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The Top 12 Editor’s Choice Articles Of 2020


The Rear View Mirror Says Dairy Had to Stop. Detour. Slow Down. Delay & Follow the Science

 “A YEAR OF BROKEN RECORDS”

In January 2020 I remember thinking that, in order to create catchy headlines, the two-word phrase 2020 vision was going to become annoyingly overused. In fact, the most repetitive headlines had to do with data. In the dairy industry, which has been built on records, the daily deadly reports were hard to hear and they continue to be impossible to ignore. As data collectors, we at The Bullvine were most fortunate that, although distanced from meeting face to face, our readers still proactively shared the information that the dairy industry felt was most important.  Every industry and every business, whether small or large, has had to learn ways to navigate through a pandemic. We thank you for these top ten 2020 road signs of the times.

#1 Should You Share Your Data?

When faced with a proposal for sharing, we worry about what we will get out of it and what the cost will be. It is easy to get tunnel vision and begin to fight against others in our industry.  Dairy grows at the speed of cash but we can’t make money without using data.  When a farm’s data is not available for others, everyone loses. Collaboration using all data perspectives will inspire innovation, insights and capabilities that a single dairy cannot solve by itself. It isn’t about who owns the data but who uses the data for new implementation.  Sometimes we want confirmation that we are right. Sometimes we need insights about where we could be better.  (Read more: Should You Share Your Data?)

#2 Heat Busters. Who You Gonna Call? 

One of the lessons that will long outlast 2020 is the warning, “When facing a crisis, it is vital to take fast and effective action.” Multiple forces act on dairy cattle to send their body temperatures beyond normal levels. Managing heat stress is a high priority. The goal is to make it possible for each cow to meet her full potential for milk yield and fertility, without damaging heat stress. More research is needed to identify improved comprehensive cow-side measurements that can indicate real-time responses to elevated ambient temperatures. With this knowledge, effective heat abatement management decisions can be acted upon in the right way, right now!  Here is where cow sense, common sense and scientific research must combine for success. (Read more: “HEAT BUSTERS. Who You Gonna Call?”)

#3 Break the Mold – Shape Your Future Through Sire Selection                            

The economic crisis triggered by the pandemic did not necessarily affect the entire dairy industry equally. For some it marked a heartbreaking end of a long family journey. Others had to reconsider every aspect of the dairy business, including breeding models. The old way was characterized by dairy breeders using a total merit index as their primary tool and following a “balanced” breeding program. Balanced because the emphasis placed on the traits included in the index are proportional to the historic economic importance of the trait or balanced because the relative equal emphasis is placed on conformation and production traits with a lesser emphasis on auxiliary traits. This article addressed how a modern strategy might pivot toward new breeding realities It is time to break the mold. (Read more: Break the Mold – Shape Your Future Through Sire Selection)

 #4 To Niche or Not to Niche? Big Questions Face Dairy Markets

It’s impossible to predict what the impacts of Covid-19 on dairying will look like three, six or twelve months from now. One thing, however, will be certain. Dairy businesses that decide to take the leap and prioritize what the dairy consumer wants and needs, will be the ones that come out on top. In the past, the total volume pumped from the milk tank was the priority.

Continuing to chase volumes means accepting the risk that an outside force could make some dairy operations irrelevant.  Uncontrollable forces such as a global pandemic, weather disasters, economic upheaval and politics will become the endgame for some.  Instead, what is needed is dairy decision making based on market consumption. Milk producers must then prioritize products that recognize the end customer.  Milk has huge potential.  It is up to dairy owners and mangers to create partnerships, collaboration and community connections that will point the way to dairy sustainability.  (Read more: To Niche or Not to Niche? Big Questions Face Dairy Markets) 

#5 Tomorrow’s Dairy Cattle Genetic Evaluations Must Consider Environments 

Dairy cattle genetics in North America has enjoyed exponential acceptance worldwide. It has been an exciting journey which, ironically, has contributed to creating worldwide competition.  This front-line forward motion can only be maintained if we keep developing the science. If breeders and organizations persist in using one milking or one day’s observations per month to calculate milk yields and ignoring data from in-barn monitoring systems, our dairy industry will fall behind.  As well, animal performance beyond milk cows cannot remain non-existent in our central data bases. It is time for breeders and their representatives on committees and boards to expand, collect and use more on-farm data. There can never be too many known and implemented dairy genetic facts.  (Read more: Tomorrow’s Dairy Cattle Genetic Evaluations Must Consider Environments)

#6 You Can Strengthen Your Dairy Immune Status

The dairy journey through 2020 experienced a parallel reality with the human journey. This article homed in on “Five signs that your herd Immunity is under attack.” and included “8 Steps to Strengthen Dairy Immune Response.” Insights and opportunities are always present when strengthening immune systems. As happens on the human side, it is important to watch out for headline scare tactics. Vaccines for animal diseases are nothing new thanks to Louis Pasteur in 1879. What is new are trends suggesting refusal of the use of vaccines. Allowing vaccine preventable disease to decimate food animals would not only be a severe hit to the economy, it would threaten food security all around the world wherever these animals are a source of protein. (Read more: You CAN Strengthen Your Dairy Herd Immune Status – Healthier Herd. More Milk. Healthier Herd. More Profit.)

