ED ITION U .S. V O LU M E 3 NO 3 J ULY 2011
IN THIS ISSUE
R OUND TA B L E
M A N A G EM EN T
FA RM REPORT
Three producers share their best dairy investments
Farm risk management programs offer predictable profits
German producer focussed on night milk
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Cow Talk Trouw Nutrition news CRV breeding information Vet practice: humidity Events and contacts FARM REPORTS
10 High-tech useful for Cody Heller 26 German farm produces night milk MANAGEMENT
14 Heat stress and calves 22 Calf house design BREEDING
20 Improving fertility 13 Balance in body and production
Cody Heller: “The first things I do in the morning is to power up the iPad” 10
Karen Bohnert June is dairy month
hen the calendar flips to June, summer debuts and generally so does the heat and humidity. While the Upper Midwest has had a relatively cool start to summer, along with other parts of the country – there is plenty of time for rising temperatures to settle in. While the heat and humidity combination allows crops to thrive – people and cows have a harder time doing just that. On page 14, producers can read about the causes, effects and prevention of heat stress in calves. Dr. Jud Heinrichs from Penn State shares with us his research that suggest dairy producers consider housing, ventilation and water availability in reducing heat stress incidences in calves. Young dairy producer Cody Heller in Alma Center, Wisconsin, is a farmer of the future, as he manages and operates his dairy with several technology gadgets, including his iPad. Learn how
Cody supervises his herd of 1,000 cows successfully and dreams of going to 20,000 head down the road on page 10. Regardless if a purchase for a dairy farm is $500 or $50,000, acquisitions must pay for themselves, especially in our current dairy economic status. On page 16, three dairy producers from coast to coast, share best buy investments that have worked well in their operation with us. Dairy producers have many challenging tasks and knowing and understanding what market tools are accessible in developing their own farm risk management program is critical, especially in positioning their dairy operation for a stable and brighter future. Producers can learn more about farm risk management programs on page 6. We hope you are able to raise a glass of ice-cold milk this summer and celebrate all your dairy business successes.
Finance Farm risk program
Management Balance the cow
Round table Best buys
Developing a farm risk management plan can be a challenging task.
Trying to balance efficient milk production is a challenge.
Three dairy producers share their best buy purchases from $500 on up to $50,000.
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Corn rises on worries about wet weather in Midwest Corn prices have continued to rise in late May and early June on worries that heavy spring rains could hurt this year’s harvest. Even though demand continues to remain high around the globe, wet weather in parts of the Midwest have made it difficult for farmers to plant corn, which sent corn pricing soaring— nearly 19 percent this year. Wheat is up 2 percent and soybeans
are down one percent for the year. Weather has improved during the last few weeks, improving the corn prices. “While it looks like we are finally able to dry out a little bit,” said Jack Scoville, vice president of the Price Futures Group. Much of the Midwest has seen above average rain fall this spring.
Survey reveals cost savings Only 15% of large dairy units are currently capitalising on the significant benefits of once-a-day milk feeding, yet the practice can save 60 dollar per calf and cut labor input in half without compromising animal health and performance. This statistic comes from an independent survey of 300 producers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which was commissioned by Bonanza Calf Nutrition. The findings highlight the potential for the industry to make significant calf rearing cost and labor savings, according to the company’s Tom Warren. “These latest survey findings reveal that a majority of producers (57%) are still bucket feeding their calves.
More than 30% are using teated feeders – although this figure rises to more than 40% in larger 200cow plus herds – with only 7% taking advantage of automatic or computerised feeders. “With so many producers feeding calves manually, I think the UK industry is missing a trick by not moving wholesale into once-a-day feeding,” he says. “There’s plenty of research and producer experience around that shows calves can be fed successfully on oncea-day feeding systems.” Mr. Warren adds that to rear calves successfully on a once daily system rearers must use whole milk or a milk replacer based on skim milk powder for the best results.
Once-a-day milk feeding can help to reduce labor input
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Arizona immigration law upheld A 5-3 United States Supreme Court ruling last month sustained an Arizona law that penalizes businesses for hiring illegal immigrants. The Obama administration is opposed of this law and disputes that the state of Arizona law steps on the traditional federal oversight over immigration matters. Four years ago, in 2007, Arizona passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which present that the state can suspend the licenses of business that “intentionally or knowingly” violate work-eligibility verification requirements. Companies would be required to use the federal E-Verify database to check the documentation of current and prospective employees. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit against Arizona, arguing federal law prohibits Arizona and other states from making E-Verify use mandatory. Justice Roberts and his four conservative colleagues voted to uphold the Act on grounds that the state law “tracks the federal law’s provisions in all material aspects.” According to CNN, the case is likely to serve as a bellwether as to how the high court will view the larger, more controversial state immigration law from Arizona which would allow police to check a person’s immigration status if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is in the country illegally. That case is currently pending before a federal appeals court.
HSUS by the numbers video revealed HumaneWatch.org has recently launched a video, ‘By the Numbers,’ to enable Americans to learn more about the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Rick Berman, executive director for Center for Consumer Freedom says, “Little by little, we’re breaking through to the public’s consciousness with HumaneWatch.” The feature includes some eye-opening numbers regarding HSUS, such as: • 0.8 percent — the percentage of HSUS income donated to hands-on pet shelters in 2009. • 50 percent — the percentage of HSUS’s budget consisting of fundraising and other overhead costs. • $18.5 million — money HSUS has diverted from animal-related programs into its employee pension plan. • Zero — number of hands-on pet shelters operated by HSUS. During the last fifteen months, HumaneWatch research team has collected data and statistics. Six members of Congress are calling for an IRS investigation, according to Berman. In 2010, HSUS was downgraded by Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest and mostutilized evaluator of charities.
Keep diets cool Producers can prevent mixed diets heating up this summer – and avoid lower intakes and drops in production – by treating buffer feeds with organic acids. As soon as a diet is mixed it can be subject to significant spoilage due to actions of yeasts and moulds that thrive on the combination of high moisture and plentiful nutrient supply in the mixed diet. Every 1°C increase in diet
temperature reduces dry matter content by 0.25%. Nutrients are lost and feed wastage increases. If ambient temperature is below 20°C feed quality only starts to decline after 24 hours. Once the temperature exceeds 25°C, the rate of heating and spoiling increases markedly. Research showed that where diets heated up, the sugar content was reduced by 40g/kg DM – equivalent to 50% of the total sugars.
If temperature is below 20°C feed quality will start to decline after 24 hours
West in danger of floods Officials are worried that if June is exceptionally hot and sunny in California, the snow could melt too quickly and flood there region’s rivers with torrents of water. This is all due to record snow packs that have called an end to California’s drought earlier this year. The last time record snow packs caused widespread flooding across the west was nearly 20 years ago, in 1983. “This (flooding) is a real risk in the Rocky Mountains and Northwest, but it’s unclear if it’s a risk in California,” says Jeff Mount, geologist with the University of California-Davis. Mount says that in his conversations
with the California Department of Water Resources, they are optimistic that there won’t be a major flood in California. Although officials are skeptical of flooding happening in California, if it does happen it will most likely affect the San Joaquin River system, and any farmers that farm along the San Joaquin River will be impacted... “if it happens at all,” notes Mount. Regardless if the weather does warm up in California and on the West coast, one hot day does not cause a flood. Officials say that an extended period of above average temperatures of 10 days or more will cause a rapid snow melt. Otherwise, the water will trickle out.
