Archive for Management

Robotic dairy survives on economy of scale

On a dairy farm in rural Eyota, Minn., a day-old calf wobbles up to a robotic feeding stall. An RFID reader scans the tag clipped to the calf’s ear and measures the amount of milk allotted to the baby as she drinks from the feeder.

In just a generation or two, farmers have embraced high-tech advances in their fields and barns.

But those advances led to a sharp increase in production in the midst of a trade war with two of the U.S.’s largest dairy export markets. That has left many American farms awash with excess product and no one to sell it to. However, the economy of scale has kept some larger dairy producers afloat.

“There’s been a crazy amount of technology added to farming,” said Dana Allen-Tully, a manager and operator of the multigenerational Gar-Lin Dairy Farms. “We can access our cow files on our phone, I can look up a specific cow on my phone, or I can see what the feeders are doing on my phone.”

The automatic feeders allow calves to have multiple, smaller meals throughout the day to mirror the feeding schedule they would have if they were out in the pasture with their moms.

Each calf is fitted with an ear tag shortly after it’s born that has an identification code, similar to a Social Security number, that can be scanned by the automatic feeder when the baby approaches the milk distribution stall.

Information associated with that code, such as how much a calf should eat and when it should eat, is transmitted to the feeder and governs the flow of milk through the dispenser.

Data from robotic feeders are fed back to a handheld device, where supervisors can monitor how much the calves drink and how fast.

“Calf feeding is by far one of the hardest jobs on the farm because it’s so physical. You’re dealing with a calf that weighs 100 pounds and you’ve got to lift it and work with it, so this was built to improve the environment for the employees too,” Allen-Tully said.

Gar-Lin is an efficient operation. It pasteurizes waste milk to feed to calves, instead of dumping the milk and purchasing milk replacement, and roughly half a mile away Gar-Lin employees harvest hay to feed their herd.

They grow their own to reduce the cost of feed, and they use manure from their cows to fertilize their fields.

Of the 4,500 acres they farm, 3,100 of that goes to feed the animals.

They’ve become partially independent of external suppliers to keep their cost down and to keep in line with federal EPA regulations that apply to dairy farms of 700 head or more. They have an on-site nutritionist who analyzes the feed and balances rations to optimize milk production as well as cow health and performance.

“Our cows eat a way better diet than I do,” Allen-Tully said, laughing.

Gar-Lin Dairy was purchased by Allen-Tully’s parents from her grandparents in the mid-1970s. At that time, they were milking about 40 cows.

Dana’s parents decided to expand the dairy and by the time Dana graduated from high school, they were milking 300 cows. When Dana returned to the farm after college, her parents had doubled their herd to 600 cows.

In 2006 the herd expanded to 1,100, and from there it’s grown to the current size of 2,000 cows and 45 employees. Allen-Tully attributed the growth as necessary to make a profit in an industry with stagnant milk prices but inflation in equipment and supply costs.

“Consolidation in the dairy industry is happening way faster than I expected it to,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll be considered a ‘big farm’ for very long, I think we’ll be average.”

She noted that the cost structure of products in the market, such as deeper discounts on supplies for producers who buy in larger bulk orders, is driving smaller farmers out of business and prompting mid-size farms to expand to survive.

“I can buy a gallon of teat dip so much cheaper than someone who uses only a gallon, because I buy 275 gallons at a time and they’re going to buy 15,” she said. “I think it’s sad.”

Gar-Lin fills three 6,000-gallon tanks to be shipped per day to manufacturing and distribution facilities.

The dairy’s semi-robotic carousel in the parlor can milk up to 50 cows at a time and 270 cows in an hour. The machine monitors and records the amount of milk each animal produces, as each cow walks on and off the carousel on their own.

They send their milk to Land O’Lakes, which sells dairy products internationally through partnerships with major food manufacturers across the globe.

“I think trade has affected us, but the issues that they’re trying to fix should have been fixed a long time ago,” Dana said.

She hopes Congress will pass the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada and noted that Mexico received more dairy products from the United States than any other trading partner before the trade war.


Alfalfa heaving: A potential concern for this year’s alfalfa crop

Alfalfa stands across the Midwest are sometimes damaged during the winter and early spring. Winter injuries are most commonly the result of extremely low or fluctuating temperatures, persistent ice sheeting and lack of snow cover. These environmental conditions can lead to decreased crop quality and yield losses via exposure to disease and plant death.

During my on-farm visits with dairy producers this spring, I have witnessed a significant increase in the number of alfalfa fields affected by alfalfa heaving. Alfalfa heaving is a condition defined by alfalfa crowns and roots being forced above the surface of the soil as a result of freezing and thawing. Heaving occurs more commonly in heavy soils that feature a high moisture content. Repeated freezing and thawing causes soil expansion and contraction, which pushes the taprooted plants out of the soil in late winter and/or early spring. Older alfalfa stands are especially prone to heaving, due to their more developed taproot, compared to grasses or first-year alfalfa stands, which have more fibrous root systems.

Heaved alfalfa plants can be damaged in four ways:

  1. Roots can be mechanically damaged by the lifting itself
  2. Roots and crowns can be dried out when exposed to air
  3. Exposed crowns and roots can be injured by cold air temperatures
  4. Lifted plants can be cut off below the crown when harvested

Scout potentially affected fields

Evaluate your alfalfa stand when two to four inches of growth become available, in order to count the number of stems per square foot. Assuming heaving damage is minimal, an alfalfa stand needs at least 40 stems per square foot to be economically viable and, ideally, 55 or more stems per square foot to ensure maximum yield potential. After the initial observation of your alfalfa field, dig up a few plants to determine if the taproot is broken. Alfalfa plants with broken taproots will likely green up initially but die when temperatures rise and the soil dries out. The length of time before the plant dies will typically depend on the length of taproot above the break, and the plant’s lifespan can vary widely, from only reaching green-up (broken three to four inches below soil surface) to sufficient growth for the first crop (taproot broken six to eight inches below the soil surface) to growth until the first dry spell (taproot broken eight to 12 inches below the soil surface).

Severe heaving: Fields with more than 1.5 inches of heaving (as measured from the soil surface to the top of the crown) will likely have broken taproots and can also suffer significant damage from harvesting equipment. These fields will most likely need to be terminated immediately and transitioned into another crop species for the upcoming growing season, since over-seeding alfalfa in an existing alfalfa stand is not an option, due to the potential for autotoxicity death in new alfalfa seedlings.

Moderate heaving: Fields with one inch of heaving or less are likely to have unbroken taproots and may be salvageable for at least the current year. These fields may have a delayed green-up and might require both a more delayed harvest than normal (i.e., 25 percent bloom) and a raised cut height at harvest to ensure a cut above the now elevated crown height. If taproots are unbroken, natural settling can occur during the growing season, and if they are reseated, the alfalfa should survive into the next growing season. Stands entering winter with elevated crowns will likely suffer winter injury and kill.

What are our options?

Depending on the severity of the heaving, right now could be the best time to establish a plan to ensure adequate forage inventory for the upcoming year. If heaving is confined to patches in the field, consider renovating the stand by re-seeding the affected patches. If moderate heaving allows you to keep the field for more than one year, consider planting red clover or a mixture of red clover and grass to ensure an adequate forage yield. If the goal is to maintain the field for this growing season, and if additional legume yield is desired, consider berseem clover, crimson clover or even field or forage peas, depending on the ratio of seed cost to potential yield. It is important to remember that, when another grass or legume is patched into an existing stand, the newly-seeded area will need time — often, a minimum of 60 days after planting — to become established prior to harvest. If severe heaving has taken place and the alfalfa stand is terminated but additional forage is required, other options include warm-season sorghum Sudangrass and Sudangrass BMR varieties, which can be planted and harvested within a 50- to 60-day window, followed by subsequent harvests every 30 days into the fall (in optimal growing conditions). Other cool-season grass options for filling forage inventories include spring cereal grains, such as oats, barley, triticale and Italian rye grass.

Minimize the potential of future heaving

The most practical method of reducing heaving in future years is to leave residue or approximately six inches of stubble on the soil surface from the fall through the winter. Residue helps reduce heaving by insulating the soil, which decreases the potential for freezing and thawing. Another great way to reduce instances of heaving is tiling fields to enhance draining internally and on the surface.

For additional information, see my previous article on evaluating alfalfa stands for winter injury.


Hesterman, O.B. and J.C. Durling. 1991. Avoiding winter injury to alfalfa. MSU Extension Bulletin E-2310.

Lewandowski, R. 2019. Check alfalfa stands for heaving damage.

Undersander. D. 2009. Heaving in alfalfa fields. University of Wisconsin Agronomy Advice.


Slow Spring Shaves Hay Yield, Quality Issues

LMIC lowered hay yields across the board this week and edged prices up as this spring continues to have devasting impact on fields and fieldwork. Reports out of the Northern Plains and Midwest with respect to hay are not positive. New seedings of alfalfa in those states are about half of all new seedings this year, and some of those acres are likely struggling with soils that are wet, cold, or flooded. Winterkill was also potentially an issue in these areas, as this winter was not the kindest either. It is unknown how many of those fields face irrecoverable situations, but for now, we assume that should the fields dry out those acres will still be harvested, but may lose a cutting.

With all the rain and lack of sun, it has been very difficult to get into fields. Fieldwork has the potential to tear up fields as well, further adding to yield drag. First cutting appears to be delayed across the Midwest and Northern Plains. The quality that is being taken off those fields will also face challenges. Windows for drying have been few and far between. High quality, dairy-quality hay is most at risk.

The latest USDA-NASS Agricultural Prices showed hay prices jump nationwide, adding $15 per ton to alfalfa when compared to the previous month and $4 to other hay. Tight hay stocks hasn’t helped the situation and prices are expected to be high early in the year. The Northern Plains and Midwest are not major alfalfa producing regions. Production last year in those states was 36% of total alfafa production, but as the new seedings report indicated there was an incentive to plant more acres. The potential to catch up production later in the year remains an optimistic bias to raising prices too high too fast. The western states haven’t had near the moisture problems that other regions of the country have experienced and good production should help keep alfalfa prices similar to a year ago. In other hay, the Midwest and Northern Plains are some of the highest producing states. LMIC moved yields slightly lower on delayed first cutting, but may have to adjust much lower should first cutting be missed entirely. Hay stocks are presumably tight in other hay as well, and if a cutting is lost, high prices could continue through summer.


Source: LMIC

Calf Success: What you need to know about electrolyte therapy in young calves

Young calves are around 70–75 percent water by bodyweight and must be well-hydrated in order to stay healthy and grow to their full potential. Dehydration and severe electrolyte loss in calves can stem from several causes including inadequate water intake and heat stress. However, the main culprit to dehydration is often due to bouts of diarrhea, more commonly called scours, which can cause calves to lose 5-12 percent of their bodyweight as water. Smith et al., (2012) reported that, despite progress in understanding the pathophysiology of neonatal diarrhea, recent data indicates that over 60 percent of dairy calf deaths in the U.S. are the result of diarrhea. When calf diarrhea hits, it is critical to reverse the effects of dehydration to avoid metabolic acidosis, weakness, severe weight loss and/or mortality. Oral rehydration by electrolyte therapy is an effective way to reverse the symptoms of dehydration, and is a relatively simple process if protocols are put into place and adhered to by calf-raising staff.

What are electrolytes?

Electrolyte products typically include a combination of sodium, energy, amino acids and alkalizing agents designed to get calves back on their feet. Electrolyte therapy is a common management practice used to replenish fluids and combat metabolic problems in a dehydrated calf, including acidosis and electrolyte losses associated with diarrhea.

When should I provide electrolytes?

Dehydration: As is illustrated in Table 1, calves who are 5 percent dehydrated will show no clinical signs of dehydration, although they will present with diarrhea. In other words, a scouring calf is a dehydrated calf. The amount of electrolyte product a dehydrated calf needs to rehydrate is based on calf bodyweight and dehydration percent. For example, if a100 pound calf is estimated to be 8 percent dehydrated, she will have lost 100 x 0.08 = 8 lb water / 2 = 4.0 quarts of liquid. To replace the water lost due to scouring, she will need to replenish that 1.8 quarts of liquid on top of her normal milk or milk replacer feeding. If a calf is down and will not suckle, it is advised to contact your veterinarian about administering IV fluids to rehydrate and reverse acidosis as soon as possible.

Stress events: Electrolytes can be given to calves who have recently been or will be placed under a stress event, such as pre- or post-transport. It is common practice for calves to receive a dose of electrolytes before they are loaded onto a truck for transport, and, depending on how long the haul is, a second dose immediately after arriving at their new destination. Providing electrolytes gives young calves the extra boost they need to combat the negative side effects of stress and can also help keep them hydrated on longer hauls.

Timing: Electrolytes should be fed to calves several hours after milk feedings and should never be mixed in with the milk or milk replacer. Mixing electrolyte powder with the milk diet does not give a scouring calf the additional water she requires to rehydrate and can change digestion by altering the casein clot in the abomasum. Under heat stress conditions, electrolytes should be given at an equal interval between milk feedings. For example, if calves are fed in the morning and evening, an electrolyte feeding should be offered at noon. If necessary, a second electrolyte feeding can be offered a few hours after the evening milk feeding.

Should I skip milk feedings?

Scouring calves lose water and nutrients faster than their non-scouring counterparts, and require the liquid and nutrients provided by their milk feedings. Very few electrolyte products offer calves the nutrients required to maintain immune system function, as most electrolytes only provide 15–25 percent of the calf’s daily energy requirements. The decision to skip a milk feeding should be based upon the milk feeding program implemented. For example, if a calf is receiving more than 2.5 pounds of milk powder equivalent per day, she likely has enough nutrition to get her through a skipped meal. On the other hand, a calf receiving only 1.25 pounds of milk powder per day should not miss a milk feeding, although skipping may be necessary if the calf is presenting with bloat or will not eat.

Not all electrolytes are created equal

When comparing electrolyte products available for purchase, it is important to know not only what you’re looking for, but also why you’re looking for it. Of course, the most important component of an oral rehydration solution is water itself, and any good electrolyte will contain the following:

Sodium: Dehydrated calves secrete sodium, and this mechanism can be exacerbated in the presence of Salmonella and E. Coli. Water and sodium are closely linked, and water follows where sodium goes; thus sodium absorption in the small intestine also promotes water absorption. Sodium should be included in an oral electrolyte solution at 10–145 mmol/L.

Energy source: A simple sugar, such as dextrose (glucose), provides quick energy to the calf and also assists with sodium absorption through the small intestine. Glucose should be included at no more than 200 mmol/L due to solution osmolarity limitations.

Glycine: This is a non-essential amino acid that assists glucose absorption. Rehydration is key when considering a dehydrated calf. Sodium, glucose, and glycine are all tied together and play a key role in the water uptake mechanism of the small intestine.

Alkalizing agents: These are added to help reverse any metabolic acidosis that may be occurring within the calf. The most common alkalizing agents are acetate and bicarbonate, although some products may include propionate, citrate or lactate. The use of bicarbonate has been under scrutiny, as some believe it buffers the abomasum of the calf, which could affect the casein clot and, in turn, alter the calf’s digestive processes. Sodium acetate can be advantageous, as it does not buffer abomasal pH and offers some additional energy to the calf — but it can be two to three times more expensive than sodium bicarbonate and is very hydroscopic in dry form.

Electrolytes: Potassium and chloride are also included in oral rehydration products in order to maintain blood pH and assist with other metabolic functions.

Gelling agents: These include psycillium husk, pectin, guar gum and other gums, and function by thickening the manure in an attempt to reduce diarrhea and increase fluid retention. Including gelling agents in the oral rehydration solution, has not shown to be either advantageous or detrimental, so their inclusion is typically based on the personal preference of the producer. While some producers believe that gelling agents reduce scours and improve fluid retention, others believe that the agents make it difficult to diagnose whether a calf is still scouring and that the slowed passage rate makes it more difficult to pass toxins through the gastrointestinal tract.

Work with your veterinarian to diagnose and treat scours. Electrolytes help calves get back on their feet but do not necessarily combat the pathogen causing the scours. Remember: a scouring calf is a dehydrated calf, and oral rehydration therapy is an effective way to keep calves both hydrated and healthy.

Table 1. Clinical symptoms for evaluating the percent dehydration in calves.

(Adapted from J. M. Naylor, Can. Vet. J. 1989).

References:Heinrichs, J., and S. Kehoe. 2016. Electrolytes for dairy calves. Penn State Extension.

Quigley, J. 2001. Electrolytes for scouring calves.

Lauer, V. Calf Electrolytes. Progressive Dairyman. July 2018.

Naylor, J. M. 1989. A retrospective study of the relationship between clinical sings and severity of acidosis in diarrheic calves. Can. Vet. J. 30:577-580.

Smith, G. W., A. F. Ahmed, and P. D. Constable. 2012. Effect of orally administered electrolyte solution formulation on abomasal luminal pH and emptying rate in dairy calves. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 8:1075-1082.


Managing to Get More Milk and Profit from Pasture

Grazing management is the foundation of a successful and profitable pasture based system. For dairy producers who adopt a grazing system, proper management of low cost pasture is critical. In order to maintain or improve profitability, emphasis needs to be on reducing costs and/or improving efficiency at the farm level. Increased reliance on grazed forages offers considerable opportunity to reduce costs. In the USA, the estimated cost of pasture is about one-half the cost of ensiled legume or grass forages on a dry matter basis. The intake by the dairy cow and the efficiency with which low cost pasture is utilized is the single most important factor determining profitability. In grazing, it is about intake.

Potential Pasture Intake and Milk Output

Research from several counties has demonstrated that with well-managed grazing systems, pasture intakes of 35 to 40 lb. of dry matter (DM)/cow/day can be achieved by Holsteins with pasture as the only feedstuff. This is about 3% of the bodyweight for Holstein cows. In a study at Penn State University, we obtained a daily pasture intake of 45 lb/DM/cow with high genetic Holstein cows fed grass pasture as the only feedstuff. This intake can provide adequate energy to theoretically support up to 50 to 60 lb. of milk/day with Holsteins. However, most cows may still lose substantial body condition to achieve this production since energy outgo exceeds energy intake. Pasture intake and milk yields of this magnitude may only be achieved in the spring or early summer when pasture growth and quality are high. With the generally favorable price of milk in relation to grain supplement in the USA, it is most economical for most graziers to feed supplemental concentrates and feedstuffs rather than feed only pasture.

