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ED ITION U .S. V O LU M E 3 N O 1 FE BR UARY 2011

IN THIS ISSUE

R E PR OD U C T IO N

H O O F C A RE

M A N U RE M A NAGEMENT

Managing synchronization on dairy heifers

How cows’ nutrition impacts hoof health

Wisconsin dairy producers install manure digester

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C ONTENTS

FEATURES

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Cow talk CRV breeding information Trouw Nutrition News Events and contacts HERD REPORTS

10 Kraft Dairy farms, Colorado 24 Hoenhorst farms, Canada BREEDING

6 Reproduction 18 Liftime production milestones MANAGEMENT

14 Manure digesters in Wisconsin 16 Hay quality C O W H E A LT H

29 Vet practice: milk quality

Gerrit Wensink: “The behavior of the cows is much more relaxed” 24

Karen Bohnert The power of networking

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strongly believe in the power of networking. Getting to know your neighbors, attending dairy conferences and reading literature that’s packed with resourceful information and inspiring stories will hopefully educate and motivate you; allowing you to better yourself and your dairy business. I hope Cow Management is part of your network source that does just that. This issue of Cow Management is packed with stories and filled with information that will hopefully get your mind moving. On page 10, you’ll be introduced to the Kraft family, whose ability to raise quality heifers and build employees on their elite 5,000 cow dairies in northeast Colorado aids to their overall success. Chris and Mary Kraft share their successful tactics with us – and with those attending the Western Large Herd Dairy Conference in Reno, Nevada, next month. Hoof care is a key ingredient in achieving cow comfort and on page 26,

readers can learn about what feedstuffs aid and obstruct hoof care quality in our series on hoof health. Producers everywhere are working hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for fluid milk by 25 percent by the year 2020. On page 14, we learn how a group of dairy producers in central Wisconsin were able to work together to become more environmentally sustainable by installing a first of its kind, community manure digester. Perhaps one way Cow Management can stand out from other dairy literature that fills your mailbox is by reporting to you about how dairy farms in other parts of the world are operated and managed. On page 20, read how eastern European dairies are managing since the accession to the EU. Like many of you, we are more than ready to welcome spring. While winter is still here, I encourage you all to network with key players in the dairy industry. I hope our magazine is a part of your team.

Series Hoof health Feeding

Breeding Synchronization

International Eastern Europe

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6

20

Monitor forage quality and feeding management to optimize hoof health.

Manage heifers for good reproductive performance and return on investment.

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In Poland the number of dairy farms has dropped by over a third in four years.

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C O W

TA L K

Rising exports

Plan to fork out more cash for fertilizer

U.S. dairy-product exports rose 40 percent during the first 10 months of 2010

U.S. dairy-product exports rose 40 percent to 1.325 million metric tons during the first 10 months of 2010 from a year earlier, USDA data show. Rising demand from Asia has helped to boost U.S. exports. Shipments may increase after New Zealand, the world’s biggest dairy-product exporter, declared medium-level droughts in several areas, including Waikato, the biggest milkproducing region. Rabobank Groep NV said it expects “a significant shift in market fundamentals” that will boost U.S.

exports again in 2011. “After almost two years of uninterrupted growth, exportable supply is expected to fall below previous-year levels in early 2011,” because of New Zealand’s drought, Rabobank said in a report this week. “Assuming a re-acceleration in the world economy, and strong ongoing purchases from the world market from China and Russia in particular, this is set to exert upward pressure on international dairy commodity prices in coming months,” Rabobank said.

Get your checkbook out and plan to write a bigger check in 2011 if you will be buying any fertilizer, warns Stu Ellis, editor of the farm gate blog. Various nutrients are either domestic or global commodities, and both will be going up in price due to higher production costs, partly from supply shortages, and partly because of greater global demand due to more crops being produced. To balance your budget, ensure that you have a good working knowledge of your fertility needs, set realistic production goals and comparison shop. Also, use the theory of getting a return on your fertilizer investment, Ellis suggests. For tools to help make your crop program click onto www.farmgate.illinois.edu/

U.S. milk output rises; herd expansion spurs U.S. milk production climbed 2.7 percent in November spurring dairy farmers to increase herds and boost per-cow output, according to the Department of Agriculture (USDA). Production climbed to 15.47 billion pounds in November 2009. The dairy herd rose 0.3 percent to 9.121 million head from a year earlier, while the average cow produced 1,696 pounds of milk during the month, up 2.3 percent. “Cows numbers are up,” said Jerry Dryer, an industry consultant and editor of Dairy & Food Market Analyst in Delray Beach, Florida. “Rising feed costs have producers focused on producing more milk per cow,” said

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Dryer, adding that productivity growth is slowing. Class III milk futures reached a two-year high at $16.67 per 100 pounds on Oct. 1 as domestic dairyproduct demand rose and exports of butter and powdered milk increased.

Milk sank to a six-year low of $9.24 in February 2009, after production reached a record high in 2008. To halt losses, dairy farmers sends more animals to beef plants in 2009. Cow numbers have risen 0.4 percent this year.

Production climbed to 15.47 billion pounds from 15.07 billion in November 2009

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Five tips to improve milk quality With tightened European Union export requirements on the way for dairy products, 2011 is a great time to set your sights on milk quality resolutions that can help you capture greater return from your milking herd. “There is always room for improvement when it comes to milk quality, and small steps taken today can reap rewards tomorrow through increased production, higher premiums and reduced labor and treatment costs,� says Dr. Bradley Mills, DVM, senior veterinarian, Pfizer Animal Health Dairy Veterinary Operations. Dr. Mills offers these milk quality resolutions to help advance your mastitis management programs and produce higher-quality milk. 1. Keep better culture records: When mastitis problems are detected, knowing the pathogens can make a big difference in treatment success. Culturing programs and record keeping can uncover the root of mastitis problems. 2. Strive for complete cure: Work with your veterinarian to base treatment protocols on the cow’s treatment history; length of the infection; and cow age, health status and lactation stage. Often, extended antibiotic therapy can help achieve a true cure, in which the bacteria are no longer present in the udder. Be sure the

determined treatment and protocol are carried out to improve the chance of a complete cure. One important resolution should be to fight the tendency to switch products midtreatment and not finish the full treatment protocol. 3. P  ay more attention to your dry cows: Add a comprehensive dry cow program to your milk quality resolutions. The first line of defense for dry cow health is treating subclinical mastitis infections that are present going into the dry period. Next, utilize a nonantibiotic teat sealant to provide a barrier against bacteria and help prevent new infections. Prevention steps also include vaccinating for coliform mastitis. By using a vaccine, you can decrease the incidence of clinical coliform mastitis and lessen the severity of cases that do occur. 4. I ncrease parlor routine consistency: A consistent milking routine is key to producing high-quality milk and improving udder health. Resolve to work collaboratively with employees to establish and implement parlor procedures that help increase consistency. 5. W  ork more closely with your veterinarian: A veterinarian is your greatest resource when it comes to developing, implementing and

Dry cows need extra attention

monitoring a mastitis management program. Try consulting with your veterinarian more frequently to gain better outcomes for treatment decisions, parlor routines, milk culture records and management practices. Visit www.milkqualityfocus.com for more milk quality ideas

Elanco launches milk strip test in U.S. Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY), announces the addition of Keto-Test to its current portfolio of productivity products for dairy producers. Keto-Test is a colorchanging test strip for milk that indicates the presence of ketones in the milk of dairy cows. Though commercially available in other countries, this will be the first U.S. introduction of the product. Keto-Test is designed to provide dairy producers an easy-to-use and costeffective alternative for ketosis-

screening to help determine if further investigation is warranted. Keto-Test can be used as a simple alternative on any cow that would be considered for a urine ketosis test. An estimated 15 percent of cows in U.S. dairy herds have elevated ketones during the first 60 days of lactation when they are at highest risk due to increasing metabolic demands brought on by lactation1. Elevated ketone levels have been associated with increased incidence of displaced abomasums, lost milk

production, impaired reproductive performance, and an increased risk for early culling. Ketosis frequently goes undetected and is commonly referred to as subclinical ketosis. Keto-test is a simple, quick, non-invasive test that requires no special equipment or training and can be easily performed in the parlor when cows are handled for milking. Keto-Test will be available throughout the U.S. on 12/17/10. Contact your local Elanco sales representative for more information.

