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Volume 17: Issue 3 April 2015



his special issue is dedicated to the dairy cow, heifer and calf.

The Dairyland Initiative combines dairy animal health, production and behavior research into a web-based information center and buildingassessment program to improve cow health. The initiative incorporates research-supported biological standards to enhance current engineering practices, while producing a facility that is economically viable and welfare-friendly. Visit https:// thedairylandinitiative. vetmed.wisc.edu for more information.

Sharing ideas, solutions, resources and experiences that help dairy producers succeed.

What does caring look like? MITCH BREUNIG PDPW President, dairy farmer

There is a four-letter word that has become a key ingredient in many products and services today. CARE. Dairy farmers are told to communicate about how much they care. We are reminded of Theodore Roosevelt’s words: “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” You can probably think of several products or services whose claim to fame is that they care more than the next product or service. Let’s be careful here. If everybody says they care, then the word care has no teeth. When caring becomes a commodity, dairy farmers lose a key ingredient that has made our people and products special for generations. THE CARING COMMODITY We need to find a way to keep our caring relevant and valuable to our consumers and neighbors. The good news is that dairying at its very core is a caring and nurturing profession. There is no

Near Juneau, Wis., Craig and Nicole Schmidt of Schmidt Family Farm stand with their three children, Caden, 4; Abby 2; and Connor, 4 months.

way our cows would produce as they do without our kindness and care. There is no way our soils could produce and renew themselves without our careful attention to balance and detail. There is no way that our rural communities could thrive if we did not care about being productive employers and sustainable businesses over generations. We’ve done all this caring consistently for years, even

when no one else cared. Sometimes it seems thankless, like nobody cares how much we care until they care to know. Then we feel put on the defensive. There is no need to be defensive, though. We got this. We’ve been caring for generations, and the evidence is in our productive soils, our long-standing herds and our farms sustained over generations. See CARING, on page 2

Professional Dairy Producers I 1-800-947-7379 I www.pdpw.org ®

April 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Youth Leadership Derby, April 18-19 PDPW features an event designed for high school students ages 15-18. Youth Leadership Derby runs April 18-19 and is an opportunity to shadow veterinarians while they explore the inner workings of biological miracles, step into the wonder of hands-on labs, and be inspired by guest speakers revealing how to grow to be a winner. Created for high-school achievers, PDPW’s Youth Leadership Derby connects teens to explore more than 15 dynamic careers connected to agriculture. The Derby offers interactive learning in sire selection, seed technology, food science, social media advocacy, team building, communication – basically how to be a leader and make a difference. Greg Peterson of the Peterson Brothers will offer his trademark grin while talking about his unique style of communication – YouTube videos. Try to keep up with Eddie

CARING Continued from page 1

Sure, society is starting to care about our production methods. That doesn’t mean we have to change what we do. We simply need to let them experience what caring looks like: • It’s answering the 4:30 a.m. call that a cow is down and needs help. • It’s grandpa showing his grandson a new skill. • It’s sending our employees through safety training. • It’s poring over policies and procedures to ensure quality milk. • It’s bringing an icy tub full of chocolate milk to a softball team on a hot summer night.

PDPW Board of Directors President Mitch Breunig Sauk City, Wis. 608-643-6818 mysticvalley@wildblue.net Vice President Marty Hallock Mondovi, Wis. 715-495-2812 marbec@nelson-tel.net Secretary Kay Zwald Hammond, Wis. 715-796-5510 rfkz@centurytel.net

Youth Leadership Derby WHO: A career exploration event for students ages 15-18 to dive-in, dissect and discover dairy. WHERE: Waupun High School, 801 East Lincoln St., Waupun, WI 53963 WHEN: Saturday, April 18, starting at 10 a.m. through Sunday, April 19, concluding at 12:45 p.m.

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• It’s in how we drive when sharing the roads. • It’s making sure our conservation practices are documented and measured. • It’s tenderly bottle-feeding a calf for her own health and safety. • It’s opening the doors to neighbors who are curious. • It’s being engaged in lifelong learning, even though it takes time and money, because we want to be better. Let’s meet questions about our production practices with an eagerness to listen and make a connection. Let’s tie our actions to the values we share with consumers and others in our community. Everyone will know how

much we care when we take the time to help them know and experience what the word care really means on a dairy farm.

