Archive for Management

Zoetis Cattle tips: Decrease BRD re-treatments, decrease losses.

Three ways eliminating extra pulls and re-treatments helps improve your returns

It’s simple to look at your profit and loss statement and see exactly how much you are spending on treatment medications for bovine respiratory disease (BRD). But BRD could be impacting more areas of your profit and loss, especially if you don’t treat it effectively. These other costs aren’t as easy to see, but they often represent a more significant part of the equation.

A recent meta-analysis conducted by Iowa State University shows that some injectable BRD antibiotic treatments could be causing approximately two to five times more re-treats on your operation compared with more effective treatment options. [1,*] This means you could be purchasing at least twice as many antibiotics, having your labour administering twice as many treatments and having nearly twice as many prolonged BRD cases that can negatively impact gain, feed efficiency, carcass quality grade, hot carcass weight, carcass yield grade and, ultimately, your net revenue.

Reducing unneeded re-treats on your operation is one way to help reduce significant impacts to performance and your profits. Here are three ways this can help:

1. Unpulled cattle outgain pulled cattle.[2,**]

It’s no secret that when cattle are healthy, they eat, gain and convert better. Even subtle changes in feeding behavior can have a big impact on performance and carcass value. Average daily gain (ADG) can change depending on time of year, number of pulled cattle that were repulled, borderline chronics and how many days the cattle were fed, but one study found an impact of an approximately 0.2 pound loss in ADG with each additional treatment for BRD. [2,**] In my experience, I believe that this value often underestimates the impact more BRD re-treatments have on ADG.

2. Reduce feed costs.

The longer a bout of BRD, the more one can expect reduced feed intake and increased days on feed. Decreasing re-treats with a more effective BRD treatment not only means having more first-time treatment success, but also cattle that are on feed for less time and gain weight more effectively.

3. When you factor in compromised growth, re-treatment for BRD is almost always more expensive than the first treatment.

You could lose nearly $15.86 per head in return for cattle treated twice versus cattle treated once according to one study published in 2013.[3,***] In addition to factoring in this lost return, you’ll also need to consider additional costs associated with re-treatments, including additional medication costs, labor expenses, veterinarian fees, higher feed costs from decreased feed efficiency and death losses.

You won’t feed cattle your worst feed. Your BRD treatment shouldn’t be any different. By starting with a more effective antibiotic, or rather improving your first-treatment success, your healthier cattle can be on your best feed for less time and gain weight — and your overall profits — more effectively.

More BRD management advice and information about cost-effective solutions for treating BRD, including Draxxin® (tulathromycin) Injectable Solution is available at BRD-Solutions.com.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Draxxin has a pre-slaughter withdrawal time of 18 days in cattle. Do not use in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older. Do not use in animals known to be hypersensitive to the product. See full Prescribing Information.

 

Are You Hiring the Right People at Your Dairy?

Well, if you answered “no” to that question then maybe you need to review – or create – job descriptions that you have for key positions. Job descriptions provide the foundation for building strong human resource management practices into the day-to-day management of a dairy farm business.

One of the key purposes of a well written job description is to serve as a guide for hiring decisions. Consider this: a manager has recently left your dairy for another position. This particular manager had exceptional performance and his or her replacement needs to be equally skilled and perform just as well. Where do you start the hiring process? What tasks did that manager complete? What organizational knowledge just walked out the door, creating a hole in your organization? How can you begin to replace the knowledge, skills, and abilities in that manager? The answer starts with a well-developed job description.

Potential workers are constantly comparing among organizations when looking for employment. Dairies that have no job descriptions or ones that are poorly written are at a disadvantage when workers are looking at that dairy for employment. A good job description can help to recruit the best people for the position by providing clarity about what is required for the job and what day-to-day tasks are expected to be completed. A good job description shows potential new hires (as well as seasoned employees) where they “fit” within the dairy. If the dairy chooses to advertise for workers or use a service to help locate new employees, the job description provides the launching point for beginning the search.

Job descriptions need not be cumbersome, but rather can be rather easy to develop and customize for your dairy farm business. Penn State offers an online tool (Penn State Online Job Description Generator) that is based on research with focus groups of dairy farm owners and employees to determine what key tasks were performed for different levels of positions in dairy businesses. The focus groups provided a broad array of tasks for specific levels of positions from front line workers like milkers and feeders, to middle managers, and even owners and senior managers. The simple to use, drop-down menus allow you to choose tasks. Additional information may be added in order to create a “custom fit” rather than a “cookie cutter” approach to developing job descriptions for your dairy.

The process of creating job descriptions starts by reviewing the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for each position. Five key parts to a typical job description include:

  1. Job title. The job title should accurately and simply describe the job. For example, milker or milking technician, parlor manager or herd manager.
  2. Summary. This is a concise definition of the job’s major responsibilities, including where and when it is performed. You might use the summary when advertising for the position.
  3. Qualifications. A description of any experience, training, or education that is necessary to perform the job. Also, any physical characteristics essential to performing the job, such as the ability to lift and carry a certain weight. Be sure to avoid statements that might be discriminatory on grounds of race, gender, age, or national origin. Be aware that there are some jobs young people are not legally allowed to do.
  4. Duties or Tasks. This is the list of all activities that the person will perform. The number of different duties depends on how specialized workers’ roles are on the farm. Most employers add at the end of the list “other duties as assigned by supervisor” as a way of including those activities that are not routine.
  5. Work relationships. All workers need to know where they fit in the organization. The work relationship section should clearly define who the worker’s supervisor is and how the worker’s position relates to other positions. Be sure that each position only has one supervisor.

Other optional items that may be included as part of the job description include:

  1. Compensation and Benefits. Include in this section all compensation that is offered. An hourly wage range, insurance, vacation, sick leave, and so on should be clearly stated. Housing, use of farm products such as milk or meat, use of equipment, and so forth are all legitimate forms of compensation and should be given a fair market value. You should also specify how much these non-monetary benefits may be used so that there is less chance of conflict later.
  2. Work schedule. Define work hours as much as possible. Define overtime policy if one applies. If work hours vary with the seasons, make that clear in the description.

Once good job descriptions are developed, it is much easier to review and modify them as the needs of the dairy change over time. In addition to their usefulness in the hiring process, job descriptions are useful tools in training new employees and evaluating the performance of existing employees. Job descriptions provide the foundation for building strong human resource management practices into the day-to-day management of a dairy farm business.

Imagine musicians in an orchestra trying to find their roles and play the correct notes without a written piece of music to guide them. Like the sheet music, the written job description helps workers to see where they fit in the organization, and like the sheet music the written job description helps workers to learn how to perform tasks correctly. If your dairy is running a little “off key,” try developing good job descriptions as part of a tune up this year!

Source: extension.psu.edu

Cost of Raising Dairy Replacements

The cost of raising dairy replacement calves is a significant cost on Wisconsin dairy farms in the
production of milk. Calculating the costs associated with raising dairy calves is an essential part
of dairy business management. To augment individual dairy calf cost of production analysis, the
dairy industry also requires a set of benchmark costs whereby individual business costs and labor
and management efficiencies can be compared.

In 2017 UW-Extension Dairy Team conducted an on-farm survey on the cost  and labor efficiency of raising dairy replacements individually or through an automated group feeding system.  Highlights of the findings include:

  • Operations using automated feeders had higher liquid feeding costs than individual
    systems due to their ability to easily feed higher milk amounts. Use of pasteurized whole
    milk reduced costs when feeding higher milk volumes even when partially using salable
    milk.
  • Labor costs were lower for farms using automated feeding systems than individual
    systems and compensated for the higher milk feeding amounts. Unpaid labor costs were
    higher for individual fed operations with these operations generally being smaller and
    having less hired labor.
  • Management costs were similar between operation types emphasizing the importance of
    calf management in either system.
  • Housing costs were higher for those using automated feeding due to newer, larger
    facilities. This difference may normalize as depreciation will occur as facilities age.
    Operations with the highest housing cost also had the highest total allocated costs.
    Planning for sufficient but not excessive facility space save costs of raising calves. Use
    of a renovated facility also may be an option for certain operations.
  • Variation exists for labor and housing costs for farms using automated feeding systems;
    therefore, suggesting different strategies to manage calves and improve employee comfort.

 

SourceUW-Extension

New blood test reveals susceptibility to costly disease in dairy cows

Oregon State University researchers have developed a blood test to identify dairy cows that are susceptible to bovine clinical mastitis.

The interdisciplinary research team published its findings in the Journal of Dairy Science.

Bovine clinical mastitis, a bacterial infection of the udder, is the most prevalent and costly disease in the dairy industry. Diagnosed shortly after calving, the disease strikes about 16.5 percent of U.S. dairy cows in the first 30 days of lactation. Clinical mastitis costs the dairy industry millions of dollars of lost milk income and loss of cows due to the disease.

The OSU test can assist with prevention and early treatment intervention against clinical mastitis, thereby improving cow health and welfare, said study lead author Gerd Bobe, an animal scientist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Linus Pauling Institute.

The researchers identified biomarkers in the cows’ blood that could indicate which of them are at increased risk of a specific disease, Bobe said.

“After giving birth, all cows are highly vulnerable to serious infectious and metabolic diseases,” he said. “Long before they acquire the disease these cows have a metabolic profile that indicates they are at an increased risk of disease.”

In nearly all cases, bovine clinical mastitis develops when the cow’s immune system isn’t able to defend against exposure of pathogenic bacteria at the end of its teat. Most of the time, the cow’s symptoms are mild–they are producing milk lacking normal consistency, for example flakes or clots, and the milk must be discarded. In serious cases, the cow may also have a fever and won’t eat.

The OSU test makes it possible for a dairy farmer to use this test to determine which of their cows are at risk for the infection before it occurs, Bobe said. To prevent the disease, they could feed those cows nutritional supplements that could boost their immune systems.

The study cohort consisted of 161 healthy pregnant Holstein cows from a 1,000-head dairy farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Blood samples were collected weekly during the last three weeks before calving and at calving. After calving, the researchers selected blood samples of eight cows that were diagnosed with clinical mastitis but no other diseases after calving and compared them with nine cows that remained healthy after calving.

The researchers used a form of advanced analytical chemistry, known as ultra-performance liquid chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry, to analyze the blood samples for lipids and other circulating metabolites.

“At some point before calving the cows got infected,” Bobe said. “This method allows us to determine when those cows were infected and needed to be treated.”

Source: today.oregonstate.edu

Reducing age at first calving can save thousands

Reducing the age of first calving from 26 to 24 months can potentially save dairy farmers £300 per heifer.

Speaking at the final meeting of AHDB’s Calf to Calving initiative in Aberdeen FCG dairy consultant Andy Dodd explained that AHDB-funded research conducted by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) had found the average cost of rearing a heifer went up significantly the longer it took them to calve for the first time.

Dodd explains: “At 24 months the cost is approximately £1,500 to rear a heifer, but that rises to £1,800 if they calve at 26 months, and can be over £3000 if they don’t have their first calf until 32 months.

“There are also many other benefits to calving younger, the cow’s lifespan is longer, they need less calving assistance throughout their lives and they supply substantially more milk over their lifetime.”

The RVC statistics show that heifers which calf at two years give on average 25,000 litres of milk throughout their first five years, while those calving two months later give just 20,400 litres.

The figures also show that longevity is increased; heifers calving at 24 months have a 62% chance of still being alive at five years old while those which calf at 26 months only have a 41% chance of surviving past their fifth year.

At the meeting at Glasgoforest Farm, Dodd recommended a number of ways of reaching the two year target including robust protocols which ensure calves are always cared for consistently no matter who is in charge, setting targets and monitoring your progress, as well as regular weighing to guide feed management.

One of the most important tenets of managing age at first calving is understanding mature herd weight as heifers should be 85% of that weight post calving.

“Once you know the mature herd weight you are aiming for you can set targets across the 24 months,” Dodd says. “For example heifers need to be 50% of their mature weight at 12 months, and 55-60% of their mature weight at 14 months.

“The good thing about understanding your targets and monitoring progress is you can always make changes along the way. If you find at 12 months old they are significantly over or under weight there’s no need to panic, just readjust your management, whether by feeding more or less, or changing your feed completely, you can get them back on track.”

Calf to Calving farms are part of AHDB’s wider Farm Excellence Platform, which inspires industry to improve performance and succeed through farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange.

 

Source: POST

Cutting Height in Hay Fields: How Low Can You Go?

As you head to the field this year, it’s important to pay attention to cutting height in your hay crop. One of our goals as farmers is to maximize our yield; however, cutting a hay crop too low can lead to several negative issues. The introduction of the disk-type mowers (discbines) allows for cutting very close to the ground. I’ve seen many fields that have been “scalped” right to ground level. This differs considerably from the older sickle bar mowers (haybines), whose technology required some level of stubble height remain. Stand longevity can be compromised when the crop is cut too low. As a general rule, alfalfa can be cut closer to the ground than our grass hay crops. We need to think about where energy reserves are stored in the crop. For alfalfa, carbohydrates are stored below ground in the taproot. Our grass hay crops store their energy above ground in the stem base or tillers. Frequent mowing at a close height will continue to deplete these energy reserves, resulting in stand longevity issues.

The second consequence for mowing too close to the ground is increased ash content of the forage. All forage has a natural ash content of approximately 6%. However, mowing too closely with disk mowers can add soil to the crop, and increase the ash content by as much as 10-12% (18% ash content in total analysis). If we all had table-top smooth fields, it would also be much easier to make a closer cut across all fields. However, things such as groundhog holes and the unevenness of fields can add to increased ash content of our harvested forage.

So, the million dollar question is how low can you go? The best answer is…it depends! The first question I always ask is – is it a solid stand or a mixed stand? If you have grasses involved, you must keep cutting height higher than a pure stand of legume, if you want to keep the grass in the stand. Keep in mind these are minimum recommendations; it’s okay to mow higher than the numbers below. Here are my minimum cutting height recommendations:

Alfalfa or Clover

  • 2” minimum. Some literature shows a cutting height of 1” will not reduce stand longevity, but remember the increased ash content issue. Also, keep in mind that frequent cutting at early maturity will continue to deplete carbohydrate reserves. One cutting of alfalfa should be allowed to reach the bloom stage each year.

Cool Season Grasses (Orchardgrass, Timothy)

  • 4”during the establishment year
  • 3” minimum during production years. This is where we see most of our stand longevity issues. Frequent cutting of cool season grasses at a low height will continue to deplete energy reserves.

Mixed stands

  • You must manage for the predominant species. Do you have a grass stand with some alfalfa, or an alfalfa stand with some grass?
  • Alfalfa with some grass: 2.5” minimum
  • Grass with some alfalfa: 3” minimum (if you want to keep the grass stand!)

Source: Penn State Extension

4 tips to stay ahead of milking equipment maintenance

Keeping your equipment running smoothly is smart for your dairy’s bottom line.

With today’s milk prices, you’re likely trying to find new places to save money on your dairy. While you work to tighten your farm’s belt, regular maintenance of the milking system is an area of your budget to protect.

“For your herd to perform at its peak, your milking system must also run at peak performance,” says Keith Engel, GEA dairy farm hygiene and supplies specialist. “Farms often cut milking system maintenance for short-term savings. However, this cut can end up causing long-term financial challenges. For example, replacing a vacuum pump can cost thousands of dollars compared to hundreds of dollars for timely repairs.

Here are some tips to help keep your milking system maintenance in check:

1. Make a maintenance schedule

Work with your milking equipment dealer to create a master schedule of all milking equipment maintenance needs. Start with the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance frequency, then adjust according to your farm’s performance history.

“Remember, it’s not necessarily the number of days that determine how often maintenance should be performed – it’s the hours of run time. A parlor that runs 24-hours-a-day needs maintenance more often than one running for 12 hours,” says Engel.

As you implement a maintenance schedule, maintain a log including maintenance date and name or initials of the person who completed the maintenance.

