Archive for Management

Effects from Heat Stress Can Stretch into Fall

The effects of heat stress can continue long after cooler weather has arrived — even for cows not in milk. In fact, research has shown that proper cooling in the dry period improved subsequent lactation by up to 16 pounds more milk per day and 20 pounds more 3.5-percent fat-corrected milk (FCM) per day.1

“Most producers pay careful attention to the heat stress on their lactating cows, but dry cows need the same attention,” says H. Nielsen, DVM, Technical Services – Ruminant, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “Heat stress takes a toll on every member of the herd, and the effects don’t simply dissipate when the stressor is over.”

Stress of any kind can cause animals to divert energy from performance, and their bodies do not quickly shift back into production-mode when the period is over. In research on heat-stressed herds, the period of lowest milk production occurred two months after the highest ambient temperature,2 Dr. Nielsen notes.

University of Florida research showed heat stress can even affect the growth and future milk production of calves in-utero. These calves were born earlier with decreased weight at birth and decreased reproductive performance as heifers. Their productivity struggled even after entering the lactating herd, where they experienced reductions in milk production nearing 11 pounds per day during peak lactation.3

In addition to persistent productivity losses, herds also can experience lowered immune function after a stressful event.

“It’s common for producers to see increased incidence of diseases after a stressful event,” Dr. Nielsen says. “Not just heat stress, but any time where the animal experiences changes in her environment like pen movements or even ration changes. It’s critical to maintain feed intake and keep up a robust immune system that’s primed to fight off health challenges.”

Probiotics are an easy, cost-effective way to support the immune system of cattle against everyday natural challenges. The right probiotic can initiate an active process of stimulating microflora — the dynamic and robust bacterial communities in the lower intestinal tract — to enhance lower gut health. The lower gut signals to the rest of the body, which stimulates the innate immune system, Dr. Nielsen explains.

One probiotic, Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079 — found in the brand ProTernative® — has been proven to positively modulate the immune system of cattle during times of stress. In a study, S. c. boulardii CNCM I-1079 supported higher peak milk and resulted in fewer health events for transition cows.4

He advises that producers still must lay the foundation for reduced stress by providing clean, readily available water; using adequate heat abatement techniques like providing shade, fans and/or sprinklers; and ensuring cattle are fed during the cooler times of the day to keep intake up.

“We’re only beginning to see the long-term effects of heat stress in our herds. Probiotics are a relatively new tool in helping fight against these negative effects,” Dr. Nielsen says. “It’s going to take all of our tools to protect cattle and keep performance up during — and long after — stressful periods end.”

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, produces 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 Lallemand Animal Nutrition. 

Injectable trace minerals improve oxidative stress after aflatoxin challenge in dairy cows

When dairy cattle consume aflatoxin-contaminated feed, they are lethargic, their appetite wanes, they produce less milk, and their immune system goes awry. Some of those symptoms relate to oxidative stress, in which dangerous free-radicals bounce around, damaging cells. In a new study, researchers at the University of Illinois investigated the potential of injectable trace minerals to reduce the damage and keep dairy cows healthier.

“If we’re providing enough trace minerals to manufacture more detoxifying enzymes, the liver has a better chance of fighting the aflatoxin,” explains Russell Pate, doctoral student in the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I and lead author on the study.

Phil Cardoso, assistant professor in the department and co-author on the paper, adds that an injectable product could be helpful during aflatoxin challenge, when a cow’s appetite is suppressed. “Our idea for injecting is that it might help during a time when intake is impacted. If something is causing her to eat less, she’ll consume less of any diet-based mineral too.”

The researchers injected lactating Holsteins with Multimin®90, a commercially available injectable trace mineral formulation, twice, approximately a month apart. Another set of animals received a saline injection only, but both sets received the recommended amount of trace minerals in their diet. About a month after the second injection, the researchers used a balling gun to introduce aflatoxin-contaminated feed to half of the animals.

Cows receiving aflatoxin and saline had greater liver inflammation and lower feed efficiencies than cows that weren’t exposed to aflatoxin. But introducing Multimin®90 to aflatoxin-challenged cows increased liver concentrations of selenium and iron. It also bumped up the activity of serum glutathione peroxidase, whose job is to protect cells from oxidative damage by neutralizing free-radicals.

“As we had hypothesized, supplying cows with trace minerals via injection, independent of minerals ingested in the feed, resulted in an improved immune response and reduced oxidative stress when cows were challenged with aflatoxin,” Pate says. Trace minerals are co-factors of enzymes responsible for alleviating the oxidative stress in animals.

Aflatoxin M1 was present in all milk samples for cows that received the contaminated feed. In other words, injectable trace minerals didn’t prevent transfer of the toxin into the milk. The researchers were not surprised by the result, though.

“We knew it would not help with transference to the milk. If the cow is exposed, she needs to excrete that toxin through milk, urine, feces; anywhere to get rid of it,” Cardoso explains. “To stop transference to the milk, you have to first identify the source of the aflatoxin and avoid feeding it. But sometimes you just can’t. In those cases, we are showing for the first time that an injectable trace mineral will provide a benefit.”

 

Source: ACES

Animal Welfare in Dairy System Design

Modern dairy shelters provide the five freedoms of animal welfare that are essential to cow comfort and animal husbandry.

Instead of looking for what we do wrong in the dairy industry maybe we should look at what we do right. The “Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare” are as follows:

  1. Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.
  2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  4. Freedom to express (most) normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
  5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

To me these are the basics of good animal husbandry. I can’t think of a dairy producer, nutritionist, veterinarian, ag builder, or anyone involved in the industry as a whole that does not want to provide these freedoms to their animals. The health and welfare of the animals is a known barometer of the health and welfare of the dairy business. Simply said, healthy cows are more productive.

As I look through the above list, all of the design standards for modern dairy shelters can be reflexed. Freedom from hunger and thirst means providing 3+ inches per cow of waterer space, feed space of 30 inches for prefresh cows, 20+ hours per day of access to feed and water, and minimizing total milking time per day to less than 3 hours.

Freedom from discomfort means good stall design, making neck rail modifications, making stalls longer in older barns, using more bedding, sand bedding, proper grooving/texturing of concrete, maximizing lying time, and minimizing standing time. It means providing proper ventilation for the season and heat abatement in the summer months.

Freedom from pain, injury, or disease is the design and use of treatment systems/pens, installation of rubber or resilient flooring, and development of vaccination and treatment protocols with the oversight of the veterinarian. It includes proper design and construction of alleyways, floors, and stalls.

Freedom to express normal behavior just means freestall design with adequate lunge room, feed bunks that present feed at 4 to 6 inches above the animal’s front feet, 4 to 6 inches of water in the water trough, and providing adequate floor space for animals to move throughout the shelter and around animals at the feed bunk or waterers.

Freedom from fear and distress may be the hardest to measure and really know if we are doing our best. I think as an industry we are moving in the right direction with management tools like pain medication at dehorning, stockmanship training for employees, and protocols for downed cows.

I don’t think we should live in fear of the animal welfare topics that seem to lurk on the horizon. Rather, I think we should be proud of the comfort and care we provide day in and day out to the animals of the US dairy industry.

To learn more about Animal Welfare in Dairy System Design take a look at Penn State Extension’s recent Technology Tuesday Webinar.

Source: extension.psu.edu

Cow tails: Keep them clean and safe

Follow these tips for your automated alley scraper system

Dirty cows have a negative impact on milk quality, including greater chances of mastitis and a high somatic cell count (SCC). Dirty cows usually mean a dirty tail and dirty tails can come from dirty stalls. Long tails are here to stay since the ban of tail docking. But thankfully, managing manure for cow hygiene is more automated than it’s ever been.
 
“Automated alley scraper systems have been successfully used on livestock farms for decades to keep freestalls and cows clean,” says Andy Lenkaitis, GEA product manager for manure equipment. “I work with many farmers who produce high-quality milk and have cows with long tails. They make management of their automated alley scraper systems a priority to avoid tail entanglement or animal injury.”

Manage your alley scraper system to help ensure your cows are safe and clean with these tips:

Scraper system

  • Check your control panel load sensor seasonally to monitor the scraper system’s power. Monitoring its power will limit the chance of creating extremely high cable tension and help you notice abnormal power spikes.
  • Manage the control panel settings for proper sensitivity, especially during dry conditions or when you bed stalls.
  • Properly adjust the tension of your scraper cable, rope or chain system to prevent scrapers from jumping around and potentially pinching a tail against the curb. Your local equipment dealer can assist you with this task if needed, or check the manual for detailed instructions.
  • Leave 1 inch between your scraper wing and the curb to help prevent pinching tails.
  • Consider having a scraper wing with a roller for offset alleys or if you want to keep the blade tip touching the curb.
  • Choose a blade that has smooth surfaces near the stall beds as they make it more difficult to snag a loose strand of hair.
  • Take care of sharp edges, protruding bolts or pinch points immediately to reduce injury to your cows.

Freestall

  • Be sure your brisket board is in its proper position for your herd (typically 65–72 inches ahead of the rear curb) to allow cows to move ahead in the stall. This adjustment will allow cows to have more of their body in the stall. Note: It may require more frequent cleaning of the stall bed as the chance of manure in the rear third of the stall may increase.
  • Maintain a fly abatement program and ensure proper airflow to reduce the presence of flies. This reduces the likelihood of a cow to swing her tail and leave it in the alley.
  • Adjust scraper run times to align with milking, feeding or pushing up feed to reduce the chance of a cow lying in the stall at scraping times.
  • Alter feeding pattern to align with the scraper position in pens.

Other management considerations include having safety glasses for your employees to prevent tail switches from harming their eyes during milking. Having a tail trimming protocol that works for your dairy’s schedule is also beneficial. For example, you may consider trimming every cow’s tail when she calves.

“A clean environment is key for high-milk quality,” says Lenkaitis. “By taking care of your automated barn scraper system, you will take care of your cows and your cows will take care of you.”

About GEA

GEA is one of the largest suppliers of process technology for the food industry and a wide range of other industries. The international technology group focuses on process technology and components for sophisticated production processes in various end-user markets.

In 2017, GEA generated consolidated revenues of about EUR 4.6 billion. The food and beverages sector, which is a long-term growth industry, accounted for around 70 percent. The company employs almost 18,000 people worldwide. GEA is a market and technology leader in its business areas. The company is listed on the German MDAX stock index (G1A, WKN 660 200) and included in the STOXX® Europe 600 Index. In addition, the company is listed in selected MSCI Global Sustainability Indexes. Further information is available at gea.com.

Understanding and Mitigating Heat Stress in Young Dairy Animals

We often don’t focus as much on heat stress in young dairy calves and tend to focus more on cold stress. However, it is just as important and producers or calf raisers should have a plan in place to help mitigate heat stress in these animals also. Why is it important? When calves are hot they eat less under stress which affects weight gains and overall performance and health. A study by Heinrichs et al. 2005, made the association between heat stress and subsequent first lactation cows finding that the calves that underwent heat stress early in life had a higher average age at first lactation. This obviously, affects the total cost of raising a heifer and a producers’ profitability.

The thermoneutral zone is a range of temperature in which animals perform best by maintaining a constant body temperature while not expending extra energy to do so. The temperature in this zone is not affected solely by the outside temperature but can be influenced by relative humidity, air movement, moisture, hair coat, sunlight (direct vs indirect), bedding, and rumination in older calves. It is important to remember that calves can often deal with heat better than cows simply because of their larger surface area in comparison to their weight and the fact that they are producing less heat due to minimal rumination occurring. Minimal research regarding the THI (temperature humidity index) for dairy calves has been done. The Temperature Humidity Index (THI) is a measurement that accounts for the combined effects of environmental temperature and relative humidity. When we look at the THI levels for lactating cows mild heat stress starts occurring between 68-71 THI index and a lactating cow will experience mild to moderate stress with a 72-79 THI index. This information can be found in the Dairy Heat Stress Management and Energy Use Planning Guide.