Treasurer Charlie Crave Waterloo, Wis. 920-478-3812 charles@cravecheese.com Directors Jeremy Natzke Greenleaf, Wis. 920-371-1968 jnatzke@yahoo.com Brian Forrest Stratford, Wis. 715-650-0267 bforrest70@gmail.com Linda White Reedsburg, Wis. 608-985-6006 linda@krdairy.com Jay Heeg Colby, Wis. 715-507-0030 jcheeg@yahoo.com Dan Scheider Freeport, Ill. 815-821-4012 dnscheider@gmail.com

Dairy’s Bottom Line is published by PDPW in cooperation with Agri-View. 1901 Fish Hatchery Road Madison, Wisconsin 53713 Toll-Free: 888-247-4843 agriview@madison.com www.agriview.com Editorial Managing Editor Julie Belschner 608-219-8316 • jbelschner@madison.com Advertising Sales Manager Tammy Strauss 608-250-4157 • tstrauss@madison.com

PDPW Advisors Dr. Steve Kelm University of Wisconsin-River Falls River Falls, Wis. Steve Schwoerer Badgerland Financial Fond du Lac, Wis. Andrew Johnson Marathon County Conservation Department Edgar, Wis. Dr. Richard Wallace Zoetis McFarland, Wis.

April 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Five new insights on hypocalcemia GARRETT R. OETZEL, DVM, MS School of Veterinary Medicine University of Wisconsin-Madison

1. Cows struggle to maintain normal blood calcium after calving. Dairy cows are amazing producers of milk, which is rich in calcium. However, the sudden onset of calcium demand after calving puts them at considerable risk for low blood calcium (hypocalcemia). Recent herd surveys indicate that about 60% of all cows entering their second or greater lactation develop some degree of hypocalcemia after calving. 2. Herds may have few cases of clinical milk fever but lots of subclinical hypocalcemia. See INSIGHTS, on page 4

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INSIGHTS Continued from page 3

In years past the incidence of clinical milk fever was higher in cows entering their second or greater lactation (about 6 to 10%) than it is today (about 1 to 4%). At that time we were so focused on preventing clinical cases that we didn’t even evaluate subclinical hypocalcemia. Now we know that subclinical hypocalcemia is the main economic concern and that it hasn’t gone away. 3. The blood calcium threshold for subclinical hy p o ca l ce m i a i s m u c h higher than assumed. For decades researchers knew that subclinical hypocalcemia might be important, but we didn’t have the data needed to properly evaluate it.

We assumed that the blood total calcium threshold was about 8.0 mg/ dL, but this was only an educated guess. Recently pubGarrett Oetzel lished studies now confirm that the blood total calcium threshold for subclinical hypocalcemia is about 8.6 mg/dL. We might have suspected this all along, since 8.6 mg/dL is essentially the lower end of the normal range of blood calcium co n ce n t ra t i o n s. B u t , we thought that cows might tolerate some drop in blood calcium around calving without suffering ill effects. We were wrong. Cows with blood calcium below 8.6 mg/dL after calving are at higher risk for metritis,

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For decades researchers knew that subclinical hypocalcemia might be important, but we didn’t have the data needed to properly evaluate it. displaced abomasum, and ketosis. 4. Feeding diets with a low dietary cation-anion difference before calving helps. The benefits of feeding a diet with a low Dietary Cation-Anion Difference (DCAD) via the addition of anionic salts or mineral acids prior to calving indeed does reduce the risk for both clinical and subclinical hypocalcemia. However, low DCAD diets cannot entirely eliminate the problem. They appear to reduce the proportion of cows of second and greater lactation cows with subclinical hypocalcemia from about 65% to about 50%. We were hoping for a more substantial reduction in subclinical hypocalcemia. So even though low DCAD diets are predictably beneficial, their ability to prevent hypocalcemia is incomplete. As long as we breed cows to produce a lot of milk, there will continue to be incredible stress on calcium metabolism immediately after calving and a lot of subclinical hypocalcemia will follow. 5. Strategic oral calcium supplementation is beneficial after calving. Oral calcium supplements help fill the calcium gap that occurs after calving. The development of oral calcium

