superior genetic traits consistently improve feed digestibility, but the environment has an overriding effect,” Combs noted.

Studies show days in milk (DMI) and milk yields are greater when BMR and high fiber digestibility (HFD crops) are fed. “The data shows BMR and HFD lines had significantly higher intakes and, as a result, more milk production,” Combs reported.

Fat test and protein tests weren’t really affected by feed digestibility. “Don’t expect negative impacts from feeding BMR corn silage and low-lignin lines,” he said.

Reduced lignin alfalfa

Currently, there are two reduced lignin alfalfa varieties on the market. HiGest, a natural selection from Alforex , was introduced three years ago, followed the next year by HarvXtra, a GMO crop from Forage Genetics International.

As lignin accumulates in the plant cell wall, hemicellulose (HC) digestibility decreases. “The concept is reducing the lignin in the cell wall leaves the HC more digestible,” Combs explained.

However, lignin is important for plant health. It provides strength to the plant, important for lodging resistance, and allows the plant’s vascular system to transport water, important for drought-resistance. It also decomposes very slowly, which contributes to soil quality.

Utilizing the benefits

As a farmer waits to harvest alfalfa, yields will climb, but quality declines.  “The challenge is trying to harvest in the sweet spot where yield and quality is optimized,” Combs said. “What’s exciting is low-lignin lines add lignin more slowly.”

That opens two strategies. One is to cut low-lignin alfalfa at the normal intervals and reap higher feed digestibility and quality.

The other is harvesting less frequently, and still maintain quality. “This strategy is a significant benefit of growing low-lignin alfalfa,” Combs said.

Cutting can be delayed 7-10 days, depending on the variety, to capture an extra week of growth and yield. “That’s what low-lignin alfalfa brings to the table – a wider harvest window,” he pointed out. “The later harvest gives a greater tonnage per cutting and lets farmers make use of the full growing season.”

A six state study including Wisconsin, conducted in 2016, found the longer cutting interval pushed yields of HarvXtra by a half-ton per acre higher in the seedling year.

There is a yield drag with HarvXtra, as there is with BMR corn, but yields rise with the delayed cutting plan.

HarvXtra had significantly higher feed digestibility compared to the trial’s conventional varieties, regardless of maturity.  During the 10 day delay in harvest, fiber and lignin accumulated more slowly in low-lignin alfalfa, Combs explained.

When HiGest is compared to HarvXtra by reviewing feed quality measurements over six sampling dates, NDF, NDFD and RFQ were similar and all favorable over conventional varieties. “Rankings were fairly consistent and ranked out higher than conventional varieties of alfalfa,” Combs reported.

Another study pushing fiber digestibility to high levels showed improved feed digestibility has a nice milk production response, no change on fat test and very little on protein.

“The bottom line with fiber digestibility is anything we can do to improve it is going to support milk production,” Combs said.


Source: Wisconsin State Farmer

The wrong temperatures land calves in hot water

Using “hot” water to wash plastic calf feeding utensils can add to the spread of infection by welding the residue on to the plastic, said UCD health group vet, Catherine Carty.

In farms where there is a problem the feeding utensils can be a real issue.

“Rinse the buckets first in a warm water, not more than 30 degrees or otherwise the milk residue becomes welded to the plastic and that is a lovely place for the bacteria to live and stay there,” says the bovine health management specialist.

“If the residue gets welded to the plastic it can be very hard to get it off,” she said.

“After the first rinse they can be soaked in an alkaline detergent with really hot water of 50 degrees plus and get out the brushes and scrub it,” she added.

The calving pen is the first place that the calf is exposed to infection after being born.

Kildalton College agricultural students Maureen Walsh, Freshford, Johanna Glynn, Bray, Alana Coyne, Dungarvan, Aoife Finnerty, Oylgate, and Caoimhe Ni-Dhroiohneain attend the Teagasc/AHI event in Co Laois22
Kildalton College agricultural students Maureen Walsh, Freshford, Johanna Glynn, Bray, Alana Coyne, Dungarvan, Aoife Finnerty, Oylgate, and Caoimhe Ni-Dhroiohneain attend the Teagasc/AHI event in Co Laois

“Disinfecting at the end of the year is extremely important for the calving pens and calf housing because the risk of infection can be carried over from one year to the next and equally likely to cause infection down the line, so terminal disinfection is very important and can make a difference from one year to the next,” she said. She warned that dung around the pen is a carrier of bugs and will prevent disinfectants from working.

It is important to take advice from the herd vet or farm adviser on the best type of disinfectant to use, because some of the commonly used disinfectants are not very effective against cryptosporidiosis, or coccidiosis.

“The less time that the calf is left in the calving pen the better to reduce the risk of infection. Moving on from the calving pen it is equally important that the ropes and any equipment used at calving are properly washed in a good disinfectant after each calving,” she explained.

The utensils used for the collection and feeding of the colostrum are equally important and should be properly cleaned after every use. “We also have to think about ourselves. We go from the pen where the calves are to the calving pen to deliver another calf and we can be carrying contamination on our hands, on our overalls or our footwear if they are not kept perfectly clean and disinfected after each calving,” she said.

“You must remember that if you are bucket feeding calves that you feed the youngest calf first and move up to the older calves so that if there is infection that it is not being carried and if there is a sick calf they should be left to last to feed,” she added.

While the calving pen is the first place that the calf is exposed to infection, the calf housing is just as important and must be kept clean and dry.

Source: Farm Ireland

Outdoor grazing rising in Europe

More European dairy farmers are warming to the idea of grazing cows outdoors.

European dairy co-op FrieslandCampina reports that the number of its member dairy farmers putting their cows out onto paddocks has increased for the second year in a row. 

Last year, 79.4% of FrieslandCampina farms took up some form of outdoor grazing, 1.2% more than in the previous year. 

Thanks to active acquisition and guidance, 314 dairy farms decided to start outdoor grazing this year, the co-op says.

Chairman Frans Keurntjes says the rise in the number of farms using outdoor grazing is a positive development. 

“The sight of the cows contributes to social acceptance and the image of dairy farming. We are happy with these increases and thank all outdoor grazers.”

By promoting outdoor grazing FrieslandCampina hopes that in 2020 it will have the same percentage of farms (81%) using outdoor grazing as in 2012. 

Some dairy farmers are given tailored advice and the co-op organises outdoor grazing clinics.

FrieslandCampina also rewards its farmers who graze their cows in paddocks for at least 120 days per year for a minimum of six hours per day. These farmers get an outdoor grazing premium of 1.50 euro ($2.52) per 100kg milk.

Part-outdoor grazing brings a reward of 0.46 euros (77c) per 100kg milk. To get this, farmers must outdoor-graze 25% of their cattle for at least 120 days a year.

Outdoor grazing is a traditional aspect of the Dutch landscape and is highly appreciated by the people, the co-op says. 

“FrieslandCampina encourages member dairy farmers in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany to put their cows and young cattle out into the paddocks.”

Source: Rural News

Dairy fertility and production up in UK, study shows

Fertility in UK dairy herds has improved significantly, according to eight-year data trends published in the latest 500-herd report by the University of Reading.

The report analyses data and monitors trends from a cross-section of NMR-recorded Holstein herds for 34 key management criteria.

Results show:

  • Herds are producing about 8% more milk annually for every cow place in 2017 than they were in 2010.
  • Milk yield a cow a year has increased from 7,665kg in 2010 to 8,381kg in the year ending August 2017, yet 305-day yields have hardly changed in that time.
  • The report also shows lifetime daily milk production has increased from a median of 10.5kg in 2010 to 12.3kg in 2017.

James Hanks, who co-authored the report with Mohamad Kossaibati, said this progress in annual milk production could well be attributed to the improved fertility performance.

Fertility improvements include:

  • The lactation length has reduced from 337 days in 2010 to 319 days in 2017 in median herds within the sample.
  • This can be attributed to improvements in conception rates.
  • The percentage of cows served by day 80 after calving has increased by 14% to 60% (70% in top 25% of herds).
  • The percentage of cows pregnant by 100 days after calving has increased by 9% to 35% (41% in top 25%).
  • Inter-service intervals at 18-24 days (heat detection) has increased by 6% to 36% (42% in top 25% of herds).
  • Conception rate has improved by 2% to 34% (41% in top 25%).
  • Submission rate has improved by 11% to 38% (49% in top 25%).
  • Pregnancy rate has improved by 5% to 14% (18% in top 25%).

“This indicates that cows are getting pregnant earlier and being dried off sooner in preparation for their next calving. Earlier conception indicates there are fewer cows with extended lactations and low daily yields,” added Dr Hanks.

What has helped improve fertility?

While no single factor will be the sole contributor to fertility improvement, NMR vet Karen Bond suggested the UK herd will now be reaping the benefits of the fertility index introduced in 2005 that allowed producers to select for fertility in their breeding programmes.