Risk about flooding this year caused by snowpack record
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Farm risk management programs offer predi ctab
More volatility, m o While many dairy producers excel in cow, crop, and feed management, farm risk management and marketing in particular, is one area that holds untapped potential for profits. text Amy Ryan
eveloping a farm risk management plan to take advantage of market opportunities can be a challenging task. Knowing what marketing tools are available, understanding how they work and knowing which factors to consider when developing a good farm risk management plan can help position dairy producers for a stable, brighter future. A recent survey of Wisconsin agricultural bankers asked lenders to rate the top challenges facing todayâ€™s agricultural producers. High input costs, managing price risks and handling volatile markets rose to the top of the list. Respondents also indicated that a farmâ€™s approach to commodity marketing has a significant influence on lending decisions. Along with identifying the importance of farm risk management programs, the survey pinpointed challenges that lenders felt impacted producersâ€™ marketing performance. These included: knowing how various marketing tools work; wanting the top price and losing confidence if a strategy does not produce that price; knowing how to apply various
What does great marketing look like?
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redi ctable profits and position for the future
more opportunity marketing strategies with specific risk management/cash flow needs of the operation; and maintaining the time and discipline to market well.
Understand strategies Experts say that the only certainty in marketing is volatility will continue. Knowing what tools are available and implementing strategies to take advantage of that market volatility will offer dairy producers predictable, stable profits. One of those experts is Brian Gould, Associate Professor in Agriculture and Applied Economics at the University of WisconsinMadison. “It is important for producers to know the objectives of their program and understand what these tools are doing for them,” he says. “If your strategy is setting a price that you can’t go above when market conditions rally and you aren’t happy with that, then you should consider a different strategy like setting a price floor which allows you to get a higher price.” Steven Schalla, a Dairy Market Advisor with Stewart-Peterson, Inc., in West Bend, Wisc., says three main farm risk management tools are available. The first is trading futures and options through the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). Milk futures trading began in 1996 and have steadily grown. However, Schalla says that only a small amount (less than 10 percent) of the total milk production in the United States, utilizes some sort of risk management. Dairy producers most commonly work with their milk cooperative for forward, minimum price and minimum/maximum price contracting. “Many producers are utilizing a program available from their plants to implement different positions and manage risk in the markets,” Schalla states. “These programs are popular because trades are handled by the cooperative and all gains or losses are reflected directly in producer milk checks.”
LGM-Dairy Lastly is the relatively new tool, Livestock Gross Margin-Dairy (LGM-Dairy), an insurance program available from the USDA Risk Management Agency. This program, introduced two years ago, was developed to set a floor for income over feed cost (IOFC). It provides protection to dairy producers when feed costs rise and/or milk prices drop. Gross margin is the market value of milk minus feed costs. LGM-Dairy uses futures prices for corn, soybean meal, and milk to determine the expected gross margin and the actual gross margin. This program has seen tremendous adoption since December 2010, when USDA added subsidies. In fact Gould says that from December 2010 to March 2011, uptake was so substantial that 46.1 million hundredweights of milk were insured since the start of the insurance year, equaling 2.4 percent of all 2010 U.S. milk production. Currently, all of the 15 million dollars allocated to
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Keys to successful marketing Marketing can help dairy producers better position themselves for the future. Here are some keys to a good marketing program: • Know cost of production • Set reasonable expectations • Understand the potential outcomes and opportunity costs of strategies • Educate yourself about factors that impact milk and feed costs
LGM-Dairy have been used and enrollment is closed until more funds become available at the end of October. Schalla says that LGM-Dairy is a very viable option for price risk management. “The results so far have been break even, which means margins have been good and it has not been needed,” he states. “I do caution that there may be a risk of lag time in payment since it is based on future contracts for milk and grain prices, which settle at different times.”
Predictable prices Gould and Schalla agree that price management strategies are an opportunity that more producers should consider. “Risk management gives producers more control of their milk or feed prices and an overall more consistent end price,” says Gould. “Producers that actively market their milk can really manage the price they receive to ensure they cover their cost of production.” Schalla adds, “The biggest advantage of risk management through marketing is more predictability for the end price. As a producer, you know that can meet your financial obligations with your lender. Not only can marketing enable you to meet those day-to-day obligations, but also future planning needs.” While the advantages of risk management tools for price protection are appealing, Schalla says that many producers struggle with committing to a program as they may leave a small amount of profit on the table when the market changes. However, he reminds that some price potential is sacrificed for predictability and certainty.
Time, knowledge, discipline There are various factors to consider when developing a risk management program. First, Gould says producers need to know their cost of production. Next, is knowledge of marketing strategies. “Producers must set reasonable targets, consider how a certain strategy could reach those targets and the strategy’s opportunity costs,” Gould says.
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• Eliminate emotion from marketing decisions • Know where the market is relative to recent history • Evaluate different strategies and how they will impact your price • Think big picture/don’t get caught up in individual decisions • Prepare and analyze different scenarios to overcome market changes.
To help producers consider strategies, Schalla asks them to do a brief assessment of their situation. “We discuss time availability, their knowledge of marketing tools and the market, and their discipline for implementing or maintaining a strategy when the market changes,” says Schalla. “We also encourage realistic goals that meet the needs of all members in the operation as understanding everyone’s risk tolerance is very important.” Schalla further stresses that a risk management plan be customized to each operation’s individual goals. “Great marketing is really about maintaining a good average price over the long-term,” he says. “The best way to accomplish this is analyzing all the tools available and using different tools in different situations to move towards the optimum position in the future.” While the success of an operation’s program does vary depending on the overall objective, Gould says that successful marketing covers the fixed and some of the variable costs of production. It also allows producers to move the market price in the direction they want it to go.
Position for the future In a world of uncertainty, one thing is certain, volatility is here to stay. Gould says U.S. dependence on international markets could increase that volatility. “To better position their operation for the future, managers need to become more marketers than producers to control prices and profits,” he says. “This marketing can be done with a variety of strategies, but producers need to closely evaluate these strategies and the people that they hire to execute them.” Schalla agrees and adds that successful marketing will be a key to good positioning with lenders. “While all aspects of farm management are important, financial management and marketing are critical. Knowing what tools are available and how they work will provide stability and lender appeal, two qualities that will help an operation best position itself for the future,” he concludes. l
TROUW NUTRITION NEWS
Inspiring DairyVision 2011! Trouw Nutrition hosted their first biennial Dairy Vision meeting April 2011 in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Agricultural Vice President of Trouw Nutrition, Jay Clary, stated “Dairy Vision gave us an opportunity to present first class speakers of the dairy calf industry in personal setting.” Trouw invited 7 keynote speakers. A few highlights of the presentations are at this page. If you would like to know more about the presentations, send an email to : email@example.com Back row: Dr. Steve Blezinger, Mark Welter, Dr. Benjamin Darien, Joost Teunissen; front row: Dr. Francisco San Emeterio, Steve Christensen, Dr. Doug Waterman
Joost Teunissen, owner of Teunissen Ranch, Tulare, California
Steve Blezinger, Ph.D., PAS, Ruminant Product and Technical Manager Trouw Nutrition USA
“Managing dairy calves while maximizing the highest profit”
“World food demand in 2050 2x higher of what it is today”
Together with 23 employees, Teunissen raises 23,000 calves a year from birth to 4 months. He addressed the quick use of clean colostrum being important for the overall health of the calf. He showed the importance of “the calves getting it,” meaning that they are getting the right amount of protein and energy. Teunissen shared information on an egg specialized protein blend that he uses. “Very cost effective,” he stated underlined by the first results of a scientific research on his ranch.
Dr. Steve Blezinger gave an interesting overview of trends in the world dairy market. He discussed how different the world is going to be in 2050. He stated, “The world population is estimated to be 9 billon; a 50% increase over what it is currently.” This means an increase per capita consumption of dairy products. This is a positive outlook for the US dairy industry. He predicted that the number of small operations will continue to decline together with growth in the large operations greater than 500 cows.