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Manage heifers for good reproductive per form

Evaluating heifer sy Raising dairy replacement heifers is a major input cost for many dairy operations and many producers seek to minimize these costs. However, it is very important that heifers be well managed to promote pregnancy and entrance into the milking herd. text Amy Ryan

D

Good heifer reproductive performance begins with good management

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r. Ricardo Chebel with the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine recently delivered a presentation about synchronizing dairy heifers at the Dairy Cattle Reproductive Council Conference. Along with highlighting new strategies and economics, he reinforced the importance of good reproductive management. Puberty in Holstein heifers usually occurs around 600 pounds (40 percent of mature body weight). Chebel suggests that first AI occur when heifers are at 50-60 percent of BW (~750 pounds) and at a wither height of about 49 inches. This timing is important to assure that they achieve adequate body weight at calving. Chebel cites three ways that reproductive management affects heifer rearing costs. “It impacts the interval from birth to start of lactation,� he says. “In herds with poor reproductive management,

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per formance and faster return on investment

er synchronization heifers get pregnant at 16-17 months, which increases feeding costs.” Next, herds with heifer reproductive issues do not produce enough calves for replacements. Finally, poor reproductive management may lead to natural service. “Most herds use AI on their heifers, but natural service may be used after three or four tries with AI,” says Chebel. “Not only do these heifers incur additional AI costs, the genetic value of their offspring is impacted.”

Heifers versus cows Virgin heifers have better reproductive performance than lactating cows. In fact, data published by Chebel and other researchers found that pregnancies per artificial insemination (P/AI) for first AI were greater than 60 percent for virgin heifers and P/AI for lactating cows was less than 45 percent after first postpartum AI. The overall P/AI for heifers was 55 percent, while the 21-day heat detection rates (HDR) for the first cycle where greater than 85 percent and overall 21-day HDR was greater than 75 percent. Chebel states that in herds where heifers are well managed, facilities are adequate and technicians are trained, most heifers can achieve this HDR and P/AI. All these factors can lead to a 21-day pregnancy rate greater than 42 percent. Pregnancy loss in heifers is also significantly less than in cows. A summary of studies including 4,870 pregnancies found that pregnancy loss in lactating cows from 32 to 180 days after AI averaged 11 percent; while a summary of studies done in heifers including 7,426 pregnancies indicated that from 38 to 180 days after AI, pregnancy loss was only 3 percent. Chebel credits several factors for the greater establishment and maintenance of pregnancy in heifers. “In general, heifers have improved metabolic status, less stress, improved uterine health and greater concentrations of progesterone and estradiol than lactating dairy cattle,” says Chebel. “The greater P/AI and reduced pregnancy loss can be attributed to the combination of these factors.”

Timed AI popularity Timed AI protocols have not been widely implemented in heifers because of reduced P/AI. In fact, Chebel states that on average, heifers bred AI

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in estrus have resulted in a 60 percent P/AI, whereas heifers bred using Ovsynch have produced a 38 percent pregnancy rate. Heifers are more difficult to synchronize than cows because they exhibit three short follicular waves. According to Chebel, less than 45 percent of heifers will respond to the first GnRH of the timed AI protocol. Hence, in heifers that are submitted to Ovsynch but do not ovulate to the first GnRH, an older follicle is induced to ovulate at the end of the Ovsynch, which impacts fertility. Then, there are the costs of using prostaglandin (PGF2α) and other materials involved in Ovsynch. “Synchronizing with PGF2α runs about $2.50 to $4.00 including labor for injection,” he says. “The Ovsynch protocol, using two GnRH and one dose of prostaglandin, costs approximately $5.25 for just the drugs.” In well managed herds, heat detection and P/AI are very good. He continues, “We see that 90 percent of heifers can be inseminated and nearly 70 percent can become pregnant in a 21-day cycle with just PGF2α and there is no need to use timed AI. Good synchronization of estrus with PGF2α means fast heat detection and good overall pregnancy rates of close to 50 percent with a small cost per pregnancy.”

The right option Timed AI on heifers is a good fit for some dairy producers, but they must

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consider the protocol cost and return on investment when choosing the best option for their operations. Chebel evaluated four synchronization methods and developed a spreadsheet to assist with this process (see figure 1). He compared AI on spontaneous estrus; AI on PGF2α induced estrus; 5-day CIDR Synch timed AI for first AI and AI on estrus for subsequent AI; and 100 percent 5-day CIDR Synch timed AI. Both the 5-day CIDR Synch protocols require two GnRH and two PGF2α injections. He made the following assumptions. Pregnancies that occurred after 14 months of age represent economic loss with heifers not pregnant after six cycles being very costly. The cost of labor was $10 per hour and the time spent heat detecting was approximately 10 seconds per heifer per day. When assuming that the cost of a day open from 14 to 18 months of age is $ 2.17/day, cost of open heifer at 18 months is $300, cost of one dose of PGF2α and GnRH is $ 1.75/each, cost of CIDR is $5, P/AI after first AI for heifers inseminated in estrus is 60 percent and P/AI after first AI for heifers submitted to the 5-day CIDR Synch is 50 percent, it is possible to observe that average HDR of 72 percent for heifers submitted to the PGF2α synchronization protocol is the break-even point between the PGF2α and the 5-day CIDR Synch based programs.

Hence, in herds with HDR greater than 72 percent the better option would be PGF2α synchronization protocol whereas in herds with HDR less than 72 percent the combination of 5-d CIDR Synch protocol for first AI and re-insemination in estrus is the better option. Furthermore, the 5-day CIDR Synch timed AI protocol may be a good alternative for herds with lack of space, facilities or personnel to do heat detection, but Chebel stresses that compliance with the protocol is very important for it to be successful.

Start with good heifer raising Good reproductive performance really begins with a good heifer rearing program. This performance significantly impacts heifer rearing costs as it allows heifers to enter the milking herd at the operation’s optimal calving time and start generating profits. “Once heifers have reached optimum weight and wither height to enter the breeding program, each operation should consider their situation and which protocol will work best for them,” says Chebel. “Well-grown heifers in good condition will show strong signs of estrus which should mean high heat detection rates in operations with well-trained personnel and facilities. In situations where facilities and personnel do not promote daily heat detection, timed AI is a viable option, and compliance to the protocol is a key to success.” l

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CRV

B R EEDING

N E W S

CRV now on every continent CRV has acquired the South African semen sales organization, Xseed Genetics. As of February 1, the company will be renamed ‘CRV Xseed’. The acquisition increases the breeding opportunities for both the current and future customers of CRV Xseed and strengthens the international position of CRV. Both partners – CRV and Xseed –

have now reached an agreement to join forces. Xseed Genetics is an organization with a substantial market share in the South African bovine semen market. Its head office is located in Bloemfontein. Since June 2006 Xseed has also been selling semen from CRV bulls as a part of its portfolio. For Xseed customers, the backbone of CRV means they will benefit from

Lots of grazing producers are located in South Africa

gaining access to CRV’s breadth of genetic products and technological know-how in the field of dairy and beef breeding. Roy Dixon, managing director, shared owner and representative of the shareholders of Xseed said: “Because CRV is one of the international leaders in cattle improvement we will be able to provide South African farmers with access to advanced Holstein and Jersey breeding programs for free stall as well as grazing systems. South African dairy and beef farmers will benefit at an early stage from the investments already made in new technologies, such as genomics for example.” Combine CRV Xseed with the New Years’ announcement of Bos Trading becoming CRV Australia, and the Netherlands based cooperative, CRV, now has a physical presence on every continent in the world. This strategy allows CRV to be close to our customers, members, their cows and their needs no matter where in the world they farm.

New Zealand grassland genetics available for 2011 As spring approaches, so does the time to breed seasonally grazed dairy cattle. In preparation for a second year in the grazing market, CRV has just brought out our 2011 lineup of New Zealand genetics with some exciting new additions to the group. Murmur, the Jersey sire topping the New Zealand Merit Index (NZMI) and Breeding Worth (BW) index rankings in New Zealand, is now available in the US. In the December 2010 proof, he ranked 29th among US Jerseys for JPI and 7th for CM$. The outcross pedigree lends to Murmur’s expected future inbreeding (EFI) of 2.7%. A proven favorite returns for this breeding season. Holstein Friesian leader, Firenze, continues to impress

farmers with over 1,000 daughters in his proof. Outstanding capacity, udders, and milk production coupled with excellent semen fertility makes him perfect for grazing and high input operations. The first US daughters are on the ground in the heifer pens of Michigan and have a tremendous desire to eat. Holstein Friesian, Jersey, Ayrshire and Crossbred sires make up the New Zealand genetics available from CRV. A focus on traits best suited for grazing animals like strength, moderate size, capacity, excellent feet and legs, fertility and longevity are the core of this lineup. An additional emphasis on udders that can withstand higher production and functional type add to the CRV approach to breeding a grazing animal.