boluses gave us a much safer and easier means of administering oral calcium compared to oral calcium drenches or gels. Recent research with Bovikalc evaluated the effects of administering two boluses to cows (one immediately after calving and one the next day). Lame cows given the boluses had significant reductions in early lactation health events, and cows with higher milk production in the previous lactation given the boluses had significantly increased milk yield. As for low DCAD diets, oral calcium supplementation does not eliminate hypocalcemia after calving. It is not possible to give cows all the oral calcium they need without causing metabolic acidosis and other complications. But the overall effects are real and very worthwhile economically. Recent research also indicates that intravenous (IV) calcium is not a good method for preventing hypocalcemia. The problem with IV calcium is that it shuts down the cow’s mechanisms for mobilizing her own calcium from bone. The best and only tools that we have to mitigate hypocalcemia are low DCAD diets before calving and strategic oral calcium supplementation after calving.

April 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Five principles for managing ketosis GARRETT R. OETZEL, DVM, MS School of Veterinary Medicine University of Wisconsin-Madison

1. Take ketosis seriously. Ketosis causes serious economic losses in dairy herds. It affects about 35 to 50% of all early lactation cows; this makes it our most common metabolic disease. Cows with ketosis not only lose potential milk yield, but also have increased risk for other diseases, particularly metritis and displaced abomasums, and are at greater risk for premature culling from the herd. 2. Don’t confuse ketosis prevalence and incidence. The prevalence of ketosis in a herd is the proportion of cows affected with ketosis at a moment in time. The incidence of ketosis is the proportion of cows affected with ketosis sometime during early lactation. Determining the incidence of ketosis in a herd is very difficult — it requires repeated testing of individual cows at least twice a week during early lactation. This is almost never done on dairy farms. Instead, farms can measure the prevalence of ketosis by sampling some or all of the early lactation cows at regular intervals. The prevalence of ketosis is a little less than half the incidence of ketosis. Average herd prevalence of ketosis is about 15 to 20%, and average herd incidence of ketosis is about 35 to 50%. A reasonable herd goal is less than 12% prevalence of ketosis. 3. Start monitoring your herd’s prevalence of ketosis.

T h e re a re two ge n e ra l approaches to monitoring the herd prevalence of ketosis. The KetoMonitor program offered by AgSource uses monthly milk test results to predict the herd prevalence of ketosis. This is an excellent starting point for monitoring herd ketosis. If your KetoMonitor report indicates that your herd has a high prevalence of ketosis (greater than 12%), then you should confirm the ketosis prevalence in the herd using a cowside blood ketone test. You will need to test at least 20 early lactation cows to get a reliable estimate of herd prevalence, so smaller herds may need to test several times about 2 weeks apart. Once you have done this blood testing you will know your herd’s current ketosis prevalence. 4. Implement early ketosis detection and treatment. Early detection and treatment of ketosis can make a big difference in most herds. For herds with ketosis prevalence between 7 and 25%, it is best to test all fresh cows twice (between 3 and 9 days in milk) with a cowside blood ketone test. Immediately treat all ketotic cows (greater than or equal to 1.2 mmol/L on the meter) with 300 mL of propylene glycol once daily for at least 3 to 5 days. Herds with ketosis prevalence greater than 25% would be economically better off to give oral propylene glycol to all fresh cows and not bother with blood ketone testing. Herds with See KETOSIS, on page 6

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KETOSIS Continued from page 5

ketosis prevalence below 7% can monitor the fresh cows and only test cows with abnormal attitude or appetite. 5. Investigate and correct the root causes of the ketosis in the herd. Start by looking at the prevalence of ketosis in the first lactation vs. the older cows. We expect the older cows to have about 1.5 times greater ketosis prevalence than the first lactation cows. If the prevalence is disproportionately high in the first lactation animals, look for over-conditioning of the replacement heifers or lack of adequate eating space — especially in pens that contain both cows and heifers. There should always be at least 30 inches of

bunk space per cow during the transition period. If just the older cows or if both groups of animals have a high ketosis prevalence, look for inadequate bunk space, inadequate access to fresh feed throughout the day, excessive or stressful pen moves around calving, stays of more than one day in a maternity pen, improper energy intake (either low or high) before calving, or general over-conditioning at calving. Herds with a chronically high prevalence of ketosis should consult with their herd nutritionist about specific nutritional strategies to lower the ketosis prevalence. Excellent feeding management is the best place to start. There are several feed additives known to reduce the risk for ketosis. These are not a cure-all, but they may be economically rewarding for many herds.

