PDPW Dairy's Bottom Line April 19, 2018

Page 1

Volume 20: Issue 3 April 2018

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


Consider tips for tough times Page 2 Take steps to limit stillbirths


ositive change can be implemented during challenging times by changing just a few things. Choosing the right thoughts, choosing thankfulness and committing to ongoing learning can redirect an off-course life without costing a dime. Choose the right thoughts

Page 2 On-farm training planned

Every word spoken and every action taken first begins with a thought. Most people don’t realize thoughts quickly become part of subconscious daily actions. Because conscious thoughts become beliefs, our subconscious mind works to Hank Wagner prove our beliefs are correct – even if those beliefs are inaccurate. If we believe a certain thing, our subconscious mind accepts it as truth. Choose to be thankful

Page 3 Protect family, farm future

Page 6 Measure heifers for profits

It can be difficult to be thankful during challenging times but that’s when it’s most important. When faced with circumstances that seem bad ask “compared to what?” I spent time in Togo, Africa, and saw poverty-stricken people helplessly watch their children and other loved ones slowly starve to death. Most of us have food to eat, water to drink and homes in which to live. The people of Togo don’t have beds, bathrooms or flush toilets. Nor do they have a realistic way out of their prison of poverty. The government could help but chooses not to, instead robbing people of the little they have. The soil is nutrient-poor and jobs are virtually non-existent, leaving the people unable to afford even bare necessities. Our worst day is likely better than their best day. I believe there is always something to be thankful for. The people with whom I spent

time in Togo lived in deplorable conditions but chose to be thankful anyway. Their attitudes could not be stolen by government or poverty. Indeed it’s probably precisely what sustained them through their daily challenges. Learn the lesson Challenges can bring both pleasure and pain; the most influential is pain. Anyone who has touched an electric fence, after being warned not to, knows the experience of pain was more influential than the warning that preceded it. And so it is with times of challenge. The pain that accompanies challenge often forces us to consider ways to do things differently, to avoid repeating an unpleasant experience. Change how you think, choose to be thankful and seek to learn the lesson. Your life will never be the same. Hank Wagner is a dairy producer and a John Maxwell Team teacher, mentor, speaker and coach. To learn more about nurturing thankfulness, consider reading Hank’s book “Teachable Moments.” It’s available online at amazon.com and at most book stores. Contact hwagner@frontiernet.net for more information.

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


April 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

PDPW Board of Directors President Jay Heeg Colby, Wis. 715-507-0030 jcheeg@yahoo.com

Vice President Katy Schultz Fox Lake, Wis. 920-210-9661 katylschultz@gmail.com Secretary Dan Scheider Freeport, Ill. 815-812-4012 dnscheider@gmail.com Treasurer Brian Forrest Stratford, Wis. 715-650-0267 bforrest70@gmail.com Directors Mitch Breunig Sauk City, Wis. 608-963-6819 mysticvalley336@gmail.com Andy Buttles Lancaster, Wis. 608-723-4712 stonefront@tds.net Janet Clark Rosendale, Wis. 608-341-6709 vafarmsllc@hotmail.com Marty Hallock Mondovi, Wis. 715-495-2812 marbec@nelson-tel.net Steven Orth Cleveland, Wis. 920-905-2575 orthlanddairy@gmail.com

PDPW Advisers

2018 PDPW Board of Directors

Members of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin elected three people to the organization’s Board of Directors at PDPW’s recent annual business conference. Janet Clark of Rosendale, Wisconsin, Jay Heeg of Colby, Wisconsin, and Dan Scheider of Freeport, Illinois, join other dairy producers on the board. The board’s primary role is to steer producer professionalism and educational programming while also strengthening relationships with stakeholders and consumers. The 2018 PDPW Board of Directors includes, from left, Jay Heeg, Katy Schultz, Marty Hallock, Janet Clark, Dan Scheider, Brian Forrest, adviser Mark Binversie, Mitch Breunig, Steven Orth, Andy Buttles and adviser Andrew Skwor. Advisers Randy Shaver and Jim Barmore are not pictured.