If you have interest in the Grasslands lineup from CRV, please give us a call at 1-800-crv4all or find our catalog and purchase online at www.crv4all.us. Brewster 231 (daughter of Murmur)

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Kraft Dairy Farms The Kraft family circles themselves with good employees, allowing for much sucess with their 5,000 cow dairies.

Number of cows: Total acreage:

Ft. Morgan

5,000 850

Rolling herd average: 27,951 Number of employees: 70

Stratton, Jordan, Mary and Chris Kraft

Superb heifer raising and elite employee relations aids to Quail Ridge Dairy’s success

Healthy cows, healthy people The power to raise quality heifers and build employees on their 5,000 cow dairies in northeast Colorado has proven to be a great strategy for the Kraft family farms. They believe that surrounding themselves with good people – from their employees, suppliers, consultants to their family – is the secret ingredient that has helped them become successful.

Quail Ridge commodity barn holds three semi loads per bay

an architect and Dairy Specialist, the Colorado Westfalia-Surge dealer. “We broke ground in April 2006, and moved cows in January 2007, while we were still building the last three free stalls and putting up lights.”

Two elite dairies Quail Ridge and Badger Creek Dairy are family owned by Chris and Mary Kraft, who designed and served as General Contractor in the construction of Quail Ridge, and the many remodels for their older dairy, Badger Creek Farm. Today, Quail Ridge is a 4,000 cow dairy with free stalls and exercise lots. Badger Creek is a 1,000 cow dry lot, intensive care and maternity facility. They operate a shuttle between the facilities twice daily for cows needing attention or going back to Quail Ridge. They farm 850 acres of corn silage and alfalfa hay. Quail Ridge Dairy barn – double 50 with offices and training center above the parlor

text Karen Bohnert

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hile Mary Kraft enjoyed being raised on her family’s dairy farm near Denver, she tried getting out of the dairy business by going to college at Colorado State University, where she majored in Journalism. She joined the Polo club in hopes to finding rich men with horses, instead she found a son of Missionaries to Africa – with no money or horses, but a man that loved dairy cows. She liked him – still does today – and together, began building their farm and their family, which includes their two children, Stratton and Jordan. The fledgling family moved 60 miles east to start their own dairy near Fort

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Morgan in 1988 with 250 cows, a newborn daughter and a lot of debt. Over the course of the next 15 years, they remodeled Badger Creek Dairy from an old Surge double 3, to a 4, 5, 6, 7, 12 and eventually to a WestfaliaSurge double 22 in 2003. By then, they were doing great, especially at raising heifers and developing people on their dairy. “It was a natural step to find another place to milk our good genetics,” states Mary. Most of their nearby dairies were already ancient, or not close enough to get any economies, so they designed Quail Ridge Dairy, with the help of

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Roof pitch drives airflow inside the double 50 parallel parlor

Four 8000 gallon tanks with load cell type technology

Scrapers run to the center of each free stall, then dumps into a pipe below the surface

“We also supply liquid manure water and manure as fertilizer for many neighboring farms, who provide the rest of our needs for corn silage and hay or haylage,” says Mary. Quail Ridge operates with 70 full time employees and a continually rising rolling herd average of 27,951 of milk.

windows in the parlor feed the chimney effect developed through a steep roof pitch. “We chose not to use fans in the parlor when we saw that they blew iodine back in the operators face. So, we used the same principal of steep pitch in the free stalls, too.” Cows are cooled in the holding pen through a soaker that starts when the crowd gate drops and soaks them again in the exit alley. Cow beds are fluffed daily with a grooming machine and kept full so the angle is correct for the cows to keep her ‘business’ in the alleys. The Krafts credit Dr. Jerry Olson for helping them with their success. “He balances rations, plus looks at our benchmarks and adds suggestions,” states Chris. “We believe in genetic progress and have been stable users and information suppliers for young sires.”

The Kraft’s excellent heifer rearing program includes pasteurized colostrum, pasteurized milk for general feeding and an intensive vaccination program. “We believe it’s better to prevent than to repair,” says Chris.

Comfortable cows Keeping cows comfortable at Quail Ridge allows for the farm’s to achieve their mission statement ‘healthy cows, healthy people, healthy planet’. Quail Ridge cows are housed in five 800-cow barns with automatic scraper systems that collect material. “Waste is separated and composted and then used to bed cows,” says Mary. Roof pitch drives airflow in the free stalls and inside their milking parlor, a double 50 parallel. Vents in the free stalls and

Sampling colostrum They sample colostrum with a colostrometer, and use only the top quality colostrum. “We believe all colostrum is not created equally.” The majority of their colostrum used is from cows because of the depth of immunity present through their intense vaccination program for adult animals. Calves at the maternity facility live in individual igloo type huts, with private buckets for milk, which is replaced with water twice a day, and grain. Calves are weaned at 60 days and put into group.

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“The groups continue to merge as the calves’ age, so the calves stay in their cohort groups,” says Chris. They move to pasture lots at five months, are AI bread at 13 months and return to the dairy between 22-23 months of age.

for the meetings, that is they are more for teaching and sharing information than passing down protocols or reprimanding.” Krafts provide intensive English classes in partnership with their local community college and are in the middle of their first courses of a certificate program in dairy cattle management with Morgan Community College – which includes courses in AI, parlor management, health management, team building and communication classes. Both Chris and Mary are relatively bilingual. They spent some time in Mexico in an intensive immersion program to better understand what it feels like to be dropped somewhere you don’t understand the language or culture, which allowed them to learn to communicate better. “We strive to develop our employees so they can make the same decision we

Elite employee relations The Krafts firmly believe in the value of solid employee relations and take pride in developing employees on their dairies. “People are targeted for advancement into leadership programs based on their attitude and their aptitude,” states Mary. “Remembering that many of our employees have only a sixth grade education, we need to develop problem solving techniques, organization and prioritization skills, so we spend a lot of time talking and teaching.” They conduct weekly meetings for each department, as well as for department heads. “We use a mentoring process

Free stalls are sized so the cows tail is just at the alleyway, which promotes urinating in the alleys, rather than the bed

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would if we could be there when the decision needed to be made,” says Mary. “It seems silly to me that I wouldn’t give my employee my $50,000 suburban to drive around, but that I would give them 5 million dollars worth of cattle to work with and not be able to coach them on how best to manage them,” states Mary.

Reflection and forecasting “2010 was a piece of cake for us – comparatively speaking,” says Mary. 2009 was the year that gave them their biggest challenges. It was the year their bank failed, their daughter was diagnosed and treated for cancer, they were hit by a tornado and audited by ICE. “Our survival was communication. It was the most important thing with employees, the growers, the feed dealers, bankers, family and friends.” The Krafts goal is to always produce a high quality, profitable product and have a great time at the same time. “We are good people developers, and we understand the dairy business,” states Chris. “We intend to capitalize on our abilities, plus add our kids back into the operation, if they choose.” The family rule is that kids have to work somewhere else for 2 years before they are allowed to come back to the dairy. Mary Kraft has no regrets to coming back into the dairy business after she met Chris. Mary says: “Our daughter is doing great, and the dairy is performing well. All in all, it looks like it will continue to be a great place to build people, a dairy, and our family” The Krafts believes that the people they surround themselves with aids to their success. “We wouldn’t be where we are today, if it was just us,” they emphasize. They have spent a lot of time educating legislators about labor force required to provide quality care and food supply safety. “We also do a lot of tours to tell our story,” states Mary. “We believe it’s part of our job to communicate the great story of dairy to others.” l Both Chris and Mary Kraft will be speaking at the Western Large Herd Conference. For more information on this conference, log onto www.wdmc.org.

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UDDER HEALTH is important at more than milking time

healt r e d d f or u t c e l e S data V R C with

h

CRV 2423 American Lane Madison, WI 53704 Toll free: 1-800-400-crv4all Phone: 608-441-3202 Fax: 608-441-3203 E-mail: info@crv4all.us www.crv4all.us

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M A N A G E M E N T

Much money, interest and time has been put forth to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Digester ramps up interest Interest in manure digester systems is at an all time high due to concerns over resource protection, renewable energy generation and greenhouse gas reductions. One County in Wisconsin has taken a progressive approach to this opportunity, by establishing a community digester. The number of operational digesters has grown to 151 across the Unites States. text Karen Bohnert Digester controls screen

T

he first goal for measuring progress with becoming more sustainable is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for fluid milk by 25 percent by the year 2020. All faucets involved in U.S. dairy are uniting to foster environmental sustainability, while continuing to provide nutritious dairy products, support our communities and strengthen our economic viability. Grants, loan guarantees, and financial assistance awarded by U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Farm Bill have been one of the primary methods for farms to partially fund the installation of commercially proven livestock waste anaerobic digester systems. Since 2003, USDA Rural

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Development has awarded more than $40 million for anaerobic digestion systems.