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Recycle sand in small herds? DR. NIGEL COOK School of Veterinary Medicine University of Wisconsin-Madison

In a recent University of Wisconsin-Madison survey of dairy herds with more than 200 cows in the Upper Midwest, twothirds used deep sand bedding. These herds produced an extra 7 pounds more of energy-corrected milk per cow per day than herds using mat or mattress stall surfaces. There remains little argument regarding the benefits of sand to the cow, but the issue that is raised always relates to the handling of sand-laden manure. Without a doubt, handling sand-laden manure is more challenging than manure without sand. Rather than rely on

gravity-flow systems, sand needs to be removed from the barn with a vacuum tank, by being scraped into a channel with Nigel Cook either a scraper sled or auger, or by use of a flume. Whenever water is added to sand-laden manure, there is a risk of sand settling out. This isn’t always a bad thing, though, because adding water to sand-laden manure at a ratio of 1:1 is the basic concept behind sand reclamation. But settled sand is the main reason producers shy away from using this material for bedding.

For herds less than about 600 cows, typically recommended is the use of a Pack Mat system – a rubber crumb mattress fitted with a permeable cover located 2 inches below the rear curb. This system reduces sand usage by about 50 percent. When coupled with a scraper or augered channel, the manure can be transferred to a twostage settling-lagoon system, with the first-stage lagoon allowing equipment access via a concrete slope and floor. For larger herds, sand separation is recommended, using either a mechanical system or a settling-lane approach. In colder climates and where space is limited, mechanical systems carry the advantage. In more

spacious locations with a warmer climate, settling lanes become more attractive. Some 120-cow freestall facilities in Ohio use sand reclamation. The herds at those facilities use a two-stage settling-lagoon system to create flush water sufficient to flush the freestall alleys. Typically 1,500 to 2,500 gallons of flush water are stored under pressure by a flush head fitted with an air break. The water is then released abruptly to flush the alleys, which are designed with a 2-percent slope along their length and a three-fourthsinch fall from the feed bunk to the stall curb. The alleys drain to See SAND, on page 8

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April 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Where should I put my fans in my freestall pens? DR. NIGEL COOK School of Veterinary Medicine University of Wisconsin-Madison

Flush systems are a cost-effective way to remove sand-laden manure from free-stall facilities for herds of less than 600 cows.

SAND Continued from page 7

a 150-foot long, 10-to-12foot-wide settling lane with a 0.5-percent slope via a flume pipe. There the manure stream slows to about a 1-foot-persecond flow speed, letting 90 percent of the sand settle out. In smaller dairies, this system automates manure removal

from the alleys and reduces bedding costs by about $10,000 per 100 cows per year. The conclusion is that the advantages of sand can be enjoyed in a wide range of herd sizes, with the benefits of more milk and improved animal well-being. Visit http://thedairylandinitiative.vetmed.wisc.edu/tdi/ ac_manure.htm for more information.




With summer approaching, a common question asked is where to put fans in the freestall pens. First, understand the difference between ventilation and cooling. Ventilation is “out with the old and in with the new,” implying we need to bring fresh, outside air into the barn and displace humid, contaminated air. Barns might be naturally ventilated with open sidewalls and an open ridge in the summer, or they might be mechanically ventilated, with fans used to expel air from the barn and bring fresh air in through carefully designed inlets. Second, we need to realize that cows cool naturally when they stand, via thermal panting, and increase in warmth when they lie down. This rapid increase in body temperature triggers a dramatic reduction in lying time. Based on this physiology, we have emphasized locating cooling air over the resting area instead of over the feeding area. Cooling is facilitated by the application of fast-moving air over the cow’s body, often in combination with soaking the cow to simulate sweat and enhance evaporative cooling. This is the purpose of hanging fans in the free-stall pen. Studies show we need air speeds of 200 to 400 feet per minute — or 2 to 4 miles per hour — to facilitate cooling. Air speeds below this are ineffective. However, we also know that under cooler conditions, cows