Colostrum intake the first hours after birth is crucial
Table 1: Average farm size in US in percentage of total 2008
20 15 10 5 0
50-99 100-199 farm size
For more information on products and services of Trouw Nutrition International: Tel. 800.328.8942. www.trouwnutritionusa.com COW MAN AG E ME N T
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Heller Farms Inc. A lot of computer data of the dairy of Cody Heller (26) is connected in his iPad. Every morning he starts with scanning the data. Number of cows: Number of youngstock: Employees: Amount of land:
1,000 960 30 5,060 acres
View of the barn and the lagoons
On the Heller dairy farm they put their trust completely in pedometers
Dreaming of 20,000 cows Cody Heller is ambitious. In Alma Center he is now milking 1,000 cows, but within three to five years he wants to add 3,300, and he is even thinking of milking 20,000 cows over ten to fifteen years. But if you thought the 26-year-old dairy farmer is a dreamer you would be wrong. text Rochus Kingmans
ody Heller (26), alongside with his father, owns and operates a dairy farm with a thousand cows in Alma Center, Wisconsin. He is full of ambition and is a real farmer of the future, as he walks round his farm with an iPad in his hand. Not to show off, because the splashes of manure shows the iPad more often sees the inside of the cow house. “I work with a lot of staff and a lot of computer data that ranges from to do lists, to the daily fat and protein tests and the bacterial count. All this data comes together in my iPad,” as Cody explains his close connection with the machine. “One of the first things I do in the morning is to power up the iPad and quickly scan all the data. Then I have an overview of what has to be done when and who is to do it.”
Staff earns good salary Cody Heller manages well over thirty people including three herd managers.
Sheila is the first herd manager, she is responsible for the fertility and pregnancy. The second herd manager is Chuy, who looks after the fresh cows, is responsible for the hoof health and also looks after the three thousand hogs fattened on the farm. Nacho, the third herd manager, looks after all the cows except the newly freshened ones. Both Chuy and Nacho originate from Mexico. Both Mexicans have been working for the Hellers for sixteen years. “I invest a great deal in my colleagues in the form of good training and courses,” says Heller and explains how he keeps his staff for so long. He emphasizes that it is also a question of a good salary. Sheila – who is an American – earns $80,000 to $85,000 a year; Chuy and Nacho each earn $65,000. Seven milkers see that the cows are milked three times a day. An additional four people go round with ration, filling the boxes and other work that has to
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be done in and around the parlor. For the acreage under cultivation Heller works with fifteen people of whom, ten are employed all year round.
Simple is cheaper Cody manages all aspects of his farm and that certainly goes for the breeding. He is very enthusiastic about the use of genomic bulls. “By using them here completely I can speed up the genetic improvement,” says Heller who adds to this that he finds the reliability of the breeding values high enough. As a manager Cody Heller is a believer in the saying: simple is cheaper. The cow house exudes that principle too: no bells and whistles, no complicated technical tours de force. Except the pedometers that the young dairy farmer provided for all his cows in November last year. Up to then he synchronized The iPad plays an important role
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Profit and loss Heller Farm Inc. 2010
The milking parlor
Two trucks for shipping milk
his cows in combination with visual detection. Heller is inspired about the changeover. “It cost a lot of money, every pedometer costs $86, but the results have improved enormously.” Heller had a heat detection rate of 52.9% of cows. Since the pedometers that has risen to an average of 75 percent. The pregnancy rate after 21 days has risen from an average of 17 percent to a good 25 percent. “Don’t
forget that I needed someone who was being paid $45,000 just for the visual heat detection. I don’t need that any more: I trust on activity measurement. Besides the synchronization it used to cost me $800 per month.” The word simple can also be applied to the TMR ration. The high production group receives on dry matter basis a mix of 35% haylage, 12% corn silage, 29% high moisture shell corn (HMSC),
income milk sales grain sales raised cattle other income total income
$4,750,868 $605,340 $262,344 $505,287 $6,123,840
expense labor feed vet and med total repairs interest expense total rent total gas, fuel and oil total professional fees total custom hire total fertilizer and lime electricity other costs total costs net income
$1,540,430 $1,030,626 $418,381 $409,525 $396.088 $353,501 $330,029 $260,958 $210,300 $106,242 $96,357 $729,447 $5,881,890 $241,949
6% whey, 5% home custom premix and 5% by-product from ethanol production distillers. The maiden heifers receive a daily TMR ration consisting of (also on dry matter basis) a good 88% haylage, scant 10% corn silage supplemented with a premix (heifer mix) of 1.8%. The third group (heifers not yet calved) receives a relatively large portion of premix (pre-calving mix) 27.5%. In addition a good 8% canola, generous 4% wheat straw, 15.3% hay, 4.6% haylage and scant 40% corn silage.
Full of future plans
The housing for cows is both simple and cheap
Heller is full of further plans. He recently bought 105 acres of land, where within three to five years he will set up a new facility for 3,300 cows with a 72-stall milking carousel. That is an investment about 14 million dollar. “As soon as the burden of debt as percentage of the total capital comes out at under 33 percent, I’m going to build.” At the moment that percentage stands at 48. Still more big numbers are going round in Heller’s head. “I am just thinking about 20,000 cows. In Wisconsin seventeen farmers give up every month. Although perhaps it sounds hard, that does offer opportunities to the survivors who will get even bigger. And I certainly want to be one of the survivors.” l
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Dairy cows’ nutritional needs vary because of production level
Balance in body and production This poses a challenge for every dairy producer, trying to balance efficient milk production, the nutritional needs of the individual cow, and healthy body condition scores (BCS) across an entire herd to prevent future problems. text Danyel Hosto
cow climbing toward her peak lactation requires more energy to stay in a positive energy balance as compared to a cow 250 days in milk, finishing her lactation and replenishing fat stores. Grouping animals is an effective way to manage their different needs and diets, but what happens when the farm setup requires both these animals to be in one pen or only one diet? Selecting for a flatter lactation curve can compensate for the challenges associated with feeding a single diet across different stages of lactation.
BCS implications Body condition score should be monitored throughout the lactation of an animal. Michel Wattiaux, professor dairy systems management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, notes that the amount of body reserves a cow has at calving has a strong influence on
Brett Haines: “A flatter lactation curve has benefits to cow fertility”
milk production and reproductive efficiency for the upcoming lactation, as well as being an indicator for potential complications in the transition period. “Cows too thin beginning lactation lack the reserves to kick start lactation. This causes a negative energy balance, which also delays a normal estrus cycle,” said Wattiaux. “Too much fat reserves
Problems of extreme BCS
•Reduced milk production •Increased metabolic diseases (ketosis, displaced abomasum, etc.) •Delayed normal estrus cycle
• Increased complications at calving •I ncreased metabolic diseases (fat cow syndrome, ketosis, etc.) • Reduced milk production
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milk energy and maintenance breeding period
body energy store
Figure 1: Traditional lactation curve versus energy balance (source: Kutches, A. 1983 Animal Nutrition and health, Nov./Dec.)
reduces milk production because of depressed feed intake early in the lactation due to the additional body fat mobilization.” Extreme BCS of animals can cause an array of issues which affect the health of the herd and overall bottom line of a farm. When the nutrition program can’t be tailored to suit the stage of lactation, other management tools need to be considered.
