Archive for Management

Ecological Control of Pasture Flies

Farmers that raise animals know that June is when flies start to be a nuisance, and by July, if a control program is not in place, production losses occur. The information from this pasture walk will help farmers put a fly control program into place.

Speaking at the pasture walk was Dr. Phil Kaufman, veterinary entomologist with Cornell University and Keith Waldron, NY Integrated Pest Management extension specialist. This team has been working together to present this topic for a number of years. Throughout the presentation, they repeated the need to clean up around the farm. Two of the three most common flies affecting animals on pasture, face fly and horn fly, breed in undisturbed manure piles. The third, stable flies, breed in moist rotting organic material, like moist straw bedding, the base of big bales stored on the ground, and poorly composted grass clippings.

Dr. Kaufman stressed the importance of managing fly control ecologically since organic methods are not as effective against populations that are already out of control. Chemically, it takes large doses of chemicals and the results will be less and less successful as the flies become resistant to pesticides. By reducing breeding areas, populations will be decreased, reducing the need for insecticide use, which will improve the effectiveness of chemicals.

The following are ecological control methods and thresholds for when numbers of flies will affect production losses.

Face flies, found (you guessed it) on the face, would become a problem at 10 flies on the face at one time. The female face fly is the most commonly seen. She is there to feed on the protein that is in the mucus around the eyes and nose, which she uses for reproduction. If there is not enough mucus, she pokes around the eyes, irritating them and causing them to tear, which is what the fly is after. This feeding behavior is how pink-eye is spread.

Horn flies are found on the animal’s back and belly areas. They become a problem when they reach 50 per side in dairy animals and 100 per side in beef animals. Both sexes have biting mouthparts that they use to pierce the skin to obtain blood meals. You may notice horn flies billowing up from the backs of cows as they enter the barn, since horn flies do not like dark areas. A number of non-chemical traps have been designed to take advantage of this behavior. Both the face and horn fly females lay eggs on undisturbed cattle dung. Female horn flies wait by the tail head or lower rear of the animal to await dung deposition so that they can lay their eggs on the dung within seconds of it landing on the ground.

Both of these flies affect only animals on pasture and are outdoor insects. Control of face flies is difficult if other animal owners in the area don’t have a program in place, since the face fly females leave the host daily and can fly up to 5 miles to find animals the following day. Because horn flies stay with the animals, their movement between herds is more restricted than face fly movement.

The stable fly is a pest on pasture animals and will also attack animals in confinement. Found on the legs of cattle, they are considered to be an economic problem when there are an average of 10 or more flies per animal, counted on the legs of 15 animals. Like the horn fly, they are blood feeders. If you see your animals stomping or standing in water or muddy areas, it often means they are being bitten by stable flies. Ecological control of this pest requires cleaning up rotting organic material, such as silage left around the blower, calf hutches, or round bale feeders left in the same place for too long.

The group went out into Bill and Joanne’s pasture to look at dung pats to see what interesting things we could find. Under the pats there were small holes that were made by a beetle that lays its eggs into dung balls and buries them in the ground. Dr. Kaufman said there were more than 125 different species that live part of their life cycle in the dung pat, of these, only three were considered pests. For this reason, he cautioned people not to disturb the manure pats as a way of controlling just the three pests.

One question that most farmers came with was, “What are those yellow fuzzy flies that are seen on cattle dung early in the spring and then later again in the fall?” This year, there seems to be more of them than usual, one producer felt that it might be a harbinger of fly problems to come. It turns out that they are Yellow Dung flies, a predator that sits on the dung pat and waits for flies to come along and pounces on them to eat. Parasitic wasps and other non-pest flies were also discussed at the pasture walk. It was stressed that the parasitic wasps are an important part of a successful fly control program, but only in confined systems.. The control program that was recommended was:

  1. Cleaning up breeding areas
  2. Identify pest, and know its life cycle
  3. Monitor numbers, keep track of thresholds
  4. Use organic chemical controls as last resort

The earlier your program is in place, the more success it will have.


What is hindering dairy bred beef in Australia?

Research looks at barriers to rearing bobby calves for beef.

DEVELOPING profitable beef supply chains for male dairy calves will be a key part of the milk industry’s ability to retain its social licence to operate going forward, says university researcher Veronika Vicic.

For that reason, the Charles Sturt University School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences student is undertaking work aimed at identifying current production challenges as perceived by dairy farmers when rearing bobby calves to weights that fit commercial beef industry specifications.

She hopes that through the success stories of some producers the research will facilitate a better understanding of how to integrate successful production practices on dairy farms to rear male calves for beef.

Speaking at the Graham Centre Livestock Forum, held online last week, Ms Vicic said excess males in dairying, which had led to euthanasia, was a large industry problem.

As demand from consumers for higher welfare and more sustainably produced food increases, the dairy industry has come under growing scrutiny for the treatment of male calves.

“To overcome the issue, we need to identify rearing strategies to utilise non-replacement male dairy calves for beef production but that’s where we hit another industry issue in that there are limited supply chains available in Australia,” Ms Vicic said.

“A potential solution is to look at primal growth paths that lead to eating quality outcomes that consumers are willing to purchase.”

Ms Vicic has found that Australia is in the minority of developed countries where slaughtering male dairy calves is perceived as more profitable than rearing them for meat production.

Currently, dairy calves are either transported at ten days of age and become bobby veal products, go to calf rearers or are reared on the dairy farm.

It’s estimated 400,000 non-replacement dairy calves are processed annually in Australian abattoirs.

“Overseas, there are other supply chains commonly used,” Ms Vicic said.

“Once reared, the calves go to a backgrounder or a finishing property, or they are feedlot finished and graded as a grainfed product.

“In the United States, around 40pc of Holstein steers undergo this pathway.”

Ms Vicic’s research, due to be completed in December, has involved interviewing dairy farmers to gain knowledge about current practice and potential barriers to the adoption of a system like those seen overseas.

Interviews have been held across different dairy regions to determine if production challenges are the same. The interviews are also identifying if farmers are willing to adopt new practices into a dairy system, to help the production of dairy-beef based on economic gain.

The theory is perceived high-cost requirements of rearing and producing male calves on high-growth diets in Australia may be offset by targeting a premium beef market. This can be achieved if Australian producers are able to follow an optimum growth path and produce a consistent high-quality product.


Fonterra turns to ‘Kowbucha’ as a possible methane-reducing probiotic for cows

Kombucha for cows could be the next big thing in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, if Fonterra research holds up.

Fonterra has trademarked the term Kowbucha, after early trials using probiotics to reduce methane production in cows showed promising results.

The term is a play on kombucha, the popular fermented tea drink.

The dairy giant has been researching ways that cultures from cows’ milk could be a solution to reducing methane emissions.

Research director Mark Piper said solving this problem could lead to a reduction in New Zealand’s carbon emissions of up to 20 per cent.

Fonterra has one of the largest dairy culture collections in the world at its Palmerston North research and development centre, with hundreds of samples gathered from farms over nearly 100 years.

Fonterra used them to create cultures for cheese and yoghurt making and to develop probiotics.

But recent experimentation with different cultures had led to the creation of new fermentations that Fonterra want to market as Kowbucha. The hope is that the cultures might turn off the gut bacteria in the cow’s digestive system that create methane in the first place.

Initial results had been promising, Piper said.

It’s early days but initial results with Kowbucha have been promising, says Fonterra's Mark Piper.


It’s early days but initial results with Kowbucha have been promising, says Fonterra’s Mark Piper.

“Obviously, there are sensitivities here in terms of ensuring that we don’t want changes to the cow’s natural biology and the milk it produces. That’s 100 per cent natural and we want to keep it that way.”

Fonterra is working with AgResearch and the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium to conduct trials on cows.

“AgResearch is really well set up to run trials. They’ve got these big booths that you can put cows in and control what they are fed and then measure the gas that comes out of them,” Piper said.

It was too early to say if there would be a final product or what form it might take, he said.

First they had to establish what effect the cultures had in the animal and prove they could reduce methane. If that was successfully done, Fonterra would look at the best way to administer the Kowbucha.

“Is it a drink, a feed? Something they need to eat daily or once a year? Is it something they can have when they’re still inside the mother and it passes through into the cows? ,” he said.

A final decision was about 18 months away.

Another research project involved catching and destroying methane as it left the cow, Piper said.

“This happens naturally in the atmosphere, but we are looking at how to do it in minutes on the ground.,” he said.

Details were under wraps, he said.

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce our carbon footprint, is cutting our food waste. This recipe provided by “Love Food Hate Waste New Zealand” is just one example of how to use up the food that Kiwis throw away most of: bread.

Commercialisation could prove challenging because it was still unknown if it could be done at scale or even if would be effective.

Any innovation would have to be good for the animals and humans, Piper said.

“It can’t be something that passes through to the meat or milk.”

Fonterra was also looking at options like inhibitors, vaccines, breeding types and feed to reduce methane, he said.


Big data used to study cattle resilience and efficiency

The international project GenTORE focuses on developing innovative tools for genetic selection and management to optimize the resilience and efficiency of livestock. (Sensor) data is collected for this research in the stables of Dairy Campus.

The aim is to use this information to develop tools for the livestock farmer and to achieve our global breeding goals.

Claudia Kamphuis, researcher at Wageningen Livestock Research, explains her part of the research at Dairy Campus. In this video she talks ‘Improving resilience and efficiency’ about, among other things, collecting sensor data that is also used at commercial companies. These currently available techniques have also been used on Dairy Campus for this purpose.

Collecting data on Dairy Campus

According to Kamphuis, the cows on Dairy Campus are not ordinary dairy cows, but special cows. “These cows gather a lot of information for our research,” the researcher notes. The cows wear collars with sensors. These sensors communicate with yellow dishes above the cows. This allows all activities of the cow to be registered and subsequently charted. From how active her tripe is to what is her position and behavior. These data are currently mainly used for monitoring animal health (udder health) and fertility (draft attentions). All other present information of this cow, such as her weight and milk production, is then added and analyzed. With the aim to investigate whether this data can also be used for typing resilient and efficient cows. “With this amount and especially by combining this variety of data, we may be able to rank cows in the future based on resilience and efficiency,” says Kamphuis.

Focus on resilience and efficiency

Resilience is the ability of the cow to cope well with changes in its environment and health. Feed-efficient cows can achieve equal milk production with less feed. This is of course interesting for dairy farmers from a cost perspective. In addition, resilient and efficient cows can contribute to the changing world in terms of agriculture and population composition.

Watch the video here, in which Claudia Kamphuis talks about the research she is doing with data from dairy cows for the GenTORE project.


Not all inbreeding is depressing

Inbreeding may decrease the performance of cows, a phenomenon known as inbreeding depression.

Researchers of Wageningen University & Research showed that, for Dutch dairy cows, the degree of inbreeding depression is lower for “old inbreeding” (inbreeding on distant ancestors) than for “recent inbreeding” (inbreeding on recent ancestors). This is probably the result of selection against deleterious alleles.

Inbreeding & inbreeding depression

Inbreeding is the result of mating related animals. Animals are related when they share common ancestors. These common ancestors can be recent ancestors (e.g. a grandparent), or more distant ancestors (e.g. a shared ancestor from eight generations ago). The higher the relatedness between two animals, the higher the inbreeding of their offspring. Animals that are more inbred perform less well on average. This phenomenon is known as inbreeding depression.

Recent inbreeding results in more inbreeding depression

The study showed that the degree of inbreeding depression was higher for recent inbreeding than for older inbreeding. For example, a 1% increase in inbreeding on ancestors from the first four to five ancestral generations was associated with a decrease in milk production of about 35 kg (for a 305-day lactation), whereas inbreeding on ancestors from longer ago had no clear effect. This difference may be explained by selection, which decreases the frequency of deleterious alleles over time and thereby decreases the effect of old inbreeding.

Reducing inbreeding rate better for animal breeding

The findings of this study confirm that it is important to manage the inbreeding rate, the rate with which inbreeding increases. This is because selection may counteract the negative effects of inbreeding, provided that inbreeding does not increase too quickly. By managing the inbreeding rate, the amount of new inbreeding is also limited.

Four-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference recap

COVID-19 has changed all of our lives in one way or another. Our Four-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference (organized by Extension specialists from Iowa, Ill., Minn. and Wis.) was moved to a virtual format. The program was offered on June 10 this year. We surely missed not seeing in person the around 600 attendees that we see every June in Dubuque, IA. Hopefully we can see everyone, June 9-10, 2021. Crossing fingers for a more “normal” world by that time.

This conference is geared toward nutritionists’ interests, but some veterinarians and farmers also attend.  There were various topics covered during the event, starting with the pre-conference symposium on amino acids in dairy diets sponsored by Adisseo, followed by 2 main sessions at the conference, one focusing on improving herd health and the other focusing on maximizing profit from bull calves. There were also 10 pre-recorded breakout sessions on various topics related to nutrition, management, and housing. For program details go to the conference website.

Highlights from several conference presentations

How do circadian rhythms affect milk production, components and feeding behavior?

Kevin Harvatine, Penn State University, discussed his research on how circadian rhythms impact cows. A circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates our biological processes.  All dairy farms know that components drop in the summer.  Using DHI records back to 2000, Kevin observed a very predictable seasonality of milk production and fat and protein percent. Key findings and take-home messages:

  • Milk yield peaks in April, averaging about five pounds more than the fall.
  • Components follow a different rhythm with lower milk fat (-0.34%) and milk protein (-0.20%) in the summer than the winter. 
  • Anticipate and expect a swing in components with a peak around the first of the year and a bottom around July 1.
  • If milk fat and protein percentages are not increasing in late fall to early winter, investigate and try and determine the reason. If your annual fat test is 3.9%, you should expect a 4.1% fat in January and 3.7% in July to be normal.  

In another experiment, they wanted to examine if different feeding regimes affected cow feeding behavior and performance. Cows’ natural feeding behavior is crepuscular, meaning that their natural pattern is to spend the most time eating shortly after dawn and shortly before dusk. Cows will naturally eat some during the day, while most of the night is spent resting and ruminating. Key findings and take-home messages:

  • In confinement systems, the delivery of fresh feed is the biggest factor influencing periods of peak feed intake.
  • When they compared once a day feeding in the morning, once a day feeding in the evening, and twice a day feeding with half the feed in the morning and half in the evening, peak feed intake corresponded with feeding times for all groups. 
  • Cows fed once daily in the evening had more of a slug feeding pattern, eating 50% more after evening feeding compared to cows fed once in the morning. The feeding pattern throughout the rest of the day was similar between the three groups.
  • They concluded that potentially there is an increased risk of acidosis if a highly fermentable diet is fed once in the evening. 
  • Think not only about the diet presented but how the eating pattern may affect the rumen and risk of acidosis and milk fat depression.
  • It is likely not beneficial in the summer to feed once in the evening believing cows will have to eat more of the fresh feed overnight.  This may increase the risk of acidosis on some diets.

How does the feeding of colostrum and milk, and weaning strategies affect gut health and development?

Mike Steele, University of Guelph, presented a main session talk on nutritional regulation of gut health and development with a focus on colostrum and milk, and also a breakout session talk with a focus on weaning and beyond. Colostrum provides not only immunoglobulins, which are key for calf immune function but also various bioactive molecules and cells necessary for good health. Some key findings and take-home messages from their research:

  • Delaying the first feeding of colostrum beyond 6 hours after birth will not only impact passive immune transfer but also negatively influence the colonization of beneficial bacteria in the calf intestine.
  • The best innovation in calf feeding in recent years is the 3-L and 4-L bottles, which allow for feeding greater amounts of milk to our calves.
  • Feeding transition milk from days 2 and 3 fresh cow milkings (or a combination of colostrum and whole milk on a 1:1 ratio) resulted in improved gut health and development compared to going straight from the first feeding of colostrum to whole milk or milk replacer.
  • Feeding transition milk was very similar to feeding colostrum for those 3 days. Both have positive immunological and nutritional effects.
  • Weaning calves results in large transformations of the gut.
  • If feeding high levels of milk (8 or more quarts per day) wean after 8 weeks of age with a 2-week stepdown to reduce the impact of weaning on calf performance and health.
  • Heifers offered a high plane of nutrition (85% concentrate) for 2 months post-weaning had improved reproductive development compared to heifers fed 70% concentrate.

What are the keys to prevent lameness in our dairy herds? What aspects of barn design help improve performance and health in automated milking systems (AMS)?

Nigel Cook, University of Wisconsin-Madison, presented a main session talk on steps to prevent lameness in dairy cattle. Steps include hoof care, disinfection and cow comfort. He also presented a breakout session on barn design in automated milking systems (AMS). Some key take-home messages:

  • Trim hooves twice per lactation unless wear is an issue; restore a more upright claw angle; balance weight between the inner and outer claw.
  • Use well-designed footbaths (10-12 ft long); footbath 4 milkings per week; use effective antibacterial solution; no more than 300 cow passes; all life stages (includes heifers)
  • Poor cow comfort – standing up for too long – is a main factor in the development of sole ulcers.
  • Deep bedded stalls with sand reduce the chronicity of lameness.
  • Mattress herds must have excellent stall design; treat lameness cases promptly; allow lame cows to recover on a soft surface; and use effective footbathing. These will help reduce lameness in mattress herds.
  • Heat stress negatively influences resting behavior contributing to lameness. Heat abatement is key!
  • Aim for lying times of 11.5 to 12.5 hours per day.
  • Rubber transfer lanes reduce hoof wear to and from the parlor. Rubber is not recommended in freestall barn alleys. Focus on stall comfort.
  • Heifers can develop corkscrew claw syndrome. To prevent this problem bedded pack rather than freestalls is recommended up to at least breeding age; or use organic bedding rather than sand in freestalls; reduce headlock exposure; provide outdoor access.

AMS general design priorities: 55 cows per robot max, minimum of 2 AMS units per pen, deep loose bedding, sufficient feedbunk space per cow (24 inches), 24/7 fresh cow access to the robot for 10-21 days post-calving, and expert gating and flow modeling.

