PDPW Dairy's Bottom Line -- December 2022

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Be future-ready with PDPW research

Recently I had the opportunity to sit at a table with a representative of one of the world’s largest dairy-brand customers – Nestlé. Hearing his view of the future was exhilarating and daunting at the same time. As he spoke, I felt a part of a bigger team –let’s call it Team Dairy. I could imagine how, by working more closely together, Team Dairy could win by better positioning our farms, our products and our future to compete more effectively locally and in the global marketplace.

As a PDPW board member, I’m fortunate to experience a number of similar conversations. Whether I agree with their viewpoints or not is another thing, but I can’t deny they help me farm with a clearer view of the future in mind. Those outside perspectives help me recalculate and reprioritize where to focus so I can position our farm to be future-ready.

I believe all farmers should have access to those kinds of conversations and insights –and so does PDPW. That’s why they recently conducted and are sharing FUTURE READYTM research to better anticipate the changing nature of dairy and understand how we can best position our farms for sustainable success. Through the greatly respected


Brett, Tammy, Roger and Brady Weiland own Weiland Dairy near Columbus, Wisconsin; Brett and Brady Weiland also own and operate High Gear Holsteins.

Forward Group – a research group based in St. Charles, Missouri – we had direct conversations with the nation’s

leading dairy-food marketers and processors. We gained the

Volume 24: Issue 4 December 2022 Keep cows comfortable Consumer trends important to watch Professional Dairy Producers™ I 1-800-947-7379 I www.pdpw.org BOTTOM LINE Page 23 Business Conference scheduled
PDPW of Weiland Dairy and High Gear Holsteins near Columbus, Wisconsin, Brady Weiland works with team members Francisco Rodriguez and Luis Angel. PDPW
Protect calves against pathogens Page 6 Page 10 Page 20 Please see WEILAND, Page 2

PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line


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the perspective of more than 100 dairy producers from coast to coast. From this first-of-itskind 360-degree study of the full dairy chain, we learned a lot about what it will take for producers to be future-ready for coming changes.

I’d like to share what we learned and how we can best position our farms for the future.

What’s ahead?

According to PDPW’s FUTURE READY research, dairy-food customers believe the industry is changing fast –becoming more competitive, driven by consumer demands including environmental sustainability, worker care, animal care, economics and farm stories. They are seeking to partner with producers and suppliers who are aligned and committed to their values and goals, and who will produce milk for those market needs.

The PDPW FUTURE READY research reveals these five on-farm practices will become increasingly important for dairy farms to be competitive in the future.

• environmental-sustainability and regenerative-agriculture practices

• cow-comfort management

• producing milk to market needs

• responsible labor-management practices

Dairy’s Bottom Line is pubished by PDPW in cooperation with Agri-View. 1901 Fish Hatchery Road Madison, Wisconsin 53713 Toll-Free: 1-888-AGRI-VIEW agriview@madison.com www.agriview.com

• proactively telling our farm stories

According to the research, 80 percent of producers also believe the dairy industry is changing fast and will continue to do so. But less than half of producers surveyed say their dairies are well-prepared for the industry’s potential changes.

Education, training essential to future success

One thing both ends of the dairy-value chain – dairyfood customers and producers –could agree on is that education and training are essential.

According to the PDPW FUTURE READY research, more than half of producers say there is a strong need for five types of training.

• financial management

• people management

• latest research regarding innovative farm practices

• how to position a farmer as a preferred supplier to downstream customers

• leadership development within farm teams, such as growing the next senior leaders

I’m proud to say PDPW already o ers so much of the training producers need in order to take a proactive stance to be future-ready. Dairy’s Professional Development Organization® regularly facilitates training and educational programs.

Financial Literacy for Dairy® – With almost 20 percent of producers indicating they would like training on how to develop a written business-growth plan, PDPW o ers the only comprehensive training curriculum for dairy producers – written in part by nationally recognized financial experts such as David Kohl. I’ve personally participated in this training. After completing Level 1, I left with more confidence in my farm’s financials as well as a solid

DEC 20-21

Upcoming Educational Events

Dairy Managers Institute®

Kalahari Resorts Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

Visit www.pdpw.org for details.

DEC 20-22; 27-29

The Dairy Signal® Online, 12 – 1 pm CT

Visit www.pdpw.org to participate in live-streamed event. Audio/video recordings also available free.

JAN 3-5; 10-12; 17-19; 24-26, 2023

The Dairy Signal® Online, 12 – 1 pm CT

Visit www.pdpw.org to participate in live-streamed event. Audio/video recordings also available free.

JAN 10-12

Managers Academy

Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa Savannah, Georgia

Visit www.pdpw.org for details.

JAN 18-19

Financial Literacy for Dairy® (Level 2, opening session)

PDPW headquarters Juneau, Wis.

Visit www.pdpw.org for details. JAN 31

PDPW Carbon Conference Sheraton Hotel Madison, Wis.

Visit www.pdpw.org for details.

JAN 31-FEB 1-2; 7-9; 14-16; 21-23; 28

The Dairy Signal® Online, 12 – 1 pm CT

Visit www.pdpw.org to participate in live-streamed event. Audio/video recordings also available free.

FEB 8-9

Financial Literacy for Dairy® (Level 2, continuing session)

PDPW headquarters Juneau, Wis.

Visit www.pdpw.org for details.

FEB 21 & 22 (two one-day events)

Dairy Wellbeing Workshop

Tundra Lodge Resort Waterpark & Conference Center Green Bay, Wis.

Visit www.pdpw.org for details.

MAR 1-2; 7-9

The Dairy Signal®

Online, 12 – 1 pm CT

Visit www.pdpw.org to participate in live-streamed event. Audio/video recordings also available free.

MAR 14-15

Cornerstone Dairy Academy

Kalahari Resorts Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

Visit www.pdpw.org for details.

MAR 15-16

PDPW Business Conference

Kalahari Resorts Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

Visit www.pdpw.org for details.

PDPW mission: to share ideas, solutions, resources and experiences that help dairy producers succeed.

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plan to share with my banker. The experience was truly priceless. Several lending institutions offer full or partial scholarships to attendees through PDPW’s “Count on Us” program.

The training includes an online placement test and offers three levels.

• Level 1: Dairy Financial Workshop

• Level 2: Dairy Financial Strategy

• Level 3: Dairy Financial Advance Dairy Managers Institute®

– PDPW offers people-management training and peer groups for managers at various levels. Dairy Managers Institute participants gain insights into hiring and retaining workers, as well as creating a culture of caring in which employees and owners feel respected, competitively compensated and empowered to progress in their careers while balancing quality of life. My farm team has

benefitted by PDPW’s ability to provide educational sessions with simultaneous language translation. Now I can engage all my employees; language isn’t a barrier.

NEXUS® – Innovative ideas and technologies are a driving force behind improvements in productivity, efficiency and sustainability in today’s dairy industry. Through Nexus, dairy producers have the opportunity to hear and see firsthand from researchers, founders and leaders who are developing the next generation of dairy-industry innovations. I enjoy continually learning more about the technological innovations that can take some of the pressure off our labor challenges.

Dairy’s Visible Voice® and Cornerstone Academy® –These one- or two-day trainings are transformational. They personally helped me develop my professional, communications and leadership skills. From motivational speakers,

mock interviews and the opportunity to shape a farm’s story, these trainings will inspire attendees to be lifelong learners and prepare them to be leaders.

Education empowers producer futures

PDPW, at the core, has a very basic belief. Education is the most powerful force you can use to change your world – for yourself, your farm and our industry. I’ve been fortunate to experience the power of education for myself. And I appreciate how these trainings inspire us, unlock our potential and grow each of us as a leader.

Our hope is that the PDPW research shines a light on gaps and opportunities that exist while the future of dairy farming continually unfolds. We hope it will foster greater alignment across the dairy chain to support dairy farmers in taking a proactive stance in learning and development to be futureready.