Manipulate the lactation curve
Body condition score should be monitored throughout the lactation
Persistency refers to how flat the normal lactation curve of a cow is versus a curve with a high peak and sharp production decline afterward. Changing the lactation curve of an animal is not a new concept, although it has usually been done with the goal of more yields in mind. rBST is used for cows that are past their peak milk production, generally with more body condition. The outcome of sustained higher milk production and increased feed intake also maintains a flatter lactation curve and keeps cows from becoming overconditioned. More persistent lactations can also be selected for with genetics. CRV utilizes a breeding value, persistency, which measures the production levels of the bulls’ daughters at the traditional peak milk of 60 days, and then later in the lactation through 305 days. The
closer the post-peak milk values to the peak milk, the higher the persistency breeding value. Persistency is represented on a scale with 100 as breed average and values above 100 have flatter lactation curves. “A flatter lactation curve has benefits to cow health and fertility,” says Brett Haines, breeding program coordinator at CRV. “Because production is more level throughout the lactation you have more balance between energy intake and production, but you’re going to give up a little overall milk yield.” Every pound higher that a cow peaks in milk production, it generally translates into an additional 200 pounds of milk over the lactation according to University of Kentucky dairy extension materials. Depending on your farm set up, pushing for peak milk and overall milk yield is the best choice. There are farm set ups that would see more benefit from cows with a flatter lactation curve. Haines states, “If you are feeding one ration to all your cows or across stages of lactation, you will see benefits from more persistent lactations. Whether it is more consistent body condition scores in your late lactation cows or fewer problems in transitions cows because they’re not peaking as high, the possible boost in animal health should translate to savings in the bottom line.” l
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Prolonged heat stress in calves can induce pneumonia
Maximizing calf intake in hot weather
Heat stress in cows is a ‘hot’ topic with much documented research on causes, effects and prevention. Although heat stress in calves may not be as well researched, its dramatic impact on a dairy’s bottom line, namely reduced weight gain and delayed entry of heifers into the milking herd, cannot be underestimated. text Amy Ryan
he optimum thermal temperature for calves is between 55 and 78°F. Heat stress occurs as the ambient temperature rises above 78°F, relative humidity increases and excessive radiant heat inhibit heat loss. When these factors coexist, calves must use more energy to reduce body heat through sweating and increased respiratory rate.
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As with cows, the temperature-humidity index (THI) can be used to identify the differences between mild, medium and severe heat stress. In particular, when the temperature goes above 85 and humidity is greater than 80 percent, calves become heat stressed. Heat stressed calves will experience an elevated body temperature, rapid
dehydration and a weakened immune system. Overall, heat stress reduces feed intake and body weight gain. Some of the most common signs of heat stress in calves are reduced movement, decreased feed intake, increased water consumption, desire for more shade, rapid respiration or panting, openmouth breathing and in severe cases, lethargy. Prolonged heat stress can induce pneumonia. Dr. Jud Heinrichs, Professor of Dairy and Animal Science with Penn State University, is a world renown educator who has dedicated much of his research to calf heifer nutrition and management. Along with publishing many articles, Heinrichs was instrumental in the USDA National Dairy Heifer Evaluation Program which studied heifer management practices in the U.S. To prevent or reduce heat stress in
Heat stressed calves will experience many symptoms such as dehydration
(birth to eight weeks old) at one time and about 20 trials per year are done with 50 calves per trial. In each trial, the following measurements are obtained and recorded on an individual calf basis: temperature/humidity (hourly), feed refused and offered (daily), fecal score (daily); medical treatments (daily); calf weight (weekly); body condition score (biweekly); hip width (biweekly); and serum protein (once initially). So far, thirty journal articles have been published based on research conducted at the Nurture Reseach Center. The most recent trial, published in the April 2011 Journal of Dairy Science, compared housing, bedding and cooling options for dairy calves. Four separate trials were conducted with three of them done evaluating calf performance in warm weather (May to September) under different treatments. Specifically, calves were housed in the nursery and in hutches, cooled with fans and bedded with straw and sand.
Ventilation and air flow
calves, Heinrichs suggests producers consider housing, ventilation, and water availability. More specifically, he says that optimizing air flow and quality through increased ventilation, providing shade and ensuring clean, ample water to calves during high temperatures is of utmost importance.
Recent research As a ruminant nutritionist and researcher with Provimi North America in Lewisburg, Ohio, Dr. Mark Hill has worked with several trials at the Nurture Research Center. This real world, naturally ventilated researched facility was constructed in 1999 to better define nutrient requirements, explore nutritional concepts, develop effective products and test management practices. The nursery can house up to 100 calves
Hill says that the results of this trial show well ventilated nurseries reduce heat stress. “Our nursery has a curtain side that drops completely to the ground and a ridge vent the runs the entire length of the nursery to optimize ventilation and air flow,” he states. “The ceiling is approximately twenty feet at the ridge and calves are in four by eight foot pens with over fifty square feet of nursery space per calf.” However, Hill stresses that not all calf barns are well ventilated and that ventilation is the key to reducing heat stress in calves. “Temperatures over 80°F merit the use of either overhead or portable floor fans to cool nurseries that allow it,” Hill says. Poor air quality can increase respiratory infections and reduce body weight gain in the summer. Overall air quality can be improved by a positive pressure ventilation system or a tube-like system that draws in outside air and moves it within the barn. The improved air quality from this type of system can
reduce respiratory infections in cases of poor ventilation. Hutches on the other hand are a different story and improvising is needed to improve ventilation. With hutches firmly fixed to the ground, Hill recommends elevating the rear of hutches on blocks to increase ventilation and ensuring the bedding within the hutch does not stop air movement. Although fans were the only cooling system analyzed in this particular trial, Hill cites shades as another viable cooling mechanism for calves. “Shades are a common practice in the more tropical climates,” he says. “While they have not specifically been linked to growth improvements, they have reduced respiratory rates and overall calf temperatures.”
Closely monitor calves As mentioned above, each warm weather trial evaluated different ventilation, bedding and cooling treatments to determine their impact on calves. The following conclusions were drawn: • Weight gain and starter intake of calves in a well ventilated nursery with straw bedding were greater and scouring was less than that in calves bedded with sand in the nursery or hutches. • Body weight gain, feed efficiency, and hip width change were greater and breaths per minute were less for calves housed in a well ventilated nursery and cooled with fans compared with calves that were not cooled. • Airborne bacteria concentrations were greater in the hutches than in the nursery pens. “Overall findings were straw bedding and nursery pens improve calf body weight gain,” summarizes Hill. “Daytime cooling with fans during warm weather also increased calf weight gain.” Lastly, Heinrichs states that producers must closely monitor calves to minimize heat stress, maintain intake and improve growth rates. “Air flow, shade and plenty of water are keys to optimizing calf health and intake in hot temperatures,” he says. “Along with always providing shade and water, make sure calves housed in hutches can get outside and that air can flow through hutches.” l
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Roundtable features three producers who share their best dairy investments
Best buy purchases Managing purchases is absolutely more important and more necessary for dairy producers than it ever has been before. As milk price and input costs continue to put a cash crunch on dairy farming operations from coast to coast, producers now are forced to make their purchases pay for themselves, regardless if the buy is $500 or $50,000. text Karen Bohnert
n this roundtable, three producers from coast to coast share what products and services work best for their dairy operation. List products and services that cost under $100 that have been a good buy for your operation and explain why they have been a good buy to you. Lyon: “Our veterinarian services – both local and consulting – are first on the list. Our local vet saves most of our calves, has a good vaccination program, tests bulls and generally gives great daily service and expertise. Our reproduction vet, provides monthly ultra sounding, getting cows bred back timely and quick treatment of problem cows.” Ohlde: “We run bulk tank samples at University of Minnesota, where we test
for non-ag strep and mycoplasma, as well as running individual staph test on our fresh cows. Knowing our herd health status has been beneficial in sorting and selling cows. This also helps us get on top of cow and labor issues quickly. Also Perfect udder bags from Dairy Tech are a great inexpensive investment. These bags are for single use only, so the colostrum is sanitary and washing of bottles becomes not an issue. The system creates ease in filling, which also reduces spilling.” Prock: “A Littmann stethoscope, for physical exams. There is a reason it is a popular product with both vets and doctors. Also, the ‘LogMeIn App’ for my smart phone, that allows me to access the office computer, files, records and electronic time clock when I am away from the office. I also like the Evernote
Littmann stethoscope is one of Ray Prock’s best buy investments
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Premium subscription to organize notes and thoughts by capturing in voice, text or photo note.” What about items that cost $100 to $500? Explain why they’ve been a good buy to you. Lyon: “Some great vet products that have worked great for us have been: Enforce-3, BoviKalc and Genesis colostrum replacement.” Ohlde: “Language Links LLC Dairy Coach. This is a monthly bilingual training DVD to emphasize areas on the farm and comes with dairy interactive and aids in training new milkers.” Prock: “I like the GLA digital thermometer to check cow’s temperatures; it is built like a tank. Also, an additional monitor for my laptop allows for more real estate while working on bigger spreadsheets. Plus,
Ohlde’s Dairy loves the Perfect Udder bags as a great inexpensive investment
LY O N J E R S E Y S , T O L E D O ,
I O WA
Joe and Eric Lyon “Our local vet saves most of our calves, has a good vaccination program, tests bulls and generally gives great daily service and expertise.“
Plate count: Milk cows: RHA: Cell count: OHLDE FARM, L I N N ,
2.5 370 registred Jerseys 19,000 200,000 K A N S A S
Ohlde Family “Our hoof trimming table has been a great asset. The biggest advantage of having this table is being able to look at lame cows in a timely fashion.”