Source: UMN Extension

3 myths debunked: Animal agriculture’s real impact on the environment

The way the public and the media perceive animal agriculture’s environmental impact can, and should, change. New research from Oxford University and the University of California, Davis have recently debunked some of the most critical and long-standing myths surrounding animal agriculture. But can this breakthrough overcome animal agriculture’s bad reputation?

The current narrative about animal agriculture says that ruminant livestock animals (e.g., beef cattle, dairy cattle, etc.) produce methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Thus, animal agriculture is bad for the environment.

During a keynote presentation for the Alltech ONE Virtual Experience, Dr. Frank Mitloehner, professor at the University of California, Davis and air quality specialist, boldly proclaimed a path for animal agriculture to become climate-neutral.

Yes, “you heard me right — climate-neutral,” said Dr. Mitloehner. He said he would like to, “get us to a place where we have the impacts of animal agriculture that are not detrimental to our climate.”

Important Greenhouse Gases to Know

3 myths about animal agriculture’s environmental impact debunked

Myth #1: Methane (the most common greenhouse gas, or GHG, in animal agriculture) acts just like other GHGs in the environment.

Fact: The three main greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, all impact the environment in critically different ways, especially as it relates to their source, life span in the atmosphere and global warming potential.

Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are known as “stock gases.”  Stock gases are long-lived gases and once emitted will continue to build up in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, for example, has an estimated lifespan in the atmosphere of 1,000 years, meaning carbon dioxide emitted from the year 1020 may still be in the atmosphere today. Methane, on the other hand, is a “flow gas.” Flow gases are short-lived gases and are removed from the atmosphere at a more rapid pace. Methane’s lifespan in the atmosphere is approximately 10 years. This means a flow gas like methane would impact the environment for a duration that is nearly 100 times shorter than the stock gas carbon dioxide.

What causes these gases in the first place? Carbon dioxide is created by the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are used as the energy source to power most homes, vehicles and industry globally. As the graph below depicts, Dr. Mitloehner refers to stock gases like carbon dioxide as a “one-way street” because they only accumulate in the environment over time due to their long lifespan.

Methane can be produced in a variety of methods, but most commonly, it’s produced through the rumination process in beef and dairy livestock (i.e., belching). As a short-lived flow gas, “The only time that you really add new additional methane to the atmosphere with the livestock herd is throughout the first 10 years of its existence or if you increase your herd sizes,” explained Dr. Mitloehner. Methane levels do not increase if herd sizes remain constant because methane is being broken down at the same rate it is being produced.

“What I’m saying here by no means (is) that methane doesn’t matter,” he continued. “While that methane is in the atmosphere, it is heat-trapping, it is a potent greenhouse gas. But the question really is, do our livestock herds add to additional methane, meaning additional carbon in the atmosphere, leading to additional warming? And the answer to that question is no. As long as we have constant herds or even decreasing herds, we are not adding additional methane, and hence not additional warming. And what I just said to you is a total change in the narrative around livestock.”

Alternatively, carbon dioxide is created from extracting fossil fuels that are millions of years old and are trapped under the Earth’s surface.

“These long-lived climate pollutants are only emitted,” said Dr. Mitloehner. “They are put into the atmosphere, but there’s no real sink for it in a major way.”

This demonstrates that carbon dioxide and methane are very different types of gases (stock versus flow) and have very different lifespans in the environment (1,000 years versus 10 years), but what about their global warming potential?

Myth #2: The current method for assessing the global warming potential (GWP100) of greenhouse gases properly accounts for all important variables.

Fact: The initial method for calculating GWP100 misrepresents the impact of short-lived flow gases, like methane, on future warming. The new “GWP*” is an improved and more representative measurement.

The initial GWP100 measures produced by the Kyoto Protocol nearly 30 years ago marked a very positive step for assessing global warming. The initial documents included many footnotes and caveats to account for variability and unknown values. “But the footnotes were cut off, and people ran with (it),” said Dr. Mitloehner. “And in my opinion, that was a very dangerous situation that has really gotten animal agriculture into a lot of trouble, actually, quite frankly.”

The current GWP100 measurement generates an over-assessment of methane’s contributions to global warming. Currently, in short, GWP100 measurements are all standardized to a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. So, all non-carbon dioxide emissions are converted by multiplying the amount of the emissions of each gas by its global warming potential over 100 years value. Methane has a GWP100 value of 28, meaning it is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, this type of calculation completely omits the fact that flow gases, like methane, are destroyed after approximately 10 years and would not continue for the entire 100-year duration as described in the GWP100 formula. Additionally, it underestimates the impact that stock gases, like carbon dioxide, would have that persist in the environment for 1,000 years.

Dr. Mitloehner cited Dr. Myles Allen from Oxford University as the pioneer of a new calculation called “GWP*.” The new GWP* calculation better accounts for both gas intensity and gas lifespan in the atmosphere in its measurements of global warming. This is a new narrative to explain global warming emissions and, Dr. Mitloehner said, “you will see it will gain momentum, and it will become the new reality” soon.

Myth #3: To keep up with increasing demand and global population growth, the United States has continued to increase its numbers of beef and dairy cattle, thus increase methane emissions.

Fact: The United States reached peak beef and dairy cattle numbers in the 1970s and has reduced its number of animals every decade since, resulting in 50 million fewer cattle in total.

Over the last half-century, the United States has made tremendous progress to improve efficiency and increase productivity while also reducing total beef and dairy cattle numbers. For example, in 1950, the U.S. dairy cow herd peaked at 25 million cattle. Today, the dairy herd is approximately 9 million cows, yet it is producing 60% more milk — that’s significantly more milk with 14 million fewer cows!

Though cattle numbers have continued to increase in countries such as India and China, this means the United States has not increased methane output — thus not increasing GHG contributions from livestock — over the last five decades.

So, what does all this mean?

Animal agriculture, unlike any other sector, can not only reduce its GHG output, but can also create a net cooling effect on the atmosphere (i.e., actively reduce global warming).

The three scenarios shown below demonstrate the important differences between carbon dioxide and methane, and their ability to generate global cooling. With rising emissions, warming carbon dioxide increases at a growing rate, while methane also increases. With constant emissions, warming from carbon dioxide continues to increase while methane no longer contributes to additional warming.  

“But now, the thing that really excites me, and that’s the third scenario,” said Dr. Mitloehner. “So, imagine this scenario here, where we decrease methane by 35%. If we do so, then we actively take carbon out of the atmosphere. And that has a net cooling effect. If we find ways to reduce methane, then we counteract other sectors of societies that do contribute ― and significantly so ― to global warming, such as flying, driving, running air conditioners and so on.”

Examples of Dr. Mitloehner’s 35% reduction scenario have proven to be possible. Over the last five years alone, California has reduced methane emissions by 25% via a combination of improved efficiency and incentives for anaerobic digesters, alternative manure management practices and other technologies.

Though the narrative on animal agriculture has been negative on climate change, there is now increasing hope and new data to debunk even the most long-standing criticisms.

Dr. Mitloehner concluded, “because I know if we can do it here (in California), it can be done in other parts of the country and in other parts of the world. If we indeed achieve such reductions of greenhouse gas, particularly of short-lived greenhouse gases such as methane, then that means that our livestock sector will be on a path for climate neutrality.”

Source: Alltech

Prioritize Well-being Throughout the Transition Period

The transition period is a critical time in a dairy cow’s life. Providing proactive care is a vital practice that can help reduce calving-related disorders, boost milk production and extend cow longevity. There is a myriad of potential issues that can arise, and while this crucial period requires special attention and management, due diligence can pay off in the long run.

Managing changing nutrition needs throughout the transition period

“There are three different rations: one that’s formulated on paper, one that gets mixed and fed, and one that the cows actually eat,” said Jennifer Roberts, DVM, Boehringer Ingelheim. “In a perfect world, these would all be the same, but in reality, cows can be picky eaters, and particular care needs to be given to ensure her ration is balanced for the cow’s metabolic needs, and is properly mixed with the correct components and proper particle length to minimize sorting.”

Providing an adequate diet to align with changing nutritional needs is an important component to success during the transition period’s three milestones:

1) Dry period

During the dry period, managing calcium levels through a negative dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) diet is recommended. Studies have shown a well-formulated negative DCAD ration results in increased dry-matter intake in early lactation, increased milk production, decreased disease incidence, fewer displaced abomasa and improved reproductive performance.1

2) Calving

Nutrition plays a big part in supporting energy demands, calcium needs and immune function for the transition cow, particularly around the time of calving. Low blood calcium can contribute to dystocia, or delays in the calving process, by decreasing muscle tone and uterine contractions. Uterine contractions after calving also aid in expulsion of any contaminants in the reproductive tract that may have resulted from calving. Normal postpartum involution of the uterus is essential for future reproductive health and is aided by a strong immune system.

3) Postpartum

Immediately after calving, cows must adjust to the high calcium demands of colostrum and subsequent milk production. During this time, it can be difficult for a cow to maintain calcium balance, thus predisposing her to fresh cow diseases.

“Cows at risk of having low calcium can benefit from an oral calcium supplement at calving, and again 12 hours later,” noted Dr. Roberts. “This practice provides much-needed calcium to fresh cows when blood calcium levels may be at their lowest.”

Supplementation is a safety net for Celso Veldañez Jr., and his team at Consolidated Dairy Management in Texas.

“In general, DCAD is a blanket protocol to maintain energy balance, but when you’re looking at each individual animal, that’s where an oral calcium supplement comes in,” said Veldañez. “Some cows will get what they need through a DCAD diet, but what if other cows don’t? That’s where supplementing really saves us.”

An added benefit, says Dr. Roberts, is that calcium supplementation may help reduce some other issues that calcium-deficient cows may be more prone to, like decreased feed intake and ketosis.

The importance of diligent monitoring

Throughout the transition period, a calving cow should get all the special care she deserves, from an appropriately formulated diet and comfortable bedding to plenty of space and relief from potential causes of stress. With more than 35% of all dairy cows having at least one clinical disease event during the first 90 days of milk, it’s important to observe fresh cows daily.2

Early detection of diseases

In the postpartum period, the changing demand for calcium can often lead to hypocalcemia. Careful monitoring and blood testing, especially if your herd has been impacted in the past, can help you and your team prevent or treat the issue, while also helping to reduce the number of disorders that can impact milk production and subsequent reproductive performance. Cows with persistent or delayed subclinical hypocalcemia are more likely to develop subsequent early-lactation diseases, be removed from the herd, and have reduced milk yield compared with normocalcemic cows or cows with transient subclinical hypocalcemia,highlighting the need for diligent monitoring.  

“Prevention of many fresh cow diseases relies very heavily on management,” said Dr. Roberts. 

Pay particular attention to the cows that have previously calved, as older cows are more likely to be at higher risk for hypocalcemia, with their higher milk production, compared to first-lactation animals.Targeted oral calcium supplementation for cows in their second lactation and greater is one strategy for managing subclinical hypocalcemia in this group of higher-risk cows.

Minimizing stress during freshening

Many issues that can arise during the postpartum period have to do with stress, including decreased immune function, ketosis, metritis, mastitis and displaced abomasum. These health events can lead to other problems like poor milk production, impaired reproductive performance or early removal from the herd.

“A well-laid transition plan that includes diligent management practices to ensure a stress-free environment can help your herd through this period seamlessly,” explained Dr. Roberts. “Providing a calm environment with adequate space and relief from potential causes of stress seem like small actions, but can have lasting impacts.”

Continuous comfort management

A key piece of providing a stress-free environment throughout the transition period is prioritizing comfort. Leading up to and post calving, take measures to optimize cow comfort such as ensuring adequate stocking densities and feed bunk space, comfortable bedding, installing cooling systems, limiting pen moves and maintaining a clean environment.

Some of the best dairy producers out there understand that things like cooling, comfort and stocking density are going to help cows perform at their optimal peak,” said Veldañez. “It’s important to have animals in tip-top shape, so that they can really perform during their lactation.”

How the cow handles the stress associated with calving and moves through the transition period influences her production, health, ability to become pregnant again, and ability to remain in the herd. Be sure to work with your local veterinarian to develop prevention and treatment protocols that reduce the risk of diseases occurring during transition to improve herd health and performance.

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health

Boehringer Ingelheim is the second largest animal health business in the world, with net sales of $4.5 billion (4 billion euros) in 2019 and presence in more than 150 markets. The firm has a significant presence in the United States, with more than 3,100 employees in places that include Georgia, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. To learn more, visit


1 Caixeta L. Prevention and treatment of milk fever. University of Minnesota Extension, College of Veterinary Medicine. 2019. Available at: Accessed February 19, 2020.

Ospina PA, McArt JA, Overton TR, et al. Using non-esterified fatty acids and

β-hydroxybutyrate concentrations during the transition period for herd-level monitoring of increased risk of disease and decreased reproductive and milking performance. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 2013;29(2):387–412.

McArt JA, Neves RC. Association of transient, persistent or delayed subclinical hypocalcemia with early-lactation disease, removal and milk yield in Holstein cows. J Dairy Sci 2019;103(1):690–701.

Boost body condition and milk components with supplemental fat

The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

Want a better way to boost cow body condition and your herd’s milk fat production? Supplemental dietary fat is the key. And now, there’s a new, cost-effective way to provide supplemental fat in dairy rations.

“A balance of fatty acids is best to help farmers economically achieve milk component goals and benefit cow health,” says Katie Boesche, Ph.D., senior technical support consultant with Purina Animal Nutrition. “That’s why we’ve reformulated Purina® PROPEL® Energy+ Balance supplement to include C16:0 and C18:0 fatty acids at optimum levels, which combine to offer the most benefit in a cost-effective package.”

All supplemental fat sources are not created equal

Many supplemental fat products contain C16:0, which, when included in lactating rations, generally increases milk and milk fat production. It’s also highly digestible. But supplemental C16:0 fat sources may not help cows maintain body condition, which can be an issue during early lactation.

“Failure to maintain adequate body condition may lead to health and fertility challenges,” says Boesche. “That’s where C18:0 comes in. C18:0 helps animals partition energy to body reserves.”

Research has shown that there’s a benefit to feeding both C18:0 and higher levels of C16:0.[1]

When C16:0 and C18:0 fatty acids are combined at optimal levels, as is the case with Purina® PROPEL® Energy+ Balance supplement, a single supplemental fat source is sufficient to meet dietary fat requirements throughout lactation, saving on feed costs, storage needs and mixing requirements.

The edge in palatability, digestibility

“Feeding supplemental fat during early lactation can help cows who need to overcome calving-related weight loss or catch up on feed intake,” says Boesche. “Purina® PROPEL® Energy+ Balance supplement supports body condition throughout the transition period and aids in milk component production, as well as overall milk productivity, during the entire lactation.”

Purina® PROPEL® Energy+ Balance supplement can also help improve:

  • Palatability due to how it is processed. Cows like it, especially in relation to non-extruded fat products like prills and calcium salts.
  • Fiber and fat digestibility compared to a prilled fat product.
  • Storage and handling through a unique manufacturing process. The fats stay within the nuggets and don’t transfer to feeding equipment or leave behind a “sticky” residue.

“Purina® PROPEL® Energy+ Balance supplement blends fatty acid sources to help dairy farmers better support cow health and productivity while remaining cost-conscious,” says Boesche.

Contact your local Purina nutritionist to help maximize your feed investment or learn more at

Purina Animal Nutrition LLC ( is a national organization serving producers, animal owners and their families through more than 4,700 local cooperatives, independent dealers and other large retailers throughout the United States. Driven to unlock the greatest potential in every animal, the company is an industry-leading innovator offering a valued portfolio of complete feeds, supplements, premixes, ingredients and specialty technologies for the livestock and lifestyle animal markets. Purina Animal Nutrition LLC is headquartered in Shoreview, Minn. and a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, Inc.

[1] Purina Animal Nutrition Research Center Lactation Trial DC572 (2018)

Increase nitrogen efficiency in dairy cattle

Nitrogen losses in urine and feces cause great economic cost as well as negative environmental problems. It is critical to find solution to minimize nitrogen loss. Presentations in the Ruminal Nutrition-Protein and Amino acids Session in the Wednesday morning mainly focus on dietary crude protein levels, supplementation of essential amino acids to low protein diet, and accessing bioavailability of supplemented amino acids.
Nitrogen use efficiency deceases linearly with increasing dietary CP level, as reported by Letelier et al. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They determined the effects of different dietary crude protein levels (13.5%, 15%, 16.5%, and 18%) on lactation performance, feed efficiency, and nitrogen use efficiency. The Feeding dietary crude protein higher than 16.5% of the dry matter did not improve cow performance in early lactation and penalized cow milk production in late lactation.
Low protein diet (15% CP) results in less milk in comparison with a reference diet (17% CP), shown by Vandaele et al. from ILVO at Melle in Belgium. Moreover, supplementation of extra rumen-protected (RP) amino acids (i.e., Lys and Met) to low protein diet increases milk production to an intermediate level and decreases nitrogen losses. Zang et al. from the University of New Hampshire showed that substitution of ground corn with soyhulls and RP-fat improved feed efficiency and milk fat yield but appeared to reduce N utilization.
Several methods are developed to measure the bioavailability of amino acids from diet or ruminal microbes. By using in situ nylon bag technique and a modified 3-step in vitro technique, Francia et al. from Univeristat Autonoma de Barcelona compared the bioavailability of three RP-Lys sources, highlighting the necessity to evaluate ruminal degradability and intestinal digestibility for evaluation of RP-Lys. Whitehouse et al. from the University of New Hampshire determined and differentiated the bioavailability of four RP-amino acids supplements using the plasma free amino acid dose-response technique. Moreover, Huang et al. from the Virginia Tech adopted a stable isotope-based approach to determine the availability of essential amino acids from microbial protein and RUP. This approach can avoid errors associated with estimates of ruminal microbial crude protein and RUP outflow, amino acids composition, and intestinal amino acids digestibility, but efforts are needed to validate the approach by comparing it to traditional in vivo methods.
Overall, the poor nitrogen efficiency in dairy cattle are gaining more attention. Further efforts are necessary to increase nitrogen efficiency and reduce nitrogen excretion to environment.
Bo Zhang is a PhD student in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis. He earned his M.S. from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences. Under the guidance of Dr. Timothy Hackmann, he is working on how rumen microbes ferment feed and produce protein digested by cattle.
Source: ADSA

Fight Off Summer Pinkeye Before It Enters Your Dairy Herd

Reduce risk and keep herds protected with best management practices

The impacts of infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis, more commonly known as pinkeye, can be both emotionally and economically draining for dairy producers. Pinkeye is a fast-working infectious disease that can lead to lower calf-growth rate, potential blindness and permanent damage when left untreated.1 To avoid costly setbacks this summer, it’s crucial to start thinking about how to prevent the disease from entering your herd.