2. Stay aware day-to-day

“Your preventative maintenance schedule should also extend to daily awareness. By being more diligent, it will help your equipment last longer,” says Engel.

Complete the following checks before every milking:

  • Milking vacuum level
  • Air or vacuum leaks
  • Cuts or tears in air tubes
  • Claw and/or liner vents are open
  • No twisted liners or milk hoses
  • Listen for faulty pulsator
  • Milk temperature

When washing starts, do a walkthrough of all milking units, meters and sensors. Make sure no leaks exist, water is flowing properly through all the parts and the air injector is working.

3. Keep in-between maintenance checks in place

Between scheduled maintenance, allow your milking equipment dealer to check the vacuum, graph pulsators and evaluate takeoffs during milking.

“It’s helpful to monitor equipment function through your performance data, such as milk flow rate and quality counts,” says Engel. “Keep tabs on bacteria counts, laboratory pasteurized count and other bacteria counts. They can identify problems with sanitation early.”

You can also mark chemical barrels to ensure they are dispensing consistently during cleaning and sanitation.

4. Avoid emergency calls

“At the end of the day, you want to avoid emergency calls,” says Engel. “They are expensive and often result in lost money and time you would rather be spending with family or doing other activities. Cows never like an interruption in their milking time either.”

No matter how tempting it may be to hold back, even when milk prices are low, it pays to protect your investment in equipment with regular, scheduled care and maintenance.

“If you do that long enough, you will not only realize savings, you will have a recorded history and know what it takes to get the highest quality production and performance from your dairy. You will also be able to create the optimal service intervals for your farm,” says Engel.

 

The Future Value of Genomic Testing

Is it likely that genomic testing will be more valued by North American, European and Oceana Holstein breeders, in ten years’ time? Looking ahead and planning is a good start to achieving profitable genetic goals for a herd and population. Let’s explore some thoughts and ideas about the future use of genomic testing in dairy cattle for herds focused on productivity and profit.

Current Scenario

The Annual Reports from the breeds show 6% (2017) of Canadian and 30% (2016) and 40% (20170of American Holsteins identified were genomically tested. Given those percentages, it shows that the majority of breeders with Holsteins do not value the information. For the other breeds the percentages are lower and, in some cases, almost non-existent. Given that the majority of American dairy animals are not identified with breed societies the use of genomic testing is very low.

If you or your family plan to be in the dairy business in a decade and proactively improving more than others do, when it comes to breeding superior cattle, will be a leg up. Moreover, when your children come home from college they will have the latest facts on genes and the DNA composition for the herd. With a herd genomically tested those children will be ready to hit the ground running when applying their knowledge to their chosen breeding program.

Currently There Are Seven BAD Reasons for Not Choosing Genomic Testing

This article does not plan to dwell on the past and the negatives however some positions are important to correct.

  1. Yes, the $38 to $45 seems costly but that only equates to three weeks raising cost for a heifer. Culling 5% of the heifers, the lowest ones, at 3 months of age will save twice the costs of testing. Culling the lowest 10% will save four times the cost.
  2. There is not the demand for surplus heifers that existed twenty years ago. Sexed semen, much improved heifer rearing and the rearing cost of $2,500 per heifer means that herd replacement programs, which are 15%-20% of total costs on dairy farms, are important to achieving a successful bottom line.
  3. It is true that, on average, the results of genomic testing may not differ greatly from parent average for total genetic merit (TPI, LPI, NM$, Pro$, JPI,..etc.). However, for 90% of the animals tested there be two, if not more, traits that are significantly different and that information will be very useful when making heifer mating decisions.
  4. It is true that when breeding for show ring type, genomically testing may not be of great help. But, when breeding for correct conformation, genomically testing is relatively (60-70%) accurate. Remember that less than 0.1% of heifers ever see the show ring in their lifetime.
  5. Although genomic testing results are most often quoted or promoted for heifers based on their total merit indexes (i.e. TPI or NM$), it is the component traits of the total merit indexes that are important when making breeding decisions. Component traits include yields, health, fertility, longevity, conformation and functional traits. The use and awareness of genomic indexes for all economically important traits would, today, be greatly enhanced, if breeds were to monthly provide top animal lists for all traits not just for TPI, LPI or JPI.
  6. Genomic indexes have been accepted for males as 70% of sires used have genomic but not proven sire indexes. Yet the female side of a mating is equally important to the male side so genomic testing of females should be equally important. Holstein USA is congratulated for initiating and providing genomic testing service programs in cooperation with its partners that are gaining in acceptance but they have yet to reach 40% usage by members.
  7. Breeders often mention that genomic testing is only for elite herds. However, that is just not true. For herds of average genetic merit, the opportunity to dramatically shift the herd average upwards is a definite possibility.

Which Is It – Cost or Benefit?

Most often genomic testing is regarded by breeders as an added cost. But what about the opportunity for added benefits that become available from having added information?

Here are some suggestions on how the $45 charge could be allocated to opportunities for benefits:

  • 100% Parent Verification                                                                      $5
  • Culling or Using as Recips the Lowest 10% of Indexed Heifers                 $20
  • Improved Accuracy for All Matings in a Female’s Lifetime                      $15
  • Building Larger, More Accurate Female Population Data Base                $5

Viewed that way the $45 presents valuable opportunities. The benefit approach is a return on investment. If the testing could be done for $25 it would be a giant step forward.

Nine Future Opportunities from Genomic Testing

The following list is by no means all-inclusive, but it is a start to some of the areas where genomic testing will most likely be used in the future. Our previously published article on epigenetics and nutrigenetics delved into some areas also (Read more: Forget Genomics – Epigenomics & Nutrigenomics are the Future and Epigenetics will be a Driver for Future Successful Dairying).

  1. Milk Products: Differences between animals in the fats and proteins they produce are sure to increase or decrease the value of the milk a cow produces. A2 milk has already caught consumer’s attention.
  2. Longer Animal Lifetimes: The surface has just been scratched on identifying animals that live longer and, thereby, produce higher lifetime profits.
  3. Disease Resistance: Animal diseases will be with the world for all time, so animals with immunity or that are capable of resisting diseases will be in demand.
  4. Feed Conversion: read our recent article on feed efficiency (Read more: The Genetics of Feed Efficiency in Dairy – Where are we at?,Should You Breed for Feed Efficiency?, and A Guide to Understanding How to Breed For Feed Efficiency and Fertility)
  5. Environmental Issues: Our dairy cows are temperate climate animals yet they are raised in hot humid areas and with global warming, animals will need the slickgeneor be able to live and produce in increasingly warmer climates.
  6. Less Labor and Automation: With less individual care and with more cow-machine interactions our dairy cattle will need to be able to operate effectively with machines.
  7. Herd Replacements: 15-18% of total herd costs are associated with rearing replacements. Yet few herds capture complete heifer data that can be used for determining the genetic traits on heifers. Through genomic testing it should be able to know more about calf disease resistance/immunity, growth, feed conversion, age at first heat and many more traits.
  8. Animal Mobility: Lack of mobility and lameness are major on-farm and animal welfare issues. By genomic testing and animal monitoring, it should be possible to identify the most mobile animals.
  9. Cow Fertility: The corner has been turned through analyzing farm reproduction data and associating it with genomic results. Great advances in cow fertility have been made in the past decade. Expect more improvement from further use of genomic information, especially as it relates to animals under stress.

Genomic evaluations are now going global. On June 1stInterbull, on June 1st, announced the launch of GenoEx-PSE as a service to internationally rate animals, based on genomic information. As well, we may see new breeds being developed that take the best genes from various breeds, as determined by genomic results. This could lead to developing animals that meet specific needs, environments, agriculture practices and response to new diseases. Breeders themselves or A.I. breeding companies will use genomic results to breed the best dairy cattle for the future. Genomic testing will be a must do in the same way that feed ingredient balancing, vaccination, continual animal monitoring and customer milk product guarantees are.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

If a breeder has not been genomically testing their herd, the time to start is now.  Every breed society can advise on the services available. Genomic testing needs to be viewed as an investment rather than a cost.

One reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up instead of what they have to gain. (Rick Godwin)

 

 

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Zoetis and Holstein Association USA Partner to Publish Dairy Wellness Profit Index® High-ranking Female Lists

Zoetis and Holstein Association USA are partnering to publish new lists that will recognize high-ranking females for the Dairy Wellness Profit Index® (DWP$®). These high-ranking females provide examples of overall profitability achieved with DWP$ that other producers can strive for. Similar to the top-ranking DWP$ bull lists available, the high-ranking female lists identify animals with strong genetic potential for valuable combinations of high production, reproduction and longevity traits, plus reduced risk for cow and calf diseases.

DWP$ is a genetic selection index only offered with Clarifide® Plus. Selecting animals with DWP$ allows for faster progress toward more profitability because more genetic variation is described than other commercially available indexes. Producers must opt in for their animals to be included in these new lists. They can opt in by visiting EnlightDairy.com.

“These lists can make it easier for Holstein producers striving to improve their herd’s health, performance and profitability to identify and benchmark their females against other elite cattle in the breed,” said Cheryl Marti, associate director, U.S. Marketing, Dairy Genetics and Reproduction, Zoetis.

With data originating from Clarifide Plus, the following high-ranking female lists will be made available through the Holstein Association USA website:

  • Monthly, beginning July 2018: Top 200 Basic ID and Registered females newly evaluated for DWP$ for that month
  • Three times/year, beginning August 2018: Top 100 DWP$ for Registered females younger than 6 months old
  • Three times/year, beginning August 2018: Top 100 DWP$ for Registered females 6 to 24 months old
  • Three times/year, beginning August 2018: Top 100 DWP$ for Registered females older than 24 months

“Since launching Clarifide Plus, producers have expressed great interest in having these female rankings, as more producers continue to seek additional opportunities for profitability through performance and wellness,” Marti said. 

How Dairy Producers Can Participate 

Starting in June, Zoetis and Holstein Association USA welcome dairy producers who are testing with Clarifide Plus to visit EnlightDairy.com and opt in for their herd data to be eligible for these high-ranking female lists. Opting in authorizes Holstein USA and Zoetis to publish a producer’s genomic information if an animal qualifies for the list. Lists will be made available to producers at HolsteinUSA.com.

“Holstein Association USA is pleased to partner with Zoetis to produce these new lists,” said Lindsey Worden, executive director, Holstein Genetic Services, Holstein Association USA. “Zoetis has been a force for advancing genomic testing that drives genetic improvement. This work helps producers breed better and more profitable Holsteins, which is a core value of the Holstein Association. This new initiative is a natural extension of our partnership with Zoetis, and it satisfies a request that we frequently hear from breeders.” 

DWP$ is the most comprehensive commercially available genetic selection index. It ranks animals for production traits, risk of disease, fertility, longevity and other performance traits in Holstein cattle. The high-ranking female lists will include official industry rankings using DWP$ genomic data. DWP$ includes the new calf wellness traits — calf livability, respiratory disease and scours. DWP$ also includes the six cow wellness traits from Clarifide Plus: mastitis, lameness, metritis, retained placenta, displaced abomasum and ketosis. Armed with reliable genomic information from Clarifide Plus, producers can confidently make management, selection and breeding decisions to achieve faster genetic progress.

For more information, please contact your Zoetis representative or Holstein USA representative. Additional resources about genomic testing with Clarifide Plus can be found at ClarifidePlus.com.

 
 

Regular Weighing Makes All The Difference To Calf Mortality

Dairy Consultant Andy Dodd will once more emphasize the significant difference routine weighing of growing calves can have at the final meeting of AHDB’s Calf to Calving (C2C) project in Aberdeen on Tuesday 5 June.

The event will be hosted by Glasgoforest Farm, which is one of twelve farms across the UK which have taken part in the initiative which followed groups of ten calves from birth to first calving, with the aim of getting them to calve at 24 months.

The C2C initiative was inspired by AHDB Dairy funded-research conducted by the Royal Veterinary College which showed that calving at 24 months rather than 26 months reduces average rearing costs by 16%.

Across all the farms involved in the project regular weighing of livestock has been demonstrated to be vital not only to consistent growth rates and the ability to calf at an early age, but also to decreasing calf mortality.

Andy explains: “The project has strongly demonstrated the importance of regular weighing of growing livestock, that information tells the farmer so much about nutrition and health and they can then make decisions about management that ensure stable growth rates and healthier animals.”

At the meeting Andy will explain how the Glasgoforest heifers have measured up against their growth targets, as well as discussing the key areas that make the most difference to heifer rearing and what every farm should do to ensure they their heifers calve by 24 months.

He says: “Alongside regular weighing we have identified other important areas to focus on such as colostrum quality, as well as an in depth understanding of your costs and targets. Once you have a goal, say to reduce your calving age by 1 month, you can then work out what you need to do to get there and if it is economically beneficial.”

The Willis family who have hosted the Calf to Calving at Glasgoforest have seen some of the most consistent growth rates over the course of the project thanks to their microscopic attention to detail when it comes to stock management.

“The Willis family were already following best practice in many areas,” Andy says. “They had an average age of first calving of 24 months, but they knew they could do more to improve their system.

“Previously they were estimating weights and growth rates but when we weighed the animals they quickly realised that their estimations weren’t accurate and have invested in weighing scales to ensure they are managing livestock based on accurate information.”

Calf to Calving farms are part of AHDB’s wider Farm Excellence Platform, which inspires industry to improve performance and succeed through farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange. 

The final meeting of the Calf to Calving Initiative will be held at Glasgoforest Farm, Aberdeen, AB21 0SH, on Tuesday 5 June from 10.45am to 2.30pm. The event is free and lunch is provided, farmers should register by contacting the KE Events Hub on 01904 771216 or at ke.events@ahdb.org.uk.

 

Source: AHDB Dairy

 

‘Close-up cow’ barns help cows avoid heat stress, produce more milk

Martin Prairie Farms near Humansville treats dairy cows like guests.

The family-owned dairy farm north of Humansville in Hickory County dedicates itself to top-of-the-line herd nutrition and care, says University of Missouri Extension dairy specialist Reagan Bluel.

Freddie and Mary Martin, son David, and David’s spouse, Alana, own and operate the nearly 3,000-acre farm. Almost 700 cows produce an average of more than 24,300 pounds of milk yearly, or 8 gallons per day per cow. The Martins milk cows three times daily—7 a.m., 3 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Cow comfort is key. “Experienced dairymen tell us that cows that aren’t comfortable and cool produce less milk,” says Bluel. “It is not rare for the vulnerable herds to experience a 10- to 20-percent decline in milk production during the hottest of times.”

Recent research from the University of Florida found that not only do heat-stressed cows produce less milk than cows given access to shade, sprinklers and fans, they also give birth to calves that grow up to produce less milk, says Bluel.

The Martins house cows in three free-stall barns, which give the cows room to roam in a comfortable environment shielded from precipitation and extreme temperatures. They flush and clean barns six times daily.

They are expanding their operation to include a compost-bedded pack barn for the cows nearing calving. The 125-foot-long “close-up cow” barn offers good ventilation and protection from the elements.

“The key is to not overcrowd,” David says. A 16-foot feed alley allows easy access for equipment. Tilling the bedding daily aids composting action to reduce odor and disease. The compost can be applied as nutrient-rich fertilizer to fields. Calf hutches line the inside of the pack barn, away from the cows. This ensures individualized care for each heifer for the first two weeks.

Nutrition is another key ingredient of the Martins’ healthy herd. They add expired fruits and vegetables from local grocers to their total mixed ration (TMR). David formulates the TMR with the assistance Dennis Turner of Turner’s Special Supply in Hartsville.

Most of the feed products come from the farm. Corn silage and wheat are the homegrown stored forages. They devote most of the acreage to mixed grass pasture for grazing or hay, and they purchase dry alfalfa off-farm.

The Martins share workloads. Freddie oversees the dairy and takes charge of calves up to 4 months of age. David is in charge of rations, crops, cares for calves after they are 4 months old and markets the springer heifer crop. David’s wife supervises nutrient management and is responsible for human resources. There is a herd manager and a team of employees, including six who milk the cows.