“This will have made gradual improvements to herd fertility in the past decade,” she said.

Mrs Bond believes improved fertility management will be at the core of the improvements and rising trends, especially better heat detection.

“Heat detection is a big area and producers are embracing new technology to help them on farm. Cows will, in general, only display heat for a few hours and often not very strongly. If this is in the middle of the night the heat will be missed if they are relying solely on visual observation.

“Heat-detection systems, such as collars, allow these heats to be detected and provide accurate action lists. I think this has had a big effect on submission rates and getting cows back in calf quicker.”

Mrs Bond also believes the use of routine vet visits to examine problem cows earlier and address fertility issues will help to reduce calving-to-conception intervals and the calving index.

“Improved fertility performance plays a major role in herd efficiency and profitability, but it’s not a stand-alone issue. Only healthy cows, in good condition, will have good fertility.”


Source: Farmers Weekly

DNR board approves farm manure rules in eastern Wisconsin

Large dairy operations in eastern Wisconsin would have to limit manure spreading under new restrictions the state Department of Natural Resources board approved Jan. 24 in an attempt to protect groundwater from contamination.

The board approved the package unanimously Wednesday. The package now goes to Gov. Scott Walker for his approval. From there it would go to the Legislature, which would have 60 days to object to the rules or demand modifications.

The DNR has been working on the regulations for two years, largely in response to widespread drinking water contamination in Kewaunee County. The initial version called for statewide manure restrictions, but the dairy industry balked at the potential costs after Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s office shared the plan with farm groups.

The department’s policy board is set to vote Wednesday, Jan. 23 on another draft that imposes restrictions on concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOS, in 15 eastern counties with Silurian bedrock.

Contaminants can seep through that bedrock without getting absorbed, making statewide water quality standards unattainable in the region and county-specific regulations necessary, according to DNR officials.

Farmers still aren’t happy with the revisions, saying they’re too tough and will disrupt their industry. Environmentalists counter the rules don’t go far enough and should at least apply to southwestern Wisconsin, too. The bedrock in that region is fractured and porous, leaving groundwater vulnerable to pollution, said Midwest Environmental Advocates attorney Sarah Geers.

“Certainly, more needs to be done to protect drinking water, and these rules are a good start,” Geers said in an email to The Associated Press. “(But) it is unacceptable for DNR to delay action in southwest Wisconsin until there is a public outcry in response to widespread contamination.”

Under the regulations, farms with less than 2 feet of topsoil would be prohibited from spreading manure. Factory farms are already required to follow that prohibition.

Farms with between 2 feet and 20 feet of soil would have to follow a web of gallon restrictions and annual spread rates depending on soil depth. Liquid and solid manure would have to be treated to substantially reduce pathogen levels.

The restrictions would apply in Door, Kewaunee, Brown, Manitowoc, Calumet, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Dodge, Washington, Ozaukee, Waukesha, Milwaukee, Walworth, Racine and Kenosha.

Despite the scale-back to 15 counties, the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association still contends farmers would have to buy additional land with more topsoil so they can spread manure and soil depth data is decades old and unreliable.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group and a key GOP ally, is pushing back as well.

The group argues the DNR hasn’t proven that current water quality standards in the 15 counties have been implemented and are unattainable. The regulations also lack a firm definition of Silurian bedrock and improperly rely on the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Wisconsin Geological Natural History Survey to identify such areas, the organization maintains.


“Regulating before we have clear maps precisely designating which parts of the state will be subject to these changes is simply ridiculous and leaves the regulated community in the untenable position of having to guess whether or not the rules apply to them,” Lucas Vebber, WMC’s director of environmental and energy policy, wrote to the DNR in October.

DNR board approval would send the regulations to Walker for a final sign-off. The Republican-controlled Legislature would then have about two months to raise objections and demand changes.

The WDBA and WMC are powerful and have the ear of Walker and his fellow Republicans. The governor’s spokeswoman, Amy Hesenberg, didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment on whether the governor may demand changes in the regulations.

Mike Mikalsen, an aide to state Sen. Steve Nass, co-chairman of the Legislature’s administrative rules committee, also didn’t reply to an email.

DNR board member Bill Bruins of Brandon runs a 600-head dairy farm. That’s about 400 cattle short of the DNR’s definition of a CAFO but he’s been watching the regulations closely.

He said the regulations balance groundwater protection with farmers’ livelihoods. He defended the regional approach, saying the DNR hasn’t heard of problems with pathogens in groundwater elsewhere in the state and said soil depth data is “very adequate.”

“I’m pretty proud of the process the department took with this,” he said. “I would be surprised if there’s a roadblock in the Legislature.”

Source: Wisconsin State Farmer

Once-a-day milking has massive benefits

Putaruru dairy farmer Gray Baldwin is in his fourth season milking once a day. The system has lowered his on-farm costs and the slight hit in production has been offset by the flatter seasonal production curve.

When Gray Baldwin switched to once-a-day milking four years ago, people told him he was crazy.

Fonterra’s milk forecast was at a record $8.40/kg milk solids and dairy farmers were looking to capitalise on the payout by increasing their production.

Then the outlook changed. The falling milk price combined with consistently dry summers has seen many farmers seriously looking at OAD to help mitigate costs and expected feed shortages.

The Baldwins' 775-cow herd consists of almost all jersey genetics. The breed's more concentrated milk production makes ...The Baldwins’ 775-cow herd consists of almost all jersey genetics. The breed’s more concentrated milk production makes them ideal for once-a-day milking.

Many who scoffed at Gray’s decision now seek his advice about switching to OAD milking.

He found the first year was the hardest and he said farmers had to be prepared for a production hit. His 290ha farm near Putaruru typically milks 228,000kg MS a season and the switch to OAD along with the effects of drought saw production drop to 160,000kg MS.

The result taught him a huge lesson about the importance of genetics in OAD milking.

Having the cows walking along the race only once a day meant less effluent runoff from the race. It also reduced wear ...Having the cows walking along the race only once a day meant less effluent runoff from the race. It also reduced wear and tear on the race and lameness among the herd.

He discovered through herd testing about 10-15 per cent of his 775-cow herd could not handle being milked OAD. These cows either went dry or had very low milk production before Christmas. 

Instead of feed being turned into milk, it went onto the back of the cow.

“They get a fat backside. The technical term is that they are partitioning their energy into liveweight gain rather than lactation,” he said.

Even in the past two seasons, a minority in the herd brought in as replacements continued this trend.

Jersey cows make up the bulk of his herd. He believes the breed is better suited for OAD milking because their milk concentration in the udder is higher.

Jerseys also test higher for fat and protein composition and his herd typically tests at 6.8-7 per cent fat and 4.6-4.8 for protein. In comparison, while a good performing friesian herd produced higher volumes, it would typically test at 4.2 per cent and 3.2 per cent for fat and and protein respectively.

“She’s doing 30L a day and she can’t fit 30L in her udder if you are milking her once a day. She can only do it if you take out 18L in the morning and 12L at night.”

A jersey cow had concentrated milk which could fit in her udder, he said.

He  inseminates the herd using 100 per cent jersey and short gestation genetics. He does not use bulls.

Farmers considering switching to OAD should firstly learn as much as possible before making a decision. DairyNZ ran a OAD discussion group in Waikato and had a lot of information on OAD milking, he said.

He also advised farmers to think about their genetics. LIC, of which Baldwin is a director, has a OAD selection index among its semen catalogue.

A friesian herd carried a high risk if it switched to OAD, but it was a “no-brainer” for kiwicross or jersey herds, he said.

He also supported the option of running heifers on OAD while keeping the older cows on twice a day milking.

“The most important thing with heifers is to get them back in calf and if you milk them OAD they will retain body condition, they will cycle and you will get them in calf.”

For farmers new to OAD, the biggest hurdle was mental. Twice-a-day milking was the farming convention and many switched to OAD after Christmas but ran into problems with mastitis.

Gray said he had found no such issues because he milked his herd once a day from the start of the season. This allowed the cows to adjust and meant there were no mastitis issues.

The somatic cell count across his herd averaged 180,000, which was mid-range considering Fonterra penalised its farmers when it exceeded 400,000.

“The key there is that you have to have an all-year OAD system. What happens is that a lot of people milk twice a day until after Christmas and then put the cows on OAD. It’s a completely different ball game. The cow’s udder is not used to OAD and it bulges out and the cows start getting somatic cells.”

He shifted to OAD four years ago when his sharemilker moved on and he was forced to buy a new herd. He and wife Marilyn had also bought more land, increasing the farm size and potential herd size from 660 to 775 cows.

Milking OAD meant he could milk the extra cows in the existing 42-aside herringbone shed, so he did not have to build a larger milking shed.

The additional land is a 480ha forestry block that is being converted to pasture or cropping land over the next five years. Currently, 120ha of this block has been converted and is planted in kale to feed to the herd after the cows are dried off on May 31.