“When it comes to highly infectious diseases, it’s better to have a proactive approach than having to work quickly to treat an outbreak,” said Dave Festa, DVM, Boehringer Ingelheim. “Timely vaccination and good husbandry practices are key elements to provide your herd with pinkeye protection.”

To keep herds protected, Dr. Festa and Randy Shirbroun, DVM, Newport Laboratories, Inc. suggest implementing these management practices:

Fly Control

During the summer months, there is typically an increase in pinkeye outbreaks. Flies are more prevalent during this time and can transmit the bacteria that causes pinkeye from one animal to another.

“When you have multiple calves in any given area, the location can easily become a haven for flies,” stated Dr. Festa. “They’re fast spreading, and love to lay eggs in places like manure. Practicing good husbandry and cleaning up after animals as timely as possible make a tremendous difference in reducing fly count.”

Other methods to implement fly control include using fly tags, pour-ons, sprays, dust bags or back rubbers.

Dust Reduction

“Irritants such as airborne dirt and dust can cause irritation to the eye,” Dr. Festa added. “Once an irritant causes damage to the eye, pinkeye pathogens can attack the damaged cornea.”

Spraying water on the ground is one tactic to reduce the dirt and dust that animals can kick up when pen conditions are extremely dry.

In addition, producers can decrease the number of particles that can blow into the eyes of dairy cattle and cause irritation by feeding animals in hay racks rather than unloading feed from trucks or wagons and placing it on the ground.

Closing Herds

“Whenever you don’t have a closed herd, there is a higher chance of animals being exposed to various disease-causing pathogens like pinkeye,” noted Dr. Shirbroun. “For some, it may not be practical to have a closed herd, so it’s important to keep in mind that there’s always a chance of pathogens being brought into a farm with an open herd.”

Dr. Shirbroun explained that no outside animals can be introduced to a herd for it to be truly closed. The only way a new animal is introduced is when they are born on that farm. Once an animal leaves, they are never reintroduced to the herd, thus reducing the risk of pathogens going in and out of a farm.

Early Vaccination

Moraxella bovis (M. bovis), a species of bacteria associated with pinkeye, continues to circulate throughout dairy herds and is still the primary pathogen associated with pinkeye. In addition, emerging species of pinkeye bacteria, such as Moraxella bovoculiMycoplasma bovis and Mycoplasma bovoculi, make the disease increasingly complex and challenging for many producers and veterinarians to control. But there are vaccinations that can help.

“Year-round vaccination against M. bovis sets producers ahead of the game, and provides higher herd immunity,” said Dr. Festa. “This eliminates a guessing game of when pinkeye season will begin. By the time pinkeye starts to take hold, animals are already protected.”

Dr. Festa recommends using single-dose pinkeye vaccines to provide cattle protection and give producers greater ease by eliminating the need for a booster shot. When using pinkeye vaccines that require a two-dose regimen, often times the second dose is not administered to herds. This results in ineffective immunization of the calf. For this reason, it’s crucial to follow label directions and beneficial to use a vaccine that eliminates the need for a booster shot.

“Although M. bovis is not the only pathogen that can cause pinkeye, vaccinating against this pathogen can significantly reduce the clinical signs and severity of the disease if an outbreak occurs,” continued Dr. Festa.

Additionally, if you feel you have been vaccinating appropriately, but still struggled last season, it is a good idea to consult your veterinarian. Your herd may be experiencing a combination of pinkeye-causing pathogens that requires further diagnostics and customized solutions.

A simple swab of the lower conjunctiva (the thin membrane that covers part of the front surface of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids) can provide a tremendous amount of information. The most accurate and reliable diagnostics is provided early in the disease process, prior to treatment.

“Fortunately, there are companies out there that can provide producers with full-service solutions, including commercial vaccines and custom-made vaccines,” Dr. Shirbroun pointed out.

He continued, “Custom-made vaccines can help fill the gaps in disease prevention, complementing the protection producers are already getting from commercial vaccines.”

By working closely with a veterinarian, producers can get the tools they need to implement pinkeye vaccination protocols and monitor herd health appropriately.

Boehringer Ingelheim’s Animal Health Business has a significant presence in the United States with more than 3,000 employees in places that include Georgia, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. To learn more, visit, ©2020 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., Duluth, GA. All Rights Reserved. US-BOV-0255-2020

Heat Stress? No sweat with new management insights!

Heat stress and heat stress management were the topics for the first block of the Production, Management, and Environment session at this year’s American Dairy Science Association Virtual Meeting with Jen Heguy serving as the moderator. Heat stress is one of the leading causes of decreased production in dairy cattle during the summer months and can become apparent due to decreased milk production and decreased breeding cycles. Although heat stress is unavoidable, researchers are studying methods to minimize the effects, whether that be through better genetics and housing to assessing new methodologies for detection.

First, researchers from the University of Florida assessed the effects of heat stress on the time budget of nulliparous Holstein heifers. Toledo et al. housed 25 pregnant Holstein heifers in freestall barns. Heifers either received shade as the heat stress treatment or shade, soakers, and fans as the cooling treatment. Leg and neck tags were used to record steps, standing, eating, rumination, and lying time. It was found that heat stressed animals spent more time eating but less time ruminating during the prepartum period. However, during the postpartum period, heat stressed heifers, while still eating more and larger evening meals, did not differ from non-heat stressed animals when it came to rumination time. Heat stressed heifers also took more steps during the postpartum period. This suggests that heat stress does affect the daily time budget during the pre- and postpartum periods. Although animals were eating, they were attempting to mitigate internal body heat, hence less time ruminating. Management strategies could be developed from this information to help producers mitigate cow heat load.
Chaalia et al. from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona switched things up by identifying metabolic and productive characteristics in dairy sheep that were either sensitive to heat or thermotolerant. Twenty-four Manchega dairy ewes in late lactation underwent a short-term heat challenge in a temperature-controlled room. Rectal temperature (RT) and respiratory rate (RR) were measured, with ewes classified by the RT/ RR change ratio (CR). Ten ewes from the original 24 differing in CR were then used in a crossover study with two periods (3 weeks each) and two climatic conditions (thermoneutral and heat stress), with RT, RR, milk yield, and intake being measured. Heat stressed ewes had greater prolactin concentrations and decreased milk fat and protein. No noticeable differences were noted with other measurements. This suggests that although there were slight differences between the two treatment groups, Manchega ewes, overall, were relatively tolerant to heat stress. Stage of lactation or phenotype of animals may contribute to overall sensitivity to heat.
Toledo et al. presented once again and discussed various management challenges regarding the relationship of pasture housing and heat stress in late pregnant heifers. In this study, Holstein heifers were housed on pasture or in a freestall barn. Heifers were either exposed to a heat stress challenge or cooled with shade, soakers, and fans. Temperature-humidity index and black globe temperature were measured as well lying time, steps, eating, and rumination time. Pasture heifers spent less time lying down, less time ruminating, and more time walking when compared to heifers confined to a freestall barn. This indicates that heat stress does affect the daily time budget of pregnant heifers, especially if they are on pasture. It may give insight into developing new management strategies to mitigate heat stress.
Finally, Ouellet et al. from the University of Florida discussed new methods for assessing chronic heat stress in dairy calves in a subtropical environment. Heat stress in dairy calves has received less attention because it is believed that they are more tolerant to heat stress. In this study, researchers measured respiration rate, rectal temperature, and skin temperature in dairy calves exposed to a heat stress challenge or kept cool. Environmental conditions, such as ambient temperature, humidity, THI, and wind were also measured. A positive correlation was noted between animal-based indicators, ambient temperature, and THI. Results indicate that dairy calves can undergo heat stress with THI being the best environmental indicator of heat stress. Practically, heat mitigation should be applied when THI reaches 65 if calves are exposed to chronic heat stress; in a subtropical environment, calves should be monitored between a THI of 65 and 69. This means that producers should adapt their management strategies to account for heat stress for every member of their herd.
Miriam Snider is a PhD candidate at the University of Vermont under Dr. Sabrina Greenwood. She earned her B.S. in Animal Science / Biology from Southeast Missouri State University and her M.S. from the University of Kentucky. Her current research explores forage and pasture quality/ energetics and its relationship with rumen fermentation and methane production.

Keep Your Truck Running Smoothly by Using High Quality Diesel Exhaust Fluid Safely Purchasing, Handling and Storing API Certified DEF is Important

Guest Post Author Jeffrey Harmening, Manager-EOLCS/DEF/MOM, American Petroleum Institute

As restrictions are being lifted across most states in the country and with warm weather upon us, it is important for truck drivers to consider proper management of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) used in most diesel-powered trucks.

DEF is made from a mixture of technically pure urea and purified water and must be handled and stored properly to preserve its quality. Handling and storing DEF in warm weather requires special care to protect it from the impact of high temperatures which can decrease its useful life. Now with the need for added safety in public places, dispensing DEF at service stations will require extra care.

We want to be sure that truck drivers on the road and people working in shops are safe, so the American Petroleum Institute (API) has developed several tips for drivers on the road and for shop owners to help them purchase high-quality DEF in a safe manner and to handle and store it so as to protect it during warm weather months.

Purchasing DEF at a Service Station

On the road, one of the main challenges for drivers is knowing the actual brand of DEF they are being sold. While regulations in many states require identifying the manufacturer and brand on receipts, some locations do not include it. API recommends purchasing DEF that is clearly identified at the fill-up location.

In addition, drivers accustomed to purchasing DEF in containers should look at the expiration date if it’s printed on the bottle and be sure to use it before this date as the product has a limited shelf life. If an expiration date is not present, look at the traceability code for a date.  This date is usually equivalent to the packaging date.  As a last resort, ask for the most recently delivered DEF products.  Storage conditions also have an impact on its quality. DEF can be expected to have a minimum shelf life of 12 months or even longer in optimum conditions.

Safely Dispensing DEF

As many gas station and truck stop owners around the country have taken steps to increase the cleaning frequency of the high-touch points, there are recommended practices to help everyone protect themselves at the pump. Consider the following when dispensing DEF or fuel:

  • Follow the CDC’s recommendations to clean your hands often, practice social distancing and wear face coverings.
  • Consider using gloves or paper towels while touching surfaces.
  • Carry hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes with you and use them both before and after fueling.

DEF Storage in a Vehicle

Check the label on the bottle for recommended storage temperatures and be sure to look for the API certification mark as well. API recommends that you don’t store DEF for too long in a truck, especially if the storage area in the vehicle is routinely hotter than the recommended storage temperatures displayed on the label. DEF stored at 86 degrees and above will only last about six months. Exposure to direct sunlight may also decrease the life DEF.

Purchasing DEF for Shop Use

API has found that the biggest misconception by fleet managers is the belief that if the urea concentration of their DEF is on spec, then the DEF meets the required quality. While it is true that the concentration is very important, there are many other important quality characteristics built into the ISO 22241 specification in regard to DEF.

Fleet managers responsible for procuring DEF should confirm that their suppliers are providing DEF that meets the ISO quality standard. One way to do this is to ensure that their supplier is providing a Certificate of Analysis (or Quality) with every shipment that addresses all of the quality characteristics that the specification requires. Purchasing API-licensed DEF is the best way to be sure your DEF meets the rigorous requirements of the specification, because these products are not only tested before they are released to the marketplace, but they are also subject to testing in API’s Aftermarket Audit Program.  Fleets and drivers can always check to see if the DEF they are buying is licensed by visiting API’s real-time directory of licensees on the API website.

Managing DEF in Shops

For shops, the handling, storage and dispensing of DEF is very important so that off-spec DEF doesn’t reach the marketplace. Temperature during transport or at the point of storage or sale can harm the shelf life of DEF sold in containers. Make sure the stock is rotated to use the oldest product first. Proper storage temperatures in a shop is also vital. Storing in temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit will limit the shelf life of the DEF over time. Some additional things to consider in storing and handing DEF include the following:

  • Bulk storage tanks should be dedicated for DEF. Don’t switch products in the bulk tank without thoroughly rinsing the tank with distilled or de-ionized water or on-spec DEF.
  • A closed loop system for transferring DEF from a drum or bulk tank is recommended so contaminants don’t get into the DEF. This is particularly important in a shop or construction site that has dust or dirt in the air.
  • Use dedicated equipment for dispensing DEF. Don’t use funnels, pitchers, hoses, etc. that are used for other fluids when putting DEF in a tank.
  • Anything used for dispensing DEF should be cleaned with distilled or de-ionized water and followed by a DEF rinse. Don’t use tap water for cleaning.

For shops and drivers, it’s important to know what you are putting into your DEF tank. The quality of the DEF going into your vehicle is as important as the quality of the engine oils or fuels used in your vehicles.  Use of API-licensed Diesel Exhaust Fluid will ensure that the DEF meets the high standards required by engine and vehicle manufacturers.

Source: PickUpTruckTalk

Optimum Health and Performance of Newborn, Weaning and Transition Calves

Research shows that development of the calf’s digestive microbiome early in life may improve her future health and productive performance. This goal will require specific nutritional and health strategies that support optimum immune development, digestive efficiency and nutrient intake at three key periods: the first 14 days, at weaning and transition.

Development of Active Immune Function for Long-term Health Benefits

The most important time in a calf’s life is the first two weeks after birth. About 24 hours after birth, the passive immunity from colostrum begins to decline and by day five the protective antibody concentration is low. Thus, the calf is at risk of infection until the active immune system develops at about day 14 to 21.

Development is Critical for Optimum Weaning and Transition

Early calf starter feeding is important:

  1. Significantly helps rumen development before weaning for improved transition success
  2. Promotes active immune development from improved rumen function and nutrient intake
  3. Improves calf weight gains and development goals associated with earlier puberty, lower age at first calving, better first lactation milk production and health status during lactation

As the young calf begins to consume dry feed, ingested bacteria initiates rumen fermentation and production of volatile fatty acids (VFAs). Adequate rumen function and digestive capacity is particularly important at weaning when hutch calves are transitioned to group pens and stressed by a new feed and a different environment. If rumen development is not sufficient, calves will lose weight and experience health issues, which can affect the future productivity of the animal.

Protect Against Lyme Disease: It’s Not too Late For Tick Prevention

Whether bringing up cattle, accompanying us during barn chores or enjoying a walk outside, our trusty dog is always by our side. That’s why it is important to consider that if your dogs are notprotected, more time outdoorscouldmean heightened risk for tick bites and disease.Nearly 200,000 cases of Lyme disease have been confirmed in the U.S. so far this year, and summer temperatures continue to climb, making for thriving tick environments. However, it isn’t too late to offer dogs protection against harmful Lyme disease.

Lyme diseaseis the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Continue reading for crucial disease information, from transmission to tick prevention.

How is Lyme disease transmitted?
Within only 36 hours, an attached tick carrying the Lyme disease bacterium can transmit the disease to its host.

Can dogs transfer Lyme disease to people?
While the disease is zoonotic,meaning the illness affects both animals and humans, you can rest easy knowing Fido cannot give you Lyme disease, and vice versa. Lyme disease is transferable only from an infected tick bite.

How common is Lyme disease?
The number of canine Lyme disease cases is increasing, with 359,461 cases confirmed in 2019, according to theCompanion Animal Parasite Council.

What are common symptoms?
Lyme disease can go undetected for as many as five months before signs become recognizable. Common symptoms your pet could present include swollen joints, decreased activity, loss of appetite, fever and kidney failure. Lyme disease can be fatal.

Where is the disease most prevalent?
Reported in humans and animals across the country (and across the world), Lyme disease is most prevalent in the southern New England states, eastern Mid-Atlantic states, the upper Midwest – most notably Wisconsin and Minnesota – and northern California.

What are the best prevention methods?
Trusted tick prevention products can help ensure your pet’s protection against ticks and tick-borne diseases. Proven brands of tick collars can detach up to 100 percent of attached ticks on your dog within just 48 hours, and some even offer eight months of protection, repellingandkilling both ticks and fleas. There also are effective topical treatments to protect dogs against ticks, mosquitoes, biting flies and more.

If your dog spends extended periods of time outside playing, hunting or herding livestock, your veterinarian might recommend your pet be vaccinated against Lyme disease. Whenever possible, avoid areas where ticks are most prominent, such as the forest and grassy areas. Remember to check both yourself and your dog for ticks, to prevent both of you from the risk of harmful disease transmission.

To learn more about flea and tick prevention for dogs, please visit veterinarian-founded, veterinarian-owned, Valley Vet Supply.

Mitigation of greenhouse gases in dairy cattle through genetic selection

Researchers in Spain propose mitigating methane production by dairy cattle through breeding. In an article appearing in the Journal of Dairy Science, scientists are targeting reduction of enteric methane in the breeding objectives for dairy cattle to select for animals that use feed more efficiently and thus produce less methane. Because livestock farming contributes 13 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, selective breeding can reduce those emissions while increasing milk output.

Methane from enteric fermentation is considered the main contributor to GHG coming from ruminants. These emissions contribute to global warming and represent a loss of dietary energy in ruminants. “Current selection pressure is increasing total methane production in the population of dairy cows but is reducing methane intensity (per kilogram of milk) due to higher productive levels of each cow. A reduction of methane in the breeding goals should also be included in the selection indices,” said lead author Oscar González-Recio, PhD, Department of Animal Breeding, Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (INIA), Madrid, Spain.

