PDPW Dairy's Bottom Line -- November 2018

Page 1

Volume 20: Issue 7 November 2018

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

Full plate of education coming up Page 2 Manage heifer inventory strategically

Page 4 Fungicide potential management tool

Page 9 Water-quality considerations for out-wintering cattle

Page 15 Keep kids safe, away from tractors

Among the highlights of the recently released 20182019 Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin educational programs are four producer favorites. Review details on four upcoming programs in the next several weeks. There are three Calf Care Connection Workshops. Each are one-day workshops that will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. in separate locations. • Nov. 13 in Fennimore, Wisconsin • Nov. 14 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin • Nov. 15 in Chilton, Wisconsin Three world-renowned calf experts will challenge attendees on the latest in research on calf health, feeding, sanitation protocols and more. • Donald Sockett, veterinarian and Ph.D., will discuss strategies to combat Salmonella Heidelberg as well as proper cleaning and disinfecting protocols of facilities and equipment. • Richard Wallace, veterinarian, will discuss proper vaccinating approaches, drug-injection techniques and perform a calf necropsy to give attendees an inside look at setting the stage for healthy digestive and respiratory systems in calves. • An extensive lab facilitated by Jud Heinrichs, Ph.D., will showcase how rations

impact rumen development and growth in the wet calf. Necropsies will display the effects of feeding calves all milk, mostly milk with grain, or milk with grain and minimal forage. One in a series of four topics, the Dairy’s Visible Voice Crisis Management Workshop is scheduled for Dec. 11 at the office of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, 8418 Excelsior Drive, Madison, Wisconsin. The workshop is open to dairy farmers and allied industry professionals. Media and communication experts Linda Wenck and Judy Rupnow of MorganMyers will provide attendees with an in-depth look into

risk management for dairy businesses. Participants will learn techniques to rank and prioritize crisis situations, develop a response plan, identify basic response materials and equip family members and dairy employees to react efficiently in a crisis. A one-day Dairy Human Resources Workshop is scheduled for Dec. 12 in Wisconsin Dells. The workshop is for dairy producers managing people in addition to cows. The realm of human resources often leads to added stress, leading to a cycle of poor outcomes that affects the entire See EDUCATION, page 2

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

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

Mark Binversie Investors Community Bank Manitowoc, Wis. mbinversie@investors communitybank.com Dr. Randy Shaver UW- Madison Dairy Science Madison, Wis. rdshaver@wisc.edu Andrew Skwor MSA Professional Services Baraboo, Wis. askwor@msa-ps.com

Strategically manage heifer inventory Matt Akins

Table 1: Effect of cow cull rate on number of heifers needed to maintain herd size

With typical heifer-rearing costs being $1,800 to $2,200 p e r h e i f e r, managing heifer inventory is a costly and important ta s k . Fo r t u n a te ly t h e re are options to Matt Akins help producers minimize those expenses. Determining how many heifers are truly necessary is the first step. That number can be arrived at with just a few key pieces of data. • herd size of adult cattle • culling rate of adult cattle • months to first freshening • culling rate of involuntary

Calf / heifer Herd size Cow cull rate cull rate 500 30% 5%

Education Continued from page 1

operation – from people to cows. A trio of experts will advise attendees in the areas of employee hiring and management, worksite wellness, and personal stress and its impact on human health and well-being. • Trevina Broussard, a consultant with Frontline Success Training and Consulting, will present sessions to equip participants to hire right and create a culture of caring. She’ll also outline tips to thrive in a multi-generational multi-personality workplace. • John Shutske, a biological-systems engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will outline the negative outcomes of

Age at first calving 24 months

# heifers needed to maintain herd size 333




24 months





24 months


Table 1 shows the number of heifers a 500-cow herd needs to have based on varying cow cull rates. Assuming a 13-month calving interval, 7 percent stillbirths and 50 percent heifer calvings, that 500-cow herd will have 430 heifer calvings during two years. At the lesser cull rates of 30 percent or 35 percent, the herd has an opportunity to sell heifers. If the herd has a cow cull rate of 40 percent they’ll either need to acquire additional heifers or cull fewer cows to maintain herd size.

heifers To use data that applies specifically to their dairy, producers can use an online “Heifer Replacement” tool developed

by Victor Cabrera, a dairy science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Visit dairymgt.uwex.edu/tools.php to access it.

unresolved chronic stress and the impacts on health. • Rhonda Strebel, executive director of Rural Health Initiative, will share methods for staying safe on the job by teaching participants preventive health strategies in an interactive session. Becoming one of PDPW’s most diverse programs, the upcoming Dairy Food & Policy Summit aims to shed light on growth opportunities in trade, trends, markets and industry initiatives. Attendees will hear from a full slate of experts as they present and lead panel discussions. Among the featured presenters are Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Sheila Harsdorf, US Dairy Export Council COO Matt McKnight, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin CEO Chad Vincent, and National Pork Board CEO Bill Even.