Once this extra land is available, Gray plans to milk 1200 cows OAD and utilise the whole of the forestry block to grow winter feed and supplementary feed crops.

This would see half the herd milked in the morning and the rest in the evening in the same shed.

The cows are run as two herds. Milking begins at 5:30am and finishes about 9:30am. It is slightly longer than a twice-a-day system using a larger shed, but his staff have to milk only in the morning.

The extra land gives his farm a narrow shape, with the furthest paddock from the shed being 3.5km and an average walking distance for the herd around 1.5km. OAD milking means the herd has to walk to the cow shed only in the morning when it is cooler.

Having the cows in the yards and walking along the race only once a day also means less effluent to pump and less effluent runoff from the race. It reduces wear and tear on the race and lameness in the herd.

The cows also coped better in the heat of the summer and are happier out in the paddock in the summer afternoon rather than walking to the shed, he said.

It meant he had to tweak his pasture management. In the spring he operates on a 21-day round and the cows return to a paddock after morning milking and are then shifted onto a fresh paddock late in the afternoon.

“OAD is not a code for less feeding. You still have to pump feed into cows like you always would.”

Following the tough first season, production climbed to 252,000kg MS and last season he milked 223,000kg MS.

On average, his production is about 10 per cent less than it would be if he milked his herd twice a day.

That loss occurred over peak milking and resulted in a flatter seasonal lactation curve then an average twice-a-day herd which typically peaks in November before falling away.  This loss was balanced out by greater milk production in the shoulders of the season, particularly into autumn.

Fonterra does not pay its farmers as much through the four peak months from September through to December and the production loss from OAD happened over a time when the company paid its farmers less for their milk.

“That means you actually make more money from Fonterra because they have a system where you are penalised in the peak.”

The income he received from the milk produced in the latter part of the season balanced the production loss during peak milking.

“The fact that your OAD cows hold on longer in autumn, you get a better payout because you are not sending so much in the peak.”

Achieving the optimum curve meant an earlier than normal calving date of July 12. Neighbouring dairy farmers typically calved their herd on July 25.

He estimated there was a 5 per cent cost saving in switching to OAD because less labour was required and his dairy shed electricity bill  dropped from $3500 to $2200 a month.

His breeding costs and animal health costs also dropped. His herd got in-calf better because the cows were in better condition heading into early lactation. They cycled better and got in calf faster.

“We found we get a 3-4 per cent lower empty rate than on a twice-a-day farm.”

Last season his empty rate was 10 per cent, well below the 15-18 per cent rate when he was milking twice a day.

He believes there is room to improve because other OAD farmers had achieved a  6-7 per cent empty rate.

“It is logical – the cows don’t lose as much bodyweight because of the OAD milking, so therefore they put more energy into their reproductive performance.”

The average milksolids output per cow in New Zealand was 330-340kg MS and Baldwin’s herd was milking about 295kg. He was aware of other OAD milkers whose cows were milking at 400kg MS and that was his target.

He believed this was achievable if the herd was fed more. To meet this target, the Baldwins will build a feedpad next season to feed the cows maize grown on the forestry block. This season they have grown 70ha.

“It’s all about feeding them. If we can get a OAD system with 400kg MS a cow, then you wouldn’t go back to twice a day, ” he said.

The strategy to cope with the dry summer is the same as a twice-a-day system – the cows still have to be fed and to that end, he has bought palm kernel and planted a summer crop of turnips.

Less labour in the shed freed up his staff for maintenance around the farm and when calving was over, they finished work at 5pm.

Baldwin said they were still trying to improve. The feedpad would improve feed efficiency and eliminate the high level of wastage when he fed out maize.

“Our next learning will be  how cows on OAD will go while eating maize on a feedpad. That’s the next opportunity.”


MOBILITY: The dairy industry’s biggest current issue

A recent issue of Holstein International had an article discussing the industry trend toward an ever- straighter hind legs and the decline in quality of mobility leading to higher young cow culling rates.

The trend in Holsteins has alarmed Holstein USA to announce an entirely new formula for “Foot and Leg Composite” (FLC), removing linear scores for “rear legs side view” and adding linear scores for stature in its place.   

Linear scoring has very little to say about legs and feet, basically ignoring front legs and feet, putting emphasis on foot angle, then measuring the degree of “set” to the hock from side and rear views.   We are now looking at the fourth version of “FLC” since linear scoring was introduced in 1972.   Across four decades, the expert recommendation on set of hind leg has failed to reduce foot and leg problems.

So what does “stature” have to do with Foot and Leg structure?    It appears that the young cows that leave our herds with stiff, straight hind legs also are quite tall.    Ironically, “stature” not only has been highly correlated with positive type values, it is increasingly associated with superior milk yields.  The current sources of the straightest legs are also among the elite Genomic levels forGTPI and GNM$.  

(Of course, a couple generations of “sires of sons” have yet to show progeny production data.)   On the data graphed by Holstein International the generational trend for “straight” was unmistakable.

Will this latest FLC solve everyone’s problems?    I have watched the trends in “indexing” for forty years and expect nothing will change, especially as a majority of sires already selected for AI show in their own physiques the potential for siring legs too straight, joints too stiff, feet not standing sturdy.

Not including “leg set side view” in FLC means straighter-legged examples can persist in the mating population due to selection for udder, milk yield, fat and protein and somatic cell levels in the indexes.

Solving the mobility problem

Which cows exhibit the best mobility?    Cows who stand comfortably on four feet.    “Sturdy” cows with “central” thurls have proper weight bearing on their feet both front and rear.    They have supple, flexible hock joints and springy pasterns (demonstrating an equal distribution of shock absorption from walking).    They do not stand on toes nor shuffle their heels—their weight bearing is at the center of the hoof.    They are not pigeon toed—their weight bearing is even from inner to outer toe.

Have you ever tried to stand up on your toes for any period of time?   How about walking with extended toes?    It is painful, from your ankles up into your calves.    Yet in preferring “steep” foot angle we have asked our cows to walk like ballerinas, in spite of slippery concrete.    This foolishness continues in the latest FLC.    If you look up the greatest progenitors of Productive Life (eg,Rudolph and Ramos) you are likely to find sires criticized for “low” foot angle (based on herdmate deviation).   

Our fixation on extreme linears (reinforced by typical linear mating system formulas) keeps us breeding extreme physical character in our young cows.    We never stop with “good enough”, we keep seeking a “gooder than good” mating combination that produces more extreme frame expressions.    Feet and legs are the extremities furthest from the body core and thus tend to show the results of extreme mating first.

Linear theories of the physique were focused on defining the traits that correlated with a faster maturity of production volume.    For 45 years we have followed these, and have culled millions of failures

Consider the “aAa” solution

The “aAa” Breeding Guide (Weeks Analysis) preceded linear type traits by 20 years.   Scientists who developed linear measurement thought their new program would make “aAa” obsolete.   Instead we find “aAa” still going strong around the dairy world, after 45 years of linear confusion.   How does a program that thrives without breed association (classification) or AI stud (Genomic) support or subsidy persist?    Because it understands physical heritability  and  it solves problems of physical function.

Specific to Legs and Feet:    Quality of mobility in “aAa” methods is analyzed as an integrated whole rather than the average of a few individual parts.   The entire skeletal structure is considered; muscling activating the skeleton is considered; cartilage and tendon structures in all joints are considered.    Both front and rear legs and feet are analyzed, as a functional unit and as they are attached to the body core.

A crucial defect in modern high-genetic cows is the “square” thurl position.    When the thurl is back from center in the pelvic structure, angling hind legs out towards the rear, you find it thrusting pins up and shifting rear end weight onto the loin (a structure which is not designed to carry added weight).

In an attempt to be sturdy, feet are thrust forward (on legs with “set” hocks) or posty backwards (on legs with tight hocks) and cows then walk “flat footed” and ‘spread toed”—all in an attempt to redistribute weight.    As cows age, loins flatten out and stiffness in the back impedes mobility.

Another defect in modern high-genetic cows is the confusion of “dairyness” with angularity leading to narrowing of the chest.   This narrowing brings the forelegs closer together.   Again, with all the front end weight to support, on a narrowing pedestal, cows learn to turn their feet out in an attempt for more stability.    Weight is then carried on the inside toe, leaving the outer toe to grow and curl.  Again, the quality of mobility is impeded.    Chronic lameness can result, no hoof trimming can fix this.  

 “Narrowing” of the frame is a side effect of the selection in favor of more stature (such heifers show more angularity from longer bones and stretched muscling across the skeletal extension).   If the loin is narrow, the entire body will be narrow (ribs will lose the ability to “spring” as rumen and abomasums try to fill with feed).   The difficulty classifiers have with cows lacking stature is “they just don’t look dairy enough to score higher”.    Showring judges have the same visualization problems.   Yet loss of body capacity will result in loss of productive ability – a “loss of dairy function”.