Factors Influencing Pasture Intake and Milk Output

In confinement operations, DMI is determined by feeding management, the amount fed, frequency of feeding, and other factors. Pasture intake by the grazing dairy cow is largely determined by how effective the cow harvests the pasture in the field. How full is the pasture feedbunk? This depends primarily on the grazing time and the rate of intake during that grazing period. The amount of pasture consumed is characterized by the amount of time spent grazing (grazing time, GT); the rate at which pasture is taken into the mouth (biting rate, BR), and the amount of pasture DM eaten with each bite (intake per bite mass or bite size). This can be written more simply as pasture intake = grazing time x biting rate x bite size. Grazing time and biting rate are primarily animal factors, which means that dairy producers have little control of these factors.

a Primarily animal factors
b Primarily influenced by sward factors

High yielding cows have a stronger hunger drive than low yielding cows, and consequently graze for longer times (500 to 700 minutes/day) and have high biting rates (up to 65 bites/minute). However, the major factor influencing pasture intake is the amount of herbage intake per bite, or bite mass. Bite mass can be controlled by management. Small increases in the intake/bite can have a major effect on daily pasture intake and animal performance. Bite size is primarily influenced by sward factors such as grass height and density of pasture, and the proportion of green leaf in the sward. If intake per bite declines, as it inevitably does on short swards, the behavioral constraints on biting rate and grazing time mean a reduction in daily forage intake. The amount of time spent grazing increases as the amount of pasture decreases, which is why high producing cows need to be provided a dense sward with at least 6 to 8 inches pasture height depending on the type of grass.

We conducted a study at Penn State where we compared concentrate supplementation when high yielding Holstein cows grazed at two pasture allowances (55 vs. 90 lb. of pasture DM/cow/day). Cows were equipped with electronic recorders to monitor eating and chewing behavior (see Table 1). Cows fed only pasture grazed about 617 minutes/day (10 hr), and averaged 56 bites/minute. This resulted in about 35,000 bites/day. This suggests that grazing cows may need stronger jaws and mouths than cows fed in confinement!

Table 1. Grazing behavior, intake, and milk yield of unsupplemented and supplemented cows grazing two pasture allowancesa.
aBargo, et al, J. Dairy Sci. 85:1777-1792 (2002).
bCows were fed 19 lb. concentrate per day, or about 1 lb/3.5 lb of milk.
  Low pasture allowance,
(55 lb/cow/day)
High pasture allowance,
(90 lb/cow/day)
  0 Suppl. + Suppl.b 0 Suppl. + Suppl.b
Grazing Behavior        
Grazing time, min/day 609 534 626 522
Bites/minute 56 54 56 55
Intake/bite, g DM/bite 0.55 0.55 0.60 0.59
Total bites/day 34,400 28,500 35,200 28,600
Intake (lb/day)        
Pasture 38.5 34.1 45.1 35.4
Supplement 19.1 19.1
Total 38.5 53.2 45.1 54.6
Milk yield, lb/day 42.1 65.3 48.8 65.8

In our study, the cows that produced more milk had more total bites (Figure 1). In fact, some cows producing over 80 lb. of milk had over 40,000 bites per day.

Figure 1. Milk production versus number of bites in a Penn State study of cows given two pasture allowances.

Obviously, adequate pasture availability is essential for cows to have this large number of bites. The most notable difference was the intake/bite. The unsupplemented cows in our study that were provided with a larger pasture allowance had a slightly higher DMI/bite (0.60 vs. 0.55 g) (Table 1). Couple this with the slightly longer grazing time, and these cows consumed 7 lb. (45 vs. 38 lb.) more pasture DM/day, and produced 6.8 lb. (48.8 vs. 42.0 lb.) more milk than cows with less available pasture.

In this study, the cows fed 19 lb. of concentrate consumed less pasture, since concentrate replaced pasture. Total feed intake was greater as expected. Daily milk production was 17 lb. (65.8 vs 48.5 lb.) to 23.3 lb. (65.3 vs 42.0 lb.) greater with supplementation. There was one lb. of milk response for each one lb. of concentrate fed (Table 1). Cows provided a lower pasture allowance had a larger increase in total feed intake and milk production than cows offered the higher pasture allowance. Cows fed the lower pasture allowance were obviously underfed, and had inadequate available pasture. This is common among graziers, particularly in the summer when pasture growth decreases.

Managing Pasture to Maximize Intake and Performance

What is available forage? The inches of available pasture is determined by measuring the height of the pasture and subtracting the desired stubble (residual) height. Pasture should be measured in several representative spots to get an average height. In Figure 2, the total forage from the soil surface is 7 to 8 inches. With a residual stubble height of 2 to 3 inches, the cow has 4 to 6 inches of available forage. It is important that the stubble height be maintained to assure the survival of the desired plant species. This is especially so under drought conditions where over-grazing will severely damage stands and delay regrowth. Under severe drought conditions animals should be removed from pasture and fed stored forages.

Figure 2. What is available forage?

The quantity of available pasture, which includes pasture height and density, is key to maximizing intake. Just as an empty feed bunk limits the intake and milk yield in a confinement dairy operation, an “empty pasture feed bunk” will limit intake and productivity. The effects of changes in sward height and bulk density on bite mass (intake/bite) with high producing Holsteins are illustrated in Figure 3. These data indicate a relationship between sward height and bite mass, with large increases in bite mass with increasing height over the range from 4 to 10 inches. Bite mass or intake per bite declines more rapidly with decreasing sward height in low density, or “open” swards. The implications suggest that in order to maximize herbage intake, you need to have a “dense” sward to maximize intake/bite and total intake and profitability.

Figure 3. Effect of sward height and sward density on bite mass at different sward densities.

To optimize milk production and profitability, we need to provide cows with pastures that allow them to consume high pasture intake. We need a pasture sward that provides a mouthful of highly digestible forage in every bite. If the pasture sward is too short, cows will not have as much intake per bite, and they will spend energy and grazing time. If animals are forced to graze pasture below 2 to 3 inches, to a short stubble or residual height, this will likely reduce the pasture regrowth.

In the recent Penn State study with Holstein cows (Table 1), the allocation of 90 lb. of pasture DM/cow/day clearly resulted in more pasture intake (45 lb. DM) than the allocation of 55 lb/cow/day (38.5 lb/day). In reviewing research from several countries, it appears that about 80 to 90 lb. of pasture DM should be available daily to each cow if maximum pasture intake is to be achieved when pasture is the only feedstuff. Supplementation with concentrates will reduce the pasture intake because of substitution rate and reduce the pasture allowance needed. We suggest the following (Table 2) as a guideline for pasture allowance.

Table 2. Pasture allowance and availability guidelines.
Expected dry matter intake (DMI) Pasture Allowance (DM)
Pasture Concentrate Total
lb DM/cow/day
40 0 40 70-80
37 6 43 60-70
34 12 46 50-60
31 18 49 40-50

For an example calculation, let’s assume that we have 100 cows and that 2,500 lb. DM/acre of pasture is available based on pasture measurements. Note, this is pasture DM cut to ground level. If our goal is 30 lb. of DMI/cow/day, then we need about 40 to 50 lb. of available pasture DM/cow/day (Table 2). This assumes about 60 to 70% efficiency of utilization. With 100 cows x 50 lb. of available pasture DM/cow, we need about 5,000 lb. of available pasture DM/day. With this information, about 2 acres of pastureland is needed per day to achieve 30 lb. DMI/cow/day for a 100-cow herd.

Assessment of available pasture is needed on a regular basis, just like the assessment of feed refusals and daily intake is needed for confinement feeding. If less pasture is provided, cows will reduce this pasture DMI, and more concentrate and forage supplementation is needed to maintain milk production.

We must emphasize that this example and discussion focuses on optimizing intake on a daily basis, similar to the daily feeding of a TMR in confinement. In both systems, we must plan and budget the acreage of land for each year’s forage. With pasture systems in the northeast and upper Midwest, providing one acre/cow for a 6- to 7-month grazing season is a reasonable target. This does not include pasture land needed for heifers and dry cows.


Grazed pasture represents the cheapest source of nutrients for dairy cows. Management of dairy cows and pasture is a major challenge, given the variation in grass growth and grazing conditions during the grazing season. Providing adequate available pasture that has dense sward will maximize the intake/bite and maximize pasture intake and low cost milk production. Allocation of the correct amount of area and pasture to achieve maximum intake is an important decision that the manager must make each day.


Access to skilled overseas workers now easier for Australian dairy farmers

Dairy farmers now have more opportunities to attract and retain staff, after skilled overseas workers employed under a Dairy Industry Labour Agreement were made eligible for permanent residency.

The changes were successfully progressed by the Australian Dairy Farmers, working closely with Dairy Australia, making the Australian dairy industry more attractive to skilled international labour.

The pathway gives dairy farmer Kristen Clark, from Finley, NSW, the opportunity to retain her skilled overseas worker who has developed a strong understanding of her farming system.

The fifth-generation dairy farmer milks 900 cows in the Riverina region alongside her mother, Helen and sister, Donna, producing more than eight million litres per year.

Kristen employs four family members on the farm, as well as five long-term local staff.

With farm workers increasingly hard to find in her local area, Kristen has employed a farm hand from Guatemala for the past five years under a temporary visa through a Dairy Industry Labour Agreement.

“We have always struggled to build our workforce and fill positions by getting locals on the farm,” Ms Clark said.

“We fill the gap with overseas workers, but the issue is that is they’re only able to be here for a limited time and they’re generally unskilled.

“The person we’ve employed has a built her skill base working for us — when she finishes up, we have to start from scratch with someone else.”

For each new farm worker Kristen employs, she estimates the cost to her farm business to be about $2000 in recruitment and training.

As well as reducing the cost of hiring new farm workers, the permanent residency pathway gives Kristen the opportunity to give her staff more training, building their capacity to learn new skills as her mum takes a step back from hands-on tasks.

Kristen also sees permanent residency as an opportunity for her overseas workers to get more involved in the local community.

“We want to employ people who live in our community, so we can give back to our community, but there will always be gaps to fill,” she said.

“People with permanent residency can fill that gap, because they get involved in the community as well.”

Farm hand Janeth Ventura is excited by the opportunities a permanent residency pathway will bring for her family and her dairy career.

The 36-year-old has raised her two children, aged 3 and 6, in Australia and hopes a permanent residency pathway will allow her to continue living in rural Australia, creating more stability for her family and her role on-farm.

“My father had a small dairy farm in my home country, so I’m in my element with this job and I love working with Australian dairy cows,” Ms Ventura said.

“I think working in Australia has improved my skills — I’ve learned new abilities because the farming system is so different.”

Through a permanent residency pathway, Ms Ventura hopes to upskill and pursue further training.

To vary existing labour agreements or apply for a new labour agreement to enable a pathway to permanent residency for their valued staff, farmers should email:

More information on the Labour Agreement can be found at the People in Dairy website at


Source: Farm Online

MU dairy first to use new breeding system in grazing herd

Early breeding allows lactating cows to be put on grass at peak quality and quantity when the nutritional need of cows is highest.

Researchers at the University of Missouri’s Foremost Dairy Research Center near Columbia are the first to use the Double Ovsynch timed artificial insemination (AI) protocol with a grazing dairy herd.

This year MU Extension dairy veterinarian Scott Poock bred cows in late April, two weeks earlier than usual. By front-loading the breeding season, Poock hopes to narrow calving to a six-week period from Feb. 1 to March 15.

The controlled calving window makes the most of the pasture-based grazing system at Foremost, Poock says. He wants cows and calves grazing when forage peaks. He also wants to maximize the lactation period.

This puts some pressure on cows to get pregnant right away. “They have to calve when we want them to or they fall out of the system,” he says.

Poock used Double Ovsynch to breed the 30-head grazing herd. While Double Ovsynch is commonly used in confinement herds in the United States, Foremost is the first to use the system in a grazing herd, Poock says.

To move all cows in the herd to the same breeding cycle, dairy workers insert a controlled internal drug release (CIDR) applicator coated with progesterone into each cow’s system. The progesterone is released into the bloodstream at a controlled rate to synchronize the estrus.

The flexible wings of the T-shaped applicator collapse to form a rod for easy insertion. The attached tail removes easily. Removal results in a drop in plasma progesterone and triggers estrus within days.

Poock compared Double Ovsynch with and without a CIDR. He will compare breeding response in these two groups in follicle development, estradiol levels and pregnancy rates. He takes ultrasound readings at two points: prostaglandin administration and artificial insemination.

Poock and his MU students also study how a head start on breeding improves conception rates in grazing herds. Poock’s research shows that heat-stressed cows have poorer conception rates. In 2018, Foremost cows were bred in mid-May, when temperatures soared and conception rates dropped.

Poock says the farm keeps replacement heifers from AI-bred cows to Holstein and Jersey dairy bulls. Heifers from the cows bred by a beef bull will be sold.

Poock works on these projects with MU Extension dairy specialist Stacey Hamilton and MU animal science professors Thomas McFadden and Matt Lucy.

To learn more about Foremost Dairy Research Center, part of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, go to in new window).


Four Tips to Fight Flies

What’s the buzz? Well, this time of year, the buzz you are hearing can only be one thing, flies. As temperatures rise, bugs and particularly flies begin to repopulate, and it doesn’t matter which species of livestock you show, pesky flies are a nuisance to everyone. They like to invade our barns, bite at our animals and can carry diseases. With proper prevention including barn management, daily care and good nutrition, you can do your best to limit your number of unwanted guests this summer.

1. Scoop the Poop

Flies breed and thrive in manure. So, the first step to total fly control is keeping your pens and barn as clean as possible. If you tie your cattle in their pen, make sure you clean their stalls regularly. If cattle are in a cooler, the temperature-controlled environment should help reduce flies already but go a step further and limit the amount of time you are going in and out of the door, so flies don’t get inside. For smaller species like pigs, sheep and goats, be sure to pick the pens throughout the day if you can, in order to keep fresh waste away from the animals. Also consider scooping out any urine-soaked bedding. The longer it sits, the more the ammonia smell will attract flies. When all of the feces and urine is cleaned out of the pen, you should haul the waste as far away from your barn as you can. The closer it is to the barn, the closer the flies will be. Taking it away ensures flies won’t have a breeding ground to reproduce near your barn.

2. Spray at the Source

Depending on your location and the humidity, you might want to spray an insecticide around your premises to keep flies and other insects from making themselves a permanent home in your barn. If you have the means, and flies are big problem because of weather or number of animals in the barn, consider investing in a fly control system that mists insecticide throughout the barn on a timed system. These will help a lot with eliminating flies and are common in pig, horse and large cattle barns.

If you don’t want to spray an insecticide, there are also some other tools you can look into for your barn, such as hanging fly traps, sticky paper or an electric trap. You could also consider poisonous fly bait on the ground, but keep in mind this could be dangerous if livestock were to consume it or if you have other four-legged helpers running around like dogs or cats.

3. Spray the Victim

Spray isn’t just for your barn and the premises. There are also many livestock sprays on the market that are safe and effective to use with a variety of animals to keep the flies away. Be sure to read and follow the label directions and use accordingly. Also pay attention to how much of it you put on if it is an oil-based product. Too much of it can cause your animal to get hotter and more uncomfortable.

4. Fight Flies with Feed

Did you know you can help control flies in your cattle, sheep and goats while you feed your animals? Sure Champ® Extreme with Climate Control is a pelleted, daily supplement that contains garlic, a natural insect repellent that repels flies through breath and skin excretion. Just like all our Sure Champ Products, Sure Champ Extreme comes with the Amaferm® advantage to promote appetite and digestive health. Extreme also includes ingredients designed to help support animals during extreme temperatures and support hoof and coat care. By feeding Extreme, you should see fewer flies landing on and biting your animals, all while keeping their digestive system healthy.

Flies are inevitable when you raise livestock. You can’t expect to eliminate every single one of them. However, when you plan ahead and take a proactive approach with your management and feeding routine, you can greatly reduce your risk of fly overload. Less flies = less pests, less pests = happy livestock, happy livestock = healthy livestock EVERY. DAY.

To learn more about how to #preptowin with Sure Champ or to find a Sure Champ dealer near you, visit

About BioZyme® Inc.

BioZyme Inc., founded in 1951, develops and manufactures natural, proprietary products focused on animal nutrition, health and microbiology. With a continued commitment to research, BioZyme offers a complete line of feed additives and high density, highly available vitamin, mineral, trace mineral and protein supplements for a variety of animals including cattle, pigs, poultry, sheep, goats, horses and dogs. BioZyme brands include Amaferm®, AO-Biotics®, Amasile™, VitaFerm®, Vita Charge®, Sure Champ®, Vitalize®, and DuraFerm®. Headquartered in St. Joseph, Missouri, BioZyme reaches a global market of customers throughout the U.S., Canada, South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. For more information about BioZyme, visit


Fixer upper: Calf housing edition

Five considerations for retrofitting existing facilities into calf housing.

Indoor calf housing has grown in popularity, particularly in the Midwest where bitterly cold winters make feeding calves in hutches challenging. But building a new calf barn isn’t feasible for everyone.

“Fixing up your old facilities and transforming them into a calf barn can be a cost-effective way to move calves indoors,” said Ben Ekern, Midwest Territory Manager with Calf-Tel.

Here are five considerations for retrofitting existing facilities into indoor calf housing:

1. Ventilation

The first thing to consider when retrofitting an existing facility is ventilation. It’s the most critical component and often the most challenging.

“It has to be done right,” said Ekern. “Getting good air in and bad air out is, without question, of the utmost importance for calf health.”

A minimum of four air changes per hour is ideal to reduce ammonia, minimize bacteria levels and provide a healthy calf environment.

Removing the walls from your existing facility can be a cost-effective way to add natural ventilation and increase air exchanges, but it might not be enough.

“A positive pressure ventilation system can help remove stagnant air and bring fresh air to needed areas,” said Ekern. “Your calves will be thankful you went the extra mile.”

2. Sanitation

Depending on the prior use of the facility you are moving your calves to, it may not be the most sanitary environment. Fully sanitize the facility before you bring in calves. Moving calves is stressful enough without adding contaminants into the mix.

Wash all building surfaces and clean with a sanitizing solution such as chlorine dioxide. While many farmers have bleach readily available, it’s not as effective at killing pathogens and removing biofilms as chlorine dioxide and broader spectrum sanitizers. Let the barn sit empty for at least 5 to 7 days before moving calves in.

Also, when planning your retrofit, consider barn layout for efficient cleaning and sanitation of calf pens.

“If possible, configure the barn to wean the entire barn or section of calves at one time,” said Ekern. “It’s more labor efficient and gives you time to clean, sanitize and let pens sit before new calves move in.”

3. Space

Retrofitted barns don’t always have an ideal footprint for the number of pens or space per pen you need. Overcrowding can cause stress on calves, potentially leading to health issues.

Provide as much space per pen as your facility will allow to keep calves clean and dry and support health. Use existing calf hutches for overflow housing during peak calving times in spring and summer.

“Keeping a row or two of hutches gives you a buffer, so you aren’t overcrowding the calf barn during peak times,” said Ekern. “Hutches are affordable, portable and easy to resell if needed.”

4. Feed delivery

Your delivery method for feeding calves may change once you move indoors. What worked for the hutches may not work in the retrofitted barn.

“Retrofitted facilities might not be equipped with or have space to add a milk house,” said Ekern. “If your milk tank or milk replacer mixing area is too far from the calves, milk temperature may cool down before feeding.”