Wisconsin community digester A community manure digester recently debuted in Dane County Wisconsin where family members from three Wisconsin farms worked together to install a manure digester that serves all three of their farms. This first of its kind digester recently debuted through the efforts of Wisconsin dairy producers, Dane County, and Clear Horizon, a private company who operates the facility. This project was also supported by outgoing Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, who

included $3.3 million in his budget for this project. According to John Welch, Project Manager, Dane County Public Works, this particular project has three primary goals: a manure management system that provides water quality protection; maintains agriculture’s economic viability and sustainability; and is economically feasible. “The real catalysts for this project were a couple of manure runoff events that lead to significant fish kills in Dane county,� he says.

Digester timeline An advisory committee was appointed in the spring 2006 and a year later, a feasibility study on two test areas

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AgSTAR program provides information and tools to assist producers AgSTAR is an outreach program designed to reduce methane emissions from livestock waste management operations by promoting the use of biogas recovery systems. AgSTAR is a collaborative effort of EPA, the USDA and the US Department of Energy. The growth that AgSTAR has generated with digester systems has produced environmental and energy benefits. AgSTAR provides an array of information and tools designed to assist producers in the evaluation and implementation of these systems, including: • Conducting farm digester extension events and conferences • Providing “How-To” project development tools • Conducting the performance

Boilers using biogas

were conducted. Facility planning phase began in the fall of 2009 and project development and design with farmers and Clear Horizon were conducted that fall through late last year. “July 2010 we broke ground and the system is Dane County, Wisconsin, digester site

characterizations for digesters and conventional waste management systems • Providing farm recognition for voluntary environmental initiatives • Collaborating with federal and state renewable energy, agricultural, and environmental programs “AgSTAR provides upfront help to dairy producers to make sense of it all,” says Chris Voell, National Program Manager, AgSTAR. “We are available to work with producers to see if they have the right specifications to utilize different loans and grants through our program.” To determine if a biogas recovery system is right for your facility, Voell says you need to consider the following factors: how manure is handled at your facility,

the frequency of manure collection and the options available for using the recovered biogas. • Biogas digester systems can accommodate manure handled as a liquid, slurry, or semisolid. • Facilities best suited for biogas digester systems have stable year-round manure production and collect at least 50 percent of the manure daily. • Gas-use options are available, including engines and boilers or gas can simply be flared. When choosing, you will need to take into account how the option affects a system’s financial performance, the labor requirements associated with the option, and the skills needed to maintain and repair energy producing equipment.

expected to be fully commissioned and operating in early March 2011,” says Welch. During the original feasibility study in 2007, surveys were sent out to all Dane county farms within the Mendota Watershed. “Based on the surveys we got back and the farms that indicated an interest, we identified two clusters of farms,” says Welch. “When it was time to move on to the facility planning phase, one cluster of farms was prepared at that time to continue working with us to see if the project could work.” The Ripp, Endres and Maier farms are the three Dane county dairy farms that are involved with this project. Underground pipes bring manure from these three farms into the digester facility where solids and most of the phosphorus are removed. The liquid portion, containing agronomic nutrients is returned to each farm also by underground pipeline. The system also produces methane, which can be used in generators to produce electricity.

2,500 homes in the area, the equivalent of about $2 million in power. In addition to the pipelines that bring manure from the three participating farms, a receiving building can allow for future growth of additional farms that want to bring manure into the digester by truck. Doyle included another $3.3 million in the state budget to help get another Dane County “Cow Power” facility off the ground. Currently, Dane County and Clear Horizons are working on development of a second community manure digester in Dane County with their second group of farmers. Except for the State’s $3.3 million, to date, private dollars from Clear Horizons have funded the $12 million total project cost.

Future plans The digester soon will be producing electricity for sale to Alliant Energy and once it is fully operational, the facility will provide enough electricity to provide power for approximately

Available tools “People interested in similar projects should be cautiously optimistic,” says Welch. “Much of the economic feasibility of these systems depends on the renewable payback rates you are able to secure with your utility. When looking at the feasibility of a systems, that should be one of the first things you determine.” l Click on www.danewaters.com and www.epa.gov/agstar to learn more

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F E E D I N G

Production of quality hay is critical to cow’s nutrient needs and aid to dairy’s success

text Curt Beyer, M.S. and Steve Blezinger, Ph.D., PAS

components of the plants. As a result, a corresponding increase in the levels of acid detergent fiber (ADF) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) occurs. Stored wet hay also has an increased risk of heating to the point of combustion. Even if combustion does not occur, the heat production can and does damage nutrients. The heat buildup causes reactions to occur between proteins and carbohydrates which render both fractions less digestible. Protein digestibility can be reduced to almost zero with severe heating. Generally bale temperatures less than 100° F are no problem, but bale temperatures above 150° F almost always severely reduce protein and carbohydrate digestibility. When bale temperatures remain between 100° and 150° F, the length of elevated temperature determines the amount of nutrient loss. Damage occurs more rapidly at higher temperatures.

T

Production of quality hay is not a simple process. It requires planning and use of appropriate technologies

Making quality dairy hay Production of quality hay has been a concern to dairy producers for decades. The current economy, with higher input costs in every stage of production, emphasizes that the quality of hay produced needs to maximize nutrient value per dollar invested and reduce the need for expensive ration ingredients.

he value of quality hay has always been important as it provides a significant portion of the cow’s nutrient needs, especially protein, energy and fiber. Production of hay requires significant planning at all stages. This includes soil fertility, weed control, harvesting and storage.

Use of preservatives An additional opportunity for the production of quality hay is the use of preservatives. Hay preservatives, applied at harvest, have been around for some time. While use does incure extra expense and special equipment, application of an appropriate hay preservative can make a significant difference in the final quality of the hay at feeding, especially if harvest is during a period where normal drying is a problem. Dr. Bill Weiss with The Ohio State University explains that preservatives work by inhibiting or reducing the growth of aerobic (oxygen requiring) microbes in moist hay. If microbial growth is eliminated, heating and subsequent depression in digestibility does not occur. Most hay preservatives

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do not improve nutritional quality of the forage, but prevent the decline in quality caused by heat buildup from excessive aerobic microbial action facilitated by higher than desirable moisture conditions. One method for preserving hay harvested above optimum moisture levels is the application of organic acids at harvest time. When hay is baled and stored at moderate moisture levels (18-30%), an environment exists for the growth of undesirable bacteria, fungi and yeast. Both moisture and temperature drive the population growth of these microorganisms. Fungi such as Aspergillus and Fusarium can produce toxins and greatly reduce hay palatability. Organic acids, when applied at the proper rates, effectively control the development of molds on moist hay by preventing the growth of bacteria and fungi (Rankin, University of Wisconsin Extension). Moist hay put into storage can suffer dry matter loss because of increased plant respiration and microbial activity. There is typically a 1% loss of dry matter for each percent moisture loss during storage to reach a stable equilibrium. These losses are from the non-fiber

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The most commonly used organic acid for hay preservation has been propionic acid. Propionic acid (prop) is effective in inhibiting molds, yeast and bacterial growth. However, propionic acid is corrosive to machinery, has a pungent odor and is volatile. The use of concentrated prop has declined due to these issues as well as the introduction of ammoniated propionic acid (buffered prop). Ammoniated prop was introduced in the late 1980’s, these products were manufactured by adding ammonia hydroxide to form ammonium propionate. The tradeoff is that ammoniated propionic acid (buffered prop) products are more costly than non-buffered. Research shows that use of ammoniated propionic acid (buffered) was as effective as non-ammoniated prop in preserving the quality of moist hay. When purchasing a prop product, be sure to

Advantages of hay preservatives • Preservatives allow hay to be baled at a higher moisture content which reduces the length of time hay lays in the field and lowers the risk of rain damage. • Baling at a higher moisture content reduces dry matter and nutrient losses during baling caused by leaf shatter. • Preservatives lengthen the potential baling period. Hay can be baled during early morning and late evening hours if dew does not raise moisture level above 25-30%. • Preservatives can maintain nutrient levels where they might otherwise be lost in less than optimal harvest conditions.

read the product label for the actual percentage of active ingredient (i.e. propionic acid). Be advised, some products in the market contain as little as 15% actual prop. Typically, the most cost-effective products are those with the highest concentrations. Base purchase decisions on cost per pound of active ingredient and not cost per pound of product. Some commercial

products also contain a small percentage of acetic acid which is less effective.