Thus, we need to be cognizant of the observable symptoms of heat stress in young dairy animals which are the following:

  • A calf’s body temperature will increase above 103 ˚F
  • There will be an increased respiration rate
  • There will be a loss of appetite
  • A decrease in activity
  • If dehydration in occurring due to heat stress there will be less urine output and manure will become firmer
  • There will be increased water consumption

Producers need to start mitigating heat stress even before the calf is born by looking to the dry cows. Keeping them cool is essential to helping maintain colostrum quality which often goes down in the summer. Thus, extra effort needs to be given to monitoring colostrum quality and possibly utilizing a colostrum replacer if necessary.

Maternity pen areas will need to be cleaned more often or if bed packs are used, fresh clean bedding added more often. With increased heat and moisture these become ideal pathogen breeding grounds.

If a calf is born and is extremely hot, they may need to be cooled down in high THI conditions. Utilizing fans will help this situation.

Do not forget to pay attention to how the animals are being transported and arriving at the calf raising facility. Does your trailer have enough ventilation to keep the calves cool? Are calves being checked for heat stress and given proper fluids upon arrival?

Are you adjusting the times at which you process calves (vaccinations and dehorning) and doing it in the cooler periods of the day? This will also decrease heat stress on the calves as well as humans.

Nutritionally, we need to remember a few key things with unweaned calves and heat stress. Calf starter intakes often decrease, while their energy requirements for maintenance will increase 20-30% when enduring heat stress. Thus, you will want to evaluate your milk replacer program along with considering increasing the amount times calves are fed milk or milk replacer daily from 2X/day to 3x/day. Additionally, offering smaller amounts of fresh calf starter more often will decrease spoilage and help intakes. A lot of FRESH, CLEAN, COOL WATER is an absolute must several times throughout the day if needed. Healthy calves will drink between 6 to 12 quarts of water daily and sick calves experiencing heat stress can drink up to 20 quarts of water. For more information on dehydration refer to the article, Recognizing Signs of Calf Dehydration. Additionally, you may have to extend weaning times by a week or more depending upon starter consumption during heat stress.

As we look to housing and ventilation keeping shade, airflow and cleanliness as priorities is a necessity.

Calves that are raised in hutches should have the opening to the north with all vents open during the summer months. Place them 4 feet apart and 10 feet between rows in the summer. A cement block can be placed under the back of the hutch to allow for a 6-8 inch opening to help create an upward draft forcing hot air out. Utilizing a shade cloth 4 feet above hutches will also help decrease the temperature in the hutches 3-4 ˚F if plastic hutches are utilized.

Calves raised in naturally ventilated barns will need increased air flow either by adding more fans or by using a positive pressure tube ventilation system. If curtain barns are utilized all curtain sidewalls should be completely open if the THI reaches 72.

Keeping calf housing clean is always essential and in the heat of the summer calf raisers need to be even more vigilant due to the ideal growth environment for pathogens. You may want to consider switching to inorganic bedding in the summer to help calves stay cooler, as sand absorbs more body heat rather than retaining it. Saw dust is also a consideration and does not retain as much heat as straw. The priority is keeping it clean, regardless of bedding used. Cleaning and disinfecting hutches or pens, bottles, nipples, pails and feeding equipment on a regular basis, while allowing for adequate drying time will help decrease bacteria, parasite and other micro-organism growth.

Making fly control a priority is also essential to helping mitigate additional stress placed on the animal through irritation caused by biting and disease transfer. Horn fly populations will peak in the hottest months and have a life cycle of 10-20 days which decreases with warmer temperatures. Face flies spread the pink eye bacteria by feeding on the protein found in eye mucus. Thus, keeping eye irritations such as blowing dust and debris to a minimum will help minimize pink eye infections.

Summary

Making heat stress management a priority in young dairy animals will pay off in years to come by improving the overall performance and health of the animal, while also impacting your profitability.

Source: igrow.org

Injectable Trace Minerals Relieve Oxidative Stress in Dairy Cows

When dairy cattle consume aflatoxin-contaminated feed, they are lethargic, their appetite wanes, they produce less milk, and their immune system goes awry. Some of those symptoms relate to oxidative stress, in which dangerous free-radicals bounce around, damaging cells. In a new study, researchers at the University of Illinois investigated the potential of injectable trace minerals to reduce the damage and keep dairy cows healthier.

“If we’re providing enough trace minerals to manufacture more detoxifying enzymes, the liver has a better chance of fighting the aflatoxin,” explains Russell Pate, doctoral student in the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I and lead author on the study.

Phil Cardoso, assistant professor in the department and co-author on the paper, adds that an injectable product could be helpful during aflatoxin challenge, when a cow’s appetite is suppressed. “Our idea for injecting is that it might help during a time when intake is impacted. If something is causing her to eat less, she’ll consume less of any diet-based mineral too.”

The researchers injected lactating Holsteins with Multimin®90, a commercially available injectable trace mineral formulation, twice, approximately a month apart. Another set of animals received a saline injection only, but both sets received the recommended amount of trace minerals in their diet. About a month after the second injection, the researchers used a balling gun to introduce aflatoxin-contaminated feed to half of the animals.

Cows receiving aflatoxin and saline had greater liver inflammation and lower feed efficiencies than cows that weren’t exposed to aflatoxin. But introducing Multimin®90 to aflatoxin-challenged cows increased liver concentrations of selenium and iron. It also bumped up the activity of serum glutathione peroxidase, whose job is to protect cells from oxidative damage by neutralizing free-radicals.

“As we had hypothesized, supplying cows with trace minerals via injection, independent of minerals ingested in the feed, resulted in an improved immune response and reduced oxidative stress when cows were challenged with aflatoxin,” Pate says. Trace minerals are co-factors of enzymes responsible for alleviating the oxidative stress in animals.

Aflatoxin M1 was present in all milk samples for cows that received the contaminated feed. In other words, injectable trace minerals didn’t prevent transfer of the toxin into the milk. The researchers were not surprised by the result, though.

“We knew it would not help with transference to the milk. If the cow is exposed, she needs to excrete that toxin through milk, urine, feces; anywhere to get rid of it,” Cardoso explains. “To stop transference to the milk, you have to first identify the source of the aflatoxin and avoid feeding it. But sometimes you just can’t. In those cases, we are showing for the first time that an injectable trace mineral will provide a benefit.”

Source: aces.illinois.edu

Improve Calf Performance with Transition Cow Ration Changes

Dr. Charlie Staples Presents New Research on Calf Immunity and Health

During the recent ADSA Annual Meeting, Dr. Charlie Staples, University of Florida, presented new research* on choline’s impact on calf immunity and performance. Click on the video above to watch the full presentation and see how calves from cows that received ReaShure®Rumen Protected Choline during transition had greater DMI and higher body weight than calves from cows that did not receive ReaShure. 

Make a Smooth Transition to New Corn Silage

Opening up new silage is commonly associated with a dip in milk production, but the transition can be smoother — and less costly for producers — with a few easy fixes.

“In the fall, producers often tell us they see a drop in milk production,” says Renato Schmidt, Ph.D., Technical Services – Forage, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “This is usually due to an abrupt change from old corn silage to recently fermented corn silage. It takes a little planning to ease this transition, but it’s worth it to maintain peak milk production.”

Producers can make adjustments at harvest, during ensiling and after the new silage is opened.

During harvest, Dr. Schmidt recommends adding a proven silage inoculant containing enzymes, like Biotal® Buchneri 500. Inoculants with high activity enzymes can help break down plant fiber, which improves fiber digestibility. The product label should clearly indicate guaranteed levels validated by independent research studies.

Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) — like Lactobacillus buchneri NCIMB 40788 and Pediococcus pentosaceus 12455 — in silage inoculants also help initiate a fast, efficient fermentation immediately after ensiling, which works to help prevent milk production drops by maintaining feed quality.

After ensiling, Dr. Schmidt recommends waiting until the starch is more digestible to open. Ideally, producers should wait at least four months before feeding. This is particularly important for forage harvested above 35 percent dry matter (DM) and/or flint corn varieties.

When producers are ready to open the new silage, make the transition gradual and adjust the ration to balance changes in dry matter (DM) and nutrient content. Switch silages over a 10- to 14-day period. New silage can be introduced as 25 percent of the silage portion of the ration in the first three days, then 50 percent of the ration the next three days, and so on until the transition is complete.

“It’s important to have the new silage analyzed during the transition,” Dr. Schmidt recommends. “The analysis undertaken covers fermentation profile, NDF digestibility and starch digestibility, plus the associated rate values. Forage can range in composition among silage structures and between years. What you harvested last year can have a different nutrient value than the new forage. Part of the fall slump is cattle reacting to those changes in the feedstuff composition. Testing and adjusting the ration can help minimize fluctuations.”

During the transition from old to new silage, herds are particularly vulnerable to Sub Acute Ruminal Acidosis (SARA) due to high levels of fermentable sugars in the silage. SARA is a sustained period of time with lowered pH levels in the rumen. When rumen pH dips below 6, cellulolytic bacterial activity is decreased and fiber digestion are impaired.1 As a result, milk production and feed efficiency can suffer.2,3

Supplementing feed with an active dry yeast (ADY) probiotic helps increase pH and improve fiber digestibility in the rumen. Results from multiple trials show cows fed a specific strain of ADY, Saccharomycescerevisiae CNCM I-1077, had an increase of 2.1 pounds of 3.5 percent fat-corrected milk (FCM) and were more efficient than controls.4

“When SARA occurs, it’s difficult for cows to make the best use of any ration — no matter how expertly analyzed or carefully introduced,” Dr. Schmidt says. “There’s no substitute for making a smooth transition from old to new silage, but a proven probiotic can help optimize the rumen environment and maintain peak performance even during changes to the ration.”

 

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

David Martin, a 1992 graduate of the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, checks out the milking parlor where cows are milked three times daily at Martin Prairie Farms.

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.

For more information and resources related to dairy cattle heat stress, visit dairy.missouri.edu/stress or contact your local MU Extension dairy specialist.

Use Extra Care When Hauling Cattle in Hot Weather

Wisconsin’s soil types and weather patterns, which support the growth of a variety of forages, are ideal for raising cattle. We have two seasons (cold winter and hot summer) that do not support cattle very well, but in general, even those times are limited in the length of time during which cattle may struggle, with humid summer days having more of an impact on their well-being than January’s wind-chilled days.

Cattle prefer ambient temperatures of 55-60 °F, and they do not handle humidity very well. Their normal internal temperature is 101 °F. Their lung capacity is small in relation to their body size; so while panting helps, it may not be enough to cool them during hot, humid summer days. Their well-being especially suffers during humid days followed by evenings that do not drop below 70°F, as under those conditions, cattle will not have a chance to recover before the next hot, humid day begins.

Heat and humidity make transporting cattle especially stressful. Pay attention to weekly and daily weather forecasts and plan all hauling events accordingly, doing your best to avoid transporting cattle whenever possible during these times. If you must transport cattle, even for short trips between farm locations, keep hot weather transporting tips in mind.

Bear in mind the animals’ space requirements. Loading density charts, like the one included in this article, are available from BQA.org. (Click on image to make it larger.) Increase space per head during hot weather conditions to maximize air movement between them. Loading fewer cattle and making more trips is an economically superior outcome than having cattle suffer heat stroke during the trip.