Have a plan to ensure you’re delivering the proper temperature milk, no matter how far it must travel. You may need to increase the temperature of your mixing water to account for the cooling period during transportation. Use a thermometer to ensure milk or milk replacer is fed at 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Choosing the best pen system

Exposed wood from existing facilities is often used as part of the pen system to cut down on costs. But, wood is porous and can house harmful bacteria, even with a thorough cleaning.

“Any savings from using existing wood can quickly be lost with the extra cost of treating sick calves,” said Ekern. “Make an investment in a plastic pen system for an easier to clean, healthier environment.”

A plastic modular pen system is a great option for retrofitting. Modular pen systems are freestanding and portable. There are no anchors in the cement or costly metal cutting and fitting to lock you into one configuration.

“Retrofitted barns are often a short-term solution before building a new facility down the road,” said Ekern. “A modular pen system can save you money long-term because they can easily move from one barn to the next.”

The Calf-Tel Indoor Pen System helps you make the most of your space for an effective, economical solution to raising calves indoors.

For more information, visit or call Ben Ekern at 507-450-1624 to schedule a calf housing audit.

Hampel Animal Care, a division of Hampel Corporation, began serving the agriculture industry in 1981 with the introduction of the Calf-Tel housing system. Today it is the number one choice for calf housing worldwide.


Baling wet hay becomes hot news

High-moisture grass baled above 24% moisture can cause spontaneous combustion. Overheated bales can burn down a hay barn.

Craig Roberts, University of Missouri forage specialist, said frequent rains this year help grass growth, but it’s been bad for making hay. He’s part of the team on a weekly MU Extension teleconference between state and regional specialists.

Even if damp bales don’t go up in flames, nutrient quality cooks out of hay. Heat destroys carbohydrates and makes proteins indigestible to livestock.

“It’s been hard to find more than a two-day time with sunshine to cure hay,” Roberts said.

Pat Guinan, MU Extension climatologist, said May is normally the rainiest month on average. This year breaks rain records. Some places, particularly in southwestern Missouri, got more than 25 inches of rain in May. More rain remains in forecasts.

Missouri farmers need hay after two drought years depleted their stored feed. With short drying periods, farmers who cut hay shouldn’t rush to bale it while it’s still moist. Just accept the rain and then let the hay dry.

“Rain removes some soluble carbohydrates, but proteins remain intact when moist,” Roberts says. “Poor hay feeds better than moldy hay resulting from damp baled hay.”

All hay carries bacteria. Some thermophilic, or heat-loving, bacteria cause fires in confinement. Hay should not be baled above 20% moisture, Roberts said. Baling at 25-30% moisture asks for trouble.

Haymaking varies widely across Missouri. If producers were lucky enough to harvest first-cutting hay, that removed low-quality seed stems. Second-cutting hay should be higher quality without stems.

“We may make lots of hay, but it’s not high-quality hay,” Roberts said.

Mold and fire are not the only problems. Reports from field specialists told of farmers losing fields of forage to armyworms or alfalfa weevils. Rains didn’t slow pests.


What’s in a healthy cow?

We’re willing to bet that your healthiest cows are the ones you don’t even notice. They’re not on your radar because they simply go about their business, producing high-quality milk with no troubles to you or your team of employees.

We call those unnoticed cows, the four-event cows. If you look at a cow card on your herd management software program, you’ll recognize a four-event cow by the lack of items on her list. Throughout her lactation, she experiences only four events: 1-fresh; 2-bred; 3-confirmed pregnant; and 4-dry.

When those are the only four events in a cow’s lactation, chances are she’s profitable and healthy.

A healthy cow is the resulting sum of many parts: a solid nutrition program, exceptional transition and fresh cow care, proper milking procedures, comfortable housing – and the right genetics!

While genetics makes up only a small part of the full equation, it’s a real and measurable aspect of what’s in a healthy cow.

Healthy genetics?

In April of 2018, the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) released a new set of health traits. These traits are based on the database of recorded cases of common, costly health problems in dairy cattle. These six new traits measure the resistance that animals will have to each respective health and metabolic issue and are in place to help dairy producers breed a next generation of healthier cows.

They include mastitis, labeled as MAST, ketosis (KETO), retained placenta (RETP), metritis (METR), displaced abomasum (DA), and milk fever (MFEV).

Taking advantage of the new health traits in your genetic plan offers a great opportunity to create healthier cows. Most of these new traits are also correlated with Productive Life, so if you want the simplest approach to healthier genetics, Productive Life has you covered.

 Healthier genetics, plain and simple

For more than two decades, PL has told us how many more, or fewer, months a cow is expected to produce within any given herd. While cows are most often culled because of low production or poor fertility, those reasons typically trace back to more specific health issues in the cow’s life.

Selecting for PL or the new health traits within your genetic plan will help you address any specific health issues in your herd.

We know this from the DairyComp analyses we’ve done on many large, progressive herds. In the following example, we analyzed the a well-managed, 2400-cow dairy that does a great job at accurately recording health events. We compared the animals whose sires had the highest average PL against the animals whose sires had the lowest PL values.

No animals are given preferential treatment – they are all cared for with the same, high level management practices. With no other differences separating these animals except their sires’ PL values, we compared how many health events each group had. We looked specifically at cases of mastitis, ketosis, retained placentas, metritis, displaced abomasum, and milk fever.

As expected, Table 1 shows that the cows in the High PL group had far fewer cases for each health event.


Keep the Cow and Her Future Calf Protected

Using killed vaccines during the dry period can help the cow and her calf fight off disease.

When it comes to killed dry cow vaccinations, you’re not only vaccinating for the health of the cow, you’re also providing future protection for the vulnerable calf. Killed vaccines, safely administered at the beginning of the dry cow period, can help keep the dam healthy and enhance the antibody levels found in the colostrum.1

Protection for the Calf

Calves are not born with antibodies, so they must receive them from the colostrum they get at birth. Boosting the antibodies in the colostrum through vaccination has both short- and long-term payoffs. “Immediately, that calf receives protection against the common viral and bacterial infections that are in its environment,” said Mark van der List, DVM, Boehringer Ingelheim. “Calves with successful passive transfer are less likely to develop scours or pneumonia, and are at a reduced risk of mortality.”

To ensure the newborn calf receives maximum benefits, it is recommended to collect the colostrum from the dam and feed to the calf as soon as possible. As the hours pass after calving, the colostrum can be diluted with regular milk, which can lower the concentration of antibodies.

Protection for the Cow

The fresh period is often a time of stress for cows. It can challenge their immune system and leave them susceptible to disease. By vaccinating cows during the dry period, they are more likely to enter the next lactation period with a robust immune system to fight off infectious disease threats. Killed vaccines are an especially safe option for pregnant cows if their health and vaccination histories are unknown. A cow given a modified-live virus (MLV) vaccine that has not been properly immunized with prior vaccinations may abort.

Choosing the Right Vaccination Protocol for Your Herd

“If you decide to incorporate a killed vaccine into your protocol, make sure the one you choose is flexible and provides proven protection against bovine viral diarrhea virus Types 1 and 2, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, bovine respiratory syncytial virus and parainfluenza 3,” remarked Dr. van der List.

When using killed vaccines for the first time, it’s important to give two doses of the vaccine according to label directions. Failure to give a second dose within the correct time frame is a common reason a killed vaccine can fail.1

“Producers should also incorporate a clostridial vaccine,” Dr. van der List asserted. “Clostridial spores thrive on dairy operations, and without vaccination, problems with blackleg or malignant edema could arise in cows with tissue injury from calving and calves can suffer from enterotoxemia. Your veterinarian may also recommend leptospirosis vaccination.” If scours have been an issue on your dairy, consider vaccinating the cows with a scour vaccine to make sure the calf receives those antibodies in the colostrum.

Protection Beyond Vaccination

“It’s important to remember that it takes more than vaccination to keep calves and cows healthy,” stressed Dr. van der List. “In order for a cow’s immune system to respond optimally to vaccination at dry off, a cow must have a good transition period. During that time, proper nutrition, cow comfort and low stress will deliver a much healthier cow and calf.”

Dr. van der List encourages producers to work with their veterinarian for guidance. A dry cow vaccination protocol will vary with management of the farm. “Review your cow and calf health protocols with your veterinarian every year to ensure they’re current and you’re covered for the challenges specific to your environment,” he concluded.


1 New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program Expansion Module. Vaccination strategies to maximize preventive health and to minimize adverse effects on market quality. Available at:

Improving the health and quality of life of patients is the goal of the research-driven pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim. The focus in doing so is on diseases for which no satisfactory treatment option exists to date. The company therefore concentrates on developing innovative therapies that can extend patients’ lives. In animal health, Boehringer Ingelheim stands for advanced prevention.

Family-owned since it was established in 1885, Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s top 20 companies. Some 50,000 employees create value through innovation daily for the three business areas human pharmaceuticals, animal health and biopharmaceuticals. In 2017, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of nearly 18.1 billion euros. R&D expenditure, exceeding three billion euros, corresponded to 17.0 percent of net sales.

As a family-owned company, Boehringer Ingelheim plans in generations and focuses on long-term success rather than short-term profit. The company therefore aims at organic growth from its own resources, with simultaneous openness to partnerships and strategic alliances in research. In everything it does, Boehringer Ingelheim naturally adopts responsibility toward mankind and the environment.

More information about Boehringer Ingelheim can be found at or in our annual report:

About Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health

Boehringer Ingelheim is the second largest animal health business in the world. We are committed to creating animal wellbeing through our large portfolio of advanced, preventive healthcare products and services. With net sales in 2017 of 3.9 billion euros ($4.4 billion) and around 10,000 employees worldwide, we are present in more than 150 markets. For more information, visit here:

Understanding Wet Hay

Frequent spring rains around the country have allowed cool season forages to grow in abundance. Even when the fields and meadows dry enough to cut standing forages, harvesting and baling cool season crops such as fescue and wheat hay can be a challenge during a wet spring. The timing of the rains can make it difficult for producers that are trying hard to put quality hay in the bale for next winter’s feed supply. All producers that harvest hay occasionally will put up hay that “gets wet” from time to time. Therefore, ranchers and hay farmers need to understand the impact of “wet hay” in the tightly wound bales. 

Extra moisture in hay can cause heat inside the hay bale or hay stack. Heat produced by the bale comes from two sources: First) biochemical reactions from plants themselves as hay cures. (This heating is minor and rarely causes the hay temperature to exceed 110 degrees F. Very little if any damage occurs if the hay never exceeds 110 F.); Second) Most heat in hay is caused by the metabolic activity of microorganisms. They exist in all hay and thrive when extra moisture is abundant. When the activity of these microbes increases, hay temperature rises. Hay with a little extra moisture may not exceed 120 degrees F., whereas, wetter hay can quickly exceed 150 degrees. If the hay rises above 170 degrees, chemical reactions can begin to occur that produce enough heat to quickly raise the temperature above 400 degrees and the wet hay can begin to burn and cause fires. Be wary of the fire danger of wet hay and store it away from buildings and other “good” hay just in case this would occur.

Below is a table with moisture guidelines at time of baling.  (Adapted from “Preventing hay fires” Martinson, University of Minnesota)

Moisture ranges (%) Comments
Less than 10 Too dry.  Hay may be brittle and dusty
10 – 15 Recommended moisture range.  Minimal risk of fire
16 – 20 Could mold.  Slight risk of fire hazard
21 -25 Will likely mold.  Moderate risk of fire hazard
Greater than 25 Severe heat damage likely.  High risk of fire hazard

Several commercially produced hay temperature probes are available.  Also, homemade probes can be constructed and will help monitor the heating in the hay bales.  Information from the University of Kentucky (Overhults) discusses both commercial and homemade probes.  Go the website:

Heat damage causes hay to be less digestible, especially the protein. Heat damaged hay often turns a brownish color and has a caramel odor. Cattle often readily eat this hay, but because of the heat damage, its nutritional value might be quite low. Some ranchers have reported that “the cows ate the hay like there was no tomorrow, but they did very poorly on the hay”.

Testing wet hay may be very important.  Determining the internal temperature of large bales or stacks of hay should be done carefully.  Make certain that checking the temperature in suspicious hay is done safely.  Read the E-Extension Fact Sheet “Preventing Fires in Baled Hay and Straw”  (

Testing the protein and energy content of stored wet hay will allow for more appropriate supplementation next winter when that hay is fed. Moldy hay could be a source of mycotoxins that could present several health problems for cattle. Many animal disease diagnostic laboratories can examine feedstuffs for mycotoxins or can recommend laboratories that do such testing.

Source: Oklahoma State Extension

Dairy-beef diversification

“I really enjoy rearing calves,” Lachlan McLeod said, standing among a mob of groggy calves, their bellies swollen with fresh milk.

Just as well. The Calrossie dairy farmer has up to 250 in the shed at once during spring and another 50 in autumn. 

Rearing and selling dairy-beef is part of a diversification strategy that pays off most years and which, Mr McLeod says, had “saved us a few times”.

The decision to diversify came after Mr McLeod and his wife, Vicki, began breeding a three-way Montbéliarde, Holstein and Swedish red crossbreeding program for their herd of 340 milkers about 15 years ago.

The McLeods’ breeding regime involves a synchronisation program with five weeks of artificial insemination that is mopped up with natural black Angus bulls.

Crossbreeding has slowly improved their empty rate from 18 per cent to 10-12pc, which Mr McLeod puts down partly to greater body condition – something which also brings benefits at the saleyards.

Mr McLeod rears all the dairy steers and Angus crossbreds alongside his replacement dairy heifers on milk and grain before weaning at around seven weeks.

Feeding the young calves might sound labour-intensive but Mr McLeod has developed a well-oiled routine to keep it as simple as possible.

“Yes, you need good calf rearing facilities but I can rear them all on my own,” he said.

“I have a 50-teat feeder on the telehandler and put that down in front of a group of 40 at a time.

“When they’re finished, I just move it on to the next group, so there are no buckets to fill or anything like that.”

Weaners are reared on leased land, generally until they are sold as 18-month-olds weighing about 300 kilograms, although they are sold younger in tough seasonal conditions.

“We were lucky that the opportunity to lease country came up at about the same time as we began crossbreeding,” Mr McLeod said.

“It’s a way to value-add without outlaying extra money.

“The first few years, beef prices were pretty ordinary but, three years ago, prices doubled overnight.

“Our best results have been $1200 for an 18-month-old Monty but they’ve been as low as $700.

“It just depends on the market.”

Asked whether he had ever regretted the decision to rear dairy-beef cattle, Mr McLeod chuckled.

“I’m regretting this year,” he said.

“We’ve had to buy in hay, they’re in poorer condition and it’s a poor market.

“We’ve sold the big ones already and kept about 200 calves.

“I’m just optimistic that once the drought breaks they will be worth a lot more.

“Yes, there have been a couple of tough years but they would’ve been tough whatever you did.”

Mr McLeod said the dairy-beef rearing element of his business brought added confidence.

“It increases our ability to get through the ups and downs of dairy and flatten our cashflow,” he said.

“When we need extra cash, we know we have steers to sell.”

Bringing added diversity to the McLeod business is a herd of 100 Angus-Friesian-cross cows that are joined to Wagyu, whose progeny are sold at 16 months of age, weighing about 350kg.

“The Wagyu is quite lucrative but limited in scale,” Mr McLeod said.

“We don’t want too much exposure to any one market.”

Mr McLeod described rearing dairy-beef cattle as a “partial solution” to the bobby calf challenge facing the dairy industry.

“There has to be a market for all these cattle at the other end,” he said.

“People have to be prepared to raise all these calves and have the resources to do it.

“This whole thing only works because we can lease country.

“You don’t have to milk dual purpose breeds, either – you can be successful with dairy steers but it all goes in cycles.

“I was at the market last week looking at Friesian steers selling for $200 that would cost a lot more to rear.

“I feel sorry for producers who have hung onto them hoping it will be profitable but the cycle will turn and the dairy export job will come good again, too.”


Source: Farm Online

Budget 2019 – Three key areas for dairy farmers

There are three key areas affecting farmers in the latest Budget says Dr Tim Mackle.

The chief executive of DairyNZ told The Country Early Edition’s Rowena Duncum that a focus on mental health, the Sustainable Land Use Package and biosecurity will be of interest to rural communities.

Mental Health

“Rural communities do need a mental health focus, [and it’s] something that’s talked about a lot more these days thankfully, because it does impact people. So that’s a good thing.

“At the same time there’s quite a lot of money that’s been committed to it at a national level, so we are very keen to see how that will flow through into the rural communities – and particularly the front line services for mental health in those rural communities.

“Dairy farming has always come with some challenges that can impact on wellbeing. It’s a wonderful lifestyle but the number and scope of those challenges is definitely increasing as we know, right now”.

Listen below:

Sustainable Land Use Package

“Again that’s a really important area around water in particular, but also around the climate change area, [with the] Zero Carbon Bill just being announced recently.

“On the water front – very good to see funds focus on water quality improvements and land use decisions and so on. We’re looking forward to seeing more details around that. We’re doing a lot of work in the dairy sector in this space already and so we would be keen to continue to partner with Government and other partners in this area.

“When it comes to the climate change area – the Government has talked a lot about a just an fair transition to a low emissions economy and so we believe that appropriate funding from both industry, but also from government is a key part of that change.

“Farmers do need to be supported to make successful changes to farming practices so we can enjoy the benefits from these sectors in to the future”.


“It’s obviously front of mind for many, particularly those who have been impacted in our sectors by M. bovis and there’s been a big commitment there by the Government and we’re grateful for that partnership.

“There are other areas where we need to lift our game in biosecurity too and the Minister’s [Minister for Agriculture Damien O’Connor] has been very clear about his aspirations and vision around that too.

“There’s always a risk of unwanted pests and diseases making their way into our country and affecting farming full stop – not just dairy farming, and this has been a big reminder, a stark reminder with M. bovis.

“I think there’s been a big shift in awareness about biosecurity on farm. Our job’s not done, we’ve got to do more, and that will be the competitive advantage for New Zealand and we need to leverage that – and that means we’ve got to work on it”.

Also in today’s interview: Mackle reveals how he will celebrate World Milk Day tomorrow.


Source: NZ Herald

Dry Cows Need Diligent Mastitis Management During the Summer Months

Dairy cows are at the greatest risk for new mastitis infections during the early and late dry period.1 An effective dry cow therapy program can help minimize the number of new infections during the dry period and limit clinical mastitis at freshening.1

“Mastitis is due to multiple factors and can be especially challenging in the summertime,” stated Linda Tikofsky, DVM, senior associate director of dairy professional veterinary services, Boehringer Ingelheim. That’s why an effective dry cow management program is typically multifaceted.

Take Preventive Measures

“During the summer months, we need to reduce the bacterial challenge and make sure our cattle are as resistant to new infections as possible,” Dr. Tikofsky said. To help prevent mastitis:

  • Reduce bacteria in the environment: “Bacteria like three things,” reported Dr. Tikofsky. “They like food such as manure, they like warmth, and they like humidity. So, as it gets warmer, the environment becomes more conducive to bacterial growth.” To help minimize bacteria in the environment, clean stalls and alleyways several times a day to remove organic matter.
  • Follow good parlor procedures: Good procedures include making sure milking equipment functions properly and teats are clean and dry before attaching milking equipment. You’ll want to use an effective teat dip immediately after milking and maintain good udder hygiene between milkings.
  • Keep cows cool and comfortable: Maintaining good ventilation and using fans, sprinklers and misters can help minimize stress that can compromise the immune system.

