Archive for Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How farmer gets 11,000 litres from grazed Holstein herd

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

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

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

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

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

Rob Mallett with cows

Rob Mallett © Rhian Price/Proagrica

Farm facts

Northleaze Farm, Swindon

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

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

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

Nutrition strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feed regime

Milking ration

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

Transition ration

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

Breeding regime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Antibiotics use and health

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

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

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

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

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

Grazing benefits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grazing residual after the first round was very good

Grazing residual after the first round was very good

Advice for high-production herds wanting to improve grazing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Source: The Weekly Times

USDA Announces New Decision Tool for New Dairy Margin Coverage Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Source: USDA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why B2B is the right ‘moo’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March Triggers Third 2019 Dairy Safety Net Payment

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

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

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

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

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

 Sample calculation:

$9.50 – $8.85 margin = $0.65 difference

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

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

 Sample calculation:

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

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

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

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

 About DMC

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

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

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

Convert dairy farms and feed the world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim and Deborah Rhodes are Nelson farmers.


Source: Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

Management changes

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

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

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

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

Possible feeding challenges

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

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

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

Identify performance problems

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Milk prices: the surge to $16/cwt

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

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

Nutrient prices

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

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

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

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

Economic Value of Feeds

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Early-Spring Planted Forages for Dairy Farms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agronomic Management

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

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

Nutritional Value and Yields

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health

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


Weed control in pastures and hayfields

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Largest Oregon dairy plans to make natural gas from cow manure

Oregon’s largest dairy farm plans to turn millions of gallons of cow manure into renewable natural gas, if state regulators approve a key permit for the project.

Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman already uses waste from about 30,000 cows to generate electricity on site using a methane digester built in 2012. Now the farm wants to expand the facility and install new equipment that will convert the methane into “pipeline quality” natural gas.

But first, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality must OK an amended air quality permit for the proposal. Environmental groups are asking DEQ to deny the permit, arguing that manure-to-gas is inherently “dirty” and a false solution to climate change.

Marty Myers, general manager of Threemile Canyon Farms, said the dairy has an agreement with a buyer in California for the gas, which it will use to make transportation fuel. Myers did not discuss specifics of the contract.

“This project is creating another commodity that is valued by the public and by certain companies that are out there doing business,” Myers said. “All we’re doing is giving them a raw product.”

Opened in 2001, Threemile Canyon Farms is a sprawling 93,000-acre operation with three dairies that supply milk to Tillamook Cheese at the nearby Port of Morrow. The farm often touts its closed-loop system as a model for sustainability, recycling manure as fertilizer to grow a variety of crops from animal feed to organic blueberries.

Part of the system also includes an anaerobic digester to capture methane emissions from the manure, which Threemile Canyon uses to fire three turbines capable of generating 4.8 megawatts of electricity.

Instead of making electricity, the farm wants to process the methane into “pipeline quality” natural gas, removing carbon dioxide, water vapor and other impurities.

Myers said the farm is working with Equilibrium Capital, a Portland investment firm, to fund the $30 million conversion.

“They like this type of project,” Myers said. “It’s good for the environment.”

In the meantime, DEQ must also approve a modification of the facility’s air quality permit, which regulates emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

Laura Gleim, DEQ spokeswoman, said the modified permit does not increase emissions limits. In fact, it currently allows for up to 74,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year — equivalent to 57,608 passenger cars. Yet Threemile Canyon emitted just 32,529 tons in 2017.

However, Gleim said the permit only covers emissions at the digester, not the dairy itself. In objections filed with DEQ, a coalition of environmental groups said the agency should take into account all emissions at Threemile Canyon in its permitting.

The coalition includes Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of Family Farmers, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Humane Voters Oregon, Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Forward and Factory Farm Awareness Coalition.

Amy van Saun, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety in Portland, maintains the project will only further endanger air and water quality in Morrow County and the Columbia River Gorge.

“Instead of granting this permit, we demand that the state take action to prevent toxic and environmentally damaging air emissions from mega-dairies like Threemile Canyon, and to stop the continued pollution of groundwater with dangerous levels of nitrates, a problem only exacerbated by methane digesters and the expansion of mega-dairies in Oregon,” van Saun said.

The groups’ comments come as the Oregon Legislature recently declined to advance several bills that would treat large dairies as industrial facilities, spurred in part by the year-long debacle involving another large dairy near Boardman, Lost Valley Farms, which shut down earlier this year.

“If Oregon approves this proposal, it will be a step backward for our commitment to stop climate change and will further entrench the factory system of livestock production,” said Tarah Heinzen, senior attorney at Food & Water Watch in Washington, D.C.

Gleim said DEQ is reviewing all comments, and there is no timetable for the agency to issue or deny a permit. Myers said the farm hopes to move forward on the project by mid-summer.


Source: Capital Press

Doing Dairy-Beef Ian Crosbie’s Way

Every dairy farmer is also a beef producer – even more, today than in the past. How so? Today there is considerably less demand for springing bred or newly calved heifers. Also, we must factor in sexed semen, and more effective on-farm cattle management and dairy farms are being advised to breed from 30% to 50% of their lower producing or lower profit cows and heifers to beef sires. The Bullvine wishes to share with you how one innovative dairyman, Ian Crosbie owner of Benbie Holsteins from Saskatchewan Canada, approached this profit opportunity. 

The Usual Approaches to Dairy-Beef         

New born male calves are quite variable in price going from no value, even a negative value when sold at sales barns, to over $150 depending on breed, time of year and number of calves on the market. With less demand in North America for milk-fed veal calves, even choice new born Holstein calves are not bringing the returns they once did.

Some farms have always bred a portion of their animals to beef sires to garner higher dropped calf prices. But that has not been a widespread practice.

Today with the extensive use of sexed semen on the top females in a herd and the surplus of fresh first calvers, dairy farms are looking to find a way to generate revenue from the lower end of their herds by producing animals that will enter the meat trade. Therefore they use beef sires on a portion of their herd. In some cases, they are even breeding all females beef and buying all their replacement milkers on the depressed price market for newly calved females.

Dairy-Beef Not All Roses

Dairy farms that retain all their half beef animals and grow them out for meat find no problem with growing them. They have the feed and the facilities, but when it comes time to send them to market, they face packer buyer price discrimination against part dairy animals in the live animal auction ring.  Breaking even or no profit on raising these animals for the meat market was not what the dairy farms had as their objective.

If selling their half beef dropped calves at the farm or at auction, dairy farms can obtain from 2x to 3x the price for a dairy calf, so most farms take that route for marketing their dairy-beef calves.

Setting the Benbie Scene

Benbie Holsteins, a high genetic high performance 160 milking cow Holstein family farm, has for a few years been breeding a portion of their lower end females to Angus sires.

Ian explains his decisions to investigate in using more beef sires as follows: “There are multiple reasons that breeding the dairy herd to beef semen made sense for us at Benbie Holsteins. The main reason for beginning breeding a portion of our herd to beef semen was to try to control how many replacement two-year-olds we were calving in. And from which genetics we were getting our replacements. It’s no secret that over a ten-year period extra replacements are typically sold for less than the cost of raising them. Sexed semen has added to the problem of surplus dairy heifers, and we did not want to overstock or further invest in our heifer facilities for replacements that were undervalued.”

Ian continued in his explanation: “We focus heavily on our top end genetics in the Holstein herd and through genomic testing, performance testing, ET, IVF and sexed semen we can genetically optimize our next generation of replacement females. Being located in Saskatchewan, we have good demand from beef producers for cross-bred Angus/Holstein calves, especially during calving season where those calves can bring up to $500 as drop calves.”

Ian Did His Homework

“After researching and learning about the Wagyu breed, mainly through YouTube, I became very interested in producing Wagyu/Holstein cross beef.  This has led to the launch of Saskatchewan Snow Beef in 2018.”

When asked ‘Why Wagyu?’ Ian’s response was: “Wagyu beef is the best money can buy, plain and simple. The breed is world renowned for its ability to deposit fat (marbling) throughout the muscling of the animal — the intense marbling results in a juicy, tender steak.  The ‘Canadian Prime’ grade for beef is the highest standard. Approximately 1-2% of all Canadian beef is graded Prime. The Wagyu breed will reach at least Prime over 80% of the time due to their superior marbling ability.  Wagyu crosses well with Holsteins. Calving ability is second to none; we have yet to assist a calving. And coming from two intensely bred parent lines the cross offspring have hybrid vigour. We have found the resulting calves to be extremely aggressive and healthy.”

Ian Received Great Advice

Ian himself is a great contributor in the dairy cattle industry; however, in this endeavour, he sought out and got valuable advice from Wagyu industry people. He credits Ken Kurosawatsu and Kevin Hayden of Wagyu Sekai, Puslinch Ontario for helping him get started and selling him full-blood Wagyu semen.  Ian found that a specialized diet is needed to finish the animals before slaughter and for that advice, he gives credit to Dr Jimmy Horner from Texas. Ian’s comments on his advisors include “seek out experts and follow their advice; it has been a key to our success”.

Benbie’s Production Routine

For the first 18 months of life, Benbie’s Wagyu/Holstein crosses are raised with their dairy animals. After that, they are separated and feed the specialized diet until they are finished at 28 months of age. There are approximately a dozen animals in the finishing pen at any given time. Although that number is not large, it must be remembered that Snow Beef has been in operation for just over a year and it easily fits into Benbie Holsteins without requiring extra labour and facilities. Benbie Holsteins now breeds 35% of its females to beef – 50% to Wagyu and 50% to Angus – so, Snow Beef will grow in size. Ian added: “Working with a good butcher is necessary. Shane Oram of Westbridgeford Meats has worked with us to get the cutting and wrapping done in a way to get the most value out of each carcass.”

Marketing Does Make A Difference

Coming from the milk production industry where producers seldom get involved in selling milk, Ian reports that he did considerable work on detailing his Wagyu meat’s attributes and finding customers for his product. Ian reports: “There is a lot of education that is needed to convince the general public to purchase beef at a premium price.  Selling directly to high-end restaurants in my province was always my business plan. And although those restaurants appreciate the quality and taste, margins are very tight in that industry so convincing them to pay a premium for the meat has been challenging.” Snow Beef is working with two high-end restaurants in Regina.

To support his marketing Ian is now participating in ‘Verified Beef Plus’, a program to document that the meat Snow Beef sells meets high standards for animal health and welfare.

It’s Results that Count

Ian shared with The Bullvine some of the dollars and cents side for Snow Beef so far. “Expenses for feeding to 28 months of age are definitely higher than that for springing heifers, but there are none of the heat detection, breeding and calving expenses that go with dairy heifers. All expenses in the per animal costs are about $4,500 to get the meat in the deep freezer.”

“Raising to 28 months results in extra marbling and high levels of Oleic Acid in the meat. That has a direct positive impact on the beef’s palatability and has shown to decrease levels of LDL cholesterol.”

“When finished properly the best cuts of Snow Beef (8-10% of hanging carcass) retails for $45/lbs. Margins per animal to date for Snow Beef far exceed margins for raising surplus dairy heifers, which for most dairy farmers is now a negative number.” Snow Beef only sells Prime grading meat under its label. And since it is early on in this initiative, Snow Beef is not stating exact extra profit numbers. But be assured there is considerable extra profit.

Every New Venture will have Pros and Cons

In researching for this article, The Bullvine was reminded of some facts:

  • Starting a dairy beef enterprise will not be a fit for all dairy farms.
  • A realistic business plan, including specialized marketing, can be a key to realizing a profit.
  • Tomorrow’s consumers will pay more for organic and grass-fed and for a product with total traceability and documentation.
  • Hair colour will not change meat quality, but coat colour is a factor for live animal buyers.
  • Feed costs may be saved for the growing but not finishing phase by utilizing lower quality feed or refused feedstuffs left over from the milking herd.
  • Feed and labour are the key expenses, but as with every enterprise, exact records are a necessity.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The effort and energy expended most often determines the degree of success. Thank you to Ian Crosbie for sharing his approach to creating an additional profit centre on their farm. As with all new ventures adding dairy-beef to a farm requires both a production plan and a marketing plan.



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Udder Tips from the Experts by Mark Fox, D.V.M.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the 58th Annual National Mastitis Council meeting held in Savannah, Ga. I have attended this meeting numerous times over the last 35 years, but this year, I felt a little guilty while there.

The polar vortex was raging in full force in the Upper Midwest and my daily texts back home were returned with short phrases of “We are just surviving!” Kudos to all of you for your hard work and tenacity to get chores done back on the farm.

The National Mastitis Council (NMC), for those of you not familiar, is a global organization focused on mastitis control and milk quality. Certainly, over the last decade, the international diversity has grown, making it a great time of fellowship with others from all parts of the world.

Today, NMC is much more than a “mastitis group.” It has broadened its vision because we all acknowledge that dairy care, udder health, food safety, and the value of nutritious dairy products are central to our goal of providing the best food to a growing world. This organization continues to inspire, challenge, and motivate those of us close to the cow. I would like to share just a couple of my “take home” thoughts for all of us to ponder.

Mastitis is costly

Several presentations shared data on the true cost of mammary infections. It should surprise no dairy producer that the actual cost of this disease is far greater than previously thought. Inflammation requires added fuel from the body to mount desired immune responses, and inflammation is costly!