Unlike many modern-day dairy farms, the Martins believe in checking on their cows by foot instead of by ATVs. “We think it helps to develop relationships with the cows,” David says.

This is the third generation of Martins to raise dairy cattle on the farm. Freddie’s father moved to the farm in 1950, when Freddie was 10. He bought 120 acres and hand-milked Guernsey dairy cows. The original parlor still stands in the shadow of the new pack barn facility.

David graduated in 1992 with a degree in agricultural economics from the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. He credits MU’s “Returning to the Farm” seminar with a smooth transition back to the farm.

Source: University of Missouri Extension

8 Ways to Help Keep Performance Consistent Across Seasons

Often, rations can change seasonally. In fact, it’s common for producers to experience lower butterfat tests and higher numbers of butterfat inversions this time of year.

These fluctuations are often due to variable starch digestibility of corn silage or high-moisture shell corn (HMSC). Changes in the ration are needed to account for this variability — otherwise, herds are at risk for Sub Acute Ruminal Acidosis (SARA).

“Especially this time of year — but really no matter what the season — SARA is an important problem for producers to be on guard against,” says Tony Hall, MSc MSB, PAS, Technical Services – Ruminant, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “In addition to reduced milk components, producers can also see lowered feed intake or loose manure.1 These are all common signs that SARA may be affecting a herd.”

A cow is defined as experiencing SARA when her rumen pH is below 5.8 for a combined total of three hours or more over a 24-hour period.1 In this acidotic state, the rumen isn’t optimized to make the best use of any ration. Any operation using corn silage or HMSC should watch for seasonal swings in production, Hall advises.

After six to eight months in storage, the fermentation process continues to break down starch-protein structures in the corn silage or HMSC. Increased amounts of rumen-digestible starch and higher rates of digestibility combine to push cows into SARA. In addition, feeding behaviors and silage stability can change.3,4,5

“All these factors make this season a particularly hard time for dairy producers to keep performance consistent,” Hall notes. “The number one way to fight back against SARA is to monitor critical areas regularly and make appropriate ration changes.”

Hall recommends producers:

  1. Monitor dry matter (DM) content in ensiled forages and moist feedstuffs every week
  2. Test for total starch content, starch digestibility and starch degradation rate on ensiled corn silage and HMSC every month
  3. Monitor the total mixed ration (TMR) for both neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and physically effective-NDF content
  4. Make sure the total oil and polyunsaturated fatty acid content is not excessive
  5. Ensure sufficient salt and buffer content
  6. Confirm the dietary cation-anion difference value is adequately positive
  7. Ensure particle size distribution of the TMR is as expected, and that the ration is dispersed evenly along the feed bunk and regularly pushed up, to help address changes in feeding behavior
  8. Include a rumen-specific active dry yeast (ADY) probiotic in the ration to help maximize rumen function.

One ADY probiotic — Levucell® SC containing Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 — has been shown to help maximize rumen function in all life stages of dairy cattle. Research shows cows fed an ADY specifically selected to maximize rumen function spend significantly more time above the SARA threshold6 and even produce 2.1 pounds more per day of 3.5% fat-corrected milk (FCM) per cow per day.7

“Helping dairy cattle maintain a more consistent rumen pH can optimize rumen function — avoiding SARA and making the best use of any ration,” Hall says. “No matter what the season, all herds can benefit from better rumen efficiency and greater productivity.”

Lallemand Animal Nutrition is committed to optimizing animal performance and well-being with specific natural microbial product and service solutions. Using sound science, proven results and knowledge, Lallemand Animal Nutrition develops, manufactures and markets high value yeast and bacteria products ─ including probiotics, silage inoculants and yeast derivatives. Lallemand offers a higher level of expertise, leadership and industry commitment with long-term and profitable solutions to move our partners Forward. Lallemand Animal Nutrition is Specific for your success. For more information, please visit here.

Aggressive dairy reproductive management decisions critical even in tough economic times

Unprecedented prolonged low milk prices are wreaking havoc on Michigan dairy farms. Dairy producers are working hard to find ways to cut costs andmaximize daily milk sales. But reducing management costs, especially reproduction, may prolong financial recovery after milk prices return to profitable levels.

Short-cutting reproductive management programs can reduce the number of cows that become pregnant each month, but with disastrous results within a year or so. Fewer monthly calvings reduce the percent of the herd in peak milk thus decreasing the herd’s average daily milk outputs. It’s crucial for producers to always have the largest possible percentage of cows in peak milk and even more so when milk prices rebound.

Five key management goals can help to ensure optimal reproduction.

  • Ensure sure all cows receive first artificial insemination (AI) no later than 90 days in milk.
  • The herd veterinarian should diagnose cows for pregnancy 32 to 38 days after AI.
  • All non-pregnant cows at vet check should receive AI within three weeks of diagnosis.
  • Cows diagnosed pregnant should be re-examined by a veterinarian approximately one month later to detect any pregnancy loss.
  • Producers should utilize high-ranking sire conception rate (SCR) bulls to maximize the chances for pregnancy.

Don’t think about using herd bulls as a cheaper way to manage reproduction. Herd bulls can stall genetic progress and can often experience high rates of infertility. In addition, bulls are very dangerous and pose a safety risk for farm employees.

To summarize, shortcuts in dairy cow reproductive programs can stall future milk production on farms. Maintain an intensive approach to reproductive management to take advantage of the good times when they return. Utilize fertility programs to ensure cows receive AI in a timely manner. Calendars for these programs can be found here, in addition to a current list of high-ranking SCR bulls.

 

SourceMSU Extension

Combating Heat Stress in Lactating Dairy Cows

With the recent higher temperatures in the upper 80 F° and low 90 F° range along with high humidity levels we will start to incur heat stress in livestock. Producers need to review their “game plan” for summer and be ready for warmer weather to help minimize the effects of heat stress in dairy herds. Dairy cattle have a comfort zone of between 41 to 68 F°. When the ambient temperature goes beyond 68 F° dry matter intakes will decrease on average 0.17 lbs. for each degree above 68 F°.

Even though a reduction in dry matter intake and increased water intake are indicators of heat stress, producers will see a drop in milk production and butterfat, along with increased reproductive issues such as pregnancy loss. Other heat stress indicators include: open mouth panting, increased respiration, sweating, increased amount of time standing, and changes in manure consistency.

What can you as dairy producers do to help aid in the reduction of heat stress in the lactating dairy herd? What follows are some basic tips for dairy cattle heat stress reduction:

  • Provide shade if cattle have access to an outside lot.
  • Increase access to clean, fresh drinking water. This may involve adding extra tanks of water and checking for appropriate flow of water in drinking fountains. Consider adding temporary water access such as a split PVC pipe with flowing water or portable tank to cows as they leave the parlor.
  • Cattle that are being exposed to a holding pen in a parlor should be cooled by a combination of air movement, water sprinkling systems, and shade.
  • Make sure to use large droplets of water when sprinkling (soaking) cows, small droplets often found in misters will not allow for heat dissipation from the cow. Intermittent cycles allow time for the water to evaporate and cool the animal before the next cycle. Sprinkle cows with low pressure sprinklers over their backs away from the feed bunks. Trying to keep the udders dry in this process will help minimize the incidence of mastitis.
  • Use large fans in combination with sprinklers to help cool cows and the air simultaneously.
  • Make sure all fans are working while providing the proper maintenance and cleaning.
  • Adjust diets accordingly as dry matter intake decreases, utilizing higher quality forages and increasing the energy density of the diet. As diet adjustments are made, care should be taken to make sure that there is enough effective fiber to maximize rumination and keep acidosis and displaced abomasum’s to a minimum.
  • Adjust feeding delivery to the cooler times of the day and increase the number of times feed is pushed up to minimize sorting.
  • Manage high moisture feeds such as gluten and distillers’ grains to reduce secondary fermentation.
  • Maximize feed quality by removing feed refusals before the fresh TMR is delivered and by not allowing excessive wetting from misters to occur.
  • Remove only as much silage or haylage as necessary from the bunker face to minimize spoilage and secondary fermentation starting to occur.
  • Increase the delivery of key minerals and dietary supplements: Phosphorus, Potassium and Sodium and dietary supplements:
    • Potassium levels increased heat stressed cows from 1.0% to 1.5% has shown an increase in milk production in research trials (Schneider et al., 1984)
    • Research also has shown a benefit to increasing the dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) in lactating cows when sodium (sodium bicarbonate) and potassium (potassium carbonate).
    • Research has also shown feeding yeast culture in TMR’s, when cows are experiencing heat stress will improve milk yield by 2.6 lbs. per day (Bruno et al., 2009)
    • Diets should contain at least 0.25 lbs. of white salt per cow per day, along with offering access to free choice salt and trace minerals.

As we know cow comfort is essential for high milk production especially during periods of heat stress. Taking the time to focus on cow comfort aids such as additional fresh clean water, air movement, shade, evaporate cooling via sprinklers, while providing energy dense, properly balanced, palatable diets will help minimize lost milk production and reproductive efficiencies due to heat stress.

 

SourceUniversity of Nebraska–Lincoln

Idaho hay stacks up, but dairy hay hard to find

Idaho hay stocks are bucking the national trend but dairy producers may still have trouble finding quality hay.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Idaho had 660,000 tons of hay stored on farms on May 1, up from 510,000 tons last year. Idaho is one of the few western states that saw an uptick in hay stocks compared to 2017.

Nationwide, hay stocks are down 36 percent to a total of 15.7 million tons. USDA forecasters attributed the decline to lower hay production in 2017 coupled with larger cattle inventories and dry conditions across the southern U.S. which extended supplemental feeding periods. Snow storms across the Northern Plains also ate into hay stacks.

While the numbers indicate hay stocks are increasing, many dairy producers say that hay supplies are tight. They were hoping to secure qualify first cutting hay, but rain in late May is dampening those hopes.

Glenn Shewmaker talked to a hay grower in the western Magic Valley who cut his crop more than a week ago to make dairy-quality hay. That hay has turned black in the windrow thanks to frequent rain storms that did not allow it to dry out. Shewmaker is the University of Idaho Extension forage specialist based in Twin Falls.

Rick Pearson, who farms near Buhl, green chopped all of his first cutting this year and was able to work around the rain storms. He started a little earlier than normal, thanks to warm weather in early May that helped push the crop along.

Even though tonnage looks like it will be pretty good this year, first cutting is proving to be a struggle. Much of the hay in the Magic Valley was in the bud stage when the storms began rolling in. With the height of the canopy, growers will have to wait for several sunny days in a row to let that canopy dry out before cutting it.

Unfortunately, those warm sunny days will also prompt the plants to bloom, pushing the crop past dairy quality standards.

Pearson has talked to dairies who are having trouble getting dairy quality hay and that’s starting to show up in hay prices. Dairies are paying around $180 per ton for dairy quality hay delivered, up from $140 to $150 a ton at this time last year.

“Generally first cutting is a little higher,” Pearson said. “Everyone wants fresh, good quality first cutting. But they’re having trouble finding that this year.”

Not only is the weather making dairy quality a hard-to-find commodity this spring, but some growers are also selling hay into California. According to the USDA numbers, California has only 140,000 tons on hand, about half of the 2015-17 average.

Even though higher prices are welcome to start the season, Pearson isn’t expecting prices to stay up. Milk prices are still at or below cost-of-production levels. Dairies will buy hay as needed rather than stockpiling it.

Demand for hay is expected to remain strong. Across the U.S., cow inventory is up 1 percent, compared to the previous year. Idaho’s January 1 cow inventory matched the national trend. Beef cow numbers were up 2 percent to 510,000 head while the number of dairy cows milking held steady at 600,000 head.

Source: kpvi.com

For Some, New MPP Makes Plenty of Cents

In February 2018, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 made several modifications to USDA’s Dairy Margin Protection Program and directed the department to reopen signup for the 2018 coverage year. The modifications made to MPP were designed to make it a more attractive risk management tool for small- and medium-sized dairy operations by reducing premium rates, delivering payments monthly, increasing the catastrophic coverage levels, and making more milk eligible for discounted coverage. Farmers have until June 1 to make new MPP coverage elections. MPP coverage will be retroactive to January 2018, and for more than 90 percent of the farmers previously enrolled in the program, coverage during 2018 is guaranteed to be profitable, i.e., program payments will be greater than the insurance premiums.

Bipartisan Budget Act Changes

It’s widely known that despite milk prices falling by more than 50 percent since 2014, MPP offered very little financial support to the struggling dairy industry. Farmers paid nearly $100 million in premiums and administrative fees, and received approximately $12 million in program payments, representing a loss ratio of 12 percent. That all changed in 2018.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 modified MPP to make the program more affordable and to ensure more timely program payment delivery. The changes to MPP include calculating program benefits monthly instead of bimonthly, reducing the premium rates for Tier 1 coverage by as much as 80 percent, increasing the Tier 1 eligibility to 5 million pounds of covered milk, up from 4 million pounds, increasing the minimum catastrophic coverage level for small- and medium-sized dairy operations.

To best demonstrate these changes, consider that under the old MPP $8 coverage cost 47.5 cents per hundredweight for the first 4 million pounds of covered milk and $1.37 per hundredweight for coverage more than 4 million pounds. For a farm covering 5 million pounds of milk, the old MPP would have cost over $30,000. Now, with the lower premium rate of 14.2 cents per hundredweight for up to 5 million pounds of covered milk, $8 coverage costs slightly more than $7,000 – a reduction of 78 percent.

Covering 5 Million Pounds and Under

The changes to Tier 1 MPP coverage in the Bipartisan Budget Act will provide much needed financial relief to farmers covering no more than 5 million pounds of milk. For farmers electing to cover more than 5 million pounds of milk, the benefits of participation will be lower due to the higher Tier 2 premium rates and should be carefully compared to other risk management options.

Based on 2017 enrollment data received from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, in 2017, 92 percent of enrolled dairy operations, approximately 20,000 farms, had a production history at or below 20 million pounds of milk. Because the minimum coverage percentage is 25 percent, these farmers would be eligible to elect coverage on up to 5 million pounds of milk and receive the maximum benefits provided by the improved Tier 1 provisions. Figure 1 maps the percentage of enrolled dairy operations eligible to cover 5 million pounds of milk or less based on 2017 enrollment data.  

Guaranteed Benefits at $8 Coverage

While the enrollment period for the improved MPP runs from April to June 1, the coverage for 2018 will be retroactive to January. Based on the data released by USDA, the February and March MPP margins were $6.88 and $6.77 per hundredweight, triggering program payments of $1.12 and $1.23 per hundredweight for $8 coverage, respectively, and excluding sequestration of 6.6 percent. With a Tier 1 premium rate of 14.2 cents for $8 coverage – which is less than the dairy checkoff assessment – the net benefit of participation for February and March is $0.98 and $1.09 per hundredweight, respectively.

Importantly, even if MPP isn’t triggered for the rest of 2018, farmers covering no more than 5 million pounds under the $8 coverage level will have a positive return of 3.9 cents per hundredweight, or $1,950 for a farm covering 5 million pounds (including premiums, administrative fees and sequestration). For these farmers, the 3.9 cents per hundredweight is guaranteed and can only get larger. For example, if April triggers a payment of $1.30 per hundredweight, as projected, the net benefit of participation jumps to 14 cents per hundredweight, or $7,000, for a farm covering 5 million pounds of milk.

As of mid-May, USDA’s MPP decision tool forecasts MPP margins to remain below $8 per hundredweight through June 2018. Potential program payments of $1.30 in April, $0.84 in May and $0.13 in June are currently projected for $8 coverage, Figure 2. If realized, $8 MPP coverage would have a net benefit of 21.6 cents per hundredweight, or nearly $11,000, for a farm covering 5 million pounds. Benefits of MPP participation would only increase if feed prices continue to rise or if milk prices falter going into the fall. 