Know the Mastitis-Causing Bacteria on Your Dairy

Identifying the bacteria that cause trouble on your dairy can help determine if an infection warrants treatment. “We know from research that not all mastitis cases need to be treated,” Tikofsky noted. “In some cases, the cow will cure herself.”

For those infections that need treatment, knowing the pathogens involved can help you select antibiotics that will be most effective.

“We also know that some pathogens will not respond to any antibiotics,” said Dr. Tikofsky. “There’s no effective treatment for Mycoplasma species, for example, and Pseudomonas species are resistant to most antibiotics.”

To identify the specific pathogen, producers can take a milk sample, culture it and wait 24 hours for results before deciding to treat in mild to moderate cases. Sampling can be done without a negative effect on cure rate or animal welfare. However, for severe mastitis cases, treat cows right away with an appropriate treatment protocol.

Incorporate a Three-Part Dry Cow Therapy Program

A comprehensive dry-cow program should include:

  1. Antimicrobial infusions to treat current subclinical udder infections and help prevent the development of new infections.
  2. A teat sealant to supplement the natural keratin plug and further prevent exposure of the teat canal to bacteria.
  3. A coliform mastitis vaccine that’s effective against Escherichia coli and the effects of endotoxemia caused by E. coli and Salmonella Typhimurium. “Producers may want to consider incorporating a booster before the hot days of summer,” suggested Dr. Tikofsky.

Involve Your Veterinarian

“Your veterinarian understands the disease process, the bacteria responsible and the management practices on your dairy,” explained Dr. Tikofsky. “They can be very good counselors in helping you develop a good mastitis prevention and treatment protocol.”


1 National Mastitis Council. Dry cow therapy. 2006. Available at: Accessed January 2, 2019.

Improving the health and quality of life of patients is the goal of the research-driven pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim. The focus in doing so is on diseases for which no satisfactory treatment option exists to date. The company therefore concentrates on developing innovative therapies that can extend patients’ lives. In animal health, Boehringer Ingelheim stands for advanced prevention.

Family-owned since it was established in 1885, Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s top 20 companies. Some 50,000 employees create value through innovation daily for the three business areas human pharmaceuticals, animal health and biopharmaceuticals. In 2017, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of nearly 18.1 billion euros. R&D expenditure, exceeding three billion euros, corresponded to 17.0 percent of net sales.

As a family-owned company, Boehringer Ingelheim plans in generations and focuses on long-term success rather than short-term profit. The company therefore aims at organic growth from its own resources, with simultaneous openness to partnerships and strategic alliances in research. In everything it does, Boehringer Ingelheim naturally adopts responsibility toward mankind and the environment.

More information about Boehringer Ingelheim can be found at or in our annual report:

About Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health

Boehringer Ingelheim is the second largest animal health business in the world. We are committed to creating animal wellbeing through our large portfolio of advanced, preventive healthcare products and services. With net sales in 2017 of 3.9 billion euros ($4.4 billion) and around 10,000 employees worldwide, we are present in more than 150 markets. For more information, visit here:


Watch High-Performing Cows for Early Signs of Heat Stress

Today’s high-performing dairy cows produce more than milk – they also generate a lot of heat.

“Modern dairy cows generate their own metabolic heat,” says Tony Hall, MSc MSB, PAS, Technical Services – Ruminant, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “Cows that are already hot will feel the effects of heat stress earlier, and — when cows are under heat stress — they tend to eat less, ruminate less and produce less milk.”

Cows have several responses to heat stress, including increased sweating and respiratory rates. A higher respiration rate can compromise the bicarbonate content of the saliva and even shift the acid-to-base chemistry of a cow’s blood. This increase in nutrient requirements is one of the many reasons milk production is reduced in the face of heat stress.1,2

Recognizing heat stress

Losses from heat stress can start when the Temperature-Humidity Index (THI) is above 68 for a majority of the day.3 THI is a single value representing the combination of air temperature and humidity associated with the level of thermal stress. THI can be used to quantify the risk, and ultimately the production losses, associated with heat-stressed dairy cows.

“It’s not always convenient to measure heat stress without disturbing the cows, and it’s impractical to take every cow’s temperature each day,” Hall says. “The easiest way is to tell if cows are under heat stress is to observe their respiration rate, which is closely related to the THI.”

Research shows once a cow’s respiration rate gets above 60 breaths per minute, the THI is above 68.4

Making changes

Once heat stress is identified, steps can be taken at the farm level. First, producers should make sure clean, fresh water is readily available and accessible. At least three inches of trough space per lactating cow is recommended. Then, 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. Also ensure the forage component cannot be sorted out and perform regular push-ups to encourage access and feed intake, Hall advises.

“We all know the right ration plays a big part in good productivity, but it’s even more important to pay careful attention during times of stress when cattle just feel like sitting in the shade,” he says. “A common problem I see is trying to incorporate unstable silage into the ration. It can cause the entire TMR to heat, and hot cows simply don’t want to eat hot feed in the summer.”

Always discard moldy silage and feed out at a rate fast enough to avoid heating. In addition, always select the most digestible forages and strive to maximize inclusion of forage neutral detergent fiber (NDF) within the appetite limit of each pen for lactating cows. Check the particle size distribution profile using a Penn State Forage Particle Separator to confirm the distribution is within guidelines.

One simple change is adding an active dry yeast (ADY) probiotic — like Levucell® SC, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 — which can improve rumen function and increase fiber digestion in lactating dairy cows. Probiotics are especially helpful for producers experiencing health challenges as a result of heat or other stressors, Hall recommends.

“When heat stress occurs, normal rumen digestion and function is disrupted. This worsens the already significant effects of heat stress in dairy cattle,” Hall says. “We can’t change the temperature or humidity, but we can help protect the productivity of our herds.”

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


Red “super shed” for Australian robotic dairy farm

Bannister Downs Dairy in Northcliffe, Western Australia, by Bosske Architecture
Bosske Architecture has completed a dairy farm in Northcliffe, Australia, with a curving red structure that contains a robotic milking shed and a visitor centre.The studio headed by architect Caroline Hickey designed the 9,000-square-metre industrial complex to accommodate a state-of-the-art farming and processing facility that invites visitors to observe all aspects of milk production.

Bannister Downs Dairy in Northcliffe, Western Australia, by Bosske Architecture

The building aims to showcase the sustainable farming practices employed at the Bannister Downs Dairy, which includes a 24-hour voluntary milking robotic dairy so that cows can choose their own milking time.

“From an agricultural perspective, the facility puts the cow’s health and wellbeing first, providing calm and safe herd environments and diagnostics to regularly check animals’ health,” said the architecture studio.

“This follows through to the staff’s environment and wellbeing, creating consistent visual connectivity within the building, from production areas to the farm.”

Bannister Downs Dairy in Northcliffe, Western Australia, by Bosske Architecture

The building’s design evolved from the idea of creating a simple line or contour that forms a boundary in the landscape.

Its location on the crest of a hill allows water and waste to drain away on all sides.

A shed-like structure wrapped in red metal accommodates the main administration spaces, public entrance and visitor’s cafe, with facilities for processing and bottling positioned to the rear of the site.

The soft, curving facade lends the building a cohesive appearance that counteracts the typical sprawl of industrial architecture. The form merges the profiles of several typical barn structures; a modern shed, a vernacular Australian barn and a gambrel-roofed dairy barn.

“These [references] are blended into a singular long ‘super-shed’,” the architects added, “constantly morphing along the perimeter, churning and mixing programme and operations internally.”

“Its curving nature along the contour means that the building is always receding, diminishing the overall impression of a large building in the landscape.”

The facade is articulated by vertical fins that gradually change shape to give the building a dynamic appearance.

The shifting surface performs multiple functions, creating sun shading, canopies, a colonnade, entrances and framed views from inside.

Visitors enter the dairy through a public entrance and foyer before ascending to a first floor containing a viewing gallery for the processing areas, along with a cafe overlooking the surrounding farmland.

Administration spaces are tucked away to the rear of the ground floor, with the processing facilities and services housed in a large black annex that is largely hidden from view behind the red shed.

Peter van Wingerden and Minke van Wingerden of Beladon also recently designed a dairy farm, but floating on water. Based in Rotterdam the platform aims to show how food production can become less vulnerable to climate change.


A cost-effective diet for dairy cows

Most dairy producers want to feed cost-effective diets to their high milk- (milkfat) producing cows. That’s a tall order, which is most often achieved by obtaining the best lactation diets, first as a formula on paper and blended into a TMR, then put in front of the cows. Finally, it’s up to them to eat and turn it into money-making milk.

As a dairy nutritionist, I pencil out cost-effective diets for high-producing dairy cows. It’s a matter of matching their nutrient requirements, which support vital functions, general and rumen health, and lactation performance. In the latter, I target early- to mid-lactation dairy cows (60-150 DIM) that are producing 39 kg milk production, four per cent milkfat and 3.3 per cent protein.

My lactation diets are also designed to promote good dry matter intake among dairy cows. I do this by laying a foundation of high-quality forages supplemented with palatable grains and grain byproducts. A complementary dairy premix is added containing essential macro-minerals as well as important trace minerals and fat-soluble A, D and E vitamins. Limit-fed bypass fat and dietary feed additives are also formulated in the final dairy diets.

In this illustrated case, it costs $8.27 of a well-balanced diet to feed a lactating dairy cow. This is a common way to express feed costs, yet there are other ways. For example, $5.30 per kg of milkfat, $9.66 per cwt of milk produced or $0.36 per kg of dairy diet consumed.

Regardless, all of the above costs of feeding a cow are gross numbers. So far, I didn’t account for storage and mixing losses as well as feed refusal by cows. I conservatively estimate these numbers at 10 per cent and two per cent respectively. So, our raw feed cost of $8.27 per cow might be closer to $9.38 per cow, despite some salvageable value of feed refusal, which is frequently fed to dairy non-lactating livestock.

In a similar way, my dairy producers rarely discuss yardage, which I define as the daily operating costs of using equipment, labour and fuel to feed the cow herd. I estimate that these direct non-feed costs in a free-stall barn are at least $1 per head per day (you may use your own operation costs). This could elevate our new dairy diet cost to $10-$11 per cow.

Cost-saving measures

With the mild grocery shock of $11 per lactating animal, many dairy producers wonder where they might have saved on feed costs without sacrificing milk and milkfat production. Here are some proven cost-saving measures:

  • Feed high-quality forages. Good silage, haylage and hay reduce the use of grain and other feed supplementation, the latter which is likely purchased off-farm and likely more expensive relative to high-quality forages.
  • Review the lactation diet. Substitute more expensive ingredients with less costly ones. Palm fat often comprises 10 per cent of the total feed costs. It might be possible to partially substitute it with more cost-effective forage fibre without decreasing milkfat yield.
  • Analyze forages and grains. These feed tests match dietary nutrition with the nutrient requirements of high-producing lactation cows. It also helps avoid feeding excessive nutrients. Test moisture of silages and their final TMR diet weekly.
  • Budget feed additives. I budget between $0.50 and $0.75 per head per day for feed additives. I often feed a commercial yeast and direct-fed microbial product at 10 g per head daily, which I believe promotes feed efficiency and dry matter intake.
  • Good feed management. A TMR that is pushed up to free-stall cows throughout the day, promotes good dry matter intake, more milk production and less feed refusal. Improving mixing and unloading procedures also significantly reduces feed wastage.

Implementing these cost-cutting measures along with the accompanying spreadsheet of feeding costs should help most producers achieve their best cost-effective dairy cow diets.


Finding the Balance-Management of Calf Health Versus Cost of Production

Margins in the dairy industry continue to tighten. Dairy farms are seeking opportunities to control costs, but also maximize the health of their heifers as dairy replacements are the foundation for genetic progress and improvement of the herd.

Since 1997, UW-Extension has sought to provide economic information on dairy replacements with four unique replications of the Intuitive Cost of Production Analysis (ICPA) for PreWeaned Calves. In 2017, the ICPA was completed with 26 farms to provide economic information comparing automated group and individual calf feeding systems. It was determined the cost to raise a calf on an automated group feeding system to be $6.35 per calf per day as compared to $5.84 per day to raise a calf on an individual feeding system. But what management practices do these numbers represent?

To help correlate health and management practices to calf rearing costs, a Pre-Weaned Calf Health Management Survey was conducted simultaneously with 12 of the 26 ICPA participating farms.

This survey defined a calf as an animal from birth until movement into group housing, or movement out of the automated group feeding pen. Individual feeding was denoted as any form or use of bottle or bucket method of feeding pre-weaned animals. Seven of the farms participating in the health management survey utilized an automated group feeding system and five utilized an individual feeding system. Operations were matched by feeding system utilized, and represented various dairy farm sizes across Wisconsin.

The health management survey represented 12,224 total cows with an average herd size of 1,321 (range 135 to 4,500) cows for farms with an automated group feeding system, and an average herd size of 594 (range 140 to 1,100) cows for farms which utilized an individual calf feeding system.

To find out more details related to the management practices related to feeding, labor and management, and health and the cost associated with those practices, please visit Find the Balance-Management of Calf Health Versus Cost of Production.


Source: UW Extension

Heat Stress Abatement Techniques for Dairy Cattle

Spray, or direct evaporative, cooling is an effective method of reducing dairy cow heat stress in ‘more humid’ climates.

Heat stress occurs when a cow’s heat gain is greater than her ability to lose it. Balancing heat gain and loss over a 24 hour period is the goal.

Productive dairy cows may experience heat stress when the Temperature Humidity Index (THI) is 68 or greater. In ‘more humid’ climates this can occur at temperatures as low as 72oF. Heat stress can be reduced by slowing heat gain to the cow, and improving heat transfer rate from the cow. Basic heat stress abatement techniques include Shade, Air, and Water – or SAW.


Protecting cows from direct solar radiation helps lower their body temperature and respiration rate. Shade can be provided by trees, buildings, or shade structures. Roofs and shade structures should be at least 12 feet high and oriented properly. Buildings and covered outside feeding areas are typically placed east –west to minimize sunlight intrusion throughout the day. Placing pasture or dry lot shade structures north-south allows shade to move from west to east, helping to keep the resting area drier.

Air Exchange:

An air exchange every minute or less during the summer months is essential to remove moisture, gases, heat, and other pollutants from the animal space. Without a proper air exchange other heat stress abatement techniques will not work effectively.

Mechanically ventilated dairy buildings use exhaust fans and properly sized and placed inlets throughout the animal space. Tunnel ventilation can provide a rapid air exchange – typically less than 45 seconds – in tie stall barns.

Naturally ventilated buildings depend primarily on wind speed and direction to drive the air exchange. Buildings with high, side and end walls fully open to resting cow level create a preferred ‘pavilion-like’ design during the summer.

When the warm weather exchange rate in naturally ventilated buildings is challenged by topography, up wind obstacles, or building limitations, well designed tunnel or cross ventilation systems can be used provide the necessary air exchange.

Air circulation:

Turbulent air movement around cows increases convective heat transfer, enhances evaporation, and minimizes ‘hot spots’. Air speeds of 3.5 to 5 miles per hour (mph) are preferred in resting, feeding, and holding areas.

Thirty-six to 52 inch diameter axial circulation fans can provide excellent animal space air movement. To be effective fans placed in-line must be no further than 10 times their diameter apart. For side-by-side applications, place fans two to three times their diameter apart.

Large high volume, low speed (HVLS) fans can also provide air movement at cow level, but they must be placed over the animals, and usually no more than twice their diameter apart.

Drinking Water:

Increased respiration and urination during hot weather may increase drinking water intake by 20 percent or more. Watering stations need to be located conveniently, allow multiple cows access, and keep up with water demand.

Evaporative Cooling:

Evaporative cooling uses water to increase heat transfer from cows. The evaporation of a pound (or pint) of water requires about 1,000 British thermal units (Btu) of energy, approximately the heat produced by 1,000 four inch wooden matches.

Direct evaporative cooling (DEC) systems intermittently apply and evaporate water from the cow’s skin, drawing heat directly from her body. Indirect evaporative cooling (IEC) lowers the temperature of air surrounding the cow, increasing her heat transfer rate.

Spray cooling systems are low pressure DEC systems installed in feeding and holding areas that use a five to 15 minute wet-dry cycle. Spray nozzles emit a coarse droplet that penetrates the cow’s hair coat soaking her skin for one to three minutes. Fans provide air movement for the remainder of the cycle to speed evaporation and draw heat away from her body. Studies show the respiration rate of a heat stressed cow decreases with the first wet-dry cycle. DEC seems to be the most effective evaporative cooling method for cows in more humid climates like Pennsylvania. However, it can require a significant water supply and good drainage.

Indirect evaporative cooling (IEC) uses heat in the air to evaporate water, lowering the dry bulb air temperature. The heat transfer rate increases when the difference in temperature between the cow body and surrounding air is greater. Heat transfer from within the body also improves as cows inhale cooler air.

Fogging and misting are examples of IEC systems that use pressure to force water through nozzles emitting very small droplets. High pressure systems emit finer droplets that have a better chance of evaporating before settling on the cows hair coat, resting surface, and floor. Nozzles for lower pressure systems emit larger droplets and typically installed on circulation fans so air movement can aid in evaporation. Pressurized IEC systems are popular in arid climates where the droplets are more likely to evaporate suspended in the air. These systems are prone to ‘drift’ in naturally ventilated buildings.

Evaporative pads are another method of IEC. Thick, water-soaked corrugated pads are installed at inlet opening(s) used with tunnel and cross ventilation systems. Outside air drawn through the pad evaporates as much moisture as the air conditions allow, lowering the dry bulb temperature. All air drawn through inlet is cooled and can only pick up as much moisture as the air conditions allow.

Since evaporative cooling systems incorporate adding water to the animal space air, ventilation systems that provide a good air exchange to remove moisture laden air, and circulation fans to enhance evaporation are essential.

The techniques for combating dairy cow heat stress currently available includes shade, an adequate air exchange, good air movement, drinking water, and evaporative cooling. Used properly these tools can help balance the daily heat gain and loss of dairy cows, minimizing heat stress effects, and improving cow health, production, and well-being during the summer season.

Prepared by Dan F. McFarland, Agricultural Engineering Educator, Penn State Extension


Minimize heat stress on dairy cows

For most of us, the term heat stress conjures up images of discomfort. For the dairy cow, however, heat stress goes beyond discomfort and produces both direct and indirect negative production and health effects. One very visible and direct impact of heat stress is reduced milk production. Correlated with this is reduced dry matter intake. Another direct effect is reduced or impaired fertility in which cows may fail to conceive or, in more severe heat stress conditions, experience early embryonic death of the fetus. Indirectly, heat stress may cause increased incidence of lameness. The reasoning is that heat stressed cows stand for longer periods as a way to increase airflow around their bodies to dissipate heat. Heat stressed cows get less rest, which can depress their immune system and higher somatic cell counts are associated with heat stressed cows.