Source: BQA-Transportation, https://www.bqa.org/programs/bqa-transportation

When transporting on hot days, open all the trailer vents so there is plenty of air movement, and while driving the speed limit, make the trip as direct and efficient as possible. Make sure all animals are standing after being loaded and before starting out. It is best practice on long hauls to check animals after two hours on the road, and every four hours after that. If cattle must be hauled at times of hot temperature and humidity, avoid stopping and only stop if it is an absolute necessity. If possible, stop during the cooler parts of the day or park in the shade when stopped, and keep stops with cattle on the trailer as short as possible. Do not park near other vehicles as doing so prevents ventilation; try to allow cross breezes to pass through the trailer in hot weather.

Avoid hauling cattle when the heat index (HI) is in the extreme range, greater than 100 (orange areas on the HI chart included with this article) (Click on image to make it larger). Avoid hauling between 11 am and 4 pm. Early morning is the coolest time to haul, assuming it followed a cool evening. There really is not a good time to haul during stretches of hot, humid days and nights; if possible, postpone transport until the weather breaks.

Source: BQA-Transportation, https://www.bqa.org/programs/bqa-transportation

Cattle find transportation stressful, and in response, their internal temperature naturally increases a few degrees. Physiologically, it takes them three to four hours to lower their temperature from its peak. So think about what ‘early morning hauling’ really means. During some hot, humid Wisconsin days, the extreme HI may begin by 11 am. Plan transport so that cattle’s internal stress response temperature is not peaking or coinciding when the HI is extreme. Ideally, they should be out of the trailer, relaxing in shade around full water troughs, naturally bringing their internal temperature down hours before the HI reaches extreme levels.

Source: fyi.uwex.edu

Heat stress in cattle: Recognizing the signs and tips to keep your cattle cool

Hot summer temperatures, currently climbing near the triple digits, combined with high dew points can cause significant heat stress to cattle. Heat stress is magnified when high temperatures continue into the night. The combination of high day and nighttime temperatures prevents cattle from properly cooling.

Tips to Keep Your Cattle Cool

Here are some simple tips from Michigan State University Extension to make sure your cattle stay comfortable:

  • Avoid handling, transporting, moving, or processing cattle. If cattle must be handled, work them in the early morning hours using low-stress handling techniques.
  • Provide additional water. For cattle on pasture, provide additional water supply, especially if they only have access to one tank in the pastures. Provide additional tank capacity as water intake increases. Check to make sure that water sources are clean and free of contaminants, defecation in a small portable watering tank will prevent cattle from drinking. Cattle prefer water between 40 -65 degrees F, water intake decreases when water temperature exceeds 80 degrees F. Producers can help keep the water cooler by ensuring that the water lines are covered by grass in the fence rows.
  • Observe cattle for abnormal behavior. Problems often occur during stressful events. Watch cattle movement, location and behavior for indications of problems. Have a backup plan ready if power or water systems fail. 
  • Provide shade. During heat stress days, shade is critical especially for dark-haired, fleshy, young and older cattle. Shade can easily be provided by allowing access to pasture with trees or providing access to open buildings. If shaded pasture acres are limited these pastures must not be grazed during the days with normal temps so that pasture forage will be there when heat stress temperatures arrive.
  • Provide adequate ventilation. If cattle are being fed and housed in an enclosed barn or building, use fans to move air out or through the building or open sides of the barn or provide access to an outside pen or pasture with shade. Using sprinklers in this situation will potentially intensify the problem and create more humidity without proper air movement to remove it from the building. 

There are several stages of heat stress with the following indicators. When first signs of heat stress are observed, minimize the stress immediately with the tips above. Early intervention is the key to survival, especially providing intervention in the evening when cattle are trying to dissipate heat from the day. 

Signs of Heat Stress

The following are signs of heat stress, per the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service:

  • Stage 1: elevated breathing rate, restless, spend increased time standing
  • Stage 2: elevated breathing rate, slight drooling, most animals are standing and restless
  • Stage 3: elevated breathing rate, excessive drooling or foaming, most animals are standing and restless, animals may group together
  • Stage 4: elevated breathing rate, open mouth breathing, possible drooling, most animals standing, animals may group together
  • Stage 5: elevated breathing with pushing from the flanks, open mouth breathing with tongue protruding, possible drooling, most animals standing and restless
  • Stage 6: open mouth breathing with tongue protruding, breathing is labored, and respiration rate may decrease, cattle push from flanks while breathing, head down, not necessarily drooling, individual animals may be isolated from the herd.

Stress Categories

The chart below illustrates stress categories as defined by predicted breathing rate.

Predicted Breathing Rate Heat Stress Category
Less than 90 breaths per minute Normal
From 90 – 110 breaths per minute Alert
From 110 – 130 breaths per minute Danger
Above 130 breaths per minute Emergency

Beef producers also need to be aware that heat could have implications which may not be seen immediately. If you are in breeding season with your cow herd, heat stress could result in early embryonic death loss of the new fetus in the first few weeks after conception. For bulls preparing for breeding season, high temperatures could impact semen quality for several weeks, resulting in lower conception rates a month after the heat stress event. Reduced conception risk is a possible outcome and key reason producers should keep cow herds cool during times of high heat index weather. 

Source: msue.anr.msu.edu

Four-day week is for townies, not farmers

Lyn Webster has too much to do to think about four-day weeks.

OPINION: It’s said there is no gap between town and country in New Zealand, but I reckon there is. Watching 7 Sharp the other night, I saw a segment on the four-day working week that made me think the rural-urban divide gapes wider than the Grand Canyon – well, Skippers Canyon, anyway.

What I saw on TV was an office full of townie insurance clerks lined up in rows all gazing at computer screens and their boss was enthusing about how condensing their five-day working week down to four days was increasing their productivity because no-one was having any extra coffee breaks or whiling away work time on Facebook.

And I had to laugh – out loud. The 7 Sharp presenters were getting a bit excited visualising their four-day working week and the insurance boss was saying all businesses should definitely give it a try.

As a self-employed dairy farmer, I am in the midst of calving and working seven days a week. I am not complaining, mind. It’s my choice, my job. I could employ someone to lighten the load and have some time off, but it’s unaffordable and not practical at this crucial time of year. 

If I take my eye off the calving ball for one minute, I guarantee something will go wrong and wrong in my job usually means something gets sick or dies and a whole lot of time and effort is for naught. Such are the joys of farming.

I used to work in a bank. Back in those days, I scarcely gave a thought to where food comes from. I just took it all for granted. Now I know how much stress and commitment and hard yards you have to put in the get meat and dairy products on the table. It is hard yakka. So many people – the public, the government and the dairy factory – have their eye on you, calling foul at the slightest hint of a misdemeanour. And it is the pressure of this scrutiny on top of the demanding workload that makes me sometimes think maybe I should chuck this all in and go and get a cushy four-days-a-week-paid-for-five town job. But where’s the satisfaction in that?

I know that many townies have probably never even met a farmer, which is different from old-day New Zealand, when people seemed more connected with the land. I could imagine that some would turn their nose up in disgust at a tired, dirty, smelly, seemingly incoherent yokel in a funny hat – because for some reason farmers come across terribly on TV – even I think that and I am one.

If you have eaten today, thank a farmer.

Most governments subsidise their farmers and protect them from the likes of the emissions-trading scheme. This is because they have read and understood Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and know that food is a basic essential for human survival. Seemingly not so the New Zealand Government – very unfortunate.

So townies are working in their clean, sanitised office jobs that would not even exist if not for farming, dreaming of a four-day working week, while farmers take care of business 24/7 feeding everybody. Meanwhile, the government dreams up more and more ways to regulate farming and collect tax revenue off fundamental things like water and cows burping, and looking for money to appoint well paid useless government jobs like animal advocates, inspectors to check that your dog is tied up on the ute and that you have your helmets on.

I think people should want to work more, not less. But, then, I suppose I am not a townie office wallah.

 

Source: Stuff

Hobart dairyman farms smarter with robotic milkers

DeLaval recently unveiled the all-new Voluntary Milking System V300 to dairy producers and industry representatives at the company’s robotic milking conference in Madison, Wis.

According to Joakim Rosengren, DeLaval president and CEO, 2.5 million dairy cows are milked globally with robotic milking units.

“The VMS V300 helps farmers by making them less reliant on future labor market uncertainties and keeping them at the forefront of animal welfare and food safety,” he says. “This redesigned milking system contributes to the profitability of dairy farming not only today, but also for generations to come.

“As a market leader, we have both an obligation and an opportunity to contribute to better milking practices in all parts of the world, directly aiming at helping farmers with their daily challenges. The design of the new VMS V300 system has farmers and their challenges at its core, allowing farmers to do more with less. We are indeed very satisfied with the fantastic result achieved.”

Sold on robotic milkers
Dan Diederich of Hobart, Wis., is pleased with the eight DeLaval robotic milking systems he uses on his family farm.

Ten years ago, Diederich and his father, Raymond, were looking for a better way to milk their cows. In 2009, they expanded their herd to 280 cows. In 2011, they put in four DeLaval robotic milking systems. Last year, they expanded to 540 cows and added four more DeLaval robotic milkers.

Diederich, 35, says it’s a better way to farm. “The technology is cool,” he says. “It provides me with a lot of data to manage my herd. It also keeps me from having to deal with a lot of headaches from managing employees.”

Before they started milking with robots, Diederich says he spent a lot of time dealing with the challenges of managing labor.

“Often I would work all day, and then an employee wouldn’t show up to milk, and I’d have to take their shift and work another six hours,” he says.

Today, Diederich manages the 540-cow herd with his brother Matthew, 40, who is an employee, and two additional employees. The Diederichs farm just under 1,000 acres in Brown and Outagamie counties.

“Dad helps with cropping and accounting,” says Diederich, the fourth generation of his family to farm on the family farm. “We’ve been here for more than 100 years.”

Diederich graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in dairy science in 2004.

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to dairy until my dad started talking about milking with robots,” he explains. “That got me excited about farming.”

Diederich says robotic milkers make sense on their farm.

“Milking is a repetitive task. In every other industry, we mechanize a repetitive task. This removes the repetitive task,” he says. “Milking is a tough job to do six, seven, eight hours straight.”

In addition to the robotic milkers, the Diederichs have an automatic feed pusher.

“Most of our time is spent feeding the cows and heifers, looking for sick animals, and dealing with transitioning cows,” he says. “Robots allow us to spend most of our time dealing with the day-to-day care of our herd instead of milking.”

Diederich says 40% of their herd are Jerseys, 25% are Holsteins and 35% are crossbreds. Their herd averages 68 pounds of milk per cow per day with a 4.3% butterfat test and 3.3% protein.

“We feel robots are a good fit for our operation,” he says. “They allow us to focus on the things that we think are important.”

Latest technology
According to Theiry Perrotin, DeLaval vice president of market development, the VMS V300 has a 10% higher capacity, up to 50% faster attachment time, up to 99.8% attachment rate, up to 99% teat spray hit rate, real quarter milking, and lower running cost than earlier systems. It also handles up to 7,500 pounds of milk per day.

“It will truly redefine the food efficiency and animal welfare challenges on farms,” Perrotin says.

The system allows customers to prespray and postspray two different products, he adds.

“The VMS V300 system comes with DeLaval InControl, the new user interface allowing access to information and control of the system remotely,” Perrotin explains. “DeLaval PureFlow, the new transparent teat-preparation cup, is another new feature. Lastly, DeLaval InSight, the latest in vision technology, ensures a smooth, fast and accurate attachment.”