Think about the combination of square thurls and narrow front ends.   Take it a generation further and lose the depth and spring of rib.    Put that narrow, anorexic heifer up on her toes by stiffening all her joints.    In each generation you have a highly-ranked sire, but you are losing function and producing young-age culls.    You have to adopt a breeding guide that protects you from going too far so that all this genetic “potential” on which you have been selecting mating sires can still be harvested in fully functioning physiques.     This is why “aAa” Breeding Guide (Weeks Analysis) thrives.

Conclusion:  selecting on index rank and mating on linear traits is doubling your emphasis on data that leads to limitations of the physique.    Loss of mobility is just one of the many limitations that are causing too many promising young cows to have short herd life.     Consider adding a mating method that understands transmission of physical qualities and experience the freedom from agonizing over genetic theories that promise much but deliver little sustainable improvement.

Linear traits help you sort which bulls to use, but have proven ineffective in telling you which cow fits which bull.   “aAa” matches cows to bulls for improved function.    It can fix your mobility problems.

Fixing  problems  with  feet and legs  by  mating  selection

If a problem persists long enough, with all efforts to fix it basically unsuccessful, it is easy to assume (as some geneticists feel) that foot and leg problems are “normal” to the high production dairy herd—at least for Holsteins, which is 90% of all milk cows.

Why then do a handful of cows remain highly productive into teen ages, while more seem to fail at younger ages?    Nothing seems to have more impact on early culling today than “failure of mobility”.    These are definably genetic differences, NOT the fault of facility or herd management.    Our methods of genetic selection are not consistently producing cows that are adaptable to the physical environment where they must walk every day.

There is a mating system that is focused on quality of mobility as part of overall physical adaptability to the cow environment you have.    This program does not require you to change AI studs or give up on your genetic goals.   It just answers the question that your current breeding approach does not address.     

Source: Michigan Livestock Services

How one dairy farmer works just 20 hours per year for every cow in his herd

When compared to his peers, David fits firmly within the top 5% of efficient farmers. The 20 hours per cow figure is more than 50% lower than the average number of hours worked by farmers surveyed in a recent Teagasc labour study.

At this week’s Irish Grassland Association Dairy Conference, David outlined the efficiency practices undertaken on his farm.

The Farm

Addressing the 650 delegates in attendance, David explained that he is farming 64ha – 52ha in one block and 12ha across the road – just outside Portlaoise.

“We’ve grown around 13.5-14t/ha (dry matter per hectare) for the last few years. It will never be a 17t/ha farm because there’s a fair proportion of heavy soils.

“We’re stocked at 2.6 cows per hectare and the herd EBI (Economic Breeding Index) is €140. The herd’s about 65% crossbred at this stage, after coming from a pedigree black and white herd eight years ago.”

Originally, the Laois-based farmer aimed for a 500kg cow, producing 500kg of milk solids from a concentrate input of 500kg.

“We have more or less achieved that target at this stage, so the bar is going to have to be raised in that regard. But that’s the beauty of farming, there’s always something to go after,” he explained.

Farm facts:

  • Area farmed: 64ha;
  • Grass grown: 14t/ha;
  • Stocking rate: 2.6 cows per hectare;
  • Herd EBI: €140;
  • Milk solids delivered: 493kg/cow or 1,281kg/ha;
  • Meal fed per cow: 530kg;
  • Six-week calving rate: 90%;
  • Average milk price for 2017: 42c/L (estimated at 4.90% fat and 3.88% protein).

Learning From New Zealand

In 2006, as part of a Nuffield Scholarship, David spent a month travelling around New Zealand. During this time, he met dairy farmers, looked at their infrastructure and listened to their observations.

The topic of his Nuffield Scholarship was ‘Transition to scale using pastoral dairy farming systems’. A chapter of this report addressed the labour requirements of expanding dairy farms.

During David’s travels, he was struck that – once the breeding and calving seasons were over – these farmers were not actually very busy and the main chunk of their daily work revolved around milking.

“A lot of machinery operations were contracted out and practically all replacement rearing was also contracted out at that stage.

“It has to be said that this was before the significant spike in milk prices, which seemed to have increased supplementation and complicated systems.”

Some key observations:

  • Simple, grass-based systems reduce labour requirements;
  • The introduction of supplements can be profitable with high milk prices, but they require more management, time and are less easily understood by staff;
  • Fertile cows allow concentrated periods for calving and mating, with plenty of time to recover between these periods;
  • Cow flow through yards, milking parlours and around farms did not require huge investment. But, it did allow for ease of management for larger herds of cows;
  • Larger herds with greater staffing requirements seemed to work better because of peer pressure relating to the completion of tasks;
  • Paid labour rarely had the same pride in performance as owner-operators;
  • 33% of Irish dairy farmers’ time was spent milking cows and improvements in this area had the greatest effect on labour efficiency.

Following this study, David recommended that 160 cows per labour unit – with the above management practices and the use of casual labour at calving and relief milkers – was a viable model for Irish dairy farmers in the medium term.

In 2006, he set about developing and expanding his dairy enterprise. Over the intervening period, he has grown from 42 to 155 cows; made numerous infrastructural developments; and purchased 30ac of land. All of this was achieved without employing full-time, paid labour.

Managing Labour

In 2006, the Kerr family started availing of students from Switzerland and Holland. They have been constantly on the farm with the exception of one year. These students play a vital role in the business, but they are also encouraged to travel around Ireland for a week before they go home.

A relief milker is also employed on the farm and he has been working with the family for a number of years.

“We have a very fertile herd and we can target labour. We have a tsunami of work coming in about three weeks time and I take on student labour in the spring for 10 weeks.

“Realistically, we are looking at calving about 50% of the herd in 16-17 days. But, we know it’s coming and we can prepare for it. The labour is in place, the grass is on the farm and the buildings are ready,” he said.

Why Is The Farm So Efficient?

What makes David’s system attractive is that it is not dependent on him. As the system is simple, relief staff can be brought into cover David’s role in scenarios where he has to leave the farm. Last year, he was able to leave the farm for one month and the operation stayed afloat despite his absence.

By focusing on key areas – such as grassland management, breeding, calf management and milking – he’s able to streamline the business. The strategic use of contractors and contractor rearers means that David’s focus remains firmly on his cows – the enterprise that pays the bills.

This move also removes a number of layers of complication from the business, which is necessary when aiming to develop a “simple, grass-based system”.

Grassland Management

The Laois-based farmer has been measuring grass for over 20 years and the farm is walked twice weekly during periods of rapid growth.

Farming on differing soil types – ranging from free draining down to cut-away bog – requires totally different management practices for both types of land, he explained.

On-off grazing works on probably 75% of the farm and the other block is either on or off. When the weather is good, we go after it if there’s any sort of reasonable cover on the soil.

“The target cover is a critical cover for us. We need to get 950-1,000kg/ha on the farm at calving – especially in week two and three.

“They’re the busiest weeks on the farm in terms of labour and the cows have to be out full time. I have no issue in bringing the cows back in during March or April; the back is broke in calving at that stage.

“When you are in that blitz of calving, the cows are out and we milk them once a day. That basically drives our requirement to get the target cover and to get grass on the right parts of the farm.”

Since making the move to a bigger herd and focusing solely on dairy, David has noticed that the system has become a lot easier to manage.

“Previously, there was six or seven groups of animals around the place and it was an absolute disaster. Now I have one group of cows and one grazing rotation; it’s very simple to operate.”

As mentioned, David aims for a 500kg cow and he reckons they consume 5t/cow of dry matter each year.

They need 3.5t of grazed grass, 1t of dry matter silage and 0.5kg of concentrates. To stock the farm at three cows per hectare, I need to grow 15t of grass and that would be an ambitious enough target for our farm.

To match grass growth with demand, the farm is currently stocked at 2.6 cows per hectare. 70-80 bales of hay (dry cow feed) are purchased every year and each paddock is cut for silage at least once.

The Milking Routine And In-Calf Cows

Early on in the expansion process, David installed a 22-unit parlour – a considerable step up from the six-unit parlour found on the farm previously.

“We went from 2.5 hours putting 15 rows through a six-unit parlour to 40 minutes putting 90 cows – in four rows – through a 22-unit parlour. At the moment, we are up to seven rows.

“Milking is manageable and we’re putting through 140 cows per hour, with washing time to come afterwards.”

He continued: “The parlour is the biggest investment in terms of labour efficiency, as that’s where you spend 33% of your time. The three most important things in the milking parlour are cow flow, cow flow and cow flow.”

During the first two-to-three weeks, once-a-day milking is practiced. At that stage, 90% of heifers will have calved and settled down to the milking routine.

The Alfco drafting system also has an important role to play and David describes it as the “most important machine” on his farm. By using this system, he can draft out any cows that need to be served after milking. The AI technician arrives at 9:00am and the cows are waiting for him. After serving, they are returned to grass.