avoid fast-moving air – so be careful to choose activation temperatures for some or all of the fans. We recommend activating every other fan at 65 degrees F and all fans at 70 degrees F. For typical 3-foot-to-4-foot re-circulation fans, cows need to be within 10 to 20 feet of the fan to receive cooling air. We have traditionally spaced fans at intervals of 10 times the fan diameter, or 30 to 40 feet, which means that more than half the cows fail to receive cooling air under these guidelines. Certain specialized fans, such as cyclone fans, can throw the air twice as far, increasing the required fan distance, but these fans are also more expensive. With roof supports typically at 8-to-12-foot intervals, we recommend placing fans on alternate posts and angling them to the stall below every 16 to 24 feet over a single row of stalls. Keep the fan just out of reach of cows at a height of about 7 to 8 feet above the stalls. For head-to-head stalls, we recommend alternating the side the fan is located relative to the roof support. Angle the fan down toward the stall below the adjacent fan in order to maximize the number of stalls receiving cooling air; aim the fan across the stall platform. To ensure that fans work optimally, consult with an electrician to determine the wiring needed in the barn. Visit http://thedairylandinitiative.vetmed.wisc.edu/tdi/ ac_ventilation.htm for more information.

April 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Effective communication vital in all seasons JON ZANDER Dairy lending specialist Badgerland Financial

When we communicate effectively with others, we are better able to resolve differences, build trust and respect, and solve problems. But sometimes communications are misunderstood, causing conflict and frustration for those involved. As we enter what looks to be a prolonged drop in milk prices, communication becomes more important than ever. I’m not only talking about communication between a producer and a lender, but also w i t h b u s i n e ss pa r t n e rs, employees, suppliers and, most importantly, family. Now is the time to make a priority of learning and practicing useful communication

skills. Manage stress, listen, pay attention to non-verbal communication and have the ability to understand o n e ’s o w n Jon Zander emotions. When under constant or overwhelming stress, the capacity to think clearly and act appropriately might become disrupted, hampering effective communication. During times of stress people are more likely to send confusing non-verbal signals, misread other people and have knee-jerk reactions to others. Think of a time of stress during a conversation. Many experience a physical reaction,

such as stomach muscles tightening, hands clenching or forgetting to breathe. It’s hard to calm down when that happens. The first step is to become aware of what the body is saying. Take a few deep breaths to regain some composure. If this is not possible, postpone the conversation. By leaving the conversation and taking a short walk to re-examine the situation, physical activity can reduce stress levels and clarify thinking. Effective listening is a difficult skill. Often people formulate their responses while the other person is still talking. The goal should be to not only understand what the other person is saying, but also to understand the feeling behind what is being said.

Successful listening means the other person feels heard, understood and safe to express ideas. During a conversation where these conditions are met, conflicts and misunderstandings will be minimized. To fully understand and connect with others, focus on them. Yes, that means do not check emails or text messages; shut off the phone so it does not interrupt the conversation. Take time to observe body language and avoid interrupting while others are talking. There will be plenty of time to respond. Show interest in what others are saying by actively listening and encouraging them to continue speaking. Ever had someone say, “I don’t know why I just told you that” or See LISTEN, on page 13 ©2015 Badgerland Financial, ACA. NMLS ID 458065.

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April 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


How to spot a poorly-designed system COURTNEY HALBACH AND DR. KEN NORDLUND University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine

Positive-pressure tube-ventilation systems have greatly improved air quality and calf health in many calf barns, but some have had more success than others. How to spot poorly designed systems: FAN RECIRCULATES AIR FROM INSIDE THE BARN The fan should be mounted on an outside wall so that ONLY fresh air from the outside is pushed into the tube. Fans installed inside the barn recirculate stale, patho gen-filled air – and insure every calf is exposed to every disease in the barn. Similar poor air quality will result from dampers or other devices that allow used air to enter the tube system.

(A) Oversized holes will create drafts on the calves (B) Tube sized for uneven distribution of air along the length of the tube (C) Fan positioned to recirculate every pathogen in the barn

FAN IS IMPROPERLY SIZED The fan should be sized to change the air in the interior volume of the barn about four times per hour on a year-round basis. The barn will need to be designed to allow for additional ventilation during warmer and hot weather. Curtain-sided naturally ventilated barns are an optimal system to capture prevailing winds during the warmer months.