For a dairy cow, a healthy mammary gland is the culmination of everything we work for. The data summarized in a technical bulletin by Zoetis and Compeer (August 2018) revealed the correlations of rising herd somatic cell count (SCC) with lowered net farm income, greater death loss, impaired reproduction, lowered energy corrected milk (ECM) yield, and higher herd replacement costs. Bottom line, we must continue to heavily invest (and manage) to reduce intramammary infections. Udder health is a key driver in dairy sustainability!

What is quality milk?

Brandon Treichler, D.V.M., from Select Milk Producers, presented a thought-provoking presentation titled “Milk quality still pays.” One key point Treichler made was the fact that the term “quality milk” has differing meanings within our industry.

To the producer, veterinarian, field representative, or adviser, “quality milk” is generally measured by SCC, bacteria counts, and absence of violative residues. Typically, these are the factors used to establish premiums. We also include mastitis prevalence, both clinical and subclinical, as additional criteria for “quality milk” as part of our herd benchmarks.

To the processor, “milk quality” encompasses additional factors, such as shelf life, off flavors, spore- forming bacteria, and responsible welfare for the animals. Processors are keen to factors associated with yield and position in the market- place (examples include no artificial growth hormones, non-GMO, organic, and grass-fed).

And finally, to the consumer, where the rubber meets the road, milk quality is judged by questions, such as:

“Is this food safe and healthy for my family?”

“Are the animals well cared for?” “Is the process ethically and environmentally responsible?”

Today, social pressures among consumer groups exert a tremendous direction on food purchases. Consumers look far beyond just value. It’s important to them that they feel they’ve made a healthy purchase decision. Therefore, those of us with boots in the barn need to expand our notion of quality milk programs to a wider definition in order to address a more socially conscious consumer.

Shift efforts to prevention

For me, the times spent together at breakfast, lunch, and dinner during these conferences allow for informal discussion with so many super dairy folks. NMC is a great melting pot of global influence. My discussions with those “across the pond” reaffirm my thoughts that we must shift our focus from chasing bugs (bacteria) and treatment to how we can manage in such a way as to minimize new infections.

Mastitis is not a disease that takes rocket science to figure out. Generally, cows get mastitis four ways: left front, right front, left rear, or right rear quarter via teat end entrance of udder pathogens.

Most of us in today’s well-managed confinement herds deal with environmental bacteria. Many of our clients have succeeded in reducing, and even eliminating, intramammary antibiotics previously used to treat clinical mastitis through refocused efforts to keep cows, particularly udders, very clean.

Full udder prep and attention to the units during milk harvest along with needed space and rest requirements in the barn set the stage for a high-quality milking herd. Develop a “culture of excellence” based on prevention from the “beds to the bulk tank.” It really does work!

Dairy products are good

In the final session of this year’s conference, several speakers confirmed what we have known for some time. Namely, saturated dairy fats (butter and full-fat products) are positively associated with enhanced cardiovascular health. Your harvested milk provides the perfect blend of the right fats, right protein, and the right taste to quality for the term “super food!” One of the speakers, a human nutritionist and triathlon athlete, promoted full- fat chocolate milk as her “recovery drink” of choice.

Leaving the conference, I felt very proud of the industry we serve. Congratulations to the 42 dairy farms receiving Platinum, Gold, and Silver Quality Awards. By the way, 19 of the 42 were Michigan farms . . . a great achievement for my home state.


The author is a partner and large animal veterinarian Mastitis is costly at Thumb Veterinary Services in Deckerville, Mich.
Used by permission from the April 10, 2019, issue of Hoard’s Dairyman. Copyright 2019 by W.D. Hoard & Sons Company, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.


USJersey Genetic Webinars Available

The USJersey organizations have released two webinars detailing the Council On Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) multi-breed genomic evaluation released in April.

The videos cover the informational policies of both the American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA) and CDCB regarding the updated genomic evaluations for purebred and crossbred animals. They also discuss the changes in breed base representation (BBR), what they mean for individual animals and the reference population.

Cari Wolfe, Director of Research and Genetic Program Development of the AJCA, hosted both webinars. To view the complete videos and others please visit the USJersey YouTube channel at the short link,

The webinar titled “Jersey Genetic Evaluation Update,” released prior to the April genomic evaluations, explained how BBR would be used to determine the type of evaluation (single-breed or multi-breed) each animal would receive going forward. Wolfe also discussed what the AJCA’s action would be in response to the forthcoming changes including GJPI, the new reference population and how the updated data would be interpreted on pedigrees and progeny reports.

In “April 2019 Genetic Evaluations,” the webinar uploaded after the evaluations were released on April 2, Wolfe went into further detail explaining how and why CDCB uses single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to determine BBR and how the evaluation is interpreted. She also gave the statistics on how many Registered Jerseys were impacted by BBR changes and updates. Links to further AJCA and CDCB resources and additional information are also available with this webinar.

Members are encouraged to subscribe to the USJersey YouTube Channel where they can receive notifications whenever new informational videos become available. There, visitors can also find a selection of past webinars covering various topics are available on-demand.

For over 150 years, the American Jersey Cattle Association has maintained identification and performance records for dairy herd owners and delivered services that support genetic improvement and greater profitability through increasing the value of and demand for Registered Jersey™ cattle and genetics, and Jersey milk and milk products. For more information, contact the American Jersey Cattle Association by writing 6486 E. Main Street, Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068-2362, visit, or connect at


How methionine became recognized as an essential nutrient for dairy cows

Knowledge of dairy nutrition and methionine continues to evolve. Over time, the amino acid methionine has come to be recognized as an essential nutrient. Methionine cannot be synthesized in the quantity required for normal health, and feedstuffs cannot fill the nutritional requirement without overfeeding protein.

The research, which stretches back to the 1970s, shows that regularly meeting the methionine needs of dairy cows supports not only production – milk, milk protein, and milkfat – but also animal health and reproduction. This includes metabolic diseases, timely breed backs, and full-term pregnancies.

Methionine is heavily involved in the metabolic pathways of dairy cows. It is considered the enabler of all protein synthesis and, thus, the origin of life. After the role of methionine was well established for optimizing production responses, research focused on the additional impacts of methionine on herd health and performance, according to Dr. Daniel Luchini, Global Ruminant Product and Technical Services Manager, Adisseo.

“With the realization that methionine is more than milk — more than milk and milk components, we began applying these insights. We began optimizing the efficiency of nitrogen utilization not only for milk production, but also for health and reproduction. In essence, we took a step forward in realizing the genetic potential of dairy cows,” says Charles Schwab, Professor Emeritus, Animal Science, University of New Hampshire; Principal, Schwab Consulting. “Now we’re seeing daily supplementation with limiting amino acids becoming as common as daily supplementation with vitamins and minerals.”

Methionine was first identified as an essential amino acid for dairy cows in the 1970s. Rumen-protected methionine products were introduced during the 1990s to support increases in production levels. In 2001, the National Research Council (NRC) concluded that methionine and lysine were the two most limiting amino acids in dairy diets and speculated that the identification of other limiting amino acids would follow. It recommended a lysine-to-methionine ratio and minimum concentrations of each in metabolizable protein to optimize milk protein output.

In the 2010s, the introduction of rumen-protected lysine products brought the flexibility to formulate rations to even more precisely meet the amino acid requirements of dairy cows. Now the first two limiting amino acids could be supplied more easily in the right ratio and right quantities.

At the same time, the movement away from a focus on ration crude protein to metabolizable protein and then to amino acids accelerated. In fact, it is now recognized that metabolizable protein as a proxy for estimating total amino acid supplies and requirements has its limits. Advancements in the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System (CNCPS) testify to this, according to Professor Mike Van Amburgh, Department of Animal Science, Cornell University. The industry is now progressing rapidly to formulating diets based on grams of methionine and lysine per MCal of metabolizable energy as the most efficient way to meet both amino acid and energy requirements. Optimized diets deliver balanced nutrition at the least cost.

About Adisseo

Adisseo is one of the world’s leading experts in feed additives. The group relies on its seven research and technology centers and its production sites based in Europe and China to design, produce, and market nutritional solutions for sustainable animal feed. With 2,100 employees, it serves more than 2,500 customers in over 100 different countries through its global distribution network. In 2017, Adisseo achieved a turnover of over 1.36 billion Euros. Adisseo is one of the main subsidiaries of China National Bluestar, a leader in the Chinese chemical industry with nearly 23,000 employees and a turnover above 58 billion RMB.


Natural Ventilation for Freestall Barns

Basic Requirements for Natural Ventilation

Cows continuously produce heat and moisture. When cows are confined in freestall barns, loafing sheds or under shade structures, a ventilation system is necessary to continuously exchange warm, humid inside air for drier, cooler outside air. This exchange must occur regardless of outside temperature or weather conditions. Even when its snowing on a cold windy night, fresh outside air is required to keep cows healthy and to reduce moisture levels inside the barn. This ventilation process also removes odors and gases. Barn design, construction, and operation must consider the year round needs of the cow for optimum ventilation.

Typically, Holstein cows can maintain high levels of productivity between 20° and 76°F as long as relative humidity is not allowed to go too high. Cows are much more tolerant of temperatures below this optimum range than above. Kept dry and out of the wind cows will do very well at temperatures far below 20°F. Barns that are foggy, that are wet and smelly, or have condensation on interior building parts are too humid and under ventilated. Ventilation openings need to be increased until these problems go away. Wintertime productivity problems are the result of animals being shut inside poorly ventilated, damp smelly barns. Too often, barns are run for the convenience and perceived comfort of the operator disregarding the welfare of the cows.

Even the most basic ventilation systems should provide for the following:

  • Air exchange.

    Ventilation systems can have either a mechanical driving force (fans) or natural driving force (winds and buoyancy). Sufficient air exchange can be accomplished by using either one or a combination of the two.

  • Control

    or the ability to modify ventilation rates based on inside or outside conditions. Ventilation rates are changed by turning on and off fans or opening and closing curtains, dampers, windows or ventilation doors. Automatic control provides the most uniform conditions and response to changes in weather.

  • Flexibility.

    Ventilation systems should be flexible so they can provide healthy conditions during various seasons of the year. There are three distinct operating conditions:

    1. Continuous, low level air exchange, which is the minimum required all the time, even during subfreezing conditions to remove moisture continuously produced by animals.
    2. Temperature control air exchange, which is necessary during cool and mild conditions to remove excess body heat from the barn, and
    3. Air velocity and high rates of air exchange, which are required during hot weather to help the cow remove large amounts of heat from her body and the immediate space around her.
  • Barn construction

    is also important to the performance of the ventilation system. When close temperature control is desired, the barn must be well-insulated to control heat loss and constructed to minimize unplanned air exchange. Barns relying on natural air exchange must have sufficient and properly located openings to take advantage of breezes and thermal buoyancy (the “chimney effect”). Fabric curtains provide a convenient and economic means of closing ventilation openings. Curtains that are left loosely folded or rolled up near the ground may attract nesting rodents and accumulate blowing dirt or bedding.

Natural Ventilation for Freestall Barns

The primary purpose of the freestall barn is to protect the cows, freestalls, and feed areas from winter winds, rain, snow, and hot summer sun. It is not necessary to maintain freestall barns continuously above freezing temperatures because exposed milk and water lines are not required and cows are not washed or milked in the freestall barn. Natural ventilation systems work well for freestall barns and are classified based on the degree of temperature control and the amount of insulation used. Fans may be required to increase airflow over cows in extremely hot weather.

Most freestall barns are built with little or no insulation. In areas with extended periods of extremely cold weather, barns may be built with moderate levels of insulation. This will allow the barns to operate at moderately higher inside temperatures during cold weather. Insulated barns are more costly to build and severe problems for both cows and the building can result if they are improperly built or operated. Too often, in an effort to maintain high temperatures, ventilation is restricted causing the relative humidity inside the barn to become dangerously high. This is unhealthy for cows and accelerates deterioration of the building.

Freestall Barns with No or Light Insulation


These barns, sometimes referred to as “cold barns,” follow outside temperatures and serve only as a shelter from blowing winds, rain, and snow during cool and cold weather and sunshades during hot weather conditions. Roof slope and a smooth underside surface allows hot moist air to quickly flow to the open ridge. Adequate sidewall opening height and eave height help to capture breezes and keeps the warm layer of air beneath the roof farther away from the cows’ living zone. Low levels of insulation under the roof reduce the radiant heat load which contributes to summer heat stress. If the building is closed too tightly during cold weather, condensation and unhealthy conditions for cows will occur. During cold weather there should be no more than 10°F temperature difference between the inside of the barn and outside. Decreasing ventilation to maintain a higher inside temperature will result in condensation of warmer humid air on cold building parts such as roof sheets, siding and rafters.

Figure 1. Uninsulated or lightly insulated barn with sidewall and ridge openings.

The following guidelines are suggested for ventilation openings in different seasons and climates.

  1. Year-round:

    Continuous ridge openings. Provide a two-inch ridge opening width for every ten feet of building width. (Example: a 90′ wide building requires an 18″ unobstructed open ridge.)

  2. Very cold winter weather:

    Continuous sidewall openings at the top of both sidewalls equal to one half of ridge opening. (Example: a 90′ wide building requires a 9″ clear opening at the top of each sidewall.)