As cows and heifers come near calving, he explained, they are run through the milking parlour to train the heifers. This is also used as an opportunity to draft cows on the point of calving.

These cows are put into a large, loose shed. No night feeding takes places, as we prefer cows to calve at night.

Cows are checked at 11:30pm and again at 6:00am. Any cows with concerns at the night check will be checked again.

“In the next morning, fresh calves are tagged, navel dressed and will receive 2L of colostrum via a tube,” he added.

Contract Rearing

Contract rearing also plays an important role in his system, adding: “The heifers are gone nine years at this stage. I didn’t realise what I was missing until 2012, when we bought some land and we brought the heifers home.

I don’t ever want to see them around the place again; they complicated the system and there was more work involved.

David uses the services of a contract rearer in Co. Kilkenny. The calves leave the farm once they are weaned off milk and return at the point of calving.

“He takes the heifers and does all the work as regards dosing, weighing, breeding and heat detection. He’s paid by electronic transfer and it’s a good system for him compared to where he was. He left dairying seven or eight years ago and was ‘out fishing with sharks’, as he puts it himself.

“He was buying cattle in the spring and selling them again in the autumn. He’s happy to be back involved with dairy stock and he’s a very good stock man.”


With a compact calving pattern, very few cows calve in April on David’s farm and – if numbers permit – any April-calving cows are often sold.

“We do not undertake any pre-mating heat detection. No bull has been used on the farm in 70 years and given that we mate for 12 weeks, pre-breeding attention would probably lead to fatigue.

From my involvement in sport over the years, I’ve seen more finals lost because of over-training than lack of preparation.

“All cows are tail painted the day before we start AI on May 7. I get a relief milker in at that stage and then they are probably tail painted around day 10-12.

“A scratch card is put on cows that have been served; I don’t have time to be touching up cows with tail paint. It works pretty well, but 10-15% of the scratch cards have to be replaced as they change colour due to licking.”

David is happy with the way the system is operating on his farm, but he warned farmers with less-fertile herds of cows off replicating his lack of pre-breeding activity.

“It’s working pretty well. We run into low single digit empty rates, which has been very consistent over the last number of years.

“A whole-herd scan is not undertaken, as this requires help. We only scan cows that continuously repeat. Last autumn, 7.7% of cows were scanned empty.”

The Use Of Contractors

David also touched on the importance of contractors to his business, adding: “I use contractors to drive my system. These guys have been working on my farm for 10-25 years.”

Work carried out by contractors includes: bulk spreading of fertiliser; silage making – both pit and bales; slurry spreading; and winter feeding.

He also urged other farmers to have respect for contractors, adding: “Payment is an area where there’s an awful lot of messing going on in our industry. Contractors are not banks.

“Our main contractors are paid by standing order and I fix up the balance at the end of the year. From a cash flow point of view, it’s good for me and it’s good for them. There’s no issues with guys coming on time, they’re getting paid and you’re not messed around.

“The two critical things are notice and payment. We have to treat these people with dignity and they will give it back to you in spades.”

He added: “There’s money in this dairy game for contractors and there’s enough to share around for everybody.”


Source: AgriLand

Making Sense of Forage Analysis Results

Results from forage analysis aren’t just for ration formulations. The numbers can also help producers adjust management processes to avoid future problems altogether.

“The results of forage analysis can be really useful,” says notes Bob Charley, Ph.D., Forage Products Management, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “For instance, it can show if the crop was harvested correctly or if silages are prone to spoilage.”

Dr. Charley advises producers to review these parameters:

  • Dry matter (DM): Lower DM levels, especially in alfalfa or other high protein silages, can compound issues like the presence of clostridia from the soil. Lower DM levels also require more acid production and a lower pH for stability.
  • pH: Lower pH levels do not necessarily make better quality silage. Forage analysis should show pH stabilization, even if it’s at achieved at a higher level.
  • Ash:Normal levels in the plant should be around six to eight percent, depending on the crop. Higher numbers can indicate slurry contamination.
  • Acid detergent fiber (ADF), neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and lignin:These values should be within average ranges for the type of material harvested. If levels are higher than normal for the crop, it may be a sign the material was more mature than ideal. This can also lead to yeast and mold challenges.
  • Crude protein (CP):The higher the protein level, the higher the buffering in the material and the more acid is required to bring the pH down. This can facilitate complications from clostridia.
  • Acid Detergent Insoluble Crude Protein (ADICP):High levels of bound protein (ADICP, greater than 10 percent of the CP) show there has been heating in the silage.
  • Soluble protein:High levels of soluble protein indicate there has been protein breakdown, also called proteolysis. This can occur due to prolonged wilting in the field or inefficient silage fermentation.
  • Lactic acid: This is the main driver for pH drop and should be at a reasonably high level for the silage pH to rapidly stabilize. This number can vary with the crop ensiled and DM level.

Lactic acid levels will be lower in silages treated with inoculants containing Lactobacillus buchneri. It also typically has higher concentrations of acetic acid and lower levels of lactic acid than untreated silage. Acetic acid helps inhibit the growth of spoilage yeasts that are responsible for silage heating.

This process is one of the reasons Biotal® forage inoculants containing the specific strain Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 have been uniquely reviewed by the FDA for improved aerobic stability when applied at 400,000 CFU per gram of forage or 600,000 CFU per gram of high-moisture corn (HMC).

“There is no single number that indicates ‘good’ silage,” Dr. Charley notes. “Silage is a very complex biological system with inherent variability. Still, forage analysis results can help producers understand what happened during the harvest and ensiling process — and how to improve feedstuff quantity and quality the next time.”

Source: Lallemand Animal Nutrition

Mind the Margin Management Tip

Start 2018 with a renewed focus on what matters most: margin.

Many are predicting the same dire milk and component prices we have now to continue through most of 2018. While it can be tempting to sharpen your focus on cutting costs, it’s important to remember that margin is what drives profit, and margin is what needs to be the top priority.

“During difficult economies, I’ve seen many producers zero in on cost cutting to the detriment of their profit margin,” says Kurt Ruppel, dairy technical specialist with Cargill Animal Nutrition. “While managing costs is crucial, its only one side of the balance sheet. To be profitable, we must analyze how each cost impacts the profit margin.”

In his role, Ruppel closely monitors dairy economics to help producers understand the elements that fuel their milk check, and focus on what’s within their control to maximize their profits. One of the ways he does this is by helping producers realize the full value of the fat and protein component market.

The below chart compares fat (blue) and protein (green) prices over time, with the MPP (Margin Protection Program) Margins (grey) for the same months. The MPP Margin reflects the component prices as revenue with the feed costs taken out. An income over feed costs (IOFC), if you will, focusing on components. The MPP Margin is a uniform measure across the U.S., so not directly applied to individual dairy businesses, but a good gauge of the dairy economy over time.

The “pain” times of 2009 and 2012 are shown clearly with the low dips below $4/cwt in this measure of the dairy economy. The ‘joy” time of over $16/cwt also shows clearly in 2014. Note where the MPP Margin is now compared to those times. Diet ingredient costs have moved the MPP Margin up and down along with the component prices. Clearly, lower feed ingredient and/or higher component efficiency will help to move the margin line higher.

Ruppel offers these tips to help dairies position themselves to maximize their margin through 2018:

1)Focus on component yield, produced as efficiently as possible. When you analyze your fat and protein production don’t get hung-up on percentages, its yield in pounds that matter.

2)Don’t handcuff your nutritionist. While it might be tempting to take advantage of a great buy on a by-product, you need to look at the whole picture of your feed situation. Start by maximizing the value of your homegrown forages. Work closely with your nutritionist to understand the nutrient profile of the ingredients you have to feed, like your homegrown forages, and then formulate the ration to fill the nutrient gaps with the best priced ingredients. Even at a low price, an ingredient might not be a “good buy” for your situation. By understanding what nutrients need to be added to meet product and component yield goals, you can ensure the ingredient cost positively impacts your profit margin.

3)Make improvements now while you can. Feed commodity prices are fairly low historically, but there’s no telling how long this will last. Making changes now can help you better position for feed price changes that could come in the future.


Sell or keep the herd? Low milk prices tax dairy farmers

Dale Austing sold the cows off his dairy farm in Freeport a couple months ago and is still coming to terms with the major life change. 

Austing kept 120 cows for 30 years, and his wife worked off the farm, he told about 50 farmers and agribusiness representatives Wednesday at an event in Albany called Farming in Tough Times. 

“We did a lot of thinking, crunched a lot of numbers,” Austing said. “Is it right or wrong? I don’t know. Everybody’s different.”

It is a tough time for Minnesota dairy farmers. Farmers leave the industry every year, due to industry challenges and because they’re reaching retirement age, said Emily Wilmes, an educator for University of Minnesota Extension, which put on Wednesday’s event.

The price of milk destined for a glass fell 8.5 percent this month over last, to less than $16 per 100 pounds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the price of milk is not expected to rise much in coming years. That price fell, in part, because other parts of the world have increased milk production. 