The two-day collaborative event will be held Dec. 19-20 at the Sheraton Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin. One-day or twoday registration is open. The agenda will also update participants on positive trends in the marketplace, what’s happening in the check-off program, changes in the NR 151 regulations and the impacts on acreage management, animal transportation and more. The high-level-executive summit will bring together innovative dairy-farm owners, industry CEOs, food-system department executives, key decision makers and thought leaders from across the food-value chain. The event promises to offer solution-focused conversations to better build on lessons learned and untapped opportunities. Visit www.pdpw.org or call 800947-7379 for more information.

November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 3 No matter the market conditions, culling younger heifers yields a greater return than culling them when they’re older. Criteria typically used when culling cows includes chronically high somatic cell counts, poor health or production. For heifers, culling should be based on genomic or pedigree data that predicts which heifers will have lower production. Health histories can further identify which heifers to cull. Those that have had bouts with pneumonia, certain types of diarrhea and other illnesses are often poorer producers. To m a i n ta i n t h e r i g h t amount of young stock, producers should consider incorporating beef or sexed semen into reproduction protocols. Breeding lower-production cows with beef semen helps control dairy-heifer numbers while also increasing sale price of the calves. Compared to dairy calves, dairy-beefcross calves typically sell at prices two to three times greater than dairy calves. Breeding cows with beef semen also saves on money that would otherwise have been spent raising excess dairy heifers. Using sexed semen is more appropriate when breeding higher-production cows and heifers with more potential. To help determine the proportion of cows and heifers on which to use beef or sexed semen to m e e t a d a i r y ’s re p l a c e ment-stock needs, the “Premium Beef on Dairy” tool is another helpful online tool. Visit dairymgt.uwex.edu/ tools.php to access it. Incorporating the use of beef and sexed semen can make a significant impact on a dairy’s bottom line and reduce culling decisions later on. Matt Akins is a dairy-heifer specialist with the University of WisconsinDepartment of Dairy Science and UW-Extension. Email msakins@wisc. edu for more information.

Table 2: Gross revenue of selling excess heifers and cost savings at different ages

Extra heifers 6 months ($400/head) 12 months ($600/head) 18 months ($800/head) Springer, 22 months ($1000/head) 6 months (cost: $1.90/day) 12 months (cost: $2.50/day) 18 months (cost: $2.60/day) Springer, 22 months (cost: $2.90/day)

Gross revenue of selling excess heifers (prices based on local auction reports in Wis. in August 2018) Variable cost savings of selling excess heifers (costs from 2015 UWEX survey)

35% cow cull rate 20‐21/year $8000/year $12,000/year $16,000/year $20,000/year $26,000/year $19,000/year $9900/year $3480/year

30% cow cull rate 48‐49/year $19,200/year $28,800/year $38,400/year $48,000/year $62,000/year $45,600/year $23,700/year $8,300/year

Table 2 shows the gross revenue of selling excess heifers and cost savings associated with a reduced need for feed, labor, management, breeding and veterinarian services. Though culling at a younger age results in lesser immediate revenue, the cost savings are greater.

Table 3: Net effect of selling excess heifers at different ages

Table 3: Net effect of selling excess heifers at different ages

Extra heifers 6 months ($400/head) Extra heifers 12 months 6 months ($600/head) 18 months ($400/head) ($800/head) 12 months Springer, 22 months ($1000/head) ($600/head)

35% cow cull rate

30% cow cull rate

35% cow cull rate

20‐21/year 48‐49/year + $34,000/year 20‐21/year + $81,200/year + $31,000/year + $74,400/year + $34,000/year + $29,900/year + $62,100/year + $23,480/year + $31,000/year + $56,300/year

18 months ($800/head) Springer, 22 months ($1000/head)

+ $29,900/year + $23,480/year

30% cow cull rate 48‐49/year + $81,200/year + $74,400/year + $62,100/year + $56,300/year

Table 3 shows the net effect of culling at different times. The data shows the greatest net effect of culling occurs at younger ages. With today’s heifer values it costs $500 to $1,000 more to raise heifers from birth to freshening than to purchase springing heifers. High-quality heifers are only bringing $1,000 to $1,500 at auction. It makes sense to cull excess heifers early in the game.