  3. Mild and cold winter, spring or fall weather:

    Continuous adjustable four foot high sidewall openings above cow level and adjustable end-wall openings above cow level or traffic doors. (Adjust openings to prevent high humidity, minimize drafts and maintain temperatures within 10 degrees of outside temperatures.)

  4. Summer:

    Additional sidewall openings and end-wall openings at animal level. Complete opening of all four walls from the ground to the roof will provide maximum opportunity for cooling breezes during hot summer weather. Maximum exposure to wind and breezes is necessary to minimize heat stress on cows when temperatures are above 80°F. Because the barn basically serves as a sunshade and rain umbrella in the summer, total side and end-wall removal is optimal.

Side and end-wall closures may be curtains, removable or hinged panels, sliding doors, or hinged windows. Selection should be based on ability to achieve maximum openings, cost, convenience and longevity. Openings that require regular adjustment should allow convenient centralized operation. Areas that are opened or closed based on the season can be attached by nailing strips or other less convenient but more cost effective methods.


For best performance, consider using the following construction tips for naturally ventilated freestall barns with light insulation:

  1. Use a 4/12 – 6/12 roof pitch.

    Lower roof pitches may result in slow movement of air along the underside of the roof and make it easier for pockets of warm moist air to become trapped against cold roof surfaces. Steeper pitches increase costs and may result in too high an air flow along the underside of the roof. This can cause poor fresh air distribution at cow level during cold weather.

  2. Use continuous open ridges.

    Protect exposed structural members or trusses at ridge openings with three coats of exterior paint or clear penetrating urethane sealer or flashing. Apply paint or sealer from ridge to at least the first purlin. Paint or sealer must be regularly maintained. Consider pressure-treated material for the portion of the truss under the open ridge. Use double hot-dipped galvanized truss plates. Trusses with vertical king posts should not be used with open ridges. Short sections of flashing installed over trusses can prevent precipitation from falling directly on the truss parts. Do not wrap trusses with metal. This will trap moisture and interfere with drying.

  3. Ridge caps are not usually recommended.

    Minimal snow and rain will enter a properly-sized open ridge when the building is fully populated. Properly designed ridge caps will provide some reduction of entering rain and snow but are expensive. Improperly designed or installed ridge caps will hinder ventilation air flow and may increase snow or rain entry. (See Figure 2 for further explanation.)

    Figure 2. Performance of various ridge openings.

    A completely protected ridge cap will exclude most if not all precipitation. It is very expensive to build and must be sized to assure that adequate clearances are maintained to prevent restriction of exhausting air.A rain gutter under the open ridge can intercept precipitation without interfering with air flow (Figure 2).

  4. Adequate sidewall height, 12 – 14 feet.

    When open, higher sidewalls will capture more wind for summer cooling. Sidewall heights and bottom truss cord heights must allow for machinery access. Higher sidewall heights are recommended for barns that are sheltered by other buildings, growing crops or other obstructions. Under normal conditions heights above 16 feet will not result in noticeable improvements in air quality.

  5. Use positive-type bird protection.

    Roosting birds will foul building parts, feed, and animals. Birds can also rapidly destroy insulation by pecking and burrowing. Bird elimination is difficult. The following tips may help:- Minimize locations where birds can perch or roost, especially over feed area
    – Use plastic bird netting to exclude birds from truss areas. If bird netting is placed over open ridge, increase opening by 20% to account for blockage of air flow by the netting.
    – Use steel or wooden beams or arches instead of open trusses. This may cost slightly more than traditional wood trusses.
    – Protect exposed insulation surfaces, ends and joints with solid barriers.

  6. Sidewall construction must allow for changing winter conditions and complete opening in hot weather.

    Easily adjusted curtains or gang ventilation doors above cow level are necessary for ventilation adjustment during cold and cool weather conditions. Completely removable sidewalls are required at cow level for hot weather conditions.

  7. Endwall construction must allow for changing winter conditions and complete opening in hot weather.

    Roll up doors or curtains will allow for more endwall openings for hot weather ventilation. Large adjustable ventilation openings in gables will aid in exhausting hot air from under the roof.

  8. Minimum insulation (R=2) under roof sheets will reduce inside surface temperatures on hot, sunny days.

    Use water-resistant, plastic-type insulation and protect from birds. A 5/8″ to 3/4″ wooden roof deck with asphalt shingles is an alternative.

  9. Allow a minimum 3′ roof or eave overhang to minimize precipitation and sun problems when sidewalls are open.

    A general rule is to extend the roof 1/3 the sidewall height. Eave overhang also protects rolled up curtains and moves snow slides farther from building.

Figure 3. Completely protected ridge cap. Upstands and cap must be positioned to allow uninterupted upward flow of exhaust air.

Insulated Freestall Barns with Automatic Temperature Control


Freestall barns with moderate levels of insulation (R=10-12) in walls and ceilings or roofs can be operated at higher inside temperatures than uninsulated barns. The extra cost may be justified in areas where temperatures remain below 10°F for extended periods of time. These barns are classified by location of ventilation openings, sidewall ventilation (Figure 7) or sidewall and ridge, stack or chimney ventilation (Figure 4, 5 and 6). The required insulation may be placed immediately under the roof, below roof purlins or on the lower chords of the roof trusses. The unheated attic space between the insulation and the cold roof can become a particular problem with these type of buildings. Refer to the later construction section.

Figure 4. Insulated barn with ceiling stacks (chimneys) and sidewall ventilation.

Figure 5. Insulated barn with ridge and sideall ventilation.

Figure 6. Insulated barn with spaced ridge outlets and attic ventilation.

Figure 7. Insulated barn with sidewall only ventilation.

Insulated curtains will further reduce heat loss. The barn will be dark when curtains are closed. Uninsulated curtains allow more light into the barn but condensation will form on the curtains during very cold outside conditions. Regardless of curtain type or installation methods, maximum sidewall opening for summer conditions must be maintained for adequate summer ventilation.

During extreme cold conditions, these barns can usually be maintained 30-40°F higher than the outside temperature and still provide a good environment for cows. As outside temperatures fall below 0°F, the barn will approach and eventually go below freezing. Closing ventilation openings to keep the barn above freezing will compromise conditions for the cows. During cold and mild conditions, this type of barn can be maintained about 40°F.

For good cow comfort, openings should be automatically controlled based on temperature. Set automatic controllers to assure curtains can be opened at least four feet if barn temperatures start to rise above 40°F. The openings should never completely close to assure a continuous minimum air exchange. Moisture levels and air quality, not comfortable temperatures for the operator, must be the basis for control.

The following guidelines are suggested for ventilation openings in different seasons and climates.

  1. Very cold winter weather:

    Continuous sidewall openings at top of both sidewalls about 1″ for each 10′ of building width. (Example: a 90′ wide building requires a 9″ clear opening at the top of each sidewall). An equivalent combination of sidewall and ridge or stack openings may also be used. (Size stack or ridge openings to provide one square foot of outlet for each 100 square feet of floor area.)

  2. Mild and cold winter, spring or fall weather:

    Open ridge and stack or high endwall openings. Adjust sidewall openings and endwall openings or doors to maintain fresh inside conditions and minimize drafts at cow level. These barns are often not sufficiently opened on winter days when temperatures get above 40°F.

  3. Summer:

    Additional sidewall and endwall openings at animal level are needed. Barn should function as wide open sunshade.

Continuous ridge openings can remove moist air from the entire length of the barn. However, they are more difficult to control when low ventilation rates are required. Also, wind may result in air flowing in portions of the ridge and out other locations. Proper attic ventilation is more difficult with continuous ridge openings because the ridge opening interferes with attic exhaust openings. A system that places adjustable ridge outlets from the stable along one-third to one-half the roof length and attic vents between them accomplishes both requirements (Figure 6). Chimneys or stacks with adjustable dampers are easier to control when small exhaust openings are desired. Stack or chimney sidewalls must be insulated all the way to the exhaust opening to prevent condensation of warm moist air exhausting from the barn. Chimney caps or ridge covers must be high enough to allow free air flow beneath them. Insulate the undersides of chimney cover or ridge caps to prevent condensation and dripping back into the barn.

Construction of Insulated Barns

A moderately insulated freestall barn requires careful design and construction. The most critical area is the enclosed attic space between the insulated ceiling and the roof (Figure 8). Serious damage and shortened building life will occur if moisture is allowed to accumulate in this area. There are two primary paths that allow direct access to the attic space by moisture from the animal space. Any holes or cracks in or around rigid insulation, or the air/vapor barrier, can allow large amounts of rising warm moist air direct access to the attic space. Also warm moist air being exhausted out sidewall vents can be trapped and pulled into the attic space through eave openings. This is especially critical in barns that only ventilate through sidewalls.

Figure 8. Air leakage into attic space.

Following are some construction guidelines that can help control moisture problems in attic spaces:

  • Carefully install a water-resistant insulation and vapor barrier. Fiberglass blankets or other materials that can absorb moisture are not recommended. If insulation is also used as ceiling material, it should have a fire-rated covering.
  • Excellent air/vapor barrier between animal space and attic. If insulation is also used as the air/vapor barrier, careful cutting, fitting, and caulking of tongue-and-groove insulation joints and all edges and penetrations of the insulation is required. Carefully installing a separate 6-mil polyethylene air/vapor barrier is also recommended.
  • Construct and enclose eave overhangs to prevent funneling moist air from the sidewalls into the attic. Use tightly closed horizontal soffit. Provide air inlets in the vertical fascia.
  • Attic space ventilation should be one square inch for each one square foot of ceiling area. A 90 foot wide barn requires 90 square inches of total attic opening per foot of length. The following are recommended:
    • large industrial-type ridge vents
    • maximum endwall louvers
    • two- to four-inch slots in vertical fascia
  • Carefully control relative humidity in animal spaces. Leave a minimum six-inch opening at the top of the curtain when it is closed. Automatic control of both sidewall curtains is also desirable.
  • Inspect attic space twice a year. If moisture is accumulating in spite of the above guidelines, ventilate the attic with pressure fans during cold weather to create a positive pressure in the attic.

Hot Weather Considerations

In the summer, the barn should act as a sunshade and rain umbrella. Select a method of barn construction that allows easy complete removal of side and end walls to facilitate good summer breezes. Circulation fans and water sprinklers may also be required during extremely hot humid conditions with no wind.


Properly designed, constructed, and managed naturally ventilated freestall barns can provide an excellent environment for dairy cattle. The primary purpose of the freestall barn is to protect cows, freestalls and feed areas from cold winter winds, rain and snow and to provide shade from hot summer sun. There must always be some sidewall (also, ridge or stacks when present) open to allow air exchange to remove the large quantities of moisture exhaled by the cows. If barns are closed up too tight, they will become humid and smelly, resulting in an unhealthy environment for the cows and wet damaging building conditions.

Management of barns to maintain certain temperatures for the convenience of the operator or equipment will likely cause inferior conditions for the cows. Temperatures inside barns with little or no insulation should be no more than 10 degrees higher than the outside temperature. Barns with moderate levels of insulation and insulated curtains may be operated 30-40 degrees higher than outside temperatures during extreme cold weather. As outside temperatures fall below zero degrees Fahrenheit, these barns will go below freezing if adequate air exchange is provided to remove moisture.

The ultimate question on ventilation is, “What is best for the cow?” If a freestall barn is under ventilated and fills with moist air in the winter or hot stuffy air in the summer the cow and her productivity will suffer and so will farm profitability.

Prepared by Robert E. Graves, Professor emeritus of Agricultural Engineering and Michael Brugger, Associate Professor of Agricultural Engineering, Ohio State University


Get Prepped for Hay Season

As temperatures begin to creep up and spring starts to arrive, it is time to start thinking about the coming hay season. Timing is everything when it comes to high-quality hay production. A pre-harvest inspection of your hay making equipment can help make up valuable time and hopefully cut back on downtime later on. Here are some tips and things to check on before you make your first bale.

Sharpen up. A good cut on the grass reduces leaf loss and prevents stem damage, which can slow plant recovery. Sharpen or replace dull, damaged blades, sickle sections and cutting mechanisms. Also, check the conditioning rollers, adjust spacing, and roll timing as needed. Properly maintained conditioners will minimize drying time.

My buddy “Ted”. Tedders and rakes may not be as mechanically complex, but they still need to be functioning effectively. Look for teeth that are misaligned or broken, replace or bend if possible. Setting the correct pick-up height will minimize leaf loss and reduce dirt uptake.

Don’t bail on you baler. Perform a thorough inspection on your hay baler. This is the centerpiece of your hay making operation and if it is not functioning properly, things come to a halt. Check shafts, sprockets, pulleys and bearings for signs of wear. Inspect any belts and hoses for cracks. Properly tighten chains and belts. The bearings in the baling chamber often cause the most headache for round baler owners. Now is the time to check them, not when smoke is billowing out of the chamber. Check the rollers for any excessive movement or play. Look at tires and check their air pressure. It is a good practice to do a test run by warming up equipment to check for improperly working components.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Lubricate and grease any bearings and other moving parts that may have grown dry and stiff during the off-season.
Take inventory. Make sure you have plenty of twine, net wrap and or plastic. It also good to have some spare parts on hand to minimize downtime when something breaks. Adequate inventories can save you a trip to town or prevent a complete shutdown.

Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” So many factors contribute to a successful hay season. Don’t let improperly prepped equipment be the factor that slows you down. With your equipment ready, you’ll be prepped for a great hay season.