The VMS V300 provides brand-new software for smartphones. Customers can share information with their staff. The system includes:

• optional touch screen
• camera ready
• easy to clean and maintain
• better stimulation
• transparent teat cup
• new teat-preparation cup
• improved cleaning and stimulation efficiency


NEW TECHNOLOGY: The DeLaval VMS V300 comes with DeLaval InControl, the new user interface that allows access to information and control of the system remotely.

“Many customers are adding a new robot every few years. The old robots continue to work well. So, the DV300 helps not only new customers, but old customers, too,” Perrotin says.

He adds the parts on the V300 are durable and can withstand sand bedding.

A farmer can control several robots with one smartphone. “It allows you to monitor the whole herd from wherever you are,” Perrotin says. “The technology is remarkable. We’re very excited about this.”

Perrotin says dealers can take orders for V300s now. Deliveries will begin in late 2018 or early 2019.

Source: wisconsinagriculturist.com

Are there ‘weak links’ in your fresh cow treatment program?

As the saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Is it possible there are “weak links” in your fresh cow treatment protocols that could set your dairy up for vulnerabilities, either for antibiotic residues or lack of efficacy?

You can decrease your risk of residues and cost of treatment by improving your fresh cow program in three key areas: identifying and treating sick cows, implementing treatment protocols, and drug use, storage and handling.

Here are some questions to help identify and strengthen potential weak links in your fresh cow treatment program.

Identifying and treating sick cows

• Who on the dairy is responsible for symptom identification?

• How are employees trained to identify symptoms?

• When was the last time these employees received training?

Implementing treatment protocols

• How often are protocols reviewed and revised with your veterinarian? When was the last time you reviewed treatment protocols with your fresh pen team?

• How are employees trained on treatment protocols? When was the last time employees received training?

• How do you make sure antibiotic doses are administered according to the label for the animal’s actual weight?

Drug use, storage and handling

• When was the last time you reviewed on-farm health records with your veterinarian to determine the success level of each treatment?

• If you asked your employees right now, would they know the label withdrawals for milk and meat?

• How often do you review your drug inventory and compare it with the known disease challenges on your dairy?

A single residue violation can erode consumer confidence. Work with your veterinarian to evaluate the antibiotics and treatment protocols used on your dairy.

Evaluate antibiotics based on:

• Food and Drug Administration approval for on-label treatment of fresh cow diseases, like metritis

• Low residue profile

• Demonstrated efficacy

 

Source: Farm Forum

Reduce Stress During the Transition Period for Big Returns

A good dry cow program can result in an additional 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of milk in the next lactation alone.1 Plus, producers that successfully navigate the period three weeks before and after calving can reduce treatment costs and downtime due to illness and metabolic disorders.2

Transition cows frequently experience stress from moving to a new pen or herd environment; ration changes; or environmental challenges like heat stress,” says H. Nielsen, DVM, Technical Services – Ruminant, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “These stressors can take a toll and make cows more likely to develop mastitis, ketosis or metritis — which are some of the costliest diseases of dairy cattle today.”2

A good transition cow program minimizes post-calving disorders and maximizes dry matter intake (DMI). To do this, producers should target the optimal dry period length, which is between 50 and 70 days.1

During transition, the ration should account for a lowered DMI, especially around calving. Adequate nutrition is fundamental to bolstering the immune system.

“Because this is such a critical period, I recommend adding a probiotic to close-up and fresh cow diets, which can help prime the immune system to better respond to stressors,” Dr. Nielsen notes. “The right probiotic can help stimulate microflora — the dynamic and robust bacterial communities in the lower intestinal tract — to enhance lower gut health.  In turn, the lower gut signals to the rest of the body, which positively stimulates the cow’s innate immune system.”

Not all probiotics have the same effect. One probiotic, ProTernative®, includes the active dry yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079, and has been proven to positively support the immune system of cattle during times of stress. In a study, S. c. boulardii CNCM I-1079 supported higher peak milk and resulted in fewer health events for transition cows. Cows receiving the probiotic produced 4.87 pounds more peak milk each when compared to controls.3

Over the entire lactation, cows fed S. c. boulardiiCNCM I-1079 would produce 1,193 pounds more milk compared to controls. On top of that, the probiotic saved $2,609 in treatment costs and milk lost due to transition problems.3

“Producers can never recover the production losses that arise when an animal must divert its energy to fight off illness — rather than on performance,” he says. “Proactively supporting animal health improves overall well-being and ensures cows are better prepared to fight off inevitable challenges. When illness does strike, robust animal health minimizes disease risks, gets cows back into production and helps them reach a high level of peak milk production.”

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, produces 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 www.lallemandanimalnutrition.com.

1 Chase LE. Management of the Transition Cow. Feeding and Managing the Transition Cow. Proceedings Penn Conference 1996. Accessed Feb. 23, 2017. Available at: https://research.vet.upenn.edu/DairyPoultrySwine/DairyCattle/PennConf1996/tabid/1602/Default.aspx

2 Borchers M and Bewley J. The Effects of Stress on Transition Cow and Calf Health. University of Kentucky Department of Animal and Food Sciences. Accessed Feb. 23, 2017. Available at: https://afs.ca.uky.edu/dairy/effects-stress-transition-cow-and-calf-health.

3 Nielsen H, Health and production of Holstein cows fed ProTernative during the transition period and early lactation. Lallemand Animal Nutrition Internal Report.

Transition Cow Management Holds the Key to a Successful Lactation

“There’s a lot that can go wrong during the transition phase,” said Dr. Mark van der List, senior professional services veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim. “Their body undergoes many metabolic changes. It’s a high-risk period for dairy cows.” Diligent management techniques, proper nutrition and monitoring can help mitigate potential problems. Cows that undergo a successful transition may experience higher milk production, a reduction in post-calving disorders and improved reproductive performance.

Consider including the following protocols on your operation for a successful transition period:

Three Weeks Prior to Calving

The close-up dry cow diet should be well-formulated and include quality feed ingredients. “Dry cows need a sufficient amount of protein, vitamins and minerals in their diet to meet energy requirements without increasing their body condition score,” Dr. van der List stated. “Over-conditioned cows are more likely to develop metabolic problems.”

“We also want to supplement dry cows with anionic salts, creating a negative dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) diet,” he added. “This can help maintain blood calcium levels after freshening, which are tied to a cow’s future milk production and post-calving health.” Producers can ensure their DCAD diet is balanced correctly by monitoring urine pH. “It’s important to make sure the DCAD diet is still palatable for cows,” Dr. van der List continued. “We don’t want to be losing body condition, either.”

Close-up dry cows need plenty of space to rest. “Monitoring stocking density in the dry cow area is essential,” emphasized Dr. van der List. “Overcrowding puts additional stress on the already vulnerable cow.” Other ways to avoid stress include minimizing pen movements and keeping cows cool with fans and sprinklers in warmer temperatures.

At Calving

“We want the calving area to be clean with good facilities if intervention is required,” said Dr. van der List. “The goal is to have calm, injury-free calving.” The person in charge of the calving pen should be well-trained, able to recognize the signs of calving, and know when to intervene.

Three Weeks Post Calving

“The first few days after calving are really about calcium control,” remarked Dr. van der List. “We want to make sure these animals aren’t dealing with subclinical hypocalcemia [SCH]. I’d recommend supplementing all second- and greater-lactation cows with an oral calcium supplement, in which they get one bolus at calving and one bolus the day after calving. If we can control calcium levels, we can head off a lot of other problems.”

Dr. van der List recommends consulting with your veterinarian to get a better idea of SCH prevalence in your herd. “A veterinarian can help retrieve blood samples of recently fresh cows to determine blood calcium concentrations,” he noted. These test results can be used to build and execute an economically viable control strategy for SCH.

A fresh cow diet should encourage dry-matter intake by offering high-quality forage and making feed accessible at all times. This will help ease the negative energy balance the fresh cow is facing.

If possible, put fresh cows in a separate pen. Stocking rate is important, as you do not want cows competing for bunk access. “Mixing already at-risk fresh cows in a sick pen isn’t ideal, either,” said Dr. van der List. “A fresh cow’s immune system might already be compromised, making them more susceptible to the diseases found in the sick pen.”

A separate pen also allows for closer monitoring. “Producers should be checking fresh cows at least twice a day, observing the front and back ends of the cow,” he said. When looking at the front of the cow, observe the ears, eyes, nasal discharge and attitude. When looking at the hind end of the cow, check for uterine discharge, udder and rumen fill, manure consistency, and hoof and leg health.

“Record any instances of treatment,” Dr. van der List concluded. “This will help producers track performance and identify areas that may need improvement.”

Dr. van der List encourages working with a veterinarian to develop and implement a comprehensive transition cow program suited for your operation.

 

Source: Bovine Veterinarian

Dairy Sense: Managing Family Living Expenses

Assessing a farm’s sustainability in today’s challenging markets requires evaluation of both production and financial metrics. Consultants have become so specialized that finding someone knowledgeable in both areas can be difficult. Smart decisions are made when both aspects are reviewed and the producer can examine the ripple effect of how a change in one area can impact another. One area that can create problems for even a well-managed dairy is taking out an owner draw that exceeds what the milk income can cover. A simple calculation method can be used to determine what the operation is able to cover for family living expenses.

A common metric that producers and consultants use in evaluating a herd’s performance is average milk production per cow per day. However, this number alone does not tell the complete story on how an operation is performing financially. Ultimately it comes down to the total annual pounds of milk shipped along with the current milk price to generate the income to cover all expenses. Table 1 illustrates an example of a 2018 cash flow plan examining the dairy enterprise only. This producer wants to keep owner draw at $90,000, similar to the previous year. This operation has done a good job of keeping direct, overhead, and feed expenses close to the budgeted amount. Loan payments are fixed throughout the year. The current gross milk price for 2018 is averaging $16.16/cwt. In order to keep owner draw at $90,000 the herd will need to average 79 pounds/cow/day for the year, assuming the milk price stays around $16.00/cwt. This herd has never shipped 5.7 million pounds on 200 cows, so trying to maintain this owner draw in 2018 will create a hardship for this operation. If the herd continues to maintain a 74 pound average, family living expenses would need to be reduced to $30,000. It is unlikely the family can live on that amount. The other option would be to milk more cows. Considering the added expenses that come with that scenario, it would be possible to keep owner draw around $70,000. The one bottleneck to the added cows and additional milk shipped is if the farm exceeds their base, which is very likely. The other options to consider are other sources of farm income or off-farm income.

There are some common themes that surface when working on cash flow plans. The first is actually budgeting for family living expenses. Many times this is an ambiguous number and just a guesstimate. Producers who develop and follow cash flow plans year after year usually are keeping good records and are accurately accounting for their owner draw and farm expenses. When accurately reported, family living expenses are often much higher than what was first budgeted.

The calculation method requires producers to examine what the expenses are and how much milk must be shipped to cover those expenses. Very rarely is this approach taken and that’s the reason so many operations are struggling with negative net income. The big question is how long will other off-farm income or other farm income subsidize the dairy enterprise? With less than stellar milk markets, very few dairy operations would still be in business if it were not for other income. The dairy enterprise alone should show a profit and provide the necessary income for a family to maintain a decent standard of living. There are still too many operations that do not know their numbers and are not operating as a business. The future of the family dairy operation depends on managing both the production and financial metrics.

Table 1. Determining the family living expenses to cash flow the dairy enterprise in 2018.