“Europe is really making milk right now,” said Jim Salfer, regional diary extension educator. He and other educators shared data on milk trends, brought in an expert in mental health and asked farmers to share their stories and lessons Wednesday. 

Austing, who’s 55, decided to shut down farm operations because of his age and the economy. 

“It doesn’t pay to invest more. Will you get that investment back in 5 or 10 years,” he said. “I can’t talk about life after cows, it’s only been two months. … We’ll see what the future brings.”

Getting rid of a herd and changing lifestyles is difficult decision, just as staying in the business is difficult, said Ted Matthews, a rural mental health specialist. 

“If you don’t like stress, don’t farm,” Matthews said, mentioning the early and long hours and the lack of vacation time. “Dairy farmers have to be born diary farmers.”

Family time and communication are important, he said. “You need time to recuperate. You need time to have fun.”

Wednesday’s event emphasized moral support alongside insights into farm management.

In the 1960s, hard work was a key to profit in the dairy industry, Salfer said. In the 2000s the focus was on the comfort of the cows. And in the future, efficiency will be a cornerstone of success, Salfer said. Farmers need to milk more cows with the same amount of labor they’re employing now. 

Dan Roerick has about 100 cows near Upsala. He’s looking into a robotic barn to increase efficiency at his farm, but the low projected milk prices and a rise in dairy farms could be a roadblock. 


“It’s kind of a scary future right now,” Roerick said. 

Isaak Hinnenkamp already has robotic milkers on his farm north of Melrose. In addition to a herd of 140, he keeps hogs. Hinnenkamp, his wife and his mother run the farm and have found ways to cut costs. They spray their own crops and they do their own breeding, he said. 

“Diversification is an OK option,” Salfer said. 

The news is not all grim. Milk prices are expected to trend up slightly from 2017 to 2025, Salfer said. 

In 2016 data, dairy farms had a 4 percent operating profit margin and a 1 percent return on investment, said Extension Ag Economist Joleen Hadrich. Dairy farmers as a group are solvent and making positive returns, she said of her analysis.

Hadrich encouraged farmers to calculate what new investments will end up costing them per cow or per acre.

“You make more money, you can expand — not a shocking revelation,” she said. She hopes to learn more from the farmers who are succeeding despite the market challenges. 

“We know it’s difficult to farm right now,” Hadrich said. 

Technology has changed forages used in dairy industry

To get a good feeling for what the dairy industry looks like in Kansas and surrounding states, one would have to look back at how it used to be. Dairy farms in the 1950s were pasture based, herds were small and there was a lot of hard manual labor. A dairy farm in 2018 looks much different, Mike Brouk, Kansas State University Extension dairy specialist, said Dec. 12 at the Kansas Forage and Grassland Council’s winter conference and annual meeting in Salina, Kansas.

Sixty years ago, some corn silage was put up for winter feeding, but the majority forages used in the dairy cattle diets came from pastures, Brouk said. Now, cattle are in larger herds, and some with automated milking machines. Robotic milkers are set to milk 24/7 and cows make their own choices as when to come in. Everything is recorded electronically.

“That’s drastically changing what we are thinking in terms of forages,” Brouk said.


Source: High Plains Journal

Rockbridge dairy farm goes robotic

Sometimes it looks like Wall-E has gone into the dairy business.

An automatic milker – the Astronaut – that lets the cows choose when they’re milked.

“Some people say they’re kind of like an athlete,” says Jennifer Leech of Ingleside Dairy Farm. “You have special diet for them, try to make sure they’re always comfortable, and make sure they have regular visits with the veterinarian.”

And reduces the people time required.

“We don’t have to worry about milking the cow,” Leech says. “We just have to clean up after them basically and check on them.”

The cows have radio tags that not only open the gate, but keep track of everything from amounts and quality of milk to how they ruminate – there’s a tiny mic in there listening to the chewing.

“It’s open 24 hours a day,”Leech explains, “And it’ll get read, her collar will get read and determine whether she needs to be milked or not.”

The cold hasn’t been much of a problem — there is still some work to be done — aside from the risk of water from the steam cleaners freezing, and the cows seems to like setting their own schedule. Some even seem to like it too much.

“We had one one time that went through 30 some times, just going through, making circles,” says Leech. “It didn’t milk her 30 times. It milked her maybe four times that day, but she tried 30.”


Source: WDBJ7

Warm up cold weather calf management skills

Calf management impacts a heifer’s survival and future success in the milking herd. Calves’ nutrition and health needs become increasingly important as the temperature drops. Follow these management tips to help set a successful foundation for your future herd.

Maintain energy requirements with proper nutrition.

Make sure calves’ calorie intake keeps pace with energy requirements. Ensure calves receive adequate nutrition with the following tips:

  • Feed calves enough colostrum within two hours of birth, followed by another feeding eight hours later, to help provide them with the necessary level of protective antibodies to achieve successful immunoglobulin transfer.
    • Colostrum intake should amount to 10% of a calf’s body weight.
    • Holstein newborns require about four quarts per feeding.
  • Provide enough calories and protein based on weight, size and climate.
    • Feed a balanced starter in addition to either milk replacer or pasteurized whole milk.
    • Ensure milk replacer is mixed properly and that milk is fed at the same time for each feeding to help achieve a consistent diet.
  • Increase milk feeding from two meals per day to three during cold weather.
  • Encourage starter intake by offering small amounts of fresh starter each day beginning at two to three days of life.
  • Offer fresh water after each feeding to drive starter intake.
  • Take regular weight and height measurements to make sure calves are hitting growth benchmarks.

Monitor calves for respiratory disease.

Cold temperatures can put extra stress on calves’ immune systems. Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is one of the leading causes of dairy calf mortality.1 This means it is important to make the following a priority:

  • Vaccinate with INFORCE™ 3 respiratory vaccine at birth to help calves build strong immunity against respiratory disease-causing pathogens.
  • Provide draft-free ventilation that allows for fresh air exchange.
  • Watch for BRD symptoms by performing daily health assessments using the Calf Health Scoring Criteria developed by Dr. Sheila McGuirk and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. Monitor calves daily for droopy ears, nasal discharge and eye drainage.

Keep calves warm.

In addition to ensuring adequate nutrition and monitoring calf health, keep calves warm and comfortable.

  • Dry off newborns with a clean towel or a calf warmer before moving them outdoors.
  • Provide fresh, warm water after every milk feeding.
  • Maintain clean, dry bedding daily that is deep enough for calves to nest into.
  • Dress calves with calf blankets and coats. And don’t forget their ears!

Consult with your veterinarian and nutritionist for additional opportunities to help keep calves healthy in cold weather.

Source: Zoetis

Keeping Pre-weaned Dairy Calves Healthy and Growing in Cold Weather

The most critical and most expensive period of calf growth in raising dairy calves is the pre-weaning period. During this period calves are highly susceptible to cold stress with a lower critical temperature of 50°F for newborn calves and 32°F for older calves. Cold stress can result in calves turning to stored body fat to generate body heat, essentially losing weight. In addition, calves experiencing cold stress will have compromised immune systems making them more susceptible to disease.

Three main areas to focus on for winter calf care include:

  1. Overall nutrition and feeding requirements.
  2. Management.
  3. Calf environment.

Nutrition and Feeding

  • Feed more milk or milk replacer daily if using individual bottle or pail feedings in one of three ways: 1) add a feeding or a third meal, 2) increase the volume fed by 1/3 or 3) increase the total solids fed. Producers should work with a nutritionist to make sure they are not exceeding 15% total solids in the milk replacer.
  • Traditional calf milk replacer should contain a minimum of (air dry basis) 20% protein, (22 to 24% protein if it contains non-milk proteins such as soy protein or fish meal) and at least 15% fat. Fat sources in milk replacers such as milk fat, tallow, choice white grease or lard are preferred over vegetable oils, which are poorly utilized by calves. Replacers containing 15 to 20% fat are preferred, especially for calves housed in colder environments. Milk replacers containing all milk products generally are better than those containing vegetable proteins, vegetable oil, or fish proteins. If milk replacers containing non-milk protein sources are going to be fed, it is recommended not to start before 3 weeks of age. After the third week, calves should be able to better digest formulations with non-milk protein sources. Calves also can be fed mastitis/antibiotic milk if it appears wholesome and if it is not from a cow with staphylococcal and/or coliform mastitis. If calves are going to be fed discard milk, pasteurization of the milk is recommended. Milk should be fed at a minimum of 101.5°F or body temperature.
  • If you are following an accelerated program you will be using a milk replacer with an increased protein content (26-28%) and a decreased fat content (15-20%).
  • Addition of a commercial fat supplement to increase the energy content in your milk or milk replacer may be utilized, however, it is recommended to use products that are made to mix specifically with liquids.
  • Studies now recommend that small breed calves consume 1.3 lbs. of Dry Matter (DM) with 0.3 lbs. of fat and large breed calves consume 2.0 lbs. of DM and 0.5 lbs. of fat per day in addition to calf starter and fresh water.
  • Offer fresh clean water daily and during extremely cold weather it may be necessary to do so several times a day due to freezing conditions. It should be warmed to body temperature prior to feeding during cold periods. Consumption should be at the rate of 1 gallon/day for the first month and 2/gallons per day for the second month prior to weaning.
  • In addition, to milk or milk replacer, give calves free access to a calf starter grain mixture a few days after birth. Calf starter should contain a minimum of 18% protein and be palatable to encourage the calf to begin eating at an early age. Additionally, there are now calf starters on the market with 22% protein content available for accelerated growth. Overfeeding total protein in the diet may lead to scouring or loose stools. Physical form of the starter is also important; coarse and/or pelleted are better than finely ground starters. By two weeks of age the calf should be eating approximately one-half pound of starter. Top quality hay should also be offered starting around weaning time. The Calves are typically weaned between 6 to 8 weeks of age but they should not be weaned unless they are consuming a minimum of 2.0 lbs. of calf starter and drinking water for at least three consecutive days.
  • Utilization of electrolytes may be necessary if calves become dehydrated when ill.