Plate count: Milk cows: RHA: Cell count: R A Y- L I N D A I R Y , D E N A I R ,
10 900 24,500 239,000 C A L I F O R N I A
Ray Prock Family “The ‘LogMeIn App’ for my smart phone, that allows me to access the ofﬁce computer, ﬁles, records and electronic time clock when I am away from the ofﬁce.” Plate count: Milk cows: RHA: Cell count:
2.5 450 Jerseys, Holsteins and crossbreds 23,605 220,000
Prock’s android smart phone is both informative and flexible
my android smart phone adds even greater flexibility to having continual access to information and the ability to capture text and audio for notes.” What about items that cost $500 to $1,000? Explain why they’ve been a good buy to you. Lyon: “We feed anionic salts to our warm-up cows to prevent milk fever. Our feed consultants, Nelson Dairy Group, have provided an effective, low cost ration to maximize component yields. They use Diamond-V yeast products and an array of low cost additives. Recently we switched to canola meal, oat screenings, and EXL, plus cottonseed to stretch soybean meal products that have proven to be a great buy investment for us.” Ohlde: “Spray system for pre-dipping cows. The spray system allows for a cleaner application of pre-dip because no bedding sits in the cup and thus eliminates cow to cow transfer. This also cuts usage, as we are not pouring from tote to jug to cup.” Prock: “The cumulative time and labor spent on cow comfort filling, leveling and cleaning free stalls. Drag harrow to level and keep corrals dry. Laptop computer, so I have access to the computer when traveling or away from the dairy or office.” List items that costs between $1,000 to $10,000 and explain why they’ve been a good buy to you. Lyon: “Our New Holland skid loaders are reliable, comfortable, safe, simple
Lyon Jerseys veterinarian services are first on their list
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Regardless if a purchase is $500 or $50,000, they must pay for themselves, especially in the current dairy economic state
and indispensable. We have had long, dependable life from our Mono-mixer feed wagon and we could not function without the Mensch tire manure squeegee.” Ohlde: “Used bale processor for calf bedding, which cost us $8,000. This has saved on straw and has cut our labor by at least 80 percent. Also a hoof trimming table has been a great asset. The biggest advantage of having this table is being able to look at lame cows in a timely fashion. However, it does require more training and a time commitment.” Prock: “Rubber matting for the cows to walk on while traveling on concrete or standing at the feed bunk has significantly reduced feet problems for my herd. Soaker system to cool cows in the summer easily pays for itself with the hot summers we have in the Central Valley. We also have a hoof trimming chute that allows us to respond to any feet problems quickly.”
Now give us a top five ranks for all products that you listed before. Explain the reasoning of your ranking. Lyon: “I could not rank them. They all are great buys and have easily paid for themselves in our farming operation.” Ohlde: “Trimming table, Perfect Udder bags, Dairy Coach, bale processor, spray system for pre-dip. Cow comfort is our biggest priority and the table allows us to be more responsive if and when we do have an issue. The colostrum bags aid in calf health and Dairy Coach helps with training, which always is a priority for us. The bedding processor and spray systems are good, but have not had quite the impact of the other items.” Prock: “Soakers which paid for themselves in one summer; rubber mats – the reduction in feet problems was a huge savings and improved cow comfort greatly; time and labor spent keeping free stalls clean and full; hoof
Prock credits rubber flooring to reducing feet problems
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trimming chute to quickly address feet problems and GLA thermometer and Littmann stethoscope.” What’s on your wish list and why? Lyon: “This list is easy! A bale processorshooter for bedding and feeding. A manure vacuum for alley cleaning. Plastic calf stall dividers. Another hoop building for dry cows and springers. Last, but not least, a high production, high component, high type, very low mastitis A.I. Jersey sire.” Ohlde: “Corn silage facer. With rising feed costs, we think that this can help with face spoilage and help us put in a better quality forage in the bunk.” Prock: “Feed management software, currently using Excell that limits some of the efficiencies seen with the specific software programs to manage feeding. Anything to help gather more data because I firmly believe if you want to manage something, you can never have enough data.” l
Lyons say their New Holland skid loaders are reliable, safe and vital
B R EEDING
N E W S
Elizabeth Olson starts at CRV Elizabeth Olson joined the CRV USA team as the first summer Marketing Intern. This summer, Elizabeth will focus her efforts on website redesign, market messaging, communication and social media. Coming to CRV from the neighboring state of Minnesota, Elizabeth brings an array of dairy industry experience to CRV USA headquarters in Wisconsin. As a senior at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities double majoring in Animal Science and Applied Economics, Elizabeth is very involved on campus. She is the current President of the Gopher Dairy Club, past President of the College of Food Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and member of the collegiate dairy judging team. Outside of school, Elizabeth enjoys showing dairy cattle
from her family’s Holstein farm located in Hutchinson, MN and being active within state and national Junior Holstein Associations. Past professional experiences of Olson include being a marketing assistant for a private grain exchange company, a sales and marketing intern for a nutrition company, and serving as the official goodwill ambassador for Minnesota’s dairy industry as the 56th Princess Kay of the Milky Way in the year 2009. “We look forward to working with Elizabeth’s vast dairy background and her strong communication skills. She will be an integral part of this summer’s extensive marketing goals and growing our global brand to the US market,” says Danyel Hosto, CRV USA Marketing Coordinator.
Canadian web shop expands CRV’s online offering CRV Canada, a branch office of global cattle improvement organization CRV officially opened its web shop for the sales of genetic products. Besides Holstein sires from www.crv4all.ca
the Dutch, American and New Zealand breeding programs, farmers can also order other breeds like Swedish Red, Montbeliarde, Fleckvieh, MRY and more. “Many Canadian farmers want to breed for healthy and problem free cows. CRV bulls are ideal for achieving their objectives.” Christiaan Kloosterboer, area manager of CRV Global Sales and Development states “CRV is back again and will stay forever!” Unique in Canada is the ability to purchase your semen through a web shop. Semen purchasing at your convenience, whether in the barn or on the go, is the goal of the CRV web shop. This online opportunity offers ease and a good value for money for every Canadian farmer. Please visit www. crv4all.ca to see for yourself. In addition to the Canadian web shop; producers, farmers and ranchers in the US can utilize the CRV USA web shop for any of their semen or genetic needs at www.crv4all.us. CRV’s mission as a customer-focused cattle improvement organization is to be fully committed to adding value for farmers. CRV, its members, customers and employees, are inspired by the cattle industry. It is from this inspiration that CRV employees have the drive to support their customers and to help them to achieve their goals and to improve their herd results. Customer needs and customer benefits determine our activities and we want to add value for everyone who uses our products and services.