Evaluation of the genetic traits and economic response of the traits in the selection index were considered in this study that used genetic parameters estimated with 4,540 records from 1,501 cows. The project was funded by the SpanishNational Plan of Research, Development, and Innovation 2013–2020. While methane production is necessary to maintain rumen homeostasis, total methane emissions are expected to decrease four to six percent in 10 years due to increased milk production per cow. If annual methane production per cow is included in breeding goals and ad hoc weights are placed on methane production, GHG emission from cattle could be reduced by 20 percent in 10 years.

Dr. González-Recio added that “increasing per-cow productivity may reduce the number of cows needed per billion kilograms of milk produced, contributing to mitigation of GHG emissions, but this is not enough. If no action is taken, the genetic potential for methane production is expected to increase.”

While the biological limit of methane production remains unknown, this study shows the potential for including environmental traits in selection indices while retaining populations of cows that are profitable for producers.


When is milk replacer the right price?

With the latest turn of events for the dairy industry due to COVID-19, many producers implemented strategieS to feed tank milk to their calves to avoid dumping or receiving no payment for their product. Fortunately, the milk futures market has been improving, so we pose the question: What should producers be feeding their calves? What is the best economic decision for dairies? In this article we will address these questions and discuss the economics behind such feeding strategies.

There are many factors to consider when choosing to feed milk replacer or whole salable tank milk. Some of these factors include: distance of transportation for feeding, cost and maintenance of a pasteurizer system, tank milk cleanliness and percent solids, and nutrient availability and/or deficiency. Surprisingly 6 important nutrients that support growth and health of the calf are deficient in whole milk. Calf milk replacer (CMR) is nutritionally complete and has the proper ratio of protein to fat, which will improve average daily gain, mammary and tissue development, starter intake at weaning, and decreases overall mortality and morbidity rates. If properly mixed, CMR also provides consistent solids levels and is free of harmful bacteria and pathogens.

It is no secret that farms everywhere are struggling financially and we

need to also address the economic advantages of feeding CMR. Figure 1 is a chart that illustrates the break-even price to feed CMR versus tank milk based on current milk price per cwt and percent solids of the tank milk.

For example, at 12.5% solids and

$18/cwt milk price, it would be economically more beneficial to buy a bag of CMR as long as it is under $72/bag. That being said, if you purchase CMR for $65/bag and plan to feed for a high-performance level at 2.5 lb. of solids per day for 8-9 weeks (3 × 50

lb. bag of CMR per calf) you would be saving $21/calf (3 × $7 difference). If the milk price is down to $14/cwt, however, the price per bag would need to be under $56, but if milk hits $20/cwt again, this increases to $80/bag.

How does the percent solids of the tank milk affect this scenario? After collecting percent solids data from 16 dairy farms in Western New York the average percent solids fed to calves for salable tank milk was 12.5%. Only one dairy averaged 13.5%, this was a Jersey herd. This is important to determine how much money you could save feeding milk replacer. Again, at $18/cwt and 12.5% solids the break-even price per bag is

$72, but if the farm tests lower at just 11.5% solids in their tank milk, the break-even price per bag increases with $6/bag. If your milk solids and mailbox CWT price break-even point ends up in the green (figure 1), it is economically more beneficial to buy a bag of CMR (at $65 per 50 lb. bag), than feeding whole salable milk, in addition to all the other aforementioned benefits of CMR.

Therefore, it is vital to know the percent solids of tank milk on your farm to effectively use this chart. Either a digital or optical BRIX refractometer can

be used to determine the solids. The percentage solids calculation for tank milk = BRIX reading + 2 (for example,

if the BRIX is 10, the tank milk has 12% solids). Please contact your regional Denkavit professional for assistance, we are here to help.

Economics have and will continue to play a role in the decision making on farms. Discussing break even CMR price will hopefully allow producers and consultants to make better buying decisions when it comes to the nutrition of their calves.

Dairy Stream podcast: Rosy-Lane Holsteins shares insight on genetics, sustainability

In a recent episode of the Dairy Stream podcast, award-winning Rosy-Lane Holsteins, which recently won the Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability Award, is featured for their innovative efforts.

Dairy Stream host Mike Austin talked with Lloyd Holterman and Jordan Matthews, who own and operate the farm, about sustainability, training employees, innovative field work, connecting with customers and herd genetics.

Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin sponsored this episode.

Listen here.

Podcast breakdown:

· 1:41: Rosy-Lane Holstein’s philosophy on sustainability (Holterman answer)

· 3:10: Keeping up with national dairy trends (Holterman)

· 4:40: Traveling to dairy farms to spread the message of efficiency (Holterman)

· 5:38: Great people, great cows, great returns (Matthews answer)

· 6:43: Using protocols as a preventative measure (Matthews)

· 8:15: Being environmentally conscious to save energy and lower costs (Holterman)

· 9:04: Strategic business decisions leads to greater ROI (Holterman)

· 10:02: Reusing water two to three times throughout the farm (Matthews)

· 11:05: Using crop rotation and cover crops to boost soil health and increase crop production (Holterman)

· 11:57: Advocating for cover crops (Holterman)

· 13:50: Measuring benchmarks to improve operations (Holterman)

· 15:27: Research of cow’s health led to improved genetics (Matthews)

· 17:39: Allowing farm tours and having an open-door policy for the public (Matthews)

· 19:45: Using social media to explain dairy basics to customers (Matthews)

· 25:58: Speaking to the community and using presentations to share mission and vision (Holterman)

· 22:53: Sustainability efforts are a mission to satisfy customer demands (Holterman)

· 23:44: Customers take notice of sustainability work (Matthews answer)

About Dairy Stream:

Dairy Stream focuses on policy, sustainability, market trends, new technology, processor updates, business partner news and farmer involvement. The podcast is co-produced by the Dairy Business Association and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, sister organizations that fight for effective dairy policy in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C..

Dairy Stream is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, PodBean, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Dairy farmers find ways to help cows ‘chill’ to help beat stifling summer heat

While a summer heatwave blazes across New York conjuring up thoughts of fans, sprinklers and shades, most people may not realize these are the same tools employed by dairy farmers to keep their cows cool and comfortable too. 

“Our house has no air conditioning, so there have been times that I have threatened to sleep in the barn because it is actually cooler than our house,” jokes Kerry Adams of Black Brook Farm in Manchester. Adams said cow comfort is very important, and they rely on the research from Cornell University to assist them with determining the best methods to implement during heat waves.

Staying hydrated is important.

“Our 400 cows and young stock typically consume around 5,000 gallons of water per day, but during this heat wave it has jumped to 7,000 gallons,” says Adams. “So, making sure they have an adequate water supply is a priority.”

Many farmers use large propeller ceiling fans in barns to help move warm air away from the cows while circulating in fresh air.

“Cows don’t have the ability to cool themselves in high heat,” says farm owner Taylor Clifford in Locust-Spring Farm in Sloansville. “Without evaporative cooling or air flow of some sort, the cow’s milk production can be impacted.”

“One end of the barn is made up of large fans that act as tunnel ventilation to pull air through the barn from the opposite end,” Clifford went on to explain. “The barn is climate controlled by a thermostat that changes the speed of the fans based on the temperature in the barn.”

Other farms choose to blow air across the width of the barn instead of the length of the barn.

“Traditionally, farms have fans that blow air lengthwise through the barn, but our nutritionist suggested we try this,” says Paul Fouts, owner of Fouts Farm in Groton. 

“What sold me on this method is that typically, when you blow the long way down, by the time you get to the end of the barn, the temperature is warmer because of the heat that cows give off. Now we’re getting fresh air from both sides of the barn, right where the cows are—either eating or laying down,” he said. 

Some farms have sprinkler systems that are automatically activated when the barn gets warm. Like lawn sprinklers only elevated, a series of pipes runs the length of the barn above the cows. Sprinkler heads disperse water in a 360-degree radius to provide an even spread of water across the pen. Once the cow’s skin is soaked, sprinklers are turned off to allow for evaporation, which is the process that removes heat from the cow.

At North Harbor Dairy at Old McDonald’s farm in Sackets Harbor, “Every barn has a sprinkler over the feed bunk and sprinklers come on every 10 minutes. Our holding pen has fans as well as sprinklers over the cows,” says Dairy Manager Brian Robbins.

This year, Reyncrest Farm in Genesee County, installed shades in some areas of the barn. “The activity monitors worn by each cow track panting—a way cows abate heat—so the more panting, the hotter the cow,” says farm owner Kelly Reynolds. “This has really helped us pinpoint areas in the pen that were getting hotter at certain times of the day. We installed shades in those areas and have seen a big improvement based on the amount of time they spend resting comfortably,” says Reynolds.

Cow care is a priority for dairy farmers all year round as it directly affects milk quality and cow health.

According to Reynolds, many of the decisions made on the farm are a direct result of how the cows are acting. “Monitoring the activity trackers worn by our cows and watching how much they are laying down, eating and their general demeanor helps us to decide where we might need to make an improvement in the barn or change a routine,” says Reynolds. “It’s all about keeping our cows cool and comfortable.”


Consolidation in U.S. Dairy Farming

The number of licensed U.S. dairy herds fell by more than half between 2002 and 2019, with an accelerating rate of decline in 2018 and 2019, even as milk production continued to grow. Production has been shifting to much larger but fewer farms, and that shift shows no sign of slowing. Larger operations realize lower costs of production, on average, and those advantages persist.

Dairy’s safety net is best – if farmers use it

The Dairy Margin Coverage Program and with other federal risk management programs have served farmers well during the coronavirus crisis and will continue to offer effective aid, as long as farmers participate, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said in an NMPF podcast.

“Dairy now has, I think, the best safety net of any part of agriculture, especially for small dairy farmers,” said Peterson, a Democrat from Minnesota, in the podcast released today. “They, no doubt, have the best safety net that there is right now, if they utilize it.”

Peterson also said that emergency aid provided by Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been necessary to keep farmers afloat – but financial risks to farms haven’t ended. He also reflected on how politics has evolved during his time in Washington and his own place in it as one of its most conservative Democrats.

To listen to the full discussion, click here. You can also find this and other NMPF podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifySoundCloud and Google Play. Broadcast outlets may use the MP3 file below. Please attribute information to NMPF.

–National Milk Producers Federation

Farmers Hone Social Media Skills to Educate Consumers about Dairy

Farmers Hone Social Media Skills to Educate Consumers about Dairy

This week, 22 dairy advocates who belong to ADA North East’s DairyFAN (Dairy Food Advocacy Network) program participated in a virtual conference to hone their social media skills. DairyFAN is a leadership program designed to aid farmers and “ag-vocates” in engaging with the public about farms and food, and the conference focused on creating positive content and using analytics to benefit that content. 

Fabius, N.Y., dairy farmer and DairyFAN member Johanna Bossard, participated in the conference. 

“The virtual DairyFAN conference was a great way to be able to network and interact with social media advocates from not only our state but from across our nation! I am excited to implement the new ideas I acquired in my own social media advocacy.” – Johanna Bossard 

Guest speaker “New Mexico Milkmaid,” who has a popular social media presence provided tips to prepare quality content to share with viewers. “Tara Teaspoon,” a dairy-friendly food and lifestyle blogger, also shared her digital experiences.

To learn more about DairyFAN, contact Emma Swarthout at or visit the DairyFAN page on our website.

Heat stress in gestating dairy cows impairs performance of future

It is estimated that in the United States, environmental heat stress in cows costs the dairy industry more than $1.5 billion annually due to decreased milk production, impaired reproductive performance, increased rates of illness, and shortened lifespans. But what effects do heat stress in pregnant cows have on the productivity and health of their female offspring in the future, and how much might this affect dairy producers’ costs? In a recent article appearing in the Journal of Dairy Science, scientists from the University of Florida and the University of California, Davis investigated the performance and profitability of two future generations of cows born to mothers exposed to heat stress during pregnancy.

According to senior author Jimena Laporta, PhD, of the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA, previous research has found that heifers born to cows that are heat-stressed during late gestation grow to be smaller and produce on average five kilograms per day less milk in their first lactation, compared with heifers born to dams that were cooled during the hottest days of the year.

“This suggests a permanent effect of fetal environment on genetic expression in adulthood,” said Laporta. “We hypothesized that exposure of pregnant cows to heat stress during late gestation will impair daughters’ and granddaughters’ lifetime performances.”

The authors’ first objective was to measure the carryover effects of maternal exposure to heat stress during late gestation on milk yield, reproductive performance, and survival rates of daughters and granddaughters. Their second was to estimate the economic losses related to those outcomes across the United States. Laporta and colleagues pooled and analyzed data collected over a 10-year period on performance of Holstein cows in Florida, the state with the greatest number of heat stress days per year. This gave them information on the lifespans, productivity, and reproductive performance of two successive generations of cows born to dams exposed to heat stress during pregnancy and those born to dams that were provided active cooling during heat stress periods.

The authors found that, as expected, daughters and granddaughters of heat-stressed cows showed negative effects in rates of survival from birth to first calving, length of productive lifespan, and milk performance, including milk yields and nutrient contents through the first three lactations. The team calculated that these impairments translate to considerable annual costs to dairy producers in the United States, with nationwide losses, based on the US average milk price from 2010 to 2015, of up to $595 million annually.

Laporta notes that lactating cows tend to be the focus of heat reduction strategies, possibly because the effects of overheating are more immediately evident among them than among nonlactating pregnant cows, for which the damage may become apparent only later, when they resume milking. But considering the hidden costs that carry over to future generations of cows and the likelihood of increased heat stress due to ongoing climate change, Laporta and colleagues consider cooling techniques for dry cows—such as the use of fans and sprinkler systems—crucial to the continued success of the US dairy industry.

About the Journal of Dairy Science

The Journal of Dairy Science® (JDS), an official journal of the American Dairy Science Association®, is co-published by Elsevier and FASS Inc. for the American Dairy Science Association. It is the leading general dairy research journal in the world. JDS readers represent education, industry, and government agencies in more than 70 countries, with interests in biochemistry, breeding, economics, engineering, environment, food science, genetics, microbiology, nutrition, pathology, physiology, processing, public health, quality assurance, and sanitation. JDS has a 2019 Journal Impact Factor of 3.333 and 5-year Journal Impact Factor of 3.432 according to Journal Citation Reports (Source: Clarivate 2020).

About the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA)

The American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) is an international organization of educators, scientists, and industry representatives who are committed to advancing the dairy industry and keenly aware of the vital role the dairy sciences play in fulfilling the economic, nutritive, and health requirements of the world’s population. It provides leadership in scientific and technical support to sustain and grow the global dairy industry through generation, dissemination, and exchange of information and services. Together, ADSA members have discovered new methods and technologies that have revolutionized the dairy industry.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we’re committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray’s Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.

Solar-powered robotic dairy takes NSW farm into the future

Investing in a robotic dairy has given Bulahdelah dairy farmers Kay and John Smith the chance to take their business, Myall River Pastoral Co, well into the future.

Approaching what some would best describe as their retirement years, Kay and John might have retired from the physical act of milking but not the industry they love — the three DeLaval V300 robotic milkers, with provision for a fourth, were installed in January and the couple couldn’t be happier.

“Our investment has given us a new lease on dairying,” Kay said.

“We considered all our options including moving to beef, building a rotary and even selling the farm — but we both wanted to stay in the industry.

“John has so much knowledge and experience and it would be a shame to not find a way to continue.”

The robotic dairy was built on a greenfield site on the NSW mid-north coast property, and is now run in conjunction with the existing 10-a-side herringbone swing-over.

The robot dairy is currently milking 110 cows off a milking platform of 100 ha, while employed labour in the herringbone is pushing through 180 cows off 120 ha.

“Our long-term intention is to continue to run both,” John said.

“There is a good synergy between both because not every cow adapts to a robotic system and we have found any cow that has been unsatisfactory has been able to go back to the herringbone — we haven’t had to sell any cows at all.”

The process to expand began about three years ago when the Smiths began looking at their future options.

Son Andrew spent some time in Tasmania on a robotic dairy farm and suggested his parents look at the option.

“I initially laughed and said ‘who is paying?’,” John said.

Once the decision to go ahead with the robots was made, the couple also decided to build off-grid — with not a single electrical wire in sight.

“We knew a robotic dairy used twice the amount of power and runs 24-hours-a-day, and with milk continually entering the vat the refrigeration costs are quite large,” Kay said.

The dairy shed is covered in 100 kW of solar panels and the solar room is full of batteries and inverters, which are capable of storing enough energy from one day to the next with minimal generator use in inclement weather.

The back-up diesel generator is capable of recharging the batteries while, at the same time, takes over the supply of power to the dairy.

Even in the cooler and cloudy weather of winter, the generator is only operating for about an hour a day.

“We designed the shed to suit solar panels,” Kay said.

“It is north-facing and the roof is angled to allow the panels to be flat on the roof.

“We also added 10,000 litres of glycol storage. This glycol is cooled during the day to utilise solar energy.

“All pumps are variable speed and a heat recovery unit has been installed to minimise the draw on power.

“In terms of installing the solar system and additional equipment it was about 2.2 times the cost of installing mains electricity, but we project the system will pay for itself in four years — it is weird to not get a power bill.”

The robotic dairy is totally off-grid and powered by a 100kW solar system. The shed was purpose-built and orientated to take full advantage of the sun.

The big bonus of the whole system is the consistency in power.

“Power to our valley has been fairly average with lots of dips and surges — this new system is smooth and synchronises to the generator without a glitch,” Kay said.

Transitioning cows across to the robots was relatively simple, according to son Stuart.

“We brought 40 cows across when everything was shiny and new,” he said.

“They were the trailblazers and from that point on we brought 10 down every third day.

“A great benefit we have seen is how much calmer the cows are.

“There is no pressure with voluntary traffic and we no longer have 200 cows standing on concrete waiting to be milked.”

Stuart helped a heifer through the shed for her first time on the morning Dairy News visited.

“She walked in, I guided her to the robot, the cups went on and that was it,” he said.

“She will now follow the other cows and in a couple of days she will be fine.”

The milk from fresh and treated cows is automatically diverted away from the vat and after each cow is milked the robot cleans and rinses the cups and the floor to help with infection control.

The dairy shuts down every day for an hour for milk collection and cleaning.