Source: University of Georgia Extension

National Junior Genetics Conference planned for June 26

Holstein Association USA and Zoetis are inviting all dairy enthusiasts to the National Junior Genetics Conference to be held Wednesday, June 26, from 2 to 4 p.m. The event will be held at the Red Lion Hotel, Paper Valley, in Appleton, Wis., in conjunction with the 2019 National Holstein Convention and the National Genetics Conference.

The planning committee has an exciting schedule lined up for the Junior Genetics Conference. It will include a hands-on approach to help youth of all ages dig into genetics, genomics, and reproduction.

Jerome Meyer, General Manager of East Central/Select Sires will serve as the host and emcee. He’ll kick off the session before dividing all attendees into three separate groups. Youth will rotate to attend all three of the following sessions in groups of similar-aged attendees. 

Genomics 101 
Led by Nick Randle, Marketing Manager, U.S. Dairy Genetics at Zoetis and Kayla Langer, Clarifide Technician at Zoetis
Youth will get an inside peek at the whole process of genomic testing – from actually taking the sample, to how it’s processed, and what information a farm gets back afterward. That will include the production, health and conformation traits, along with a discussion on traits that many may not realize are tied only to genetics – like polled, A2, and coat color. 

Know your Indexes

Led by Brian Kelroy, Dairy Programs Manager at East Central/Select Sires 
TPI, NM$ and DWP$. While these may be familiar acronyms — Total Performance Index, Net Merit Dollars, and Dairy Wellness Profit Dollars — this session will dig into how these selection indexes are compiled, what they actually mean, what traits they include, and what effects they can have on genetic progress in dairy herds.

Know your Repro
Led by Dr. Matt Dorshorst D.V.M, with Origin Reproductive Services and Phil Dieter, Marketing Manager at East Central/Select Sires 
Because genetics don’t matter if a pregnancy isn’t created . . . youth will get a chance to see how to create pregnancies on dairy farms. This includes a hands-on experience of the whole A.I. process from handling semen, loading A.I. guns, a look and feel into bovine reproductive tracts, and even digging into what all this means on a microscopic level. 

To register for the National Holstein Convention, place online ticket orders at The National Junior Genetics Conference is free to all registered attendees. 

For more information about the event, feel free to contact the following: 
Corey Geiger 
2019 National Holstein Convention 
902 8th Avenue 
Baraboo, WI 53913


Research works to keep dairy farm workers safe

Dairy Management Specialist Amber Adams-Progar speaks about the future of the dairy industry Thursday afternoon at the Animal Science Building. She says their research could help protect farmers and animals.

Research at WSU will help create a safety training network to reduce injury risk among dairy farm workers and animals.

Dairy Management Specialist Amber Adams-Progar said the network started after researchers looked at labor and industry data related to worker’s compensation claims among dairy workers. She said they found a lot of injury claims caused by slips, trips and falls, as well as cattle-related injuries.

Celina Matuk Sarinana, Knott Dairy Center manager, said working on a dairy farm can have a lot of different risks of injury. She said slippery surfaces can cause falls onto hard concrete.

Dairy machinery can also cause injury, as well as improper handling and positioning around large cattle, she said.

“A bump from a cow could be similar to a bump from a car,” Matuk Sarinana said.

Adams-Progar said a lack of education for dairy workers on how to properly manage occupational risks made a collaborative safety training network necessary.

She said what might seem like common knowledge in terms of dairy farm safety might actually be unknown to new and inexperienced dairy workers. This training will help teach employees to be aware of their surroundings and to have an exit strategy when things go wrong.

“It is the responsibility of the workers to manage risk,” Matuk Sarinana said.

Adams-Progar said the network will work with dairies to educate on workplace safety, not just through instructional videos, but through interactive seminars as well. The collaborative process will rely on feedback from laborers and employers as they work to identify common areas of risk and the most effective ways of training.

“This will make safety more of a discussion,” Adams-Progar said.

Matuk Sarinana said specialized training for each position at the dairy farm will also be a key part of the programming.

“We try to be ahead of the accidents,” Matuk Sarinana said. “Prevention is the name of the game.”

Adams-Progar said another component of the network will be the academic research to help identify better methods of animal and worker safety.

“Research is backing what we are trying to teach and train people to do,” Adams-Progar said.

The network already works with organizations like the Dairy Farmers of Washington and the Washington State Dairy Federation to promote their programming, Adams-Progar said.

“It is nice to have the dairy industry buy-in,” Adams-Progar said. “It will help us get connected to dairies.”

Adams-Progar said this kind of training is in the best interests of the dairy industry as a whole.

“Farmers don’t want employees to get hurt, and employees don’t want to get hurt either,” Adams-Progar said.


Lack of water and money causing Australian dairy farmers to look at culling stock

DESPERATE Northern Victorian dairy farmers are sounding out stock agents on culling pregnant spring-calving cows, as they struggle to maintain cash flows to feed and water their shrinking herds.

“The young stock and choppers are already gone,” Northern Victoria Livestock agent Craig Cox said.

“People are now calling asking ‘what do we sell next’, to buy more feed and water. They’re looking at selling them, (given) it will cost $500 of feed to get them through winter.”

Mr Cox said 800 dairy choppers a week had been sold through the Shepparton saleyards over the past fortnight, with prices dropping by 30 cents a kilogram (liveweight) in the lead-up to Easter for lighter, secondary-quality cows. He said prices had lifted a bit, by 15-20c this week on the back of a smaller yarding of 450 dairy choppers.

Katandra West dairy farmers Robbie Glover said he had just bought springing Holstein cows for $900 each.

“I reckon we’ll see 20-30 per cent of dairy farmers declare bankruptcy by the end of the season,” Mr Glover said.

Drought conditions across northern Victoria and the Riverina have left farmers with no choice but to buy in feed.


Source: The Weekly Times

Four Steps Your Dairy Can Take Toward More Judicious Antibiotic Use

Using antibiotics responsibly benefits both animal and human health

More than 60 percent of producers responding to a recent survey said they have changed their mastitis treatment protocols in the last few years to be more judicious with their antibiotic use.1 These producers are on the right track; using antibiotics correctly and minimizing unnecessary use on an operation can have a tremendous impact on animal health, food safety and consumer confidence in dairy products.

In addition to working closely with a veterinarian, the following practices can help your operation make strides toward more judicious antibiotic use:

1. Treat the infection, not the inflammation

Clinical mastitis is recognized when a producer sees abnormalities in the milk, the cow’s quarter or in the cow. Visible changes in the milk are the result of inflammation or the cow’s response to infection. The standard practice is to treat until the mastitis inflammation is gone, which is why some five-day treatment regimens have become common. However, this may be leading producers to over-treat with antibiotics.

“Visible abnormalities in the milk are often the first sign of mastitis, but they should not determine the length of treatment,” said Linda Tikofsky, DVM, senior associate director of dairy professional veterinary services, Boehringer Ingelheim.

Dr. Tikofsky added that the bacteria may be effectively killed within the first 24 to 48 hours of treatment, but the inflammation will go on another three or four days while the body eliminates the dead bacteria and white blood cells. Boehringer Ingelheim offers a tube with a three-treatment regimen that is effective at killing mastitis bacteria. However, the milk may still look abnormal at the time of the third treatment.

2. Culture milk before deciding to treat

For mild or moderate mastitis cases, Dr. Tikofsky recommends producers take a milk sample, culture it and wait 24 hours for results before treating. This can be done without a negative effect on cure rate or animal welfare. However, for severe mastitis cases, treat cows right away with an appropriate treatment protocol.

“In 30 to 40 percent of the cultured samples, there are no bacteria present since the cow has eliminated the infection herself, so producers are only seeing inflammation,” she explained.2,3,4 “Just wait until the inflammation subsides, then put the cow’s milk back in the tank when it returns to normal.”

3. Use antibiotics according to the label

Product labels contain important information including indications, dose, route of administration, treatment duration, milk withhold and meat withdrawal times, class of animals (lactating or non-lactating) as well as treatment frequency and duration. Veterinary oversight of extra-label antibiotic use is mandatory; otherwise, animal health can be impacted and result in violative residues.

Following the label is important to ensuring a safe food supply. “It’s our job to earn consumer trust and confidence to ensure there’s a future for our products,” said Jami Schultze, winner of the 2018 Boehringer Ingelheim Producers for Progress recognition program. “If a farm gets a drug residue violation, it means a consumer loses confidence in your product.”

4. Adhere to established protocols

Every dairy should have written protocols in place. Schultze works with her veterinarian to determine where they can make improvements. “Our veterinarian regularly reviews our mastitis cases and protocols to make sure we’re up to date and giving the best treatment,” she noted.

At Schultze’s operation, cows with gram-negative culture results aren’t administered antibiotics. “With any culture that’s gram-positive, we’ll take a look at the cow’s records and make sure she’s worthy of treatment,” she said. “If so, we’ll treat her.”

Of course, responsible antibiotic use requires an industry effort. “It can’t just be one farm making that decision,” advised Schultze. “Everybody’s got to jump on board.”

About Boehringer Ingelheim

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

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

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

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

About Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health

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


Crossbreeding Beef on Dairy

When raising dairy beef or selecting beef bulls for reproduction on dairy cows know the market, provide excellent calf care and identification, and conduct a genetic audit of the herd.  More dairy beef calves means that buyers will become more selective.  When considering genetics, low genetic animals do not need to contribute offspring.  A genetic audit of the herd will reduce poor herd genetics.  

Key points to consider when selecting beef bulls for dairy cattle include:

  1. Consider your goals
  2. Shifts in the beef market will happen – how does this affect how many heifers you need
  3. Don’t just use “cheap” bulls
  4. Keep track of your economics and data

Dr. Brad Heins, an Associate Professor of Dairy Management at the University of Minnesota’s West Central Research Center in Morris, Minnesota, discussed crossbreeding dairy cattle with beef bulls during the March 15, 2019.  

During his presentation Dr. Heins weighed the pros and cons of beef breeds crossing with dairy cattle. 

Click here to watch the webinar.  Dr. Heins’ presentation can be downloaded here.  

Artificial Intelligence In The Dairy Barn

Ireland’s multi-generations of dairy farmers know a thing or two about raising dairy cows. Its more than 18,000 dairy farmers tend 1.4 million animals and are recognized globally for productivity and quality. So, it’s no surprise that an Irish agtech company called Cainthus would invent a way to use artificial intelligence—the same technology developed for terrorist detection of humans—to manage dairy cows.

At its simplest, Cainthus’ technology has been described as facial recognition for cows, but Cainthus CEO Aidan Connolly explains that it is actually much more.

To be precise, Cainthus has developed a smart camera system that collects video data inside the dairy barn and uses artificial intelligence to uniquely identify and track behavior of all the cows in the barn. That information is used to develop key animal and farm performance indicators, which are delivered in the form of daily notifications and real-time detailed analytics to a dairy farmer’s phone. Such analytics help identify and analyze inefficiencies and animal health issues that need to be addressed to improve productivity and animal welfare.

The core dairy husbandry issues are the same, even “if you go back for the last 8,000 years of dairy farming,” notes Connolly. “Digital agriculture, for the first time, allows us to really precisely manage our cows, 24 hours a day, give them better welfare and make them more productive.”

The goal of facial recognition technology for humans has been much broader than simply identification and recognition. “It was designed to look at the overall way a person stands, the shadows they make, some of the other physical characteristics of that person. We’re using that same technology for cows,” said Connolly.

While milk production per cow is a metric that is fairly well tracked and measured on the farm, there are bigger questions of how to maintain those production levels.  That is where farm management tools get less specific and are typically monitored by herd averages, rather than real-time data.

Source: Forbes

3 Ways to Improve Income Through Heifer Management

Two months isn’t a lot of time, but it can make a big difference for profitability. In fact, getting heifers pregnant two months earlier resulted in an additional $200 to $250 in lifetime net farm income per cow.1

Age at first calving is an important metric in terms of managing heifer inventories and is, therefore, important to help minimize net herd turnover cost. Young stock health is paramount in allowing animals to grow properly so that they reach appropriate breeding age in a timely fashion. As such, it is no surprise that a recent study Zoetis conducted with Compeer Financial found that heifer survival rate is one of the top six factors affecting dairy net farm income.2

The analysis of 11 years of herd data from 489 year-end financial and production-record summaries quantified the value of decreased heifer survival rates on lifetime net farm income. The top one-third of herds in this study achieved an earlier age at first calving, by approximately two months, compared with the bottom one-third of herds. This had a significant compounding effect on the number of animals in a herd over time, which contributed to an average of $200 to $250 in additional lifetime net farm income per cow.1,2

Let’s look at three ways you can help heifers survive and thrive to improve your net farm income:  

  1. Raise only the right heifers. — Between feed, labor, production, capital and overhead costs, herd owners have reported spending approximately $1,860 to $2,263 for each heifer raised.3 This could easily be one of the top expenses, which means raising the right heifers is crucial. Genomic testing that can determine susceptibility to calfhood and mature cow diseases can help you invest in heifers that have a better chance of adding short-term and long-term value to your herd.  
  2. Guard against scours and bovine respiratory disease (BRD). — Scours and BRD are responsible for decreasing calf and heifer survival rates and increasing age at first calving. Scours is responsible for up to 56.5% of mortality among pre-weaned dairy calves. Calves that survive scours can face lifelong setbacks, including delayed growth, and are slower to reach the milking string as heifers.4,5If a calf has pneumonia during the first 90 days of life, it is more likely to have increased mortality before first calving as well as a higher age at first calving, among other challenges.6 Proactive management and vaccination of healthy pregnant cows and heifers with an injectable vaccine, such as SCOURGUARD®, or an oral vaccine given to calves before colostrum uptake can help prevent scours. And early detection of respiratory disease symptoms and treatment with an antibiotic approved for use in calves, if needed, can help prevent chronic infections for better lifetime productivity.
  3. Optimize your reproduction program. — Getting heifers inseminated as early as possible can have an enormous impact on age at first calving. And, it will get them to the milking herd sooner. Simple steps can be taken to help improve management of your heifer reproduction program: Move heifers to the artificial insemination (AI) pen based on age. Then, on the date of the move and again 10 to 12 days later for heifers not yet inseminated, use LUTALYSE® HighConInjection (dinoprost tromethamine injection) with your veterinarian’s recommendation. Finally, as heifers are moved to the breeding pen, conduct routine pregnancy checks so you can identify pregnant females to move out and any open heifers to re-enroll into your breeding program immediately.