Summary

During 2018, milk prices and MPP margins reached the lowest levels since 2016. Due to the multi-year downturn in milk prices and financial hardships faced by dairy farmers, as well as the poor historical performance of MPP, Congress made several modifications to the program in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Following the congressional action, USDA reopened signup and made the benefits retroactive. Farmers have until June 1 to finalize their coverage elections for 2018.

Anecdotal reports suggest that as of mid-May fewer than 8,000 dairy operations had signed up for the improved MPP. Similar patterns were observed in years past, whereby dairy operators would finalize their coverage options in the final week prior to the enrollment deadline. However, for the improved MPP, there is no need to wait as the benefits of participation are guaranteed to be positive for 92 percent of the dairy farmers previously enrolled in the program.

With so much uncertainty around milk and feed prices in 2018, one certainty many dairy farmers have is that the improved MPP will provide some financial assistance. With little more than a week remaining until the signup deadline, farmers should take a second look at MPP for 2018 and make sure they are not leaving money on the table. 

Source: fb.org

California scientists hope feeding cows seaweed will make them less gassy — which could be great news for the environment

California is pushing for a reduction in greenhouse-gases generated from cows, and adding seaweed to the cattle’s feed shows promise in reducing potent methane emissions by more than 30 percent, researchers said this week.

Based on preliminary results, the seaweed could help dairy operations cut the level of methane emissions to meet California new standards. The state’s livestock sector — mostly the dairy sector — is responsible for an estimated 55 percent of methane emissions in the state, according to a report from the California Air Resources Board.

Methane is created in cattle production when cows pass gas, belch and defecate. While methane can be short-lived as a climate pollutant, it is considered at least 25 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide

“From the cows, half of the methane emissions is from the belching of the animal and the other half is from the manure,” said Ermias Kebreab, one of the researchers behind cows consuming seaweed and an animal-science professor at the University of California-Davis. “You can use additives such as seaweed to try to reduce the methane that’s belched out of the animal.”

Kebreab and his team are demonstrating the seaweed project this week and plan to publish preliminary findings in late June and begin further tests with additional cattle later this summer.

According to Kebreab, the project is supported by several non-profits, including Elm Innovations, an organization out of Stanford University. Another contributor is the 11th Hour Project — a program of the Schmidt Family Foundation, a private foundation created by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

“This is really the first trial on dairy cattle that’s been done ever in the world,” Kebreab said. “From what I’ve seen so far, it seems to work quite well. But there’s a lot of stuff we need to do before this can be a viable solution.”

A significant cut in gas, and the milk still flows

Based on preliminary findings, Kebreab said a touch of seaweed added to the cattle’s diet appears to reduce dairy cow’s gassiness by “well over 30 percent.”

Kebreab said the methane emissions could be lowered even more by increasing the seaweed concentration used from about 1 percent to 2 percent of the cow’s diet.

The researcher said cows usually consume about 50 pounds of feed per day, and the seaweed mixture represents only around half a pound of the animal’s diet. There’s been no drop in milk yields on the cows using the seaweed additive.

“You’re not changing the main diet of the animal,” he said. “It’s just a matter of mixing the additive to their diet and providing the seaweed.”

New standards to meet

The use of seaweed could help California dairy farmers as they face new standards to cut methane emissions.

In 2016, California set targets for cutting methane emissions as part of an effort to reduce statewide emissions of short-lived climate pollutants across industries, including the dairy sector. The goal is to cut the level of methane emissions 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030, and the state believes 75 percent of that reduction should come from the dairy sector.

Dairy farmers fought against the tougher rules and argued at the time it would increase costs of doing business. The legislation was signed into law at a time when more dairy farmers were exiting the business or moving to other states.

“There are environmental costs of operating here and extremely high land costs and feeds need to be brought in,” said Ray Souza, a longtime dairy farmer in Turlock, California, who left the business in 2016 and now rents his dairy facility. “It just makes it more difficult for California to compete with the Midwest today.”

California is the leading dairy state and home to a herd of about 1.8 million milk cows, and it accounts for nearly 20 percent of the nation’s milk production. The state also has more than 5 million beef cattle.

“California is a huge producer of dairy, and so when you just add up all the methane emissions that you have there and the amount of production that’s happening, you can see how it can be a really significant contributor to those overall climate pollutants.,” said Marcia DeLonge, a senior scientist in the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based advocacy and research group.

 

Source: Yahoo Finance

Western Innovator: Helping dairy workers stay safe

Idaho’s safety training for dairy workers is a collaborative approach by dairy producers and processors to heighten worker safety and will soon be on the national stage.

It hasn’t been all that long since Ryan DeWit was milking cows on his family’s dairy in Friona, Texas, but now he’s helping Idaho dairy farmers keep their workers safe through a unique training program.

The Idaho Dairy Worker Safety and Training Program is a collaboration of Idaho Dairymen’s Association and Idaho Milk Processors Association to provide training to dairy workers across the state.

While the first phase of the program was developed with university expertise and continues to be expanded with that expertise, DeWit heads up the practical on-the-ground training to promote worker health and safety.

“We provide dairy workers with training and educational content focused on general farm safety and animal handling,” he said.

The goal of the program is to initiate safer interaction between workers and cows and educate workers on farmwide safety when it comes to such things as equipment and electricity. It’s aimed at ensuring they go home safely at the end of the day, he said.

Proactive response

The program is the proactive response by dairy farmers and processors to heighten worker training and safety after a dairy worker fatality in February 2016. That worker drowned in a waste pond after mistakenly driving a feed truck into the pond in pre-dawn hours during flooded conditions.

To prevent future tragedies, IDA engaged experts in worker safety and training. Idaho’s dairy processors committed to the effort soon after.

IDA contracted with David Douphrate, assistant professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences at the University of Texas, and Robert Hagevoort, extension dairy specialist at the New Mexico State University, to develop a program.

DeWit met Hagevoort through the U.S. Dairy Education and Training Consortium, and Hagevoort referred him to IDA to facilitate the training.

DeWit uses iPads with headphones to deliver individualized training in English and Spanish and can deliver that training in groups of up to 20 workers.

“It’s always fun for me to explain why I’m here and why it’s important to have safety training,” he said.

Bottom line

The bottom line is having workers go home to their families intact, he said.

Some workers are a little intimidated at first, but they soon discover their trainer grew up milking cows and clearing water troughs and respond favorably. And they appreciate that the dairy owner is investing in their training, he said.

The iPad training session is followed by a live animal handling session. Workers often do the “what” of the job but don’t know the “why” of safety issues and animal handling. Helping them see things from a cow’s perspective allows them to predict the cow’s behavior and get the animal to do what the workers want them to and avoid injury, he said.

“At the end of the day, we’re helping employees recognize those hazards on the dairy,” he said.

He encourages managers and owners to participate in the worker training because it reinforces how important safety is and creates a dialogue of safety on the dairy.

The mission

“My mission with this role is to help Idaho’s dairymen improve the safety culture on their dairies while providing consumers’ assurance that our workforce is working in a safe environment and is well-trained,” he said.

The program began in August 2017, and DeWit has trained more than 500 workers at 25 dairies with 50 milking barns. But there’s more to do, with 500 dairies and an estimated 8,000 employees in the state.

He’s also given a three-day “train the trainer” workshop for processor and co-op field personnel and plans more in the future to broaden the reach of the training program and reinforce safety concepts. He also offers safety, compliance and record-keeping consulting to owners and managers.

Additional training is being developed to cover a broader array of safety issues on the dairy, such as safe feeding and safe maternity care.

Idaho’s program has also caught the attention of National Milk Producers Federation, which has pulled together a task force to address safety issues in response to consumer concerns.

“This is an issue that affects the industry as a whole,” he said.

IDA will play a key role in developing a safety manual that will be part of the NMPF’s Farmers Assuring Responsible Management program.

“At the end of the day, I think we’ll have a solution for dairymen that’s workable, effective and user-friendly,” he said.

Ryan DeWit

Occupation: Dairy worker training and safety specialist

Employer: Idaho Dairymen’s Association, IDA Consulting

Home: Twin Falls, Idaho

Age: 24

Education: Master’s degree (2017) and bachelor’s degree (2016) in Agribusiness, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas

Family: Wife, Kathryn

 

Source: Capital Press

The Six Pillars of Successful Calf Raising

Starting calves off on the right hoof can set the stage for a lifetime of health and productivity. Diseases such as bovine respiratory disease (BRD) greatly reduces heifer-raising success. Calves affected by BRD don’t grow as fast as their herdmates, are older at first calving and have an increased risk of being culled before the end of their first lactation.

So, what are some ways producers can avoid BRD and efficiently raise high-quality animals? Dr. Curt Vlietstra, professional services veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim, offers six management pillars that can contribute to the success of young calves and the prevention of BRD:

Pillar One: Nutrition

  • Colostrum – “Calf health starts with good colostrum before anything else,” remarked Dr. Vlietstra. “It’s excellent BRD insurance.” Calves should receive 4 quarts of colostrum immediately after birth and a second feeding eight hours later.
  • Consistent feedings – A structured feeding schedule, in which the calf is fed at the same time every day, reduces stress and improves average daily gain (ADG).
  • Monitoring growth – Keeping track of ADG helps producers ensure their calves are healthy and on schedule to be bred on time.

Pillar Two: Housing

“I’ve seen calves raised successfully in a variety of housing situations,” said Dr. Vlietstra. “Much of that success comes down to good management.”

  • Bedding – An ample supply of dry, clean bedding promotes calf comfort and decreases the risk of disease contraction.
  • Stocking density – Producers can reduce the risk of stress and the spread of disease by refraining from overcrowding calves and providing them with enough space to eat.
  • Air quality – Maintaining proper ventilation keeps calves from inhaling dust and harmful BRD-causing pathogens.
  • Weather protection – A calf’s immune system can become compromised when exposed to dramatic weather fluctuations. Facilities should have the capacity to keep calves protected from the elements and temperature changes.

Pillar Three: Hygiene

“Proper hygiene is essential to keep bacteria concentrations at bay,” Dr. Vlietstra stressed. “If employees are managing the calves, make sure to clearly post protocols and ensure they are well trained.” Individual pens should always be sanitized before a new calf enters the pen. Milk, dry feed and water sources should be cleaned routinely. Protein-residue swabs and the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) test luminometer are helpful tools to monitor the cleanliness of feeding equipment such as bottles, nipples and tube feeders.

Pillar Four: Diagnostics

Early diagnosis of BRD can be challenging for producers, but it’s essential to stop the spread. A scoring chart can be used to identify BRD and its severity, and also to help producers decide if action should be taken. Dr. Vlietstra also recommends testing calves. “A transtracheal wash or a pharyngeal swab is relatively un-invasive, and helps producers detect pathogens early,” he said. “It’s better than the alternative of submitting tissue from already dead calves.”

Pillar Five: Record Keeping

Treatment records can help producers keep track of disease incidence and in making culling decisions. “Any animal that’s been treated multiple times for respiratory disease before breeding age would be a good candidate to be culled,” stated Dr. Vlietstra. “Ideally, producers would be recording cases of BRD on a computer as soon as the event occurs.”

Pillar Six: Vaccination

Before birth, producers can protect the calf by vaccinating the dam. “Certain vaccines given to cows later in gestation are going to stimulate an immune response that will provide pathogen protection in the colostrum,” Dr. Vlietstra explained. “If the colostrum is harvested and fed correctly, we can pass along some of that protection to the calf.”

Weaning is the highest-risk period for BRD. “Calves are likely experiencing stress from diet changes while learning to commingle with other animals,” he continued. “At the same time, pathogen protection from the colostrum is declining.” A recent survey found that nearly 30 percent of producers wait to vaccinate until weaning, but that may be too late. “Vaccinating calves against respiratory disease before weaning with a modified-live virus vaccine gives calves the opportunity for their immune systems to work at optimum levels, and can help to keep the calf protected,” Dr. Vlietstra added.

Stressors like shipping, extreme weather changes and dehorning can weaken the immune system, allowing BRD to trigger a respiratory infection. When calves are faced with an upcoming stressful situation, Dr. Vlietstra recommends a single-dose antibiotic treatment.

“Make sure you’re not using vaccines as a temporary fix for a larger issue,” he concluded. “No vaccine can replace good management practices. Producers should work with their veterinarian to develop a vaccination program tailored to their environmental conditions and herd goals.”

New bull team tool a crystal ball for future of Australian dairy herds

Dairy farmers will soon be able to predict their herd’s future performance based on the genetics of different bull teams.

DataGene project liaison manager Erika Oakes said the Genetic Futures Report would allow farmers to input three different bull teams and see predictions about a herd’s future performance.

The report can give farmers a Balanced Performance Index score, which is a combination of traits, such as productivity, to improve farm profitability.

Speaking at the ImProving Herd’s National Muster at Meeniyan last week, Ms Oakes said the technology was in the final stages of development and would be available later this year.

She said the online tool could show which cows were in the top and bottom 25 per cent of the herd for performance traits, including production.

Agriculture Victoria ImProving Herds project leader Jennie Pryce said genotyping calves could show farmers which ones would be good performers.

“If you are making decisions about calves it will give you confidence about which ones to keep,” Ms Pryce said.

She said when economic conditions were tough, genomic testing could show which cows were efficient feeders and which ones were “stealing feed”.

Source: The Weekly Times

Two Reasons Activity Monitoring Matters for Reproduction

If an open cow costs $2.00 per day, then a single missed heat can cost you $42.00. In today’s dairy economy that’s a lot of money to use someplace else, especially if multiple heats are missed.

“When heats aren’t detected, it leads to more time and labor spent tracking, sorting and breeding cows,” says Stephanie Aves, business development manager for Nedap North America. “Activity monitoring systems help dairy farmers catch cows in heat for timely insemination.”

Here are two reasons an activity monitoring system can get more cows pregnant faster and keep money in your pocket:

Reason #1: Track cow activity 24/7

Although you can visibly detect a cow standing to be mounted, it is not fail-proof. And it’s not realistic to monitor cows 24/7.

There are only 1.5 mounts per hour per cow and each mount lasts 4-6 seconds. A cow’s heat lasts 6-8 hours. Collectively, these numbers tell us cows are in heat for one-third of the day and spend just 3-5 minutes standing to be mounted. That’s a very small window to catch a heat.

Heat activity of cows tends to be lowest during feeding and milking times – the times you or your staff are most likely with the cows. Cow activity is at its highest while you’re probably sleeping. Approximately 70 percent of mounting occurs between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., when cows have limited distractions.

“Activity monitoring takes on the full-time job of heat detection,” says Aves. “These systems also rely on other indicators, like sniffing and chin resting, to make sure heats don’t get missed. Data can also provide actionable insights about the optimum time to inseminate for the highest chance of conception.”

Reason #2: Quickly find cows not showing heat

Sometimes a cow won’t show a heat because of environmental or metabolic factors, like floor surface, sore feet or legs, heat stress or ketosis complications. Also, she simply may not be cycling (annovular). With an activity monitoring system, you can be proactive by finding these problem cows quicker, then solving the cause of the fertility problem or providing an effective treatment to resolve it – ultimately, getting them bred faster.

“Instead of missing the heat altogether and waiting for the next cycle, activity monitors give you insights to dig deeper into why a cow didn’t come into heat,” says Aves. “Insights from data can help you make a management decision to get a cow bred as quickly as possible, regardless of why she isn’t showing heat.”

Using an activity monitoring system allows you to catch cows in heat and take early action when there’s a problem. The result? Improved reproductive outcomes and dollars in your pocket.

To learn more about automated activity monitoring systems visit nedap.com/dairyfarming.

 

New partnership aims to enhance technology skills in the dairy industry

As the dairy industry continues to embrace innovative technology on-farm, a new partnership will see Dairy Women’s Network members benefit directly from the expertise of one of New Zealand’s leading farm software companies.

FarmIQ is software designed to help farmers easily capture and store information so they can analyse performance and meet compliance requirements. It also offers tools to help run the farm.

Dairy Women’s Network is the largest membership organization of its kind in New Zealand, with close to 10,000 members. It was established in 1998 to develop and educate women to add value to the business of dairying, and its members have access to professional support through events and a full calendar of educational opportunities around the country.