It is crucial for the dairy producer/manager to recognize cattle experience heat stress long before a person experiences heat stress. When measuring heat stress in dairy cattle, a temperature humidity index (THI) provides some indication of the potential severity of heat stress. For dairy cows, heat stress can begin at a temperature/humidity index somewhere around 68. A temperature of 72°F with humidity around 44 percent provides that index. Although the THI is one measure of potential heat stress, an important concept is that the severity of heat stress is a result of the accumulated heat load in the animal over time. The animal’s body temperature is a key indicator. The normal body temperature of a cow is in the 101-101.5°F range. Heat stress begins when body temperature reaches the 102 to 102.5 degree range. How severe those effects are depends upon how long the cow maintains elevated body temperature. For example, if body temperature becomes elevated during the day but is able to cool back down during the night hours, this heat stress will not produce as severe effects as a cow that maintains an elevated body temperature for more hours without recovery.

Heat stress and heat abatement discussions most frequently center on lactating cows, but do not ignore heat stress in dry cows. Research demonstrates heat stress in dry cows has economic consequences in terms of lost production and increased health costs. Cows that are heat stressed during the dry period produce less milk in the subsequent lactation compared to non-heat stressed cows. They also may have a depressed immune system, leading to greater risk of infections and sickness. Studies have shown dry cows under heat stress as compared to cows not under heat stress calve two to eight days earlier, resulting in a lighter birthweight calf. These calves typically continue to grow slower and have lighter weights through the first 12 months of age, compared to calves born to non-heat stressed dams. Heifers born to heat stressed dams also produce less milk in their first lactation compared to peers born to non-heat stressed dams. Therefore, dairy farms should have a plan to implement heat abatement strategies to minimize heat stress in both lactating and dry dairy cows.

Good ventilation is a pre-requisite to any heat abatement program. There must be adequate air exchanges. Then, add in circulating fans to create air movement. We want both good volume of air movement, determined by size of fan and good air speed. Fans move air effectively at maximum in feet of 10x the fan diameter. Therefore, place 40-inch fans no more than 40 feet apart. Provide an air speed of 4 to 6 mph, as measured at the height of the cow lying down. Fans need to be angled somewhere in that 15-20 degree range to provide air movement over the backs of cows lying down. Do not add water to the system unless air movement and speed are adequate. Added water not removed by air exchange will create an even worse heat stress condition. Most water systems use either misters to provide indirect evaporative cooling or sprinklers that wet the skin of the cow and provide direct evaporative cooling.

Don’t overlook shade and drinking water as components of heat abatement. For example, bedding in free stalls exposed to direct sun can get hot and the result is those stalls don’t get used. It creates a temporary increase in stocking density because those stalls are not used. Providing shading of those stalls can put them back into use. Cow’s consumption of clean, cool water can increase up to 50 percent under conditions of heat stress. The recommendation is to make sure cows do not have to walk more than about 50 feet to water and not through areas of sunlight. Provide at least 2 linear inches of water trough space per lactating cow and up to 3 inches per dry cow.

In closing, I will put in a plug for the 2019 Dairy Twilight Tour hosted by Harmony Farms in Kidron on the evening of July 9. One of the features of this farm is a good heat abatement program.

Rory Lewandowski is an OSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.


New electricity plan launched for NZ dairy farmers

For the first time in New Zealand, dairy farmers are being offered an electricity plan created specifically for their unique energy use.

For Dairy is the latest product from Genesis, which said it recognises the way dairy farmers use electricity is far from standard.

Executive General Manager James Magill said using the product could ultimately result in savings of between five and 25 percent off a farmer’s milking shed electricity bill.

“We know the milking shed is central to a dairy farming business and that electricity it uses is at off-peak and shoulder times of the day, when everyone else is sleeping or at work,” he said.

He said farmers would be rewarded for using energy when no one else was.

“We’ve created a tool to show exactly how For Dairy works and bring its benefits to life for dairy farmers. It graphs and forecasts their electricity use – and savings – taking into consideration seasonal variations and usage patterns during a typical milking day on the farm,” said Magill.

Fonterra Farm Source Group Director Richard Allen says energy represents a significant cost to farmers.

“Farm Source is committed to helping lower on-farm costs and we’ve been focused on finding the best deal for our farmers so it’s great to have Genesis on board and investing in innovations to enable this,” he said.

The new scheme meant there was also the opportunity for farmers to get even greater value by moving more of their energy use to off-peak and shoulder times.

During the development phase of the product, Magill said one of the participating farmers reviewed his usage through For Dairy and realised an immediate cost saving.

“Instead of leaving the water pump running around the clock, we suggested he get a timer so he could set it to turn on when he needed it, which was during off-peak times, getting the pump warmed up right before the milking schedule and allowing it to cool down soon after,” he said.

Genesis would also give dairy farmers greater transparency by splitting out the network charges from the energy charges.


Kansas Mesonet Launches Cattle Comfort Index

The Kansas Mesonet is launching a new tool: cattle comfort index. The harsh conditions this winter resulted in negative impacts on cattle, particularly calves. One symptom of the problems was the large number of requests for Mesonet data to document losses under the Livestock Indemnity Program. A comprehensive tool on the weather impacts should prove useful for future events. Negative impacts are not limited to winter conditions. This tool also helps assess the response to excessive heat and humidity.

Actual animal response to temperature stress will be dependent on a number of factors not accounted for in the index. Those include, but are not limited to: age, hair coat (winter vs summer; wet vs dry), health, body condition, micro-environment, and acclimatization.

Users can access this new tool from either the main Mesonet page by selecting from the drop down menu, Agriculture, then Comfort Index (Figure 1); or directly from this link:

Figure 1. Screenshot of the menu path to the new Comfort Index page on the Kansas Mesonet.

Comfort Index

Building on the Comprehensive Comfort Index, produced at University of Nebraska, the tool illustrates the impact of both extremes of hot and cold.  The index is unique in that it includes, in addition to air temperature and relative humidity, effects of wind speed and solar radiation. Development and validation of the index used data from beef and dairy cattle. The map indicates where current conditions fit on the scale.  On the about page, there is a description of the values on the scale and their potential impact (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Cattle comfort ranges. Graphic from Kansas Mesonet.

Understanding the Webpage

The “About” section contains information about the comfort index. There is also a link to the publications used to produce page. For more information on navigating this resource, users can select a page tour from the main soil moisture page located at the top of the featured map.

Figure 3. Cattle on a pasture near the Sedan Mesonet station. Photo by Chip Redmond, K-State Research and Extension.


Is Your Farm a Good Candidate for Selective Dry Cow Therapy?

Judicious antibiotic use can have a lasting impact on animal health, food safety and consumer confidence in dairy products. Producers are continually evaluating how they can implement practices to use antibiotics more wisely, especially when it comes to mastitis.

Mastitis treatment at dry off is one of the most common uses of antibiotics. A selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) program, in which antibiotic treatment is only used to treat cows that have been identified with previous or current intramammary infections, provides producers with an opportunity to reduce antibiotic use on their operation. In fact, research has shown that SDCT has reduced producers’ antibiotic use by two-thirds.1

“There’s a lot of discussion around whether dairies should implement selective dry cow therapy,” said Linda Tikofsky, DVM, senior associate director of dairy professional veterinary services, Boehringer Ingelheim. “It’s worth consideration, but it may not be right for every operation.”

Before implementing SDCT, Dr. Tikofsky recommends that dairies satisfy the following checklist:

Your cows are free of contagious mastitis

For herds that struggle with contagious mastitis, most commonly caused by Staphylococcus aureus, SDCT is not a viable option. Most contagious mastitis is subclinical, so producers may not be aware of which cows are infected. Dry cow therapy is one of the most effective tools against contagious mastitis because it will tackle subclinical infections at dry off, so producers should continue using that tool if they need to.

You participate in a milk testing program

Collecting milk samples for somatic cell testing through the National Dairy Herd Improvement Association on a monthly basis is an excellent way to track the proportion of cows that struggle with mastitis or have consistently high somatic cell counts (SCC). The data can help producers choose the cows that need treatment at dry off versus the ones that don’t.

You keep thorough records

Selective dry cow therapy requires outstanding data analysis and record keeping. Dairy employees should be meticulous when collecting, organizing and handling data, so the right cows are treated at dry off.

You use a teat sealant

Teat sealants are an important part of dry off, whether or not you practice SDCT. We’ve learned that more than 25 percent of cows don’t form a keratin plug at dry off.2 So, if we’re not using an antibiotic in those quarters, we need to make sure we’re giving cows physical protection with a teat sealant.

Your staff is well trained

An SDCT program is most successful when staff are well trained and have a comprehensive understanding of dry cow procedures. This is especially important when using a teat sealant without an antibiotic, as the infusion technique must be very hygienic.

Your dry cows are well managed

Diligent management techniques such as proper nutrition and monitoring can help mitigate potential problems. A closely monitored dry cow program includes a focus on cow comfort, cleanliness, a well-formulated diet, regular bedding maintenance, temperature control, stocking density and easy access to feed.

Your herd has a somatic cell count consistently under 200,000

If your dairy bumps up over 200,000 somatic cells every couple of months, then SDCT isn’t the right fit for you. Cows chosen for SDCT are those that are at low risk for intramammary infections at dry off. This means their last SCC test and the average of the last three tests were below 200,000. They also should only have one or less clinical mastitis events in their previous lactation at dry off.

You’re using a coliform mastitis vaccine

Coliform mastitis was found to be the source of 50 percent of mastitis infections in U.S. dairy herds.3 We want to make sure we’re protecting cows with vaccination. An effective mastitis vaccine should have a short meat withdrawal, and provide protection against Escherichia coli and endotoxemia caused by E. coliand Salmonella Typhimurium. Find a product that can be administered during any stage of lactation. This will provide the option to vaccinate the whole herd all at once, or a few cows at a time.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all protocol for every dairy. However, for herds that meet the criteria listed above, selective dry cow therapy is certainly an option to explore with the guidance of a veterinarian.


1 Vasquez AK, Nydam DV, Foditsch M, et al. Use of a culture-independent on-farm algorithm to guide the use of selective dry-cow antibiotic therapy. J Dairy Sci2018;101(6):5345–5361.

2 Ruegg P. Managing the dry period for quality. University of Wisconsin. 2011.

3 Continuing market study. Research Department, Hoard’s Dairyman. 2018.

Improving the health and quality of life of patients is the goal of the research-driven pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim. The focus in doing so is on diseases for which no satisfactory treatment option exists to date. The company therefore concentrates on developing innovative therapies that can extend patients’ lives. In animal health, Boehringer Ingelheim stands for advanced prevention.

Family-owned since it was established in 1885, Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s top 20 companies. Some 50,000 employees create value through innovation daily for the three business areas human pharmaceuticals, animal health and biopharmaceuticals. In 2017, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of nearly 18.1 billion euros. R&D expenditure, exceeding three billion euros, corresponded to 17.0 percent of net sales.

As a family-owned company, Boehringer Ingelheim plans in generations and focuses on long-term success rather than short-term profit. The company therefore aims at organic growth from its own resources, with simultaneous openness to partnerships and strategic alliances in research. In everything it does, Boehringer Ingelheim naturally adopts responsibility toward mankind and the environment.

More information about Boehringer Ingelheim can be found at or in our annual report:

About Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health

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2020 Production of Most Animal Proteins Forecast To Increase – USDA Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook

Production for most animal proteins is expected to increase in 2020, compared to production levels of 2019. Among the factors driving higher production are producer responses to forecasts of continued positive U.S.  economic conditions, including improved producer returns. Beef production is expected to increase next year by almost 1 percent. The anticipated U.S. pork production increase of about 3.5 percent in 2020 is a response to higher international pork prices due to pork deficits in China, resulting from African Swine Fever. Broiler production is expected to increase by 1.3 percent next year and other chicken by 1.4 percent. Turkey production is expected to increase year over year—by 1.0 percent—for the first time in 3 years. Anticipated 2020 growth in the U.S egg industry is about 0.8 percent, and milk production growth is forecast at 1.6 percent. A decline—0.5 percent—is projected for lamb and mutton production next year.

Read the Outlook Report

How to make your milking routine more efficient

Dairy farmers aiming to improve milking efficiency and udder health need to consider a whole host of issues, as Hannah Noble finds out.

To have an efficient milking routine and maintain good udder health, farmers need to have a good knowledge of the inner workings of milking machines and the anatomy and physiology of the dairy cow.

Tom Greenham, a vet at Advance Milking, offering advice and guidance to dairy farmers wanting to improve in the these areas, says it is important farmers look at a range of issues when trying to evaluate and, ultimately, improve, milking efficiency, milk quality and cow health and well-being.


■ COWS per hour is traditionally the most common way to measure parlour efficiency, but Mr Greenham says it is actually not very useful, as it will vary heavily depending on yield.

For example, a value of 100 cows per hour would be much more efficient if it was 100 high-yielding Holsteins per hour than 100 grazing cross-bred cows per hour. This measure does not make it easy to compare one farm to another.

The calculation for cows per hour is: number of cows milked divided by the hours taken to milk.

The target is more than 150 cows/hour for an average UK herd with a ‘linear’ parlour.


■ IT is more sensible to use milk per hour as a measure on an average farm. Mr Greenham says: “It is a good measurement because it has the biggest influence on your bottom line, so it is actually quite a good financial measurement.”

The calculation for milk per hour is: milk produced per day divided by the hours taken to milk. The target for this is more than 1,500kg/hour for the average UK herd. These figures will vary depending on the scale of the herd. For herds with a rotary milking parlour, you may put in a slightly higher target than for linear parlours.

Mr Greenham says: “We tend to find that rotary parlours are significantly more efficient than linear parlours, but there is not that much difference between different types of linear parlour.

“For example, rapid exit parlours are not actually that much more efficient than a more traditional ‘walk in walk out’ herringbone.”

With a rotary parlour, there is no delay time in cows leaving the parlour, which makes them more efficient. As soon as one cow leaves, another can come in and have the unit attached.


■ MR Greenham says this is another good measure as it is a good way to benchmark farms of different sizes and different milking parlour styles against each other.

He says: “If you are just using one single measure, this is probably the best to use to compare farms.”

The calculation for milk per stall per hour is: milk produced per day divided by the number of stalls in parlour/hours taken to milk. The target for this measure is more than 55kg/stall/hour.


■ MR Greenham says: “When I am working with farms, we will collect a little bit more data to work out the milking margin per hour.”

The calculation for milking margin per hour is: revenue generated by the milking parlour (the amount of milk produced per hour multiplied by the milk price for that farm) minus fixed and variable costs.

These fixed and variable costs include hourly labour costs, running costs and the capital investment of the milking machine, so how much it costs to buy and install, split that over the lifetime of the parlour, for example 25 years.

Mr Greenhan says: “The interesting things is when you start changing different parts of the calculation, none of them make a huge difference until you change milk per hour, making this a good indicator of what margin per hour is going to be.”

The target for this measure is more than £400/hour.


TWO major factors which can affect milking efficiency are milk let-down and the settings of the automatic cluster removal system (ACR).


■ MR Greenham says: “We found there is no difference in milking efficiency between herds which carry out pre-milking preparation of teats and those which do not prepare teats, whether that is brushing, wiping or dipping. This is a valuable finding, as it shows that extra preparation does not slow down milking overall.”

For good milk let-down, teats need physical contact, then a time gap to allow the let-down process to occur.

This time lag needs to be between 60-90 seconds, depending on the herd. Although this delays attachment of the milking unit, the ‘lost time’ is regained by cows milking out quicker, reducing attachment time by up to two minutes.

He says: “If you have problems with mastitis and bactoscan, it makes sense to prepare teats and it will not increase the length of milking, as cows will milk faster.”

Studies suggest herds where cows are coming into the parlour with less milk in their udders, possibly stale cows or cows on three-times-a-day milking, are getting better milking efficiency with longer delays between first touching the teat and attaching the units.


■ MR Greenham says: “The biggest thing farms can do to improve their milking efficiency is to change their ACR settings.

“Traditionally, we have squeezed every last drop out of the udders, and usually the ACR will only kick in when milk flow drops to 200-250ml/minute, which is the usual factory setting.”

However, this has been found to be quite harsh on cows’ teats and udders.

Mr Greenham says: “We can increase milk flow rate that triggers detachment by quite a lot without having any more problems with mastitis and without losing any milk yield either in the bulk tank or yield per cow.”

He recommends for herds milking twice-a-day, the threshold can be increased to 500-600ml/ minute, and for herds milking three times/day, it can be increased to 800-1,000ml/minute.


MR Greenham says it is important to review cow flow through the parlour.

“It is easy to do, either stand out of the way and watch or set up a video camera.

“Watch how cows behave as they come in to be milked. It is possible to make some really inexpensive changes to the approach to the milking parlour. This can have a big impact on how keen cows are to enter.”

He recommends using stock boarding at the parlour entrance to stop cows being distracted by what is going on in the parlour pit, and angle corners so there is nowhere for cows to get stuck, ideally using 40-degree angles to funnel them into the parlour.


Give cows enough space in the collecting yard to allow them to establish the order they want to go into the parlour. People often forget the order cows walk to the collecting yard will be different from the order they want to be milked.

If cows are crammed too tight, heads start to pop up between them, which means cows are stressed.

Mr Greenham says 95 per cent of cows should come into the parlour by themselves.

“Milking should be a pleasant process for cows when the vacuum and pulsation is right. It takes pressure off the udder making them more comfortable. They should come to the parlour because they want to.”


MILK let-down can also be influenced by what happens outside the parlour.

Mr Greenham says: “When we are reviewing milking efficiency, not only are we changing parlour settings and changing milking routine, we also need to look at what is happening in the half-an-hour before milking.

“Cows are creatures of habit. Anything different will stress them out. For example, crowding in the yard, someone new in the parlour who acts differently, different times and change of routine can have an effect on their stress levels.”

These factors can determine how well they let their milk down and influence time taken to milk.

“The process of bringing cows into the parlour affects how they milk, but also their milking experience can affect how keen they are to come into the parlour, so it is a vicious circle.”

Milking could be uncomfortable for cows if they are not letting milk down properly, because ACR settings are wrong, resulting in over-milking, or because of ill-fitting liners.


Source: Farmers Guardian


Somatic Cell Counts – How Low is Too Low?

Can somatic cell counts get too low? That seems to be a question I receive often from producers who are trying to achieve optimum milk quality. A high somatic cell count (SCC) is undesirable from the standpoint of quality, but some producers fear that a SCC that is too low might result in more cases of mastitis due to reduced bacteria-fighting capacity.

