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Volume 17: Issue 4 June 2015

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

Are you missing out on forage yield? AMBER RADATZ University of Wisconsin-Extension Discovery Farms

Beware silage danger – see Page 8

Tell your farm’s story – see Page 11

Prevent electrical hazards – see Page 12

Two-part series — see Pages 1 and 14

As a dairy farmer, you don’t want to leave anything on the table. As margins tighten, you might be looking for ways to increase forage production without increasing acreage. Do cover crops have the potential to help solve this problem? There are cropping and farming systems in Amber Radatz Wisconsin w h e r e establishment of cover crops is tough for a variety of reasons. However, there are scenarios where implementation of cover crops becomes functional, economical and truly worthwhile. An obvious fit for cover crops is in a dairy rotation where the extra forage can be useful and needed. SARE — Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education — conducted a national survey in 2014 of more than 1,900 farmers. It showed that both c ove r- c ro p u s e rs a n d non-users ranked reducing erosion and compaction, and

Farmers talk crops and production during a Discovery Farms field day. UW Discovery Farms, part of UW Extension, is a farmer-led program that works with the U.S. Geological Survey to gather credible and unbiased water-quality information from different types of farming systems, in landscapes throughout Wisconsin. The program’s mission is to develop on-farm and related research to determine the economic and environmental effects of agricultural practices on a diverse group of Wisconsin farms; and to educate and improve communications among the agricultural community, consumers, researchers and policy makers to better identify and implement effective environmental-management practices that are compatible with profitable agriculture.

increasing organic matter, as the most important benefits of cover crops. But though soil management is critically important, it is often difficult to justify intensifying management if the only perceived benefit is to the soil. Instead, think about it as intensifying the dairy-cropping rotation to improve soil, produce more

feed on the same number of acres and reduce nitrogen loss. 1. Improved soil. April, May and June are a vulnerable time for Wisconsin soils. Even in a good spring, crop canopy is usually not enough until late June to protect the soil from erosion. See YIELD, on page 2

Professional Dairy Producers® I 1-800-947-7379 I

2 June 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


PDPW Board of Directors‌

Continued from page 1

UW Discovery Farms runoff data shows April, May and June as the make-or-break months for non-winter runoff and sediment loss. About 80 percent of non-winter runoff and 88 percent of sediment loss happens during April, May and June. It is worth putting extra thought into whether cover crops can protect soil from annoying erosion problems during the spring of the year. 2. More feed. Dr. Matt Ruark, UW-Extension soil scientist, has researched corn-silage yield with and without a cover crop of winter rye for the past three years at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station. In each year, the highest forage-yielding trial was when ryelage was harvested and followed with corn silage. Corn-silage yield was reduced by about 5 tons per acre in two of three years with winter rye taken for forage. However, every year the combined total forage yield of corn silage plus ryelage was Rye cover crop planted this spring. the same or greater than corn silage alone. Also, interestingly, corn-si- Because of that there is less lage yield did not decrease when nitrate available to leach to rye was used solely as a cover groundwater through the shoulcrop — not harder seasons, and vested for forage Corn-silage yield was a n a d e q u a t e amount is still and killed in the reduced by about 5 s p r i n g b e fo re tons per acre in two of available for the corn planting. corn-silage crop. three years with winter 3. More nitroAmber Radatz rye taken for forage. is co-director of g e n . R u a r k ’s However, every year UW Discovery study at Arlingthe combined total Farms and has ton also found forage yield of corn spent the past that rye cover crops signifi- silage plus ryelage was decade working the same or greater with dairy farmcantly reduce soil nitrate concen- than corn silage alone. ers on manure trations, but the management and subsequent corn-silage crop did nutrient-loss risk reduction. She not require extra nitrogen above can be reached at aradatz@wisc. the optimum nitrogen rate. edu or 715-983-5668.