Successful heifer management that lowers age at first calving and improves heifer survival is a demonstrated way to ensure your dairy continues to gain net farm income. For more about heifer survival rate as one of the top drivers of profitability for your dairy, watch this video about solutions for helping heifers to not only survive but thrive on your dairy. 

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Women of childbearing age and persons with respiratory problems should exercise extreme caution when handling LUTALYSE/LUTALYSE HighCon. LUTALYSE/LUTALYSE HighCon is readily absorbed through the skin and may cause abortion and/or bronchiospasms, therefore spillage on the skin should be washed off immediately with soap and water. Aseptic technique should be used to reduce the possibility of post-injection clostridial infections. Do not administer LUTALYSE/LUTALYSE HighCon in pregnant cattle unless cessation of pregnancy is desired. See full Prescribing Information here.

About Zoetis
Zoetis is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 65 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines, vaccines and diagnostic products, which are complemented by biodevices, genetic tests and a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2018, the company generated annual revenue of $5.8 billion with approximately 10,000 employees. For more information, visit

Managing manure storage structures

Assess and monitor outdoor liquid manure storage during the rainy season.

Last December’s early onset of winter weather combined with heavy snow cover may mean some manure storages are nearing capacity and soon, the spring rain will begin to fall.

Rain has a way of making spring field work difficult, slowing the progress of all fieldwork including emptying in-ground manure storages. The more rain, the more freeboard disappears in the storage and the less opportunity to spread manure without getting stuck. What to do?   

Daily Monitoring

There are no simple solutions, but thinking through your specific situation, and monitoring it daily can help prevent, or at least minimize, environmental risks and potential regulatory issues. 

Outside manure storages should be designed with freeboard to deal with extreme spring weather. The Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs) for manure state that all manure storage structures shall maintain a minimum freeboard of twelve inches (six inches for fabricated structures) plus the additional storage volume necessary to contain the precipitation and runoff from a 25-year, 24-hour storm event. Freeboard means the distance from the level of manure to the top of the storage structure. This “storm event” amount is an average of an additional 4 inches in Michigan. You can check your county’s precipitation. That means concrete structures need to have at least 10 inches of freeboard and earthen storages need 16 inches of freeboard at all times to be in compliance with GAAMPs and Right-To-Farm. 

For all storage structures, especially earthen, cautiously walk the perimeter of the storage daily (if necessary) based on your rainfall amounts, weather forecasts and storage situation. Recognize that berms for earthen storages, just like fields, may be water saturated and weakened.   Assess how solid the sides are, looking for low points or areas with lower structural integrity.

Keep Clean Water Clean

The late spring and excessive rains in some parts of Michigan may cause the freeboard to be consumed by rain and runoff. As rain fills up this freeboard, it may put stress on the integrity of the structure. If the stress results in a break or overflow of the storage, thousands of gallons could quickly exit the manure storage. A manure storage that captures excess clean water runoff from around the farmstead, in addition to direct rainfall, obviously fills up even faster. Diverting clean water from reaching the manure storage would help now and in future rainy weather.  Roof runoff is a cost sharable practice through EQIP.  Contact your local NRCS office for more information.

Plan for Emergencies

Each farm location has unique risks of manure reaching surface waters.  Asses your risk, consider what the worst case scenario might be and think through a plan to address that situation. Knowing the down slope direction from the storage will help you think through what sensitive areas are along that path and help you know how critical the risks could be. Know how to get earth moving equipment on site immediately and plan where potential berms would need to be built to divert the flow from reaching surface water, neighboring property or road ways. Even when there are not imminent risks to surface waters, have plans in place to contain, control and stop manure from moving overland.  If your farm doesn’t have a written plan, you can learn how to do one with MSU Extension bulletin E-2575s, Emergency Planning for the Farm: Livestock Operations. 

Already at Freeboard?

Do everything you can to reduce liquid manure storage before they are dangerously close to overflowing. Even relieving a few inches off the top will buy some time and reduce stress on the storage system. Options may include transferring manure to another system, hauling to the driest field you have or assessing if you can get on any alfalfa field without getting stuck. 

Don’t make a bad situation worse. When land applied, be sure that the manure is not at risk of running off to surface waters.  Tile drained fields provide another risk during wet times. Be cautious by taking appropriate steps to insure applied manure does not reach surface inlets or tile drains. 

For permitted farms, allowing manure to exceed the freeboard limit is a permit violation, even if a release does not occur. Contact your regional Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Staff and file a report. They will work with you to seek an emergency solution.  

In the event that a manure storage breaches and manure reaches surface waters, contact the Pollution Emergency Alerting System hotline immediately at the Department of Environmental Quality: (800) 292.4706 or Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development: (800) 405.0101


SourceMSU Extension

Don’t Skip the Weight on Silage Covers

Recent regulations may change how some U.S. producers weigh down their silage covers. Yet, the benefits to properly covering silage bunkers or piles continue to provide returns.“The additional time and expense to comply with new waste tire regulations may cause producers to question the need for covering piles at all,” notes Renato Schmidt, Ph.D., Technical Services – Silage, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “There is absolutely no question that effectively covering piles saves money by preserving important nutrients in the silage, reducing dry matter (DM) losses and maintaining the hygienic quality of the feed. The effort to cover and seal silage piles is a vital part of the silage management program.”

Covering piles helps create the anaerobic environment required for the ensiling fermentation on the most critical portion in terms of porosity — the surface. As a result, the quality of the fermentation process is improved compared to uncovered piles. During storage, well-maintained plastic covers help prevent oxygen ingress, which can cause spoilage.

For example, sealing and covering a 40-foot by 100-foot bunker returns approximately $2,000 in improved silage DM recovery when filled with corn silage. Plus, feeding spoiled silage from an uncovered silo can reduce feed intake and digestibility and potentially lead to metabolic and reproductive issues in the herd.

A combination of high-quality plastic and adequate weighting helps prevent losses. Use plastic that is at least five millimeters thick and dual layer — black inner and white outer — to resist deterioration. Also consider using plastic film with an increased oxygen barrier, Dr. Schmidt advises.

Weighting the plastic down prevents air from seeping underneath the covering. Full-casing waste tires have been the standard for anchoring bunk silo covers for years, but they are heavy to move and bulky to store. Standing water in a full-casing tire can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. With the increasing concern around West Nile virus (WNV) — and the new state regulations prohibiting full tires — producers may be searching for new options, such as:

  • Modifying tires by leaving tires on the rims, removing tire sidewalls, drilling holes in the tire sidewalls or cutting tires in half
  • Covering tires with plastic to reduce standing water
  • Treating tires with a mosquito larvicide, which requires a certified pesticide applicator
  • Replacing tires with sidewall disks
  • Using heavy equipment tire beads
  • Finding alternatives to tires, such as gravel or sand bags

Dr. Schmidt advises producers to choose an option that maintain the integrity of the plastic. Tears or holes reduce the effectiveness of the covering and allow oxygen into the pile.

“Covering and sealing silage bunkers makes economic sense,” Dr. Schmidt says. “There are options for producers looking for alternative ways to weigh down covers. Don’t drop a best practice that pencils out in the long run.”

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


DeLaval publishes 2018 Sustainability Report

DeLaval publishes its 2018 Sustainability Report, following the company’s annual progress in the areas of animal welfare, environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and social sustainability.

“This Report summarises how we all at DeLaval have a role to play and how every one of us contributes to DeLaval sustainability efforts”, says Lars Johansson, Senior Vice President Corporate Communications & Sustainability.

The 2018 Sustainability Report provides an updated overview of how the company is driving its sustainability agenda across all areas of business, and follows on the progress towards its continuous improvements in the way the company operates.

“This aligns with DeLaval business objectives to provide products and solutions that let farmers do more with less which is as important for us in our own operations. This demonstrates our commitment to our Vision in making sustainable food production possible”, Lars concludes.

To read the full Sustainability Report 2018, please click here.

For a more comprehensive information on our take on Sustainability and our achievements, please visit

About DeLaval

DeLaval is a worldwide leader in milking equipment and solutions for dairy farmers, which make sustainable food production possible, warranting milk quality and animal health. Our solutions are used by millions of dairy farmers around the globe every day.

DeLaval was founded more than 135 years ago in Sweden, when the visionary Gustaf de Laval patented the cream separator. Today, DeLaval has 4,500 employees and operates in more than 100 markets. DeLaval, alongside Tetra Pak and Sidel, is part of the Tetra Laval Group. See more at


Genetic breakthrough on tropical grass could help develop climate-friendly cattle farms

Cattle are a mainstay for many smallholders but their farms are often on degraded lands, which increases cattle’s impact on the environment and lowers their production of milk and meat. Researchers at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) have shown that Brachiaria grass species can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cattle and increase productivity — and breeding improved varieties can potentially augment the environmental and economic benefits.

But the breeding process is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. A breakthrough on Brachiaria‘s complex genome may make breeding much more efficient, and potentially increase the speed with which new grasses begin benefiting cattle farmers and the environment.

Margaret Worthington, a geneticist at CIAT and the University of Arkansas, and colleagues created the first dense molecular map of B. humidicola, a robust and environmentally friendly forage grass. They also pinpointed the candidate genes for the plant’s asexual reproductive mechanism, which is a huge asset for plant breeders. The findings were published in January in BMC Genomics.

“The idea is to create a better crop with less time and less money and to get it out faster to farmers,” said Worthington. “By using this molecular marker, you increase the odds of finding that rare winner.”

Traditional plant-breeding methods for Brachiaria grasses involve one of two complex techniques. One is to grow the plant to seed, and to study the seeds under a microscope to determine if the plant reproduced asexually. The other involves excising the plant’s embryos and conducting a similar analysis. Both techniques require many weeks, significant funds and highly trained specialists.

Asexual reproduction through seed, called apomixis, is key for developing new crop varieties for widespread use. Crops that reproduce through apomixis conserve the same traits from one generation to the next, essentially locking in sought-after characteristics such as drought tolerance or high nutritional value. Plants that reproduce sexually do not reliably pass on desired traits to subsequent generations.

Seeds, perpetually

With this molecular marker, plant breeders can run a quick and inexpensive test when Brachiaria grasses are seedlings to identify whether they reproduce through apomixis. The results are available in a couple of weeks. This allows plant breeders to select only asexually reproductive plants for trials, allowing them to allocate more time and resources to plants that have the potential to produce new cultivars.

Brachiaria grasses have often been considered an “orphan crop,” due to a lack of investment in research, but their potential for making tropical farms more productive and better for the environment is well known among tropical forage specialists. One recent study found that B. humidicola was especially adept at reducing the nitrous oxide, a strong greenhouse gas, emitted from soil as result of cattle urine deposition. In addition, CIAT researchers have identified mechanisms that this tropical grass uses to efficiently acquire nutrients from soil.

Brachiaria breeders also value apomixis for smallholders in developing nations who have limited resources for investing in improving their farms. Improved grass varieties that produce sufficient quantities of trait-retaining seeds can eliminate the need to purchase new seeds for every planting, which is a potentially expensive barrier to adoption.

“This breakthrough allows for the acceleration of our breeding program for multiple traits, including the development of tropical forages that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make farming more eco-efficient,” said Joe Tohme, a senior scientist at CIAT and study co-author.

“This discovery represents a milestone in the path toward developing mitigation technologies in the livestock production sector,” said Jacobo Arango, a study co-author who is an environmental biologist from CIAT and a Lead Author for the next Assessment Report on Climate Change Mitigation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).


Source: Science Daily

Feeding cows less protein can save farmers money

Updates to a dairy nutrition model developed at Cornell University may help farmers improve their economic margin and reduce the amount of nitrogen pollution in the environment.

The Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System (CNCPS) is a model that helps farmers determine what to feed dairy cows to make milk production more efficient and environmentally friendly.

On-farm research in Broome, Tioga and Delaware counties in New York revealed that farmers can feed cows less protein, maintain a cow’s milk-production output and reduce nitrogen in the manure. This means the nutrient does not run off into waterways and lakes, which can promote unwanted algae.

The researchers used the CNCPS to formulate diets in eight herds of cows in New York, and found that it could reduce nitrogen in manure by about 14%.