Each robotic unit is capable of milking 80 cows. The dairy was built with three robots and provision for a fourth.

The Smiths have been astounded by the huge range of data the robots instantly supply, including milk per quarter, historical data and the mastitis detection index (MDI), while one of the robots also has an online cell counter.

The availability of this data allows good management decisions to be made.

The milking herd now accesses three pasture grazings a day, and if a cow heads into the dairy without seven hours passing between her last recorded milking time, she will get redirected to a new grazing area by the automatic draft gate.

In the short term the Smiths plan to reduce the milking herd in the herringbone to about 160 and increase the robotic dairy to 240.

The installation of the fourth robot will see that number increase to more than 300.

“We aim to reduce the workload in the herringbone and, while we can keep the cost of staffing the second dairy profitable, we will continue along this path,” Kay said.

Staff for the whole farm includes two full-time employees, a trainee and a casual worker.

The addition of the robotic dairy has allowed cow numbers to increase while not having to increase the labour hours. Staff are now able to spend more of their time on the many and varied tasks on the farm.

The robotic dairy was built on a greenfield site and the Smiths run the new dairy in conjunction with their existing herringbone dairy.

The Holstein dairy herd (including a few Jerseys) calve all year round.

It has been important to both Kay and John to consider the environment while running their dairy operation.

They have 3 km of Myall River frontage and a third of the 770 ha farm in untouched bush.

“We worked with the Hunter Local Landcare Service when we built the new dairy and have installed 25 km of electric fencing to create laneways and keep the cows out of sensitive areas including wetlands and river frontage,” John said.

They have seen the number of farmers in their valley reduce from 12 in the 1980s to just two — and both these dairies are owned by Myall River Pastoral Co.

“We have no more plans to increase that number either,” John laughed.


Rest: The overlooked requirement

The modern dairy cow produces a large quantity of milk, which equates to high energy requirements.

This is achieved by eating a diet that is balanced to meet her energy demands. Ingredient selection and diet formulation is an important focus but is not the only requirement for high milk production, writes Michael Miller, M.S., PAS and PhD Candidate at the W.H. Miner Institute in Chazy, New York, USA.  

Rest, as measured by lying time, is essential for the cow to maintain high production and health. There are several factors that can affect lying time including competition for stalls, time outside the pen, stall size, and bedding type and quality.

Rest or lying time is essential for all animals, including humans, to function normally. Just like during corn silage harvest, where you may get only a few hours of sleep, you start to make more mistakes and don’t perform at your best.

Dairy cows are the same: as lying time is restricted they begin to have lower milk production and poor hoof health among other problems. To understand when lying time is affected, you must know the average lying time for a dairy cow. In a conference proceeding from the Cornell Nutrition Conference, Rick Grant reported that dairy cows require approximately 12.5 hours of lying time per day. This can be higher depending on the cows’ production levels, as higher producers will spend more time lying. This makes sense as those cows will devote more energy to milk production and will need more time to recover. Rick went on to report that every hour of rest lost equates to 2.2 lb. of milk loss.

Since lying time is so essential for health and production, we should create an environment to maximize comfort and time for rest. First, are the stalls big enough for your cows? Researchers at the University of British Columbia reported that Holstein dairy cows spent 1.2 hours more time lying in wider stalls (51.9 inches) compared to narrow stalls (44.1 inches). Once a barn is built, it’s a costly and time consuming process to re-configure stalls, but if you’re planning to build a barn make sure to design it with cow comfort in mind.

Another important consideration is competition for stalls as overstocking has become a common practice in the U.S. As competition increases, cows will spend more time standing in the alley instead of lying down or eating. The mature dominant cows will be able to get their required rest, but the younger submissive cows will be more greatly affected.

Some companies offer services to measure lying time in your herd, and this is very valuable data to understand how comfortable your cows are. Of course, look at the average lying time of the pen, which is hopefully close to 12.5 hours, but also look at the range. This range can tell you how badly the less dominant animals are being affected by overstocking. The goal is to decrease this range and this can be accomplished by giving cows more time to rest by providing a diet that can be eaten quickly and not sorted, make sure stalls are clean and less time out of the pen for milking, to name a few.

Rest is a vital requirement for any animal to stay healthy and perform at their best. Lying time for dairy cattle is a good indicator of rest, and they should spend approximately 12.5 hours a day lying. We are always looking for a few more pounds of milk in the herd, and it just might be how comfortable your cows are. To ensure your cows have adequate opportunities to lie down, make sure stalls are clean, and cows are not away from the pen for milking longer than necessary.

Read more news from the W.H. Miner Institute by clicking here.

Across China: “Cow nannies” beef up dairy industry

At a dairy farm in northern Beijing’s Yanqing District, loudspeakers pump out soothing music, and dozens of large electric fans rotate to keep the animals cool during the sweltering summer.

Some cows stand up, some lie down and others walk to the railing installed with a sprinkler system. The system can be automatically triggered and spray water to cool the cows, thus increasing their food intake and milk output, said 52-year-old Geng Tiehuan, owner of the farm in Mengguantun Village.

The farm is home to around 1,100 dairy cows and can produce around 16,000 kg of fresh milk each day. Geng’s business has also helped increase incomes for 50 local rural households.

Business today is far cry from how things were 14 years ago when Geng began raising cows. With traditional raising methods, the revenue of her cooperative could only keep it running, but was far from enough to withstand challenges brought by sick cows or milk price fluctuation.

As the profit had become lower and lower, some of Geng’s partners quit, which put more pressure on her.

By chance, Geng got to know a program called “Caring Action for Dairy Cows.” The program consists of many “cow nannies,” who are well-known experts in the dairy field. They can offer free technical help for cow keepers like Geng.

Launched in 2012, “Caring Action for Dairy Cows” was led by Lu Yongqiang, deputy head of Beijing’s general station of animal husbandry. Lu’s team, together with universities, research institutes and enterprises, applies technologies to solve practical problems for dairy farmers.

“As ‘cow nannies,’ we take care of cows like looking after babies to bring farmers tangible benefits,” Lu said.

Years ago, cows in Geng’s dairy farm were not mating. All of her attempts to solve the problem failed, and she decided to turn to “cow nannies.”

A total of 12 experts from different fields rushed to Geng’s farm, collecting samples in the sheds and conducting lab tests. They found the problem lied in the ratio of animal feed. After adjustments, the cows mated successfully.

Geng’s cows produced several tonnes of dung each day, which was costly to clean up and would breed bacteria and parasites. She accepted the advice of “cow nannies” by putting a layer of sawdust with fermented bacteria in the cowsheds. The feces can be decomposed and the living conditions of cows became more comfortable.

“Caring Action for Dairy Cows” has trained more than 70,000 technical and management staff since the program was launched, said Lu, adding that a total of 455 new technologies and products have been promoted by “cow nannies.”

Since 2009, Beijing has started to cultivate innovation teams, hoping to apply more advanced technologies in agricultural sectors. So far, a total of 10 such teams have been established in various industries including vegetable and edible fungi planting, and dairy cow and hog raising.

Thanks to “cow nannies,” Geng’s messy dairy farm has been transformed. “I plan to turn my farm into a tourist attraction where visitors can see how organic milk is produced,” Geng said. Enditem


A breeding insight that computes

Eugene Rea’s approach to breeding dairy cows changed with the click of a button.

Well, perhaps to be more specific, it was the downloading of a report – but that all began with tapping the computer mouse.

Eugene and his wife Chantelle milk 300 registered Holsteins, under the prefix of Childers Cove, across 150 hectares in south-west Victoria.

The Mepunga dairy farmer started using the new dairy industry herd improvement and breeding website, DataVat, earlier this year.

DataVat is a web portal that allows farmers access to customised reports and tools based on their own herd and business records.

A Holstein enthusiast, Eugene was looking forward to viewing all the information of his 300-head herd.

He called it a “herd snap-shot”.

What he didn’t expect was to rethink his breeding philosophy.

“It was quite obvious on the Genetic Futures Report that the cows in our top 25 per cent for BPI [Balanced Performance Index] were producing 66kg more milk solids and their calving intervals were 33 days less than those in the bottom 25pct,” he said.

“It’s pretty obvious those cows are the profitable ones. You suspect that, but to see the actual figure – comparing the top 25pc to the bottom 25pc – I guess the proof was just there.”

Eugene’s breeding philosophy had concentrated on type, but more recently he started looking for bulls that enabled him to breed for this and health traits.

“We don’t show, but we’ve imported some embryos into the herd from high type pedigrees, that’s where my interest lies, and trying to breed a cow with good confirmation certainly helps her longevity,” he said.

“The longer we can keep them in the herd the more they make, but the other side of that is if they are not going to get in calf, they are not going to stay in the herd. It is trying to find that balance.”

Building on the strong foundation from the imported embryos, Eugene will use Australian Breeding Values (ABV) and BPI ranking as another tool when selecting his bull team.

“I can see now that, by looking at these figures, that the proof is there,” he said. “The BPI is a profitable index.”

An early DataVat adopter, Eugene mostly analysed reports about his herd, concentrating on the individual cow breeding information.

When it comes to selecting bulls, he anticipates spending a few hours using DataVat to filter bulls best suited to his breeding goals. Daughter fertility, feed saved and reducing the herd’s average stature will be his main priorities. The need for these improvements was confirmed by the information generated by the Genetic Futures Report.

“Type, longevity and mastitis resistance were well above average,” Eugene said. “Fertility was below average, and our fat and protein were about average but heading-up at a fairly sharp level. I think the last couple of years we have probably turned things around a bit for type and production but fertility hasn’t improved so much.”

Eugene and his wife Chantelle milk 300 registered Holsteins, under the Childers Cove prefix, across 150ha in south west Victoria. With an average weight of about 600kg, the herd’s diet includes pasture and grain, while during winter it’s supplemented with corn silage grown at the Reas’ outpaddock.

Average production is about 9100 litres/cow/lactation or 640kgMS/cow/lactation.

Eugene expects the Genetic Futures Report will help improve his knowledge about individual cows in his herd, how his herd ranks compared to others and the bulls suited to his operation.

“You can see what bulls have worked in the herd because it ranks your top cows, you see what bulls have worked, those which are continually throwing animals up the top of the list,” he said. “Conversely, it goes the other way too, which ones aren’t working.”

Eugene’s been investigating individual cows and discovering what makes up their BPI but has enjoyed comparing his herd to the rest of the database.

“The Genetic Futures Report gives you a herd level base of many different traits from production through all management traits and every type trait as well,” he said. “Because we classify every animal as well, we have a lot of information at our fingertips now to make breeding decisions.”

Looking ahead, Eugene would like to explore genomic testing as a way to generate more data about his herd and increase the reliability of the information.

“DataVat has changed our thinking about breeding and what the profitable cows are,” he said.

For more information, visit or contact DataGene on 03 9032 7191 or

BVD Stealing Dairy Herd Profit.

While M. bovis and Covid-19 may be competing for farmers’ attention this winter, another equally infectious disease that has lurked in the background for years poses at least as big a threat to farm profitability and livestock health.

Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) is estimated to be costing the New Zealand dairy industry at least $150 million a year in animal health costs and lost production, yet experts agree with a focused campaign it could potentially be eliminated in a matter of months, not years.

Greg Chambers, Zoetis veterinary operations manager has been working closely with vets and farmers this year to help raise the profile and understanding of BVD.

He says despite what farmers may often think, BVD is both contagious and common among dairy herds.

“It is far from being random or rare. But often BVD is mainly a subclinical disease, and its symptoms get lost amid the usual health outcomes farmers see quite regularly within their herd.

“These can include immune suppression causing more infectious disease, early embryonic death, abortion, elevated somatic cell counts, birth defects – all can appear random, but can actually all be tied back to BVD, such is the wide range of conditions it can create.”

But despite being such an insidious background disease, BVD can be controlled with a few steps revolving around testing, culling, vaccination and farm biosecurity.

Testing for BVD is a well-established practice in New Zealand dairy herds. Bulk milk sampling provides a good pathway for vets and farmers to determine its presence, then commence identifying and culling individual infected herd members.

“Testing and culling to get a clear result is good. But often no further action is taken once that is achieved, and only when the next BVD-infected animal is detected is the disease addressed again.

“It is a bit like using your smoke detector to tell you your house is on fire- by the time that alarm has gone off the fire has got hold and the damage is already done.”

He has been focusing on reinforcing the need for farmers to build biosecurity and vaccination into their animal health plans to prevent the test going positive.

“As a farmer, you really need to use the twin tools of vaccination and good farm biosecurity to keep BVD out, otherwise your efforts are going to be constantly eroded with it returning- it’s like trying to build a sandcastle when the tide is coming in.”

Vaccination wraps a layer of insurance around the herd’s health.

“It’s really like investing to fireproof the building, to stop fire taking hold again and the alarm going off again.”

Research looking over the past decade at BVD infections indicates over time more and more herds that may have contracted BVD and been cleared become naïve to the disease, and once again are susceptible.

“We have had infected herds drop from about 15% to 5% in only a few years, which is good. But it also means without vaccination those herds are sitting ducks for becoming susceptible again.”

Amid heightened concerns over M. bovis, more farmers have been careful about where they send young stock, and many also vaccinate that stock against BVD.

“But while protecting your young stock is worthwhile, focusing on your breeding herd is probably even more important.

“It is from them you get your Persistently Infected (PI) calves, from where it can spread quickly.”

Timely BVD vaccination of cows prior to mating will ensure no PI calves are born that spring, helping break a cycle of infection.

Both the symptoms and the $150 million cost to the dairy sector of BVD are difficult for affected farmers to identify.

“The cost of at least $150 million is an average of $32 a cow a year, but it can seem to be a zero-cost disease if you are just interpreting the many different symptoms as unrelated health issues in the herd.”

The per head cost of BVD far outstrips the cost to vaccinate, and Chambers says vaccination could play an invaluable role in helping New Zealand eradicate the disease.

“If as a country we can deal to Covid-19, and as an industry deal to both M. bovis and BVD, it will do much for New Zealand’s biosecurity standing and enhance the dairy sector’s profitability.”

Press Release: Zoetis

Will feeding silage to lactating cows give my calves scours?

Many cow-calf producers in Nebraska have become accustomed to using distillers grains as a source of both protein and energy to help meet the nutritional needs of lactating cows from calving until green grass is available, writes Dave Ostdiek University of Nebraska-Lincoln Communications Specialist Panhandle Research & Extension Center.

Due to the ongoing distillers shortage, many producers are considering including corn silage in the ration to help alleviate some of the energy shortfall in their hay resources. However, concerns have been expressed that silage in the diet will result in diarrhea or scours in their calves.

While this is a critical time for the nursing calf, and producers should be ever vigilant for signs of scours, there are actually a variety of reasons a calf might have a very loose stool and not all of them are cause for concern.

Feeding a diet that is highly digestible and fermented, with a high rate of passage through the digestive system will result in manure that is much more wet and loose than manure from a diet of dry hay and supplemental distillers grains. In dairy cows, a high-energy diet has been shown to increase milk production earlier in lactation, and a similar response is likely in beef cows. Increased milk production early in the calf’s life will also likely result in a looser stool.

Additionally, calves begin to nibble at grass and their mother’s feed within a few days of life, and by one month of age, are eating 1 percent of their body weight on a dry matter basis in feed other than milk. Therefore, they will begin to consume a diet that is responsible for a looser stool just like the cow does. However, dietary related scours do not cause illness and dehydration in the calf.

The health- and life-threatening causes of diarrhea in calves are commonly from a list of infectious pathogens that are shed at low levels by individuals in virtually any group of bovines. Most are viral or protozoal, and some are bacterial. These pathogens are picked up by calves, amplified, and shed at much higher levels into the environment, mainly in feces. Calves born later in the calving season are often born into environments that have much higher levels of these pathogens present than the earliest calves experienced, and as a result, the later-born calves are at higher risk of getting sick.

One method that many producers have been successfully implementing in Nebraska for years to break this chain of transmission is called Sandhills Calving. This method involves keeping cow-calf pairs with only calves born in the same one- to two-week period together until the youngest calves are at least a month old. This prevents amplification of pathogens from continuing to accelerate and provides a fresh start for each one- to two-week cohort of calves.

When cow-calf pairs are in pens in the spring, the calves need a clean, dry place to lie down. Usually, this needs to be somewhere that the cows can’t get into. It needs to be out of the wind. Shelter can be beneficial if the ventilation is adequate. Producers demonstrate a lot of creativity in designing and building simple, cost-effective calf shelters. Sometimes it can be as simple as an electric fence stretched diagonally across the corners of the pen, raised high so calves can go freely underneath, but the cows are fenced out. This allows calves an “escape” where they can lay in some clean dry straw or corn stover.

The best way to judge whether a calf with a loose stool needs treatment is by its attitude and appetite. If it is bright, alert, active and interested in eating, it is likely doing alright. If the calf is listless, moving slowly, ears drooping, and does not appear to be interested in eating or nursing, treatment is likely needed. One exception to that would be if there was blood in the feces. That should be treated quickly.

Fluid replacement is the cornerstone of treatment for scours, though antibiotics may also be necessary in certain situations. A calf that can stand may respond well to treatment with oral electrolytes, but a calf with diarrhea that won’t or can’t stand is very likely in dire need of intravenous fluid therapy. Your veterinarian can help you develop a plan for treating scours in calves if the need arises.

Photo credit Troy Walz.

Dairy Farmers Find Ways To Help Cows “Chill” During Summer Heat

While a heatwave continues to blaze across New York conjuring up thoughts of fans, sprinklers, shades and sand, most people may not realize these are the same tools employed by dairy farmers to keep their cows cool and comfortable during the warmer months.

North Harbor Dairy at Old McDonald’s Farm in Sacketts Harbor, N.Y., uses large propeller ceiling fans to maintain an 8-9 mph breeze throughout the barn.
North Harbor Dairy at Old McDonald’s Farm in Sacketts Harbor, N.Y., uses large propeller ceiling fans to maintain an 8-9 mph breeze throughout the barn.