President‌ Mitch Breunig Sauk City, Wis. 608-643-6818‌ Vice President‌ Marty Hallock Mondovi, Wis. 715-495-2812‌ Secretary‌ Kay Zwald Hammond, Wis. 715-796-5510 Treasure‌‌r‌ Charlie Crave Waterloo, Wis. 920-478-3812‌ Directors‌ Brian Forrest Stratford, Wis. 715-650-0267 Jay Heeg Colby, Wis. 715-507-0030 Jeremy Natzke Greenleaf, Wis. 920-371-1968 Dan Scheider Freeport, Ill. 815-821-4012 ‌‌

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 Editorial‌ Managing Editor Julie Belschner 608-219-8316 ‌ Advertising‌ Sales Manager Tammy Strauss 608-250-4157 ‌ ‌‌

Linda White Reedsburg, Wis. 608-393-3985

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

June 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 3

Dairying: More than cow management MARY ELVEKROG Badgerland Financial‌

There are many challenges when it comes to dairy farming, one of the most notable being labor management. I have often heard dairy farmers say they are in the “people-management business,” not the “cow-management business.” While this might be a slight exaggeration, many farmers are spending more time monitoring labor costs and managing employee availability and retention issues. Considering many farms’ direct out-of-pocket cost for hired labor is $3 to $4 per hundredweight of milk and is usually the second-highest expense behind feed, it is an area that deserves careful monitoring.

Huron Mireles, 31, a herdsman at Norm-E-Lanes, walks past dairy cows in one of the barns.

In the event you don’t know already, it’s critical that you know your overall labor cost. You can’t manage that which yo u d o n o t k n o w. T h e calculation is fairly straightforward: divide the sum of labor

cost — including wages paid to non-family, owner withdrawal, payroll taxes, benefits, workmen’s compensation, etc. — by total hundredweight sold on your farm last year. As a lender, I also focus on labor as a

percentage of total costs; it should be between 15 percent and 20 percent. Unlike other management areas, labor needs and costs usually do not change during times of lower milk prices or tight profit margins. The work must be done! However, it is important to stay on top of the numbers, even from an efficiency standpoint. What, and how much, is being produced by your labor? If your dairy peers are producing the same amount of revenue for a $3 per hundredweight labor cost and yours is $3.75 per hundredweight, how does that affect your competitive edge and profitability? See DAIRYING, on page 4 ©2015 Badgerland Financial, ACA. NMLS ID 458065.

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DAIRYING Continued from page 3

With that said, I do want to mention that you should exercise some caution when comparing to industry and peer averages alone. There are many factors that impact the equation; every farm is unique. When reviewing labor costs and exploring areas of improvement, the following are a few things to keep in mind: • ‌Labor availability: Is family labor available and utilized? Typically family labor has lower turnover, which helps improve efficiency. At the same time, family labor usually has higher compensation. Finding the right balance is important. And remember, as an employer you compete for employees in the labor marketplace — especially good employees. • ‌Employment status: Is your labor force full-time or parttime? For example, if an employee is working 80 percent but being paid as 100 percent, it’s inefficient and costly to the farm. This can be a sensitive issue, especially if dealing with a family member. Job sizing and descriptions for everyone can help reduce issues in this area. • ‌Labor retention: Do you have a difficult time keeping labor? Farms with a low employee-turnover rate are usually more efficient; it is costly to continually train new employees. Take a look at your hiring philosophy to determine if you are hiring the right people. • ‌Contracted labor or custom hire: Are you more efficient managing your own labor or are you better off contracting certain jobs? Every farm is different and there is no one right answer for everyone. Many farmers have custom heifer raisers, manure haulers, planters and

Managing and understanding labor costs on a farm is critical to profitability.