Calf management takes dedication and extra time, especially during cold weather. Extra labor or time will be needed for increased feedings, additional bedding, and cleaning. Calf coats requires extra time for utilization and laundering, during cold weather to help provide extra protection. Weaning calves during extreme cold conditions provides added stress to the animal and consideration should be given to delaying weaning until temperatures are less extreme.


Whether you are using individual pens, hutches, or group housing for calves there are some key principles to remember regarding young calf housing.

  • Newborn calves have limited body fat reserves and a minimal hair coat.  When moving newborn calves first make sure they are dry. Keep them warm by either transporting them in a trailer or covered device with clean bedding.  If a wheel barrow or open bucket is used for transport putting a clean calf blanket on will with clean bedding underneath will help maintain body heat.
  • Deep, dry bedding is essential. Straw is preferred, especially during the colder winter months as it allows calves to nestle down into the straw to maintain body heat better. Make sure the bedding is dry by kneeling or placing your knees on the straw for 20 seconds, if they become wet you either need to change the bedding or add more.
  • Adequate ventilation that provides fresh clean air, while keeping humidity down, without allowing for drafts is essential for calf barns. Draft prevention is key to keeping calves from catching respiratory diseases.
  • Calf blankets may be utilized during cold weather to help provide extra protection, however it is critical to clean the blankets between each use to minimize disease spread.
  • Sanitation of bottles and equipment is key to minimize diseases being spread between calves.

In summary, taking the time to properly manage dairy calves during cold weather is critical to keeping young calves healthy and growing at adequate levels.


Alberta Milk Strengthens Program for New Dairy Farmers

Alberta Milk’s New Entrant Assistant Program (NEAP) will be accepting applications starting January 1, 2018. The program’s goal is to help alleviate the costs associated with starting a dairy farm in Alberta. It works by offering a quota loan at no cost to the successful applicants. The 2018 program has been improved to make it more sustainable for current and future participants. Alberta Milk will be accepting applications until March 31, 2018.

About the Program

  • The program works by providing 2kg of loaned quota at no cost for every 1kg bought (previously 1:1), up to a maximum of 25 kg/day. The 25kg loan translates to enough quota to milk about 18-25 additional cows.
  • The quota loan gradually expires beginning in the 11th year (previously seven years) at a rate of 10 per cent per year and is reduced to zero at the end of year 19.
  • While using the program, new entrants can expand up to 100 kg/day of total quota holdings, or about 71-100 cows (previously maximum 70 kg/day).
  • The process to qualify for the program consists of submitting a two-year financial business plan, a 10-year implementation plan, a risk mitigation plan, and a signed conditional approval letter from the applicant’s financial institution agreeing to finance their operation.
  • The program started in 2011 and has welcomed 17 new dairy farms into the province and is reviewed annually.
  • Up to three qualified applications will be accepted in 2018.
  • You do not need to join this program to become a dairy farmer in Alberta.

“As we look forward, having programs that support new entrants assures the sustainability of our industry,” says Chairman Tom Kootstra. “We have made adjustments to the program to improve the opportunity for new dairy farmers to succeed.”

Further details about the program can be found at or call Jonathan at 1-877-361-1231.


Source: Alberta Milk

Less chewing the cud, more greening the fuel

Plant biomass contains considerable calorific value but most of it makes up robust cell walls, an unappetising evolutionary advantage that helped grasses to survive foragers and prosper for more than 60 million years.

The trouble is that this robustness still makes them less digestible in the rumen of cows and sheep and difficult to process in bioenergy refineries for ethanol fuel.

But now a multinational team of researchers, from the UK, Brazil and the US, has pinpointed a gene involved in the stiffening of cell walls whose suppression increased the release of sugars by up to 60%. Their findings are reported today in New Phytologist.

“The impact is potentially global as every country uses grass crops to feed animals and several biofuel plants around the world use this feedstock,” says Rowan Mitchell, a plant biologist at Rothamsted Research and the team’s co-leader.

“In Brazil alone, the potential markets for this technology were valued last year at R$1300M ($400M) for biofuels and R$61M for forage cattle,” says Hugo Molinari, Principal Investigator of the Laboratory of Genetics and Biotechnology at Embrapa Agroenergy, part of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and the team’s other co-leader.

Billions of tonnes of biomass from grass crops are produced every year, notes Mitchell, and a key trait is its digestibility, which determines how economic it is to produce biofuels and how nutritious it is for animals. Increased cell wall stiffening, or feruloylation, reduces digestibility.

“We identified grass-specific genes as candidates for controlling cell wall feruloylation 10 years ago, but it has proved very difficult to demonstrate this role although many labs have tried,” says Mitchell. “We now provide the first strong evidence for one of these genes.”

In the team’s genetically modified plants, a transgene suppresses the endogenous gene responsible for feruloylation to around 20% of its normal activity. In this way, the biomass produced is less feruloylated than it would otherwise be in an unmodified plant.

“The suppression has no obvious effect on the plant’s biomass production or on the appearance of the transgenic plants with lower feruloylation,” notes Mitchell. “Scientifically, we now want to find out how the gene mediates feruloylation. In that way, we can see if we can make the process even more efficient.”

The findings are undoubtedly a boon in Brazil, where a burgeoning bioenergy industry produces ethanol from the non-food leftovers of other grass crops, such as maize stover and sugarcane residues, and from sugar cane grown as a dedicated energy crop. Increased efficiency of bioethanol production will help it to replace fossil fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Economically and environmentally, our livestock industry will benefit from more efficient foraging and our biofuels industry will benefit from biomass that needs fewer artificial enzymes to break it down during the hydrolysis process,” notes Molinari.

For John Ralph, co-author and field pioneer, the discovery has been hard won and is long overdue. “Various research groups ‘had the feruloylation protein/gene imminently’, and that was some 20 years ago,” notes the Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at the US Department of Energy’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.

“Our group has been interested, since the early 1990s, in ferulate cross-linking in plant cell walls and developed the NMR methods that were useful in the characterisation here,” notes Ralph. “This has been a tough one to discover.”

Source: Phys.Org

Compost bedded pack barns offer cow comfort and higher milk production

Southwestern Missouri dairy farmers find that cows housed in compost bedded pack barns are healthy, happy and produce more milk, says University of Missouri Extension dairy specialist Ted Probert.

Study points to incentives for more dairy processing

Researchers say additional dairy processing could yield returns for state, producers, investors

An investment in additional dairy processing capacity in Pennsylvania could generate $34.7 million annually in combined revenue generation and cost savings, according to an “Analysis of Economic Incentives for Additional Dairy Processing Capacity in Pennsylvania” study released by Drs. Chuck Nicholson, Mark Stephenson and Andrew Novakovic. The study was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Center for Dairy Excellence as part of a comprehensive look at competitiveness and growth opportunities within Pennsylvania’s dairy industry.

“Substantial incentives appear to exist for additional processing capacity to locate in Pennsylvania,” said the three authors of the study. “Based on our findings, an investment in two cheese plants — one in the State College area and one in the Reading area — may result in the largest reduction in supply chain costs, offering the strongest incentives for the new processing capacity.”

Based on dairy product demands and 2016 milk production capacity, Nicholson, Stephenson and Novakovic found that investing in two plants processing volumes of 4 million pounds of milk per day and producing non-American types of cheese (Italian and specialty cheeses) would result in the largest reduction in supply chain costs. These plants would reduce hauling costs for Pennsylvania dairy producers by an estimated $5.9 million per year, based on the study findings.