Dairy Women’s Network CEO Zelda de Villiers says in an industry increasingly focused on compliance, farm software and technology skills are becoming more important than ever before.

“Technology is an increasingly important part of managing a farm business. Having the right tools at hand can make all the difference – from automating parts of your operation to better managing resources and assessing profitability.

“Accurate recording and interpretation of data is absolutely essential in today’s modern farming environment – it’s a significant driver of returns and value in the primary sector.”

De Villiers says one of the barriers for many in seeking development in this area is that it can be daunting simply knowing where to start.

“That’s why providing opportunities to upskill in this aspect of farming is crucial. We’re looking forward to partnering with FarmIQ to help women in the industry thrive with the technological skills and knowledge they need.”

Over the coming months, FarmIQ will roll out a series of workshops for Dairy Women’s Network members across New Zealand, all with the aim of upskilling participants on the use of farm software.

FarmIQ national dairy business manager Libby Wood says the partnership is timely.

“Dairy Women’s Network does a great job of connecting women in the dairy industry and providing them with relevant, up-to-date learning opportunities,” says Ms Wood.

“As a supplier of software that helps dairy farms get more from their land, animals and pasture, FarmIQ aligns well with the Network’s aim of presenting new ideas, information and technology to its members.

“We’re looking forward to exploring how using farm software can help members achieve their goals – big or small – in the dairy industry.”

 

Fertility: The New Normal

The world of dairy is one of continuous improvement. Tight margins, expense of heifer rearing, and the drive to improve herd genetic potential have made excellent reproduction an even more important item on many farms. Over the last several years, much has been learned and implemented to improve cow comfort, nutrition, and health. Genetics, fertility-enhancing synchronization programs and market pressures have all had an impact as well. An article written in 2015 regarding reproductive goals is already out-of-date. Below are the top five items being tracked on dairies today and updated goals for reproductive performance given the advancements over the last few years.

1) Percent pregnant by 150 Days in Milk (DIM). It seems many of the herds we work with have exceeded the goal of 75% that we were looking at a few years ago. Confirming this, our Dairy Performance Navigator system shows the top 10% of herds by milk production out of 280 Holstein herds, each with over 500 cows, now average 81% of the herd pregnant by 150 DIM. GENEX Excellence in Reproduction Award winners for 2017 averaged 88% pregnant by 150 DIM. A new goal of >80% of cows pregnant by 150 DIM seems appropriate now.

2) 3-week pregnancy rate. Depending on the program your farm uses, the calculation of cows that are eligible to be bred may vary. Ultimately, the pregnancy rate is driven by conception rates and service rates. Factors that diminish estrus expression or detection or reduce conception will reduce the pregnancy rate. Many factors that affect reproductive success are shown below.

Holstein herds with 500 cows or more in our Dairy Performance Navigator ℠  (DPN℠) program average 25% annual pregnancy rates, with the top 10% by cow pregnancy rate achieving an average of 34%. A good goal for 3-week pregnancy rate is now 30%.

 
3) Conception by breeding code, service number, semen type. Many herds are using sex-sorted semen in the lactating herd as well as their heifers, this frequently has lower conception than conventional semen. There are also differences in synchronization programs for first service and later services. It is best to track conception of differing breeding codes (ex: resynchronization versus heat detection) and semen types, so that if change in reproductive performance is desired, the areas can be monitored in relation to the goal and to historical performance. Good goals here would match the following: The top 10% of Holstein herd by cow pregnancy rate in our DPN℠ program are achieving first service conception >45% in their lactating herds. For heifers, the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association gold standard for first service conception rate with sexed semen is 60%.  

4) Percent of heifers pregnant at 15-17 months old. This is still a favorite measure of the overall efficiency of the virgin heifer reproductive program. The range can be adjusted based on your voluntary waiting period, but should allow time for breeding and pregnancy diagnosis. Delays in moving heifers into the breeding pen or inadequate heat detection will reduce this percentage. Skipping the pregnancy examinations or missing data will also skew this data. Increased percentages reflect efficient use of days (or months) heifers are fed before freshening and return income to the dairy. Currently, the top 10% of Holstein herds by heifer pregnancy rate in our DPN℠ program are achieving 85% of heifers pregnant at 15-17 months, that is an excellent goal for any dairy farm.

5) Number of eligible animals beyond first service deadline not inseminated. Many farms are achieving 100% of animals (both cows and heifers) inseminated within 28 days of their voluntary waiting period. It is important to have a fixed goal by which all animals should be inseminated, yours may be different than 28 days or may include weight for the heifers. Animals removed from breeding pens and/or missed on synchronization programs may not be inseminated, reducing the service rate and reducing the dairy’s efficiency. The goal for animals beyond first service deadline not inseminated is zero.

Source: crinetsupport.blogspot.ca

GEA Milking Intelligence: An illustrated guide to optimal cow milking

Each chapter features detailed illustrations and diagrams to depict cow anatomy, machine components, milking procedures and cow management. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are listed at the end of each chapter to help measure farm goals, see where progress can be made and where the farm is excelling.

GEA Milking Intelligence is a great resource and learning tool because it has something for everyone – whether you want to learn how milk is made inside the cow, or you are an expert in milking equipment and could use the help of instructive graphics to explain the milk-harvest process,” says Robin Matthayasack, GEA North America marketing manager. “The book’s objective is to help dairy farmers around the world achieve the most successful milk-harvest process in an efficient, sustainable and profitable way.”

With over four decades of dairy industry experience, author Norm Schuring stresses the importance of training and education as a way to maximize milk quality and cow comfort. His insights and milk harvest experience provide an exceptional resource for dairy farmers, veterinarians, consultants, students and anyone looking to further their knowledge of optimal cow milking.

GEA Milking Intelligence shows readers how GEA’s philosophy of harvesting milk safely, gently, quickly and completely can be achieved by precisely matching milking components together and integrating them with proper facility design, operational training, a high level of milk quality standards and superior service.

“The common thread throughout the book is a philosophy that milking should be safe for cows and workers, maintain teat and udder health, and strike a balance between quickness and completeness,” states Doug Reinemann, Ph.D., professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Milking Research and Instruction Lab. “This book makes Norm’s knowledge available to an even larger audience and continues his tradition of providing practical advice to dairy farmers and their service providers.”

Schuring has served on countless milking committees, councils and advisory groups including 3A, ISO, Milking Machine Manufacturers Council, Dairy Practices Council and was the National Mastitis Council (NMC) president in 2009.

To purchase a copy of GEA Milking Intelligence, in English or Spanish, download an order form: http://bit.ly/GEAbook or contact GEA at 877-WS-Dairy (877-973-2479).

Watch a preview of the book here.

 

Produce more milk with a separate group of heifers

On a dairy farm, there is certainly no shortage of data. Key performance indicators for milk production and livestock health have come to form an indispensable part of modern-day livestock farming and with the advent of sensors, the flow of data has expanded still further. In a large-scale practical study, Utrecht University, Wageningen University & Research, Vetvice and Nedap are seeking to identify a method that will make it possible to derive practical value from the information provided by sensors. In a series of articles, we will look over their shoulders as they carry out their research. In this edition: A separated group of heifers produces more milk.

Produce more milk with a separate group of heifers

It takes at least one month before the behavior of dairy heifers normalizes in a herd with mature cows, the practical study Sense of Sensors shows. Heifers demonstrate specific behavior, have different needs and thus merit special care.

They require more lying time, have a higher feed intake and produce almost 10% more milk. The advantages of housing dairy heifers separately are well-known. American dairy scientist Rick Grant already published impressive data in this field in 2012. Despite that, it is still rather unusual for dairy farmers to keep their heifers apart from older cows. “What many farmers don’t realize is that heifers represent a separate group of animals. They exhibit specific behavior and have different needs”, says Assistant Professor Frank van Eerdenburg of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Utrecht. Van Eerdenburg is involved in the practical study Sense of Sensors. In part 3 of the series on this study, he explains the reasons why every farmer should consider arranging a separate group for dairy heifers in the stable.

When everything is new

On introduction to the livestock, heifers are at the bottom of the pecking order. They are smaller than adult cattle and experience greater stress. “For heifers, everything is new. They undergo a metabolic change for the production of milk and need to learn to walk to the milking parlor and the feeder,” says Van Eerdenburg. “In a separate group, heifers face less stress because they do not get into conflict situations with older animals. This not only contributes to increased milk production, but also improves the wellbeing of the animals.” For small businesses, separate housing of heifers is more difficult to achieve, but, in Van Eerdenburg’s opinion, it is feasible to look after them as a separate group from as few as a dozen heifers.

More steps, more stress

The practical study Sense of Sensors shows, among other things, how it takes at least one month before heifers get used to their new herd and surroundings. This graph demonstrates for three regimes how many extra steps heifers take in comparison to the herd. The closer the lines get to zero percent, the more similar their behavior is to that of the mature cattle.

It is even clearer that introduction after three days leads to greater stress (more steps) than doing so right after calving. Certain farmers wait a few days with the introduction of heifers into the herd, but this effort is in fact in vain. Van Eerdenburg: “On the day of calving, heifers are geared up to defending their calf, and are thus more assertive. This is hormonally driven.”

The advantages of a separate group of heifers are all well and good, but what happens if the heifer still ends up in the group of mature cows after her second calving? “This question is justified, but the problems at introduction are not extended. The advantage of keeping a separate group of heifers lies in particular in being able to better respond to heifers’ typical eating behavior,” says project coordinator Jan Hulsen. Heifers eat more slowly than mature cows; they will more easily get the extra time needed in a group of peers than in a group with dominant older cows. The routine of milking and feeding is no different during the second lactation, as is well-known.

However, the new second cow calf will still have to determine her ranking. Hulsen: “However, this already happens after two or three days, that is not the problem in regards to introduction.” The occupancy of the barn is especially important, argue Hulsen and Van Eerdenburg. “Occupancy of more than 80% already impacts on milk production,” claims Van Eerdenburg. “Heifers need to lie down for twelve to fourteen hours a day. At ten hours, you already lose money. Each extra hour of lying down yields one and a half kilos of milk. This also explains the additional milk in a separate group of heifers. Sensors can precisely demonstrate this.”

Paul van Asseldonk:

“The BSK* of dairy heifers is higher now than that of more mature cows”

*BSK: Standardized milk production value for each cow to the 50th day of the third lactation period

For Paul van Asseldonk, milk heifers no longer have to compete with their mature barn companions. Since September of last year, the dairy farmer from Rosmalen has been tending to his first calf animals in a separate group. “The genetics of the youngest cattle are of the highest level, but this was never evident to us in the BSK and lactation value,” Van Asseldonk. The farmer milks using three robots, one of which is specifically reserved for the heifers. His dairy farm is part of the Sense of Sensors study. From when the heifers were kept in their own section onwards, the BSK value increased significantly by 2.5 kilos of milk per animal (table 1). The number of steps dropped by 400 and the lying time increased by 37 minutes per day. This all points to a lowering of stress. “The BSK is now higher for the heifers than for the adult cows. At the most recent milk recording, the heifers showed a BSK of 54.7 and the cows 51.7,” states Van Asseldonk satisfactedly. “However, I had expected the heifers to also be eating for a longer period, but actually the reverse happens. It seems that they can eat to capacity more quickly and then find a quiet spot to lie down and ruminate.”

Calf Success: Why high-quality water matters

Often overlooked, water is the most important nutrient for dairy calves. It is required for all of life’s processes including the transport, digestion, and metabolism of nutrients, the elimination of waste materials and excess heat from the body, and the maintenance of a proper fluid-ion balance in the body. 
 
The Role of Water in Young Calves
Offering calves free choice water is critical for stimulating rumen development, improving grain fermentation, and promoting starter intake. The quality of water offered can play a major role in calf health and nutrient utilization. 
  • Rumen Development: Unlike milk and milk replacer, water consumed by young calves is transported to the rumen rather than the abomasum. Water in the rumen provides a medium for ruminal bacteria to ferment starter feed, grain, and hay. Rumen development is slowed in the absence of water.
  • Improved Growth: Calves offered free choice water in addition to their liquid diet are shown to gain weight faster and consume dry feed quicker than calves only receiving water through their milk or milk replacer.
  • Calf Health: Calves are about 70-75% water by body weight and need to consume fresh water in order to maintain normal cellular functions. Dehydration can lead to weakness, severe weight loss, and even death. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, dry mouth and nose, tacky gums, depressed demeanor, irregular pulse, and cold legs and/or ears.   
How Much and When?
  • Pre-weaning: On average, calves consume 1 quart of water per pound of dry matter intake.
  • Post-weaning: Calves should consume 2 quarts of water per pound of dry matter intake. This ratio should extend through the heifer growing period.
  • Hot weather: Expect water consumption to increase by 33% or more as temperatures reach the high 70s, and anticipate it may double as temperatures pass 90ºF.
Factors Affecting Water Quality
Offering poor quality water to the young calf may impact water consumption and starter intake, calf health, rumen development, and the value of milk replacer and electrolytes. There are many criteria involved in assessing water quality. These include organoleptic properties (odor & taste), physiochemical properties (pH, total dissolved solids (TDS), total soluble salts, & hardness), presence of toxic compounds, presence of excess minerals or compounds, and presence of bacteria.
 
Hardness: Calves are very sensitive to sodium and struggle to tolerate excess sodium levels. Soft water or hard water that has passed through a water softener can have very high concentrations of sodium and should not be used to mix milk replacer or offered as drinking water unless tested. High sodium levels can lead to neurological diseases and central nervous system derangement in young calves.
Osmolarity: In situations where total solids are high in milk or milk replacer (over 15%), offering high quality water can sustain the osmotic equilibrium in a calf. High total solids can force water out of cells in an effort to find osmotic balance within the gut, and can result in diarrhea and severe dehydration. Water provision is especially important for calves fed an accelerated milk replacer program to ensure proper hydration. 
Bacteria: Coliform bacteria like E. Coli and Salmonella may be present in poor quality water, or water contaminated by feces and can quickly and exponentially increase to dangerous levels in a calf if consumed. In both cases, calves may suffer from severe dehydration and diarrhea. Salmonella may also result in pneumonia and septicemia in infected animals. Water with a high iron content is at an increased risk of Salmonella contamination. 
Minerals:  Calves are more sensitive to elevated mineral levels than adult cattle, making excessive mineral concentrations in drinking water a particular concern. Upper concentrations and maximum tolerable concentrations of minerals for dairy cattle are shown in Table 1. Minerals of particular concern when in high concentrations include cobalt, copper, iron, hydrogen sulfide, manganese, and sulfur. 
Take-home Messages
  • Ensure calves are consistently provided with clean, fresh, and readily available water.
  • Keep water buckets clean and free of contamination from starter feed and feces.
  • Know the least expensive and most efficient method available to modify mineral and microbial concentration of water offered to calves.
  • Check your water quality frequently. At minimum, water fed to calves should be tested annually.

 

SourceHubbard

Five parlor protocols to help manage mastitis

The impact of mastitis can be staggering, and managing it sometimes feels like a daunting task. With each case of mastitis, producers may experience economic loss from cost of treatment, lower milk production, added labor, increased somatic cell count and the possibility of removing the cow from the herd.1 But the threat of contagious mastitis can be greatly reduced through strict, consistent management in the milking parlor.

Consider implementing these five parlor protocols to control mastitis cases on your operation:

Create a standardized milking routine

“The main mechanism of transmission of contagious mastitis is the spread of pathogens from cow to cow at milking, so proper milking parlor routines are a must,” said Dr. Linda Tikofsky, professional services veterinarian, Boehringer Ingelheim.

Consider implementing these important practices into your milking routine:

Wear gloves – Bacteria are less likely to adhere to gloves, wearing them can reduce the risk of spreading mastitis-causing pathogens from cow to cow.