Many farmers use large propeller ceiling fans in barns to help move warm air away from the cows while circulating in fresh air. On Reyncrest Farm in Corfu, N.Y., they have over 250 fans to help keep their cows chill. “The fans automatically turn on when the thermometer hits 65 degrees,” says owner Kelly Reynolds. “Our fans are spread throughout our barns and milking parlor. We have about one fan for every six cows.”

Some farms have sprinkler systems that are automatically activated when the barn gets warm. Like lawn sprinklers only elevated, a series of pipes run the length of the barn above the cows. Sprinkler heads disperse water in a 360-degree radius to provide an even spread of water across the pen. Once the cow’s skin is soaked, sprinklers are turned off to allow for evaporation, which is actually the process that removes heat from the cow.

Other farms use misters to cool cows. While sprinklers and misters both use water, misters actually cool the air surrounding the cows. The cows never get wet, instead, the fog that is produced by the misters evaporates before it reaches the cows and cools the air. The misters produce about a 10-degree drop in temperature in the barn.

Another simple, yet automated feature of many barns that not only keeps cows cool in the summer, but also warm in the winter, are the shades that make up the exterior walls. Shades are controlled by a thermostat to open and shut depending on the temperature. In the past, barns were designed so that exterior walls could be removed during the summer months. Shades are like curtains — they can be opened and shut easily as the climate changes.

This year, Reyncrest Farm installed shades in some areas of the barn. “The activity monitors worn by each cow track panting, which is one way cows abate heat, so the more panting, the hotter the cow is. This really helped us pinpoint a few areas in the pen that were getting hotter at certain times of the day. I think it’s pretty cool that we can respond to what the cow’s activity is telling us.  We installed shades in those areas and have seen a big improvement based on the amount of time they spend resting comfortably,” says Reynolds.

While you might dream of laying on a beach for relaxation this summer, some cows get to do that every day. On average, a cow spends about 14 hours a day just resting, so a comfortable bed is important. Cows are very large and sand beds provide traction and support, allowing them to get up and down with ease. Because sand is so forgiving, it disperses the cow’s weight over a wide area, providing comfort and promoting longer resting times. Sand is also an ideal bedding for cows because it stays cool inside the barn.

Cow care is a priority for dairy farmers all year round as it directly affects milk quality and cow health.  According to Reynolds, many of the decisions made on the farm are a direct result of how the cows are acting. “Monitoring the activity trackers worn by our cows and watching how much they are laying down, eating or their general demeanor helps us to decide where we might need to make an improvement in the barn or change a routine,” says Reynolds. “It’s all about keeping our cows cool and comfortable.”

SOURCE American Dairy Association North East

Announcing the launch of a new journal, JDS Communications

JDS Communications, a new gold open access journal from the American Dairy Science Association® (ADSA®), invites you to submit your research. An official publication of ADSA, JDS Communications is being launched in response to the rapid growth of Journal of Dairy Science® (JDS) over the past decade.

JDS Communications is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that publishes short, concise original research that relates to the production and processing of milk or milk products intended for human consumption.

“As incoming editor in chief, I’d like to welcome you to submit papers to our new journal. JDS Communications will offer a fresh and different publication option for dairy scientists. We are interested in high-quality research studies that are focused, hypothesis-driven, and designed to answer a specific question on the production or processing of milk or milk products intended for human consumption. We aim for rapid turnaround and a short time to publication,” Matthew Lucy, PhD, said.

As of August 18, 2020, the Journal of Dairy Science® (JDS) will no longer receive new submissions for short communications, hot topics, or technical notes. Instead, these article types will go to JDS Communications. Authors who have an article submitted to JDS and in review will be offered the opportunity to publish their article in JDS or move it to JDS Communications. We are waiving the open access charges for the first 25 articles published in JDS Communicationsas an incentive to our inaugural authors.

“The launch of JDS Communications is further proof that ADSA is strengthening its position and expanding its brand nationally and internationally, attracting dairy scientists who want to publish in our journals and attend our meetings. JDS Communications helps fulfill our goal of promoting science, education, and service for the global dairy sector,” Rafael Jimenez-Flores, PhD, ADSA president, said.

The initial editorial team will consist of Matthew Lucy (University of Missouri), editor in chief and Physiology section editor; MaryAnne Drake (North Carolina State), Dairy Foods section editor; Pam Ruegg (Michigan State), Health, Behavior, and Well-Being section editor; Jennie Pryce (Agriculture Victoria & La Trobe University), Genetics section editor; and John Roche (NZ Ministry for Primary Industries), Animal Nutrition and Farm Systems section editor. These individuals were selected based on their past service as JDS section editors, their extensive expertise within their respective fields, and their broad understanding of dairy science.

“I hope that you as authors, readers, and reviewers will support this exciting new journal for research in the dairy sciences. I appreciate the efforts of the many people who have come together to create this new journal that will serve the global dairy science community,” said Lucy.

About JDS Communications

JDS Communications is an official journal of the American Dairy Science Association and publishes high-impact and concise research that relates to the production and processing of milk or milk products intended for human consumption. Manuscripts for review can be submitted to

About the American Dairy Science Association

The American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) is an international organization of educators, scientists, and industry representatives who are committed to advancing the dairy industry and keenly aware of the vital role the dairy sciences play in fulfilling the economic, nutritive, and health requirements of the world’s population. It provides leadership in scientific and technical support to sustain and grow the global dairy industry through generation, dissemination, and exchange of information and services. Together, ADSA members have discovered new methods and technologies that have revolutionized the dairy industry.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we’re committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray’s Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.

Should You Share Your Data?

Have you heard a dairy farmer say … “It is my data! … Why should I share my data? … Just so that someone else can make money from my data! … It costs me to generate my data! … What are you going to pay me for my data?”  In dairy cattle genetic improvement, these comments are often aimed at A.I. organizations or breeding companies who have access to but do not pay, as they once did, for the use of breeders’ individual animal and herd performance data.

Where is this ‘Pay Me’ Approach Coming From?

Breeders today see that their futures are threatened when it comes to revenue from their breeding stock sales. They have much less (if any) income, as a percent of total revenue, from animal and embryos sales than they had thirty years ago. No one is beating down their doors for open heifers, springing bred heifers or quality second calvers. They still participate in type classification and DHI programs, but their officially documented animal data is not being asked for. Grade females with documentation fetch as many dollars from sales agents as do purebreds. High herd performance averages (BAA, milk/fat/protein yield averages, …) do not bring buyers to farms seeking surplus animals.

Why Participate in Animal Improvement Programs?

So, breeders are saying why spend the money to participate in industry offered breed improvement programs?  These breeders know full well that they need the data for their on-farm use but question if organizations beyond their farm gate have the right to use their data without paying for it.

Nothing remains the same forever. At the farm level, animal and herd data once used to generate revenue now has the primary use of helping to keep costs under control.

But … what is the big picture of this matter?

The Data Focus is Now Value Added

The profitable cow for most dairy farmers has evolved or is evolving to a healthy, long-lived, efficient converter, high fat and protein producing cow.  As well, dairy farmers are making extensive use of sexed semen, breeding the low-end females to beef semen and buying systems and technology that enhance herd management and help cut costs.

Every piece of data, old and new, must provide a return on the investment … It must have a value added at the farm of origin level. It is no longer just how much milk, fat or protein or if she classified above breed average.   It is – does she do that and more – calved without difficulty at 22 months of age, conceives on 1st or 2nd service, does not get sick, does not have feet/hoof problems and remains in the herd to at least 72 months of age (completes 4 lactations). The ideal cow needs to be much more genetically and performance wise than she was even ten years ago.

Value Added Answers New Questions

Even though the focus in the press and social media is on the genomics for young animals, breeders want and need to have the profitable lifetime cow. That requires that on-farm finances need to be given a much higher priority for inclusion in data captured and reported than they have been up until now. Without including the dollars and cents relative to a trait – do the trait genetic indexes have worthwhile value?

It goes even further. Some old beliefs may not hold their perceived value. Do wide bodied cows consume more feed? Will a2a2 animals generate more revenue in the future? Are there bloodlines or breeds that are more profitable at converting feed than other bloodlines or breeds?

Viability and Sustainability are High Priority

We need to dig much deeper using more data points so cows, dairy farms and the industry can be viable and sustainable.  More production is not always better. The fact is we talk value added but we are not using the data to actually determine if it is adding value. The dairy cattle improvement industry needs expanded thinking when it comes to using all data.

How Did the Dairy Cattle Improvement Industry Get to this Point with Data?

Many often blame the introduction of genomics as the reason that breeders are unable to get back some return for sharing their data.

With the introduction of genomic sire indexes, A.I. stopped paying incentive dollars to breeders that sampled young sires. Payment in return for breeders’ data that was used to daughter prove the young sires. It so happened that, at the same time, semen prices for proven sires dropped and semen sales volume for proven sires went from 80% to 30% of the market. And so, the money was not there for A.I. to continue their young sire incentive programs.

Dramatic Expansion in Data

In this past decade progressive dairy farmers have been purchasing more tools to evaluate their herds in order to improve their herd management practices. Breeds did not change the services they provided while milk recording expanded their scope of services. New entrepreneurial service providers entered the dairy cattle improvement industry and many more services and technologies were offered to dairy farms. The result is that there has been a dramatic expansion in data and data points for cows and herds.

Who Analyzes the data?

Yet in many cases the increased data points are not linked. Dairy farmers must sort through all the data and draw their own conclusions and make decisions based solely on their herd’s data. Of course, all data capture costs money so dairy farms have incurred more expense and yet are having to link the data on their own. No wonder dairy farmers are saying, “It is my data I paid for it all. How do I get a return on my data investment? My data has a value beyond my farm. Am I seeing benefit from my data used by organizations?”

Has the dairy improvement industry not kept up with farmers’ needs when it comes to linking, analyzing and providing information for animal and herd advancement? Likely, that is partially true.  But all is not lost. Organizations are now seeing the need to link all data points to provide more complete answers for dairy farmers.

Everyone Benefits from Sharing Data

When a farm’s data is not available for others everyone looses … original farm … other farms … service providers … the industry.

Here is a partial list of the benefits of shared data for farms and for the industry:

  • Benchmarking
    Broadly based guideposts for animals and herds have been and will continue to be integral for farms to be able to improve. Industry databases containing large volumes of animal and herd data are needed to develop the guideposts.
  • Accuracy of Prediction and Forecasting
    Broad based animal and herd data is needed to know performance and trends. As well as for all stakeholders to predict and plan.
  • Research and Development
    Innovation is critical for any industry to progress. Extensive data along with both public and private funding are needed for research and development.
  • Genetic Advancement
    Large comprehensive databases are needed to expand the economically important traits for which dairy cattle are genetically evaluated. CDN/Lactanet research has shown that half of the progress in on-farm profitability comes about because of the genetic improvement of animals.
  • Product Guarantees
    Databases that include monitoring of location of production, of production methodology, of product identification and of product movement are important for consumers to know that the food they buy meets standards, is safe and wholesome. In the future producers, processors and marketers will be required to guarantee their products
  • Results of Industry Collaboration and Initiatives
    Dairy farmers have been asking for their service organizations to expand and link the services offered. Elimination of duplication, sharing of services and efficiencies within services are important to dairy farmers. To achieve all these animal, herd and farm data is necessary.
  • New Technology and Systems
    The rate of implementation of technology and new systems is occurring at a break-neck speed. The result is more and new information to manage by and for more effective use of labor and feeds. Past animal and herd data are paramount to create the new equipment and management softwares for not only milk cows but also for calves, heifers, dry cows and farm and industry systems.

It is Check-In Time for How the Dairy Industry Deals with Data

Shared data will be the foundation on which the dairy industry will build its future viability and sustainability.

All industries (auto, medical, energy, …etc.) are changing their approach to who has access to individual organizations’ data. It is not who owns or controls the data, – it is who uses the data to implement new.

No person, service provider or industry can exist as an island onto themselves.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

All farm data needs to be used on the farm of origin and in the industry. Sharing data is not a “no way” – it is a definitely “yes do for success”. Opportunity is out there for farms that share their data but, in return, there must be ways to improve income, efficiencies, cost cutting, management improvements, and more. Sharing dairy data is sound business.




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5 challenges for more sustainable dairy

In Cainthus, we view cows as a key part of a sustainable global food system. When you grow an acre of wheat, you also get straw at about ~80% of the weight of grain. Humans can’t eat straw, a ruminant converts it to excellent/high class protein as well as making fertiliser in the form of urea and manure that can help mitigate the environmental problems of synthetic fertilisers.

In this article we will attempt to address five significant challenges with dairy cows as we attempt to move towards a more ecological/circular agricultural system.

1.      Weight based production systems

While this is arguably a bigger problem for crops, the livestock industry is certainly not helped by much of its value being determined by how many litres of milk and kg of meat are produced. Humans run on nutrients, not weight or calorific value of foods. If our food trade was based on valuing the nutritional value/density of food rather than the weight of it, then this would have powerful downstream effects. In the dairy industry, some countries have quality bonuses for Somatic Cell Count, fat, and protein content. This is the direction to travel in, and countries with quality bonuses are correlated with higher animal and farmer welfare standards. Technology could improve this system further by giving us individual animal feed intake nutrition data that can be correlated to the nutritional quality of their milk.

2.      Manure

Manure management remains one of the biggest costs and problems in livestock agriculture and is responsible for 23% of the emissions associated with cows (9.5% directly from manure, 13.5% from applying manure to crops as fertilizer). Additionally, there are social sustainability issues associated with slurry spreading and the manure lagoons common among larger operations draw community complaints related to the odour emitted.

Figure 1 - Cow emissions

For large scale dairies, anaerobic digesters (“AD”) and solid liquid separators(“SLS”) offer a genuine solution to this problem. Anaerobic digesters and SLS’ eliminate much of the emissions associated with raw manure storage (25% and 46%, respectively), while also providing fertilizer. AD also provides energy, which further reduces net emissions. AD in particular is starting to see heavy adoption in places like California. Indeed, California believes that 30 anaerobic digesters have reduced state Ag emissions by 25% or 2.2m tonnes, the equivalent of taking 460,000 cars off the road.

Neither of these technologies have demonstrated lower emissions than mineral fertilizer for field application, but we are seeing some new technologies that may resolve this. Neither AD nor SLS are applicable to pasture systems.

Manure could potentially be used as a feedstock for insects like black soldier fly, with the insect larvae then fed to fish/poultry/pigs/pets, but this remains early stage with little demonstrations of scalability.

3.      Genetics

Modern agriculture is a highly specialised system that has extensively leveraged genetic selection to enable us to create more food with less inputs. This has created extreme genetic uniformity that renders the entire industry highly susceptible to pandemics due to the low level of genetic diversity – a commercial plant or animal is terribly similar no matter where on the planet it may be.

Figure 2 -  IPES Food - From Uniformity to Diversity

With cows, 14% of our species are “international breeds”. Examples of these in dairy are the Holsteins, Friesians, Jerseys that have become ubiquitous in global dairy. In US dairy, Holstein bull genetics can be traced back to just two bulls, and overall the ~9m US dairy cows have a level of genetic diversity that one would expect from a group of 50 cows. The US also has an 8% inbreeding co-efficient, where 8% of an animal’s genetics are direct copies of its parent’s genes. This is increasing at a rate of .3 to .4% per year. This is an unsustainable situation that needs urgent resolution. Cross breeds are becoming more common in response to this and there are companies attempting to create GMO and CRISPR based applications for cows, but these technologies bring their own issues.

capture 3 genetics.png

There remains a lot of potential upside in traditional breeding. Currently most genetics are selected based on milk production. What if you started selecting cows on different factors, such as those that demonstrate stronger immune systems? Animals that need less medical attention can create higher margins for farmers. In 2022, EU countries will no longer be permitted to use human reserve antibiotics in veterinary medicine, nor any unprescribed animal antimicrobials. This follows a general trend of reducing antibiotic use in EU farming. These trends create further opportunity to improve cow genetics to reduce susceptibility to disease. The Roslin institute recently released an atlas of cattle genes to help show what key traits we may leverage.

4.      Value/Price of Milk

There is overwhelming evidence of improved human health in response to moderate dairy intake. In many parts of the world, one can walk into a shop and buy milk at a cheaper price than water, which has no nutritional value beyond hydration. And it transpires that milk hydrates humans better than water! This situation exists for a broad variety of reasons, including government policies to increase intake for health reasons, processors and retailers getting a higher share of the revenue, to supermarkets selling it as a loss leader in order to sell other higher margin products. Whatever the causative reasons, low milk prices have certainly done the farmer no favours.

One of the best ways a consumer can help create a more sustainable dairy industry is to recognise milk for the quality product that is, and consequently pay more for milk that is produced in accordance with consumer values. A more profitable dairy industry is more economically sustainable, enabling it to spend more capital on improving environmental and social sustainability.

Increasingly the consumer is sceptical of BigAg companies (rightly or wrongly) and likes the idea of buying from farmers. There are some wonderful case studies of farmers doing their own branding and bottling (in particular, this Arethusa Farms milk brand from the people behind Manolo Blahnik USA is a great example of what is possible). The dairy machinery company Lely recently released a farm level processing unit, that enables a dairy with as few as 55 cows to process, bottle and brand their own milk. During Covid-19, we have also seen an increase in farms delivering milk direct to the consumer, just like in the old days. Less centralised processing with more automation can also help to improve dairy resilience should another pandemic like Covid-19 occur in the future.

5.      Pastoral systems/system variations.

Dairy efficiency/environmental statistics generally get presented by global averages. This paints a hugely different image of the modern commercial dairy industry versus the reality. Most global dairy cows exist in pastoral environments in lower income countries. This system of production is not in any way comparable to modern dairy practices and makes dairy look like part of our environmental problem rather than a source of environmental solutions. For example, the average dairy cow in India produces 1,200 kg of milk per year, with emissions of 52.4kg of CO2e/kg of protein. The average US dairy cow in a facility with an anaerobic digester produces 10,500kg of milk per year with emissions of 21.4kg of CO2e/kg of protein. If all cows in the world produced with the efficiency of the US, we could reduce the global dairy herd from 268m cows to 69m cows while still producing the same volume of milk.