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Fertility is improving in the Netherlands – the figures of Dutch sires prove it
The only way is up The Dutch are making tangible progress with regard to breeding for improved fertility and efforts in this area are reflected by the statistics. The changes are still small, but the fertility indexes of Dutch proven sires are noticeably increasing and producers using them can look forward to higher non-return rates. text Hans Siemes, Veepro
ows that won’t become pregnant are a major source of frustration for producers. When a cow has been bred unsuccessfully two or three times, culling often is considered and it is among the top three reasons for culling. So it’s clear why fertility is one of the most important areas demanding attention on many dairy units. It is a complex issue, with various factors having an influence on the fertility of cows including management, nutrition and breeding. The influence of the latter appears to be small, but that’s not accurate, according to CRV’s Sander de Roos. “The positive thing about breeding is that no further efforts are necessary. You make an improvement genetically and that’s all. Good quality feed also contributes to fertility, but having to compensate for poor forages with other products will involve a lot of work and costs.”
High fertility Breeding offers possibilities. Consistent use of bulls with high fertility will definitely lead to considerable improvements, assures the genetic specialist. “That way you can make a lot of progress.” Although, in the field you won’t find many producers that breed exclusively for fertility. They take other aspects into consideration such
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as improving the protein content, udder health and feet and legs. “Producers are looking for a bull with an optimal combination of these traits, but fertility certainly plays an important role.” Where fertility is concerned, there are significant differences between bulls. Fertility in the Netherlands is based on calving interval and non-return percentage. It is important to look at both. For this reason they contribute equally to the fertility index.
Calving interval The average calving interval in the Netherlands is 423 days. An index of 104 for calving interval, for example, means that on average the daughters have a calving interval that is 6.2 days shorter when compared to the daughters of a bull that has an index of 100. “There are bulls with an index of 108, but there are also some with 92. This translates into a difference of almost one month calving interval for the daughters of one bull compared to another,” explains Mr. de Roos. The second aspect that impacts on fertility is the non-return percentage (NR56). The average in the Netherlands is 67%. This means that two thirds of the cows that were inseminated once have not been re-bred within 56 days. The differences between bulls are significant. The daughters of a bull with
an index of 108 have a non-return percentage of 73%, while for the daughters of a 92 indexed bull will be 61% on average. A third aspect to consider is the difference in semen quality from one bull to the next. This is indicated via the figure ‘bull fertility’, with numbers ranging from –4 to +4. Bulls with –4 fertility have a non return of 63% and bulls with +4 fertility have an average of 71% non return. This provides another opportunity for producers to influence fertility by way of bull selection.
Breeding programme For the past 10 years the Dutch have been intensively working on improving fertility. In 2000 this trait was added to the sire index for the first time and this also allowed fertility to play a more influential role in the breeding program, which previously primarily focused on net milk revenue (milk production figures) and type qualities. Together with longevity and udder health, fertility was also included in the index. There was ample reason for this, because there was a clear change for the worse. A result of the strong focus on milk production in Holstein Friesian breeding was a negative impact on fertility. “We have to put an end to that,” was the response of the Dutch dairy industry. The inclusion of an index for fertility in the total index was helpful. For bulls born after 2000, the decline did not continue and the index for fertility stabilised. With the introduction of the current index (the NVI) in 2007, fertility was given a much heavier weighting in the sire index. This meant that bulls with poor scores for fertility were ‘punished’ in the NVI and vice versa. One point higher or lower in the fertility index immediately translates into seven NVI points. The effect of the heavier weighting for fertility is notable. ”After a stabilising phase, we now see an increase. And the new bulls that are still in the pipeline on average are showing again higher scores for this index,” explains Mr. de Roos. What’s remarkable is that the
average fertility index
104 103 102 101 100 99 98 97 96 1990
Non-return rate: the Dutch average is 67%, which means that two thirds of cows that are inseminated once are back in calf within 56 days of calving
sire’s year of birth
Figure 1: The fertility index of Dutch sires dropped during the 1990s (source: CRV)
improvement is connected with progress in the area of milk production and components, even though production and fertility tend to impact one another negatively. Producers are picking up on this and are now taking fertility into account when selecting bulls – much more so than in the past.
International gains “There are countries where the nonreturn percentage is below 50%. Those countries are behind us. There are also countries, however, where fertility is even more important than in the Netherlands, for example when they have a seasonal calving system,” adds CRV’s breeding specialist. He refers to the official sire line up with the best bulls from all countries. “If you look at the highest bulls for fertility, the Netherlands is well represented, with 20 bulls in the top 100, including bulls like Fiction and the young sire Award.” In coming years, fertility will remain an important theme. This not only involves monitoring breeding developments but also improving the bulls’ semen quality. “We are doing everything possible to continuously improve semen quality. For each bull we are striving for the optimal concentration of semen. The fertility of bulls has been constant during the past few years and is certainly not declining,” says Mr. de Roos. He believes that improvements can also be expected from the latest technological gadgets and management information. In the area of cattle husbandry significant developments lie ahead. l
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For most newborn calves, the lower critical temperature is around 50° F
The best calf house design Selection of the best calf facility design depends on resources such as management, labor and capital availability. Matching these to the calf housing provides the basis of a healthy, productive environment for the calf and lays the groundwork for raising of productive females destined to return to the herd. text Stephen B. Blezinger, Ph.D., PAS
very dairy producers understands that the future of their milking herd relies on raising high quality replacement females. This process starts with producing a calf with solid genetics that gets off to a good start. The first few weeks of life are critical to future production and many management factors must be taken into consideration. These include nutrition, health management and housing. How calves are housed and maintained for the first few weeks is incredibly
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important for their healthfulness and overall well being. This can affect intake of milk or milk replacer, starter feeds, water, etc. and the health of the calf. For years the calf raising industry has searched for the best housing or pen design for young calves. A dairy producer looks for this to see what is the most cost effective. In today’s economy, this can be somewhat detrimental since the focus on keeping costs down can often lead to choices of facilities that can compromise
performance. While there is no ‘best’ design, calves can be raised in many different kinds of facilities, whether new or a remodel of an older facility on the farm. It is also important to remember that every design involves compromises and trade-offs. Overall, there is no perfect system. Selection of the best calf facility design for the dairy (or calf ranch) depends on resources such as management, labor and capital availability. Matching these to the calf housing or facility provides the basis of a healthy, productive environment for the calf and lays the groundwork for raising of productive females destined to return to the herd. There are several critical factors on calf housing facilities. These include animal comfort, reducing animal direct contact, ventilation and facility costs.
Animal comfort If using hutches, these should be placed on well-drained materials to encourage drainage of urine and rainfall away
from the calf. Feed and water should be provided outside the hutch to keep waste (manure and urine) away from the calves resting area. Individually housed calves should have about 32 square feet per head. Calves housed in groups should have 28 square feet per animal. Temperature is a key factor here. Optimal outdoor temperature for calves is around 70° F. Calves can maintain a relatively constant body temperature when the environmental temperatures range between 45 to 80° F. Producers need to consider what will need to be done when temperatures are either above or below this range. For most newborn calves, the lower critical temperature is around 50° F. When environmental temperature drops below this, calves have a higher maintenance energy requirement and feeding must change accordingly. If temperatures are above 80° F, calves will quickly become dehydrated if free choice water is not available. High humidity will also play an important factor which could increases heat stress on the animal. If ventilation is poor, even outdoor temperatures between 30 to 70° F may be enough to create detrimental relative humidity conditions. Relative humidity within calf housing needs to stay between 50
to 70 percent. Finally, housing systems that place calves on slats, rubber mats, cold concrete or on materials that retain manure and urine should be avoided.