FLAPPING OF THE TUBE The most common situation occurs with flapping near the fan. In most cases, the diameter of the tube should be greater than the diameter of the fan. A flapping tube can be an indicator that the tube is too narrow for the fan. When the tube diameter is not sufficiently large, the air moving within the tube travels too fast, resulting in low static pressure near the fan, flapping of

the tube, and poor discharge of air from the holes closest to the fan. In general, the tube should be about 1.15 to 1.3 times the diameter of the fan. More specifically, the speed of air moving in the tube near the fan should be less than 1,200 feet per minute. To estimate air speed, divide the fan capacity by the cross-sectional area of the tube. Less commonly, the total area of the perforated holes in the tube is excessive relative to the capacity of the fan. In those cases, the entire length of the tube tends to flutter or hang slightly limp. HOLES ARE INCORRECTLY SIZED Oversized holes will create drafty air at the level of the calf, resulting in chilling. A draft is defined as air moving at a speed greater than 60 feet per minute. To determine the air movement at the See SYSTEM, on page 11

PDPW Dairy Facility Tours, April 14-16 Hear from the owners and key team members of 10 of Wisconsin’s most practical and well-managed dairy farms about their innovative calf, heifer and transition cow facilities. Tour hosts will share what’s working, the lessons learned and what they wish they had done differently. HIGHLIGHTS Day 1 – April 14, Northwest Wisconsin, 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Five Star Dairy, LLC, Elk Mound, Wis.

A curious calf at Rusk Rose Holsteins, Inc., in Ladysmith.

• Rusk Rose Holsteins, Inc., Ladysmith, Wis. • Four Mile Creek Dairy LLC, Rice Lake, Wis. • Busse Barron Acres, Barron, Wis. Day 2 – April 15, Northeast

Wisconsin, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. • 3-D Dairy, Malone, Wis. • J & J Pickart, Malone, Wis. • Wayside Dairy LLC, Greenleaf, Wis. Day 3 – April 16, Southeast Wisconsin, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. • Hilltop Dairy, Markesan, Wis. • Clover Hill Dairy, Campbellsport, Wis. • Beck Dairy Farms LLC, Allenton, Wis. Dairy producers can participate in one, two or all three days of these unique bus tours. Details are available at www.

pdpw.org. Registration cost includes motor coach transportation, lunch, snacks and dairy farm tour stops. Dr. Nigel Cook, The Dairyland Initiative, will be on the bus Wednesday and Thursday and will share expertise and insight. PDPW’s Dairy Facility Tours is an accredited training program with the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine (UW-SVM) and veterinarians may receive up to 6.3 CEUs for day 1, up to 5.1 CEUs for day 2, and up to 4.8 CEUs for day 3.

April 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

SYSTEM Continued from page 10

level of the calf, measure air speeds along the length of the tube about 4 feet above the floor where calves are located. This requires a special hot-wire anemometer, because the common vane-type windspeed meters cannot accurately measure speeds less than about 100 feet per minute. If speeds are greater than 60 feet per minute, increasing the height of the tube might lessen the draft, but raising the tube more than a foot might displace the air jets away from the calves. On the flip side, if holes are too small, clean air will not reach the calves. HOOD UNDERSIZED Over-sized hoods reduce the speed of air entering the tube, reducing the amount of snow pickup, but when hoods are


under-sized, fan performance decreases. If the air velocity entering the hood exceeds 500 feet per minute, the negative static pressure in the hood will reduce the fan output. To estimate the intake speed, divide t h e fa n ca pa c i ty by t h e cross-sectional area of the hood opening. Also, make sure the protective screen is clear of debris such as straw, trash or snow. Positive-pressure tube-ventilation systems that run nonstop have an average lifespan of about five years before fan performance deteriorates. Trained positive-pressure tube-ventilation designers can help put together a new tube system using the latest recommendations. Visit Dairyland Initiative at http://thedairylandinitiative.vetmed.wisc.edu/prv_ consultants.htm for more information.