The Oxford Martin school believe that we can get to net zero emissions for agriculture and can even start using livestock as a source of global cooling. The logic is based on the fact that methane has a half-life of 10 years vs 1,000 years for carbon (even though it is common to incorrectly treat methane as a carbon coefficient with a 1,000 year half-life). As cows operate on a biogenic cycle, their net emissions remain stable while the herd numbers remain stable. If you reduce the global herd numbers, then this has a massive positive impact on total emissions, resulting a net cooling effect:

capture 4 emissions.png

If you take dairy farming today as a baseline, cows look like part of the problem. If you take dairy farming in 1950 as the baseline, it is apparent that dairy farmers are part of the solution and require our support.

capture 6 milk production.png

Dairy farmers have demonstrated a remarkable effort in reducing environmental impact and improving standards through what has been a highly volatile operating environment. These farmers deserve our celebration and support. As we enter into a more a digital world, utmost effort must be made to ensure that farmers are given access to the new tools that will enable them to continue to be part of our global efforts to create sustainable abundance for all.

Source: Cainthus

New State-of-the-art Genomic Analysis Technology Puts New Zealand Dairy Farmers In Stronger Stead For Spring

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor today visited LIC to view its herd testing facilities and new multi-million genomic analysis technology which will ultimately put the dairy industry in a stronger position as it prepares for its role in New Zealand’s economic recovery after COVID-19.

The Minister toured LIC’s Riverlea Road herd testing and GeneMark facility in Hamilton with LIC’s Chief Executive Wayne McNee, Chief Scientist Richard Spelman and General Manager Operations and Service David Chin. He was impressed with the delivery capabilities of the new equipment installed just last week which will test around 300,000 calves this spring, delivering significant benefits to farmers and ultimately New Zealand.

LIC’s Wayne McNee says the newly-installed Illumina technology from the USA will enable dairy farmers to better identify their most productive animals and reduce the risk of culling offspring of top-performing cows.

“Each year around 25% of calves born are either mis-mothered, mis-tagged or mis-recorded. This can lead to farmers accidentally culling the offspring of highly productive cows, or those sired through our artificial breeding programme. It can also lead to the retention of calves of lower genetic value. To stop this happening, and enhance productivity, we carry out whole herd DNA parentage testing providing more accurate ancestry information for each season’s calves, reducing inbreeding and ensuring a true breeding worth (BW) for animals,” McNee says.

“Our new technology allows us to obtain more information from an animals DNA. This will give LIC the scope to tailor our existing parentage offering, using DNA assays, and target discoveries as they arise. It’s a significant investment by LIC but one we expect our farmer shareholders will increasingly benefit from over future seasons.”

Once calving starts in August, LIC will use the new automated technology to better scan and analyse the DNA profiles of calves from across the country captured through a tiny tissue sample (TSU) taken from their ear. The equipment will scan for, and target very specific pieces of genetic information. It will enable more animals to be assessed once the busy spring season commences where typically 20,000 samples a week are analysed.

LIC’s Chief Scientist, Richard Spelman says there has been significant advancements in DNA sequencing and parentage technology in the past decade with higher throughput and data analysis capabilities.

“We’re excited to be the first in New Zealand to use this new technology including the NovaSeq which can sequence entire genomes from DNA smaller than the head of a pin. It’s an incredible leap forward in capability and a huge advancement for supporting better breeding decisions at a critical juncture in New Zealand’s farming history.”

Spelman says the benefits of LIC’s DNA parentage testing will only continue to increase over time with LIC having processed more than three million cow samples since it began DNA profiling in 2009.

“Most of our farmers test their herds annually as the more years they test for, the more animals they have full parentage information on. It means farmers have up-to-date records and more accurate breeding worth information which only serves to add value to their herd. The parentage testing can also be combined with other tests, such as a gene test which identifies what cows produce A2/A2 milk and a test that detects the BVD virus in individual animals.”

McNee says the New Zealand cow population is decreasing and farmers are aware that it needs to be milking better not more cows. “Our technology investment is designed to support this sentiment and allow us to provide greater future insights into positive traits of the New Zealand dairy cow. We’re excited about what it can offer farmers and were delighted to show the Minster the new equipment during his visit.”


Eubiotics 101: Help maintain normal digestion for long-term calf health

Prebiotics. Probiotics. Essential oils. Organic acids. You’ve probably seen one or all of these ingredients on packaging at the grocery store or in a food advertisement. All four ingredients fall into a category called eubiotics and can be found in livestock feed, too.

“Eubiotics in human nutrition isn’t new – in fact, essential oils and herbs have been used in many cultures to support health and wellness for thousands of years,” says Dan Baum, president of DBC Ag Products. “We didn’t know the science behind eubiotics for best use in livestock until much later compared to human nutrition. But, now, we know there’s much to be gained.”

For more than 35 years, Baum helped bring eubiotics to the forefront of digestive health in livestock, particularly for young calves. His family’s century-old sweet bologna business used eubiotics to help create a shelf-stable fermented sausage, and learnings helped bridge the gap from human to livestock.

Learn the in’s and out’s of eubiotics:

What are eubiotics?

Eubiotics are a class of feed additives including prebiotics, probiotics, essential oils and organic acids. They help provide a healthy balance of microbiota in the animal’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract, supporting normal digestive health and a healthy immune system.

Eubiotics derives from the Greek term eubiosis, which translates to “healthy life” and is associated with bacterial homeostasis. Eubiotics can be helpful for animals of all life stages.

How do eubiotics work?

Traditional livestock eubiotics work as follows:

  • Probiotics deliver viable microorganisms that help maintain a natural population balance of probiotic microorganisms in the GI tract to support normal digestive health.
  • Prebiotics provide a food source for naturally occurring microorganisms in the gut to help maintain proper flora and support digestion.
  • Organic acids help provide nutritional support for the mucosal lining of the digestive tract, which is key to a healthy, active microbiome in the GI tract.
  • Essential oils offer flavoring for appetite, while supporting normal gut health and digestive function.

Combined, these eubiotics work synergistically to help maintain proper digestion, normal digestive health and support a functioning immune system. And, when paired with less traditional eubiotics, there’s even more to gain.

“Other less traditional feed ingredients, like egg proteins, specialized whey proteins, dried kelp, yucca schidigera and psyllium seed husk, have shown the ability to support a healthy gut through eubiosis,” says David Mathes, director of sales and marketing at DBC Ag Products. “When combined with traditional eubiotics, these ingredients help form a total package to help calves perform to their full potential.”

Individual calves may respond differently to specific ingredients. Applying a total package approach (using multiple types of eubiotics) can help ensure each calf gets what it needs.

When is the right time to use eubiotics?

The window to instill good health starts when a calf is born. Introducing eubiotics to calves early-on to help maintain normal GI health, is important to provide support for the developing immune system during the critical first few weeks of life. Approximately 70% of the immune system resides in or around the digestive tract. Maintaining normal digestive health at the beginning of a calf’s life is paramount to raising a fast-growing animal with a healthy, functioning immune system. “In the first few weeks of a calf’s life, the digestive system is still developing and transitioning from milk to grain,” says Mathes. “At the same time, the developing immune system is running off mom’s passive immunity as it transitions over to active immunity.”

How can I deliver eubiotics?

Eubiotics can be delivered via feed, liquid, drenches, boluses, gel or paste. For young, growing calves, a powder containing eubiotics can be mixed into milk, offering an easy delivery mechanism that requires no additional labor. A tube-based gel or paste is an additional option for a convenient, anytime, anywhere quick intake of eubiotics by calves.

“The delivery method is important, but even more important is maintaining a feeding regimen,” says Mathes. “A consistent, daily feed regimen during the first few weeks of life gives a calf’s developing digestive tract the support it needs, when it needs it most.”

Can eubiotics work alongside antibiotics?

Eubiotics have been used more widely in livestock rations, especially as the use of feed-grade antibiotics has dropped following the Veterinary Feed Directive.

“Antibiotics have their place when calves get sick,” says Mathes. “We’re seeing more prudent use of antibiotics today. Maintaining normal, healthy calves plays a role in that equation, and eubiotics can be an integral part of a successful calf health protocol.”

“Selecting a broad-based package of eubiotics, put together in the right combination, can support dairy farmers in raising healthy, fast-growing calves,” says Mathes.

Discover more information about eubiotics at

DBC Ag Products ( specializes in innovative biotechnology solutions that utilize practical research and proven technology to meet agribusiness needs using applied microbiology, enzymology and immunology. DBC offers a broad range of biotechnology-based animal health products for many different species. Products are designed to help maintain a normal digestive system and support a functioning immune system in young animals, including calves, lambs, goat kids, horses, dogs and poultry.

MSU COVID-19 Response Is Part of Long-Time Support of Michigan’s Dairy Producers

Jeremy Beebe, owner of Double B Dairy in Whittemore, Michigan, has built a lasting relationship with MSU Extension dairy educator Phil Durst (right) as the two have worked together to grow Beebe’s dairy farm over the past two decades.

Already struggling dairy industry hit hard by coronavirus

Jeremy Beebe is facing his toughest challenge in 20 years as a dairy farmer. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has sent dairy markets on a roller coaster of uncertainty. Without government assistance, he said he could not have paid his eight employees at Double B Dairy in Whittemore, Michigan during the crisis.

“We were fortunate enough to receive money through the (Payroll Protection Program), so that’s been nice that we can take care of our employees,” said Beebe, whose farm includes 230 cows and is a five-time winner of the National Milk Quality Awards.

His decades-long relationship with Michigan State University (MSU) has helped ease some of the hardships he faces, especially MSU Extension educators like Phil Durst, who have provided comfort and advice.

“Through the 25 years Phil has been at MSU, he and I have become very good friends,” said Beebe, who graduated from MSU’s Institute of Agricultural Technology. “Phil is a terrifically well-rounded individual, and if he doesn’t know something, he knows where to go to find it. He covers so much ground across the state, and he still somehow makes himself available.”

COVID-19 presents a variety of issues to an already challenged industry. MSU C.E. Meadows Endowed Chair in Dairy Management and Nutrition, Barry Bradford said the largest hits are likely from the lack of food service demand, especially with the closing of schools and universities, and a decline in exports.

“Food service for cheese and other dairy products generally account for half of domestic production, and plants that were producing for a food-service scale had to find ways to start making products for single-family purchase. That’s been a big headache,” said Bradford, who came to MSU from Kansas State University in January. “We don’t know for sure to what extent exports have dropped, but there has been a big drop, which accounts for about 15 percent of production in the U.S.”

“All in all, total demand had dropped at least 20 percent, (by mid-May) and no matter what dairy products you make, they all have shelf lives, so you can’t just stockpile it indefinitely,” he said.

Most of the milk Beebe produces goes into making mozzarella cheese. By the beginning of June, prices continued to fluctuate.

“At this point, cheddar cheese prices are approaching a historic high, largely due to a huge purchase by the federal government,” he said. “For various reasons (including responses by producers and summer heat stress) almost all milk dumping that was occurring a month ago is now done. Prices, at least for June, are reasonable again.”

In addition to handling the constantly changing, tangible impacts of COVID-19, MSU Extension educators are also focused on assisting farmers on a personal level. Durst has reached out to more than 70 dairy farmers from some farms which have been around for as long as 100 years and might have to cease operation.

“People are afraid of what the future holds,” he said. “It’s been hard because we all want to go and speak face-to-face with people, and to be able to further assess how they’re doing. Mental health is a big issue. It’s important to be able to have the science to share, but maybe the most important thing right now is just talking about how farmers are handling all this stress. I think it’s important that we balance providing the resources and also connect people to people, and try to empathize with them, to listen to them, and to challenge them.”

Bradford said his main goal during the crisis is opening as many lines of communication as possible. He created a webinar series titled “Sharpen Your Dairy Skills while We Flatten the Curve,” in which a variety of experts present information on specific dairy topics, while also providing an outlet for producers to reach out with questions and concerns. Topics have included dealing with PPP and dairy revenue protection strategies.

“We just wanted to let them know we are available, and we are trying to anticipate the sort of unprecedented questions they are dealing with,” Bradford said.

Important Partnerships

MSU has been partnering with the Michigan Milk Producers Association(MMPA) since the commodity organization was formed in 1916 on the grounds of what was then Michigan Agricultural College. Sheila Burkhardt, MMPA senior director of member and government relations, said her organization is sharing more MSU resources than its ever had since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“MSU’s transition to virtual training and programming has enabled producers to readily connect to information that they have relied on from MSU,” she said. “We have shared with members the opportunity to connect with the MSU Dairy team members in their virtual Dairy Team Coffee Breaks held on a regular basis.”

Paola Bacigalupo-Sanguesa, who was born and raised in Chile, is as an MSU Extension dairy educator for southern Michigan. Specializing in dairy animal health and employee education, she has developed a series of COVID-19 videos in Spanish that dairy producers and managers can share with their employees, many of whom speak Spanish as their first language. These videos are available on the MSU Extension Dairy Team YouTube channel

“As English speakers, we are bombarded with information about what COVID-19 is and what we can do to prevent it,” Bacigalupo-Sanguesa said. “But for Spanish speaking employees, we can’t assume they’re getting that information. My last day on a farm, I had one man come up to me and ask, ‘I have this and this symptom, do you think I have it?’ Some of them are worried that if they get sick and miss work they might lose their jobs.”

Durst and Bacigalupo-Sanguesa both said they empathize with the farmers whom they have not been able to work with face-to-face due to the pandemic.

“I struggle seeing farmers struggle, because they’re my friends,” said Durst. “When they hurt, I hurt. The thing that I’m concerned about the most with this pandemic is the loss of community. But maybe what it does is actually brings us together.”

Fortunately, financial assistance is on its way. According to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), small- to medium-size dairy farms will receive $6.20 per 100-pounds of milk produced in the first quarter of 2020. Bradford said that should be enough to backfill lost revenue from low prices in the midst of the pandemic. He added the industry must remain focused on the future and attempt to anticipate issues Michigan milk producers will face once aid ends.

“We are examining how we can continue to help dairy farms after the CARES Act and government assistance is gone,” Bradford said. “I think those assistance programs will keep some dairy businesses afloat in the short term, but what gets scary is in six months, things are going to get pretty ugly pretty fast. As a society, we need to think through what we can we do to try to scale up exports or retool our food distribution channels as fast as possible. It’s a big, complex system we need to try to get a handle on it.”

History of helping

MSU has supported the state’s dairy industry for more than 100 years, providing research, outreach and teaching. Bradford said he plans to unite all of the university’s resources in one central repository to help advance the industry in both good and bad times.

“Our primary mission is to help support the dairy industry to be sustainable,” Bradford said. “For that to happen, we have to provide the tools to help people make it through these tough situations and come out the other end, and continue producing a valuable product for society. That doesn’t mean that within our small dairy team that we have all those resources. But we should work with this huge network within the university and collaborators across the state, where we have really broad expertise, and we should really be bringing all those tools to bear.”

MSU Extension provides dairy producers with a number of resources, including market research, marketing plans, labor management, animal care and efficiency with employees and resources. Some farmers, such as Beebe, also host MSU research plots on their farms.

“They will always give you an unbiased opinion. They are going to tell you what’s best because they think it’s the best, not because of what brand it is,” Beebe said. “I don’t think enough people use Extension services. I mean it’s there to use and it’s paid for by your tax dollars, it’s there for free and they’re smart people.”

Bacigalupo-Sanguesa said MSU’s versatility and flexibility makes it easier for her to respond to farmer needs.

“We get that we cannot support (farmers) in every way, but our strength is that we have so many people with so many different skills that we can bring a multi-level approach to problems,” she said. “I enjoy when I can see change on a farm with employee education or production numbers. To believe that I had something to do with helping make progress on a farm, that is the fulfillment I get from this job.”

Durst credits MSU AgBioResearch and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for providing educators with the research and information to help farmers, including more programming on mental health.

“Our objective is improving the business or improving how farmers care for the environment, or how they care for animals or how they care for people, based on integrated resources, because we’re not just looking at one aspect of dairy farming,” he said. “We really have tried to make the issue of mental health something that farmers are willing to talk about and not shy away from just because it’s not comfortable.”

Bradford hopes MSU can serve as a clearinghouse for a variety of current and future issues Michigan’s dairy industry may face. He said he will encourage dialogue and debate about contentious issues.

“In Extension we want to help connect people that maybe don’t have a dairy or agriculture background to the opportunities in the industry,” he said. “On the academic side, we should be finding the time to engage with big picture, long-term forecasts, like the global demand for dairy and the how the planet can actually sustain the demand.”

Since starting at his position in January, Bradford has worked to meet as many people involved with the dairy community as possible and let them know MSU is committed to supporting the industry.

“I would like producers in this state to know where they can turn when they run into a challenging problem,” he said. “We want to play a role in developing more strategic planning. I think anything in agriculture, and especially dairy, where you’ve got so many daily tasks to take care of, can become all-consuming and you never have time to stop and think about where this business is going in 10 or 20 years. Trying to get producers access to the people they need to enable that strategic planning, and to flat out encourage people to think in that way, I think would be one of my big goals.”

Bradford is also focused on recruiting undergraduate students to become more involved with the dairy industry, which is experiencing a lack of labor. The MSU Dairy Teaching and Research Center (DTRC) is instrumental in helping in this regard.

“For a lot of a lot of students, (DTRC) is their first opportunity to ever be on a dairy (farm) and to ever touch a cow,” said Faith Cullens, who served as interim manager of DTRC before recently being named the director of the South Campus Animal Farms.

“We train a lot of veterinarians that have zero dairy experience. Just getting them comfortable being around the animals is huge. A lot of our students want to be veterinarians or work in the dairy industry. I’m an example. I had never been on a dairy farm until I was here as a student.”

DTRC research was forced to shut down temporarily in response to COVID-19. The farm serves as a teaching, research and outreach tool to support the state’s dairy industry. Cullens said there is usually two or three research projects going on at the farm at any given time, and those projects should ramp back up soon as restrictions lift. The farm also hosts tours to see an operating dairy farm and hosts producers who might have specific questions related to their farms.

“The way we fit in to the state’s dairy community is by doing the independent research that can’t be done on commercial farms,” Cullens said. “We have the facilities and the expertise to do that work.”