harvesters because they simply cannot do these tasks as efficiently themselves – both in cost and in manpower. • ‌Employee morale: Are the right people in the right jobs? Are employees motivated and happy? I realize this is no easy feat. But when employees’ strengths and weaknesses fit their role – and they feel respected, appreciated and fairly compensated — they are more productive and your farm is more profitable. • ‌Land base: Do you grow all your own crops or do you purchase feed to meet your farm’s needs? Farms that grow all their own crops have a higher cost of labor and usually a lower cost of purchased feed. What I’ve mentioned here only touches the surface of labor cost and management. Considering the investment and impact on your farm, actively managing your labor force should not be ignored. Dairy farms require a dedicated team of people, no matter how large or small the farm. When the team is working together, with each person contributing to the success of the farm, it is not only more efficient and profitable, but also rewarding. Badgerland Financial is a proud Mission Sponsor of PDPW.

June 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 5

Control genomic risk Peace of mind. – the power of three KENT A. WEIGEL Department of Dairy Science University of Wisconsin-Madison‌

Genomic selection has replaced progeny testing in dairy-cattle improvement programs. Now, single nucleotide polymorphisms markers in the cattle genome are used to predict the genetic merit of young animals that have no offspring or performance data of their own. Mo re t h a n 950,000 dairy b u l l s, cows, Kent Weigel h e i f e r s a n d c a l ve s h a ve been tested to date. The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding provides routine genomic-predicted transmitting abilities for use by farmers in making sire-selection and replacement-heifer management decisions. Virtually every bull offered to U.S. dairy farmers has been chosen based on the results of

genomic testing. The National Association of Animal Breeders denotes young genome-tested bulls with no milk-recorded offspring as “G” status – genomic, whereas older bulls that have 10 or more milking daughters in the United States are denoted as “A” status – active. As shown in Table 1, the number of young G-status bulls currently in the marketplace far exceeds that of A-status bulls that have completed progeny testing. The difference in average genetic merit between these groups is striking. Net Merit of young bulls is $166, $239 and $128 greater than for progeny-tested bulls in Brown Swiss, Holsteins and Jerseys, respectively. The price we pay for higher predicted genetic merit is lower reliability, a difference of 25 percent for Brown Swiss, 17 percent for Holsteins and 22 percent for Jerseys. These losses in reliability are proportional to the size of See GENOMIC, on page 6

Table 1 Daughter pregnancy Net Merit – $ rate in percentage Predicted Predicted Predicted transmitting Reliability transmitting Reliability transmitting Reliability abilities abilities abilities 149 84 251 89 0.1 69 Milk in pounds




Brown Swiss







Active Genomic Active Genomic

618 1,499 104 317

576 515 860 411 650

62 94 76 93 69

0.3 0.3 1.1 -0.2 -0.3
















Average predicted transmitting values and corresponding reliability values for milk yield, daughter pregnancy rate, and Lifetime Net Merit for active and genomic bulls marketed to U.S. dairy farmers, based on December 2014 Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding genetic evaluations.

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6 June 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

GENOMIC leads to 98 percent reliability. What is the Power of Three? the corresponding genomic ref- It’s a very simple way to manage erence populations for these the risk of lower reliability when breeds. The best strategy for using young genome-tested bulls. managing the risk Many farmers The reliability values are uncomfortassociated with lower reliability of individual genomic able with the risk bulls range from of young associated with 70 percent to 76 genome-tested reliability values percent, whereas the in the 70 percent bulls is to increase reliability of average to 76 percent the number of different bulls range, because genetic merit for that are used at a team of three bulls they’ve become accustomed to any given time, as ranges from 90 shown in Table 2. percent to 92 percent. u s i n g p ro ge The reliability ny-tested bulls values of individual genomic with reliability values at about bulls range from 70 percent to 90 percent. But if they decide to 76 percent, whereas the reliabil- avoid these G-status bulls, ity of average genetic merit for a they’ll miss out on genetic team of three bulls ranges from progress, because these bulls 90 percent to 92 percent. have much higher genomIncreasing team size to six pro- ic-predicted transmitting abilivides 95 percent to 96 percent ties values for production, type reliability for the team average, and health traits, as well as Lifeand increasing team size to 12 time Net Merit, as compared Continued from page 5