Application rates One primary question asked when considering a preservative is the addition rate. Bale moisture is the primary factor determining effective application rates. Inhibition of fungal growth requires a minimum level of acid concentration in the water component of the hay. An easy method to determine effective preservation rate (actual pounds of propionate per dry matter ton) is to take the hay moisture percentage and subtract 10. For example, hay baled at 25% moisture requires about 15 pounds of acid per ton of dry matter (25% moisture – 10 = 15 lbs acid required per ton). Recommended application rates assume a hay product that is uniform in moisture. If some bales or parts of bales are significantly higher in moisture than the field average, application rates will need to be adjusted higher to insure effective preservation of the entire hay bale. Use of a moisture tester is a very helpful, if not a critical, tool. It is essential that the moisture content of the hay be known. Hay containing more than 30% moisture should not be baled even with a preservative.

Conclusions Production of quality hay is not easy. It requires planning and use of appropriate technologies. Preservatives are one such technology that can be considered and can effectively maintain quality when conditions might otherwise rob the hay of nutrient levels. It is important, however to evaluate the situation and use preservatives when appropriate. l

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BR E E D I N G

Lifetime production milestones are different across the world, but the genetics supporting these outstanding milk producers is very similar

Breeding an Iron Grandma A cow that stays in the herd, produces quality milk, gets pregnant and avoids the treatment list is in the running to become the next iron grandma, as well as being profitable. At how many pounds of milk does a cow garner this title? That differs from country to country and person to person. In Europe, 100,000 kg (220,462 lbs) is the commonly accepted standard, but varies in the US. For comparison purposes, 250,000 lbs will be the mark. text Danyel Hosto

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orth America and Europe have two core populations of Holstein genetics in the world. These continents lead the charge with genetic advancement and achievement. Different bulls have sired success with the most lifetime milk producers, but commonalities can be drawn between them.

Top production sires worldwide Holstein Association USA has monitored production records in the states since 1964, with 5,606 cows attaining iron grandma status to present day. The popular Select Sires bull, To-Mar Blackstar-ET, sired the most lifetime milk daughters at 202 (table 1). Stud-mate Walkway Chief Mark is a close runner-up with 175 daughters above 250,000 lbs milk, but also sired Tacoma Mark My-Word VG-88, the lifetime milk production title holder at 471,900 lbs in just over 9 lactations. Our neighbors to the north, Holstein Canada, award lifetime production at three levels. The gold award certificate is given to cows completing 100,000 kg of milk. 74 animals have attained this status in the short time the award has

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count; clean bone to the leg; and a little slope to the rump.” All three were incredibly popular sires of their time, with Rudolph and Sunny Boy achieving millionaire sire status. Wim Fase, CRV inseminator in the Netherlands, reflected on the success of Sunny Boy. “In those years of Sunny Boy, I think around a 25% of inseminations a day were to him. He was an enormous producer.” Rudolph received his first proof in 1996 with Sunny Boy and Blackstar field proved in the late 1980’s. Comparing current December 2010 sire summaries all bulls excel at health and fitness traits; have moderate milk proofs and moderate type.

been given. Semex millionaire sire, Startmore Rudolph, leads the pack on the top side of 19 of those pedigrees. Moving across the pond, lifetime yield of 100,000 kg milk has been achieved by 12,484 cows in the Netherlands since 1959. With over 1,000 daughters, CRV’s Skalsumer Sunny Boy is the top sire. Sunny Boy’s influence has also reached other countries, as he sired Roelie, the current lifetime milk production holder in France at 401,190 lbs.

Being popular helps Daughters of Blackstar, Rudolph and Sunny Boy were well liked by breeders for the show ring and milk barn alike. Coming off of first crop daughter success, these three were more heavily used, and daughters began developing into the strong brood cows of the breed, staying in the milking herd for longer periods of time. Charlie Will, Select Sires sire analyst, described the favored Blackstar daughters as, “Black and silky, deep open-ribbed cows with thin thighs, extremely good texture and quality of udder with great support; low cell

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body depth chest width rump angle rump width rear legs set foot angle fore udder attachment front teat placement teat length udder depth rear udder height central ligament muscularity

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

U.S. name

number of daughters

To-Mar Blackstar-ET Walkway Chief Mark Carlin-M Ivanhoe Bell Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation Rothrock Tradition Leadman

202 175 120 111 97

Netherlands name

number of daughters

Skalsumer Sunny Boy Tops Monitor Legend F16 Rocket C Flemingdale Achilles Superstar Kingway Elevation Very

1109 1100 346 239 233

Table 1: Top 5 lifetime production sires by country

linear traits

Figure 1: Linear traits of long lasting cows with production over 100,000 kg

The similarities between the leading sires of iron grandmas only confirm the research completed on the Dutch cow population. Traits of importance in breeding long-lasting cows are: productive life (PL), somatic cell score (SCS), daughter pregnancy rate (DPR), production and functional type. Rene de Wit, trainee at the Dutch herd book, completed this study and identified that intermediate type traits were

most prevalent among top lifetime production cows (figure 1).

Health and fitness traits CRV followed up with this research delving into CRV breeding values of long-lasting, top milk producers. Three management traits came to the forefront. Persistency; the flatness of the lactation curve, body condition; the amount of condition maintained during lactation, and maturity rate; the measure of improvement in production over consecutive lactations compared to contemporaries, were all of value. The Dutch sire proofs of Blackstar, Rudolph and Sunny Boy reflect these findings,

with the strongest correlation to maturity rate. As these leading sires of lifetime production maintain their role in the Holstein breed, it is important to realize that the health and fitness traits these bulls excel at weren’t evaluated in the US until after they became successful. USDA Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory (AIPL) began publishing SCS in 1995 and DPR in 2003. Farmers today have the good fortune of more bull data and information to help select the best sires for their herd’s goal. If the goal is to have a barn full of iron grandmas, don’t overlook the important fitness and management traits. l Three Dutch cows with a lifetime production over 10.000 kg fat and protein

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I N T ER N A T I O N A L

In Poland the number of dairy farms has dropped by over a third in four years

small farms. Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Bulgaria have some extremely small farms, but in terms of small-scale operations, Romania tops the rankings. The number of farms in countries like these has fallen drastically since 2004. Prior to 2009, Poland had regional milk

Developments in Eastern Europe May 2004 ten new Member States, mostly Eastern European countries, joined the European Union, sparking fears of increased competition in the dairy market with the arrival of so many farmers producing at low cost. So how are dairy farmers in Eastern Europe faring since their accession to the EU? text Abele Kuipers

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ince May 2004, analysis of the dairy farming industry in Eastern European countries has become much easier, due to the fact that on their accession to the EU these new member states were also assigned a milk quota. There were reportedly 712,000 dairy farmers in Poland and 6,784 in Estonia prior to that point, milk quotas were assigned to 450,000 and 2,428 dairy farmers respectively. The remaining farmers either supply their own needs or have gradually ceased production. As a consequence, large tracts of land – in the Baltic States, for example – are no longer being farmed. Poland’s initial circumstances in 2004 suggested it had the potential to be a

great dairy farming country, with the sixth largest milk quota of the then 25 member states. In 2007 came the accession of Romania and Bulgaria. After Poland, Romania is the second largest dairy farming country to have joined the EU.

Very diverse farming structures There are huge differences in structure between farms in the various Eastern European countries (table 1). In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the farms are particularly large by Western European standards. Sometimes, however, average size tells you very little. Hungary and Estonia, for example, have both large and very

Table 1: Number of producers, cows and milk production per cow in Eastern Europe countries during 2004-2005 en 2007-2008

number of farms 2004-2005 2007-2008 Estonia Lithuania Latvia Poland Czech Republic Slovakia Hungary

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1,585 99,382 24,409 355,000 2,950 800 5,194

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cows per farm milk production per cow 2004-2005 2007-2008 2004-2005 2007-2008

1,150 61,971 19,031 206,219 2,571 665 3,710

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11,5 2,6 3 4,5 150,1 175 45,5

18,3 3,5 4,7 5,4 157 166 41,6

5,580 4,223 4,251 4,293 6,244 5,336 6,512

6,765 5,055 4,822 4,621 6,959 6,025 6,788

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quotas, and so, as in France and Germany, quotas could not be sold across provincial boundaries. The quota price thus gives some idea of the pressure on dairy farmers in each region. Quota size varies widely in Poland,

ranging from 11 tonnes per farm in the south to 168 tonnes in the west. During the first four quota years, the number of farms fell by 24 percent in the true dairy farming area in central Poland and by 53 percent in the west. The quota price ranges from 6 euro cents

per kg milk in the south to 16 to 17 cents in the extreme western and eastern regions. Milk quality increased spectacularly. With support from banks, dairy processing companies and European accession funding, the quantity of premium class milk according to the European Standard rose from 35 to 92 percent of milk deliveries.