Reducing animal direct contact Calf housing needs to have pens that prevent direct contact among calves from birth to at least two weeks after weaning. This is especially true in custom calf rearing facilities that may raise calves for multiple customer dairies. This reduces the risk of young calves transmitting diseases to each other. Hutches should be located at least 2 feet apart to prohibit contact of calves. Group pen housing increases the odds of increased respiratory disease, as well as diarrhea and its severity. Group newly weaned calves by age and size with 3 to 5 animals per group. By 4 months of age, larger groups of 6 to 12 generally work fine.
Ventilation – air flow Ventilation means providing fresh air to remove organisms and other health challenges from the environment, i.e. it removes dust, helps eliminate odors, removes excess heat and moisture. Too much air movement can chill the calf. Calf hutch design should allow steady
air movement without draft. For calves housed inside, ventilation needs to increase with age and as temperatures rise. Some ventilation rules of thumb: • Calves up to two months of age need a ventilation rate of 100 ft3 of air in hot weather, 50 ft3 in mild weather and 15 ft3 in cold weather. • Calves from two to 12 months of age need a ventilation rate of 130 ft3 during hot weather, 60 ft3 during mild weather and 20 ft3 during cold weather.
Facility costs Various estimates project that calf housing costs from birth to weaning should range as follows: a. $0.08/calf/day for a group pen housing system. b. $0.35/calf/day for a post-frame calf facility. c. $.11/calf/day for a home built calf hutch. d. $.16/calf /day for a purchased hutch. Overall, these costs can vary greatly depending on elaborateness of design, materials used, etc. Design and construction of the housing facility are important relating to cost but don’t forget about the other key factors that need to be taken into consideration for optimal success. l
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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
CRV 2423 American Lane Madison, WI 53704 Toll free: 1-800-400-crv4all Phone: 608-441-3202 Fax: 608-441-3203 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.crv4all.us
282-11 CM USA-udder.indd 1
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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.
The ideal temperature for cattle is between 40 and 77 degrees
The impact of humidity T
he impact of humidity has a huge impact on cows. The ideal temperature for cattle is between 40 and 77 degrees, humidity being below 40%. Keeping them comfortable, regardless of the temperature has a huge impact on their health and production. Helping to keep their environment comfortable and dry goes a long way to maintaining healthy animals. Heat and removing heat is accomplished by several ways: evaporation, convection, conduction and radiation. Evaporation is primarily accomplished by sweating or perspiration. When the humidity is high less sweat evaporates making it harder to reduce the cowsâ€™ temperature. Convection is moving heat through currents in a medium such as air. Using a fan would help cool by both convection and increase evaporation. Conduction is heat energy flowing from regions of warmer temperature to regions of cooler temperature. The absolute
best way a cow can cool itself down is by drinking water cooler than it is. Radiation is the transfer of electromagnetic energy between two things of different temperatures. An example is the sun beating down its heat on us or our cows. Cows are susceptible to heat stress when the humidity is high, greater than 65% and the temperature is above 75 degrees. The signs of heat stress are rapid breathing, sweating, reduction in milk production, lethargy, anorexia and in severe cases, death. So when the humidity is high, which makes perspiration less effective, how can we keep the cows cool? We must maximize water availability, make sure we have adequate shades, utilize fans and/or water misters, prevent overcrowding, provide clean, dry, comfortable beds and watch for signs of heat stress. Consult your veterinarian or university extension agent for help in any of these areas.
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Farm Kolochau Farm Milchgut Kolochau in Germany produces every night 3,000 lbs ‘night milk’ with a high percentage melatonin.
Number of cows: Amount of land: Rolling herd average: Employees:
1,500 5,300 acres 70 lbs, 4.05%F, 3.25%P 34
Calves are housed in groups
Peter Hufe: “We treat our cows as if they’re marathon runners“
Midnight milking For the Milchgut Kolochau herd, based in eastern Germany, high lifetime production is essential and this is achieved with the use of modern genomic bulls as well as ‘old strains’. And, at night, all the lights in the cow house are turned out to aid the production of ‘special’ night milk. text Jorieke van Cappelen
he greyish-white buildings of the Milchgut Kolochau’ unit, close to the east German town of the same name, show up in stark contrast against the bright blue sky. The former state farm, which was built in the 1930’s, is one of the five largest in the German state of Brandenburg, with 1,500 cows. There are 34 staff working at the unit. “That means that we have one member of staff for every 50 cows,” says manager Peter Hufe, who has been in charge of the herd since 1995. “That sounds like a lot, but on this farm the work is a continuous process. We work a lot in shifts and work to set protocols.” In the full, six-row cubicle stalls the cows are divided into six groups according to their stage of lactation. The animals are milked in groups and walk to the milking parlor via the central corridor.
The rolling annual average yield per cow is 21,000 pounds and a key aim of management is a high life time production per cow, which at 60,000 lbs of milk at the unit is above the average of the 25 best farms in Brandenburg (approximately 58,300). It is a remarkable achievement, which Peter says is mainly down to the management. “We regard our cows as marathon runners,” he says. “In my view, a high first-lactation yield is not something to strive for and we don’t push the cows to achieve it. We prefer to have a problem-free lactation, so that we can get the cow in calf again easily.”
Night milking Because the cows are not overstretched the lifetime of the cows at Kolochau Milchgut is five months longer than the German average, with a higher life time
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production. “We have a low replacement rate of less than 25%, compared to 30% on other farms,” he adds. The herd is milked twice a day in a 32-stall rotary parlor that runs for most of the day. Milking continues through the night, although in a rather unusual way. “In the evening all the lights are turned out in the cow house and the milking parlor and it is completely dark,” says Peter. With just use red LED lights for reference, and the staff milk the cows in the lowest point of the night. A portion of the milk produced during the night goes directly into a separate milk tank. “Our herd is the only one in Germany that produces so-called ‘night milk’ on a large scale,” he says, explaining the somewhat secretive way of milking. “Night milk contains a higher proportion of the natural hormone melatonin.” The hormone, produced naturally by humans and mammals, controls the sleep-wake rhythm and helps to ensure a good night’s sleep. “Past the age of 25, human production of melatonin decreases and night milk can help to top up the melatonin level and contribute to better and deeper sleep.”
Quiet cows The unit became involved in the ‘night milk’ marketing concept in 2003. But simply switching off the light is not enough to produce night milk. The ratio between daylight and dark must be carefully controlled. So during bad weather lights are switched on in the cow house during the day to mimic daylight. “You must also milk the right cows,” says Peter. “The melatonin content can be ascertained in milk samples and can differ enormously from cow to cow.”