Steps can limit stillbirths


stillbirth – defined as death of the calf within 24 to 48 hours after delivery – can have devastating economic impacts in a dairy herd. T h a t’s n o t merely because Geof Smith of the loss of

Dr. Randy Shaver UW- Madison Dairy Science Madison, Wis. rdshaver@wisc.edu Andrew Skwor MSA Professional Services Baraboo, Wis. askwor@msa-ps.com

continue to be a major problem on dairy farms. Across several large studies, stillbirth rates have ranged from 4.3 percent to as high as 10.3 percent. Dystocia, or calving difficulty, is blamed for the vast majority of stillbirths, with rates naturally being significantly higher in heifers than in older cattle. Fortunately a few key steps can

On-farm training planned

Jim Barmore GPS Dairy Consulting Verona, Wis. jmbarmore@gpsdairy.com

Mark Binversie Investors Community Bank Manitowoc, Wis. mbinversie@investors communitybank.com

the calf. Studies have shown that a cow giving birth to a stillborn calf has a significantly increased risk of dying or being culled during the subsequent lactation. More days open and reduced milk production have also been shown to be associated with cows experiencing stillbirths. Surprisingly, stillbirths

Students involved in the Agricultural Professional Partnerships program spend time on farms learning directly from dairy producers on a number of relevant topics. John Koepke of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, talks to participants about what dairy cattle eat and how crops are harvested.

Many of today’s dairy consultants and employees weren’t raised on dairy farms. PDPW’s Agricultural Professional Partnerships® program was developed to offer fundamental instruction particularly for that group. Practical on-farm training increases the credibility and confidence of attendees by way of both classroom style and i n - t h e - f i e l d ex p e r i e n ce . Scheduled for May 22-24 in Madison, Wisconsin, the program will offer more than 20 hours of hands-on professional development. Attendees will

gain a comprehensive understanding of modern agriculture, including important animal-care practices, environmental-stewardship techniques, employee management and the economics of production agriculture. R e g i s t ra t i o n i n c l u d e s on-farm experience as well as access to training experts and educational resources. Lunch, snacks and refreshments will be offered each day, as well as transportation to and from the farm. Visit www.pdpw.org or call 800-947-7379 to register or for more information.

April 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line



Protect family, family farm D

ear George: Our son is going to be married. We’re excited about his future and his fiancée, but we want to protect our farm assets and our son’s dream to carry on the farm George legacy once Twohig we’re gone. How can we

protect our farm without alienating ourselves from his bride-to-be … or him?‌ Answer: The goal of most family-farm parents is to transfer their farm to their child or children – their successors. The successor and his or her fiancé – the in-law – usually see no risk of divorce. They believe their marriage will survive all challenges. Unfortunately, divorces are common, even in

farm families. The parents and successor owe it to themselves to protect their business investments and heritage. But it’s difficult to hold discussions about the potential of divorce or of the successor’s death. A common mistake is for the successor or the parents to ask the in-law to sign a prenuptial agreement. The in-law then supposes the marital agreement is more about protecting the

make all the difference in minimizing the impacts of what can be considered primarily a management challenge. Genetic selection critical Selecting sires appropriate for breeding is critical to avoiding dystocia. Beef bulls generally have data to indicate expected progeny differences for birth weight; low birthweight-bulls should be selected for heifers. Likewise dairy sire summaries offer data for sire calving ease and daughter calving ease. Sire calving ease is an estimate of the difficult births or dystocia incidents seen from that bull in first-lactation heifers. Bulls with values of sire calving ease more than eight are not recommended for heifers or small cows. Daughter calving ease measures the ability of the daughters from that sire to calve easily. In Holsteins the breed average is about 6 percent; values more than that are associated with increased dystocia rates. Nutrition important Though not a lot of specific data is available, nutrition is thought to be important in limiting dystocia and stillbirths. Trace-mineral deficiencies might increase the rate of dystocia incidences; the same is likely in cows that are over-conditioned at the time of calving. Human women with high non-esterified fatty acids can experience slow labor and elevated rates of stillbirths. That may also be the case in cattle. Consider pen management It’s important to avoid moving cattle until stage two of labor, when the calf’s feet are present outside the dam’s vulva. Farms will


Stillbirths continue to be a significant problem on modern dairy farms. With proper management the number of calves that die shortly after calving can be minimized.

experience more stillbirths if they move cattle to a calving area during stage-one labor, during which the cow is restless and displaying swollen vulva and distended teats. The practice may interrupt the calving process, resulting in higher death loss – particularly with heifers. Employees need training Because most stillbirths are related to dystocia, it’s critical that producers understand how to assist a cow when necessary. Producers need to understand the stages of labor in addition to when and how to intervene or assist. Critically they should also recognize when labor is not progressing

farm and will be potentially unfair to him or her. In reality marital planning should be done with a view of developing a plan that provides the in-law reasonable financial security in the event of a divorce or the successor’s death. Marital planning should also consider the farm’s financial limitations and the transfer of farm assets to the See PROTECT, page 4