Determining milk income needed Dairy Enterprise Only, Current 2018 Plan Dairy Enterprise Only, Adjust Family Living Dairy Enterprise Only, Add More Cows
Number of milk cows 200 200 220
Expenses      
Direct $101,000.00 $101,000.00 $103,000.00
Overhead $191,000.00 $191,000.00 $198,000.00
Family living $90,000.00 $30,000.00 $70,000.00
Taxes $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Loan payments (principal + interest) $225,000.00 $225,000.00 $225,000.00
Total feed cost $425,000.00 $425,000.00 $471,000.00
Total outflow $1,032,000.00 $972,000.00 $1,067,000.00
Outflow covered by milk sales $928,800.00 $874,800.00 $960,300.00
Average milk price $16.16 $16.16 $16.16
Minimum pounds of milk shipped/year 5,747,525 5,413,366 5,942,450
Average production, lbs./day 79 74 74
Current milk production/cow/day 74 74 74

Action plan for evaluating the income needed to cover expenses including family living expenses.

Goal – Develop a cash flow plan for 2018 budgeting in family living expenses.

  • Step 1: Using the Penn State Excel worksheet, determine all expenses for 2018 including direct, overheads, feed costs, loan payments, and the desired owner draw needed for the family.
  • Step 2: Take the outflow minus all non-milk income divided by the expected milk price to determine the pounds of milk needed to be shipped for the year. Divide the amount by the number of cows milking to determine the average production per cow.
  • Step 3: Evaluate if the pounds of milk shipped is realistic for the herd and make adjustments as needed.
  • Step 4: Monitor pounds of milk shipped monthly to make sure the herd is on track. Check expense lines to ensure everything is staying close to the budget planned.

Economic perspective:

Monitoring must include an economic component to determine if a management strategy is working or not. For the lactating cows income over feed costs is a good way to check that feed costs are in line for the level of milk production. Starting with July 2014’s milk price, income over feed costs was calculated using average intake and production for the last six years from the Penn State dairy herd. The ration contained 63% forage consisting of corn silage, haylage, and hay. The concentrate portion included corn grain, candy meal, sugar, canola meal, roasted soybeans, Optigen and a mineral vitamin mix. All market prices were used.

Also included are the feed costs for dry cows, springing heifers, pregnant heifers and growing heifers. The rations reflect what has been fed to these animal groups at the Penn State dairy herd. All market prices were used.

Income over feed cost using standardized rations and production data from the Penn State dairy herd.

Note: Penn State’s May milk price: $17.08/cwt; feed cost/cow: $5.22; average milk production: 84.0 lbs.

Feed cost/non-lactating animal/day.

June 2018

Source: extension.psu.edu

A Long-Term Mindset for Reproductive Management

As we look at reproductive management and its impact on overall success of a dairy operation, it is clearly a critical component. But the full impact of management successes or failures often won’t be seen in the short-term. Managing for reproductive efficiency requires patience and a long-term mindset.

To get into this long-term mindset for reproductive management, let’s look at three important considerations: 1) genetic progress, 2) future production, and 3) efficiency. And let’s keep in mind that reproductive management overlaps with many other management areas. There are close relationships with heifer management, milk production, feed management, and herd health.

Genetic Progress

Why would you not want to make genetic progress in your herd? The specific improvements you’re aiming for may be up for debate, but it only makes sense to aim high. Whether through intentional selection of good sires, or using more advanced technologies with embryos and/or genomic testing, there is plenty of opportunity to make progress.

Natural service is still used to some extent for breeding purposes on many dairy operations around the country. Though there are a number of risks to having breeding bulls around, a dairy owner has the right to decide whether or not to use them. But with a long-term mindset, how much might you be selling yourself short? Where is that bull from and what steps have been taken to make sure he is actually going to benefit the operation? Are the benefits truly outweighing the risks? It might be worth examining current versus potential genetic progress in the herd, including factors such as inbreeding. There may be reasonable justifications for using a particular natural service bull in the herd, but it’s worth making a concerted effort to avoid the “duds” and any complications they might bring to the operation.

Future Production

Achieving timely conception certainly has an impact on milk production. It also impacts the rate of calves being born to use as replacements or to merchandise for additional income. But this doesn’t just pertain to lactating cows. A significant segment of the herd that often receives less attention is the young stock, both pre- and post-breeding. These heifers are the future of the dairy herd!

General recommendations from Penn State are to breed Holstein heifers when they are 13 to 15 months of age, weigh 750 to 800 pounds (or 55% of mature body weight), and measure 48 to 50 inches at the withers. Accomplishing that, they should be nearing 1300 pounds (or 85% of mature body weight) by 23 to 24 months of age and have already delivered a calf. If heifers are calving later than 23 months of age, there no benefit on milk production–just the added costs of caring for them longer. In today’s economy, it is not often profitable to have average age at first calving of 25+ months.

Efficiency

There are many different strategies that can be used to achieve timely first insemination postpartum. A strategy can be chosen that works well within the operation’s unique conditions, taking into account factors such as labor, equipment, and drug costs. But what about those cows that fail to conceive after the first service? There needs to be a strategy for pregnancy diagnosis and subsequent insemination that minimizes the length of time cows are open. Even in herds where really good conception rates are being achieved, having a good rebreeding strategy is important. It might be the difference between having an average days open of 125 days (good) or 160 days (not so good).

There are several options available for diagnosing pregnancy around 28 days. Having this early information helps manage for rebreeding, but there is a frustrating factor to realize. On average, 10 to 15% of pregnancies are lost between day 17 and 42 in dairy cows. This means that a small but significant percentage of cows diagnosed as pregnant on day 28 will later turn up open. Diagnosing pregnancy at a later stage of pregnancy will avoid the frustration of noticing lost pregnancies after early diagnosis but might hinder the goal of reducing the time window between inseminations.

Regardless of the approach to rebreeding, heat detection can be helpful. There is no need to wait until a synchronization protocol has been completed before rebreeding a cow. If she is exhibiting standing behavior and seems to be cycling normally, she can be bred. If workers on a dairy, regardless of their official role, are on the watch for cows in estrus, these small efforts can go a long way.

There are many benefits to implementing proven strategies for reproductive management. Just remember to be patient and think about the long-term picture. You’re in a position today to make decisions that can benefit you well into the future, even though you might not see all of the benefits immediately.

Source: extension.psu.edu

Reasons US DHI Cows Exit the Herd in 2017

For decades, dairy producers have designated reasons why cows leave the milking herds through Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) recordings. Information given when cows complete lactations or are removed from the herds place the animals into 4 destination codes (DC): remained in herd, sold for dairy, sold for slaughter, or died. Those removed from the herd are given more descriptive codes called termination codes (TC). The TC system has added codes across time and in addition choices offered to producers vary slightly between dairy records processing centers (DRPC). All DRPCs include TCs on each lactation record before forwarding to the national cooperators’ dairy database. The frequencies of the codes are provided annually to describe reasons for voluntary and involuntary culling as they have considerable economic impact on producers. Rate and reason for culling also provide beneficial information for economic studies on dairy management.

Currently there are 2 TC codes for cows that remain in the herd when their lactation ends, and 9 choices (TC codes) for cows that leave the herd. For cows that stayed in the herd, the TC indicates whether their lactations ended normally (TC=0) or ended unexpectedly as a result of an abortion (TC=8). For those cows “sold for slaughter”, 7 TC choices provide detailed information about why they left the herd.

Historical studies of survival of U.S. dairy cattle have been reported by Nieuwhof et al. (1989) and Hare et al. (2006). Those studies grouped cows by calving year and tracked them until they left the herd. That method provided comprehensive information, but unfortunately any results using this approach are quite dated due to having to wait until all animals in the original group leave the herd. An alternative approach (used here) provided more current information by summarizing reasons cows left the herds last year. This report is based on lactations with completion dates between January 1 and December 31, 2017. Results using this method are impacted considerably by annual fluctuations in milk and feed prices.

Selected summaries are provided by parity and breed (including crossbreds). The number of crossbreds has increased over the last decade. Crossbreds were categorized into 2 groups depending on the extent of heterosis: those with heterosis of >90% (CB90) and those with heterosis of 50 to 90% (CB50). The CB90 group was primarily first-generation crosses between 2 breeds (F1s) or offspring of a third-breed sire and an F1-crossbred dam of 2 other breeds; the CB50 group was predominately backcross offspring from an F1 dam and a sire from 1 of the F1 parent breeds.

Table 1 shows the frequency of codes by breed disregarding parity. The percentage of cows that stayed in the herd after completing their lactations averaged 64.5% across all groups. Purebreds ranged from 61.3 to 67.0%; Jerseys and Milking Shorthorn were highest, Holsteins were at 63.9%. Crossbreds were higher than purebreds with 68.8% of CB50s and 69.1% of CB90s remaining in the herds for an additional lactation. All purebred and crossbred groups had 0.2 to 0.3% of their lactations ended by an abortion.

TABLE 1. Percentages of cows (ALL BREEDS and CROSSBREDS) completing lactations by reason for termination and breed (2017).

Stayed in herd Lactation ended normally (0) 65.8 62.8 61.7 63.7 66.8 66.5 61.0 68.9 68.6 64.3
  Lactation ended with abortion (8) 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.2
Sold for dairy (2)   6.2 6.1 6.6 4.2 6.5 6.9 4.3 3.6 4.6 4.4
Sold for slaughter Locomotion problems (1) 1.2 1.8 1.3 1.5 0.4 1.2 2.5 0.9 0.9 1.3
  Low production (3) 3.7 4.6 3.4 6.1 5.7 4.9 4.2 6.7 6.3 6.1
  Reproduction problems (4) 6.1 6.6 5.7 4.8 3.0 5.0 7.9 3.2 3.6 4.6
  Unspecified reasons (5) 9.8 8.8 11.4 9.7 8.2 8.8 8.5 7.5 7.2 9.4
  Mastitis or high SCS (7) 2.1 3.4 2.8 4.4 3.8 2.8 5.7 4.3 3.9 4.3
  Undesirable conformation (A) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
  Bad behavior (B) 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Died (6)   4.8 5.5 6.9 5.4 5.4 3.7 5.5 4.6 4.7 5.3
Records (no.)   7,004 21,026 6,535 3,274,668 366,799 2,203 2,911 123,814 88,585 3,944,290
Herds (no.)   815 1,740 453 14,264 3,554 415 548 5,366 4,780 36,154

1Breed is designated on individual cow records, and cow’s breed is used to determine herd counts. For example, a Holstein herd with a few Jersey cows would be included in the herd count for both Holsteins and Jerseys. Thus, the total number of herds across all breeds is much higher than the actual number of herds in Dairy Herd Improvement programs.


Because of breed differences in the percentage of cows remaining in the herd, percentage sold for various other reasons was often inversely related. Across all groups, the cows coded as sold for dairy was 4.4%; percentage of Holsteins and Milking Shorthorns were the extremes for purebreds at 4.2% and 6.9%, respectively. Percentages of crossbreds sold for dairy was 3.6 and 4.6%. Across all groups, unspecified reasons, low production, reproduction problems, and mastitis/high somatic cell score (SCS) accounted for 9.4, 6.1, 4.6, and 4.3%. Crossbreds were intermediate to Holsteins and Jerseys in percentage reported culled for reproduction and for locomotion. Percentages of crossbreds sold for low production was higher than the average percentage of all purebreds. The percentage of Holsteins and Jerseys that died was the same (5.4%). The lowest percentage of animals coded died was for Milking Shorthorn (3.7%).

Table 2 shows the percentages derived from only animals that left the herd excluding those sold for dairy purposes. This gives a clearer picture of the relative importance of the various reasons for exiting. Unfortunately, for 30.2% of all cows leaving the herd, the reason was unspecified (24.8 to 36.4%), the highest in every group. Low production was the next most frequent code assigned for Holstein, Jersey, and crossbred cows exiting the herd (19.2 to 24.5%). Reproduction problems was the second most frequent code assigned for the remaining breeds except Guernseys (19.1 to 23.0%). Death was a frequent code for all groups (13.9 to 21.8%). Mastitis/high SCS was also an important cause for departures (7.7 to 16.6%).