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The ration is feed in small feeding alleys
Stress, whatever the cause, is also disastrous. “We feed a fiber-rich ration, in which we try to keep the proportion of corn below 25%, and along side that we keep the day and night rhythm as constant as possible. “By careful tuning you can increase the melatonin content in milk 14 fold.” The farm milks a permanent specially chosen group of quiet cows, because the milk melatonin content is highest in calm cows. The herd supplies between 2,200 lbs and 4400 lbs of night milk per night. The milk is freeze dried in a regional milk factory, packed in a suitable black milk pack, and sold at 25 euros per 192g box at the pharmacy and on the Internet. But do you really sleep better after drinking night milk? Although, according to Peter, scientific studies
Night milk is sold in dry powder
In the rotary are special lights for night milking
have been carried out, for the moment he can’t confirm the benefits of night milk. ‘But in spite of a somewhat bumpy start, we aren’t dissatisfied with the sales of it,” he adds.
are not good enough. On the contrary, we are the test farm for the Brandenburg breeding organisation RBB and for example we inseminate all maiden heifers with genomic bulls,” says Peter. “But with old bulls we try as far as possible to keep a variety of blood lines in our herd. The current bulls that, up to the fourth generation, have no O-Man, Goldwyn, Shottle or, for example, Jocko blood, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.” Peter says that the cows with an ‘old’ sire perform just as well as far as production or type is concerned than those with a relatively young sire. “Old bulls fit in with our current breeding programme because they are often strong and healthy. And that sits well with our vision of the cow as a marathon runner.” l
Old blood The herd is not only unique in the production of night milk – Peter also has his own vision of cattle breeding. Alongside bulls such as Shottle, Goldwyn and O-Man, the herd is also served with semen from bulls from the past. “On the farm we now have 50 daughters of the bull Bote, which was born in 1976. And there are more than 90 animals with Cocalica Oraginator Rex as sire, and he was born in 1972.” The herd also includes daughters of Trailor (1989) and Orlo (1989). “That isn’t to say that we find modern bulls
The 1,500 cows are housed in traditional barns
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M A N A G E M E N T
More than a third of the U.S. corn crop is used in bio-fuel production
Good management essential regardless of milk price Dr. Mike Hutjens, University of Illinois openly shares his management advice to ensure producers are both efficiently and profitability making smart decisions when it comes to feed and dairy management. “It’s vital that producers make good management decisions that are the same regardless if milk price is $14 or $18,” says Hutjens. “Producers need to make management decisions solely based on economics.” text Karen Bohnert
airy producers and dairy managers will be challenged in 2011 and beyond to remain economically viable as both feed and fuel prices increase,” says Mike Hutjens, University of Illinois professor of animal sciences emeritus. “They will need to find ways to produce milk at an economical price for consumers while maintain the highest quality possible.” Dairy producers continue to play catch-up after an economically devastating 2009 and 2010 business year with milk prices down 40 percent. He states that Midwest dairy producers need $17/cwt. to cover feed, variable, fix and labor cost with a return on assets.
High-quality protein demand While managing feed cost is nothing new for producers, and 2011 has certainly been more promising than the last two years, Hutjens says that three factors will impact the price of milk and dairy farm profit margins this year. “First, milk prices depend on supply and demand with more than 13 percent of current U.S. milk solids being exported,” he says. “World demand may be impacted by the financial status in Europe and unrest in the Mideast areas.” In addition, corn prices will lower profit margins this year. He says the late planting of corn in the Midwest, flooding along major rivers and drought in the Southwest will impact corn and feed prices. He also expects that energy costs (the price of
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oil) will impact fertilizer, fuel and energy costs. “The international demand for high-quality protein and nutrients found in dairy products can become a huge market for U.S. dairy managers.” However, Hutjens strongly states, “It’s vital that producers make good management decisions that are the same regardless if milk price is $14 or $18 or $20 per hundredweight. Producers need to make management decisions solely based on economics.”
Rising corn prices Hutjens states that more than a third of the U.S. corn crop is anticipated to be used in bio-fuel production, with 14.5% used for export, 10.3% used for other and 38.7 for feed. “With more legislations for 15% ethanol blend and more E-85 vehicles continues to drive demand for bio-fuel production.” He explains that ethanol production is profitable up to $7.30/bushel when price of oil was $82 a barrel. “Currently oil prices are higher which means corn will continue to be used for fuel instead of dairy feed,” states Hutjens. When it comes to things to avoid maximizing feed efficiency and feed profitability, Hutjens encourages producers not to overfill TMR mixer capacity and that time spent mixing feed, should be both well measured and monitored. “Taking the extra, necessary time to mix additional loads and thoroughly managing the process is crucial.” Doing the above well, we help reduce cows sorting
Good forage management number one decision for reducing feedcosts In field survey conducted 2010, 34 nutritionist, 11 educators and 10 veterinarians were surveyed and generated up good and bad decisions that dairy producers make. Hutjens suggested that feeding high producing cows resulted in lower
financial losses, having the cows ready to produce when milk prices improved in 2011 and strategically use resources that are available on the farm are some of the critically good management decisions a dairy producer should make.
Top good decisions made included:
Top bad decisions made included:
√ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √
Forage management Ration balancing Strategic culling Milk components and quality Financial management Grouping strategies Milk contracting Use of by-product feeds Labor management Use of rBST Getting cows pregnant
feed. “Cow sorting is a critical focus point,” says Hutjens, “Managing ration delivered versus ration consumed is a vital.” He also explains that it’s essential to avoid overstocking and bunk capacity. Other tactics that Hutjens advices to help minimize sorting are: Reduce forage particle size less than 2 inches, increase forage quality, reduce the amount of hay, add 5 to 10 pounds of water and considering adding liquid molasses, corn distillers soluble, or other wet ingredient.
Feed more frequently each day “Reducing feed intake, more lameness and less healthy cows can lead to cows not getting pregnant, higher culling rates of good cows and heifers not ready to enter the herd on time,” states Hutjens. “Cheating good cows leads to reduced economic responses and shortened cow longevity.” Hutjens says that long term bad economics decisions can be extremely costly to producers. “Delayed calving at 24 months of age is a long term bad economic decision; costing producers $2
x x x x x x x x x x x
Pulling feed/reducing DMI Pulling feed additives Avoiding financial support Using poor quality forage Reducing hoof care Poor cow comfort Overfeeding of distillers grain Reduce use of rBST Reduction in herd health Incorrect culling decision Heifer programs neglected
per day, per heifer and this cost only factors feed cost.” He also suggests not to stop accelerated calf feeding program which can be achieved with higher levels of pasteurized milk (fed at two gallons a day) or a milk replacer containing 26 percent crude protein fed at two pounds of dry replacer per day. “These calves grow twice as fast, produce 1,700 pounds of milk in their first lactation, and have improved immune systems,” says Hutjens. He notes that not getting cows pregnant is very costly. “Costs $2 per day if they are open more than 120 days and if they are open more the 200 days, it cost $8 per day.” While, 2011 is proving to be a tough year with rising input costs, Hutjens reiterates the take home message here, is to make good decisions that are the same regardless of what milk price is; make economics-based decisions and focus on forages, by-products, feed additive selection and ration balancing. By doing so, these tips will aid producers in making smart, efficient and profitable management decisions to help make 2011 a profitable year. l
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C O N TA C T S
SHOWS AND EVENTS National Brown Swiss Convention, Frederick, MD American Dairy Science Association & American Society of Animal Science Joint Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA July 12-14: Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, Marshfield, WI July 20-23: National Red & White Convention, Sauk Rapids, MN July 21: National Red & White Convention Show, Sauk Rapids, MN Aug 31: Midwest Fall National Holstein Show, St. Paul, MN Sep 5: Western Fall National Show, Salem, OR Sept 17-22: All-American Dairy Show, Harrisburg, PA Sept 19-21: International Dairy Show, Atlanta, GA Sept 22-24: 44th Annual Conference of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, St. Louis, MO Sept 22-24: 3rd International Symposium on Mastitis and Milk Quality, St. Louis, MO Sept 16-Oct 2: Eastern States Exposition, West Springfield, MA Oct 4-8: World Dairy Expo, Madison, WI Nov 4-13: Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Toronto, Ontario, Canada Nov 5-18: North American International Livestock Exposition, Louisville, KY Nov 14-16: National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), National Dairy Promotion & Research Board (NDB) and the United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA) Joint Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA July 6-9: July 10-14:
Quality time in the barn. Picture: Nele Verhelst
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, Jorieke van Capellen, Danyel Hosto, Rochus Kingmans, Amy Ryan, Hans Siemes Editing, design and production CRV Publishing
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M i l k i n g p ar lo r an d cr yp t o sp o r id iu m September â€“ In the September issue we focus on the milking parlor. Are your employees aware of the right milk protocols and did you gave them proper instructions? Also, we will discuss the influence of cryptosporidium in the calf barn.
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