Somatic cells are white blood cells that fight infection and repair tissue damage. When the udder is infected, white blood cells move to the udder and into the milk to defend against the invading bacteria. This process is very important; without it, elimination of even mild cases of mastitis would be very slow with tissue damage increased. Somatic cell counts in the udder do not reflect the pool of cells which can be recruited from the blood to fight infections. Milk SCC simply measures the number of cells in the milk. The higher the SCC the greater the chance that the quarter is infected. The key to mastitis prevention is good management practices and healthy cows that can quickly fight mastitis battles when needed.

The question is, are low SCC cows at greater risk to mastitis infections? Ideally, an individual cow cell count should be between 100,000 and 150,000. With a count below 50,000, there is some evidence that cows respond more slowly to infection. As an Extension Educator, I am always encouraging dairy producers to decrease their SCC for high production and profitability. Many farms are reaching an overall herd SCC of less than 75,000, which was unheard of 10 years ago. This is due to increases in research and new technologies that are available. As farms reduce their bulk talk SCC below 100,000, they increase the number of low cell count cows in their herd. This may also increase the risk of clinical mastitis. However, the benefits of having a low SCC far outweigh the risks. The answer is not to increase your SCC, but to maximize immunity and keep cows in the best environment possible.

Why do low SCC cows get clinical mastitis, which is sometimes lethal? Is it because of decreased immunity or opportunity? High SCC herds mostly deal with contagious bacteria. These infections are usually subclinical and go undetected for a period of time. If clinical, they are usually mild with a few flakes, clots, or swelling. Environmental bacteria are rarely seen in these herds, because they are opportunists and can’t compete with the highly invasive contagious bacteria. Low SCC herds usually have low levels of contagious bacteria and limit the spread with good milking procedures and management practices. When these herds do get an infection it is usually environmental. These organisms are opportunistic, not invasive, meaning most animals who get these infections are immune suppressed or stressed, such as dry cows or early lactation animals. Low SCC cows are not more susceptible to environmental organisms, but clinical signs tend to be more visible and grab the attention of producers.

In conclusion, the pros outweigh the cons in this particular debate. Producers should continue to produce the highest quality milk possible. A low SCC means increased income from more milk, increased quality premiums, and decreased mastitis costs. Keeping your cows healthy with proper nutrition, a clean environment, and good management will reduce the risk of infection. The ultimate winner is the consumer, who gets a high quality dairy product.

If you want to achieve a low herd SCC, contact me to set up a farm consultation.   


An Iowa Couple Is Dairy Farming For a Climate-Changed World. Can It Work?

Researchers and advocates have billed agricultural soil managementas a powerful tool to capture and sequester carbon from the atmosphere and counteract global climate change. A coalition of international scientists has said the world must take drastic action in the coming years to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, steps that will rely on key industries like agriculture. But on one farm in central Iowa, a scientist’s greenhouse gas research is leading to tough questions about how to manage her own land.

Kevin and Ranae Dietzel’s dairy farm in central Iowa’s Hamilton County is not your average operation, in a state known for its incredible scale of corn and soybeans production. Reaching their 80 acre dairy farm on an early spring morning this April means driving past vast open stretches of bare earth warming in the sun, conventional corn and bean farms that largely haven’t had living roots in the ground since last year’s crop. In this area there aren’t many fences to speak of; livestock have been largely taken off the land in recent decades, and corralled by the hundreds or thousands in feedlots or long, narrow barns.  

But on the Dietzels’s Lost Lake Farm, there are just a handful of animals. Kevin points out a particularly friendly cow, and a newborn calf, gangly on too-tall legs.

“This is Ola. And this is Basa! The first, and so far only calf of the year,” Kevin says.

The Dietzels didn’t want to run a large-scale operation, and say they couldn’t afford it if they wanted to. It was hard enough to pull together their farm as it is now: as of this April they had a core herd of 14 milking cows, 5 heifers and 8 yearling heifers on about 80 acres. The Dietzels turn their milk into artisan cheese and sell it directly to customers at farmers’ markets and grocery stores, sidestepping a notoriously volatile milk market. In an area where farms often run 1,000 acres or more, the Dietzels’ approach is almost unheard of.

“I feel like we’re helping with the ecosystem and wildlife and so forth in a lot of ways that if we had cropland we would not be […] there are just so many things that fit with us philosophically with this type of system.” – Kevin Dietzel, Lost Lake Farm

In a landscape defined by two annual crops, the Dietzels grow a mix of perennial grasses and legumes, without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, instead relying on compost. They’ve reduced their tillage and they rotationally graze their grass-fed cows.

“So for us that means moving them to a new piece of grass twice a day. And so that helps with distributing those nutrients,” Kevin said. “It’s better for the soil because all that stuff that’s getting trampled will get incorporated.”

Cows move across the land like wild elk and bison used to, before Iowa’s vast native prairiewas plowed under, steadily grazing and moving on, stamping down plant matter and mixing in their manure as they go. This process promotes plant growth and nourishes the soil, helping fuel the bacteria, fungi and insects that maintain the rich, dark earth Iowa is famous for.

Looking out over the rolling hills of this farm, there are groves of bur oak, hackberry, ash and elm trees, a small winding creek the cows love to poke around in. On many conventional farms, these areas would be considered unproductive, the trees a nuisance, the waterways in need of artificial drainage called tiling. On the Dietzels’ farm there are tree swallows and frogs, signs of biodiversity and a healthier ecosystem.

“Where the green ends is where our property ends,” Kevin said, laughing. Looking out over the rolling hills, another farmer is at work applying synthetic fertilizer to a neighboring field, the engine whirring in the distance.

“I feel like we’re helping with the ecosystem and wildlife and so forth in a lot of ways that if we had cropland we would not be,” Kevin said. “There are just so many things that fit with us philosophically with this type of system.”

The name of the land itself, Lost Lake Farm, is an homage to Iowa before European settlement. The Dietzels’ land lies on the shores of what was Lake Cairo, once a massive lake on the prairie, that farmers deemed an obstacle and drained awayby installing a system of underground tile lines.

“Where the green ends is where our property ends.” – Kevin Dietzel, Lost Lake Farm

Ranae and Kevin returned to Hamilton County to raise their two young kids and start their farm, in part because they’re passionate about creating a viable future in a rural community. Both of their families have been farming in the Upper Midwest going back multiple generations. But they set up their farm the way they did in part because they’re deeply concerned about climate change.

Off the farm, Ranaeis a soil scientist working on her post-doctorate research at Iowa State University, where she focuses on greenhouse gas emissions. For her Ph.D., she looked at adding carbon to the soil, comparing outcomes across systems of prairie and corn. She’s painfully aware of how agricultural emissions fuel the world’s climate change problem, and how farmers are situated in the crosshairs of the damaging effects that follow.  

“I went into it being like, specifically because I thought, ok I want to help with agriculture’s big contribution to this greenhouse gas problem,” Ranae said.

Agriculture accounts for about 10 percentof the country’s emissions, particularly from soil, livestock and manure management, which can release nitrous oxide and methane, greenhouse gases that are many times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

When Dietzel got into the field, she said researchers were really excited about soil carbon sequestration. Some have gone so far as to posit the practice could “save the earth”.The world’s soils hold an immense amount of carbon– three times the amount in the atmosphere, according to some analyses. Capitalizing on the earth’s ability to retain carbon could have far-reaching effects for greenhouse gas mitigation, advocates say.

“I was like, this is so exciting, we could plant all these cover crops and this could just like totally save us and I was so excited […]and then when I got into it I personally started feeling like, I don’t know about this.” Ranae Dietzel, soil scientist, Iowa State University

Through the natural process of photosynthesis, plants pull carbon dioxide out of the air, and sink it into the soil, where it fuels a vast web of microbes. These microbes break down organic matter that plants need to grow, retaining some carbon in the soil, and also releasing some carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.  

A slate of practices are thought to boost carbon levels in the soil, including planting cover crops, counteracting erosion, reducing tillage and limiting the use of synthetic fertilizers. If enough farmers took these steps on a global scale, vast amounts of greenhouse gases could be pumped into the soil, Dietzel thought.

“I was like, this is so exciting, we could plant all these cover crops and this could just like totally save us, and I was so excited,” Ranae said. “And then when I got into it I personally started feeling like, I don’t know about this.”

In the years since Dietzel got into the field, some scientists have grown more skepticalof the potential of soil carbon sequestration. Subsequent research has found that the soil’s capacity to store carbon has been greatly overestimated, and rising temperatures could induce microbes to release more carbon dioxidethan previously thought, turning the world’s soils into a net carbon source, instead of a sink.

“That’s what I worry about, just the false sense of security I think can be really strong because everybody wants that sense of security, right? And everybody wants to be reassured.” – Ranae Dietzel, soil scientist, Iowa State University

A host of questions and uncertainties remain. But based on her own research and the analysis of others in the field, Ranae says soil carbon storage is not the silver bulletshe thought it was, despite the attention from researchers, advocates and policymakers.

“That’s what I worry about, just the false sense of security I think can be really strong because everybody wants that sense of security, right? And everybody wants to be reassured. And it sounds so simple, so why not do it?”  

Dietzel says the bulk of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions stem from land conversion; the greatest damage was done when farmers first plowed the vast expanse of prairie, draining marshes, wetlands and lakes.

Ranae’s research and scrutiny of soil’s ability to sequester carbon long-term has led to some difficult questions on Lost Lake Farm, spurring the Dietzels to wonder if their conservation practices are a net carbon sink, or whether they should invest in other ways to trap carbon and cut emissions.

So far, Kevin and Ranae are striving to keep their farm diverse: they’re maintaining living roots in the ground nearly year-round, curbing erosion and runoff; they’re cutting out carbon-intensive synthetic inputs like pesticides and fertilizers and they rarely rely on diesel engines (Kevin generally covers the 80 acres on foot). These practices keep them more resilient in changing weather and better able to handle stretches of drought and pounding rains, even if some of those same practices could mean boosting microbial communities that could release more greenhouse gas emissions in the long-term.

“All of these practices, there are really good things that come out of them. It just may not be greenhouse gas mitigation,” Ranae said.

Even with Ranae’s intimate knowledge of ag emissions, Kevin says he struggles to see what more he could do on their farm.

“I think we think more about the being adaptable to climate change than our impact,” Kevin said. “Not that I don’t think about it, but I feel like there’s only so much I can do there.”

“Everybody needs to remember the basic economics […] Decisions were made that got us to where we are today, so decisions can be made to take us in a different direction.” – Mike Duffy, emeritus economics professor, Iowa State University

Ultimately many of their decisions come down to, how will they pay their bills? So far they haven’t invested in renewable energy sources like wind or solar that they suspect could do considerably more to offset emissions on their farm. Mike Duffy is an emeritus economics professor at Iowa State University and says finances are the guiding reality for many farmers.

“Everybody needs to remember the basic economics,” Duffy says.

Federal programs support larger, conventional farms, which generally rely heavily on fossil fuels, for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, a fleet of farm vehicles with diesel engines and a dependency on international freight and trade networks to ultimately get their products to consumers.

Duffy says these farmers aren’t necessarily feeling the cost of their emissions. To have different outcomes we need to change behavior and change incentivesto encourage conservation practices and diversification, he says, and that could mean huge investments from the public and private sector, andchanges to federal farm policiesas we know them.

“Decisions were made that got us to where we are today, so decisions can be made to take us in a different direction,” Duffy says.

This kind of buy-in from the public, and the sweeping investments from governments and corporate interests and the coordination to get it all done, is not unheard of, says University of Iowa environmental economist Silvia Secchi. The country fought World War II, made it to the moon, and eradicated polio. But if the United States is going to take the steps to promote sustainable agriculture at scale, public consensus is vital, she says.

“It’s not totally pie in the sky, Secchi said. “It’s more like, do we want to do more of the same, or do we want to put in an effort to change things?”

Without structural changes to federal crop insurance programs and subsidies for preferred products, it’s not clear how many farmers can fight the economic tide and do what the Dietzels are doing – wrestling with the challenges of regenerative ag and climate change, while raising their young kids in rural Iowa. And unless more farmers can make a living in rural farming communities, it’s not clear who all will be there to help mitigate climate change, imperfect and uncertain as some of the solutions are.

“We just can’t abandon these areas, right?” Ranae said. “So it’s better to try and keep these stronger places but it’s hard to stay here unless you come up with your own way to do it.”


How farmer gets 11,000 litres from grazed Holstein herd

Wiltshire farmer Robert Mallett and his wife Maria are defying convention by producing nearly 11,000 litres of milk from their autumn-calving herd of grass-fed cows.

Like most high-yielding herds, Mr Mallett admits he previously found grazing hard work, but says his “eureka moment” came when he joined a grazing discussion group.

“Ten years ago, I would have said grass was poison to high-yielding cows, but I have changed my mind.

“Why make it into silage and put it in a clamp, which costs money and reduces the feed quality, and have to scrape out the shed? My preference would be to graze.”

He had always believed some of his farm was too wet to graze, but laying tracks on the grazing platform in 2010 was a game changer in terms of getting cows out to graze early in the season.

Rob Mallett with cows

Rob Mallett © Rhian Price/Proagrica

Farm facts

Northleaze Farm, Swindon

  • 173ha owned
  • 235 cows in milk
  • Calving August to February
  • Producing 2.5m litres/year
  • 10,932 litres a cow at 3.96% butterfat and 3.34% protein
  • Supplies Freshways on a liquid contract
  • Cows housed on sand cubicles
  • Aim to take three silage cuts
  • High health status: testing for Johne’s, bovine viral diarrhoea, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis and leptospirosis.

Mr Mallett is saving £200/day in purchased feed alone as soon as cows are turned out, not accounting for additional labour and housing savings, with purchased feed costs averaging 7.1p/litre – no mean feat for a high-production herd.

His system isn’t like that of a conventional block-calving grazier, but striking a delicate balance between grazing and buffer feeding is helping him to keep a lid on production costs while not compromising milk output.

Nutrition strategy

Cows are grazed in two groups, which makes the system more complicated than most. There is one high-yielding group of 130 cows (giving more than 43kg milk) and one lower-yielding group of 96 cows (giving 31-32kg).

The highs are buffer-fed a total mixed ration (TMR) consisting of 20kg of dry matter (DM) a head daily, with the rest of their ration made up of fresh grass. Alongside this, they receive a flat rate of 3.5kg of blend in the parlour.

Meanwhile, lows are just given grass from turnout in March until housing in November, and are fed to yield in the parlour – up to a maximum of 6kg daily.

All cows are milked three times daily – at 5am, 2pm and 9pm. Lows are turned out to paddocks after each milking, but the highs only go out once a day after the morning milking.

The grazing platform of 44.28ha is split into 1.1ha paddocks. Mr Mallet targets entry covers of 3,000kg of DM/ha and will remove cows once residuals of 1,500kg of DM/ha are reached, with grass measured weekly using a plate meter and data recorded on AgriNet.

The aim is to only graze paddocks for 24 hours, so they have no more than two feeds in each paddock.

Mr Mallet says flexibility is key to achieving this, and if grazing covers are higher than 3,000kg, he will pre-mow paddocks in front of cows to encourage intakes. Sometimes, lows are grazed after highs and youngstock are brought on to the platform to clean out paddocks.

“The true grass farmers harvest grass with their cows. If they run out, they don’t feed them as much, and they match stocking rate with grass growth. I’m the other way around; I have more cows than I have grass for,” he says.

However, in a bad year, like last year, this approach works well and cows were housed and fed full TMR in June and July when grass growth halted.

The main grass block was reseeded last autumn following the drought, which had left some fields scorched.

Producing high-quality grass is pivotal to maximising grass intakes. Mr Mallett carefully selects high-sugar ryegrasses, but chooses not to use clover.

“We get a lot of chickweed in reseeds and when we spray it off, we kill the clover. I would rather put more nitrogen on it.”

Feed regime

Milking ration

  • 40% grass silage
  • 40% maize
  • 20% wholecrop rye
  • Premix of soya, rapeseed expeller, nutritionally improved straw, molasses, minerals and wheat

Transition ration

  • 12kg wholecrop
  • 4kg premix (including rape, soya, molasses and dry cow minerals)

Breeding regime

Being autumn-calving fits really well with grazing, because cows are in-calf by the time they go out to grass, says Mr Mallett.

Although the period isn’t as compact as for true block-calving herds, it has been reduces by one month in the past year and, while Mr Mallet says he has no intention of reducing it to 12 weeks, his end goal is to finish calving by the end of December.

Service starts on 15 November and cows are fitted with CowManager ear sensors to detect heats.

Since installing them two years ago to replace antiquated activity collars, he says the farm hasn’t had a single heifer scan empty.

“It has changed my life, because I can rely on it to spot every heat.”

Replacement heifers calve in the first eight weeks of the calving period (August and September).

The top 50% of cows are served with sexed semen and the remainder are put to beef, with all heifers served with sexed semen. Conception rates in both groups last breeding season was 56%.

Mr Mallett selects genomic sires from World Wide Sires – and sometimes other companies – that have a profitable lifetime index (PLI) of £700 and are predicted to transmit at least 700kg of milk with a lifespan of +0.7.

But he isn’t worried about stature, and uses the WMS mating programme from World Wide Sires to manage inbreeding and help develop a robust, uniform herd.

Each year he seeks sires that are as close to £100 better on PLI as possible, when compared with bulls used the previous season.

This approach is paying dividends, with the herd just outside of the top 1% based on PLI rankings.

“There’s no point in putting a worse bull on a better daughter. There were 46 bulls that met that criteria this year, so it gives you plenty to choose from,” he adds.

Antibiotics use and health

As well as detecting heats, the CowManager sensors collect data for rumination and resting times, and monitor temperature to detect early signs of disease.

The technology has been crucial in cutting the use of antibiotics within the herd.

Cows that go off feed are treated with 300ml of propylene glycol and a rumen drench and, if considered necessary, will have an anti-inflammatory too. Mr Mallett only reaches for the antibiotics when a cow has a temperature above 40C.  

This policy has seen use fall drastically – from 35mg/kg liveweight to just 5mg/kg – and critically important antibiotics haven’t been used on the farm for three years.

“Antibiotics were my first line of defence, but now they’re my last. CowManager is a very big help because it picks up cows if they stop eating for four to five hours,” he explains.

Grazing benefits

Mindset is key when it comes to grazing. Mr Mallett says farmers shouldn’t believe that Holsteins can’t graze, or underestimate the importance of starting to graze animals when they are young.

“We have always grazed youngstock throughout the summer, which is a big help in training animals to graze.”

Youngstock at Northleaze are turned out in the spring, at six to seven months of age, and won’t be housed until service the following October.

He admits his “halfway-house” is more complicated than most conventional grazing systems, as he needs to carefully balance buffer feeding and grazing. But over the years he has learned not to be afraid to cut back buffer.

“I used to be very worried about cows not having feed in front of them, [but] they need to be hungry when they go out.”

He believes other high-yielding farms could take advantage of grazing to offset rising feed costs. 

“It can be challenging when the weather is against you, but it’s very rewarding when it’s right.”