TABLE 2. Percentages of cows (ALL BREEDS and CROSSBREDS) leaving the herd except for dairy purposes by reason for termination and breed (2017).

Locomotion problems (1) 4.3 5.7 4.1 4.7 1.4 4.5 7.2 3.2 3.5 4.3
Low production (3) 13.4 15.0 10.8 19.2 21.4 18.4 12.3 24.5 23.6 19.6
Reproduction problems (4) 22.1 21.6 18.1 15.1 11.5 19.1 23.0 11.9 13.4 14.7
Unspecified reasons (5) 35.2 28.4 36.4 30.3 31.0 33.2 24.8 27.6 27.1 30.2
Mastitis or high SCS (7) 7.7 11.2 8.8 13.9 14.4 10.7 16.6 15.9 14.7 14.0
Undesirable conformation (A)       0.0 0.0     0.0 0.0 0.0
Bad behavior (B) 0.2 0.1   0.1 0.0 0.2 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Died (6) 17.2 18.0 21.8 16.8 20.3 13.9 16.1 16.9 17.7 17.2
Records (no.) 1,945 6,477 2,054 1,045,025 97,587 581 1,001 33,815 23,567 1,227,349
Herds (no.) 502 1,119 303 13,692 2,577 204 318 3,608 3,182 28,160

1Breed is designated on individual cow records, and cow’s breed is used to determine herd counts. For example, a Holstein herd with a few Jersey cows would be included in the herd count for both Holsteins and Jerseys. Thus, the total number of herds across all breeds is much higher than the actual number of herds in Dairy Herd Improvement programs.


More detailed information by parity is in Table 3 for Holsteins, Table 4 for Jerseys, Table 5 for other purebreds, and Table 6 for crossbreds. Purebreds other than Holsteins and Jerseys were combined because of small numbers, especially in later parities. The 2 crossbred groups were also combined. Clear differences across parity are evident for all groupings as each were less likely to complete the lactations as they aged. Although 73.7% of Holsteins remained in the herd when lactation 1 ended, those percentages dropped to 67.2, 58.1, 50.0, 43.7, and 37.2 as lactations 2 through ≥6 ended. Likewise, Jerseys remaining was 72.3, 71.5, 65.9, 58.1, 51.8, and 44.2%. Other purebreds and crossbreds declined as well across lactations, from 72.1 to 46.6% and from 76.6 to 45.1%, respectively.

The probability that lactations were terminated by abortion was low (0.1 to 0.4%) for all lactation and breed groups. The frequency of recorded abortions has declined from 0.7% in 2007 and 2008 (Norman et al., 2009) to 0.2% in 2017. Percentage sold for dairy purposes averaged across groups declined from 6.2% in lactation 1 to 3.3% during lactations ≥6 as younger cows are preferred due to their longer expected life.

Because of the declining percentage staying in the herd and sold for dairy across parities, one would expect those leaving the herd for other reasons to increase. The trends across parity are clear and consistent for Holsteins. Holstein cows sold for mastitis/high SCS increased from 1.9 to 10.1%, for locomotion issues from 0.7 to 3.8%, for low production from 4.9 to 9.1%, and for reproductive problems from 3.7 to 6.4%. The largest increase was for those sold with reason unspecified, from 6.3 to 18.5%. The percentage of Holstein that died increased from 3.0% during lactation 1 to 11.6% during lactations ≥6. The percentage of cows of the other breeds that left for these five reasons increased across parities as well.

TABLE 3. Percentages of HOLSTEIN cows completing lactations by reason for termination and parity (2017).

Stayed in herd Lactation ended normally (0) 73.4 67.0 57.9 49.8 43.5 37.1 63.7
  Lactation ended with abortion (8) 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.2
Sold for dairy (2)   5.8 3.6 3.1 3.1 3.1 3.1 4.2
Sold for slaughter Locomotion problems (1) 0.7 1.1 1.8 2.7 3.4 3.8 1.5
  Low production (3) 4.9 6.2 6.8 7.2 7.9 9.1 6.1
  Reproduction problems (4) 3.7 5.0 5.5 5.7 6.0 6.4 4.8
  Unspecified reasons (5) 6.3 8.5 11.6 14.6 16.5 18.5 9.7
  Mastitis or high SCS (7) 1.9 3.9 6.0 7.7 8.9 10.1 4.4
  Undesirable conformation (A) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
  Bad behavior (B) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Died (6)   3.0 4.4 6.9 9.0 10.4 11.6 5.4
Records (no.)   1,170,024 891,795 598,446 337,404 165,957 111,042 3,274,668

TABLE 4. Percentages of JERSEY cows completing lactations by reason for termination and parity (2017).

Stayed in herd Lactation ended normally (0) 72.1 71.4 65.7 58.0 51.7 44.1 66.8
  Lactation ended with abortion (8) 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2
Sold for dairy (2)   10.1 5.3 3.9 3.8 3.9 3.5 6.5
Sold for slaughter Locomotion problems (1) 0.1 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.9 1.5 0.4
  Low production (3) 4.9 5.5 5.8 6.6 7.5 8.7 5.7
  Reproduction problems (4) 2.6 3.1 3.1 3.4 3.7 4.3 3.0
  Unspecified reasons (5) 4.9 6.7 9.5 12.7 14.8 18.7 8.2
  Mastitis or high SCS (7) 2.0 3.2 4.7 6.1 7.2 7.8 3.8
  Undesirable conformation (A) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
  Bad behavior (B) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0   0.0 0.0
Died (6)   3.1 4.4 6.6 8.6 10.0 11.2 5.4
Records (no.)   132,668 91,485 64,068 39,517 21,294 17,767 366,799

TABLE 5. Percentages of other purebred cows (AYRSHIRE, BROWN SWISS, GUERNSEY, MILKING SHORTHORN, and RED & WHITE) completing lactations by reason for termination and parity (2017).

Stayed in herd Lactation ended normally (0) 71.7 68.0 62.3 56.8 51.8 46.4 64.8
  Lactation ended with abortion (8) 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.3
Sold for dairy (2)   5.9 4.1 3.5 4.1 4.1 4.9 4.6
Sold for slaughter Locomotion problems (1) 0.8 1.0 1.7 2.3 2.9 3.5 1.5
  Low production (3) 4.5 5.6 5.3 5.3 5.9 6.2 5.2
  Reproduction problems (4) 4.1 5.1 5.7 6.2 5.9 6.7 5.1
  Unspecified reasons (5) 7.0 8.2 10.4 12.2 13.8 14.2 9.3
  Mastitis or high SCS (7) 2.3 3.4 5.0 5.4 6.1 8.2 3.9
  Undesirable conformation (A)   0.0     0.0   0.0
  Bad behavior (B) 0.0 0.0     0.0 0.0 0.0
Died (6)   3.4 4.4 6.1 7.5 9.2 9.7 5.3
Records (no.)   28,590 21,652 14,568 8,798 5,169 4,796 83,573

TABLE 6. Percentages of CROSSBRED cows completing lactations by reason for termination and parity (2017).

Stayed in herd Lactation ended normally (0) 76.4 72.8 65.1 57.2 49.4 45.0 68.8
  Lactation ended with abortion (8) 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2
Sold for dairy (2)   5.7 3.0 2.6 3.1 4.0 4.0 4.0
Sold for slaughter Locomotion problems (1) 0.4 0.6 1.0 1.8 2.5 2.5 0.9
  Low production (3) 5.5 6.6 6.9 7.7 7.8 9.2 6.5
  Reproduction problems (4) 2.5 3.3 4.0 4.1 4.7 5.1 3.4
  Unspecified reasons (5) 4.6 6.3 9.0 11.0 13.9 15.1 7.4
  Mastitis or high SCS (7) 2.1 3.6 5.2 7.0 8.6 9.2 4.2
  Undesirable conformation (A) 0.0 0.0       0.0 0.0
  Bad behavior (B) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Died (6)   2.6 3.6 5.9 8.0 8.9 9.6 4.7
Records (no.)   76,879 55,891 37,486 22,693 11,252 8,198 212,399

Tables 7-10 show the percentages of Holstein, Jersey, other purebred, and crossbred cows, respectively, assigned to the various termination codes by lactation number for all animals that left the herd except for those sold for dairy purposes. Within all 4 breed and 6 parity groups, “sold for unspecified reasons” accounted for the highest percentage of exiting (26.0 to 35.8%). This could represent all reasons not designated, or simply indicate no reason was given; most likely more of the latter. One would hope that a large percentage of the cows given the termination code “sold for unspecified reasons” would be coded with a more descriptive reason in the future as it would improve the accuracy of the new trait Cow Livability. Sold for low production (12.9 to 30.8%) and died (14.4 to 22.6%) were the next most common code assigned in the 4 breed groups, followed by sold for reproduction (8.2 to 18.7%), and mastitis/high SCS (9.3 to 18.6%). A code added to the TC list recently, sold for locomotion, had considerable variation across breed and parity groups (0.9 to 7.2%). Sold for locomotion averaged across groups dropped from 3.2% in first lactations to 6.0% in lactations ≥6. Jerseys had fewer locomotion departures than the other breeds. Dairy producers should be encouraged to furnish more complete and accurate recording of termination codes as they are used to improve evaluation accuracy in their own herd and across the entire industry. Reducing the number of cows with termination code “unspecified reasons” would produce significant genetic gain in the U.S. dairy cattle population.

TABLE 7. Percentages of HOLSTEIN cows leaving the herd except for dairy purposes by reason for termination and parity (2017).

Locomotion problems (1) 3.5 3.8 4.7 5.8 6.5 6.5 4.7
Low production (3) 23.7 21.4 17.5 15.4 14.8 15.3 19.2
Reproduction problems (4) 18.1 17.3 14.2 12.2 11.3 10.8 15.1
Unspecified reasons (5) 30.9 29.0 30.0 31.0 31.1 31.1 30.3
Mastitis or high SCS (7) 9.3 13.3 15.6 16.3 16.7 16.9 13.9
Undesirable conformation (A) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Bad behavior (B) 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.1
Died (6) 14.4 15.2 17.9 19.2 19.5 19.4 16.8
Records (no.) 240,231 260,222 231,666 158,448 88,300 66,158 1,045,025

TABLE 8. Percentages of JERSEY cows leaving the herd except for dairy purposes by reason for termination and parity (2017).

Locomotion problems (1) 0.9 1.0 1.4 1.7 2.0 2.9 1.4
Low production (3) 27.6 23.8 19.1 17.3 17.0 16.7 21.4
Reproduction problems (4) 14.6 13.5 10.4 8.9 8.5 8.2 11.5
Unspecified reasons (5) 28.0 28.8 31.5 33.4 33.5 35.8 31.0
Mastitis or high SCS (7) 11.5 13.8 15.7 16.1 16.4 15.0 14.4
Undesirable conformation (A) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Bad behavior (B) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0   0.0 0.0
Died (6) 17.4 19.0 21.8 22.5 22.6 21.3 20.3
Records (no.) 23,343 21,181 19,329 15,024 9,422 9,288 97,587

TABLE 9. Percentages of other purebred cows (AYRSHIRE, BROWN SWISS, GUERNSEY, MILKING SHORTHORN, and RED & WHITE) leaving the herd except for dairy purposes by reason for termination and parity (2017).