On one 50-cow farm, the researchers found the amount of protein in the feed dropped from 16.3% to 14.9%. In the farm’s manure output, there were 1607 fewer pounds of nitrogen put into the environment annually with no change in milk production. On a 565-cow farm, the protein feed input dropped 1%, which resulted in nearly 80 g less nitrogen in cow’s manure daily and reduced nitrogen excretion by 18.6%. That translates into 35,916 fewer pounds of nitrogen in the environment annually.

The researchers noted that reducing the protein portion of the feed to enhance efficiency also saves farmers money. Using 2017 feed prices as a base, they stated a farmer can save between $147 and $157 per cow annually.

“I call it a win-win. The dairy farmers win because the cow is more efficient and more profitable. Society wins because we’re now putting fewer nutrients back into the environment or into the water than we would have had we not made the adjustments,” said Larry Chase, Professor Emeritus of Animal Science.

The researchers concluded: “The CNCPS can be used to assess the environmental impact of dairy cattle and by nutritionists to improve the utilization efficiency of diets and cattle in the environmental context.”


Source: Food Processing

Helping farmers know their bottom line

In this rural town, a short drive from Canton, Ohio, Mark Thomas had been running a 400-cow dairy farm for years.

That, plus row-cropping 2,000 acres, kept him outside, where he wanted to be most days. But the number-crunching side of his job—tabulating production costs, losses, and inventory—never thrilled him. He and his wife, Chris, made money, sure. They paid their taxes on time, always. But for a while, they weren’t able to keep as close a watch on their production costs as they could have. And though profits for milk have dipped in recent years, they kept on milking.

Last year, they stopped. Selling off their herd of Holsteins, they switched to raising heifers while continuing with cultivating corn, soybeans, and wheat. While it was tough to watch the milking cows leave their barn for good, the Thomases had the financial projections and analysis to show that it was likely the right move.

They used information from several years of analysis done through the Ohio Farm Business Analysis and Benchmarking Program in The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). Partly funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program assesses the financial health of a farm operation and generates reports that compare the operation to other comparable Ohio farms.

A decade ago when the Thomases first participated in the program, they had to dredge up a lot of receipts, bank statements, and loan information from a couple of years earlier.

“I’ve said before that I’d rather go through a colonoscopy or a tonsillectomy without anesthesia than go through that again, but we were a whole lot better as a result,” Mark Thomas quipped.

Since he first participated in the program in 2009, Thomas has been able to make informed decisions that put his business on a better track, the shift to raising heifers being the most recent decision.

At a time when national farm income is down, on average, and uncertainty abounds about how tariffs might affect foreign demand for corn and especially soybeans, it is invaluable for Ohio farmers to know their production costs in every part of their business. The business analysis program is designed to help Ohio farmers achieve financial success. Helping farmers in this way is one of the main reasons land-grant institutions such as Ohio State were created.

This week, Ohio Agriculture Week, March 10–16, which corresponds with National Agriculture Week, is a time to acknowledge farmers’ contributions. The state is home to 75,462 farms, and 83,491 people work in Ohio’s production agriculture sector, according to the most recent data from USDA and CFAES reports. The Ohio Farm Business Analysis and Benchmarking Program is just one of many programs to assist the state’s farmers so that they can continue pursuing, and making a sufficient profit in, what they’re most passionate about.

“We don’t always have good news for the farmer,” said Dianne Shoemaker, a dairy specialist with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of CFAES, and manager of the business analysis program. “But the benefits a farm receives from doing an analysis each year include seeing what is going well and identifying issues that need to be addressed in a timely manner.”

Most farmers do cash-based recordkeeping, tracking money coming in and going out, so they might not separate out the contributions and expenses of each individual venture—such as livestock, dairy, or crop enterprises, Shoemaker said. The accrual adjustments used in the business analysis program take into account inventory changes and income and expenses when they occur, regardless of when the cash is exchanged.

More often than not, farmers juggle multiple ventures: raising crops and (possibly) livestock, selling seed, and/or running a pick-your-own produce business. Keeping track of exactly what each of those enterprises is adding to—or taking away from—the business is critical, Shoemaker said.

“It helps farms identify where they’re making money and where they have opportunities to improve,” Shoemaker said.

Any business that participates works directly with a technician who helps the business collect the necessary information and generates the farm analysis. In addition to providing the relevant reports, Shoemaker and the technicians work with the farm’s business owners to interpret and apply the results they see.

Getting a report that compares a farm or enterprise to comparable farm businesses can enable a farmer to know whether he or she could or should take a different approach to become more profitable.

“Sometimes farmers have to decide to discontinue an enterprise or sell a farm business, which is always sad, but they are able to make the decision with full information,” Shoemaker said.

The Thomases knew their milk production business wasn’t doing well. At first, they changed what they fed the cows to produce milk that was higher in fat and protein, milk that earned them more. Later, even that wasn’t enough. So, the Thomases decided to sell off their herd in June 2018 when they suspected it would be a good time.

“Then,” Mark Thomas said, “there was a solid market for the cows.”

For more information about the Farm Business Analysis and Benchmarking Program, visit or email Shoemaker at

Re-evaluating heifer inventory and costs

Recently dairy farmers have faced several challenges, and one of the largest of those challenges has been low milk prices, resulting in decreased profits. In these tough economic times, dairymen have had to re-evaluate many aspects of their operation. When evaluating the operation, heifers should not be forgotten. Raising heifers is one of the biggest investments on the farm, but there is no return on that investment until the heifer reaches the milking herd. Heifers play a vital role in the future success of an operation, and tremendous amounts of money can be saved by improving efficiencies in your heifer program without sacrificing performance.

Below are five focus areas for improving the profitability of your heifer program.

1. Determine the appropriate number of heifers for your operation.

Many farms simply have too many heifers. This increase in heifers has resulted from sexed semen and advances in reproductive efficiency, as well as better colostrum and improved calf management. Each farm should determine the necessary number of heifers that are needed for their operation based on their future herd size goals and then add a cushion of three to five percent above that to avoid needing to purchase heifers in the future. The number of heifers necessary depends upon the size of the herd, the cow culling rate, the age at first calving, and the heifer culling rate. In the worst-case scenario, if the farm runs short, they would have to purchase additional heifers in the future — but based on projected heifer prices, this is still more financially sound than raising too many heifers.

Don’t be afraid to cull heifers. Culling can be a difficult decision, but it can also be economically beneficial for your bottom line. Put a plan in place. There are several tools available to help with this decision including genomics, pedigrees, and predicted transmitting ability. Consider culling any heifers with injuries or disease, as they are likely to lag behind and struggle to become profitable. Cull early! Money can be saved by removing the heifer from the herd earlier rather than later when input costs have started to add up. If the farm wants to avoid buying heifers later due to disease risk, heifers can be sold later, but the return may not be as great. You will need to weigh this information against the value of raising a few additional head that may not actually be needed.

2. Strategically use beef semen to improve dairy profitability.

Is there an opportunity to utilize beef semen in your dairy herd? The optimal crossbred beef/dairy calf typically has a higher market value than a purebred dairy calf. There are several different strategies for incorporating beef semen into your operation dependent upon the current farm dynamics and the reproductive status of the farm. Reproductive status tends to be the primary limitation for the incorporation of beef semen use to capitalize on gains from crossbred calves. Generally, farms with high reproductive performance tend to be sensitive to calf prices, and low-reproductive performance farms are more sensitive to semen prices. The “Premium Beef on Dairy” tool from the University of Wisconsin–Madison dairy management website uses market price, along with several other variables, to help determine the optimal strategy based on the farm’s inventory and goals. One strategy uses sexed semen on genetically superior cows, while beef semen is used on lower-producing cows. Heifer availability should not be forgotten when considering or using beef semen, as more utilization may also necessitate the purchase of more replacements.

Crossbreeding strategies present an opportunity to add value to extra calves since, as previously mentioned, crossbreds are typically valued more highly than purebred dairy calves. Several different beef breeds cross well with dairy breeds, but it is important to note that, like dairy bulls, not all beef bulls are created equal. This strategy warrants careful consideration when determining which beef bull to use on your operation to maximize potential.

3. Set heifers up for success.

Once the ideal number of heifers has been determined, set them up for success by getting them off to a running start during the pre-weaning period. To maximize efficiency, provide optimal nutrition that will help minimize any disease that may set the heifers back. Do not forget about colostrum. Ensure that calves receive adequate amounts of high-quality colostrum quickly after birth, as this will maximize their immunity and decrease their susceptibility to disease. Work with your nutritionist to develop a nutrition program that meets your growth and weaning goals by balancing a quality milk replacer/whole milk and starter. Do your best to keep disease to a minimum in order to maximize growth and intake, helping heifers smoothly and successfully transition to the next grower phase without setbacks.

After weaning, minimize stressors so the heifer can maintain efficient growth. Heifers must first meet their maintenance requirements to sustain body status. Keeping heifers in a low-stress environment (which includes factors like weather/temperature and stocking density) can reduce maintenance costs and allow more energy to be more efficiently partitioned toward growth. Utilize organic trace mineral nutrition to optimize the true potential of your replacement heifers throughout all stages of your heifer-rearing program.

4. Minimize shrink.

Feed shrink doesn’t only apply to the lactating herd! Shrink should be managed not only in storage and handling, but also at the bunk. Often, large amounts of feed are wasted because of poor handling techniques, so spend extra time considering bunker management. Remain aware of feed delivery and how much heifers are being fed. This includes keeping track of any weigh-backs, getting heifer dry matter intakes dialed in, and pushing up feed to minimize waste.

5. Re-evaluate heifer rations.

Build heifer diets around forages and evaluate other ration ingredients to ensure the ration is cost-effective. As long as they are providing adequate nutrients to meet growth goals, heifer rations do not need to be complicated. To meet growth goals, average daily gain should typically fall between 1.8–2.0 pounds per day. Heifer growth should include both weight gain as well as lean tissue growth. Heifers that gain weight too quickly will accumulate fat tissue that will interfere with future production potential, so there must be a balance between energy and protein supplied. Another opportunity for savings is to avoid overfeeding vitamins and minerals. Vitamins should be fed according to NRC guidelines. Producers should consider utilizing high-quality mineral sources, such as organic trace minerals, which are more bioavailable to animals and can be fed at lower levels while still offering growth, immunity and health benefits for overall long-term performance.

Raising your own replacement heifers gives your dairy operation the opportunity to increase efficiencies and improve savings and profitability. It is important to understand that inputs in your heifer program today will determine the quality and production capabilities of those same animals once they become part of the milking string. Work with trusted professionals to define farm goals and identify opportunities to maximize profitability on your operation. Contact your local Hubbard Feeds representative for further guidance and assistance in monitoring herd progress.


5 must-haves to manage the modern dairy farm

Professionalism and attention to detail across the entire business is vital to ensure good technical performance and profitability on a year-round calving dairy unit.

This is according to Lloyd Holterman, one of the four partners managing Rosy Lane Dairy, Watertown, Wisconsin, where 1,075 Holsteins are milked.  

The team at Rosy Lane opts for three-times-a-day milking as well as a double OV-synch programme, and do not feed a transition diet.

Speaking at the Bridge Hotel, Wetherby, last week (20 March) as part of AHDB Dairy’s spring meetings, Mr Holterman stressed that while these options were negotiable, there were several areas of management that were not.

These are the five things he believes are crucial to running a profitable dairy.

1. Employ great people


  • Find the worker, then find work for them
  • Don’t just hire farmers. You can teach townies your way of doing it and they don’t arrive with bad habits
  • Recruit for the cow, calf or crop and feeding teams. This simplifies recruitment and focuses on certain attributes
  • Promote from within. This gives people the aspiration to improve and keeps staff motivated

Tips/how it works at Rosy Lane

  • Assign an experienced mentor to teach a new staff member
  • Twice in the first week hold a meeting on key health and safety issues and to teach the new recruit about the business
  • Allow time for them to do the job correctly and explain why you do it that way
  • At Rosy Lane, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and tick lists for farm tasks – such as tractor driving and milking – are written in Spanish and English. SOPs are reviewed annually and updated as necessary
  • Talented workers are trained to do other jobs in case of emergencies.

Rosy Lane Dairy farm facts

  • 1,075 Holstein milking herd
  • 950 cows milked three times a day in a double 12 parlour
  • 20 full-time staff and four partners
  • 13,757 litres a cow at 4% fat, 3.2% protein
  • Growing maize and alfalfa on 720ha
  • 1.7 services to conception
  • 37% pregnancy rate
  • 49% of diet is dry matter forage

2. Measure, measure and measure more


  • Invest in technology to make efficiencies
  • Know where you are to determine where you are going (see “Cost and performance”)

Lloyd and Daphne Holterman

Tips/how it works at Rosy Lane

  • Rosy Lane uses one programme in the milking parlour (AFI milk) and a herd management system based on rumination collars (Dairy Comp 305).
  • The parlour system monitors cow production, milking speed, conductivity (mastitis) and activity (pedometer). A 25% saving on milking time was made by grouping cows according to milking speed.
  • A self-loading, self-propelled mixer wagon was bought to cut, mix and feed the total mixed ration. It measures the weight of each ingredient, projects future feed use, and costs less than the four pieces of machinery it replaced, saving a total of £16,500/year.