Fore-strip – Stripping stimulates the release of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for milk let-down, allowing milkers to check for signs of clinical mastitis. “A critical step in a routine is taking three to four good strips out of each teat,” stressed Dr. Tikofsky.

Pre-dip – Pre-dipping with an effective sanitizing solution kills any lingering bacteria on the teat end.

Dry – Ensure the teats and udder are completely dry. Remaining water may contain bacteria and contaminate the teat end.

Attach milking unit – “Wait about 90 to 120 seconds before putting on the milking unit,” Dr. Tikofsky said. “The delay will allow time for the oxytocin reflex to happen.”

Detach milking unit – To prevent teat end damage and decrease risk of infection, ensure the vacuum is shut off before removing the milking unit.

Post-dip – Post-dipping with a germicide protects the vulnerable teat end from coming in contact with mastitis-causing pathogens.

Practice good cow handling

“Gentle handling and a calm parlor environment can prevent the cow from becoming stressed,” explained Dr. Tikofsky.

When cows are stressed, adrenaline is released and interferes with milk let-down. Cows are also more likely to fall, act skittish and defecate in the parlor when being handled too roughly.

Watch the teat ends

A healthy teat end is another important aspect of mastitis prevention. Studies suggest that cows with rough teat ends are more susceptible to having a high somatic cell count or clinical mastitis.

One way to maintain teat health is to check the vacuum level and pulsation rate of your milking system. Tikofsky recommends having your equipment and pulsators checked at least twice a year by a trained technician.

Make sure you are also caring for chapped teats in the winter. Using a Teat-End Condition Scorecard on your operation can help you identify whether teat-end health is an issue.

Implement a dry-cow treatment

A dry-cow treatment protocol is an effective way to control contagious mastitis.

“If a cow has a lingering infection from her previous lactation, we want to address it with dry-cow therapy, and properly administering a teat sealant to prevent new infections,” noted Dr. Tikofsky. “What we do over the dry period sets her up for her next lactation. Antibiotic treatment during the dry period generally results in higher cure rates than during lactation, while teat sealants are shown to aid in preventing new infections.”

Make sure you are using a teat sealant with a color that’s easy to distinguish from milk during removal at calving time, she added

Correctly identify and respond to new mastitis cases

Even with the best management practices, mastitis infections do happen. Dr. Tikofsky recommends producers take a milk sample, culture it and wait 24 hours for results before treating.

“Sampling can be done without a negative effect on cure rate or animal welfare in cases with mild or moderate mastitis,” she asserted. “Work with your veterinarian to implement mastitis treatment protocols best suited for your operation.”

 

Source: Wisconsin State Farmer

Pre-birth nutrition can impact calf’s life-time performance

Some aspects of a calf’s life-time performance are affected by nutrition while in utero. The nutrients present in the pre-birth environment can affect life-time productivity and influence if the calf becomes a good cow or a bad cow, according to Professor Jim Drackley, Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois.  When the individual calf’s gene expression is modified, it impacts its life-time performance. The calf’s genetic DNA, however, does not change.

“Aspects of early-life fetal development have long-term effects on the calf,” Dr. Drackley said while speaking at the recent 2018 Adisseo International Dairy Workshop. The workshop provided insights and solutions for dairy producers such as the benefit of supplemental methionine, a required nutrient.

Dr. Drackley has found that:

• Balancing the methionine levels in the dairy ration from pre-fresh to confirmed pregnant improves the milk yield and milk components for dairy cows.

• Balancing methionine levels may improve embryo quality and may reduce early embryo losses.

• The ratio and total grams of lysine and methionine – which are known to be the first-limiting amino acids — in the ration have been shown to significantly impact milk and component production. Meeting dairy cow nutritional needs for methionine also has been shown to have an impact on health and reproduction.

• Pregnancy success starts during the transition period, prior to the next pregnancy.

• Feeding rumen-protected methionine increases methionine concentration in the serum and follicular fluid of dairy cows, making methionine readily available to the developing fetus.     

• Maternal methionine status may impact their calves after birth and in the long term.

 

Farming robots milk efficiency

Cole McLaughlin is the epitome of the modern dairy farmer, keeping tabs on his cows through an office window from a desk rimmed with computers.

“The general plan was to modernize,” he said, explaining the new barn on top of the hill about a hundred yards from the old one.

Out of the corner of his eye, he notices something in the video of the milking room. A robotic arm is having trouble connecting the milking tubes to a cow’s udder. 

“I think I have an issue. I’ll be right back,” he said. He returned to the office in less than five minutes. All is back to normal in the dairy barn of the 21st century. 

Cows wander into the milking stalls where a robot cleans their udders, connects the hoses, gives the cows a little snack, milks them, disconnects and opens the stall door. 

If the computer reads the digital collar (a little like a Fit-Bit) and the cow isn’t ready to be milked, the computer just opens the stall door and she wanders back to the resting and feeding areas. 

Everything in the barn is controlled by computers. They lower and raise the shades, control the fans and watering systems. There’s even a drum robot that acts like a waiter, pushing feed back toward the cows so a person doesn’t have to sweep it.

McLaughlin, 33, who took over farm operations from his parents in 2011, built the new barn last year. It’s one of the best things he ever did, making the farm about three times more productive.

In the old barn, it took a full day and at least three people to feed, water, clean, milk and care for 40 cows. McLaughlin said when he hit the end of the day, he was exhausted.

Today, he can do all of that for 120 cows with the same man-hours, or even less in most cases.

“It’s much more efficient,” McLaughlin said. “Most of the time, it’s just me.”

The farm’s production has tripled, he said. It produces about 1,000 gallons a day or 6 million glasses of milk a year.

Improved efficiency and production are important in the economics of farming. Especially since it’s a global market that can fall victim to geopolitics. Some people in farming are concerned as the U.S. places tariffs on foreign manufactured products and other countries like China respond with tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods.

In a commodity market such as milk, robotic systems help lower production and labor costs, which is good for the farmer’s bottom line, said David Swartz, assistant director of programs and animal systems at the Penn State Extension.

“It’s always the low-cost producer who wins,” he said.

Farmers who invest in efficiency and livestock management systems cannot only produce more, but also make more money by producing at lower costs, after the initial capital investments.

“When looking at the initial costs and labor costs, the decision to automate the operation was easy,” McLaughlin said.

Because American farmers are getting better, they have the ability to produce more.

Of course, it can be circular because milk overproduction lowers prices paid to farmers. But if a farm is more efficient, the farmer is keeping more of every dollar made, Swartz said.

Milk prices have been low for about the past four years, McLaughlin said. Currently, prices are at $14.69 per 100 pounds of milk, and a five-year average of $20.

“It makes the economics challenging,” McLaughlin said.

Some farms are more challenged than others because of the price slump. Some dairy farmers want to expand, diversify and modernize, but instead are just surviving, said Scott Fritz, president and CEO of Pennian Bank which does a lot of agricultural lending.

“A lot of people’s modernization and expansion plans have been put on hold,” he said. “It’s a difficult environment for dairy farmers.”

The global market is another factor because about 15 percent of U.S. milk product is shipped overseas, Swartz said.

So far, China’s tariffs have spared milk. That means U.S. exports of cheese, whey, dry milk and butterfat won’t be more expensive to foreign consumers. Tariff hikes can make U.S. goods less competitive and reduce sales. That eventually hurts the local farmer, and the local economy, too.

“It definitely adds to the volatility and uncertainty for our agricultural producers,” Swartz said.

McLaughlin is concerned about those issues, too, but feels he has it locked down.

“The new facility allows me to have more of an advantage in an increasingly competitive global marketplace,” he said.

It’s all a bit science fiction come alive as another cow is milked by the robotic arm. “MOOOO,” she exclaims, oblivious to tariffs and price slumps.

 

Source: PennLive

Moderate Cost for No Antibiotics in Dairy – Cornell Research Reveals

Dairy farmers use antibiotics to keep their herds healthy and production high. At the same time, these treatments threaten to harm public health through the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While the quantitative impact of such antibiotics on humans is not completely understood, a new Cornell study has pinpointed the financial toll that eliminating antibiotic use would have on dairy farms, a finding that could help guide regulatory policy.

The Farm Cost of Decreasing Antimicrobial Use in Dairy Production,” published in PLOS One in March, shows the cost of forgoing antibiotics on dairy farms would average out to $61 per cow annually.

“If consumers or policymakers wanted to implement antibiotic-free dairy production, it wouldn’t be a high cost for farmers, but it is feasible the farmers would ask to be compensated,” said Guillaume Lhermie, lead author and postdoctoral associate in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “We wanted to see what we would win and what we would lose with this kind of regulation.”

The paper is part of a larger project, funded by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future’s Academic Venture Fund, in which an interdisciplinary team is analyzing the impact of regulations that aim to curtail antimicrobial use in animal agriculture. The goal is to create a sustainable model that protects human and animal health, as well as the livelihoods of farmers.

Because this issue has so many moving parts, the team is taking a systems approach that involves researchers in epidemiology, development sociology, and agricultural and health economics.

“This antimicrobial resistant question is not only a basic science question,” said Yrjö Gröhn, the James Law Professor of Epidemiology and principal investigator (PI). “You have to include these social concepts and people’s behaviors and economics if you really want to solve it and have an impact in society.”

To examine the effect of limiting the use of antibiotics in dairy production, Lhermie, Gröhn and Loren Tauer, professor at Cornell’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, modeled a dairy herd of 1,000 cows, factoring in an average level of the nine most frequent bacterial dairy diseases found in Western countries. The researchers then calculated the net costs of prohibiting antimicrobial use, as well as scenarios involving different treatment prices and milk withdrawal periods. They determined the cost of prohibiting antimicrobial use would in many cases be relatively minor – $61 per cow annually – as long as regulations did not threaten the sustainability of milk production. The researchers intend to extend this model to include pork, poultry and beef production.

Gröhn stressed that, in addition to such financial impacts, the team was also taking animal welfare into consideration.

“You simply cannot decide not to treat animals for disease,” he said. “That is unethical.”

As the project moves forward, the team will zero in on the health consequences and the benefit-cost analysis of antibiotic use in animal agriculture.

“I think the real motivation for this study is, as a society, we face difficult tradeoffs. This sounds almost too literal, but the old saying, ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’? There’s no such thing as a free hamburger,” said Donald Kenkel, the Joan K. and Irwin M. Jacobs Professor in Policy Analysis and Management and co-PI.

“So we have to make this difficult choice,” Kenkel said. “We are worried about human health, we’re worried about animal health and we’re worried about agricultural productivity. How do we make tradeoffs when policies that might be good for animal health and agricultural productivity might harm human health? That’s what the benefit-cost analysis is trying to come up with, a way to quantify those tradeoffs.”

The project aims to educate policymakers so they can make informed decisions about the sustainability of antibiotic use. Lhermie and Kenkel recently presented their research at the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis’ annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The event – which addresses issues in energy, transportation, human health and agriculture – was attended by economists, academics and representatives from government and nongovernmental organizations.

“Antibiotic resistance doesn’t recognize any frontiers,” Lhermie said. “It can travel from the U.S. to anywhere in the world and vice versa, so there is a time scale but also a geographic scale to consider. We know there are going to be consequences in other countries, so there are questions of global governance which are also important.”

Source: news.cornell.edu

Dairy Robotics and Economics

The United Nations projects the world’s population reaching close to 9.7 billion people by the year 2050. As the consumer population continues to rise, farmers are turning to technology to produce more food with fewer resources.

“The average farmer is more efficient today out of necessity than we were 30 to 40 years ago,” said John Walletine, the Utah State University Caine Dairy manager.

The facility used by the USU dairy program, until now, was more than 30 years old. A new barn with robotic features was implemented into the dairy program just over 2 months ago. The addition of a robotic milking system means cows are no longer milked on a schedule.

“Within the first week we had some cows going back two, three, four times a day because it was a positive experience,” Wallentine said. “In the course of their day, we like to see a cow doing one of four things: eating, drinking, resting is very important and being milked.”

Each cow wears a transponder connected with the dairy computer system. Wallentine said when a cow walks in to be milked, the system reads the transponder and recognizes the individual animal. Lasers scan the udder and correctly position the robot for milking. After each session, the robotic milker sanitizes itself for the next cow in line. 

Wallentine said the robotic system tracks details of how much the cow eats and rests. During milking, components such as fat and protein content are recorded for each cow, along with any abnormalities in the milk. As data becomes available for each cow, adjustments can be made, creating a more efficient and cost effective system.

“The purpose behind this is to expose students and other producers to modern technology,” Wallentine said. “Our mission here at the farm is to help facilitate the college of agriculture and their mission of teaching, research and Extension.”

According to Dillon Feuz, the Department Head of Applied Economics, the new dairy facility is the best way to fulfill USU’s mission of teaching, research and Extension for future and current dairy farmers.

“We’ve had a good producing dairy herd here for years, but now we’ll be able to document the changes as we’ve come into this fully enclosed facility,” Feuz said. “As a university we can be conducting research and helping producers to know whether that’s a good decision or not for them to make.”

The new barn saves money in multiple ways according to Feuz. For example, the indoor facility prevents the sun, rain or wind from damaging the expensive feed.
“It’s designed for cow comfort,” Feuz said. “The research shows the more comfortable a cow is, the higher the milk production.”

The cattle have access to year-round controlled temperature, soft bedding, a specialized diet, massages and they go to be milked whenever they choose. 

“At first people look at robotic milking as a capital labor trade-off, we’re just trading machine for a laborer,” Feuz said. “If that’s the only trade-off, it would take quite a while to pay off one of those robotic units because they’re pretty expensive.”

According to Feuz, the savings and profitability doesn’t stem from less labor, it comes from allowing the cows to free flow in the barn.

“They’re milking themselves at more than three times a day rather than only twice,” Feuz said. “Each cow is dictating how often they go. You typically see an increase in milk productivity per cow and overall for your herd.”
 

 

Source: USU

Dealing with Recent Heavy Snow and Building Roofs

Keith Brunner of Cedar Red Dairy near Denmark, Wis. was milking cows when he heard cracking noises, followed by the roof collapsing. All workers made it out safely, but as of the news report some cows still remained trapped. WFRV in Green Bay, Wis. reported on the collapse.

Due to the recent heavy snowfall there is reason to have concern over heavy snow loads on farm buildings. There have been  reports of farm buildings going down in Wisconsin. In addition, many have concerns for buildings that still have significant amounts of snow on them especially if more snow falls before the current snow melts or slides off.

“Snow and ice accumulations on roofs cause a loading which can cause roof collapse when the roof is not strong enough to resist the load,” said Brian Holmes, University of Wisconsin-Extension emeritus agricultural engineer.

He added, “The more dense the snow and ice, the greater the load for a given depth. Wind blown-off and snow slide-off can reduce snow load on a roof. However snow drifting into leeward or lower roofs and valleys and snow slide onto lower roofs can add significant loads from accumulated snow.”

In addition to estimating the roof loading, it’s important to know the loading the roof can resist.

Wisconsin’s Uniform Dwelling Code requires most homes to have a minimum snow load rating of 30-40 pounds per square foot (lbs/ft), with the greater requirement for Northern Wisconsin. Agricultural structures are exempt from this requirement. Furthermore, structural failures can occur at snow loads less than the building was designed for if:

  • Structure was not designed, just built.
  • Trusses/rafters/purlins/ with reduced quality materials or smaller dimensions than specified in design were used.
  • Trusses/rafters/purlins installed at a wider spacing than specified.
  • Critical bracing not installed or improperly installed
  • Moisture condensed on or leaked onto structural members can cause decay/corrosion weakening the structure. Top chords of trusses, rafters, purlins and truss plates are particularly susceptible.
  • Loads added to the roof which were not considered in the original design. Examples include: ceiling, roof surface overlay, equipment installed on roof or hung from trusses.

At snow loads greater than recommended or if the structure is showing stress from the snow (sagging, trusses out of alignment or bowed, creaking sounds etc.), you may need to remove some snow.