Table 2 Individual Net Merit Bull Type Predicted transmitting ability in $ 256 461 81 295 328 643 Active 85 270 -106 -138 340 309 314 416 -63 499 496 Genomic 581 585 712 566 182 611

Individual Net Merit Reliability by percentage 93 86 98 89 96 93 88 85 87 92 93 91 72 76 74 73 71 73 70 71 70 74 75

Team of 3

Team of 12

Team of 6

Predicted Predicted Predicted Transmitting Reliability Transmitting Reliability Transmitting Reliability Ability Ability Ability 266




























Example of predicted transmitting values and corresponding reliability for Net Merit of active and genomic Holstein bulls versus reliability of a team of the same bulls, where Team Reliability = [1 – (1 – average REL of individual bulls in the team)/(number of bulls in the team)], with reliability expressed as a proportion – 93 percent REL = 0.93.

June 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 7 with older progeny-tested bulls. in the end there will be faster The solution is to use three genetic progress in the herd with times as many bulls to spread no additional risk. Just focus on the risk. If a dairy normally buys using groups of bulls whose semen from five progeny-tested average genetic merit meets the dairy’s sire-sebulls at a time, t h e p ro d u c e r The solution is to use lection goals. three times as many should now buy Keep in mind bulls to spread the the same number that the supply of of total units, but semen from risk. Another option spread the risk is to buy semen three young G-status bulls is less preacross 15 bulls times as often. dictable than for instead. Another option is to buy semen older bulls. Instead of picking three times as often – instead of out specific bulls and hoping buying a six-month supply of their semen is available, try to set semen from 10 progeny-tested the criteria for key traits and bulls, change to a different group focus on finding bulls from sevevery two months instead. eral different sire families that It’s a very simple strategy, but meet those criteria.

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8 June 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Silage avalanches: unpredictable and deadly RUTHIE AND KEITH BOLSEN

Silage avalanches are real. There is no way to predict when and where they will occur. It only takes a fraction of a second for part of a silage face to silently break off and fall. And the result can be deadly for anyone located beneath it. There have been numerous avalanche fatalities in the United States the past few years, and although rarely reported, we have heard many stories about near misses with silage avalanches. SILAGE AVALANCHE TRAGEDIES A Nebraska newspaper

Ruthie Bolsen

Keith Bolsen

reported the following fatal accident. A 53-year old Norfolk, Nebraska, man died Oct. 21, 2013, in a feedlot accident. Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger said Matthew Winkelbauer died after he was buried by a large silage pile that fell in an open silage pit at Four-Quarters Feedlot east of Norfolk.

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Never stand closer to the silage face than three times its height.

Winkelbauer, who was the o w n e r a n d o p e ra to r o f Four-Quarters, was pronounced dead at the scene. A co-worker was seriously injured in the accident. The victim was standing in front of the feedout face, which was about 15 to 18 feet high, and the avalanche pushed the falling silage more than twice that distance away from the face. Jason Edward Leadingham was working alone Jan. 13, 2014, in a bunker silo when 10 to 15 tons of corn silage collapsed on him. Jason was a silage haulback driver for Pirtle Farms LP of Roswell, New Mexico. Leadingham’s body was not recovered from the silage until about two and a half hours later; it was determined he died of mechanical asphyxia. There was a sample bag near his left hip. He was clutching silage in his hands and had silage in his mouth, which suggest that Leadingham struggled to survive in the final moments of his life. A Connecticut newspaper reported a South Windham man died March 24, 2015, after a pile of corn silage collapsed on him. According to police, the

accident happened when Donald Merchant, 54, was using equipment to remove corn silage from a bunker silo at Square A Farm in Lebanon. When Merchant climbed off the equipment, the silage toppled on him. Other farm workers who dug him out found him unresponsive. He was taken to Windham Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly before 5:30 p.m. Far too many bunkers and piles are just too large to be safe. It is not uncommon to have silage feedout faces that are 15 to 20 feet tall or taller. Common sense tells us that a silage face 20 feet to 22 feet high is much more dangerous than one that is only 10 feet to 12 feet high. PREVENTING SILAGE AVALANCHE ACCIDENTS We believe every dairy should have written safety policies and procedures for their silage program, and they should schedule regular meetings with all their employees to discuss safety. Guidelines to decrease the chance of having a fatality or serious accident caused by a silage avalanche:

June 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 9 • ‌N ever allow people to approach the feedout face. No exceptions! • ‌A rule of thumb is never stand closer to the silage face than three times its height. • ‌S uffocation is a primary concern and a likely cause of death in any silage avalanche. Follow the “buddy rule” and never work in or near a bunker or pile alone. • ‌Bunker silos and drive-over piles should not be filled higher than the unloading equipment can reach safely. Typically a large unloader can reach a height of 12 feet to 14 feet. • ‌Use caution when removing plastic or oxygen-barrier film, tires, tire sidewalls or gravel bags near the edge of the feedout face. • ‌ Do n o t re m ove s u rfa ce - s p o i l e d s i l a ge f ro m Do not remove surface spoiled silage from bunkers and piles that are filled to an unsafe height.

See SILAGE, on page 10


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10 June 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Silage can collapse without warning.

SILAGE equipment near the feedout face. • ‌Avoid being complacent! • ‌A lways pay attention to bunkers and piles that are filled your surroundings and never to an unsafe height. • ‌Use proper unloading tech- think that an avalanche cannot nique, which includes shaving happen! • A warning sign, “Danger! silage down the feedout face. • ‌Never dig the bucket into Silage Face Might Collapse,” the bottom of the silage. Under- should be posted around the p e r i m e te r o f cutting creates an overhang of ‌Suffocation is a primary bunker silos and concern and a likely silage that can drive-over piles. cause of death in any loosen and tumRuthie and ble to the floor. silage avalanche. Follow Keith Bolsen live This is a situain Austin, Texas. the “buddy rule” and tion that is quite never work in or near a Ruthie has a common when degree in finance bunker or pile alone. the unloader and has worked bucket cannot reach the top of the past 12 years in raising awareness of the opportunities an over-filled bunker or pile. • ‌Never drive the unloader for injury in silage programs. parallel to and in close proxim- Keith is a Professor Emeritus of Cattle Nutrition in the Animal ity of the feedout face. • ‌When sampling silage, take Sciences and Industry Departsamples from a front-end loader ment at Kansas State University bucket after it is moved to a safe in Manhattan, Kansas. Ruthie distance from the feedout face. and Keith have co-authored a • ‌Never ride in a front-end Silage Safety Handbook as well as loader bucket. numerous conference papers and • ‌N ever park vehicles or articles about silage safety.  Continued from page 9

June 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 11

Tell your farm’s story Effective community relations is more than an afterthought. Activities must be planned, executed well and evaluated. To help producers in this quest, Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin is offering a workshop called “Your Farm’s Story: Building an Effective Community Outreach Plan.” The workshop will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 16 at PDPW headquarters, 820 N. Main St., Juneau, Wisconsin. The workshop will help producers build positive reputations in their communities. Learn tactics that are part of effective community outreach, and how to assemble them into a plan that protects and enhances a farm’s reputation. In this

one-day session, producers will answer the following questions:‌ • ‌What does my farm do well, and how can we make that known in the community? • ‌What are the key messages for my farm? • ‌Which tools or activities are best for engaging the public? • ‌Who are my partners in telling my farm’s story? • ‌Which engagement activities have worked for other farms? • ‌How do I measure success?‌ Producers will leave the workshop armed with a proactive outreach plan for their dairy, including the key audiences, messages, activities, timing and expenses necessary to tell a farm’s story. Visit for more information.‌