Brady Weiland is a dairy producer and PDPW board member from Columbus, Wisconsin. Email bweiland11@hotmail.com to reach him. He owns and operates Weiland Dairy along with his parents, Roger and Tammy Weiland, and brother, Brett Weiland. Brady and Brett Weiland also own and operate High Gear Holsteins.

The family cares for 1,300 cows and employs 17 additional team members. Brady Weiland oversees the daily operation on the farms as the dairy manager. He graduated from Madison Area Technical College with a certificate in diesel technology.

He furthered his education at the University of Wisconsin-Farm and Industry Short Course, where he received a certificate for dairy-farm management.

PDPW is the nation’s dairydevelopment organization; it has become the source preferred by dairy producers for excellent-quality unbiased training and education to help position farms as future-ready.

Two consecutive one-day workshops to address pain management and abatement in dairy cattle are scheduled for Feb. 21 and 22 in Green Bay. The PDPW Dairy Wellbeing Workshop will begin with a tour of the American Foods processing plant and integrate a post-tour discussion to equip dairy owners, managers, veterinarians and all cow-side farm employees with the tools needed to ensure optimal animal care.

The afternoon portion of the program will provide attendees with an opportunity to engage with experts and dive more deeply into specific categories of pain management and abatement. Topics will include

dehorning, calving, lameness and myriad other challenges. Producers understand no life runs its course completely free of pain. But it’s each dairy producer’s job to provide the best care to avoid or alleviate pain as much as possible. The workshop will equip attendees with alternate perspectives and new approaches from experts as they bring their insights to the ever-evolving topic.

Pre-registration is required. Visit www.pdpw.org or call PDPW at 800-947-7379 for more information, including a program flier and registration details that will be available in the coming weeks.

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PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom
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Consider financials when changing systems

We are currently inundated with a lot of information about different types of milking systems. We’ve learned how new innovative systems can increase productivity and improve efficiencies. Whether considering implementing r obotics or updating a current parlor system with a new rotary, there’s much to think about.

Because each system varies in terms of capital investment, it’s important to understand how the scope of the project impacts the farm’s financial situation. The balance sheet – equity and liquidity – as well as cash flow and cost of production can be affected. Those factors take time to analyze. No one system works

for all operations, so consider five areas to determine if robots are the right fit.

1. Capital cost

Rotaries and robots seem to be the two systems most often compared. For equipment-capital cost, plan for investment of about $3,200 per cow for robots and $1,100 per cow for a rotary. The additional capital required for structures to house milking equipment and extra storage rooms tend to be similar between the two systems. Consider capital needed for more stalls, improving and adding manure systems and storage, or building new facilities. Evaluating only the cost of equipment may lead to an incomplete analysis. Considering how the

overall scope impacts cash flow is important; it will help assess return on investment.

2. Projection, budget

Understand how expenses and revenue may be affected, and what is expected.


• Labor – Be realistic. How will a transition to robotics change the way labor is managed? Through time a good target to shoot for is a labor-cost reduction of $1.50 per hundredweight. Keep in mind it’s possible savings recognized in labor may be reallocated to other expense line items.

• Feed – Estimate $.08 to $.01 per pound more of dry matter compared to conventional diets. That can also vary depending on

the type of flow system in the barn.

• Repairs, maintenance and supplies – Combined services can range from $16,000 to $24,000 per box per year. Using an average of 63 cows per box, the cost is $253 to $380 per cow annually. Repair costs range from $45 to $55 per cow each year while supply costs can total $75 to $100 per cow annually –for a combined cost of $120 to $155 per cow per year.

• Utilities – Estimate a 25 to 50 percent increase depending on if you’re transitioning from parlor or tie-stall to robotics. Consider the energy needed for the robots and necessary improvements to ventilation in existing facilities.

4 December 2022 •
PDPW• Dairy’s
Cassie Monger PDPW Analyzing one’s financial standing is a critical step before making any major decisions on a dairy, such as integrating robotics into one’s operation.

• Bedding, breeding and animal health – Be mindful of potential changes in bedding type as well as the cost associated with sire selection. It will be important to tightly manage the herd’s locomotive and reproductive health. Overall animal health should always be a priority. Robots provide access to more data to earlier detect and better monitor cows. Keep in mind how changes will impact the way cows are managed, particularly in regard to the flow system.


• Milk production – Whether considering a retro-fit or new construction, understand how current facilities will affect overall animal health and cow comfort. How will those factors compare once robots have been implemented?

• Time constraints – Knowing robots come with limiting factors, determine the goal for the ideal number of cows per robot. Obtaining peak

production requires time to fetch and train cows to the new system; ensure time goals align with the labor budget. What does 6,000 pounds per robot per day mean from a management perspective? Time is money. How will implementing robots maximize time management?

• Culling – It’s understood not all cows are robot cows. Identify if replacements will need to be purchased to keep the barn full.

• Milk Price – Look at longrange averages, factoring in highs and lows. How much milk is currently price-protected? Are changes needed?

3. Balance sheet and equity position

Once the current equity position is clearly defined, showing how it impacts the balance sheet post-close, be mindful that appraised value on a new construction project tends to come in at less than actual cost. While working with an accountant,

evaluate leasing robots; there may be some tax advantages in doing so. Most importantly, determine how much leverage is comfortable to ensure future projects or investments aren’t hindered down the road. To enable the liberty of investing again, determine how much capital should be tied up and for how long.

4. Debt repayment and structure

Regardless of what the balance sheet shows, structuring the debt appropriately and determining what is best for the overall operation is crucial. As a guideline, target debt repayment should be at or less than $2.50 per hundredweight. That’s calculated by dividing the total amount of hundredweights produced, by total annual principal and interest. It will be important to have a strong working-capital position post-close. Ideally that’s 30 percent of adjusted gross income or $450 per cow. Potential hiccups during

transition can’t always be anticipated nor can changes in the market be completely controlled. Available working capital allows for more liquidity to survive downturns.

5. Feasibility

Determine if the plan aligns with business, personal and financial goals. If revisions are needed to make it more financially viable, consider alternative options that will affect the overall impact. For example, if keeping the existing parlor operational for a period of time makes sense, that could be a suitable alternative when considering return on investment.

Remaining competitive and maximizing potential opportunities for growth is imperative. Consider these five areas when working through the decision process to position the farm for success.

Cassie Monger is a dairy-lending specialist with Compeer Financial, a vision sponsor of PDPW. Email cassie. monger@compeer.com to reach her.

December 2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line 5
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2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line

New trends will impact dairy

Remaining relevant in the food and beverage marketplace requires understanding consumer motivations and meeting them with products positioned to satisfy current cravings. It’s clear that shifting post-pandemic priorities are influencing buying behavior. The good news is there are plenty of opportunities for dairy products to shine.

Recent research by Innova Market Insights points to four focus areas that could have implications for the dairy industry.

Shoppers will be seeking • simple pleasures that bring enjoyment on a budget, • elevated at-home experiences, • healthier living options and

• conscious consumption that minimizes environmental impact.

Dairy products can and should be a part of each of those focus areas by highlighting fresh ingredients, artisan and handmade attributes, and nutritional benefits of products as well as their continued efforts toward sustainability. Those attributes match consumer mindsets concerning how they want to spend their time and money.

Simple pleasures – Many consumers want to weave moments of joy into their daily lives instead of waiting to splurge on a big-ticket luxury item. Offering a product subscription mailed to the doorstep with thoughtful packaging that delivers a sense of celebration can make the chore of grocery shopping easier and more exciting.

Market research suggests that in many cases “me time” and miniature rewards come through food and beverage breaks. Emphasizing the

richness of flavor could appeal to one in every two respondents who said they like to choose smaller treats they can consume to create joy. Enliven snack breaks by wrapping indulgent individual servings with beautiful packaging. We’re seeing this with layered yogurt products presented in stylish glass jars that fit in the

palm of a hand. And don’t skip dessert. Ice cream novelties offering increasingly creative flavor combinations are something to look forward to at the end of a long day.