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Remove dividers to use free stalls to house heifers DR. NIGEL COOK School of Veterinary Medicine University of Wisconsin-Madison

The bedded a rea s h o u l d be demarca te d f ro m the feed alley by a retainer curb, typically about 10 Nigel Cook inches high. Wa te re rs should be cut into the bedded area and only accessible from the concrete feed alley, to prevent water contamination of the bed from messy drinkers. The bed may be managed anaerobically – by adding fresh bedding periodically and removing the entire bed every four to eight weeks – or aerobic a l ly – u s i n g f i n e s awdust-type bedding and

Traditionally, free-stall and bedded-pack systems h ave b e e n t h e two m a i n housing choices for raising heifers indoors. Bedded packs provide a comfortable place for heifers to rest, free of obstructions to movement. Sufficient lying area must be provided for hygiene to be maintained. We recommend 28 to 29 square feet of bedded area per calf for calves up to 450 pounds, 36 square feet for calves 450 to 660 pounds, 41 square feet for calves 660 to 880 pounds calves and 46 square feet for calves 880 pounds up to 1,100 pounds.

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Figure 1. Recommended stall dimensions based on body weight Stall Dimensions (inches)

Body Weight (pounds) 400-600




Approximate Age, months (large-size Holsteins)

~6 to 10

~11 to 13

~14 to 16

~17 to 21

Approximate Age, months (small-size Holsteins)

~6 to 10

~11 to 14

~15 to 18

~19 to 22

Stall width (on center)





Total stall length facing a wall







Outside curb to outside curb for head-to-head platform

Not Recommended

Distance of the rear curb to the brisket locator (maximum height 3 inches)

Not Recommended



Width of rear curb





Horizontal distance of the neck rail from the rear point of the curb for mattress stalls





Horizontal distance of the neck rail from the rear point of the curb for deep bedded stalls





Distance from rear edge of divider loop to point of curb







Height of brisket locator above top of curb (loose bedded stall or mat/mattress surface)

Not Recommended

Height of upper edge of bottom stall divider rail above top of curb (loose bedded stall for mat/mattress surface)





Interior diameter of the stall divider loop





Height of neck rail above top of curb (loose bedded stall or mat/mattress surface)









Horizontal distance from brisket locator to loop angle Rear curb height

aerating the bed daily to facilitate composting. The obvious disadvantage to bedded packs is the high cost of bedding, which is why many producers look to free stalls to manage growing heifers. This approach reduces ongoing bedding costs, but is more costly upfront. Unfortunately, the rate of stall refusal can be quite high in these pens and hygiene can be relatively poor. While we are very confident in our stall-dimension recommendations for adult cattle, recommendations for heifers have received less scrutiny. In particular, the size range in heifer-rearing groups is difficult to accommodate, and in general, stall length reco m m e n d a t i o n s te n d to underestimate the length of heifers. We prefer to keep heifers on bedded packs until they

Not Recommended 6


are about 800 pounds. Our stall recommendations are more reliable at that size. At smaller weights, we have attempted to modify the traditional recommendations and have achieved some success. However, we have also suggested the possibility of building free-stall platforms for younger heifers without installing the dividers. This allows the heifers to become accustomed to lying on a ra i se d p l a t fo r m w i t h o u t needing to negotiate the metalwork that often is in the way. The bedded area needs to be picked frequently to keep the bedding clean, but the problem of refusal is almost eliminated, which keeps the heifers out of the alleys! So perhaps a third option for housing heifers exists – the divider-less free-stall platform!

April 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Head off respiratory disease in calves DR. THERESA OLLIVETT University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine

Five factors are critical for managing respiratory disease in dairy calves. 1) competent, dedicated personnel, 2) a defined screening and examination process, 3) posted treatment protocols, 4) permanent place to record findings and treatments; and 5) oversight of records. People are important! Good training helps the screener or examiner understand the purpose of his or her role and ensures competence. Precautions should include working with younger animals first, hand-washing, gloves, and changing coveralls and boots to help avoid transmission of disease from older cattle to younger calves. As herd size allows, individuals who work with calves should not work with adult cattle. This might not be possible in smaller herds,