Grazing residual after the first round was very good

Grazing residual after the first round was very good

Advice for high-production herds wanting to improve grazing

  • Don’t believe Holsteins can’t graze – they can
  • Put in tracks and split fields into manageable paddocks, with a good water supply
  • Avoid paddocks that don’t have hard access when it’s wet to avoid poaching
  • Ensure you have high-quality pasture to graze
  • Don’t be afraid to cut buffer feed
  • Have faith in the quality of grass – it’s as good as, if not better than, expensive feed

Robotic milking: Dairy Aus spends $2m to stop farmers giving it up

DAIRY Australia has spent $2 million over the past three years trying to slow the rate of dairy farmers abandoning ­robotic milking to less than 10 per cent a year.

DA’s push, in partnership with milking machine manufacturer DeLaval, comes despite growing evidence that some of the 45 Australian dairy farmers who adopted voluntary robotic milking are ­battling to make it work on pasture-based systems.

West Australian dairy farmer Rob Giura, who has already decommissioned two of his four DeLaval robotic milkers, said he had battled for two years trying to milk a 250-cow herd, but had cut his losses and was now using just two robots to milk 80.

“Originally they quoted me three robots to milk 200 cows,” Mr Giura said. “But we got a fourth, as we were planning on expanding to 250 (cows).”

He said the robots were unable to milk that number of cows, which was backed up by North American benchmarking studies that show robots each harvested 1100 litres of milk per day on pasture-based dairy farms. Even benchmarking studies of 12 Australian farms have shown an average of little more than 1200 litres/robot/day.

Mr Giura said the sums did not stack up when it came to investing in a robot that realistically could milk only 40-50 cows a day, at a cost $350,000-$400,000 (fully installed).

He said Dairy Australia had told him milk production might drop by up to 30 per cent during the transition from conventional to robotic milking, but it should recover within a couple of months.

“But we did not recover at all for two years,” Mr Giura said, with milk production dropping from 9000 to 5800 ­litres (annual per cow).

“After two years we sold off the bulk of our cows and brought the herd down to about 80.”

“The issue was you could not operate at the capacity claimed. The cost of servicing and maintaining them was just too high and there were constant problems.”

Another east-coast dairy farmer, who did not wish to be named due the family seeking compensation from DeLaval, said he knew of three other farmers who had decommissioned their robots.

He said the family had given up on their robotic units after milk production had dropped from a 9000-litre average to 6500 litres.

“The robots were always breaking down and used a huge amount of water, chemicals and power,” he said.

DeLaval Oceania vice president Justin Thompson said “the vast majority of our robotics farmers in Australia are getting the results they wanted”.

“In the ten years since installing our first robotic system in Australia DeLaval has had two farms decommission their robots and we continue to work with new farmers who are installing robotic systems after seeing the benefits to other farms.”

When asked why it was still investing in robotic milking a Dairy Australia spokeswoman said its role was to speed up the demonstration and introduction of new technologies.


Source: The Weekly Times

USDA Announces New Decision Tool for New Dairy Margin Coverage Program

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced today the availability of a new web-based tool – developed in partnership with the University of Wisconsin – to help dairy producers evaluate various scenarios using different coverage levels through the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

The 2018 Farm Bill authorized DMC, a voluntary risk management program that offers financial protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. It replaces the program previously known as the Margin Protection Program for Dairy. Sign up for this USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) program opens on June 17.

“With sign-up for the DMC program just weeks away, we encourage producers to use this new support tool to help make decisions on participation in the program,” Secretary Perdue said. “Dairy producers have faced tough challenges over the years, but the DMC program should help producers better weather the ups and downs in the industry.”

The University of Wisconsin launched the decision support tool in cooperation with FSA and funded through a cooperative agreement with the USDA Office of the Chief Economist. The tool was designed to help producers determine the level of coverage under a variety of conditions that will provide them with the strongest financial safety net. It allows farmers to simplify their coverage level selection by combining operation data and other key variables to calculate coverage needs based on price projections.

The decision tool assists producers with calculating total premiums costs and administrative fees associated with participation in DMC. It also forecasts payments that will be made during the coverage year.

“The new Dairy Margin Coverage program offers very appealing options for all dairy farmers to reduce their net income risk due to volatility in milk or feed prices,” said Dr. Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Higher coverage levels, monthly payments, and more flexible production coverage options are especially helpful for the sizable majority of farms who can cover much of their milk production with the new five million pound maximum for Tier 1 premiums. This program deserves the careful consideration of all dairy farmers.”

For more information, access the tool at For DMC sign up, eligibility and related program information, visit or contact your local USDA Service Center. To locate your local FSA office, visit


Source: USDA

Milktech startup MoooFarm to work with Microsoft to help Indian dairy farmers

The biggest bane of the disease is that farmers often do not realise that the cattle has been affected by it. “They just know that the udder is swollen, and the quality and the quantity of milk has gone down,” Aashna says.

MoooFarm Co-founder Aashna Singh is working to help dairy farmers tackle mastitis, a disease in cows that leads to poor quality and quantity of milk.

Over the next year, MoooFarm India, in association with Microsoft, will develop a platform within their existing app to help detect mastitis in cattle through ‘image labeling’. The farmer just has to click photos of the udder and milk; the app will then detect if the cattle is afflicted by the disease.

Even if a single cow gets the disease, it results in a loss of around Rs 5,000 per month for the farmer, due to factors such as lower production, poor quality, veterinary expenses etc., according to MoooFarm.

Launched in February by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, the MoooFarm app helps in tracking the health, productivity, and breeding cycle of cattle.

Every 21 days, cattle come in heat, which is when they are to be inseminated. But according to Aashna, farmers don’t keep records and miss out on the cycles, which lead to losses. “Through the app we send them alerts and tell them the right time. These alerts are also accompanied by e-learning videos,” adds the 27-year old entrepreneur. 

milktech, startup, agritech, moofarms
Alerts and e-learning videos are sent to dairy farmers on the MoooFarm app regularly

The app will soon also have a live feature, where the farmer can get real-time help from a vet or an expert. The company also has on-the-ground staff in villages, called Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs), to help and educate farmers on best practices. One VLE is assigned for every two-three villages and oversees 100-150 farmers.

MoooFarm’s pilot project kicked off from Sangrur in Punjab. Over the next two months, it will expand to five other states: Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Haryana. From 2,000 farmers on the platform currently, Aashna sees a massive rise to two lakh farmers as these states are on-boarded.

Why B2B is the right ‘moo’

The company operates in a B2B format where it ties up with corporates, dairy cooperatives, milk companies, and governments to reach farmers. MoooFarm currently works with corporate giant Hindustan Unilever in Rajpura, Punjab, and Sumerpur, UP. It has also signed a letter of intent (LoI) with Maharashtra’s Prabhat Dairy to collaborate on increasing farmer income.

Param Singh, 37, the other Co-founder of MoooFarm, says, “Our aim is to increase the income of two lakh farmers by 2020. And for this, we will utilise cloud technology to reach even farmers who are far off.”

MoooFarm Co-founder Param Singh says his company wants to reach and help dairy farmers everywhere.

The company has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Google and Tata Trusts’ Internet Saathi programme to train women farmers. The Internet Saathi initiative imparts digital literacy to women in rural areas and teaches them to better their livelihoods by using the internet.

India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of dairy; it has been the largest milk producing country globally since 1997.

The Economic Survey of India states the country produces 160 million tonnes of milk per year. A study by Research and Markets pegged India’s dairy industry at Rs 5 lakh crore in 2016. Co-operatives and private dairies have access to only 20 percent of the milk produced, and 34 percent of milk is sold in the unorganised market while 46 percent is consumed locally. Compare this to most developed nations where almost 90 percent of surplus milk goes through the organised sector.

India’s milk sector has seen a flurry of activity in recent times. Numerous startups are riding the demand for fresh milk, including Milkbasket, MilkMantra, Mr Milkman, Woohoo Milk, Country Delight, and others. The organic milk sector has companies like the Good Cow Company, Shudh Farms, Akshayakalpa, and Satvik that are scaling up across India.

Clearly, it’s time that MoooFarm works to milk this demand.

March Triggers Third 2019 Dairy Safety Net Payment

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced this week that the March 2019 income over feed cost margin was $8.85 per hundredweight (cwt.), triggering the third payment for dairy producers who purchase the appropriate level of coverage under the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

DMC, which replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy), offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

“I encourage all dairy operations to sign up for DMC when we begin accepting applications in June,” said FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “Under certain coverage levels, the amount to be paid to dairy farmers for the months of January, February and March already exceed the cost of the premium.”

The signup period for DMC opens June 17, 2019. Dairy producers who elect a DMC coverage level between $9 and $9.50 would be eligible for a payment for January, February and March 2019.

For example, a dairy operation that chooses to enroll an established production history of 3 million pounds (30,000 cwt.) and elects the $9.50 coverage level on 95 percent of production would receive $1,543.75 for March.

 Sample calculation:

$9.50 – $8.85 margin = $0.65 difference

$0.65 x 95 percent of production x 2,500 cwt. (30,000 cwt./12) = $1,543.75

DMC premiums are paid annually. The calculated annual premium for coverage at $9.50 on 95 percent of a 3-million-pound production history for this example would be $4,275.

 Sample calculation:

3,000,000 x 95 percent = 2,850,000/100 = 28,500 cwt. x 0.150 premium fee = $4,275

The dairy operation in the example calculation will pay $4,275 in total premium payments for all of 2019 and receive $8,170 in DMC payments for January, February and March combined. Additional payments will be made if calculated margins remain below the $9.50/cwt level.

All participants are also required to pay an annual $100 administrative fee in addition to any premium, and payments will be subject to a 6.2 percent reduction to account for federal sequestration.

Operations making a one-time election to participate in DMC through 2023 are eligible to receive a 25 percent discount on their premium for the existing margin coverage rates. For the example above, this would reduce the annual premium by $1,068.75.

 About DMC

On December 20, 2018, President Trump signed into law the 2018 Farm Bill, which provides support, certainty and stability to our nation’s farmers, ranchers and land stewards by enhancing farm support programs, improving crop insurance, maintaining disaster programs and promoting and supporting voluntary conservation. FSA is committed to implementing these changes as quickly and effectively as possible, and today’s updates are part of meeting that goal.

Recently, FSA announced the availability of the DMC decision support tool as well as repayment options for producers who were enrolled in MPP-Dairy.

For DMC signup, eligibility and related dairy program information, visit the DMC webpage or contact your local USDA service center. To locate your local FSA office, visit

Convert dairy farms and feed the world

OPINION: How would it feel for our national pride if we fed 100 million people instead of 50 million?

This could be achieved by converting ten to twenty per cent of our best dairy land to growing vegetable crops for processing in rotation with grass for cows.

All the US-based mega money for funded research is centred around producing new food products in laboratories using genetically modified yeast.

Our assumption is that the raw materials for this production would be global commodity crops such as sugar, corn and soya beans. These crops are mostly genetically modified, and are essentially human food.

To put these commodity crops through a fermentation process dramatically reduces the food quantity, and increases the price of what was once a perfectly good authentic food. Interfering with the blueprint for life or modifying the genetic code of plants and microbes is a conscience issue for many people.

Frozen foods show far more promise for the future because they have extremely high yields in terms of food content, and are recognisable as authentic products such as carrots, cauliflower, peas, sweet corn and potato chips.

It is a possible to greatly extend the range of frozen vegetables for diverse tastes and to produce customised mixes for specific meal types or designs. This makes frozen foods an ideal ingredient for an increasingly automated urban based food service industry.

Investment in processing infrastructure would essentially be provided by Fonterra farmers and be New Zealand owned, the incentive for farmers to invest would be the improved and stabilised milk prices along with higher returns than milk for the crops grown.

Crop residues would be well used on farm as cow feed. Cows would be only fed on grass and crop residues which are not human food.

Fonterra farmers have invested heavily, from their own pockets mostly, to develop a vast amount of fertile, well manured, irrigated land to produce milk for export. They have learned how to grow very technical fodder crops such as beets, kale, turnips and swedes to feed their cows during times of grass shortages.

These farmers are hungry for such technology as robotic weeding, both physical and chemically based processes to reduce labour and chemical inputs.

Fonterra business have developed extensive systems of ensuring milk quality excellence from their farm suppliers. On farm compliance in the areas of input recording and auditing, animal welfare and environmental sustainability is incrementally improving as farmers are trained to Fonterra developed systems.

The excellence of these systems makes Fonterra a trusted brand in international markets. Fonterra have experience also in building food processing mega-factories, supply chain efficiencies, and can operate on slim profit margins.

Our biggest trading partner, China has mobilised vast numbers of people to move to urban manufacturing areas where their principal food supply has changed from traditional home cooking to purchasing prepared food from the food service industry. China has developed massive infrastructure for shipping and road transport.

Manufacture of stainless-steel machines for food service is opening the pathway for automated and robotic food service delivery. Automation gives the option to robotically wash plates and cutlery and to return a deposit to the customer electronically for bringing plates back.

Farmers have experienced the hardship of low and volatile prices for milk based on global dairy trade auctions. They are looking to diversify and limit production to keep prices and overall returns up.

Extensive and successful marketing work has been done by Fonterra to bring innovative milk products into the global food service industry.

Frozen vegetable ingredients are a logical next step. Whilst the current profitability of frozen foods may be a challenge the future should be good with Fonterra’s huge competitive advantage in land supply, processing skills, trusted goodness and provenance.

Right now, Fonterra is not in a good position for big investment, but farmers need hope and a future which uses all their brilliance to improve morale, incomes and their place in the world.

Tim and Deborah Rhodes are Nelson farmers.


Source: Stuff

The Results Are In – Interpreting and acting on fermentation analysis results

Fermentation analysis can be a helpful tool, but the results must be properly understood before making big changes to a silage program.

“Forage fermentation analyses are rarely clear cut,” explains Renato Schmidt, Ph.D., Technical Services – Silage, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “This can make it difficult to take the information and turn it into specific, actionable tasks for the farm.”

Dr. Schmidt advises reviewing the results with three key take-aways in mind:

  1. Management changes: Fermentation characteristics can point to necessary silage management adjustments.
  2. Possible feeding challenges: The fermentation profile can provide insight into intake and potential issues.
  3. Identify performance problems: In some cases, results can help explain poor silage nutritive value and metabolic issues within the herd.

Management changes

Fermentation analysis helps tell the story of silage production from harvest timing to packing density and sealing. Properly ensiled forage creates a predictable pattern of acid production. Breakdowns in management will show up as silage with more variability and less desirable fermentation characteristics.

“If we see silage with a high pH, that can indicate poor fermentation, which can result from slow or poor packing,” he explains. “The forage could have been harvested too dry or have been contaminated with manure. The analysis can point us in the direction, but it’s up to us to find the cause and create a plan of action.”

Incorporating laboratory tests measuring acid detergent fiber (ADF), neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and lignin can help point out additional management changes. For example, ADF, NDF and lignin values should be within average ranges for the type of material harvested. If levels are higher than normal for the crop, it may be a sign the material was more mature than ideal. This can also lead to yeast and mold challenges.

“Starch also is a good indicator of the timing of harvest,” Dr. Schmidt explains. “Ideally, corn silage starch levels should be around 30 percent. For cereal forages, the starch level should be about the same unless it was harvested green. Then, producers could expect to see starch levels as low as 10 to 15 percent.”

Possible feeding challenges

Feed intake can be depressed for a number of reasons. In high-moisture silages, acids, ammonia and other products from protein breakdown can be produced in greater quantities, which can reduce intake.

Silages with high levels of certain acids can indicate poor dry matter (DM) recovery during ensiling. For example, wet silages that have suffered a slow fermentation can contain higher levels of acetic acid, creating a tell-tale vinegar smell. Research has shown acetic acid itself may not be the cause of intake problems.1 For example, well-managed silage treated with forage inoculants containing Lactobacillus buchneri often have higher levels of acetic acid, but intake is not affected.2,3

In fact, acetic acid can benefit silage. It helps inhibit the growth of spoilage yeasts responsible for silage heating. This process is one of the reasons the widely used Biotal® forage inoculants containing the specific strain Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 have been uniquely reviewed by the FDA for improved aerobic stability when applied at 400,000 CFU per gram of forage or 600,000 CFU per gram of high-moisture corn (HMC).

Identify performance problems

Finally, fermentation analysis can provide insight into possible performance problems. High levels of silage acids can indicate an extensive fermentation occurred during ensiling. Many operations can successfully feed silage with a high acid content by balancing the ration appropriately to the silage.

“It’s worthwhile to invest in fermentation analysis — especially if you’re experiencing challenges that are hard to pin down,” Dr. Schmidt advises. “Rations are only as well formulated as the quality of the individual components. Silage is a complex system with inherent variability. In addition to allowing the ration to be properly balanced around the silage, analysis can help us understand what happened during the harvest and ensiling process and help identify how to improve the next time.”

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


1 Ward RT and de Ondarza MB. Fermentation Analysis of Silage: Use and Interpretation. January 2000.

2 Kleinschmit DH, Schmidt RJ and Kung, Jr L. The effects of various antifungal additives on the

fermentation and aerobic stability of corn silage. J. Dairy Sci. 2005; 88:2130-2139.

3 Kung, Jr. L., Taylor CC, Lynch MP, and Neylon JM. The effect of treating alfalfa with Lactobacillus

buchneri 40788 on silage fermentation, aerobic stability, and nutritive value for lactating dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 2003; 86:336-343.


Milk Prices, Costs of Nutrients, Margins and Comparison of Feedstuffs Prices

Milk prices: the surge to $16/cwt

In the last issue, the Class III futures for January and February were at $13.80 and $14.00/cwt, respectively. The Class III component prices for the month of January and February closed at similar prices of $13.96 and $13.89/cwt. The Class III future for March is similar to January and February component prices at $13.78/cwt followed by a jump to $15.09/cwt in April.

The $1.25/cwt jump for the April Class III advanced price is like a ray of sunshine in what has been a field of darkness for the dairy industry. For nearly all of 2018, the Class III price averaged around $14.50/cwt. The beginning of 2019 has not been any better, and prices have averaged less than $14/cwt. However, this increase in the Class III price over $15/cwt should be the beginning of a surge to $16/cwt. Looking at Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Class III futures, they are trading at or above $16/cwt starting in July and for the remainder of 2019. If the CME futures are right, this would be good because $16/cwt is what I would consider breaking even based on current feed prices. Whether prices can surge far beyond $16/cwt is a tossup and will largely depend on if total milk production starts to decline in the U.S., which is likely given steady decreases in total cow numbers.    

Nutrient prices

As in previous issues, these feed ingredients were appraised using the software program SESAME™ developed by Dr. St-Pierre at The Ohio State University to price the important nutrients in dairy rations, to estimate break-even prices of many commodities traded in Ohio, and to identify feedstuffs that currently are significantly underpriced as of March 24, 2019. Price estimates of net energy lactation (NEL, $/Mcal), metabolizable protein (MP, $/lb; MP is the sum of the digestible microbial protein and digestible rumen-undegradable protein of a feed), non-effective NDF (ne-NDF, $/lb), and effective NDF (e-NDF, $/lb) are reported in Table 1.  