Lithuania and Slovenia Slovenia, a small state bordering on Austria, presents a different picture. The number of farms is diminishing less rapidly, at a rate varying from 12 to 34 percent in the various regions. Slovenia has a policy of discouraging the trade in quotas, particularly transfers from mountainous areas to flat areas. Livestock farmers in Slovenia have a strong attachment to their own land and farms. The decline of dairy farming in mountainous areas is slowing down. A study by the agricultural agency in Austria, for example, shows a reduction of only 1.9 percent in the number of dairy farms in the mountainous district of Pinzgau between 1995 and 2000, while in the Flachgau district, a flatter region with a longer growing season, the number of farms has shrunk by 13.4 percent. European policy plays a role in this, but tourism is also an important factor. Hill farms are often run on a part-time basis. Although more and more Western European countries are failing to use up their national quotas, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands tend to exceed their quotas, which is typical of genuine dairy farming areas. It is striking that Austria, as a mountainous country, also belongs to this group. Production in all the ‘new’ European countries is below the national quotas. Only in Poland, in its first year under the milk quota system, did production exceed the quota. Eastern Europe is not under great pressure to produce milk. To a certain extent this is due to the conversion of “direct sales” quotas into wholesale quotas. Direct sales quotas in Poland and Romania are widely available. All Eastern European countries except

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I N T ER N A T I O N A L

Romania are more than one hundred percent self-sufficient in terms of milk production, from Hungary, which produces 101 percent of its requirement, to Slovakia, producing 130 percent.

processors. These cooperatives also undertake the collective purchase of basic production necessities such as animal feed and fertilizer. In Lithuania and Slovenia there are 38 and 97 active cooperatives respectively. There is also a remarkable level of trade in milk in these areas. In Slovenia, milk is purchased from the East, specifically from Hungary and Slovakia; meanwhile 36 percent of its own milk in 2007 and 31 percent in 2009 was sold on to Italian dairy companies – something which simply was not happening in 2003. Initially the premium earned by selling to Italy averaged about three euro cents per kilogram. In 2009 the roles were reversed with the price advantage favoring domestic dairy enterprises.

Trading milk via cooperatives

Fluctuating margins

Cooperatives often form the link between the farmer and the dairy

The profitability of agricultural operations is hard to measure. Sampling operations by the EU Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN) are the best way to obtain data, but the network is not yet established in these countries. What is clear is that cost prices are lower and the structures for procuring raw materials and the delivery and processing of raw products are often poorer than in Western Europe. An indication of the profitability of dairy farms in the various countries can be found in table 2. The margin, expressed as a percentage, is the relationship between gross yield and total income from the dairy herd by quantity of product, for example per 100 kg milk. A margin of 62 percent for one of the original 15 EU countries means that on average 62 percent of income is available to cover the fixed costs of land, hired labor and capital costs, and for the farmer’s household expenditure. In some countries, such as Poland and Slovenia, the margin percentage reaches the average for the original 15 EU member states. This is the case in Poland, because the variable costs of 11 euro cents per 100 kg milk are very low. This does not mean that the level of income is good; the latter depends on production volume, which is often small. At the same time it has to be said that the farms in some regions look in

country

margin

Lithuania Latvia Poland Czech Republic Slovakia Hungary Slovenia Bulgaria EU 15

56 51 63 54 58 48 67 38 62

Tabel 2: The margin, expressed as a percentage per 100 kg milk

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excellent shape. In Slovenia, for example, one sees well maintained farms, often small in size. Livestock is kept inside all year round. This is partly due to geographical difficulties. A farm with fifty cows and forty parcels of land some distance away is not unusual. The tractor density is therefore the highest in Europe. Despite all this, these familyrun farms manage one way or another, to generate a reasonable income.

Dairy sector in trouble The dairy sector in Eastern Europe is in trouble. Recent low prices and restructuring have put enormous strain on farming families. The family set-up of many farms guarantees an advantageous cost structure, but in several countries the scale of the operations is extremely small. Funds to finance the improvement of herds and education are often in the hands of the authorities. In Slovenia and Lithuania, even the AI stations are largely dependent on the government. The information service is overstretched as a result of having to implement all the European regulations. The transition from socialism to capitalism does not seem to have brought much change in the administrative burden. Countries such as Poland and Romania still have a long way to go before actually realizing their potential. Countries like Poland, or the smaller state of Slovenia, seem largely able to process their milk domestically, whereas foreign companies are active in Romania and the smaller state of Slovakia. Western multiples, especially German chains, are advancing and setting up in competition with local businesses. In the Baltic States, Swedish companies and institutions are very active. Breeding organizations are also gradually colonizing Eastern Europe, such as CRV form the Netherlands in the Czech Republic. However, due to the small scale of the operations and the frequently resistant local population, the process is a slow one. And no country has emerged as a popular destination for migrants, as was the case for example with East Germany in the recent past. l

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TROUW NUTRITION NEWS

Trouw adds new member to their technical team

Trouw nutrition’s first bi-annual dairy summit Trouw Nutrition wants to raise awareness to calf specialist and key dairy consultants that Trouw is “Your Resource for Innovative Solutions!” Trouw is showing their support by becoming a major sponsor at the Dairy Calf and Heifer Conference in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, April 5th and 6th. The DCHA conference is themed “Welcome to Dairyland” in order to offer the latest production information and techniques while providing handson business management training. After the conference, Trouw Nutrition will offer invited participants to attend the First Bi-Annual Trouw Dairy Summit on April 7, 2011. Trouw will focus their program for the selected participants by combining marketing and technical information

together. At the summit, guests will learn key information to help them in their every day business. The program will consist of a full line-up of knowledgeable speakers to discuss various topics such as: trends, future visions, animal nutrition and dairy models. Attendees will learn how to become more profitable and efficient by implementing these innovative dairy practices on their farm. After the summit, Trouw has an evening of entertainment planned. The attendees will enjoy a Wine Tasting and Tour at the Staller Estate Winery followed by dinner at The Duck Inn. If you have an interest in the Dairy Summit, please contact tnusamarketing@nutreco.com for more additional information.

Trouw is adding another member to the technical team. Lets welcome Scott Baker to the Trouw marketing team. Scott Baker, an Illinois native, is the new market analyst based in the Highland, IL office. Scott grew up on a farrow to finish swine farm, cow-calf, and grain operation in western Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois majoring in Animal Sciences. He recently defended his Master’s thesis “Aspects of Phosphorus Nutrition in Swine” at the University of Illinois. Before coming to Trouw, Scott has spent time in the Netherlands with Schothorst Feed Research. During his time overseas, Scott implemented trials on poultry and swine to develop his overall knowledge to use in the field. He also performed lab experiments and trials to validate research findings. Scott looks forward to starting an exciting career in the industry.

Dairy Summit Theme:

For more information on products and services of Trouw Nutrition International: Tel. 800.328.8942. www.trouwnutritionusa.com

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H E R D

R E P O RT

Gerrit Wensink Gerrit and Margriet Wensink emigrated from the Netherlands to Canada, where they farm at Hoenhorst Farms, the largest robot milking operation in Ontario. Number of dairy cows: Number of young cattle: Acre: Production (305 days) (lbs): Number of milking robots:

Innerkip

360 270 765 22,000 4.00 3.30 6

Gerrit Wensink

Robots on an island in the middle of the barn

“We’ve got rid of assembly line work on our farm,” says Gerrit Wensink

in Canada. For two years now they have been milked using

According to Wensink, robotic milking is not only more people-friendly, it’s more animal-friendly too. “It used to be normal for the cows to stand for more than an hour in the holding pen, packed close together, which they disliked. Now the cows themselves can choose when they want to be milked and we notice that the frequency with which heifers visit the robot system is above average between midnight and four in the morning.”

a robotic system. As a result, synchronisation is no longer

Twelve litres milk per calf

Planning is the key Gerrit and Margriet Wensink own 360 head of dairy cows

necessary and stress-related disorders are less common. text Florus Pellikaan

A

fter an extensive tour of Hoenhorst Farms, you get the feeling as a visitor that managing a dairy operation with 360 cows isn’t all that difficult. The tranquillity that prevails on this farm, the largest in the Canadian province of Ontario to use a robotic milking system, makes a deep impression. Gerrit (53) and Margriet (57) Wensink have designed and organized the farm in Innerkip down to the very last detail. All the work is carried out according to daily schedules and weekly planning.