Michigan’s Stay at Home order required Cullens to limit public and employee access to the farm, but the animals were cared for by essential employees.

Through shutdowns and crises, Burkhardt said MSU remains engaged with its partners.

“When the Flint Water Crisis ripped through the community of Flint, MSU Extension prompted MMPA to donate nearly 37,000 gallons of milk to that community,” she said. “The donation of milk during the water crisis was key to help in mitigating the health risks imposed from high levels of lead consumed by the Flint community. Foods rich in calcium, iron and Vitamin C—such as dairy—can help protect those facing the effects of lead poisoning.” 

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension.

The Art of Feeding: Empty Bunks

The Art of Feeding is techniques that require a person to observe or to act. This is what moves an average feeding department to excellence.

In the last couple of weeks my brother in law was helping me put up a fence. He is a retired manager for a major dairy processor. In our discussion he talked a lot about a 1996 research study that was commission by Coca-Cola to look for incremental sale gains in grocery stores. The conclusion: Bare shelves represent a pervasive and expensive problem for retailers; and the principle source of the problem lurks within the four walls of the grocery store. Furthermore, consumers have little tolerance for out-of-stocks; they postpone purchases and even switch stores. The overall percentage is 8.2% but the problem is worse on Sundays and late during the afternoon and evening hours.

I immediately thought of how this is similar to feeding cows. Cows also show little tolerance for not having feed at the bunk. They do not switch stores they simply do not eat. How does a dairy get an empty bunk syndrome? Let me list the ways.

  1. Incorrect bunk calls.
  2. Not feeding the entire length of the bunk.
  3. Not enough head locks for all of the animals or poorly designed and broken headlocks,
  4. Too small of a size of a headlock also will prevent animals from eating.
  5. Not feeding evenly the entire length of the bunk. In other words uneven or even empty spots.
  6. The feed is out of reach. It is common for periods of time during the day or night, that feed is present, but not available to eat.
  7. Relief feeder’s mistakes.
  8. Management decision to feed to an empty bunk. My challenge here is always how long is it empty before feeding?
  9. Feeding times. This is basically like restocking the shelves.
  10. Inadequate push-ups.

Think about this, we monitor intake by the amount we feed and the push out amount. It is quite common to have a 2 to a 3 percent weigh-back. The interesting thing is to me, is that without visual observations to see how the feed is present over time we miss the empty bunk. To me this is the Art of feeding.

This post is part 1 of a 4 part series on the Art of Feeding.

Source: Amelicor

What’s hiding in your dairy cattle feed?

Creating a total mixed ration (TMR) is like a work of art – you work hard to perfectly balance ingredients to provide your cows the nutrition they need for optimal production. But, there’s an unseen pathogen that can throw your ration off course: mycotoxins.

“Mycotoxins are an issue every year and can have a costly impact on your herd if not properly monitored and managed,” says John Doerr, Ph.D., vice president of science and technology, Agrarian Solutions. “Feed testing can help you gain a better picture of the specific mycotoxin challenges in your ration and assist in developing solutions.”

Here are the answers to three frequently asked questions about feed testing:

What can feed testing tell you?

Testing feed is critical to identify and address mycotoxin issues proactively so they don’t lead to milk production drops and reproductive challenges. Often, farms may be dealing with more than one type of mycotoxin and their presence in feed is ever-changing.

Feed testing can tell you:

  • What mycotoxins may be causing harm to your herd
  • What adjustments to make before damage caused by mycotoxins is hard or impossible to repair
  • What vendors, if any, may be selling you contaminated feedstuffs

“It’s also important to watch your herd closely for issues like loose manure, cows going off feed, abortions, unusually low milk production or missed heats,” says Dr. Doerr. “While these can be symptoms of a variety of health issues, sometimes the cause is an underlying mycotoxin which feed testing can identify.”

How often should you test feed?

Seasonal changes in fall and spring can create a spike in mycotoxins. Testing at these times helps you manage mycotoxin risk and make necessary changes to the ration to prevent costly health problems.

“Testing should be managed year-round,” says Dr. Doerr. “Testing frequency can vary from farm to farm based on potential risk and health of cows.”

A key time to test is when a new load of ingredients, like shell corn or cottonseed, is delivered to your farm, or when you’re starting a new batch of silage in your TMR. These ingredients could have varying mycotoxins you haven’t found in your feed. Continue testing these ingredients every two months until they are fed out or replaced.

It is also recommended to take two to three samples throughout mid- to late-fall to understand the mycotoxin risk in newly cropped feed.

How can you make the most of your report?

You work with your nutritionist or feed representative to take feed samples, send it to the lab and get a report back. From there, it’s time to dig into the report data.

“Mycotoxin analysis reports are a great tool to identify the type of mycotoxins you have in your feed and get recommendations to form a solution,” says Dr. Doerr.

At a quick glance, the report determines whether you have a high, medium or low risk of a particular mycotoxin or more than one mycotoxin (see example report).

Depending on the company you’re testing through, a typical report also provides specific product recommendations to counter the effects of a mycotoxin issue, but you need to work with your nutritionist and veterinarian to make ration adjustments.

“It’s important to talk with your nutritionist and veterinarian to determine the best steps to take after receiving your report results and adjust,” says Dr. Doerr. “A mycotoxin challenge can quickly cause a big problem, so addressing it promptly is critical.”

Every farm can be impacted by mycotoxins – even at a low level. Contact your local Agrarian Solutions or Select Sires representative to discuss how to get a free feed sample analysis and a quarterly report of common mycotoxin issues in your area. Learn more at

Since 1996, Agrarian Solutions has been a global leader in providing L-Form bacteria-based technologies for dairy cattle, swine and poultry. Agrarian’s cutting-edge L-Form bacteria technology functions inside of animal cells, populating the cells lining the intestinal tract. There, the L-Form bacteria perform specific functions like balancing intestinal immune function, reducing the burden of pathogenic bacteria or combating feed-borne toxins – challenges animals and their owners face every day. Learn more about Agrarian products and technology at

Dairy Sense: The Value of Optimizing Heat Abatement

Summer months are a challenging time of year in the northeast when heat and humidity take their toll on animal performance. The short-term duration of hot weather can have long term ramifications to total milk pounds for the year, components, reproduction, and milk income. Even though the pandemic has created turmoil with supply and demand of dairy products, the producer still needs to focus on animal performance and prepare for when markets correct themselves.

Many farms have two key data sources to draw from when evaluating herd performance. These include the monthly milk check and the dairy herd improvement association (DHIA) tests. It should not be a surprise that cows experience some heat stress during the summer months. Managers need to minimize the effects, so milk income is not seriously compromised.

The milk check is the gold standard for capturing production and component results. DHIA provides a snapshot in time per month and does not always accurately reflect what is happening in the herd. Check the test day bulk tank comparison against the test day information on the DHIA 202 summary report before examining production and component data. If there is greater than a five percent deviation, then production data may require careful interpretation.

Ideally taking the bulk tank milk weights at each pick-up along with the number of cows going into the tank is a more accurate approach to monitoring production. This can detect problems earlier and allow for faster solutions to correct heat stress. A 200-dairy cow operation with minimal heat abatement strategies was evaluated using their 2019 information. They averaged 77 pounds of milk from January through May. From June through September the herd dropped in milk for an average production of 70 pounds with similar days in milk. The milk price/cwt averaged $18.83 for those 4 summer months. The potential lost revenue due to heat stress equated to approximately $34,000. This number does not consider the long-term physical stress to the animal at various stages of lactation and the impact on reproduction. Investments in fans, a sprinkling system, or other cow comfort strategies would pay for themselves in a short period.

Using the same 200-cow dairy, the monthly milk checks from June through September were compared to the DHIA summary report (Table 1) for components. Milk fat more than milk protein had an opportunity for improvement. Using the price of milk fat and protein pounds from the Federal Milk Order #1 report for June through September, the difference in lost revenue was calculated. If the farm had produced the amount of fat and protein reported on test day, the herd would have averaged $0.33/cwt more on their milk price compared to what they received. For those 4 months, an additional $6400 was not realized. Using the milk check information to document heat stress provided a better assessment of what was happening in this herd.

Table 1. The component differences between the milk check and DHIA test day average for a 200-cow dairy.

Month Milk fat, %
Milk fat, %
Milk check
Milk protein, %
Milk protein, %
Milk check
June 3.7 3.575 3.10 3.039
July 3.4 3.428 3.00 2.962
August 3.6 3.402 3.00 3.026
September 3.7 3.610 3.10 3.060
Average 3.6 3.504 3.05 3.013

Heat abatement strategies that help cool cows during difficult times of the summer can be instrumental in minimizing production losses. Herds that do not have well-ventilated facilities can experience both production and component reductions during the summer and well into the fall. The monetary impact that heat stress has on an operation can be significant. If DHIA test day data matches with the milk check, then drilling down further into various performance areas can be beneficial. If there is too much discrepancy between the milk check and DHIA, then it may be more difficult to determine the specific production group(s) causing the problem.

Economic perspective:

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

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

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

Note: May’s Penn State milk price: $14.22/cwt; feed cost/cow: $6.98; average milk production: 84 lbs.

Feed cost/non-lactating animal/day.

Source: PennState Extension

“HEAT BUSTERS. Who You Gonna Call?”

My mailbox and inbox have recently been overflowing with downloads and brochures about HEAT STRESS.  These written pieces are emphasized by capital letters and exclamation marks as many on-line suppliers and consultants provide information, strategies and, of course, their particular product that will combat this costly annual challenge. But great information is no good if it winds up in the garbage.  At the Bullvine we like to remind each other to ask the second question.  “What can I do with this?” If you have the herd contact person, ask the simple question, “What do you think we could do better to handle heat stress in our herd?”  

HEAT STRESS: Early Warning Signs and Symptoms

  • Increased breathing
  • Open mouth breathing (panting)
  • Slobbering
  • Trembling and loss of coordination
  • If they go down, recovery is unlikely

Take action when the first signs of heat stress are observed.  Survival depends upon effective intervention. Be particularly observant during the evening when cattle are trying to dissipate the heat built up during the day. Record observations and measurements.

HEAT STRESS AWARENESS TOOL: The Temperature Humidity Index 

Cows are large and their daily living processes means that they themselves are producing heat, in addition to the heat of the environment that they are living in. The effects of heat stress on dairy cattle are caused by a combination of high environmental temperature and relative humidity. These combined effects are measured by the THI Temperature Humidity Index. And used to assess the risk of heat stress and prevent harmful effects. Studies of THI have concluded that heat stress in cattle is avoided as long as temperatures are below 64 degrees Fahrenheit and when humidity is under 15%.  The optimal temperature for dairy cattle lies between 23 degrees F and 64 degrees F. At a temperature of 68 degrees F and humidity of 80%, a cow is already suffering from heat stress. It is clear that these conditions are repeatedly exceeded for extended periods of time during warmest months of dairy operation.  We can be sure that even though we humans may be comfortable; our cows are already experiencing heat stress. THI adds important analysis information. (for more information Excellent examples of how THI is formulated can be found online)

NEXT: Get Ready to Refine Results Beyond the THI Index

THI started being studied in the 1950s and has been available since the 1980s. There are apps available for doing the calculations.  One application doesn’t fit all situations.  It is necessary to know the predominant conditions in the area you are in as well as the relative humidity. Results are different in areas of dry heat (semiarid climates) or moist heat.  Present-day dairy operations need to plan ahead for the microclimatic changes caused by global warming and pollution. The actual Index also needs continual modification to more precisely interpret 24-hour results over extended time periods. Moving ahead, combining THI, body temperature and other indices (i.e. activity) will make it possible to individualize and effectively forecast heat stress.  

YOUR DAIRY HERD:  Who Else is Hot?  

Calves:  Two recent studies conducted at the University of Florida reported a lower pre-weaning average daily gain of calves from heat-stressed cows than those from cooled cows. As well, calves that experience in utero heat stress during the dry period maintain a lower body weight at least until 1-year-old compared to in utero-cooled calves. Multiple studies report that calves born to dry period heat-stressed cows had reduced efficiency to absorb immunoglobulin G (IgG) from colostrum, resulting in lower serum IgG concentrations during the first month of life.

Dry Cows: An article by Mark Pearce (Dairy Australia May 2016) stated that heat stress on dry cows has a dramatic effect on the development of mammary tissue in the udder and leads to decreased milk production in the following lactation.

KEEP COOL CHECKLIST: Take Immediate Action  

  • Check ventilation capacity and reduce any barriers to airflow
  • Increase ventilation rate when necessary (mechanical ventilation)
  • Make adjustments to achieve effective natural ventilation
  • Make sure all water troughs are clean at all times
  • Increase access to clean fresh water.
  • Keep all feed rations fresh and palatable
  • During hot periods, only have the cows on pasture during the night or during the cool moments (evening, early morning) of the day

COOLING OFF:  Dairy Stress Nutrition Strategies  

There are many sources who can provide advice and support when your herd is facing heat stress.  Don’t overlook the effect that targeted nutrition strategies can provide. Don’t consider the cost input without also calculating the dollars lost to dropping production or rising health problems.  Feed special rations (supplemented with additional minerals and vitamins) at least two times a day. In an experiment conducted at the University of Illinois (Pate et al, 2020 Journal of Dairy Science) the following was reported: “Protein in milk declines seasonally, just like butterfat, and the lowest point is reached in summer. “Heat-stress also reduces milk protein and milk fat depression during summer.” Protect against milk protein depression in summer with amino acid balancing and rumen-protected methionine supplement with a high bioavailability. 


Addressing heat stress from a genetic perspective presents a longer term solution. Relatively new on the breeding scene is breeding for the Slick gene in Holsteins.  It produces a shorter and smoother coat.  This is a gene with dominant heritability (like the polled gene) so that it makes it easier to introduce it into a population.  Sires are now available for carriers of the Slick gene. Slick animals in the tropics have been found to have 30% more sweat gland areas and 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit lower surface temperature.  University of Florida research shows Slick gene cows, 60 to 90 days in milk, produce 10 lbs. more milk per day in hot environments.  As well, calving interval for Slick gene cows was 30 days shorter than for normal Holsteins.

HOT STUFF: The Multiplying Costs of Heat Stress.  

In May of 2013 Hoards Dairyman published an article “How Much will heat stress cost you this summer?” It provided very interesting numbers to support the expensive side of dairy cattle heat stress. “It is estimated that heat stress costs the dairy industry anywhere from $900 million dollars to $5 billion each year depending on the calculation used.  The level of stress experience by an animal and resulting financial losses fluctuate as temperature and humidity go up and down.” “Knowing that heat stress does not typically happen for one day only, consider if a cow suffered heat stress for a period of 45 days; the losses for a 500 cow herd grows to $36,000 to $126,000. If the herd is milking 1,000 cows the losses become even more significant ranging from $72,000 to $252,000. These numbers don’t take into account reproduction losses and extended days open.”  These may not be your numbers but they may inspire you to take a realistic look at the financial impact of dairy heat stress on your operation.


As we move through human learning regarding responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are learning about the effects of crowding and physical distancing.  While heat stress isn’t contagious, crowded conditions are certainly another way that temperature impacts our herds. Cows that have spacious pens or pastures may still come into heated conditions while moving through holding areas. Barn fans are a mechanical solution to the moving air that is needed for groups of animals.  Assessments should be made to determine whether the moving air is actually on the animals or if it is largely blowing down alleys over people movement areas. Sometimes the fans are in the right place but the machinery we use for feeding and cleaning may block effective air flow onto the cows.

HEAT STRESS: Exercise Can Help Cows Adapt to Heat 

Studies have reported that cattle that exercise regularly spend less time in an elevated temperature, so they are less susceptible to hot days.  This can provide the added benefit of more milk components. Tim Rozell, an animal scientist with Kansas State University says, “We see increased protein in milk from exercised cattle. Last year, for example, we exercised pregnant heifers up to three weeks before they underwent parturition, and even 15 weeks or so into milk production, we saw increased protein in their milk, elevated lactose and other improvements in milk production.” Abi Wilson, A K-State master’s student in biology reports, “At the beginning and end of each trial, we take muscle biopsies. We are looking at specific enzymes, hormones and any changes in the skeletal muscle that may enhance their tolerance to heat, pregnancy rates and milk production.”

CLIMATE CHANGE: Will it Make a Dairy Difference?  

According to a recent study, the average number of days that feel hotter than 100 degrees in the U.S. will more than double by 2050. Scorching weather and lack of rain damages the quality of crops and the grass used to feed farm animals. This is even more concerning if weather conditions include the other extreme of too much rain and subsequent flooding. Some scenarios predict that climate change could lead to a 5 to 11% reduction in dairy production per year between 2020 and 2029 after controlling for other factors (see Journal of Dairy Science, Issue 12, December 2015, Pages 8664-8677). Research and extension efforts are needed to promote suitable dairy adaptation strategies.  You might ask, “Do animals beat the heat better by being inside or by being out outside?”  There are arguments to be made that pastured animals may be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than cows that are housed. This is because housing provides shelter and technological options to mitigate the extremes of weather. There are no absolute answers.

HEAT STRESS: Simply Surviving a Few Hot Periods is NOT a Success Strategy 

Making it through to cooler temperatures may seem like a heat stress win which we might attribute to survival of the fittest.  Unfortunately, that attitude means accepting the long-term damage to current and successive generation of the dairy herd. It isn’t something that may happen.  It will damage your herd.

If the gene pool is too slow or too expensive, you might consider a more economical solution such as misting or water evaporation. For many, the solution of water misting seems obvious but, here again, it will depend on how well you manage the resulting humidity.  The plan is that the solution won’t make the problem worse instead of better. 


Multiple forces act on dairy cattle to send their body temperatures beyond normal levels. The goal of dairy management is to make it possible for each cow to meet her full potential for milk yield and fertility, without damaging heat stress. More research is needed to identify improved comprehensive cow-side measurements that can indicate real-time responses to elevated ambient temperatures. With this knowledge, effective heat abatement management decisions can be acted upon in the right way, right now!  It’s your call.




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