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Avoid electrical hazards on the farm program to reduce out-ofpocket costs for farmers. The The federal Occupational programs require the work to be Safety and Health Administracompleted by a DATCP rewirtion considers electrical hazards ing-program certified electrione of the cian; the finished work must “Focus Four” also be inspected. hazards that When a circuit breaker is can potentially tripped or a fuse blown, often injure or kill the fix is to increase the amperworkers. age of the circuit breaker or Electricity is fuse. But this may be masking a u se d ex te n serious hazard within the Mary Bauer sively on dairy equipment or the circuit’s wirfarms to power ing. So before flipping the key equipment in milking par- This agitator in a manure pit — a wet and damp location — is incorrectly switch on again, take a moment not protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet. lors, manure-handling systems, to determine the root cause of the trip. The three typical barns and commodity sheds. causes are overloaded circuit, Workers and animals are When transporting elevated starting with incoming power. exposed to electrical shock equipment such as conveyors Underground wires can be short circuit and ground fault. along with fire risks that can and augers, employers must contacted when digging. In A rigorous inspection procause property damage and identify any overhead wires that Wisconsin, call Diggers Hotline gram will help identify comlivestock deaths. can create a contact hazard – – the utility one-call center – at monly found electrical hazards least three days on farms: One of the most prior to digging. •‌ E x t e n s i o n If the undercords used as a common and most Specializing in substitute for ground line is serious hazards correctly fixing owned by the ➤ is the lack of, or farm, a private wiring; • ‌Broken-off locator may need improper, electrical ➤ ground pins on to be hired to grounding. This male-plug ends locate underis the leading ➤ of equipment ground utilities. contributor of stray lead cords and Typically wires buried between voltage and a shock extension cords; ➤ the transformer • ‌Damage and/ hazard to workers. or meter and the or openings in ➤ buildings are not the responsi- electrical boxes and face covers bility of the power company. that allow contact with live Contact Us For Any/All Of Your One of the most common and parts and can allow dust into Feed Ingredient Needs! most serious hazards is the lack the box, which can create a fire of, or improper, electrical hazard; grounding. This is the leading • ‌Electrical panels with circontributor of stray voltage and cuit breakers missing, or not a shock hazard to workers. marked “spare,” and in the “on” Electric utilities, electrical position; cooperatives and Wisconsin’s • ‌U napproved extension Phone: (800) 776-3610 Department of Agriculture, cords – using Romex or other Email: Trade and Consumer Protection brands of non-metallic wiring; Website: work together to offer a employers must use heavy-duty cost-sharing farm-rewiring cords marked SJ or SJO; MARY BAUER Eau Claire Area OSHA‌

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June 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 13 • ‌U sing electrical power strips for equipment that draws excessive amperage, causing fires. Power strips are good for low-amperage equipment like computers, printers and light fixtures. OSHA inspectors will look for heat-producing appliances such as microwave ovens, toasters, refrigerators, coffeemakers and other high-amperage-drawing equipment incorrectly plugged into power strips. Daisy-chaining power strips can also lead to electrical fires; • ‌O utlets not protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters – GFCIs – used incorrectly for sump well pumps, wet locations, outside outlets and next to sinks; and • ‌Reverse polarity on repaired cords and outlets.

Exposed electrical conductors are a dangerous electrical hazard.

Electrical hazards have significant consequences for workers, animals and property, and cannot be ignored. Following

various electrical codes such as the National Electrical Code Article 547 for Agricultural S t r u c t u re s a n d O S H A’s

requirements will significantly reduce the risk of shock or fires. Additionally, employers need to follow electrical safe-work practices: • ‌De-energize electric equipment before inspection or repair; • ‌Keep electric tools properly maintained; • ‌E xercise caution when working near energized lines – stay at least 10 feet away; and • ‌Use appropriate protective equipment. Proper electrical practices will help ensure the safety of workers. Mary Bauer is the Eau Clairearea OSHA office’s compliance assistance specialist. Bauer has been with OSHA for 29 years and holds a Certified Safety Professional and Certified Industrial Hygiene certification.