Elevated experiences –People want to prioritize quality time with family and friends, and sharing meals is one of the most common

reasons to gather. In the past 12 months, one in three consumers globally has increased family activities and mealtimes at home. Food and beverage products can be excellent catalysts for connection. Many are looking beyond takeout to make their “time in” an elevated experience. Specialty f ood purchases are gaining

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Suzanne Fanning

prominence as an alternative to dining out. Upscale meal kits, “table theater” such as at-home hibachi grilling or smoking craft cocktails, and digital connections to extra content like a QR code on a wine bottle that unlocks compelling stories are a few examples of how to make at-home occasions more engaging and infuse a feeling of novelty.

There’s also an interest in creative preparation. Communal “butter boards” started trending this summer on TikTok. The site was flooded with artistic videos of softened butter being spread like frosting on serving surfaces and then adorned with toppings. We see growth potential for more spreadable dairy products like mascarpone and cream cheese as the centerpiece of an at-home party with that sweet-or-savory approach.

Healthy living – Especially after the peak of the global pandemic, health and wellness have been top of mind. The biggest drivers of healthier lifestyle choices are feeling well and aging well. People recognize that eating a nourishing diet is an essential factor in personal wellness. Notably more have prioritized eating habits as more important than physical exercise. And they’d rather ensure they’re reaching for wholesome options instead of limiting snacking or controlling portions. Choosing fresh ingredients is the most important way all age groups seek to eat healthfully, followed by preparing food from scratch.

Probiotic dairy products with gut-healthy bacteria that can support the human digestive system appeal to health-conscious consumers. Yogurt and many cheeses are fermented; probiotics found in yogurt and kefir help support gut health. Other dairy products can be positioned for that market by highlighting additional health benefits – such as

one way to get the necessary nutrients for normal immune function as well as enhanced absorption of macro and microelements. Other health benefits include calming effects and better sleep. Dairy foods provide an excellent-quality source of protein that can help with muscle repair while sleeping – especially for those who perform rigorous exercise. Producers may consider such opportunities to deliver on consumer desires for fresh, wholesome, homemade and nutritious food and beverage while managing cost, convenience and environmental concerns.

Conscious consumption – A recent report by First Insight showed that consumers across all generations –from Baby Boomers to Gen Z – are willing to spend more for sustainable products. Consumers want the chance to contribute to a positive impact and are increasingly conscious

of how their consumption affects the planet. Three-quarters of all consumers say that sustainability is somewhat or very important to them when considering purchasing decisions. According to market research, products that boast the “local” and “environmentally friendly” halos are seen among the top-five features worth paying more for.

Limiting packaging waste, promoting recyclability, and buy-back and refill options are several solutions that target priorities according to demographics and personal finances. Because the current generation supports brands that support their own values, it’s important for brands to be transparent. We predict we’ll see more packaging showcasing specific sustainability stats – such as “This cheese was made with 100% renewable energy.” We predict we’ll see more producer websites outlining specific environmental initiatives

and supply-chain innovations to showcase sustainable manufacturing.

Staying ahead – As inflation remains a concern, industry leaders who want to present consumers with the future of food and drink can be ahead of the curve by capitalizing on those preferences. Shoppers are always eager to share what they love with family and friends – both at the table and on social-media platforms. Presenting products that taste great, inspire delight and make an impact will help spread the word. What might become the next #butterboard? Exploring ideas that integrate elements of simplicity, sustainability, sociability and in-season freshness is key to finding out.

Suzanne Fanning is senior vicepresident and chief marketing officer of Wisconsin Cheese at Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, a mission sponsor of PDPW. Email hello@ WisconsinDairy.org to contact her.

December 2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line 7
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Foundation makes practical education accessible

For many the word “education” brings to mind sitting in a classroom for the lion’s share of the first two decades of one’s life. While some people consider education a cross to be borne, others voraciously pursue and consume it. The difference often comes down to whether or not the subject matter is interesting to the student and the manner in which the pupil is taught.

Public-education systems commonly promote post-secondary learning via colleges or technical schools, touting the value of degrees and certificates with their potential to earn larger salaries. But the idea of continually pursuing education throughout one’s lifetime isn’t as widely embraced. And for many the concept seems unfeasible on account of financial or time constraints.

Enter the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation – also known as Dairy’s Foundation®. One of its key objectives is to ensure relevant educational programs and resources are available to those seeking world-class information germane to their career paths in agriculture. Specifically, the foundation underwrites programs and writes grants for dairy-centric initiatives to educate current dairy producers, recruit the next generation of dairy professionals and strengthen ties with non-agricultural community members.

Despite its name, the reach of Dairy’s Foundation extends far beyond those raised or working in agricultural communities. With an aim to cultivate skills and abilities from people of nondairy backgrounds alongside

Contributions from Dairy’s Foundation make possible such events as a field day hosted by the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance, at which producers and experts share soil-conservation and water-quality ideas.

those within the dairy sector, the foundation works to showcase the many career opportunities available to those who have never considered devoting their talents to dairy.

“There are many ways one can build a successful career in agriculture without actually farming or producing food,” said Joan Behr, Dairy’s Foundation secretary and treasurer. “Agriculture needs accountants, supply-chain managers, financial analysts, economists, educators, food marketers, biochemists, insurance agents, real-estate specialists, communication specialists, computer programmers,

ag mechanics, equipment engineers, construction managers –and more. Just about every job you can think of has an application in agriculture.”

Since its inception more than 20 years ago, Dairy’s Foundation has been a tireless advocate and supporter of the dairy industry and its stakeholders of all ages. Supporting programs for teens as young as 15, the foundation has impacted scores of highschool students through leadership-development programs such as PDPW Stride®.

The one- to two-day program incorporates hands-on labs with communications training

and team-oriented activities to help teens learn more about themselves and how to effectively work with others.

While still in high school, dairy producer and PDPW board member Steven Orth attended the foundation-supported Youth Leadership Derby®. Participating in the program helped him recognize he could confidently pursue continual education without attending college or technical school.

“After attending Youth Leadership Derby, I realized ongoing education didn’t have to automatically mean two to four more

8 December 2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line

years of attending a tech school or college.”

As a teenager wanting to return to his family’s dairy directly after graduating high school, Orth was thankful the work of the foundation granted him access to ongoing education so he could commit the bulk of his time to the farm.

Other youth-oriented programs supported by the foundation have opened similar doors for countless more. The PDPW Mentor Program has since 1996 been pairing college and technical-school students with dairy producers for on-the-farm experiences tailored to student career goals.

Underwritten by the foundation, the mentorship program has paid dividends for students and producers alike. As a college student, Jenna Achterhof of Albedarned Dairy near Baldwin, Wisconsin, menteed at two separate dairy farms in Wisconsin. She subsequently enlisted as a mentor-farm host to enable

other students to gain access to the same level of hands-on learning and networking.

“The PDPW Mentor program is truly an amazing program,” she said. “It allows you to have hands-on experience in the dairy industry rather than just reading practices from a book. I’m so happy to have been involved both as a mentee and now a mentor; I love teaching the mentees and learning from what they teach me.”

Additional leadership-development programs such as the Cornerstone Dairy Academy® and the Dairy Managers Institute® offer ongoing training in leadership for producers and professionals eager to build on their skillsets as they move forward in their careers. Each of the programs are offered in three tiers, providing attendees the opportunity to build on previously learned concepts in separate years.

Another critical program the foundation supports is PDPW

Financial Literacy for Dairy®. The only financial-development program designed specifically for the dairy industry, it’s meant to provide dairy farmers, veterinarians, nutritionists and other agribusiness professionals a solid financial understanding of and foundation for their businesses, and to stretch their thinking to broader concepts.

Incorporating a dairy’s own financial numbers, Financial Literacy for Dairy integrates take-home assignments across multiple sessions to ensure optimal learning outcomes.