People-friendly robots The Wensinks are originally from the Netherlands. They bought a farm in Canada with 100 acres, built a dairy barn and tried every year to milk as many cows and get as large a milk quota as they could. By 2008 they were milking a herd of 280 cows three times a day in a free stall with 230 free stalls.

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It was high time for the next step, and so they built a new free stall with 360 stalls and six milking robots on an island in the middle of the barn. “The main reason for choosing the robotic milking system was to save labor. We were employing five parttime milkers and whenever we looked for a replacement we found that fewer applicants were replying to the advertisement,” explains the dairy farmer. “Who in his right mind wants to spend a few hours attaching milkers at four o’clock in the morning or ten o’clock in the evening? Now, we have completely got rid of the production line-type work on our farm. And when you do that, you immediately get a different kind of workforce. These days our employees have undergone training in animal husbandry or as veterinary assistants and they work here because they enjoy being among the cows.”

The biggest advantage of milking with robots, says Wensink, is the immensely calm atmosphere in the barn. “The behavior of the cows is much more relaxed and therefore we see far fewer stress-related conditions such as hoof diseases and fertility problems.” Wensink stopped synchronising the cows when he started milking with robots. “We are now able to inseminate approximately 85 percent of the cows and nearly 100 percent of the heifers using the Heatime heat detection system. The average number of inseminations before conception is 2.2, the preg-rate is 27 and the calving interval is 375 days.” The milking robots have cut the Hoenhorst workforce back from eight to three. All the work is done between six in the morning and half past two in the afternoon. During the rest of the day, only one person comes in from four to seven in the evening to feed the calves and help cows who need attention through the robotic system. The average milk production of the cows has not increased as a result of robotic milking. “We have gone from

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Calves fed by automated drinking station

Footbath is used once a week

Calm atmosphere in the stall

milking exactly three times daily to between 3.2 and 3.4 milkings, but that’s spread more or less throughout the day. The number of pounds has fallen slightly, but the contents are higher.” On average the cows’ annual production is 22,000 lbs milk with 4.0% fat and 3.3% protein in 305 days. Nintyfive percent of heifers are bred within fifteen months. “I want to keep inventory costs as low as possible. Two months’ extra feed for near-adult animals is very expensive. Our heifers are calving with a body weight of 550 kilograms.” In order to achieve that weight, the pressure is on right from

the start when feeding the calves. Immediately after birth, four litres of colostrum are drenched into the calves, and later on they get a maximum of twelve to fourteen litres of whole cow’s milk per day via an automated calf drinking station.

exchange market, but we never get more than a quarter of a cow’s milk production at most. The Canadian quota system has the advantage that we get approximately $70 Canadian dollar cents for the milk, but expansion is right out. Efficient farms have 45 percent of the gross milk price available for interest, repayments, depreciation and taxes. Anyone can make money in dairy farming, which means that inefficient operations can survive as well, and that isn’t healthy. From our point of view, we’d like to see milk prices a bit lower with more opportunities for expansion.” l

Lower milk prices preferred Over the next few years, Gerrit and Margriet Wensink would like to expand a bit more. However, they are faced with the problem that because of the current quota regulations, it is almost impossible to buy extra milk quota. “We bid every month on the quota-

Robotic milking is not only more people-friendly, it’s more animal-friendly too

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H O O F

H E A LT H

Monitor forage quality and feeding management to optimize hoof health

Nutrition and hoof health Many factors affects hoof health in dairy cattle, with nutrition Series about hoof health Hoof health issues are a common and costly problem in many dairy herds. This article will highlight the affect of nutrition on hoof health.

text Amy Ryan

F

loyd Sutton is Great Lakes District Manager with Zinpro Corporation in Eden Prairie, Minn. Zinpro has focused a lot of its research establishing the link between nutrition and hoof health. Today, the company offers

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impact of nutrition on hoof health, this article will outline ways to minimize foot problems by maximizing digestibility.

Part 1: Housing Part 2: Nutrition Part 3: Genetics

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being one key part of the equation. Along with discussing the

FEBR UARY

the industry’s first comprehensive lameness management and prevention program called First Step to assist the industry in evaluating, monitoring and reducing herd lameness. Sutton cites infectious lesions such as

digital dermatitis (hairy heel warts) and foot rot and non-infectious claw horn lesions including white line disease, sole ulcers and toe ulcers to be the most common foot problems in dairy cattle. “While infectious lesions are influenced

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by the environment, other factors such as deficiencies in the immune system also contribute to them,” he says. “On the other hand, nutrition does have a larger impact on non-infectious claw problems caused by laminitis.”

Nutrition and lameness Laminitis is inflammation of the layers inside the claw and can lead to inflammation and sensitivity. Although there are multiple causes of laminitis, sub-optimal rumen health or acidosis is the most prevalent. Laminitis can result when cows consume unbalanced amounts of ruminally fermentable carbohydrates, causing a shift in volatile fatty acids, a decrease in rumen pH and an increase in lactic acid production. This abundance of acid alters the type of fermentation, which ultimately leads to hoof deterioration and inflammation. Acidosis is characterized as acute or subacute, with acute being less common and occurring from drastic rumen pH shifts caused by significant ration changes or compromised environmental conditions such as heat

Recommendations to improve hoof health “Issues with hooves in dairy cattle generally arise from high starch levels/ low fiber levels in the diet and the subsequent shift in rumen/blood pH,” according to Steve Blezinger, Ph.D., PAS, Ruminant Product and Technical Manager, Trouw Nutrition USA. “This results from a desire for higher production necessitating a higher energy intake, lack of quality forages or a potential mineral imbalance.” These hoof issues develop over a period of time, and thus physically and nutritionally managing them is an ongoing process. “Prevention is the key to reducing impact. Forage quantity and quality, stage of production, environmental conditions, stress level, time of year, mineral balance all play a role in this prevention,” says Blezinger.

stress or crowding. More commonly, cows are subjected to subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA), or shorter periods of low rumen pH that still can have multiple negative consequences to cow health and poor foot health.

Monitor forages

Consistent feeding management is crucial to good hoof health

Cows consuming too much grain or finely chopped forages are more prone to rumen acidosis. Thus, day-to-day consistent feeding management and balancing the proper levels of effective fiber and fermentable carbohydrates is crucial. Jim Barmore, is a founding partner of GPS Dairy Consulting, LLC in Verona, Wisconsin, and offers comprehensive independent nutrition and management consulting to dairies around the U.S. He states that sub-optimal rumen health which may lead to acidosis has four common causes related to forage quality. “Regular moisture variation of forages is often unaccounted for in rations; sub-optimal forage fermentation and inconsistency often from the forage being too wet; variation in effective fiber and fiber length provided by the

“First, I recommend dairymen make sure pen surfaces, travel paths and other areas are clear of debris. Secondly, reduce mud and wet areas exposure as these conditions softens foot tissue and allows easier access to pathogens.” Nutritionally, rations need to include as much high quality forage as possible with minimal grain and by-product sources to reduce starch levels means Blezinger. “Rations also need proper mineral levels and sources, especially zinc, which can improve hoof health.” “In addition, hoof trimming and foot baths are useful. Overall, proper housekeeping and environmental management coupled with good nutritional management can greatly improve hoof health.”

forage; and moldy forages inadequately managed, tolerated or fed are common causes of rumen health issues,” he says. “Closely monitoring forage quality and having a good daily understanding of forages in the ration is a key to reducing rumen health issues.” Sutton adds that forages can contain a considerable amount of mold and mycotoxins that adversely impact the cow. “Once ingested, these substances are capable of causing inflammation of the kidneys, lungs and blood vessels, disrupting nutrient flow to the claw and interfering with the tissue healing process,” he states.