#7 STOP WASTING TIME!! Choose Sires that Save on Labor

There are good arguments for driving forward in the dairy industry by using the same genetic science that produced superior production and conformation in our dairy herds.  This article asks “Is it time to address how the genetic merit of our animals affects the cost of labor on the farms of tomorrow?” With more animals per employee and the focus moving to on farm efficiency, it is imperative that milk producers choose and use sires that are significant breed improvers for labour-saving traits. More time will be available to attend to other important on-farm herd functions – fresh cow temperature checking, extra health checks of calves, increased herd checking, more time for report analysis, more time for staff training. (Read more: STOP WASTING TIME! Choose Sires that Save on Labor)

#8 Terri Packard: When you build it..they do come

If there is anything hard times have taught passionate dairy people, it is that right next to the cows, people are the most important success factor. This article focuses on Terri Packard and opens by saying, “Although she isn’t royal in the strictest sense, there’s no doubt her iron-clad reputation makes her one of the industry’s blue bloods – and a shining example when it comes to talent, integrity, intelligence and grace under pressure.” When we look back and try to identify what kept the dairy industry compelling amid the uproar of changing times, people like Terri Packard and husband Ernie Kueffner will stand tall. “Every industry needs leaders” and Terri recognizes that the dairy industry needs everyone on that team making sure that great cows get great care every day. Ernie adds, “To get to the top requires sacrifice.” This wonderful story of beloved cows and, most importantly, dedicated people, has all the elements to inspire generations. (Read more: Terri Packard: When you build it…they do come)

#9 Watch Out – Breed Societies are on a Course to Crash and Burn

It is quite true that there are occasions when we are so close to what is happening that we can’t really see mistakes even as they are happening. This article encouraged dairy associations to remove the blinders before it is too late. To be relevant, decision makers for breed societies must value the skill of listening to what members are saying. Having earned a chair at the table, they must then bring those real concerns to the determination of the value provided. It isn’t enough to say that we are all part of the journey.  Associations must align priorities, services, data and science and then commit to being drivers of the necessary changes. The signs will either be followed or associations will come to a full stop. (Read more: Watch Out – Breed Societies are on a Course to Crash and Burn) 

#10 & 11 “UP ON THE FARM.  DOWN ON OURSELVES”

One lesson does not fit every dairy.  There are kids, adults, bosses, employees and services providers.  All ages.  Many stages. A determined dairy detective would be able to find silver linings among the impacts of Covid-19 on their dairy.  Such was the intention behind the article, “WAYS FOR KIDS TO BE UP-ON-THE-FARM DURING CORONAVIRUS.” At the other end of this road we travelled, we find the losses incurred when mental health issues are ignored. This was raised in “Dairy Farmers – Break Down the Stigma Around Suicide.” This is a dairy business issue but it goes beyond that too. The goal is to help yourself and others to come out on the other side with a more constructive, productive and effective way to face mental pain.  (Read more: Ways For Kids To Be Up-On-The-Farm During Coronavirus) 

#12 WORLD DAIRY EXPO – The Show Must Go On

And so we come to what many of us recognized as the main casualty on the Pandemic Road. Cancelled dairy shows were frequently announced.  Depending where you lived, efforts were made with varying degrees of success to adjust to the rules and continue this iconic part of the dairy industry experience.  On behalf of The Bullvine, its readers and the dairy industry, our founder Andrew Hunt did not shy away from analysis and a call to action. “We have the opportunity to re-invent the industry so that it is greater than it ever was before.” He concluded, “The show side of the dairy industry was in trouble before Cofid-19 hit.  The question now is will Covid-19 be the nail in the coffin or the catalyst for change that revises the show industry?” (Read more: World Dairy Expo – The Show Must Go On)

THE BULLVINE 2020 BOTTOM LINE

We won’t find our way through 2021 by blindly fixating on the roads taken in 2020. The future needs us to heed what we have learned and to work every day to make the conditions, cows and dairy teams the best they can be.  At The Bullvine we look forward with gratitude and appreciation to each one of you and wish you every success as we commit to proudly sharing your passion, as we continue this amazing journey together in 2021.


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