“One of the reasons I chose to attend the Financial Literacy courses was to have a better understanding of how a farm operates financially,” said Brittany Merk, a dairy producer at Mueller Farms of Lomira near Brownsville, Wisconsin. “The presenters made the conversations very informative and being able to apply the practices to our own dairy was very engaging. After every class I left very

excited to take what I learned back to my family farm.”

Though originally established to support the fledgling work of Professional Dairy Producers®, the reach of the foundation has long since expanded to underwrite programs and initiatives across the nation. Organizations such as the Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation, the Wisconsin Livestock I dentification Consortium, Cornell University-Extension’s Empowering Law Enforcement Animal Welfare program and Iowa State University-Extension and Outreach have also received support from Dairy’s Foundation.

“Feeding our world’s growing population takes more than farmers raising safe, nutritious food,” Behr said.

And that means the work of Dairy’s Foundation will continue.

Shelly O’Leary is the communications and outreach specialist with PDPW. Email soleary@pdpw.org to reach her.

2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line
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2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line

Protect calves against bovine respiratory disease

Most producers know that calf-hood pneumonia, or bovine respiratory disease, is one of the leading health concerns impacting calves on even the best-managed dairies. The disease challenges faced by calves when they are young and at their most vulnerable can have lifelong implications for productivity and profitability. Calves that experience pneumonia in the first three months of life are more likely to experience delays in calving, breeding and milk production.

There is a particular pathogen of bovine respiratory disease that producers need to look out for – Mycoplasma bovis. As one of the main pathogens of calf pneumonia, M. bovis is a major contributor to cases of chronic bovine respiratory disease. In fact a recent study showed that M. bovis was isolated in 67 percent of calves with clinical signs of bovine respiratory disease.

Due to lack of early diagnosis of infection, poor response to antibiotic therapy and limited efficacy of available commercial vaccines to help protect against the pathogen, M. bovis has caused economic and animal-welfare hardship for the dairy industry.

M. Bovis is known to have vague early symptoms with an insidious onset. The pathogen can hide in young calves for weeks without showing signs of sickness, and can be accompanied by other infections to further complicate early diagnosis. Due to that, M. bovis cases can become chronic, leading to calf mortality and irreversible lung damage.

Watch for these symptoms for early diagnosis of respiratory infection.

• lack of appetite and poor weight gain

• drooping ears

• rapid breathing and coughing

• fever

Because Mycoplasma bovis can hide in young calves for weeks without showing signs of sickness, it’s important for farm teams to work closely with veterinarians to ensure protocols are in place for optimal calf care.

• head tilting to suggest ear infection

• lameness to suggest inflamed and swollen joints

• eye and nasal discharge

Protecting calves from respiratory disease caused by M. bovis continues to be a challenge. It’s important that producers and farm teams work together to apply management protocols that promote a healthy environment and help minimize the impact of infections.

Dairies can focus on calf care in a variety of ways.

• Screen, quarantine and review health records of purchased animals before they join the herd.

• Utilize effective colostrum management.

• Properly sanitize equipment and pens.

• Provide adequate nutrition so calves maintain optimal dry-matter intake.

• Minimize commingling

when possible.

• Segregate group housing by sex and age.

• Heat-treat colostrum and pasteurize waste milk to reduce the risk of M. bovis transmission.

• Provide sufficient air ventilation and avoid overcrowding.

• Plan for a reduced-stress transition and weaning process.

• Educate farm teams of the key clinical signs of bovine respiratory disease for early diagnoses.

• Work with a veterinarian to discuss key diagnosis criteria, vaccination options and treatment protocols.

Unfortunately M. Bovis can be resistant to antibiotic therapy. That’s because, unlike other bovine respiratory disease pathogens, M. Bovis lacks a cell wall and is therefore unaffected by antibiotic therapy that attacks cell walls. And it can be difficult to achieve early

diagnosis of respiratory disease caused by M. bovis, which can further impact treatment outcomes.

Still, treatment considerations exist. In addition to following excellent calf-care protocols, managers should provide their calf-care team with appropriate training. They need to stay educated about best practices for mitigating damage caused by respiratory disease. And work with a veterinarian to incorporate an antibiotic therapy that treats the main pathogens of a broad spectrum of bovine respiratory disease –including Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida, Histophilus somni and M. bovis

Dr. Doug Hammon, veterinarian, is director of dairy-cattle technical services with Zoetis, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email douglas.s.hammon@zoetis.com to contact him.


Invite advisers to farm table

In the world of farming it’s not uncommon to make important business decisions while sitting at the kitchen table. The guests at the kitchen table while farm decisions are being made are probably going to be different than those at a holiday table. It’s possible the faces will be completely different. Whatever the case, the people helping make decisions are a critical part of the dairy’s work family. A manager chooses those people, so be sure to choose wisely.

Farmers have a to-do list that never seems to end and can include just about everything. The old phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” commonly applied to farmers of previous generations. Fortunately there has been a paradigm shift thanks to more producers pursuing ongoing education to gain more knowledge in targeted management areas. In any case, dairies benefit when people who bring diverse talents and expertise become part of the decision-making team. Their ideas bring value and they help ensure to-do items are completed in a way that the business can gain efficiencies, profitability and new levels of innovation.

Having trusted professionals at the table can bring perspective and guidance to discussions that may be too big for one person to handle. Multiple sets of eyes and ears can more proficiently generate conversations leading to new ideas or products. Asking questions and encouraging idea exchange among industry professionals leads to innovation, productivity and success.

Additionally, passing some duties to a trusted farm adviser can provide more time to walk the barns observing the animals,

Operating a successful dairy business centers on receiving and incorporating ideas from trusted advisers.

to attend outside meetings to generate new ideas or to participate in more family events. Think about the bookkeeping that is a never-ending part of owning a business. Consider hiring an accountant to do that if evenings are regularly full of sitting at the computer entering the bills rather than relaxing or spending time with family and friends. The work of planting, harvesting, manure hauling, breeding, vaccinating, hoof-trimming, equipment maintenance – and much more – can be outsourced. The entirety of a dairy’s responsibility should not fall on the farm owners.

Surrounding yourself with great people and relying on their expertise while sharing responsibilities can help the business grow – and encourage personal growth as well. Offfarm professionals have a

wealth of experiences to bring to that kitchen table. While your focus remains on the inner workings of the business, trusted farm advisers have industry-wide access and connections to share outside ideas that might fit into your business model.

Time is always a challenge and can be a limiting factor to tackling daily responsibilities. Because one simply can’t do it all, it’s important to consider how best to spend your time. The suggestions brought forth will vary, depending on who is invited to the kitchen table. As an example, consider how time is spent in raising calves, developing cropping plans, and planning expansions or improvements. While at that table, perhaps the veterinarian showcases potential efficiencies in hiring a calf-raiser. The agr onomist chimes in with

corresponding ideas about feed storage and cropping options if the calves will no longer be raised on-site. If a lender and accountant are also at the table, the group is now in a position to discuss facility expansion to improve cow health, productivity and profitability.

Regularly scheduling such meetings allows the farm manager to rely on the talents of others while focusing on her or his own talents. And since two – or several – heads are better than one, you can divide and conquer your business needs when you surround yourself with a great work family gathered at your kitchen table.

Nicole Wesoloski is regional vicepresident of sales and customer relations with GreenStone Farm Credit Services, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email nicole.wesoloski@ greenstonefcs.com to reach her.

December 2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line 11
Nicole PDPW

Business IQ matters in dairying

I grew up on a dairy farm, and have worked in and around the dairy industry for my entire life. I’ve seen many substantial changes that have made a remarkable difference in the productivity, efficiency and profitability of current dairy operations. When comparing current farms with the dairies of my dad’s generation, it’s clear there have been substantial improvements in genetics, cow comfort, nutrition, technology and management practices.