normally – and when it’s necessary to contact a manager or herd veterinarian. Normal labor takes 60 to 70 minutes. Classic recommendations are to intervene 90 minutes after the appearance of the amniotic sac. Intervention that’s too rapid or aggressive can result in cervical or uterine tears, especially when a cow – particularly a heifer – hasn’t had time to sufficiently dilate. When assistance is needed cows should be moved to a location where they can be appropriately restrained. The vulva should be cleaned to avoid uterine infection; use of abundant lubrication is key. Train all farm employees to correctly position obstetrical chains and to pull the calf in synchrony with the cow’s contractions. Use of a calf jack should be minimal because it’s a source of many unintentional cow injuries. A cow normally pushes the fetus with about 165 pounds of force, whereas two humans pulling on chains generate about 350 pounds of force. In contrast, one person and a calf jack can easily generate more than 900 pounds of force – that can cause a cow’s tissues to rip and tear. A typical recommendation is to teach employees to use only human force, with a maximum of two people. If they are unable to remove the calf then the manager or a veterinarian should be contacted. In a future issue we’ll focus on how to care for a newborn calf. Dr. Geof Smith, veterinarian, is professor of ruminant medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University. Contact geoffrey_smith@ncsu.edu for more information.


April 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Protect Continued from page 3

successor in continuation of the family-farm legacy. Thorough discussions can lay the foundation for a marital agreement that satisfies the concerns of all parties. Discussions about divorce or the successor’s death are inherently challenging because they involve emotions, family and the farm business. Often the involvement of an independent adviser is valuable to keep discussions focused and to mediate complex issues. Family, business values affect discussions Conflicts occur within families. When there’s a mix of family and family-farm business, the likelihood of conflict increases. It’s challenging enough to be the in-law; those challenges are greater when the in-law is married to a successor. The in-law, successor and other family members should recognize that family values require including and accepting the in-law while protecting the emotional needs of all involved. Each individual must seek to

maintain the family’s stability as well as commit to communicating and participating in family events and matters. Even during periods of disagreement, family members – especially the in-law – should remain committed to participating in family events, maintaining the grandparents’ relationships with grandchildren and maintaining other close family relationships. Generally the successor’s participation in work and management are based on his or her performance. It’s commonly recognized that the successor’s ownership will be transferred on an “earned” basis. If employed on the farm, the in-law must accept that he or she is subject to the decisions and direction of the managers – and will be an employee-at-will. Educate in-law regarding traditions, future plans To gain his or her support, help the in-law understand the family and their traditions as well as how they live, work and communicate within the business and as a family. The in-law should be aware of the successor’s personal and business expectations regarding involvement in farm management. The in-law needs to recognize the nature of the farm business, its finances and

management. He or she needs to understand the successor’s role, compensation and expected hours of work – and how the farm will transfer to the next generation. If the in-law has a role in the farm business, it’s critical he or she has clear direction on how his or her work will be managed, directed and compensated. Appreciate in-law contributions The parents and the successor should fully recognize and appreciate the in-law’s contributions as valuable and important to the future of family and farm. Those contributions may include raising and mentoring children, maintaining the family home, showing a willingness to live a farm life to the extent of relinquishing time with the successor for the good of the farm. The in-law may also be contributing by working outside the farm in addition to or in place of work directly in the farm business. Protect farm future The in-law should understand that farm assets, though of high value, will be gifted or otherwise transferred to the successor with the expectation that the successor will transfer the farm to the next generation. A farmer considers farm assets as tools of the

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April 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


trade. But in cases of divorce the successor’s former spouse and his or her attorney may seek a share of the successor’s interest based on its fair market value. They might disregard that the successor received the farm assets by gift or in a bargain sale. Discussing these important issues is critical to establishing a firm foundation that sustains both family and business relationships. It also allows for a marital agreement that balances the in-law’s right for reasonable financial security in the event of a divorce or the successor’s death, with the farm’s financial limitations. Discussions give opportunities to confirm the plan to gift or otherwise transfer the farm to the successor in continuation of the family-farm legacy, rather than dividing or purchasing the farm based on fair market value in the event of a divorce or the successor’s death. George Twohig is a partner and attorney at Twohig, Rietbrock, Schneider & Halbach S.C. in Chilton, Wisconsin; the firm focuses on agriculture and agri-business. Contact george@twohiglaw.com for more information.


Marital planning should be done with a view of developing a plan that provides the in-law reasonable financial security in the event of a divorce or the successor’s death.




April 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Measure heifers five times M

easuring calves and heifers for weight and height is important to ensure optimal growth. It’s not always convenient, but doing it as part of other key interventions can streamline the process so heifer nutrition and growth can be effectively managed. Measure at birth In the life of a dairy heifer there are generally five different occaMatt Akins sions that are the most sensible times to measure weight and height, starting with the first assessment at birth. The typical recommendation for daily weight gain is 1.7 to 1.9 pounds per day for large breeds and 1.2 to 1.4 pounds per day for small breeds. A birth weight is necessary to calculate that daily weight gain. A weight tape is an acceptable tool if a scale isn’t an option.