3. Finance and record-keeping


  • Grow the business incrementally
  • Balance business growth, taxes and leverage

Tips/how it work at Rosy Lane

  • Aim for >60% equity at all times
  • Long-term interest rates are locked in – most at 4.4%
  • Investments go ahead if land and buildings can be paid off in 10 years, cows and machinery in five years and operating loans in one year
  • Sharpen your business acumen with classes in accountancy, seminars on business management (non-agricultural ones)
  • Read financial publications every day (Financial Times, Forbes, Wall Street Journal)
  • Benchmark against similar farms (at Rosy Lane they benchmark against Cornell University dairy peer group twice a year)
  • Use financial consultants who use industry insights and real-world numbers

Cost and performance

  • Labour cost 6.5p/litre
  • Feed cost/litre 13p/litre
  • Net herd replacement cost 0.015p/litre
  • Cost per kg of dry matter 3.5p/kg
  • Lactating feed cost £4.87 a cow a day
  • Milk sold per employee 530,000 litres
  • Feed conversion 1.67kg DM fed for every 1kg of milk produced
  • Cut 2.1p/litre off vet cost (now at 1.1p/litre) over past 10 years, a saving of £147,900/year

4. Genetic excellence


  • Focus on traits that will cut costs – for example, lameness and calving ease
  • Breed for longevity as this allows you to move your cows up a group. There are four groups and four ways of leaving the farm, such as dead, forced cull, voluntary cull or sold as a milker.
  • Breed on profitable traits, index and fertility, don’t worry about type
  • Increase lifetime daily yield – the milk output divided by days from birth to culling

Tips/how it work at Rosy Lane

  • Genomic test all heifers, sort by index and profitability
  • At Rosy Lane, they test all 400-ish heifers annually and cull below $650 net merit
  • Breed for a moderate foot angle and a slightly spread toe to prevent dirt becoming trapped in the hoof
  • Use fertility scores and breed for fertile cows. Failure to get in-calf is the main reason for culling in the US.

5. Biosecurity and disease control


  • Reduce vet costs by minimising problems and doing things in-house
  • Have a close relationship with your vet
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping your farm clean


  • Clean staff on entry to calf barn and do not let visitors in
  • Disinfect all trucks and trailers
  • Monitor bulk tank for Staph aureus and mycoplasma
  • Deliveries to farmhouse office only
  • Test animals coming in from high-health status herds for infectious disease

Calculating net herd replacement cost: the “silent thief”

Net herd replacement cost is based on the cost or value of raising a replacement heifer versus the value of a cull cow.

At Rosy Lane, it costs $1,800 (£1,364), so they can work out their net replacement cost with the following equation:

Number of animals leaving the herd (466) multiplied by the cost of raising a bulling heifer ($1,800), minus cow sales $838,800, divided by milk sold that year 323,661cwt = 0.88 cents/cwt or 0.015p/litre

Because rearing heifers is expensive and cows are most productive in their fourth lactations, it is a financial drain on the business to be running a high forced cull rate and needing heifers.

Rosy Lane manages 4.3 lactations on average, with a 20% cull rate, plus a 3% death rate.

At 20% replacement, the farm would average five lactations a cow.

A first-lactation animal that is culled only yields 10.3 litres/day, while a fourth calver culled produces 23.8 litres/day and a fifth calver yields 25.7 litres/day.

While there are no industry targets for net replacement cost, it is advisable that farms start to work it out and try to increase cow longevity and reduce their net herd replacement cost, explains Mrs Holterman.

She adds: “There is no target for net herd replacement cost. This is a just a relatively new number in benchmarking that US producers have started paying attention to in the past couple of years.

“Knowing your cost and lowering it is what you should aim to do.”

Steve West, knowledge exchange manager for AHDB Dairy, says that reducing the number of forced culls should improve net herd replacement cost.

He adds: “The idea is that higher yielding, year-round calving herds need healthy cows at the fifth lactation.

“If you don’t have them, you have to cull and maintain a younger herd and younger animals have a lower lifetime daily yield.”


First Step in Recovering Flooded Pastures and Hay Ground

Flood waters are receding, but the challenges in recovery for farmers and livestock producers are just beginning. Beth Doran, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach beef specialist, recommends producers get out in their fields as soon as possible.

“Beef producers should assess the damage to pastures and hay ground, then check out possible disaster assistance,” she said.

Doran advised cattlemen to look for three things in their assessment – debris, silt on the forage, and thinned or dead forage plants.

“Debris includes wire, metal and trash that may be injurious to animal health and is usually found along fence lines and in the corners of fields,” Doran said.

According to Brian Lang, extension field agronomist, silt on forage is a big issue because it is unpalatable and could carry microbes affecting animal health.

“Ironically, we need rain to wash off the silt. This early in the season, it is likely more rain will come,” he said. “Otherwise, if the forage was tall enough, chop silted forage back onto the field to encourage clean regrowth. By the time farmers are able to run equipment on a pasture or hay field, visual assessment of forage species survival can be conducted and should be rather obvious.”

Whether the forage plants survived depends on three factors – plant species, time under water and how much of the plant was submerged. Some species, such as Smooth bromegrass, orchardgrass, fescue and ryegrass, should grow through a moderate silt deposit (less than 2 inches) and can withstand several days of flooding without injury. Reed canarygrass can stand longer submersion than other perennial grasses; whereas, Meadow bromegrass cannot tolerate any flooding.

Time under water affects the amount of oxygen available to the plant and is related to temperature, Lang said. Fortunately, during spring flooding, cooler temperatures allow plants to survive longer under water. Flash flooding – as opposed to standing water – increases survivability because the plants experience less oxygen depletion in moving water than still water conditions. Also, plants with more leaves above water are more likely to survive.

The USDA Farm Service Agency administers the Emergency Conservation Program, which provides funding and technical assistance for farmers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters. Pastureland and hay ground are considered eligible land under ECP. Eligible practices pertaining to pastures and hay fields include debris removal (cleanup of woody material, sand, rock and trash on pastureland and hay fields) and restoring fences (livestock cross fences, boundary fences, and livestock gates.)

Producers with pasture damage or hay field damage are encouraged to contact their local Farm Service Agency Office to report the damage and determine if they are eligible for assistance. If the requirements are met, a formal application will need to be completed.


Source: IASU – Extension

Registered Holstein® Breeders Recognized with Progressive Genetics Herd Award

Holstein Association USA is excited to honor herds with the 2018 Progressive Genetics HerdSM award. Given annually, the award is presented to Registered Holstein® herds with high genetic values, measured by average CTPI.

The Progressive Genetics Herd (PGH) recognition was first given in 1991. The PGH award honors herds with high genetic value, based on average TPI® levels, which lead toward continued breed progress.

To qualify for the PGH award, herds must participate in the TriStarSM production records program at the Premier or Deluxe levels, and participate in the Holstein type classification program. Herds must have at least 20 cows of 87% RHA or higher.

All eligible herds are automatically evaluated annually and the PGH recognition is awarded to the 500 herds with the highest average TPI for females in the herd, both young and mature.

The TPI average range for the top 500 herds in 2018 was 2035 to 2537. The highest average TPI herd in this year’s PGH honoree group was David, Frank Paul & Patrick Bauer of Sandy-Valley Holsteins in Wisconsin, with an average TPI of 2537.

Forty-two herds received the award for the first time this year: Arizona Dairy Co., Ariz.; Donald G. Averill, Jr., Ore.; Boadwine Farms, Inc., S.D.; BWC Weststeyn Dairy LP, Calif.; James Carvalho, Calif.; Ted J. Domeyer, Iowa; Donley Farms, Inc., Idaho; Dutch Dairy LLC, Wis.; Faria Dairy, Inc., Calif.; Fern-Oak Farms, Calif.; Finger Family Farm LLC, Wis.; John W., Jr. & Angie George, Pa.; Grafton County Farm, N.H.; Hemsteads Holsteins, Ohio; Leslie Shirk High, Iowa; Shawn Hollermann, Minn.; Hulstein Brothers, Inc., Iowa; Matthew Ryan Johnson, N.C.; William D III & Benjamin Casey Jones, Pa.; George Kasbergen, Ill.; Ketchum Farms, Minn.; Kaleb, Cole & Carter Kruse, Iowa; Jeremiah Lungwitz, Colo.; Maple Grove Dairy Inc., Wis.; Mapltwin Farms LLC, Wis.; Glendon Martin, Pa.; Sheldon Martin, Wis.; Kenneth M. & Christine A. McBroom, Mich.; Jeremy Wilson McCain, N.C.; McCollum Farm Partnership, N.Y.; Richard & Elaine Pausma, Iowa; Quantum Dairy, LLC, Wis.; Rocking S Dairy, Calif.; So-Fine Bovines LLC, Wis.; South Dakota State University, S.D.; Southeast Research Station, La.; Sweet-Haven Holsteins, Calif.; Codey Waller, Iowa; Jeff & Melinda Walz, Iowa; Christopher C. Weber, Wis.; Justin R. Wiebe, Iowa; and Lamar H. Zimmerman, Pa.

Twenty-two herds have received PGH honors all 28 years the award has been given:Bomaz, Inc., Wis.; R. Paul Buhr, Jr., Wis.; De Su Holsteins LLC, Iowa; End Road Farm, Mich.; Brian & Wendy Fust, Wis.; Jaloda Farms, Ohio; Randy W. Kortus, Wash.; Roger & David Latuch, Pa.; Lirr Farm, Wis.; Nordic-Haven Holsteins, Iowa; Gaylon, Gary & Steve Obert, Ill.; Mark P. Paul, Wis.; Regancrest Holsteins, LLC, Iowa; Darrell Richard, Ind.; Alfred & Mark Schmitt, Minn.; Scott Seward, Wis.; Stelling Farms, Inc., Minn.; Twin-B-Dairy LLC, Wis.; Veazland Farms, Maine; Walhowdon Farm, Inc., N.H.; Wardin Bros., Mich.; and Welcome Stock Farm, LLC, N.Y.

View the complete list of 2018 Progressive Genetics Herd Award honorees at

Holstein Association USA, Inc.,, provides products and services to dairy producers to enhance genetics and improve profitability–ranging from registry processing to identification programs to consulting services.

The Association, headquartered in Brattleboro, Vt., maintains the records for Registered Holsteins® and represents approximately 30,000 members throughout the United States.


Irish farmers paying ‘crazy’ prices for dairy stock

Farmers are paying up to €1,800/hd for freshly-calved dairy replacements as milk suppliers look to continue to grow cow numbers.

Brisk demand for good quality dairy stock has seen exceptional prices paid over the last month for calved heifers and young cows, as well as for bulling heifers.

Prices for calved heifers range from €1,300 to €1,800/hd, with EBI and genetics dictating the sale values.

Barney O’Connell of Listowel Mart described the current market for dairy stock as “crazy”.

He said the bulk of the calved heifers at last week’s sale sold from €1,400 to €1,700/hd, but a top price of €1,790 was paid.

“The prices depended on the heifers, and their figures for EBI and fat and protein, and milk yield. Different people have different tastes,” Mr O’Connell explained.

It was a similar story in Corrin Mart where mart manager Sean Leahy said quality replacement stock were “very dear” and prices ranged from €1,400-1,800/hd for first-calvers, second calvers and third-calvers.

Mature cows ranged in price from €800 to €1,300 depending on their age, Mr Leahy added.


Source: The World News

Big Differences in New York Dairy Farm Performance

The second Preliminary Progress of the Farm DFBS Report has been released. As dairy businesses across the state continue to analyze their financial and business performance utilizing the Dairy Farm Business Summary and Analysis Program, updated progress of the farm reports are provided to review the changes that have occurred from 2017 to 2018.

Along with how things changed from 2017, the range across selected factors for 2018 is reported in a business chart format, which reports the averages by 20 percent increments for each category summarized. With 73 farms included in this report, along with the average of all farms, the report includes preliminary data for farms less than and greater than 700 cows.

Highlighted ranges of performance from the 2nd preliminary report, for the average of all farms:

  Bottom 20%  Top
Milk per Cow 19,823    28,247
Milk Sold Per Worker Equivalent  712,321  1,607,038
Feed & Crop Input Expenses per Cwt.   $6.19  $8.60
Operating Costs to Produce Milk  $13.41   $18.01
Total Costs to Produce Milk  $17.49  $25.11
% Return on All Capital, w/o Appreciation  -6.8%   4.1%


If you are interested in analyzing your business performance, please contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office to inquire about what resources are available to assist in this effort.

Source: Pro-Dairy

How Is Your Milking Efficiency?

Part 1

In order to reduce mastitis and maintain milk quality, producers need to maintain milking equipment in good working condition. Adequate effective reserve, consistent pulsation, replacement of liners, and proper system vacuum levels are important factors that lead to effective milking of cows. However, milking efficiency should be considered from two other perspectives, the amount of time the milking cluster is attached to the udder (unit on time) and the percent of unit on time that milk is flowing at or near maximum. When milk isn’t flowing while the unit is attached, it is not only inefficient, but more importantly, damages the teat tissue, which may increase the risk of mastitis and decrease milk yield.

A large majority of dairy farms have their milking equipment evaluated and maintained on a routine basis. Although proper equipment function is necessary for milking efficiency, it does not necessarily guarantee it. Two management areas that could lead to poor milking efficiency are milking routines that don’t achieve consistent milk letdown and overmilking. Either one of these problems can leave cows ‘high and dry’ for a period of time, and expose teats to high vacuum levels. In this article, we’ll discuss the first of these issues, poor milk let down or what is commonly called bi-modal milking.