All those improvements matter. But I would maintain that the single-biggest difference maker between success or failure, profitability or losses, and top-tier performance against a peer group versus bottom-tier performance, isn’t the price of milk or any one of these important advances. Instead I believe the primary distinguishing factor is what many refer to as the “business IQ” of farm leaders and managers. I would further suggest that the majority of managers enjoying success in the dairy industry possesses a high business IQ.

What do we mean when we refer to business IQ in the context of dairy farming? I believe it starts with an attitude or mindset acknowledging that most decision-making on the farm must be guided by business principles. That might seem obvious, but it’s easy to let other non-business-oriented factors guide decision-making.

An example is continuing to do things the way mom and dad did to pay tribute to their heritage even if those practices no longer make business or financial sense. Or maybe the decision is made to own more machinery than the farm can reasonably support because of a desire to be independent of anyone else to harvest crops or haul manure. Perhaps the

In dairying, business principles need to drive many of the decisions that managers make, rather than tradition or emotions.

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choice is made to continue doing business with a particular service provider out of loyalty even after that professional is no longer helping drive the agreed-upon results. And the list goes on and on.

Management of any enterprise often requires its leaders to choose between many competing priorities. It’s rarely easy to make what everyone is going to say is the “best call.” How does one decide which priorities should have our attention? How does one decide between dealing with the most urgent issues versus those most important?

By the way, it’s rare – if not impossible – for a manager to make all the decisions that need to be made and still please everyone. Managers must always allow business principles to guide decision-making rather than emotions or a desire to make everyone happy.

In professional sports, many personnel decisions need to be made during the course of a year. The general manager regularly needs to cut players or decide whether to agree to a contract extension, and so on. When he decides not to ink a

new deal with a premier player it frequently has a big impact on the locker room. We often hear players say somewhat critically, “it’s business.”

The comment is often said in a tone that suggests that making a decision based on business is cold and heartless. But we also can appreciate that if a general manager lets his or her heart drive necessary decisions rather than business principles, bad outcomes normally result through time. The same can be said about decisions on a dairy farm. Business principles need to drive many decisions or it’s likely to eventually result in subpar performance.

That leads to the question of determining what the key indicators are of a farm manager’s business IQ. While not an exact science, here’s some food for thought to identify high business IQ.

• Understand the difference between cash flow and profitability, two important financial measures that impact a farm’s performance. For example, a farm that cash-flows in the short run may not be profitable long-term, and a profitable farm may not cash-flow at times.

• Know the difference between net income on the tax return and net profit on an accrual income statement.

• Recognize the concept of leverage and what impact high leverage might have on the operation during periods of financial stress.

• Understand the concept of working capital and how it serves to buffer the farm’s cash flow when things become tight.

• Be aware of the estimated breakeven price for milk; it’s an important concept that helps with milk marketing and various risk-management decisions.

• Annually build a projection and a budget, and regularly monitor actual performance to budget. Some expenses are difficult to track monthly but most of the income line items on a dairy farm profit-and-loss statement, as well as many expense line items, are trackable and meaningful.

• Make larger capital expenditures with consideration given to potential return on investment. Determine if the investment will improve or detract from the overall profitability of the farm, and under-

stand how that’s determined.

• Decide on expansion plans after a careful analysis of gains or losses in profitability expected post-completion. Be able to predict if the expansion project will help the farm be more efficient and more profitable.

• Optimize risk-protection strategies on both the income portion of the profit-and-loss statement and the expense portion. With the current inflated costs, forward-pricing inputs and taking advantage of cash discounts can be meaningful. The best managers know how to negotiate and use those strategies effectively.

The list is a sample of the issues and decisions facing dairy managers, each of which require the application of business principles for long-term success. I believe possessing and applying a high business IQ will be the biggest long-term difference maker on dairies.

Dave Coggins is senior vicepresident of ag banking at Nicolet National Bank, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email dcoggins@ nicoletbank.com to contact him.

Clarify carbon questions at conference

Conversations about carbon and its implications for production agriculture aren’t new, though it may feel like it. The issue has definitely drawn more attention in recent years from policy makers and consumers. Dairy producers need to have a thorough understanding of the subject to be relevant in the current marketplace.

With the objective of clarifying terminology, discussing practical strategies and proactively addressing potential pitfalls, Professional Dairy Producers® – PDPW – will host Jan. 31, 2023, the PDPW Carbon

Conference at the Sheraton Madison Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, Madison, Wisconsin.

The event is for dairy producers and professionals as well as educators and regulators who want to take an active approach to an issue that stands to become a leading player in the future of agriculture. The agenda will address the needs of attendees who have already been “playing the carbon game” as well as those just beginning to identify how to best utilize strategies into their current business models.

Patrick Wood, founder of Ag

Methane Advisors, will lead a discussion about the various carbon terms used to establish clear definitions of carbon credits, offsets, sequestration and more. Wood will also illustrate the ways in which specific strategies could impact one’s individual business. In addition he’ll address the critical points producers need to understand before signing contracts.

Other discussions will center on the more-subtle aspects of greenhouse-gas emissions. Attendees will see case studies and comparisons between dairies, and delve into the reasons

why different results occur from dairy to dairy. Closing the program will be a group of panelists to share their ideas and experiences with carbon credits or carbon sequestration through the use of cover crops, methane digesters and feed additives, as well as the development of nutrient-management plans and different methods to achieve a smaller carbon footprint.

Visit www.pdpw.org or call 800-947-7379 for more information, including a program flier and registration details that will be available in the coming weeks.

December 2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line 13

2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line

Percentage starch not sole consideration

Homegrown forages are always the most economical feedstuff available to a dairy. And corn silage is the most economical forage. So how do dairy farmers make the most of that combination?

When it comes to making final selections for next year’s silage-corn hybrids, many dairy farmers are putting more emphasis than in recent years on starch percentages when looking at a feed analysis. With ground-corn costs at about $270 or more per ton, it’s easy to see why. But starch isn’t the only thing dairy farmers should be considering when looking at forage samples. Too often when the primary focus is placed on starch, the bigger picture is missed.

With corn silage it’s important to remember about 70 percent to 75 percent of the dry matter is a combination of neutral detergent fiber and starch. When comparing two corn-silage options, the neutral detergent fiber digestibility will have a much-greater impact on how much of each silage can be fed to the cow. The limiting factor is undigestible neutral detergent fiber, not starch.

Consider the samples in Figure 1. When balancing a ration with the dual-purpose corn silage in Figure 1, a nutritionist will likely need to limit the dry matter to about 20 pounds. Meanwhile it would be reasonable to push the brown-midrib silage to 28 pounds or more because of the di erences in the NDFd30 and uNDF240.

With expected intakes of both diets at about 56 pounds of dry matter, the forage-to-concentrate ratio for that example would be 54:46 for the dual purpose and 68:32 for the brown midrib. At those feeding rates, the dual purpose would bring about 7 pounds of starch into the diet through corn

Figure 1

Figure 2 – starch analysis of Fig. 1

silage. The brown midrib would bring about 8.7 pounds of starch.

Adequate dietary energy is critical for milk production. Even with the current inflated corn prices, starch in the form of corn is still one of the most economical sources of energy in a lactation diet. After corn silage, corn is many nutritionists’ next pick for adding needed energy to a diet. But there are limits to using starch in diets. To prevent serious health events in the herd, a typical lactation

ration will be maxed out at 28 percent to 30 percent starch depending on how fermented the starch is in the corn silage.

It’s also important to understand that the highly digestible neutral detergent fiber in this brown midrib will bring an additional 0.09 megacalories per pound of net-energy lactation per pound of dry matter compared to the dual-purpose corn silage, even with a 4 percent less starch level. At the feeding rates listed, the dual-purpose silage will provide

13.4 megacalories of net-energy lactation to the diet. The brown midrib brings 21.2 megacalories of net-energy lactation. Because of that, a nutritionist may balance the two rations differently when it comes to starch percentage of the total diet – likely by decreasing the total starch in the diet by a percentage point or two. That’s because it will be easier to meet the energy needs of the ration by utilizing the increased inclusion rate of the brown midrib.