Locomotion problems (1) 3.5 3.8 5.0 6.0 6.6 7.2 4.8
Low production (3) 20.5 20.1 15.4 13.5 13.4 12.9 17.1
Reproduction problems (4) 18.7 18.4 16.6 16.0 13.5 13.8 16.9
Unspecified reasons (5) 31.6 29.6 30.5 31.2 31.5 29.3 30.6
Mastitis or high SCS (7) 10.4 12.2 14.7 13.9 14.0 16.9 13.1
Undesirable conformation (A)   0.0     0.0   0.0
Bad behavior (B) 0.1 0.1     0.0 0.0 0.1
Died (6) 15.3 15.9 17.8 19.4 20.9 19.9 17.4
Records (no.) 6,303 5,996 4,959 3,423 2,265 2,325 25,271

TABLE 10. Percentages of CROSSBRED cows leaving the herd except for dairy purposes by reason for termination and parity (2017).

Locomotion problems (1) 2.3 2.3 3.2 4.5 5.3 5.0 3.3
Low production (3) 30.8 27.4 21.5 19.6 16.9 18.2 24.1
Reproduction problems (4) 14.2 13.9 12.5 10.4 10.1 10.1 12.5
Unspecified reasons (5) 26.0 26.3 28.0 27.7 29.9 29.7 27.4
Mastitis or high SCS (7) 11.7 14.9 16.2 17.6 18.6 18.1 15.4
Undesirable conformation (A) 0.0 0.0       0.0 0.0
Bad behavior (B) 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0
Died (6) 15.0 15.2 18.5 20.2 19.2 19.0 17.3
Records (no.) 13,589 13,399 12,023 8,974 5,232 4,165 57,382

References

Hare, E, H.D. Norman, and J.R. Wright. 2006. Survival rates and productive life of dairy cattle in the United States. Journal of Dairy Science 89:3713–3720.

Nieuwhof, G.J., H.D. Norman, and F.N. Dickinson. 1989. Phenotypic trends in herdlife of dairy cows in the United States. Journal of Dairy Science 72:726–736.

Norman, H.D., J.R. Wright, and J.E. Lombard. 2009. Reasons that cows in Dairy Herd Improvement Programs exit the herd. AIPL Research Report CULL1 (9-09).

We wish to acknowledge the contribution of the dairy producers who supplied data for this report through their participation in the Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) program and the dairy records processing centers (DRPC) that processed and relayed the information on to the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB).

Source: queries.uscdcb.com

Milking cows for data – not just dairy products

In the mid-1970s, the average American dairy farm had about 25 cows. Today, many operations have more than 3,000 – a number that was almost unheard of 25 years ago.

Managing large herds efficiently would be difficult, perhaps even impossible, without the latest advances in computing and automation. Most dairies now have milking parlors and associated free-stall housing, which double or triple production per man-hour. Milking units automatically detach to reduce udder health problems and improve milk quality, while cow ID transponders let farmers automatically record production data.

The most recent major technological advance influencing the U.S. dairy industry is the development of automatic milking systems – or “robotic” milkers.

At the University of Connecticut’s Kellogg Dairy Center, we’re using robotic milkers as well as other sensors to monitor 100 cows and their physical environment. Through this work, launched this spring, we hope to monitor individual cow’s behavior and health in real time to improve production efficiency and animal well-being.

Big data and cows

Robotic milkers can harvest milk without human involvement. In fact, the cows decide when to be milked, entering the machine without direct human supervision. The robotic system automatically identifies the cow and applies a sanitizing teat spray before a robotic arm attaches the teat cup for milking.

That’s very different from parlor milking, where managers decide when to milk cows, usually three times a day. Each robotic milking unit serves 50 to 55 cows.

Given the high price of early versions of the robotic milkers and the large size of U.S. herds, American dairies had minimal interest in robotic milkers before 2010. However, the number of automatic milking systems in the country increased to over 2,500 units in 2013, mainly due to improvements in design in the newer models. Worldwide, there are currently over 35,000 automatic milking systems in operation.

Not only have these newer machines improved in harvesting milk efficiently, they have the added ability to collect a greater amount of information about production, milk composition and cow behavior. That allows producers to make more informed management decisions.

With robotic milking systems, the cows run the show. They decide when to eat, ruminate, rest or be milked. They also need to spend less than an hour per day actually being milked; before robotic milkers, milking often took up three to five hours per day.

We wanted to know: What are they doing with the rest of their day? How does that behavior affect production or serve to indicate health status? By themselves, the milking units can’t gather that kind of information, which would be very useful in finding out early on whether a particular cow is developing a health problem.

Our “cow-CPS” – a cyber-physical system that includes the cows, robotic milkers, video cameras and other sensors – will track data on our cows at all times. That will tell us, among other things, where the cows go when not being milked; when they decide to eat, rest or do other activities; and the composition of their milk. Sensors placed inside the body will even tell us the pH inside one of their stomachs, which could be a key indicator of any digestive problems.

Optimizing dairies

We hope that all of this data will allow us to make timely decisions at the level of the individual cow, something that’s not easy to do in large herds. This “precision dairying” could help us understand how an individual cow’s activities – eating, standing, resting, milking – affects her milk production, milk quality and health.

We plan to analyze the data with the help of machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence that can find patterns in large amounts of information. The computer will compare the data against a model of how the dairy should operate under ideal conditions. Our model captures critical performance characteristics – milk quality and productivity – as well as relevant constraints, such as individual health and reproductive status.

As the dairy operates, the real-time data will allow us to assess how far away our real farm is from the ideal one. We can then combine this information with a mathematical optimization algorithm to determine how exactly we should modify or adjust the process. For example, the algorithm may suggest adjusting the type of teat drip, the nutritional content of the feed or the amount of time each cow spends feeding.

We hope that our work will allow dairy farmers across the U.S. to better manage individual cows in a group setting – not only to improve milk production, but to bolster cow health.

Source: theconversation.com

$364 million each year is lost due to employee turnovers at Australian Dairy businesses

Dairy businesses are losing up to $364 million each year in employee turnover, with Australia’s peak dairy farmer group warning the problem will only get worse unless the federal Government acts immediately to solve the industry’s labour crisis.

Australian Dairy Farmers, in a submission to the Department of Jobs and Small Business review of the Skilled Migration Occupation Lists, called on the federal Government to overhaul its skilled migration program to reflect workforce needs.

“Agriculture is a growth industry in Australia with a target to increase our gross value of production from $60 billion currently to more than $100 billion in 2030,” ADF President Terry Richardson said.

“There are many drivers required to achieve this target. A permanent skilled workforce is one of the highest priorities.”

Farmers were set back when the Government abolished the 457 visa system which had been used to recruit skilled overseas labour, a decision made on the back of Fair Work Commission findings that 40 per cent of visa holders were no longer employed by a sponsor or being underpaid.

Mr Richardson said the dairy industry’s 25,000-strong workforce would suffer if other sectors continued to abuse Australia’s record high annual immigration intake of 190,000, most of whom come under the skilled migration program.

“Australian dairy farmers have a reputation for running professional operations and paying above the award rate, but our industry will suffer if we can’t recruit foreigners with either experience on dairy farms or tertiary qualifications in agriculture science from their home country,” Mr Richardson said.

“Unfortunately, many of the locals who are being pushed into these jobs don’t have the necessary skills to handle the roles.

“They find it difficult to satisfy food safety standards, administer veterinary and other animal husbandry requirements, operate technology or are generally unable to fulfil the obligations of a skilled dairy farm manager or leading hand.”

The 457 visa stream was replaced in March by a Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa for short and medium-term employment, but farmers hoping the new visa will solve their labour woes will be disappointed.

The Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), which determines the roles eligible for TSS visas, lists dairy cattle farming as the dairy industry’s only job, overlooking skilled positions including business manager, production manager and senior farm hand.

Mr Richardson said the Government needed to overhaul its occupation classification and visa systems to reflect the modern reality of the dairy industry, including providing skilled overseas workers access to longer visas and a pathway to permanent residency.

“Dairy farming is currently listed as a short-term skill, meaning anyone who comes out on a TSS visa can only stay for up to two years, with the option of a two-year renewal,” he said.

“Skilled migrants will only apply for these roles when they are guaranteed four, not two, years of employment and have a pathway to permanent residence.”

“Dairy farmers need reliable access to skilled overseas workers and will continue to struggle to staff their businesses unless the Government makes drastic changes to the visa classifications.”

The ADF submission to the Department of Jobs and Small Business is available here.

MSU animal science professor uses genetics to find answers in dairy cattle disease

Jennifer Thomson, assistant professor of livestock genomics in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences in the College of Agriculture, has been the principal investigator researching dairy cows’ digestive system sugar level respond to various cattle feed.

An international team of scientists that includes a Montana State University animal geneticist may have discovered why some dairy cows get sick from a particular diet while others don’t.

The unique genetic makeup of a cow can influence the microbial populations that live inside its stomach to help digest food. Therefore, each cow varies in how it utilizes feed, said Jennifer Thomson, associate professor of animal genetics and genomics in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences in MSU’s College of Agriculture and co-author of a paper explaining those findings. The paper was published earlier this year in the journal Frontiers in Genetics.

Calling the genetic-microbial connection a significant discovery, Thomson said the paper is the first “that’s really quantifying how an animal’s genetic make-up affects the microbial population of the rumen.”

“The implications of this paper are that we may ultimately be able to select cows with a rumen microbial population more adept and efficient at using high energy diets,” said Patrick Hatfield, head of MSU’s Department of Animal and Range Sciences.

The rumen is the largest of four compartments in a cow’s stomach and the place where microorganisms are involved in digestion. Another focus of the study was acidosis, the buildup of acid in blood and tissues that can lead to a decline in milk production.

“The genetic makeup and diversity of rumen microbes in a cow’s stomach is critical to optimum nutrient digestion,” Hatfield said. “Unlike humans in which acid and enzymatic digestion is the first process to take place in the human digestion track, microbial digestion of the feeds and forages a cow consumes is the first line of digestion.”

Thomson was asked to join the project by Ian Lean, an Australian researcher who is a leading authority in the medicine, nutrition and management of dairy cattle and winner of the Gilruth Prize, the most prestigious award given by the Australian Veterinary Association. He is founder and managing director of Scibus, an Australian company that conducts research and provides consultation services to dairy and beef producers. Thomson was the only geneticist and American on the team.

Lean said he had been working on ruminal acidosis for about 15 years and had, along with his students, developed a more precise diagnostic test for acidosis. However, they recognized a need to explain a marked variation in the way individual animals responded to dietary challenges.

He said the groups’ vision was to link the host animal genome to the composition of microbes in the animal’s gut and then to the digestive functions of the animal’s gastrointestinal track.

“These differences in response are important to understanding health risks and productivity of ruminant livestock,” Lean said.

Researchers in the dairy cow study fed diets high in grain and sugar to heifers (15 to 21 months old, all but four pregnant) in an effort to induce acidosis. Although many large dairies have nutritionists, and dairies do a lot to prevent acidosis, it can still develop, Thomson said.

“We feed a fairly concentrated diet to meet their requirements for milk production,” she said. “That might predispose them to acidosis.”

Thomson noted that there’s a “huge variety in diets fed to dairy cows.” Sources of sugar added to their feed for energy for milk production, for example, might include such things as cakes, cookies and chocolate candy bars that are considered unfit for humans, beer-soaked grain, grape skin and seeds, orange juice pulp and potato waste from making french fries and hash browns.

“We (the general public) are big proponents of cost-effective feed sources that use something that was a byproduct of human food products,” Thomson said. “By-product feeding, using products that aren’t fit for human consumption, allows us to make nutritious animal food for healthy livestock production.”