LISTEN Continued from page 9

“You are so easy to talk to?” That’s on the right track. With practice and patience, anyone can become an effective listener. Is it possible that the way someone looks, listens and reacts to another person will say more than the words spoken? Absolutely! Body movements and gestures, eye contact, posture, the tone of a voice and even breathing send messages to the other person. Non-verbal communication should reinforce

though, where one person works in multiple management areas. Clearly defining the screening exam ensures that calves are consistently examined. Screening the calves that are most likely to become sick increases the chance that a sick calf with subtle signs will be detected early. Additionally, using the same exam over and over will increase the screener’s confidence level and willingness to treat early. One scoring system that can be used by on-farm personnel is the University of Wisconsin Calf Respiratory Score Chart, developed by Dr. Sheila McGuirk. The chart looks for fever, cough, nasal discharge, ocular discharge and droopy ears. The Food Animal Production Medicine section at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine has developed an iPad application to aid in the implementation of this scoring system. The app will store each calf’s respiratory score and create a list of calves

what is being said. If a person is saying one thing and body language is saying something else, others will likely notice and feel the person is being dishonest. To improve non-verbal communication skills, take time to observe people. At the local Farm and Fleet, at business meetings or even a favorite restaurant, sit and observe people. Watch and notice how people act and react to each other. What is their body language saying? Based on that, guess what their relationship is or how See LISTEN, on page 14

to be treated. Clinical scoring does not differentiate between upper respiratory-tract infections and pneumonia. If a veterinarian is involved in the screening process, lung ultrasonography can be used to screen specifically for lung lesions even when the calf does not look sick. The veterinarian can ultrasound calves using the same portable ultrasound used for diagnosing pregnancy in adult cattle. When combined with respiratory scoring, routine ultrasonographic screening provides accurate levels of both upper and lower respiratory-tract disease, helps identify animals with irreparable lung damage, and helps guide treatment and management decisions. Work with a veterinarian to

post written treatment protocols. In most situations, consistent early treatments using the appropriate dose, duration, frequency, and route of an antibiotic are more important than which antibiotic is selected. The only way to ensure that all calves are treated similarly is to regularly train personnel and to post protocols. Results from all screening and treatments for respiratory disease must be recorded. Computerized individual calf records are the gold standard, but Excel spreadsheets and paper records in a bound notebook can suffice. Oversight of these records allows the producer to track increases or decreases in disease, monitor responses to See DISEASE, on page 15

Twohig Rietbrock Schneider & Halbach “Attorneys for Agriculture”

We are proud to be members of PDPW and Wisconsin’s rural community. (920) 849-4999

April 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


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LISTEN Continued from page 13

they feel about what is being said. Also considering someone’s age, gender, religion and emotional state can change their non-verbal communication when speaking with them. For those who employ people from a different culture, learn to take those cultural differences into account. In some cultures, it is important to say “Good morning” or shake hands upon greeting. Is it okay for employees to make eye contact with their employer? Take time to do a little research and find out what is accepted in the homeland of foreign-born workers. Finally, emotions can play an important role in communicating. Understand how or why a

person feels a certain way. Often during conversations emotions like sadness or fear are held back. Being connected to those feelings is important when conveying a message, but the ability to mange them is also essential. A person should be aware of his or her own emotions, which allow understanding and empathy with others even when there is no agreement on the message. Build strong trusting relationships with people. Overall, improving communication skills is one way to take a farm to the next level so all stakeholders involved feel heard and understood. Keep those important relationships preserved despite the many variables of life and farming. Badgerland Financial is a proud mission sponsor of PDPW.

April 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


DISEASE Continued from page 13

treatment protocols and identify protocol drift. Most importantly, this information can be used to develop prevention strategies. In addition to screening twice a week, calf personnel should look daily for calves that are depressed, off-feed or isolating themselves from others within the group. These calves should be thoroughly examined and treated according to protocol. Last, work with a veterinarian to define an end-point for treatment. This prevents prolonged treatment of hopeless cases, identifies animals for treatment at specialty hospitals if desired and avoids endangering the welfare of severely affected calves. Trained personnel, systematic screening, written treatment protocols, disease recording, and oversight of health records are key factors for early detection and treatment of respiratory disease. Incorporating these elements into a calf-management program will help reduce the impact of respiratory disease on dairy calves.

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PDPW April 2015  

PDPW April 2015