When looking at starch

Cari Slater Cari Slater

With corn silage it’s important to remember about 70 percent to 75 percent of the dry matter is a combination of neutral detergent fiber and starch. When comparing two corn-silage options, the neutral detergent fiber digestibility will have a much-greater impact on how much of each silage can be fed to the cow.

requirements alone for this diet, 13.3 pounds of corn will need to be added to the dual-purpose diet compared to 9.3 pounds for the brown-midrib diet to meet the targets shown in Figure 2. But that still doesn’t close the gap for expected milk production. Even with additional fat and carbohydrate supplements, the expected milk production of the dual-purpose diet is still about 5 pounds less than the brown-midrib diet. With the current cost of ground corn, the 4-pound difference in ground corn between the diets will cost the producer of a 500-cow dairy almost $100,000 for the year.

High-forage diets bring herd-health benefits

It’s well known that higher-forage diets bring many health benefits to the herd, largely due to the reduced starch concentration of the total ration. When dairy producers select

World Dairy Expo

Co-Vista Holsteins LLC of Arcade, New York, is named grand champion of the brown mid-rib corn silage class at the 2022 World Dairy Expo. From left are Bill Hageman, World Dairy Expo board president; Brian and Derek George of Co-Vista Holsteins LLC; and Cari Slater of Brevant seeds.

hybrids with a greater emphasis on neutral fiber detergent digestibility, it’s more feasible and cost effective for their nutritionist to put together a

ration that is safer on the rumen and therefore the cow.

As seed selection comes to an end for the 2023 season, be sure to review dietary options with a

nutritionist. A good nutritionist can make milk with a large variety of forages but the cost per pound of milk, often discussed in terms of income-over-feed cost, will vary greatly depending on the quality and quantity of forages grown. Once seed is selected, there are many other factors to keep in mind to help promote the best quality and quantity for that corn-silage crop. Regardless of seed selection, work closely with an agronomist to ensure the best fertility and care is given to that investment.

Remember to take the “inflated corn price” blinders off and return to the basics of excellent-quality digestible forages. Both cows and nutritionist will say thanks.

Cari Slater is a silage technical manager with Brevant seeds, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email cari.slater@brevant.com to contact her.

December 2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line 15
Brevant seeds


PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line

Energy e ciencies support cow comfort

Focus on Energy

Maple Ridge Dairy, a dairy and crop farm based in central Wisconsin, is no stranger to finding ways to save energy. Since 2014 it has been investing in energy-efficient upgrades and utilizing incentive opportunities to improve operations. Like most dairy farms, Maple Ridge Dairy is focused on the comfort of its cows. With each improvement project it has undergone, the needs of its 1,800 cows have always been a priority.

Most recently, in 2021, Maple Ridge Dairy implemented tunnel ventilation in its barns by installing high-efficiency exhaust and circulation fans with variable-frequency drives to improve airflow. Tunnel-ventilated barns are able to sustain less than 10 miles per hour of wind, which helps prevent flies and other bugs from landing on the cows – keeping them cool and relaxed. With the cows happy and content, Maple Ridge Dairy has maintained steady milk production despite intense hot summer days.

The results from that facility upgrade were so successful Maple Ridge Dairy decided to duplicate similar e orts in the other barn. Those projects included utilizing software to optimize the amount of airflow coming in from the fan system, ensuring no energy is wasted.

Maple Ridge Dairy has also completed other projects.

• upgraded lighting to light-emitting diodes – LEDs – in the barns and shop area

• performed annual dairy-refrigeration tune-ups on milking equipment

• installed a new plate cooler

• upgraded to an energy-ecient boiler

• installed a variable-frequency drive on a vacuum pump

By completing all those upgrades, Maple Ridge Dairy

has saved 4.5 million kilowatt hours on its utility bills. That’s the equivalent of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from almost 420 gasoline-powered cars driven for an entire year.

“The savings our farm has received would not be possible without our trusted energy adviser,” said Brian Forrest, owner of Maple Ridge Dairy. “In the long run these improvement projects are investments into the longevity of our operation. Thank you to everyone at Focus on Energy for your assistance in helping us achieve our sustain-

ability goals.”

Maple Ridge Dairy was one of 10 companies selected as a recipient of the 2022 Energy Efficiency Excellence Award. That award is given to Wisconsin businesses for showing an extraordinary commitment to pursuing energy e ciency.

“Based on the 30-plus projects Brian and his team have completed over the past eight years, Maple Ridge Dairy has been able to cut its monthly electric bill by $8,000,” said Kevin Weiler, energy adviser with Focus on Energy. “Their

excitement around energy eciency is contagious; it’s been an enjoyable experience helping them find innovative ways to save in and around their operation.”

Start journey to save energy

Interested in reducing an operation’s energy use but unsure where to start? Exploring energy-e ciency improvements like the projects Maple Ridge Dairy has completed can result in significant financial and maintenance savings for a farm.

16 December
Focus on Energy


Consider the best five opportunities to save money on utility bills.

High-e ciency lighting –Lighting upgrades provide one of the quickest most-cost-effective energy improvements. Choosing light-emitting-diode lamps and fixtures with increased lumens may allow fewer lights to be installed around the operation.

Refrigeration-system tune-up – Milk cooling accounts for a dairy farm’s most critical energy expenditure. Keep refrigeration systems running at peak performance by having annual tune-ups completed. The life of the equipment will be extended and future emergency-service calls will be reduced.

Refrigeration heat-recovery system – Installing refrigeration heat-recovery systems can provide one of the fastest paybacks on a dairy farm. Increase e ciency by utilizing captured heat rejected from milk refrigeration equipment to meet as much as 50 percent of water-heating needs.

Variable-frequency drives – Gain greater operational flexibility by installing variable-frequency drives on the farm’s milking-equipment pumps,

fans and second-use water systems. Achieve as much as a 60 percent energy reduction by matching electrical-motor operational speed.

Ventilation and circulation fans – Proper ventilation is essential to control air quality and temperature for dairy and livestock operations. Consider replacing fans with high-efficiency models as existing equipment wears out.

Learn more ways to save. Focus on Energy’s “Agriculture Facilities Best Practice Guide” was developed by subject-matter experts to highlight a wide range of energy-saving opportunities that can be applied to each unique operation. The guide covers limitations to consider and identifies non-energy benefits to help inform the decision-making process. Visit www.focusonenergy.com/business/ee-bestpractice-guides to download a free guide.

Focus on Energy, a corporate sponsor of PDPW, is Wisconsin’s statewide energy-efficiency and renewable-resource program funded by the state’s investor-owned energy utilities as well as participating municipal and electric-cooperative utilities. Visit www.focusonenergy. com for more information.

Focus on Energy works with eligible Wisconsin residents and businesses to install costeffective energy-efficiency and renewable-energy products. Focus on Energy information, resources and financial incentives help to implement projects that otherwise

would not be completed. A recent independent evaluation found that for every $1 invested, Focus on Energy generates more than $4 in benefits for Wisconsin residents and businesses. Visit focusonenergy. com or call 800-762-7077 for more information.

December 2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line 17
Focus on Energy From left are Jesse Anderson of Anderson Electric, Jason Nemec and Brian Forrest of Maple Ridge Dairy, and Kevin Weiler of Focus on Energy. investing in several energy-efficient upgrades, the team at Maple Ridge Dairy near Stratford, Wisconsin, has reduced its monthly electric bill by $8,000.


PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line

Mix companion crops for interseeding success

Interseeding companion crops in corn has become widespread but building a successful mix can be complex. Information is accessible regarding which seed choices, application methods, herbicide programs and timing options to use. But understanding why mixes are built and why certain species are chosen can be challenging.

Answering the question, “What should I interseed with?” isn’t arrived at in one response. Instead it’s like working through an equation or a formula – one with variables, functions, common denominators and most importantly, goals.