Minimize stress Finally, dairy cattle are more susceptible to hoof health issues at certain times of year. “During the summer, as cows become heat stressed, rumen health is altered,” says Barmore. “Due to a delay from time of rumen insult to time of foot problems being detected, hoof health problems directly related to nutrition and feeding issues caused by heat stress usually arise late summer into early fall.” Along with heat stress, hormonal changes at calving coupled with milk fever,

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H O O F

H E A LT H

Monitor forage quality and ensure accurate ration mixing to promote good rumen health and hoof health

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ketosis, retained placenta and mastitis also influence an animal’s ability to combat lameness. Overcrowding, especially during the transition period, will compromise feed intake and can cause slug feeding, further compounding the situation and increasing susceptibility to lameness.

tight relationship between good foot health and good feed management,” he states. “Producers must feed excellent quality forages while watching starch and sugar in the ration to optimize rumen fermentable energy for maximized production and good rumen health.”

Consistent feeding

Trace minerals

When trying to minimize rumen health issues and subsequent lameness in dairy cattle, it is important to feed a balanced and consistent ration every day using only quality ingredients. Sutton recommends that the following be addressed when developing a ration to optimize hoof health. The diet contains the proper fiber content at a correct length; the right balance and levels of fermentable carbohydrates; enough microminerals to nourish and grow healthy tissue; and minimal mold and mycotoxins. “There is the formulated ration, the mixed ration, the ration that cows consume, and the ration actually digested. Keeping all four of them the same is challenging,” Sutton says. “To achieve this and maximize feed efficiency, feed needs to be mixed and delivered consistently each day.” Barmore agrees and says that on-farm feeding management is a key component to reducing rumen health issues resulting from nutrition. “There is a

Feeding highly bioavailable complexed trace minerals can assist in reducing the incidence of lameness as they promote tissue growth and health when correctly incorporated into the ration. Zinc has been shown to aid in faster wound healing and tissue repair and is required for maturing of claw horn tissue. Manganese helps maintain proper bone and collagen formation, while copper strengthens the horn and connective tissue of the hoof. Cobalt assists in forming vitamin B12 in the rumen, which in turn promotes protein and energy metabolism. Once the ration is formulated, daily feed refusals should be monitored to ensure the balanced ration is consumed. “Tracking the mixing accuracy and intake helps realize the nutritional impact on foot health,” Barmore says. “Having the ability to monitor feed quality and intake on farm is crucial to optimizing feed efficiency.” Barmore suggests several strategies to achieve optimal feed efficiency,

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Febr uary

including the development of a monitoring plan and a zero tolerance for feeding compromised forages. Having trained, on-farm staff to make monitoring assessments like routine moisture checks, daily monitoring of forages coming from storage and weigh backs assists in this process. Along with this monitoring plan, ample availability of the feed bunk space and feed also promote optimal feeding behavior, feed efficiency, and hoof health.

Nutrition part of equation Proper nutrition management can help minimize hoof health issues and increase performance and profits. However, Barmore and Sutton agree that nutrition is just one factor to consider when optimizing hoof health. As discussed in the last article, good cow comfort has a huge impact on hoof health. Sutton states that facility designs that get cows off their feet and promote 12 hours of lying time a day, along with improved hygiene are critical to hoof health. Along with nutrition and cow comfort, maintaining a routine hoof trimming program featuring the right trimming techniques leads to optimum hoof health. Barmore suggests that producers have their nutritionist and hoof trimmer work together to optimize hoof health and productivity. l

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F R O M

T H E

V E T E R I N A R I A N

D R .

R I C H

P R A C T I C E

V E E M A N

Dr. Rich Veeman from Veterinary Services of Oregon talks about how cooperation between producers and processors within the fluid milk industry will be the most important factor in improving fluid milk quality in the U.S.

Following good practices in the milking parlor will improve the end results

Focusing on quality I

mproving fluid milk quality has been one major focus of dairy researchers in the U.S. for decades now. However, there is still need for improvement. With the growth of shelf stable beverages on the market today, fluid milk needs to continue to improve in shelf stability attributes to be able to compete in today’s beverage market. Recent research at Cornell University is showing that bacterial contamination continues to be a major source of spoilage in fluid milk. In the past, post-pasteurization contamination by gram-negative bacteria has been the main source of bacterial spoilage in milk. With improvements in technology and sanitation practices, the types of bacteria causing fluid milk spoilage are shifting. Gram-positive spore forming bacteria, capable of surviving pasteurization are now becoming a more common cause of milk spoilage. These bacteria are slower growing and were previously masked by the faster growing gram-negative bacteria. Since the spores of these bacteria are capable of surviving pasteurization they may enter the milk at anytime during the process from the farm to the processing plant. On the farm there are many different control points, the most important of which is the milking process. Milking staff must be well trained and sick cows must be recognized and treated before milking.

One of the most common causes of raw milk contamination on the farm is poor cleaning of the milking equipment. Milk residues contain the nutrients necessary for bacterial growth and can become reservoirs for bacteria multiply causing contamination of future milkings. Another common cause of high bacterial counts is improper cooling of milk in the bulk tank. Freshly harvested milk should be rapidly cooled to a temperature of 4.4°C or less and maintained at that temperature until transportation. Bulk tank somatic cell counts are another major indicator of raw milk quality. The milk-weighted geometric mean bulk tank somatic cell count (BTSCC) has dropped from 263,000 in 2004, to 227,000 in 2009. To sustain a low BTSCC it is essential to maintain animal health, specifically utter health. With an abundance of spoilage causes on the farm and in the processing plant, it is important that each partner in the fluid milk production process recognize and control the possible sources of spoilage. Making sure that milking is carried out with meticulous sanitation and that pumps and machinery are maintained are necessary in achieving good quality milk. Overall, cooperation between producers and processors within the fluid milk industry will be the most important factor in the improvement of fluid milk quality in the U.S.

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C O N TA C T S

SHOWS AND EVENTS

Calves frolic outside on a frosty morning Picture: Harrie van Leeuwen

March 9-11: March 10-12: March 25: March 29-31: Mar 31: April 1-2: April 5-6: April 8-11: April 9: April 11-14: April 15: April 16: May 9-11: May 11-15: May 19-20: June 22-25: July 20-23:

Western Dairy Management Conference, Reno, NV High Plains Dairy Conference, Ambassador Hotel, Amarillo, TX Pennsylvania Holstein Spring Show, Harrisburg, PA Central Plains Dairy Expo, Sioux Falls, SD Ontario Spring Discovery R&W and Holstein Shows, Ancaster, ON Mid-East Spring National Holstein Show, Columbus, OH Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Conference, Lake Geneva, WI New York Spring Dairy Carousel, Syracuse, NY Southern Spring National Holstein Show, Stillwater, OK Annual Conference of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, San Antonio, Texas Southern Invitational Show, Perry, GA Midwest Spring National Show, Jefferson, WI 21st American Dairy Science Association Discover Conference on Improving Reproductive Efficiency of Lactating Dairy Cattle Itasca, IL National Dairy Producers Conference (NDPC), Omaha, NE Western National Spring Show, Richmond, UT National Holstein Convention, Richmond, VA National Red & White Convention, Sauk Rapids, MN

C O N TA C T S Cow Management is published six times per year by CRV Publishing

Editorial team Chief editor Jaap van der Knaap Contributing writers Steve Blezinger, Karen Bohnert, Danyel Hosto, Abele Kuipers, Amy Ryan Editing, design and production CRV Publishing

Chief editor’s address P.O. Box 454, 6800 AL Arnhem The Netherlands Phone 0031 26 38 98 829 Fax 0031 26 38 98 839 E-mail veeteelt@crv4all.com

COMING UP

F e e d costs and hoof health April – In the april issue we focus on feed costs. The shortage on the world market on feed has an influence on the US market as well. We will also continue with our series about hoof health and give an update from genomic selection.

Subscriptions Cow Management is available free of charge to customers of CRV, 2324 American Lane, Madison, WI 53704. If you want to ask for a subscription or to cancel a subscription send an email to info@crv4all.us

Advertisements Andrea Haines Phone 301 514 2927 Willem Gemmink, Froukje Visser Fax 0031 26 38 98 824 E-mail advertisements.cmus@crv4all.com

Illustrations/pictures Photographs by CRV Publishing Photography

Disclaimer CowManagement does not necessarily share the views expressed by contributors. No responsibility is accepted for the claims made by advertisers. No responsibility can be accepted by CRV Holding BV for the opinions expressed by contributors. Whilst every effort is made to obtain reliable and accurate information, liability cannot be accepted for errors. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system without the express prior written consent of the publisher. Printer Schumann Printers Inc.

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Why choose CRV?

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CowManagement US February 2011  

CowManagement edition U.S. February 2011

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