If you are unsure of the snow load on your roof, a ballpark estimate can be made using the formula:

Calculated Roof Loading (lb/ft2) = Depth (ft) x Density (lb/ft2 /ft depth).

The approximate density (lb/ft2 /ft depth) for light snow is 5-20, packed snow 20-40, packed snow with ice 40-58, and ice 58. So for example, a roof with three feet of light snow has a estimated roof loading of 60 lb/ft2 (3 ft depth X 20 lb/ft2/ft depth density = 60 lb/ft2).

Removing Snow – Use Caution

If you need to remove snow from a roof, use caution. Falls from roofs or from ladders going to the roof can easily occur. Removing snow can allow the snow up slope to suddenly slide down, burying people or animals below. Using a roof rake from a safe distance away can reduce some of this risk to the person removing the snow.

Some precautions to take when removing snow from a roof:

  • In uninsulated sheds, use a portable heater to warm the interior enough to encourage snow to slide off the roof so you don’t have to manually remove it. Unvented heaters can cause oxygen depletion and carbon monoxide accumulation in an unventilated space. Plan to ventilate the warmed shed before reentering.
  • Use a snow roof rake if at all possible. This allows you to stand on the ground in a safe place. Check the local hardware store or building supply store. Removing snow from the edge of the roof could allow snow above the edge to avalanche. Make sure you are out of the fall zone when scraping snow from a smooth roof surface.
  • Use fall protection equipment when workers are on the roof. Tie workers off so they don’t fall from the roof.
  • If ladders are used, locate and secure them so they do not fall while workers are standing on them. Also, locate ladders so they do not fall if snow slides off the roof knocking workers off the ladder or leaving them stranded on the roof.
  • Generally remove snow from the most heavily loaded areas first.
  • Remove snow in narrow strips instead of large areas to help keep loading somewhat uniform.
  • Don’t pile removed snow onto snow-covered roof areas increasing the load in those areas.
  • Use plastic shovels or wooden roof rakes to avoid damaging roofing material.
  • Don’t feel as if all snow must be removed. A layer of snow next to the roof surface can protect the surface from damage during the snow removal process.
  • Do not pick or chip at ice near the roof surface to avoid damaging roofing material.
  • Do not use snow blowers as they can damage the roof.

Source: fyi.uwex.edu

Organic dairies going robotic

Demand for organic food is on the increase and some farmers in Eastern Ontario have jumped on the dairy train, getting into the market of producing hormone, antibiotic and pesticide free milk. Some farmers have turned their traditional operations to organic and some are even going so far as adding robots to take over milking duties, including Josef Heinzle of St-Eugene and Albert Bot of Glen Robertson.

“It used to be unheard of that organic farmers had robots,” says Donald McCrimmon of Boreraig Farms south of Vankleek Hill. McCrimmon milks about 50 cows and has supplied the non-organic sector for over 50 years.

“Organic farmers have to let their cows out to pasture so many hours a day and that usually doesn’t happen when you have a barn with robots. That’s why it’s so unusual that these guys are going robotic.”

Heinzle explains that he’ll be installing two new Lely milking robots this summer to improve production, to decrease time in the barn and increase cow comfort. He’ll continue to ship organic milk from their 80 mixed herd of dairy cows as well as selling 300,000 liters of their Pinehedge yogurt made on the premises and sold at the farm gate. “I’m building a barn with many doors so cows have access to pasture most of the day,” the Austrian-born Heinzle explains. “ Though there’s less work milking, we’ll now have more to do maintaining pastures and trying to keep production stable. It’s more manageable when cows are in the barn all the time and their production is easier to monitor.”

Heinzle and wife Laila are convinced that organic is the way to go and that the addition of robots will be beneficial for both them and their customers. Though organic dairy farmers don’t receive much more money for their produce that is regulated under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), they receive many more incentive days than traditional dairy farmers.

Incentive credits are available to all dairy producers when they ship outside their quota. The allowances vary per month, but according to McCrimmon many more are given to organic farmers, making the industry more enticing. “There’s less investment needed because we need less quota. It’s easier to start in organic,” explains Heinzle. “But again, there’s more work. We cultivate seven to eight times more often than the average farmer because we can’t use pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.”

 

Source: The Review

A former Microsoft employee is using AI to track herds of connected cows

  • Dutch company Connecterra has brought its IDA system, or “Intelligent Dairy Farmer’s Assistant,” to the U.S. after having piloted it in Europe for several years.
  • The IDA uses a motion-sensing device attached to a cow’s neck to transmit its movements to a program driven by AI and the sensor data eventually allows IDA to tell a cow’s behavior from data alone.
  • The system could help farmers greatly increase their productivity.

Is the world ready for cows armed with artificial intelligence?

No time to ruminate on that because the moment has arrived, thanks to a Dutch company that has married two technologies — motion sensors and AI — with the aim of bringing the barnyard into the 21st century.

The company, Connecterra, has brought its IDA system, or “The Intelligent Dairy Farmer’s Assistant,” to the United States after having piloted it in Europe for several years.

IDA uses a motion-sensing device attached to a cow’s neck to transmit its movements to a program driven by AI. The sensor data, when aligned repeatedly with real-world behavior, eventually allows IDA to tell from data alone when a cow is chewing cud, lying down, walking, drinking or eating.

Those indicators can predict whether a particular cow is ill, has become less productive, or is ready to breed — alerting the farmer to changes in behavior that might otherwise be easily missed.

“It would just be impossible for us to keep up with every animal on an individual basis,” says Richard Watson, one of the first four U.S. farmers to use IDA since it launched commercially in December.

Watson, who owns the Seven Oaks Dairy in Waynesboro, Georgia, says having a computer identify which cows in his 2,000-head herd need attention could help improve farm productivity as much as 10 percent, which would mean hundreds of thousands of dollars to his family.

“If we can prove out that these advantages exist from using this technology … I think adoption of IDA across a broad range of farming systems, particularly large farming systems, would be a no-brainer,” Watson says.

Dairy farming is just one industry benefiting from AI, which is being applied in fields as diverse as journalism, manufacturing and self-driving cars. In agriculture, AI is being developed to estimate crop health using drone footage and parse out weed killer between rows of cotton.

Yasir Khokhar, the former Microsoft employee who is the founder and CEO of Connecterra, said the inspiration for the idea came after living on a dairy farm south of Amsterdam.

“It turns out the technology farmers use is really outdated in many respects,” he says. “What does exist is very cumbersome to use, yet agriculture is one of those areas that desperately needs technology.”

Underlying IDA is Google’s open-source TensorFlow programming framework, which has helped spread AI to many disciplines. It’s a language built on top of the commonly used Python code that helps connect data from text, images, audio or sensors to neural networks — the algorithms that help computers learn. The language has been downloaded millions of times and has about 1,400 people contributing code, only 400 of whom work at Google, according to product manager Sandeep Gupta.

He says TensorFlow can be used by people with only high-school level math and some programming skills.

“We’re continuing this journey making it easier and easier to use,” Gupta says.

TensorFlow has been used to do everything from helping NASA scientists find planets using the Kepler telescope, to assisting a tribe in the Amazon detect the sounds of illegal deforestation, according to Google spokesman Justin Burr.

Google hopes users adapt the open-source code to discover new applications that the company could someday use in its own business.

Even without AI, sensors are helping farmers keep tabs on their herds.

Mary Mackinson Faber, a fifth-generation farmer at the Mackinson Dairy Farm near Pontiac, Illinois, says a device attached to a cow’s tail developed by Irish company Moocall sends her a text when a cow is ready to give birth, so she can be there to make sure nothing goes wrong. Moocall doesn’t use AI — it simply sends a text when a certain threshold of spinal contractions in the tail are exceeded.

While she calls it a “great tool,” she says it takes human intuition to do what’s right for their animals.

“There are certain tasks that it can help with, and it can assist us, but I don’t think it will ever replace the human.”

 

Source: CNBC

The Fertility Challenge

The reproductive performance of your farm has a major impact on its profitability. Each cow’s lifetime profitability is dependent upon repeated cycles of pregnancy, calving, production and dry period. Optimizing fertility levels of a dairy herd requires outstanding management practices in combination with good genetic selection. Due to its complexity, achieving and maintaining high conception rates year over year remains a significant challenge for many dairy producers.

Measuring Fertility

While most conversations about fertility focus on the final outcome of pregnancy, it is much more complicated in reality.  Fertility starts with a successful calving free of any subsequent disorders such as retained placenta, metritis or cystic ovaries. Then there is the onset of cycling and expression of heat, which requires extensive effort for dairy producers to monitor and record. After insemination, we have generally measured the fertility success by examining subsequent insemination records. Traits frequently used are 56-day non-return rate, total number of inseminations, interval between first and last insemination, also known as days open, with the assumption that the last insemination date is also the conception date. In recent years, Canadian Dairy Network (CDN) also incorporated veterinary pregnancy confirmation data collected from herds enrolled on DHI to better identify true conception dates. Even once pregnant, herd fertility levels are also affected by early embryonic loss, which ultimately delays the timing of the next calving and therefore calving interval. Simply stated, fertility cannot be defined by any single trait or measurement and is, in fact, a combination of several different factors.

One effective option for Canadian dairy producers to confirm pregnancy is the Milk Pregnancy Test offered through CanWest DHI and Valacta (i.e.: GestaLab). This low-cost option uses the DHI milk sample to confirm pregnancy at 28 days after insemination with a very high degree of accuracy. For the future, one significant opportunity that exists for the dairy cattle industry is the use of sensor data to collect improved measures of fertility across the various stages from heat detection, pregnancy and embryonic loss. As such data becomes available from herds with the technology on the farm, research will need to be done to identify measures of fertility that have sufficient accuracy for the provision of improved herd management information for producers as well as for use in future genetic and genomic evaluations calculated by CDN.

Managing Fertility

There is no doubt that dairy farmers agree on the fact that maintaining high levels of reproductive performance in the herd is not an easy task.  There are so many variables to manage, not the least of which is a top-notch nutritional program for both transition cows and those near peak lactation.  In an attempt to eliminate one of the important factors affecting the reproductive performance of their herd, some producers have decided to introduce heat synchronization protocols, also known as timed A.I., to facilitate or even eliminate heat detection activities for the farm. Accurate data is not readily available to quantify the degree of uptake of this herd management practise since it is not routinely collected from Canadian dairy farms. As an indication of the usage of heat synchronization protocols on dairy farms, CDN conducted an analysis examining the percentage of cow inseminations that are done on each of the seven days of the week.  Without synchronization, it is expected that breedings are approximately spread across all days.  Figure 1 shows the trend in the percentage of herds for which at least 50% of all inseminations were carried out on two specific days of the week for the time period from 2000 to 2017.  While this may not be an exact measure of the usage of heat synchronization protocols, it can serve as an indicator.

Fifteen years ago, less than ten percent of dairy herds in Canada had at least half of their cows inseminated on only two days of the week.  This statistic has now reached 30% for inseminations done in 2017 (Figure 1). Controlling the expression of heat used synchronization protocols therefore appears to be a growing trend, even though it is unlikely to be well accepted by the general public and consumers.

Genetic Considerations

In addition to the complexities of herd management practises for optimal reproductive performance in dairy herds, there are also genetic considerations to take into account. Figure 2 shows the proof correlations that various traits have with Daughter Fertility and includes only traits with a correlation of at least 10%, either positive or negative. On the positive side, it is logical to see that traits such as Herd Life (48%) and Daughter Calving Ability (38%) are the most highly correlated with female fertility and these translate to indirect positive correlations with other traits such as Body Condition Score (25%), Metabolic Disease Resistance (22%) and Mastitis Resistance (21%). In terms of indexes, the Health & Fertility component of LPI is closely related to Daughter Fertility (92%) due to the significant weighting of this trait in the index, but LPI and Pro$ are also positively correlated at 25% and 20%, respectively. When traits of interest have positive correlations, it is easier to make progress for them all. A challenge with Daughter Fertility is that it also is negatively correlated with other traits such as Body Depth (-37%), Angularity (-33%), Dairy Strength (-26%) and Milk Yield (-14%).  Breeders interested in selecting for these traits will also have to directly select for Daughter Fertility or otherwise risk lowering the reproductive performance of their herd.

Summary

There is no doubt that maintaining high levels of reproductive performance in a dairy herd is a difficult challenge, yet an important one to address given its significant impact on herd profitability. The dairy cattle industry lacks accurate measures of the various components of female fertility. A growing trend towards the use of heat synchronization protocols is unlikely to be the answer in the eyes of the general public and consumer. In addition, genetic selection for improved reproductive performance requires special consideration due to relationships with other traits. Without any quick fixes, female fertility will continue to be a significant challenge requiring a concerted industry effort towards longer term improvements.

Author:   
Brian Van Doormaal, General Manager, CDN

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Lameness in dairy cattle requires proper care

Lame dairy cows need immediate attention to prevent chronic problems.

“Lameness is not a disease. Lameness is a sign of pain and discomfort in the cow and it results in production losses,” said Karin Orsel, an epidemiologist and specialist in infectious diseases of cattle at the University of Calgary faculty of veterinary medicine.

Lameness is among the top three issues for cow health, so producers need strategies to prevent it from becoming a chronic condition. Cows that have previously gone lame are more at risk.

“Prevention of chronic lameness starts with early detection,” she said at the Western Canadian dairy seminar held in Red Deer March 6-9.

“If you only identify the cows that can hardly make it to the milk parlour, that is late,” she said.

“Lameness detection not only needs to be done regularly but more importantly, timely corrective actions must be taken,” she said.

Lame cows may have developed foot problems because of stall design, flooring, walking surface, stall management or bacteria. Breed, age, days in milk and body condition score also contribute.

Skinny cows with a body condition score of two or less are more susceptible. Mature cows, or those that have just freshened, may also develop problems.

“Know which cows are most likely to become lame so you can focus on that group because it is not always easy to detect,” she said.

A lame cow produces less milk. It may struggle to get pregnant and is more likely to be culled, which is a production loss.

Lame cows require special treatment and could receive medication like NSAIDs, proper hoof trimming or therapeutic hoof blocks, said Gerard Cramer of the University of Minnesota.

Hoof blocks are attached to the uninjured claw. This elevates the affected part and gives it a chance to heal.

One problem leading to lameness may not be obvious. The PIII bone in the foot may have been injured and could prolapse through the sole of the foot.

“It likely hurts because they are pushing down on these bones and this is sensitive tissue,” he said.

There is a pad of fat on the inside bottom of the foot and if it gets thin, lameness could result.

Inflammation mobilizes fat and can create minor bony changes in the claw capsule and the cow goes lame with sole ulcers. The thinner the fat pad inside the foot, the worse the problem seems to be.

Ultrasound can measure the thickness of the fat pad inside the foot.

“The thinner that is, the more likely the cow will get lesions,” he said.

“When that happens, the cow is walking and this bone is putting pressure on that tissue,” he said.

Since this is an inflammatory condition, producers should consider using NSAIDs to treat lame cows. The foot can be trimmed, a therapeutic foot block applied and a dose of an anti-inflammatory medication could help.

The foot also needs to be rechecked and it is wise to look at all four legs to make sure they are healthy.

The overall goal is to reduce the number of lame cows. Some studies are comparing techniques to help the cow most effectively as well as researching hoof trimming techniques to bring lameness under control or prevent it from happening.

“If I know this cow has a history of lameness, she needs a different trimming program and may need to be tended to more often,” he said.

The farm needs records to know what the specific problem is, lameness detection and how was it treated. The farm also needs someone at the dairy, whether it is the vet, owner, herdsman or nutritionist, who focuses on lameness among the cows.

Cattle lameness signs

Lameness shows up with a change in gait and involves a complex list of symptoms:

  • slow walking
  • increased stride duration
  • shorter strides
  • uneven weight distribution
  • smaller step angle
  • increased abduction
  • changed tracking distance
  • altered stride height
  • changes in joint flexion
  • inconsistent gait
  • posture head movement
  • arched back
  • changes in behaviour when resting, eating, ruminating or socializing

Source: producer.com

‘Cow Fitbits’ and artificial intelligence are coming to the dairy farm. But some farmers aren’t so impressed.