The dairy project was a fairly small pilot study involving 40 Holsteins, but it provided the rationale for a larger field study, Thomson said. The same researchers that conducted the initial project are now carrying out the expanded study with 300 Holsteins, the most common breed of dairy cows.

“I’m thrilled. I think this is a really exciting area of research,” Thomson said.

She added that the results of both studies should apply to other breeds, including the beef cattle that are much more common in Montana than dairy cattle.

“I think this will definitely have applications for feedlot cattle,” Thomson said.

Dairy cows are the focus of these studies, in part, because they are fairly genetically uniform. “They have been selected heavily for milk production,” Thomson said. Also, significant data had already been collected from these cows.

As they did in the first study, the Australians are collecting DNA from Australian heifers and microbial information from their rumens. They will send samples to MSU for DNA extraction and then the DNA samples will go to Neogen, an agricultural genomics laboratory in Lincoln, Nebraska, for analysis. Thomson will then interpret all the data, a time-consuming process since she usually receives — for each animal — about 150,000 genotypes and 100 different data points about the microbial community that lives in its rumen.

“From the time all the samples arrive, it will probably take me six months,” Thomson said.

She will run her analyses while continuing to teach and work on other research projects, Thomson said. Her primary research involves beef cattle. She is also part of an MSU team that studies Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Montana and Wyoming and just published a paper about evaluating sample sizes in wild populations.

The first author of the paper titled, “Genetic Markers are Associated with the Ruminal Microbiome and Metabolome in Grain and Sugar Challenged Dairy Heifers,” was Helen Golder, a doctoral student at Scibus and the University of Sydney. Co-authors, in addition to Thomson and Lean, were Stuart Denman and Chris McSweeney from the “Agriculture and Food” research area of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).

Source: helenair.com

Cows are huddling in a part of the barn

Every year in summer certain questions reach us from all over the world: “Our cows huddle together on a specific moment of the day (around noon) in a certain area of the barn and won’t move”. This behaviour also stops at the same hour every day at the end of the afternoon. Is also disappears in the fall, when temperature drops.

We’ve checked out a lot of these cases and our conclusion is that it is caused by fresh air seeking behaviour. Cows stand as a group in the part of the barn where the air is fresh and avoid the areas where it isn’t.

A behavioural component is the fact that in nature cows group together as a reaction to stinging and biting insects. We don’t have the idea that insects are the main cause of huddling, but it is a given that insects won’t be found in places with good air flow. So this instinct can strengthen huddling behaviour.

Walk around your barn if you see huddling and use your nose to judge the air in different places. Our experience is that cows are always standing in places where the air is fresh and that the air in other places can be moist and warm, sometimes even outright unpleasant because of manure gasses.

In a significant number of cases that we had a look at, the behaviour started rather abruptly. These were all cases of a rebuild or of building an object that affected ventilation of the barn.

Insufficient ventilation causes more damage and problems than most dairy farmers know. Bad ventilation first of all makes that cows have to invest more energy into cooling themselves down, causing heat stress. It also creates higher infection pressure for bacteria’s and viruses, leading to more hoof problems and udder infection. Furthermore lack of fresh air leads to higher concentrates of ammonia, which you can expect to be less than ideal for animals.

Farmers who want to improve their barn, should first have an expert (!) set up a ventilation plan for their entire barn. This is the foundation. This also includes a plan with arrangements to manage heat stress.

The independent experts of Vetvice can set up these plans for you: Nico Vreeburg(vreeburg@vetvice.nl / 06 51 83 43 96), Bertjan Westerlaan (westerlaan@ vetvice.nl / 06 27 45 46 62) and Wiebe Veenstra (veenstra@vetvice.nl  / 06 52 31 10 91).

Source: CowSignals

Top 5 Tips for Managing Heat Stress in Cattle

During the summer, dry matter intake can drop — and so can milk production. This decline in performance can be minimized or even avoided. There are simple changes producers can make to ensure the quality and quantity of feed remains steady throughout the season, advises Tony Hall, MSc MSB, PAS, Technical Services – Ruminant, Lallemand Animal Nutrition.

“Cows under heat stress can express a number of feeding behaviors that change their digestive balance,” Hall says. “The whole farm team must work together to keep intakes up and make sure cows are receiving quality feed. The good news is these changes are inexpensive and can be quickly enacted.”

Hall recommends five changes to help fight the effects of heat stress and minimize disruptions in digestion.1. Don’t feed unstable silage. When aerobically unstable silage is added, it can cause the entire ration to heat. Cattle simply don’t want to eat hot feed in the summer. Plus, hot silage is a sign valuable nutrients have been lost. To minimize spoilage, feedout at a rate fast enough to avoid heating and discard all moldy silage. For future harvests, producers can use an inoculant containing the high dose-rate Lactobacillus buchneriNCIMB 40788 to help improve the aerobic stability of silage if heating is a consistent challenge.

2. Change the feeding schedule. Producers can feed twice daily to help maximize intakes. Ideally more of the total mixed ration (TMR) should be offered at the coolest part of the day — around 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

3. Guard against sorting. Ensure the forage component cannot be sorted out and perform regular TMR push-ups to encourage access and feed intake.

4. Increase availability of water.
 Make sure water is readily available and clean. Check water trough refresh rates; ensure lactating cows have access to a minimum of three inches of linear trough space per head; and clean the water troughs at least once per week.

5. Adjust the ration. For lactating cows, always select the most digestible forages and strive to maximize inclusion of forage neutral detergent fiber (NDF) within the appetite limit of each pen. Check the particle size distribution profile using a Penn State Forage Particle Separator to ensure the distribution is within guidelines. Adding an active dry yeast (ADY) probiotic — like LEVUCELL® SC, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 — can improve rumen function and increase fiber digestion in lactating dairy cows.

In fact, research conducted at the University of Florida on lactating dairy cows has shown S. cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 improved rumen pH compared to control cows during heat stress conditions. In addition, S. cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 supplemented cows had higher milk protein yield and 7.2 percent improved feed efficiency compared to cows that were not supplemented.1 

Probiotics are especially helpful for producers experiencing health challenges as a result of heat or other stressors. Another probiotic strain, Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079, has been proven to positively activate the immune system of cattle during times of stress.

“When heat stress occurs, normal rumen and immune function is disrupted. This worsens the already significant effects of heat stress in dairy cattle,” Hall says. “With simple changes, we can help cattle continue to perform well even under heat stress conditions where feed intake is decreased.”
 

Indian dairy farmers to study Australian practices

Innovative dairy farming techniques from South Australia will be taught to trainers from India to help build workforce capability in the world’s biggest dairy market.

Parag Milk Foods, which owns Bhagyalakshmi Dairy Farm in Manchar – India’s largest private dairy farm – will send four of its dairy trainers to South Australia later this year to receive a mix of classroom and hands-on training from TAFE SA  lecturers.

The trainers will learn about nutrition, housing and calf rearing, among other dairy topics at TAFE SA campuses in Adelaide and in the state’s South East region, which has a long history of producing premium dairy products for Australian and global markets.

TAFE SA is South Australia’s largest vocational education and training provider and one of the largest in Australia.

The Indian dairy trainers will be certified to train dairy farmers at Bhagayalakshmi back in Western India.

TAFE SA Director of Primary Industries, Animal and Laboratory Sciences Ann Beacham said TAFE SA had extensive experience in providing primary production, animal welfare and livestock management training both nationally and internationally.

“TAFE SA’s dairy and agriculture lecturers have many years’ of experience in industry as well as established support networks of industry specialists,” Beacham said.

India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of milk and dairy products.

TAFE SA staff visited Parag Milk Foods and the Bhagyalakshmi Dairy Farm in April 2016 to undertake a scoping visit ahead of the partnership.

In addition, they attended the Global Rajasthan Agricultural Meet in November 2016 – at the invitation of the Rajasthan Government – to gain a greater understanding of the challenges facing the agricultural and dairy sectors of Manchar and Rajasthan, particularly around capacity building.

South Australia and Rajasthan formalized a sister-state relationship based on an exchange of technical capabilities and research in 2015. The agreement provides collaborative opportunities across key sectors such as water management and farming.

Parag Milk Foods Chairman Devendra Shah said the partnership with TAFE SA would help the company improve the productivity of its cows by better educating farmers on best practice for breeding, feeding, animal husbandry and management.

“We are aiming to train all of our associated dairy farmers under this initiative,” Shah said.

“We are also looking at creating a pool of professional farm hands in various aspects of farm management.”

The train-the-trainer partnership between TAFE SA and Parag Milk Foods was facilitated by Austrade.

Australian Trade Commissioner in India Mark Morley said Austrade hoped to replicate similar partnerships between Australia and India, and other Asian markets such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh going forward.

“This partnership demonstrates the possibilities of collaboration between the agricultural industries of both countries as India focuses on climate resilient agriculture production capabilities,” Morley said.

Source: theleadsouthaustralia.com.au

It can be more difficult to understand employees than cows!

Good performance by employees and good management of employees are related, yet each bears personal responsibility for their role. How do we develop both farm employers and employees in their roles?

Whether on a dairy farm, a restaurant on the hill, a shop producing parts or at a medical facility, the reality is that for most businesses, employees determine if business goals are achieved and customers are satisfied. How can management get the best out of them? How can management instill in their employees the values that are important to them?

As an Extension Educator with Michigan State University, I have spent a lot of time in recent years talking about those questions with dairy farmers. Dairy farms in the county and around the state employ people at a rate of approximately 1 employee per 50 cows. With around 425,000 dairy cows in Michigan, that equates to about 8,500 employees on dairy farms in this state. Those employees are critical to achieving the goal of producing high quality food from healthy, comfortable cows in an environmentally safe manner.

Farmers, like many business owners and managers, often complain about employees. I often hear laughable, yet sad stories about employee excuses for not coming to work or about escapades at the workplace. And as is only natural, the finger is squarely pointed at employees.

Frankly, there are faults on both ends of that finger. My work has been aimed at helping farmers look at what they do as employers and how that impacts employee performance, and then work with them to change what they do to hopefully get better employee performance and retention.

While it is always easier to lay the blame elsewhere than to change ourselves, the problem is important enough that we cannot default to this. Ineffective employee management leads to high turnover rates, missed opportunities, increased costs and increased mistakes, including injuries. It is time to change.

But recognizing that change is important does not make it any easier. I have long told dairy farmers that managing cows is much easier than managing employees. Yet, better cow performance (or better performance in any business) often happens because of better employee management, which begins with improved self-management. It needs to start at the top and it needs to start with you.

At the same time, my colleagues and I with Michigan State University Extension work to directly help employees increase their skill level and have conducted workshops for employees. These are designed to help employees understand not only how they should do things, but as importantly, the why behind the protocols.

But even these are not enough. As I continue to talk with farmers and colleagues and read about employee performance, the issue of work ethic keeps coming up. The reality is that many people do not possess a strong work ethic that drives them in both knowing the right thing to do and doing it.

I have been planning a series of articles and online learning modules for employees that focus on basic workplace values and performance that will help them to be successful in their job, whatever it is. As I do that, I am interested to hear from employees as well as employers on what values, skills and actions are critical from their viewpoint and what can be done to help improve the partnership between employers and employees in the workplace.

This is an invitation to contact me and share your thoughts and experience. What I am seeking are positive suggestions that others could adopt in their workplace. How can management be better? What brings out the best in employees? How do you instill values in employees? What motivators have been effective?

Email your thoughts to me at durstp@msu.edu. As I continue to develop this area I will share what I have learned back with you. The goal is to develop workplaces, whether on the farm or not, where employers and employees work together better for a better business. That is something we can all get behind!

 

Source: MSU Extension

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

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