Considering the dead of winter is upon us, one might think the conversation involving what goes into an interseeding mix is a little late. But just as the combine goes into storage and the shop floor is swept clean for a time, the planning begins for the next growing season. The conversation at hand isn’t merely about how to build the next interseeding mix; it’s a jumpstart to the 2023 farming season.

When it comes to interseeding programs – whether creating a new one or expanding on an existing one – the first focus must be the goal. Besides listing “I want it to grow,” producers must ask themselves what they want their interseeding mix to accomplish. In my Clark and Marathon County region of heavy soils, the most important three goals are increased trafficability, enhanced field-soil profiles and time saved once a post-harvest cover crop is established. There are many other popular goals.

• manure management

• weed suppression

• fertility building

• creating grazing opportunities

• building relationships with landowners

• improved spring-planting conditions in minimum-till systems

Additionally, some producers desire a holistic landscape-management mix – one that leaves residue and maintains living roots through the winter and into spring.

The subject that typically follows in the conversation is whether to have a mix that winter-kills or to choose a mix that will survive the winter cold and continue to grow in the spring. The benefit of having “green in the spring” is continuous stimulation of the soil. Roots developed from the companion crops continue where they left off in the fall. Those roots build more aggregates, reduce plating and compaction, and mellow the top-3 inches of the topsoil.

A mellowed seed bed creates

ideal planting conditions without the extra effort of more tillage. The continuous vegetative growth of the companion crops also increases nutrient scavenging, which when terminated will release those nutrients.

Clovers, including red and balansa clovers, are very reliable. Annual ryegrass will often surprise and remain alive into the spring, especially after a mild winter. That doesn’t mean growers do not see a benefit to a winter-kill mix – especially when brassicas are utilized. Dwarf Essex Rape and others have shown themselves to be battle-tested and among the most-consistently-performing companion crops in Wisconsin. They out-muscle compaction, reduced sunlight and other plants – corn excluded.

So why not just choose a mix

consisting solely of brassicas? It’s because balance is an important consideration. Just as in life, too much of one thing isn’t necessarily a good thing. A good strategy is to aim for a mix with more than four species. But also be familiar with each companion crop’s carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, as well as the amount of seeds per pound rather than pounds of seed per acre.

• Two pounds per acre of Daikon Radish will yield 1.5 seeds per square foot on the field.

• Two pounds per acre of Dwarf Essex Rape will yield eight plants per square foot.

• Two pounds per acre of oats will yield 0.89 seeds per square foot.

Even though the poundsper-acre amount is the same,

18 December
Matthew PDPW Brassicas, clovers, oats and Japanese millet remain after a late-September harvest of corn silage was taken off the field.

the number of plants in a square foot is completely different.

Another reason it’s important to avoid heavy rates of brassicas is so they don’t choke out beneficial companion crops or rot away too quickly. Brassicas have very-small carbon content and they dissolve rapidly when they begin to decay. That can cause a problem for controlling run-off in early spring because dead brassica plants are quickly processed by microorganisms and will leave the field bare. As a remedy, growers can add greater-carbon-content species that will take longer to break down – such as oats, spring wheat, flax and millet.

Interseeding a companion crop into corn can bring many benefits. The topics discussed are only the tip of the iceberg. Understanding the context and goals of each mix is the first factor for overall success. To carry on the conversation, reach out to a local farmer-led watershed group, county conservation agent or agronomists experienced with companion crops. Or feel free to reach out to me. It may be easy to select a resource from out of state, but sometimes it’s best to seek local expertise.

After a complete winter kill the companion crop had almost completely broken down, incorporating its nutrients into the field by the time a photo was taken about six months later.

Make plans to attend PDPW Managers Academy

Three days of executive-level training, networking and behind-the-scenes tours are on tap for the 2023 PDPW Managers Academy for Dairy Professionals® program, to be held Jan. 10-12 in Savannah, Georgia. The world-class program will expand the knowledge and skillset of dairy owners and managers, CEOs, industry directors, processors, marketers, distributors and others tasked with moving their businesses toward greater achievements.

Attendees will learn strategies

to cultivate and build resilience in business while also planning for the unexpected. The agenda each day will build on that of the previous day, including how challenges faced by out-of-industry executives offer solutions for dairy. Facilitators include Allan Gray, David Kohl and Ed Seifried, with industry tours at Georgia Ports Authority, JCB and Old Savannah Tours.

Visit pdpw.org/programs and select “Managers Academy” for registration information and a full agenda.

December 2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line 19
Matthew Oehmichen is part owner of Short Lane Ag Supply of Colby, Wisconsin; email matt.shortlane@ gmail.com to reach him. PDPW

Cow comfort is critical to a dairy’s profitability. Pay attention to the visual cues the cows are displaying to stay on top of their wellbeing.

Return to cow-comfort basics

Cow comfort – we know how important it is to animal health and dairy profitability. After all a comfortable cow is a productive cow. But when it’s planting season, the skid loader breaks down or any one of a million day-to-day priorities appear, it’s easy to put cow-comfort efforts on the back burner.

Sticking to the basics, listening to the cows and focusing on efficiency will help producers consistently stay on top of cow comfort.

Make tasks easy – Cleaning out stalls, pushing up feed, teat dipping and running the foot bath are all routine and straightforward. But it pays to make them easy to do. The easier something is to accomplish, the more often and more accurately it’s done. It’s that simple.

Review management protocols and identify pain points. W hat’s problematic? What’s making tasks more difficult? Walk through the cow flow from free stalls to holding areas to the parlor, and back again. Is it easy to maneuver for animals and employees?

Consider investing in tools that make tasks easier for employees – such as attachments for skid loaders and tractors, dump waterers, bedding spreaders, grooming tools and more. Such changes can make a big difference without breaking the bank.

Stay on routine – Cow comfort is all about routine –not just for the cows but also for employees. When employees lose the routine, they may skip a task or rush through jobs. That impacts cow comfort and,

ultimately, milk production.

Ensure employees are clear regarding expectations when it comes to cow comfort in all areas of the dairy. Explaining the “why” during employee training can help emphasize the importance of each task and employees’ roles in the farm’s overall profitability.

And the cleaner things are kept, the quicker and easier it is to keep them clean. It’s like doing the dishes; if not finished immediately, dirty dishes pile up in the sink. When the “dish mountain” is finally tackled, it’s a much-bigger task to accomplish than if the dishes had been washed immediately.

Listen to the cows – If milk production or animal health is lagging, cows are trying to say something. And with current technology there’s

an abundance of data at our fingertips to help us identify challenges that cow-comfort measures could impact. Activity monitors and other tools can help guide us in the correct direction.

But producers still need to use their senses and visually evaluate the cows. Go out in the barn to see what the cows are saying via their feet and legs, body motions, eating and lying times, and other physiological cues. Combining data and visual evaluation can help make for the best decisions for cow-comfort improvements.

Don’t wait until something breaks – Cow comfort on the farm is no different than comfort in a home. When a couch or mattress is uncomfortable, we will likely replace it even if it’s still functional. I

20 December 2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line
Anthony Loken PDPW

can’t say how many times I’ve heard “I wish I had done this earlier” after a farm made an upgrade that positively impacted cow comfort.

Consider the age of equipment and facilities. Newer technologies have made many improvements that can boost cow comfort. Current parlor stalls can be customized for herd size; some stalls will actually index each cow for optimal positioning as well as quick and easy access to the udder. Those adjustments can make the time

cows spend in the parlor calmer and more relaxing.

When equipment starts to wear, cow comfort should be the priority. Keeping facilities up to date is extremely important to prevent losses in production and reproductive efficiency.

Rely on the farm team –Cow comfort is a team effort. If there are issues, bring in a trusted consultant team. Veterinarians, nutritionists and milking-equipment dealers are vested in supporting cow comfort on the farm because it

makes their jobs easier and helps them achieve the farm’s goals. The adviser team is usually more than willing to perform on-farm training with employees as well as review key performance indicators and expectations with staff.