In the two months since Richard Watson strapped 200 remote-control-sized transmitters around his cows’ necks, an artificial-intelligence system named Ida has pinged his phone with helpful alerts: when his cows are chewing the cud, when they’re feeling sick, when they’re ready for insemination.

“There may be 10 animals out there that have a real problem, but could you pick them?” he said one morning, standing among a grazing herd of dairy cattle wearing what he calls “cow Fitbits.”

But on neighboring pastures here in rural Georgia, other farmers say they aren’t that impressed. When a cow’s in heat, they know she’ll start getting mounted by her bovine sisters, so they apply a streak of paint on the cows’ backsides and then just look for the incriminating smudge. No fancy AI required.

“I can spot a cow across a room that don’t feel great just by looking in her eyes,” said Mark Rodgers, a fourth-generation dairy farmer in Dearing, Ga., whose dad still drives a tractor at 82. “The good Lord said, ‘This is what you can do.’ I can’t draw, paint or anything else, but I can watch cows.

Sophisticated AI technologies are helping reinvent how Americans work, offering powerful software that can read and react to mountains of data and save time and stress along the way.

But the rollout is also sparking tensions in workplaces as humble and old-fashioned as the dairy farm. That down-home resistance raises a question farmers might be tackling before much of the rest of the workforce: Can new technology ever beat old intuition — even when it comes to a bunch of cows?

The AI that Watson’s farm uses — called Ida, for “The Intelligent Dairy Farmer’s Assistant” — tracks his cows’ tiniest movements through their collars and then graphs and dissects them en masse. Those “real-time cattle analytics” are then used by the AI to assess diet and movement and predict health issues of concern, such as lameness or udder infections.

As silly as this intricate level of maximum optimization might sound, particularly in relation to a herd of cows that spend much of the day staring blankly or relieving themselves,Watson said, it could mean the difference between a cow’s healthy milking or premature death — and the difference between making or losing hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

The Ida AI has sparked some early interest among farmers eager to compete in an industry in which low milk prices and farm layoffs have everyone on edge. And while truck drivers and ­cashiers see AI as an omen of job elimination, the farmers say they’re in a labor crunch from years of too few young people getting into farming and need all the help they can get.

Connecterra, a development team based in the Netherlands, built Ida with help from TensorFlow, the giant AI toolbox that Google created for its own apps and opened to the public in 2015. That release sparked a major wave of AI development, giving start-ups a shortcut to calculating advanced mathematics and creating learning machines.

Google has joined other tech giants in pushing forcefully into AI, with chief executive Sundar Pichai telling a town-hall crowd in January that AI “is one of the most important things humanity is working on” and “more profound than electricity or fire.” (He did not explicitly mention cows.)

Standing one March morning among his cows at Seven Oaks Dairy, one of three farms he runs as part of his Hart Agriculture brand, Watson pulls out his iPhone to show off his Ida app. The AI says he has three “potential health problems to be checked” among his herd: Cow #14433 is eating less, while cows #10172 and #3522 are “ruminating,” or chewing, less, a sign they might feel ill. His herd’s cows “to be inseminated” count is at zero, as signified by a reassuring green check mark.

At 6-foot-4, with combine-wide shoulders and a Kiwi accent, the New Zealand-born Watson, 46, looks like a rugby player — which he was, playing a linebacker-like position in the late 1990s for a semiprofessional team called the Hurricanes. Shortly afterward, he moved to lead a cattle-grazing research program at the University of Georgia, where he taught and advocated for the increasingly rare practice of letting cows amble about aimlessly on a pasture, eating as they go.

His farm’s cattle — crossbreeds of America’s classic black and white moo cow, the Holstein, and New Zealand’s relatively slimmer brown Jersey bulls — spend almost all day grazing on the thousands of acres of ryegrass and Bermuda grass on his farms. That makes tracking their free-range eating and movement harder than at the average American “confinement” dairy, where cows are kept in stalls and fattened on corn and grains.

Spotting problems the old way required closely watching the herd day and night, “unless it’s really obvious — you know, she’s walking or limping or there are buzzards flying overhead,” Watson said. “Buzzards aren’t a particularly good health program.”

The cows’ orange transmitters beam data over the hills of Watson’s pastures to a set of antennae near the milking parlor. A “base station” computer then gulps up and processes all that sensor data, doing much of the AI work locally to avoid the problem of spotty rural Internet service. The sensors the animals wear pay the price for much of this data exchange, Connecterra co-founder Yasir Khokhar said: “You don’t want to know what cows do with them.”

The Ida AI was first trained to comprehend cow behavior via thousands of hours of video and sensor inputs, as well as simpler approaches, including Khokhar’s mimicking bovine techniques with a sensor in his pocket. (“I was the first cow,” he said.) Every day brings more cow data and farmer feedback that help the AI learn and improve.The AI, Khokhar estimates, has processed about “600 cow years of data” and gains about eight years of new cow data every day.

The AI now logs seven distinct cow behaviors: walking, standing, lying down, eating, chewing, drinking and idling. Other behaviors are on the way, Khokhar said, though he could not disclose them, calling them part of the “secret sauce.”

Dairy farmers have used sensors for years. But Ida’s developers say its AI can do things old programs can’t, by learning from cow behavior patterns that can pinpoint injuries, predict the onset of certain diseases and “predict peak ovulation time with over 90 percent accuracy.” The AI can also track how changes to cows’ bedding, feed and environment can affect, for instance, how much milk they’re making or how much they’re lying around.

Khokhar, who said he conceived the AI idea while living on a Dutch dairy farm, launched his start-up in late 2016 and counts a few thousand cow “subscriptions” on farms in seven countries, including the United States, Spain and Pakistan. The company covers all the equipment and service work and sells monthly subscriptions. Farmers’ prices start at about $3 a month per cow, plus a $79.99-per-cow start-up fee, and Watson estimates he has invested about $17,000 in the system so far.

 
Agriculture has long been one of Big Technology’s juiciest target industries. Revamping the way farmers feed the planet, in the face of existential crises such as food shortages and climate change, would be audacious, revolutionary — and highly profitable. Start-ups and farmers are using camera-equipped robots to pick apples and sort cucumbers, running driverless tractors to harvest grain, and flying scanner drones to spot poachers and survey livestock.

Beyond the Ida collars, other tech start-ups make cow pedometers, robot milkers, tail sensors and electroshock collars that can stop or shift a herd.

But even some farmers who have invested heavily in new technology balk at the idea of paying for more. Everett Williams, the 64-year-old head of the WDairy farm near Madison, Ga., said his farm has all kinds of sensors that print out who-knows-how-many reports on matters such as cow activity and whether wild hogs have gotten into his pens. They give him less data than the Ida AI would, he says, but he feels that he doesn’t have the space in his brain for another data stream. “You can only handle so many text alerts,” he said.

Systems such as Connecterra also are enduring early criticism beyond the farm. Because AI can help detect early disorders and walking disabilities, conservationists have criticized the systems as encouraging the breeding of a super-cow by speeding underperformers to the slaughterhouse.

Rodgers, who runs his “daddy-daughter” family dairy farm in Dearing, Ga., said he’s no Luddite when it comes to farm technology. His “super-system” features cow-tracking transponders and, soon, a DeLaval VMS, which milks cows with laser-guided robot arms and is advertised as the “ultimate automatic milking machine.”

His system, unlike Ida, doesn’t track cud-chewing or use AI to tell him which cows to watch or what to do. But he’s okay with that. That’s the way things have always been done here, and he hopes they’ll be that way for a long time.

“There’s no substitute for watching your animals. It’s an art and a science, and I hope my daughter and nephew get better at it than I am,” he said. The cattle, he added, don’t care much about evolving with the times. “You cannot bore a cow to death.”

 

Source: The Washington Post

Spring Seeding of Forages

Late this month (depending on the weather) and on into April provides one of the two preferred times to seed perennial cool-season forages. The other preferred timing for cool-season grasses and legumes is in late summer, primarily the month of August here in Ohio. The relative success of spring vs. summer seeding of forages is greatly affected by the prevailing weather conditions, and so growers have success and failures with each option.

Probably the two primary difficulties with spring plantings are finding a good window of opportunity when soils are dry enough before it gets too late, and managing weed infestations that are usually more difficult with spring plantings. The following steps will help improve your chances for successful forage establishment in the spring.

  1. Make sure soil pH and fertility are in the recommended ranges. Follow the Tri-state Soil Fertility Recommendations (https://forages.osu.edu/forage-management/soil-fertility-forages) . Forages are more productive where soil pH is above 6.0, but for alfalfa it should be 6.5 – 6.8. Soil phosphorus should be at least 15 ppm for grasses and 25 ppm for legumes, while minimum soil potassium in ppm should be 75 plus 2.5 x soil CEC. If seedings are to include alfalfa, and soil pH is not at least 6.5, it would be best to apply lime now and delay establishing alfalfa until late summer (plant an annual grass forage in the interim).
  2. Plant high quality seed of known varietal source adapted to our region. Planting “common” seed (variety not stated) usually proves to be a very poor investment, yielding less even in the first or second year and having shorter stand life.
  3. Plant as soon as it is possible to prepare a good seedbed in April. Try to finish seeding by late April in southern Ohio and by the first of May in northern Ohio. Timely April planting gives forage seedlings the best opportunity to get a jump on weeds and to be established before summer stress sets in. Weed pressure will be greater with later plantings, and they will not have as strong a root system developed by early summer when conditions often turn dry and hot.
  4. Plant into a good seedbed. The ideal seedbed for conventional seedings is smooth, firm, and weed-free. Don’t overwork the soil. Too much tillage depletes moisture and increases the risk of surface crusting. Firm the seedbed before seeding to ensure good seed-soil contact and reduce the rate of drying in the seed zone. Cultipackers and cultimulchers are excellent implements for firming the soil. If residue cover is more than 35% use a no-till drill. No-till seeding is an excellent choice where soil erosion is a hazard. No-till forage seedings are most successful on silt loam soils with good drainage and are more difficult on clay soils or poorly drained soils.
  5. Plant seed shallow (¼ to ½ inch deep) in good contact with the soil. Stop and check the actual depth of the seed in the field when you first start planting. This is especially important with no-till drills. In my experience, seeding some seed on the surface indicates most of the seed is about at the right depth.
  6. When seeding into a tilled seedbed, drills with press wheels are the best choice. When seeding without press wheels or when broadcasting seed, cultipack before and after dropping the seed, preferably in the same direction the seeder was driven.
  7. In fields with little erosion hazard, direct seedings without a companion crop in the spring allows harvesting two or three crops of high-quality forage in the seeding year, particularly when seeding alfalfa and red clover.
  8. For conventional seedings on erosion prone fields, a small grain companion crop can reduce the erosion hazard and will also help compete with weeds. Companion crops usually increase total forage tonnage in the seeding year, but forage quality will be lower than direct seeded legumes. Take the following precautions to avoid excessive competition of the companion crop with forage seedlings: (i) use early-maturing, short, and stiff-strawed small grain varieties, (ii) plant companion small grains at 1.5-2.0 bu/A, (iii) remove companion crop as early pasture or silage, and (iv) do not apply additional nitrogen to the companion crop.
  9. During the first 6 to 8 weeks after seeding, scout new seedings weekly for any developing weed or insect problems. Weed competition during the first six weeks is most damaging to stand establishment. Potato leafhopper damage on legumes in particular can be a concern beginning in late May to early June.
  10. The first harvest of the new seeding should generally be delayed until early flowering of legumes, unless weeds were not controlled adequately and are threatening to smother the stand. For pure grass seedings, generally harvest after 70 days from planting, unless weeds are encroaching in which case the stand should be clipped earlier to avoid weed seed production.

Source: u.osu.edu

Over 60 percent of UK dairy producers using water ‘inefficiently’

The UK’s dairy producers may be unaware that they are using higher volumes of water than necessary and should be encouraged to benchmark water use.

Five years of water consumption data from 53 dairy companies across the UK revealed significant differences in the volume of water used to produce milk, butter and cheese.

The data showed that over 60% of the sites were using water inefficiently.

While dairy producers have been encouraged to reduce their water use by 20% by 2020, there is currently no way for them to benchmark their performance against others, or themselves, to judge the effectiveness of water conserving practices.

The UK’s food and drink sector is the greatest industrial consumer of water in the UK, and the dairy sector uses 21% of the UK’s fresh water resource.

Dr David Campbell, associate professor of water conservation at Heriot-Watt University, said the UK uses around 40.9 billion litres of water each year to produce 14 billion litres of milk.

“The huge volumes of water being used, whether from mains or abstraction, means it is critical for the UK dairy sector to start benchmarking its water use, and aiming for more comprehensive water management schemes,” Dr Campbell explained.

“Water is used for drinking, cleaning and cooling in the dairy sector. The ever-increasing cost of water, more stringent regulatory regimes and the high cost of energy for pumping and processing milk means dairy producers will benefit from optimal use of water.”

‘Saving money’

Dr Campbell said that by improving water use efficiency, water and wastewater bills could be reduced by 30%, which is a further incentive to dairy producers, alongside improving the sector’s overall sustainability credentials.

He added: “This isn’t about introducing new regulation or burdensome tasks – it’s about saving money for these producers and increasing sustainability.

“We can tell from the data that some producers already use water conservation measures, and those who use the highest amounts of water might simply be unaware that they are at the upper end of the chart. At the moment, there’s no way for them to know.”

Dr Campbell’s study, published in the journal Water Conservation Science and Engineering, established upper and lower water limits for liquid milk, butter and cheese producers using the five years of data.

Companies with water use below lower limits were considered to perform ‘excellently’, those using water within lower and upper limits were considered to perform ‘averagely’, while water use above the upper limits was considered ‘poor’.

Water inefficiency

When comparing and benchmarking 27 liquid milk producers, the study found that only three sites used water ‘excellently’, and seven ‘poorly’.

The UK’s cheese makers were the least ‘average’ of the dairy sector; only three sites used an ‘average’ volume of water.

Only one site used water above the lower benchmark, described as an ‘impressive performance’ by Dr Campbell, and a sign that water conservation schemes were already in place.

Dr Campbell said: “The aim of every benchmarking process is to improve performance through comparison of one company’s performance against those of high-performing, comparable organisations.

“Over 60% of producers we studied use water inefficiently, which could be traced to outdated or inappropriate systems and processes, and the absence of any periodic benchmarking of performance.

“There is great potential for water use improvements on these sites, and it is our hope that the dairy sector will adopt more water efficient systems and conduct annual benchmarking exercises. Both dairy farmers and the UK’s natural resource pool stand to benefit.”

 

SourceFarming UK

Dairy sector leads the world in animal welfare

When it comes to animal health and welfare, the dairy sector is leading the field, according to the director-general of the International Dairy Federation, Caroline Emond.

Speaking at the OIE Global animal welfare forum in Paris, Ms Emond said the sector’s ongoing commitment was driven by a ‘steadfast dedication’ to the continuous improvement of best practice across all levels of the dairy supply chain: “With consumer interest in animal welfare growing across the globe, the spotlight has been focused on animals involved in the production of food, with the dairy sector no exception.

“Farmers know that healthy cows produce quality milk. To build on their success in this area, the global dairy sector needs to develop communication of the numerous actions undertaken for years to improve animal health and welfare.

“Dairy is a vital part of the global food system and provides economic, nutritional and social benefits to a large proportion of the world’s population. The growing world population needs nutritional security, and we must provide this both safely and sustainably.”

IDF represents the dairy sector in the global agenda for sustainable livestock and is a founding member of the dairy sustainability framework. Later this year will also see the publication of the updated IDF guide to good animal welfare in dairy production.

Ms Emond added: “At the IDF, the leading source of scientific and technical global dairy expertise, we are proud to contribute to the development of animal welfare expertise that benefits animals, farmers and society.”

 

Source: The Scottish Farmer

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