When looking at commodity and nutrient prices, they are about the same as the previous issue. For MP, its current value has decreased $0.03/lb from January’s issue ($0.45/lb), whereas the cost of NEL is similar to January (5.8¢/Mcal). The price of e-NDF and ne-NDF are also close to last month at 7.8¢/lb and -2¢/lb (i.e., feeds with a significant content of non-effective NDF are priced at a discount), respectively.

To estimate the cost of production at these nutrient prices, the Cow-Jones Index was used for average US cows weighing 1500 lb and producing milk with 3.7% fat and 3.1% protein. For this issue, the income over nutrient cost (IONC) for cows milking 70 lb/day and 85 lb/day cows is about $8.23/cwt and $8.60/cwt, respectively. These IONC are better than what I estimated in January ($8.07/cwt and $8.45/cwt, respectively). These IONC may also be overestimated because they do not account for the cost of replacements or dry cows. Nonetheless, current IONC suggests profits for dairy farmers in Ohio are still less than breaking even.

Table 1. Prices of dairy nutrients for Ohio dairy farms, March 24, 2019.

Economic Value of Feeds

Results of the Sesame analysis for central Ohio on March 24, 2019 are presented in Table 2. Detailed results for all 27 feed commodities are reported. The lower and upper limits mark the 75% confidence range for the predicted (break-even) prices. Feeds in the “Appraisal Set” were those for which we didn’t have a price or were adjusted to reflect their true (“Corrected”) value in a lactating diet. One must remember that SESAME™ compares all commodities at one specific point in time. Thus, the results do not imply that the bargain feeds are cheap on a historical basis.

Table 2. Actual, breakeven (predicted) and 75% confidence limits of 27 feed commodities used on Ohio dairy farms, March 24, 2019.

For convenience, Table 3 summarizes the economic classification of feeds according to their outcome in the SESAME™ analysis. Feedstuffs that have gone up in price or in other words moved a column to the right since the last issue are red. Conversely, feedstuffs that have moved to the left (i.e., decreased in price) are green. These shifts (i.e., feeds moving columns to the left or right) in price are only temporary changes relative to other feedstuffs within the last two months and do not reflect historical prices.

Table 3. Partitioning of feedstuffs in Ohio, March 24, 2019.

Bargains At Breakeven Overpriced
Corn, ground dry Bakery byproducts Alfalfa hay – 40% NDF
Corn silage Feather meal Beet pulp
Distillers dried grains Gluten meal Blood meal
Gluten feed Soybean hulls Mechanically extracted canola meal
Hominy 48% Soybean meal Citrus pulp
Meat meal Whole cottonseed 41% Cottonseed meal
Soybean meal – expeller Wheat bran Fish meal
Wheat middlings Whole, roasted soybeans Molasses
    Solvent extracted canola meal
    44% Soybean meal

As coined by Dr. St-Pierre, I must remind the readers that these results do not mean that you can formulate a balanced diet using only feeds in the “bargains” column. Feeds in the “bargains” column offer a savings opportunity, and their usage should be maximized within the limits of a properly balanced diet. In addition, prices within a commodity type can vary considerably because of quality differences as well as non-nutritional value added by some suppliers in the form of nutritional services, blending, terms of credit, etc. Also, there are reasons that a feed might be a very good fit in your feeding program while not appearing in the “bargains” column. For example, your nutritionist might be using some molasses in your rations for reasons other than its NEL and MP contents.


For those of you who use the 5-nutrient group values (i.e., replace metabolizable protein by rumen degradable protein and digestible rumen undegradable protein), see the Table 4.

Table 4. Prices of dairy nutrients using the 5-nutrient solution for Ohio dairy farms, March 24, 2019.


Early-Spring Planted Forages for Dairy Farms

Challenging growing conditions in 2018 left many dairy farms looking at short forage supplies heading into the 2019 growing season. So, what are the options for short-season forages planted in early spring this year?

Before we discuss short-season forage options, it should be emphasized that corn silage is the number one choice for an annual forage in terms of overall yield and nutritive value.

If forage is needed before corn silage can be ready, acceptable short-season forages for dairy cows include spring oats, spring triticale, spring barley, and Italian ryegrass planted in early spring and harvested at the proper stage of maturity this summer (Table 1).

Oats are commonly grown in Ohio and are better than barley adapted to cool wet soils. Forage varieties have been developed and are marketed.

Spring barley will usually produce tonnage that is a little lower than oats or triticale and is best established on well-drained soils that are not heavy textured. Barley is the earliest maturing of the small grains planted in the spring.

Spring triticale is a cross between wheat and rye and is well-adapted to a range of soils. It has better tolerance to low soil pH than wheat but not as good as rye.

Italian ryegrass is usually biennial in longevity, so it can usually produce some forage into the second year, depending on winter conditions. It establishes as quickly as the small grain species and can provide high yields of high-quality forage. It will produce forage ready for harvest in 60 days from seeding and then throughout the first year on about 25 to 30-day intervals.

Agronomic Management

Plant high quality seed of a named variety to avoid unpleasant surprises.  For mixtures of small grains, the seeding rate of each component can be reduced to 70% of the full rate. Forage peas can be included in the mixture to increase crude protein content, but peas are generally higher in seed cost.

Small grains can be planted about 1.5 inches deep as early in the spring as soil conditions allow. Italian ryegrass should be planted any time after April 1 and by May 1 at no more than 0.5-inch deep. A burn-down application of glyphosate is a cost-effective weed control practice prior to planting. For small grains, nitrogen may be needed at 30 to 50 lb/acre at planting. Manure applications can replace some or all the N fertilizer need, depending on the amount of readily available N in the manure. When growing Italian ryegrass, additional nitrogen (~50 lb/acre) will be needed after the first or second harvest.

Nutritional Value and Yields

When harvested at similar stages of maturity, the nutrient composition of the different small grains is similar, i.e., maturity affects composition more than does species. The nutritional value of small grain forage declines rapidly with increasing maturity.  Small grain forage harvested in the pre-boot stage has about 20% crude protein (CP; varies with how much N fertilizer applied), 40% NDF, 30% ADF, and in vitro digestibility of about 80%.  Compared to corn silage, small grain forage harvested in the boot stage has energy concentrations similar to corn silage but greater concentrations of CP.  Small grain forage (boot stage) has more energy and about the same CP content as high-quality alfalfa.  At the milk stage, CP averages 12%, NDF averages 48%, ADF averages 35%, and in vitro digestibility averages 62%.  In the milk stage, small grains typically have about 10% less energy than corn silage but 3 to 4 percentage units more CP than corn silage.  Compared with alfalfa, milk stage small grain forage has about the same energy content but lower CP.  When harvested in the boot stage, dry matter (DM) yields should range between 1.5 and 2.5 tons/acre.  When harvested at the milk stage, yields range from 3 to 4 tons/acre. 

Italian ryegrass trials planted in central Ohio produced yields from 2.5 to 4.6 tons/acre of DM in the first year and from 1.0 to 4.5 tons/acre in the second year. Types known as true Italian types will usually have little to no reproductive growth in the first year and will produce higher quality forage than true annual types. Italian ryegrass generally has NDF concentrations around 50% and CP concentrations between 12 and 16%. Invitro NDF digestibility is high. When fed as the sole forage in a diet, milk production will not be as good compared to cows fed corn silage-based diets, but when it comprised 15 to 20% of diet DM, milk production, milk composition, and feed efficiency was good. It often is very high in potassium so it is important to ensure cows are fed adequate supplemental magnesium.

The harvested forage should be tested, and the lab nutritional values used in balancing rations that incorporate these supplemental forages.


Stage of maturity at harvesting will greatly affect the yield and forage nutritive value, as mentioned above. Chopping and ensiling or wet wrapping are the best mechanical harvest alternatives for these supplemental forages. Dry baling is especially a challenge for small grains because the small grains dry about half as fast as grass hay. Ryegrasses are also slower to dry than other grasses. When using seed treated with fungicides, observe harvest and grazing restrictions on the label.

Grazing can provide an effective and affordable alternative for utilizing the forage. Strip grazing can be an option for dry cows or heifers. Small grain forages can cause bloat if the growth is young and lush, so feeding high quality grass hay, silage and/or a bloat preventative can provide some protection. Remove lactating dairy animals from small grain pastures two hours before milking to reduce the problem of off-flavored milk.


Short-season annual forages can be planted in early spring to produce good yields and high-quality supplemental forage. Proper management in planting, and especially harvest timing and storing, will greatly affect the overall quality of the feed. Small grains harvested in the boot to milk stage stored as silage are acceptable forages for dairy cows. Italian ryegrass harvested 60 days after seeding and on 25 to 30-day intervals thereafter can also produce acceptable forage for dairy cows. Farmers should have the forages tested and balance the diet according to the test results.  Yields are typically lower than alfalfa or corn silage.  Small grain forage harvested in the boot stage is similar in energy to corn silage and similar in CP to alfalfa.  At the milk stage, small grain forage has about 10% less energy than corn silage (similar to alfalfa) and about 4 percentage units more CP than corn silage.

Table 1. Guidelines for seeding rates, seeding dates, average yield, and nutritive value ranges for various annual forage silages. Yield and nutritive value ranges are for silage, which vary greatly with maturity stage at harvest. Generally, for hay expect lower CP and higher NDF values.

Forage crop Seeding rate (lb/acre) Planting dates1 Dry matter yield (ton/acre) CP (%) NDF (%)
Corn silage 28-34k2 4/20 – 6/15 5.0 – 9.0 6 – 9 38 – 50
Spring oats 75-100 3/15-4/15 or 8/1-9/7 2.5-3.5 or 0.8-3.0 10-16 52-65
Spring barley 100-120 3/15-4/15 1.8-2.3 10-15 52-65
Spring triticale 90-110 3/15-4/15 or 8/1-9/7 2.5-3.5 or 0.8-3.0 10-18 50-65
Italian ryegrass 20-25 4/1-5/1 or 8/1-9/7 2.5-4.0 (spr. seeded) 12-16 50-60

1Planting date range for Ohio. In southern Ohio, the spring dates should be in the early range, and in the fall, they can be in the later range.
228,000 to 34,000 seeds per acre; seed companies provide hybrid specific planting rates.


When Does it Pay to Use Killed Vaccines on a Dairy Operation?

Using killed and modified-live virus vaccines in conjunction shows lasting value for producers

Choosing the right vaccination program for cows is a fundamental aspect of the health and profitability of any dairy operation. Incorporating killed vaccines during mid to late gestation has been shown to be beneficial for both the cow and her future calf, in addition to using modified-live virus (MLV) vaccines prior to breeding.1

“Killed vaccines do a really good job of boosting an animal’s preexisting immune response from an MLV vaccine program,” said Chris Chase, DVM, professor, Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, South Dakota State University.

“When timed correctly and under the guidance of a herd veterinarian, using MLV and killed vaccines in a herd health protocol can help further reduce respiratory and reproductive diseases, as well as improve profitability,” said Linda Tikofsky, DVM, senior associate director of dairy professional veterinary services, Boehringer Ingelheim.

For cows, it’s recommended to administer an MLV vaccine at pre-breeding around 30 to 40 days in milk. Ideally, dairy replacement heifers should receive a minimum of three MLV vaccines with the third dose given 30 days prior to breeding. Giving a killed vaccine during mid to late gestation offers five main benefits:

1. Safe to use for all ages and stages. Killed vaccines are safe for pregnant cows regardless of their vaccination history.1 “If the health and vaccination history of a pregnant female is unknown, do not use MLV vaccines since a cow that has not been previously immunized with an MLV vaccine may abort,” said Dr. Tikofsky.

2. No reversion to virulence. Reversion to virulence means a vaccine has the potential to cause disease in immunosuppressed animals. Although the risk is extremely low, MLV vaccines do carry this risk.

3. Stability in storage and handling. Killed vaccines offer a long storage life and are also ready to use — no mixing required.1

4. Fortified colostrum. “Giving a killed vaccine at dry off can boost colostral antibody levels,” Dr. Chase said.2 “If the colostrum is managed correctly, we can provide additional protective respiratory immunity for the calf.”

5. A positive synergy between killed and MLV vaccines when used together. Research has shown that MLV and killed vaccines can enhance one another when used in herd health protocols. Giving a killed vaccine in late gestation followed by an MLV vaccine at 30 to 40 days in milk pre-breeding may help improve breeding efficiency.3

Killed vaccines also offer a longer duration of protection than we may have originally thought. “The quality of adjuvants has greatly improved in killed vaccines, which changes the character of the immune response animals have,” explained Dr. Chase. “Rather than being short-lived, killed vaccines now last much longer. A recent study has shown a solid 12 months of protection from killed vaccines, whereas before they were thought to only last three to four months.”4

“If you decide to incorporate a killed vaccine into your protocol, make sure the one you choose provides proven protection against bovine viral diarrhea virus Types 1 and 2, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, bovine respiratory syncytial virus and parainfluenza-3,” advised Dr. Tikofsky.

When using killed vaccines for the first time, it’s important to give two doses of the vaccine according to label directions. Failure to follow-up with a second dose within the correct time frame is one of the most common reasons a killed vaccine can fail.1

Drs. Tikofsky and Chase encourage producers to work with their veterinarians for guidance. They can help develop a vaccination program tailored to fit the needs of the herd.


1 New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program Expansion Module. Vaccination strategies to maximize preventive health and to minimize adverse effects on market quality. Available at: Accessed Nov. 14, 2018.

2 Smith BI, Rieger RH, Dickens CM, Schultz RD, Aceto H. Anti-bovine herpesvirus and anti-bovine viral diarrhea virus antibody responses in pregnant Holstein dairy cattle following administration of a multivalent killed virus vaccine. Am J Vet Res 2015; 76:913–920

3 Dubovi EJ, Gröhn YT, Brunner MA, Hertl JA. Response to modified-live and killed multivalent viral vaccines in regularly vaccinated, fresh dairy cows. Vet Ther2000;1(1):49–58.)

4 Walz PH, Givens MD, Rodning SP, et al. Evaluation of reproductive protection against bovine viral diarrhea virus and bovine herpesvirus-1 afforded by annual revaccination with modified-live viral or combination modified-live/killed viral vaccines after primary vaccination with modified-live viral vaccine. Vaccine 2017; 35:1046–1054.

Improving the health and quality of life of patients is the goal of the research-driven pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim. The focus in doing so is on diseases for which no satisfactory treatment option exists to date. The company therefore concentrates on developing innovative therapies that can extend patients’ lives. In animal health, Boehringer Ingelheim stands for advanced prevention.

Family-owned since it was established in 1885, Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s top 20 companies. Some 50,000 employees create value through innovation daily for the three business areas human pharmaceuticals, animal health and biopharmaceuticals. In 2017, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of nearly 18.1 billion euros. R&D expenditure, exceeding three billion euros, corresponded to 17.0 percent of net sales.

As a family-owned company, Boehringer Ingelheim plans in generations and focuses on long-term success rather than short-term profit. The company therefore aims at organic growth from its own resources, with simultaneous openness to partnerships and strategic alliances in research. In everything it does, Boehringer Ingelheim naturally adopts responsibility toward mankind and the environment.

More information about Boehringer Ingelheim can be found at or in our annual report:

About Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health

Boehringer Ingelheim is the second largest animal health business in the world. We are committed to creating animal wellbeing through our large portfolio of advanced, preventive healthcare products and services. With net sales in 2017 of 3.9 billion euros ($4.4 billion) and around 10,000 employees worldwide, we are present in more than 150 markets. For more information, visit here:


Weed control in pastures and hayfields

Weeds can reduce the quantity and the stand life of desirable forage plants in pastures and hayfields. Weeds also impact the aesthetic value of a pasture. Therefore, producers may choose to initiate weed management strategies that reduce the impact of weeds on forage production.

The first step in effective weed control is to evaluate the pasture or hay field to determine the source of the weed problem. Soil testing to determine the current nutrient and pH status is the place to begin. After correcting fertility levels, the following things must be evaluated and corrected:
• Stocking rate to eliminate overgrazing problems
• Pasture rotation schedule
• Need for additional grazing land
• Prevent scalping and mowing-too-low
• Correct the mower height in order to leave adequate stubble
• Consider renovation where forage stands are very weak

First, a weed is defined as any plant growing where you don’t want it. Therefore, we must begin to think in a broader sense as to what weeds are. A weed can be Bahiagrass or Crabgrass growing in a Bermudagrass hayfield. These unwanted plants are often more aggressive than existing or desired forage species and compete for light, water, and nutrients. In latter stages of maturity, weeds can also reduce the quality and palatability of the forage available for livestock grazing. However, not all weedy plants are detrimental to pastures. In fact, some weedy plants provide nutritional value to grazing animals.

Grazing can be used as an effective weed management tool. Livestock will graze weeds when they are small. In the early vegetative stage of growth, many weeds have nutritive values equal to or greater than the desired forages. However, the forage quality of weeds decline rapidly as the plants mature.

Mowing is especially effective in reducing the amount of weed seed produced by established broadleaf weeds. The mower should cut as close to the ground as possible. Mowing may not completely eliminate weed seed production, since some seed could be produced by plants that regrow from tillers present on grasses below the height of cutting. Also, perennial weeds that spread by underground rootstocks, like thistle, are not effectively controlled by a single mowing.

Another control method includes various herbicides that are available to provide broad-spectrum weed control. When making your selection try to choose a product that will control as many weeds as possible. This reduces the use of herbicides and also minimizes cost by reducing the number of passes through the field. When applying multiple products choose products that can be mixed in the same tank and applied in one pass.

Two popular types of weed control products are pre-emerge and post-emerge herbicides. Pre-emerge herbicide must be applied before the weed seeds germinate. An example of a pre-emerge product is Prowl H2O. This herbicide is used to control Crabgrass in Bermudagrass hayfields. Post-emerge products are used to kill weeds after they have germinated. These herbicides must be used when the plant is actively growing and not simply green.

When using any herbicide, it is important to be aware of the surrounding crops. Drift from many of these herbicides are lethal to other crops like vegetables, shrubs and flowers. Pesticide spray drift is the movement of pesticide dust or droplets through the air at the time of application or soon after, to any site other than the area intended. They should choose a product that will not harm surrounding crops if drift occurs. Drift will vary with boom height, nozzle type, pressure, and wind.

Most herbicides have grazing and feeding restrictions stated on the label that limit the use of the crop for livestock feed. Producers should know and adhere to any grazing or haying restrictions.
These restrictions can be anywhere from seven days to one year. Different products vary in their restriction guidelines. Many products that have no grazing restrictions for beef cattle will have grazing restrictions for dairy cattle. Most will also have a withdrawal period before slaughter.

Herbicides can be a useful tool for weed management in pastures and hayfields. They should be used where appropriate and when cost effective. A program that integrates several different
control strategies is generally more successful than relying on only one method. Weeds present at the time of herbicide application may be controlled, but if the forage stand is not vigorous and actively growing, new weed seedlings will soon emerge and occupy the bare areas that remain. Thus, without proper use of mechanical control methods and good cultural practices, herbicide use will not be beneficial.


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