Measure at weaning The second opportunity to take measurements is at weaning. The birth and weaning measurements allow for the calculation of average daily gain. They are an indicator of a calf program’s performance throughout the year. Those numbers can help a producer make decisions regarding nutrition, housing and sanitation – especially through the seasonal changes of summer and winter. Measure at post-weaning The four- to six-month age is the third time to assess measurements. This check will help determine how well heifers are transitioning to solid feed. If heifers are underperforming, re-evaluate the weaning and transitioning processes. Limit stressors as much as possible – particularly those associated with trucking, grouping, vaccination, diet changes and seasonal influences. Not all stressors are

In the life of a dairy heifer there are generally five different occasions that are the most sensible times to measure weight and height, starting with the first assessment at birth.


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April 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

avoidable but it’s important to aim for no more than two stressors at a time. The post-weaning check is also the time to evaluate the heifer diet for adequate nutrients. Ensure heifers are consuming a grain-protein mix and high-quality forages that encourage forage intake.

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Measure at pre-breeding The fourth measurement is taken at 11 to 12 months of age. It is used for two purposes. • Evaluate the pre-bred heifer-nutrition program. • Determine if the heifer is big enough to start breeding at 13 months old so she’ll calve at the optimal 22- to 24-month range. Regarding weight, 825 to 900 pounds by 12 months of age is ideal. On a mature-size basis, heifers should be bred at about 55 percent of mature weight, which is considered third lactation and greater. Measure at calving The fifth and final weight measurement should be taken before or after calving to evaluate if heifers are at an appropriate size at calving, and if they gained excessive

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Agricultural Professional Partnerships™ is on-farm training for non-farm dairy professionals weight. Heifers should be about 92 percent to 96 percent of mature weight before calving, or 85 percent of mature weight after calving. Heifers can quickly gain weight when fed a diet slightly high in energy, due to their higher feed intakes. Body-condition scoring can quickly identify if heifers are gaining weight. The ideal score is 3.0 at breeding and between 3.25 and 3.5 at calving. Using a growth-monitoring program is helpful to manage the data; Penn State University is offering a


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spreadsheet. Visit extension.psu.edu for more information. Raising healthy heifers ensures productive and profitable cows. By routinely measuring and assessing young stock, producers can make great strides toward that goal. Matt Akins is a dairy-heifer specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Department of Dairy Science and UW-Extension. Email msakins@wisc. edu for more information.


April 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Compare options before changing facilities


any dairy producers are considering whether to build new or to retrofit as they look to integrate an automated milking system into their dairies. When making that important decision, dairy producers generally have several goals in mind. • ‌reduce labor cost • ‌increase milk production Bill • ‌lower stress on cows Oppriecht and people • ‌more effectively manage data available at the cow level Research shows reducing labor cost isn’t consistent across the board. Some farms report limited savings while other farms report labor savings of up to 30 percent. Given the variety of business models and differences in scale, the more important focus should be on factors that increase productivity – including milking frequency, nutrition, cow comfort and other factors that contribute

to increasing herd production. Those factors will help to offset the investment of an automated milking system. Retrofitting into a current facility can be challenging. A major factor in this option is barn design; ensuring optimal cow-traffic flow is a must. It’s also important to evaluate an existing freestall barn’s condition and cow-comfort capabilities. A calm stress-free environment equals higher milk production and quality. Other factors to consider are distance to the robot, pen size, manure management, ventilation and footbath location. Generally the primary benefit to retrofitting is lower initial cost. Building a facility for an automated milking system allows for all aspects to fit the management style. While cow comfort and traffic flow remain top priorities, future expansion should also be considered during the design process. A current trend is the use of the current milking facility in addition to a sepa ra te fa c i l i ty co n ta i n i n g m i l k i n g

robotics. Cows that can’t be milked by a robot or are unwilling to adapt can still be milked in the manner to which they’re accustomed. Rather than needing to cull that group of cows in the short term, the cows can continue to be milked. Another benefit is that the existing facility can be used until it’s more fully depreciated. A green-site project takes a more substantial up-front investment and requires a long-term commitment to gain a return on investment. It’s important to consider budget and financial position when making these decisions. It’s recommended to involve a lender and other advisory-team members early in these conversations to ensure maximum profitability. The entire team needs to understand the goals and direction of the operation to best aid in the decision-making process. Bill Oppriecht is a dairy-lending specialist at Compeer Financial, a vision sponsor of PDPW.

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