During stimulation of teats before milking, nerves carry an “electric signal” to the brain. On receiving the signal, the brain then releases oxytocin into the blood and then to the udder. It takes about 1 to 2 minutes for oxytocin levels to increase in blood to optimally contract muscle cells that surround the milk ducts, which then squeeze the milk down towards the teats. The two important points about this oxytocin release are enough stimulation (at least 10 seconds of actual physical touching) of the teats and the duration of the ‘lag time’, that is, the time interval between when teats are first stimulated until the cluster is attached. Unfortunately, with increasing herd size, the number of cows that can be milked through the parlor per hour, or parlor turnover rate, is often identified as one of the choke points of herd capacity. Thus, parlor efficiency is emphasized at the expense of milking efficiency.
How would you know if this is happening in your herd? One method is to measure milk flow with digital vacuum recorders (VaDia®, Biocontrol NA). VaDia units record vacuum in the mouthpiece chamber (at the opening of the liner) and in the cluster. VaDia units don’t measure milk flow directly, but give us a qualitative snapshot on milk flow. A simple way to interpret VaDia results relative to milk flow is:

High Milk Flow = Low vacuum in the liner or cluster
Low Milk Flow = High vacuum in the liner or cluster.

VaDia units can measure vacuum levels at four different places on the cluster simultaneously. We often measure vacuum in the mouthpiece of a front and rear liner, near the cluster and in a short pulsation tube.

In the example below, Cow 1 was ready to milk; the vacuum in the liner mouthpiece near the teat (red and blue lines) dropped quickly (less than 10 seconds after the unit was attached) and remained low until each teat was finished milking (the front quarter [blue line], finished before the rear quarter [red line]).

What about Cow 2? Vacuum in the liner mouthpiece and cluster (green line) decreased, but then increased to near maximum levels, and finally decreased again. This cow was not ready to milk, milk flow was low for more than a minute after the milking unit was attached, signifying bimodal milk letdown.

So how does bimodal milking relate to milking efficiency? For cow 1, milk was flowing for about 4 minutes and 30 seconds of the total unit on time of 4 minutes and 45 seconds. Thus, the efficiency of this milking was 95%. For cow 2, milk was flowing for about 2 minutes of the total 3 minutes and 15 seconds the unit was attached, or a milking efficiency of about 60%. Why does this matter?

Recent research from Wisconsin found that when teats are subjected to high vacuum (as in the case for cow 2) blood is congested within the teat, the diameter of the teat canal decreases, which then decreases milk flow (Penry et al., 2018). This can be detrimental to the heath of the teat tissue and possibly impair both immune defenses of the teat as well as milk yield. In the case of cow 2, in order for all of her milk to be harvested during the milking, she would have had to compensate with a higher milk flow rate in a shorter duration of time, despite the anatomical changes to her teat during high vacuum, which is unlikely.

A proper premilking routine should result in at least 90% of cows with immediate milk let down after cluster attachment, and milk should be flowing 95% of the time while the cluster is attached. In a subsequent article, we will discuss the other problem that leads to poor milking efficiency, overmilking. For more information on the use of VaDia recorders to describe milk flow visit the Quality Milk Alliance article site: Let the Cows Score the Milking Protocols

Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed milking efficiency, defined as the percent of unit on-time (cluster attached) that milk is flowing near maximum. For example, if a milking unit is attached for 5 minutes to a cow during milking, and strong milk flow occurs for 4 minutes and 45 seconds, her milking efficiency is 95% (285/300 seconds). When milk isn’t flowing while the unit is attached, it is not only inefficient, but more importantly, can damage teat tissue, and thus may increase the risk of mastitis and decrease milk yield.

As stated in the Part 1, most dairy farms evaluate and maintain their milking equipment on a routine basis. Although proper equipment function is necessary for milking efficiency, it does not necessarily guarantee it. Two management areas that lead to poor milking efficiency are milking routines that don’t achieve consistent milk letdown and overmilking. Either one of these problems can leave cows ‘high and dry’ for a period of time, and expose teats to high vacuum levels. In this article, we’ll discuss overmilking, which is an problem that occurs at the end of milking.

After a milking is completed, the vacuum should be turned off and cluster removed from the cow as soon as possible. Removal of the units is usually done by automatic detachers (take-offs) that rely on sensors that record milk flow between the cluster and milk pipeline. When milk flow remains at a low level (about 0.5 lbs/minute) for a few seconds, the vacuum shuts off and the cluster is detached from the cow. However, if herds lack detachers, or if operators intervene in deciding when a cow is done milking, units may be removed manually. Generally, it is undesirable to have units attached for more than 15 seconds after milking completion and units that are attached for more than 30 seconds after milking are considered to be overmilking.

How do you recognize overmilking? A simple way is to hand strip the udder after the unit is detached. A cup of milk should be easily attained without overworking the teats. As mentioned in Part 1, milk flow can also be estimated with digital vacuum recorders (VaDia®, Biocontrol NA). A simple rule for interpreting VaDia results relative to milk flow is:
High Milk Flow = Low vacuum in the liner or cluster
Low Milk Flow = High vacuum in the liner or cluster.

VaDia units can measure vacuum levels at four different places on the cluster simultaneously. We often measure vacuum in the mouthpiece of a front and rear liner, near the cluster and in a short pulsation tube.

In the example below, Cow 1 was ready to milk; the vacuum in the liner mouthpiece near the teat (red and blue lines) dropped quickly (less than 10 seconds after the unit was attached) and remained low until each teat was finished milking (the front quarter [blue line], finished before the rear quarter [red line]). At the end of milking, although the front quarter was done milking for nearly two minutes before unit take-off, the rear quarter continued to milk until about 15 seconds before unit take-off and thus was not overmilked. Cluster vacuum (green line) continued to fluctuate in a range of about 2 inches of mercury (inHg) during this time, suggesting milk flow for the cow was continuous.

What about Cow 2? Milk flow started soon after cluster attachment, but vacuum in both the front and rear quarters increased to near maximum and plateaued 2 minutes before unit take-off. Also, the cluster vacuum (green line) increased to maximum vacuum during this time with little variation, which suggests little or no milk flow. This cow was overmilked.

So how does overmilking milking effect milking efficiency? For cow 1, milk was flowing for about 4 minutes and 30 seconds of the total unit on time of 4 minutes and 45 seconds, or a milking efficiency of about 95%. For cow 2, milk was flowing for about 4 minutes and 30 seconds of the total milking time of 7 minutes and 30 seconds, or a milking efficiency of about 60%. Why does this matter?

Unnecessary high vacuum is never good for teat health. Additionally, it is very common for overmilked cows to have extended unit on-times. This reduces cow throughput in the parlor and also extends the length of time that is needed to milk a herd. Also, slower parlor efficiency requires cows to stand in the holding pen and parlor for longer periods of time, reducing the time they spend resting and eating. Anecdotally, by reducing overmilking and decreasing unit on time by just a couple of minutes per cow, some herds have reported decreasing the duration of a milking shift by at least 45 minutes, or decreasing the total milking time by about two hours per day for a three time a day milking herd.

The most common causes of overmilking are lack of automatic detachers, automatic detachers that are not operating properly, or the tendency to have milking operators place the detach mode to manual. This often occurs when operators are frustrated with detachers that aren’t functioning well, or the mistaken belief that cows need to be milked out dry. Cow 3 (below) is a VaDia plot of overmilking that occurred from re-attaching the cluster after the cow was done milking, note the drop in all vacuum lines while the unit was off the cow.

Herds that have shorter duration of milking shifts are more likely to have increased overmilking as opposed to herds that are using their facilities for the maximum hours each day. For more information on VaDia analysis, or to read the previous articles in this series, please go to the following links: Let The Cows Score The Milking Protocols

Part 3

n Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we defined milking efficiency as the percent of unit on-time (cluster attached) that milk is flowing near maximum. For example, if a milking unit is attached to a cow for 5 minutes during milking, and strong milk flow occurs for 4 minutes and 45 seconds, her milking efficiency is 95% (285/300 seconds). When milk isn’t flowing while the unit is attached, it is not only inefficient, but more importantly, it can lead to high vacuum on the teat, which damages teat tissue, and thus increases the risk of mastitis and decreases milk yield.

Also in the previous articles, we described the two major management problems that lead to poor milking efficiency  ̶  milking routines that resulted in delayed milk letdown (bimodal milk letdown) and overmilking. Either one of these problems can leave cows ‘high and dry’ for a period of time, and expose teats to high vacuum levels.  In this article, we’ll discuss herd goals for milking efficiency to help increase awareness of this concept for dairy producers and managers.

It is nearly impossible for a cow to be in full milk flow for 100 % of the time that the cluster is attached. Often, there is a slight delay in milk flow after unit attachment. Depending on the settings for terminal flow and delay of the automatic cluster removers (automatic take-offs), the units will remain attached for brief periods of low milk flow at the end of milking. Also, milk let down will vary between cows in a herd, despite consistent milking protocols. Thus, fresh cows, nervous heifers, or cows in estrus, may deviate from the herd average. Nonetheless, if sound milking preparation is combined with timely cluster removal, the vast majority of cows will be exposed to only brief periods of high mouth piece chamber vacuum (the vacuum that “surrounds” the teat) during milking. 

The figure below displays the milking efficiency for 57 herds milking from 65 to over 3,000 cows in a variety of milking systems, although no robotic milking systems were evaluated. The average milking efficiency across all herds was about 78%, that is, cows in a typical herd are in high milk flow for only 78% of the time that the cluster is attached. The bottom 25% of herds had a milking efficiency of 72% or less, the top 25% of herds 86% or better. Top herds (top 10%) had a milking efficiency of nearly 90% or better. Thus, these top herds serve as indicators of what to expect when timely and consistent milk letdown and cluster removal at the end of milking are practiced.

Milking efficiency is more than a score for your herd. More importantly, it can help draw attention to possible opportunities to improve teat health, mastitis control and milk production. As pointed out in earlier articles, the exposure of cows to bimodal milk let down and overmilking varies between herds. If milking efficiency is low (<80%), this suggests that milking practices, both before and at the end of milking, as well as equipment function, should be reviewed and evaluated. You don’t need VaDia recorders or other milking analysis equipment to get a ‘thumbnail sketch’ of possible problems in milking dynamics. For example, you can simply watch milk flow into the cluster after attachment, or look at teats for rings or congestion (discoloration) after the units come off. This is not unlike checking for the completeness of covering teats with a germicide after milking.

Top herds achieve the ideal goal of machine milking  ̶  the cluster is attached only while while milk is flowing, which optimizes teat and udder health and milk harvest. What are your milking goals?

Don’t have a cow ­use wood or rubber blocks to aid your dairy farm

It’s Not Worth Crying Over Spilled Milk – Determine Which Hoof Block Aids Your Dairy Farm

Just as your doctor recommends elevating your foot after injury, dairy farmers use hoof blocks to fight lameness. Rubber and wood hoof blocks help lift a cow claw off the ground after a foot-related injury.

Got Blocks?

Blocking is a helpful treatment option that utilizes hoof blocks when claws are over-trimmed and for any injured claw. Generally, hoof care professionals place wood or rubber blocks on a healthy claw to elevate and restrict the affected claw so that it heals. Blocking helps make cows more comfortable and allows them to recover quickly, impacting milk production.

Before hitting the woodwork, it’s important for dairy farmers to work with their hoof trimmers to consider the benefits of both blocking options for the cows they treat.

The Hard Facts About Wood Blocks

When treating lame cattle, wood blocks provide protection and comfort at a lower cost. Wood reacts well to bonding adhesives due to its rough surface and can last anywhere from three-to-five weeks.

Typically, wood blocks are less expensive than rubber blocks, allowing dairy farmers to save resources for other parts of their dairy operation. Wood blocks, made from either pine or hardwood, eventually fall off claws naturally, eliminating the need for hoof trimmers to go back to each cow to remove them.

Ideal for minor injuries, a wood block will wear itself down during the healing process and require little to no extra maintenance. However, wood blocks lack traction and durability putting cows at a higher risk of further injury and distress. Wood also tends to wear unevenly, which could disrupt an animal’s walk or weight distribution, resulting in continued lameness.

The Soft-Spoken Truth About Rubber Blocks

When utilizing blocking techniques, rubber blocks provide traction and comfort for wet and slippery surfaces. Rubber blocks, made out of a durable compound with a unique surface pattern, deliver the extra cushion needed for a cow to feel at ease during the healing process.

Typically rubber blocks are more durable than wood blocks, and on average, rubber blocks stay adhered on claws for more than six weeks after application. However, rubber blocks usually require a hoof care professional to remove them once an injury heals.

This type of block comes in a variety of heights and sizes to support specific claw injuries. Like a flat shoe, a thin rubber block allows a minor-injured cow to move in a mundane manner as the claw is lower to the ground. Whereas, like a high-heel, a thicker rubber block limits feet flow for more severe injuries. Rubber blocks can be easily trimmed and manipulated to adjust the course of a cow’s healing process.

Consider these factors when deciding what type of block to use in the fight against lameness. Talk to your hoof care professional about the importance of blocking, and the best options for your dairy environment. For more information about blocking solutions for your dairy farm, visit


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