“Pennsylvania is one of the few major dairy states that are net exporters of raw milk,” Stephenson said at a recent Dairy Listening Session where he discussed the study findings. “Having additional dairy processing in the state would markedly increase the marginal value of milk produced in Pennsylvania now being shipped out-of-state. That would generate economic benefits for the state, while enhance the marginal value of milk for Pennsylvania dairy producers by about $28.8 million annually, according to our findings.”

An investment in dairy processing would also reduce hauling costs for Pennsylvania dairy producers, with the Reading and State College plant scenarios proposed in the study reducing hauling costs by an estimated $5.9 million per year. The combined estimated returns generated by the increased marginal milk value and reduced hauling costs would supported a plant investment of about $433 million per year, according to the study.

The dairy processing analysis study is the first released from a series of information resulting from the Pennsylvania Dairy Industry Study being conducted by Nicholson, Stephenson and Novakovic. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and Center for Dairy Excellence have commissioned the three researchers to provide insight on opportunities and inhibitors to growing and strengthening Pennsylvania’s dairy sector, which serves as the largest segment of Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry, generating about $6 billion in annual economic returns.

The authors of the study are Dr. Nicholson, former Clinical Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management, Penn State University and now an adjunct associate professor at Cornell University; Dr. Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin Madison; and Dr. Novakovic, E.V. Baker Professor of Agricultural Economics at Cornell University.


Source: — Center for Dairy Excellence

3 dairy management trends to watch in 2018

The impending flip of the calendar page to a new year has many folks thinking of what lies ahead. That’s a fitting task, since the dairy industry is rapidly changing, and it’s imperative that you stay ahead of the trends or risk falling behind.
“To keep your herd and your business healthy, there are three key health and nutrition trends that you should monitor and plan for in 2018,” says Dr. Elliot Block, ARM & HAMMER™ Senior Research Fellow & Director of Technology. “These areas represent very real opportunities for you to positively affect your farm and the health of your herd in the coming New Year—and beyond.”

Defend against Clostridia

Clostridia bacteria are everywhere!
“Clostridia species have been identified in more than 99 percent of fecal samples and 73 percent of TMR samples,” notes Dr. Block. The bacteria live in the soil and continually make their way into feedstuffs, causing various challenges to your animal’s health and productivity.

That means cows constantly ingest low-level counts of clostridia as a result of this widespread, underlying presence, increasing your cattle’s vulnerability to high-stress events. Even low levels of clostridia per pound of feed add up quickly because of the large amount of feed cows consume each day. Problems arise as bacterial loads increase and stresses create a tipping point for disease and performance deficiencies.

From the fecal and TMR samples, more than 69,000 clostridia isolates, or strains, have been harvested.

About half of these clostridia isolates (53.9 percent) make up a well-known toxigenic species, Clostridium perfringens, which has a negative impact on gut health and can lead to digestive issues such as hemorrhagic bowel syndrome (HBS).

The other portion (46.1 percent) are mostly made up of Clostridia that produce metabolic end products that have a negative impact on rumen efficiency.

Pesky bacteria

“By targeting each of these groups we are able to identify which combination of Targeted Microbial Solutions™ in our CERTILLUS™ portfolio—which features proprietary Bacillus strains—would best inhibit the growth of these organisms on-farm,” Block explains.

The resulting decrease in harmful clostridia enhances cow health by increasing feed efficiency and reducing digestive upsets, off-feed events, inconsistent feed intakes, and more severe outcomes such as HBS. Additionally, harnessing Bacillus over the long-term results in changes to the microbial diversity that makes up the Microbial Terroir™ of your farm.

Defeat mycotoxins

Do you have a mycotoxin problem in every load of feed? Mycotoxins occur more commonly than most people imagine, and the majority of samples contain two or more species. Surveys of the 2017 crop indicate that globally, 94 percent of all samples contained at least one mycotoxin, and 75 percent of all samples contained two or more mycotoxins. In North America, deoxynivalenol (DON) and fumonisin (FUM) were the most prevalent mycotoxins in feed samples, detected in 78 percent and 60 percent of samples respectively.1  
Research shows that Refined Functional Carbohydrates™ (RFCs™) found in CELMANAX™ can positively counteract the effects of mycotoxins, rendering them harmless as they pass through the intestinal tract. RFCs act as an insurance policy against the clinical and subclinical consequences of mycotoxins. Keep in mind that low levels of mycotoxins may not result in clinical issues, but become more insidious and lead to subclinical problems.

“Why are you monitoring for the presence of mycotoxins, when you already know they are in your feed ingredients?” Block asks. “Investing in a cost-effective insurance program to reduce mycotoxin effects is a much more efficient and valuable solution. RFCs offer a unique solution by counteracting several mycotoxins while enhancing animal performance. They don’t take up ‘extra’ space in the ration like some binders and offer dairies an excellent protection program.”

Drive rations harder

Make your ration work harder. Times may be tight, but that means it’s no time to accept the status quo from your nutrition program. Feed ingredients in rations must be as effective as possible—especially when it comes to fatty acids. Just as not all protein sources are the same, it is important to remember that not all fatty acid supplements are the same.

Fatty acid supplementation in general has been shown to increase milk yield, milk fat yield and the efficiency of milk production, but significant variation has been reported in production performance for different fatty acid types, and, indeed, for the same supplement across different diets and studies.“Researchers note that all fatty acids are not created equal when it comes to effectiveness in a diet,” cautions Block. “In fact, there are distinct differences among fatty acid digestion, metabolism and impacts on milk production.”

The key is to know what fatty acids are present in the supplement, particularly the fatty acids’ chain length and degree of unsaturation. The digestibility of the fatty acid supplement, as well as its potential interaction with other dietary factors, is important in determining the value of the supplement.

For instance, only MEGALAC’s® C18:1 increases energy corrected milk (ECM) while maintaining body condition. However, studies show that products with higher levels of C18:0 may increase dry matter intake (DMI) but have no effect on yields of milk or milk components. Products that contain C16:0 increase ECM and did not affect DMI in both fresh and peak periods.

You owe it to your bottom line—and your cows—to push your ration to work as hard as you do.


Source: Wisconsin State Farmer

Dairy Cow Slaughter Increases As Farmers Focus On Profitability

USDA Report Shows Slight Increase In Slaughter Numbers In 2017

The number of dairy cows sent to slaughter in the United States was slightly higher in 2017, according to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. From January to November last year, about 4 percent more dairy cows were slaughtered than in 2016.

Farmers decide to cull a cow, or send it to slaughter, when it’s no longer profitable to continue milking. After several years of low milk prices, many farmers in Wisconsin say they’re evaluating their herds.

“Farmers are starting to feel the pinch a little bit and trying to make ends meet,” said Katy Schultz, a dairy producer near Fox Lake. “Sometimes culling those tail-end cows that you thought maybe you could hold over for a while might mean the difference between making a payment that month and not.”

But Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the up-tick in slaughter numbers doesn’t mean herds are growing smaller.

“If we see cow slaughter numbers being up a little bit, I don’t think you can necessarily read anything into that because we’ve got plenty of animals to replace them,” Stephenson said.

Advances in breeding technology mean the number of replacement heifers continue to grow, Stephenson said. That makes it easier for farmers to swap less-productive cows.

While replacing a cow is an extra expense, Schultz said replacement heifers often have fewer health issues and better genetics for the future of the herd.

“At least on our farm, we find that we would rather have a young fresh heifer than try to hold over an OK cow,” Schultz said.

Higher slaughter numbers are likely to continue in 2018, according to dairy analyst Stephenson.


Waste tire use on farm becoming an issue

Cornell Pro-Dairy issued this alert regarding use of waste tires on livestock farms.

New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has set limits for on-farm storage of waste tires, even allowing for “beneficial use” of tires to hold down covers with certain restrictions. Reason — rising public health concerns about zika and other mosquito-borne diseases.

The beneficial-use determination requires tires to be either halved or have holes in them to prevent water retention. These rules will have important impacts on agricultural and other uses of waste tires.

Currently, for a farm to be in compliance with the new regulation there can only be 0.25 passenger tire equivalent per square foot of bunker silo coverage. And, all the tires would either have to be cut in half or have holes drilled in them. The deadline for implementation is May 2.

Since the regulations were released, a group of farmers, advisers, Pro-Dairy and the Northeast Dairy Producers Association have begun work to help DEC understand practical issues involved. They’re also exploring a more reasonable implementation schedule.

A most tires farmers have on bunk silos are radial-ply tires, having metal wires in the tread and side walls. Cutting in half or stamping plugs out of sidewalls of radial-ply tires can difficult to begin with, and poses health risks for farm staff doing the modification and subsequent handling.

Start thinking about how this solid waste regulation might impact your farm. Farmers are encouraged to no longer accept tires to use for bunker covers if they can’t meet the halving or holing requirement set by this regulation.

Penn State University Extension developed a tire management document with best management practices for farmers. It may be a handy resource as you begin to consider bunker tire management.

Source: New York Farm Bureau

Send this to a friend