Even when things are going smoothly, a second set of eyes can help identify opportunities for improvement that farm staff might not recognize. We can all become entrenched in our routines or walk past that dirty waterer so often it becomes

invisible. A consultant or a trusted adviser can bring a new perspective, share successes from other farms and generate new ideas.

The small things can make a big difference to cow comfort. By going back to the basics, we can ensure optimal cow comfort on the farm to support production and profitability.

Anthony Loken is a milkingequipment-sales specialist with GEA, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email Anthony.Loken@gea.com to contact him.

Academy applications due Jan.

Applications for the 2023 Cornerstone Dairy Academy® are now being accepted. Those hoping to attend the annual three-tiered program are encouraged to apply and select one of the three leadership tracks by Jan. 31, 2023; applicants will be notified of their acceptance by Feb. 11, 2023.

Incorporating specialized content for influential, servant

and visionary leadership styles, the program is designed to give dairy producers and professionals a strong foundation specific to communication and leadership skillsets. Led by some of the best facilitators in the business, the program’s interactive format allows students to practice what they’re learning with classmates and presenters. It also incorporates

a full day of participation in PDPW’s annual business conference.

Training will be held March 14-15, 2023, at Kalahari Resorts, 1305 Kalahari Drive, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, in conjunction with the 2023 PDPW

annual business conference.

Visit pdpw.org/programs and select “Cornerstone Dairy Academy” for details, including topics and speakers for each of the three learning pillars, an application form, registration cost and more information.

December 2022 • PDPW•
Bottom Line 21
31 “TheTankBuilder” CallDennisat920-948-9661 www.pippingconcrete.com Likeus
Cornerstone Dairy

Prevent corkscrew claws before they start

Medial claw rotation, also known as corkscrew claw, has plagued farmers for decades because there’s no way to reverse the rotation once it happens. Many people assume it’s a genetic trait but there isn’t clear research suggesting that genetics are the sole reason cattle present with corkscrew claws.

During the past decade there’s been a shift in the types of animals diagnosed with medial claw rotation – and that poses the question of what actually causes it. Like many things in agriculture and life, there isn’t just one thing that causes the problem. Fortunately, incorporating the correct management strategies can help producers avoid the incidence of corkscrew claws.

Once considered an “old cow” problem, corkscrew claws were often diagnosed in aged cows that had already paid their way in the herd. It was common to use such hoof-trimming practices as removing the axial or inside wall of the hoof with a grinder or hoof knife. Unfortunately that practice significantly decreased the stability of the hoof, shifting weight to the abaxial or outside wall – causing the toe to curl as the hoof grew out. As we’ve learned more about hoof anatomy and stability, that practice has become less common among hoof trimmers. That has tremendously helped to prevent corkscrew claws.

During the past 10 to 15 years farmers began to notice the incidences of corkscrew claws had shifted from older cows to first-lactation cows. That redirected attention to the question of what causes claws to rotate. Well-managed herds focused on cow comfort were among the first to notice the problem. Heifers that entered the milking string with rotated claws tended to be housed in sand-bedded

Once believed to be an aged-cow problem, corkscrew claws also plague younger animals – even in well-managed herds. The malady begins in calves and young heifers while the bones are still malleable and not fully calcified.

freestall barns with headlocks and high curb heights. Those heifers also tended to be overstocked or limit-fed.

The bones of young calves are fairly flexible. As heifers grow their bones become harder and more calcified. When calves need to exert significant pressure on their shoulders to reach for feed, it can cause uneven pressure on their hooves. A calf’s pedal bone, the bone inside the claw capsule, is suspended by laminae and ligaments meant to hold it evenly inside the capsule. If a calf or heifer exerts excessive force on those claws, that causes an

imbalance on the pedal bone inside the hoof. Through time, repeated instances of uneven pressure forces the developing pedal bone to shift inside the claw – causing corkscrews.

There are many ways to prevent calves and heifers from needing to exert so much force they severely impact their hoof development. Facility design and bedding choices are the areas on which to focus. Owners of well-managed dairies might be surprised to learn their practices could benefit from adjustments, particularly when sand bedding is used.

Although sand has often been

considered the premium bedding source for mature cattle in regard to cow comfort, it can be a recipe for disaster when used in conjunction with slant bars or headlocks. The sand’s grit on the floor enables calves and heifers to push more forcefully on their shoulders and can lead to the development of corkscrew claws. Independent of each other, such factors can be managed. But every additional element that gives cattle the ability to push for feed increases the risk of corkscrews.

Stocking density and feeding strategies also factor into young stock that develop corkscrew claws. The greater the stocking density, the more likely it is those animals will compete for a spot at the bunk when fresh feed is dropped. That’s particularly relevant when limit-feeding heifers or feeding to an empty bunk. The more animals fight for feed, the more likely they are to cause medial claw rotations. Regular feed pushups are critical to eliminate the tendency for calves and heifers to reach for feed that’s too far away.

Flooring should also be considered, especially in feed alleys. Both diamond-grooved flooring and extremely slippery concrete are problematic when considering corkscrew claws. If feed alleys have become too slippery through time, consider miniature grooving parallel with the existing grooves to minimize slipping.

Curb height and bunk style play a role as well because reaching farther for feed adds to the pressure on claws. Animals tend to reach more when fed at H-shaped bunks compared to J-shaped bunks. Also the height from floor to curb, and the height at which feed is placed, should be appropriate for the animal’s size. When building or retrofitting a facility, reference the Dairyland Initiative website

22 December
2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line

2023 PDPW Business Conference to empower success

Mark your calendars and make plans to attend the 2023 PDPW annual business conference, set for March 15-16, 2023, at the Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center, 1305 Kalahari Drive, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Dairy’s premier educational event will again feature two days packed full of opportunities to learn, connect, network and empower dairy producers for success in 2023 and beyond.

The 2023 business conference will feature a variety of keynote,

break-out and specialty sessions delivered by top researchers, experts and progressive dairy producers from across the country. Hands-on-hub and learning-lounge sessions will also deliver cutting-edge information in formats to fit every learning style. And the Hall of Ideas and Equipment trade show will

feature more space to serve as a gathering and networking hub for producers and suppliers alike.

The Nexus® stage will return to showcase five companies whose novel ideas, products and services offer innovative solutions to forward-thinking producers. Following a 15-minute presentation, representatives from each company will engage in question-and-answer sessions with attendees.

Exhibitor information and applications for the Hall of Ideas

and Equipment show are available now. Visit www.pdpw.org/ businessconference and click “Exhibit.”

Sessions will continue to finalize in the coming weeks; visit www.pdpw.org/businessconference to watch for registration, hotel and speaker lineups. PDPW members will also soon receive ballots and candidate information for 2023 PDPW board-member elections. Election results will be announced at the end of the business conference.

for current housing recommendations. Visit thedairyland initiative.vetmed.wisc.edu for housing recommendations for cows and calves.

Medial claw rotation is not something that happens overnight. Separation of the claws when standing evenly is the first

sign of the problem. Incidentally, that separation can also be caused by sand bedding in hutches or paper waste that becomes wedged between the toes. If the gap between claws is more than 20 millimeters, that pen is likely the culprit from which the problem is starting. Unfortunately

internal bone-structure damage is permanent and irreversible once it happens, so prevention is very important.

Dealing with corkscrew-claw cows can be frustrating; it also adds to the overall lameness of the herd. Collectively all the factors causing corkscrew claws can

lead to big problems, but small management changes can make a big difference in many cases.

Eliza Ruzic is the Wisconsin accounts manager at Zinpro Corporation, a mission sponsor of PDPW. Email eruzic@zinpro.com to reach her.

ToddAugustian,Augustian FarmsLLC, Kewaunee,Wis. www.cowmanager.com

December 2022 • PDPW• Dairy’s Bottom Line 23
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