Today’s dairy farm faces unique challenges and opportunities. AgStar Financial Services is focused on providing you tools so you can rise to the challenges and shine with success. Our clients benefit from our understanding of the industry combined with local expertise and our full range of financial management services, customized to help you find what’s best for your operation. For more information, please contact one of our experienced Financial Service Officers today. 866-577-1831 AgStar Financial Services is an equal opportunity employer, lender and provider. © 2015 All rights reserved.

14 June 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Aaron Wunderlin collects samples at a leachate monitoring site.

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AARON WUNDERLIN University of Wisconsin-Extension Discovery Farms‌

Runoff from feed-storage areas happens far more frequently than runoff from fields. Feed-storage areas consist of impervious surfaces, so there is little chance for infiltration of precipitation water. Runoff from these areas can contain leachate, which conAaron sists of nutriWunderlin ents and other components leached from the stored feed. No one wants this “hot stuff,” with the potential to negatively impact water quality, to flow toward area water resources. One solution is to capture the runoff locally through a leachate-collection system. The trick is to capture enough to mitigate

the “hot stuff,” but not too much. Extra rainwater taking up precious space in the manure pit is both frustrating and unnecessary. So how can we maximize nutrient collection while minimizing unnecessary water capture. The first step is to minimize the risk of nutrient loss altogether. Harvest and store feed at proper moisture levels. The optimal moisture for corn silage is 65 percent to 70 percent, while haylage is slightly lower at 60 percent to 65 percent. Protect silage from contacting water. Cover it, wrap side walls of bunkers and divert clean water. This includes litter or spoilage piles. Remove litter and spoilage from pads. When rain contacts litter and spoil piles there is an increased chance for nutrient losses from feed-storage areas.

June 2015 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 15

Join today! Three types of membership

The next step is to figure out when to capture and redirect losses to a storage tank. This is a question that the University of Wisconsin-Extension Discovery Farms has been working to answer by collecting data from three Wisconsin farms during the past three years. The program is currently in the process of analyzing the data with preliminary findings showing some unexpected results. Current systems are designed to capture the runoff from the initial part of the event — also called “first flush” because of the commonly held belief that it contains the highest concentration of leachate. However, this belief is based on studies

conducted in urban runoff environments. Data collected from farm leachate-capture systems indicate the first-flush scenario rarely occurs in a farm runoff environment, unlike its urban counterpart. What the data does show is that during times of low flow, nutrient concentrations are the highest. Therefore systems should be designed to capture runoff during these periods of low flow and high nutrient concentrations. As currently designed, systems are not maximizing the amount of nutrients collected while minimizing the amount of water collected. There may be a better way to grab the

Dairy Farm Member One membership per dairy entity covers all managers, spouses and employees. While each dairy entity has one vote, every person within the dairy—operator, spouse and employees—enjoys the member rate when attending events. Associate Member Membership is open to any individual interested in the dairy industry. This is a non-voting membership. Associate members enjoy the member rate when attending PDPW events. Corporate Member Open to any group, company or organization interested in the dairy industry. This is a non-voting membership. This membership qualifies every employee within your organization for the member rate when attending PDPW events. To learn more or to join PDPW, call PDPW at 800-947-7379 or go to

biggest bang for the collection buck by changing the diversion timing. If we can achieve this it’ll be a win-win for water quality and manure storage. UW-Discovery Farms is working closely with Dr. Becky Larson at UW-Madison to combine datasets and create clear suggestions for improving

system design. Keep an eye out for more results and in the meantime keep minimizing those losses. Aaron Wunderlin, senior research specialist for UW-Discovery Farms, specializes in water-quality data analysis. Contact him at for more information.

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Dairy's Bottom Line June 2015  

Dairy's Bottom Line June 2015