4 November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Fungicide potential management tool against vomitoxin Damon L. Smith

The 2018 corn-growing season can be summarized in one word — challenging. Corn diseases kept Wisconsin producers and agronomists busy managing multiple issues during the summer. Early in the season gray leaf spot moved in quickly, followed by the onset of a new disease called tar spot. In August northern corn leaf blight reared its head. That was followed by large levels of ear rot in some fields. The first three diseases not only create their own set of management challenges but also they can stress the corn plant. That results in secondary problems such as reduced stalk integrity and increased susceptibility to other pathogens. Increasingly producers are interested in using a fungicide to manage foliar challenges, especially in grain corn. During

the past several seasons many producers are also wanting to treat corn-sil a ge hyb r i d s with fungicide, Damon typically in Smith pursuit of improved feed digestibility. Felipe Cardoso’s animal science laboratory at the University of Illinois has published several peer-reviewed papers d e sc r i b i n g p hys i o l og i ca l changes in corn plants treated with several fungicides. In those studies feed digestibility was improved, yield was often not directly impacted and fibrous changes in the corn plant improved feed conversion to milk production. There are 400 to 500 described mycotoxins, or metabolites produced by fungi, and probably thousands of undescribed

mycotoxins. In silage corn those metabolites are generally produced by several groups of plant-pathogenic fungi. In Wisconsin the fusarium group is one of the most important; it produces several mycotoxins. The mycotoxin deoxynivalenol, also referred to as DON or vomitoxin, is produced by the fungus fusarium graminearum. That fungus can also cause gibberella ear rot and gibberella stalk rot in corn. Recent studies have demonstrated that applying the triazole-containing fungicide Proline either at the silking stage or shortly after silking begins can reduce vomitoxin levels in corn grain, compared to not treating. Work is currently underway at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to better understand additional benefits of reducing mycotoxins in silage corn treated with fungicide.

When considering the use of fungicide on silage corn, dairy farmers should think about their overall goal. If it’s to alter the corn plant physiologically to improve feed quality, there are many fungicide products to choose from that may provide a benefit instead of not treating. But if the goal is to target mycotoxins, and vomitoxin in particular, certain products may need to be applied within a precise time frame during the short silking stage of the corn plant to be effective. Visit youtu.be/uM8mFvo4U4 to watch the video, “Corn Disease Update: Ear Rot, Mycotoxin in Silage.” Damon L. Smith is an associate professor and Extension specialist with the department of plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Email damon. smith@wisc.edu to reach him.

November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 5

Changes amount to savings Focus on Energy

Ron and Paula Digman founded Digman Dairy Farm in 1981 and decided to expand their Grant County, Wisconsin, operation to include a new parlor and freestall barn in the spring of 2018. With a focus on cow comfort the Digmans also wanted to incorporate energy-efficient technologies throughout the new facilities, which could be passed on to future generations. Throughout the project’s planning phase the Digmans worked closely with Focus on Energy and several of the program’s trade ally contractors, including Fuller’s Milker Center. Today their 240-cow herd is housed and milked in facilities that include high-efficiency circulation and ventilation fans, interior and exterior energy-efficient light-emitting diode — LED — lighting and variable


s Paid Here, Stay ium He em r Pr




frequency drives. The Digmans can control the motor speed of the milk pumps, vacuum pumps and primary- and secondary-use water systems. The Digmans also took advantage of Focus on Energy’s new offer that doubles incentives for agricultural producers installing variable-frequency drives. Incentives through Focus on Energy’s variable-frequency drives promotion are limited to 75 percent of the entire project cost and cannot exceed $7,500 per variable-speed drive. Any additional incentives are automatically awarded. In total the family received $8,225 in Focus on Energy incentives. They’re also enjoying new technology that gives them a greater level of control of their day-to-day operations. Their expected energy-cost savings are $14,660 per year.

Total Project Breakdown

“We are very satisfied with the work Fuller’s Milker Center and Focus on Energy have done to incorporate energy efficiency into our new barn,” Paula Digman said. “Our dairy farm is able to provide the same high-quality milk in a more efficient process than ever before.” A recent report found every dollar invested in Focus on Energy programs creates $5.93 in benefits for Wisconsin, including economic benefits, reduced energy costs and reduced pollution. For assistance with energy-efficiency-improvement needs contact a Focus on Energy adviser. They have the tools and

Equipment installed • variable speed controls • circulation, ventilation and HVLS fans • LED fixtures • plate heat exchanger • well water pre-cooler Annual energy savings = 133,274 kilowatt hours and 18 kilowatts Annual energy-cost savings = $14,660 Project cost = $43,506 Focus on Energy incentive = $8,225 Expected payback = two years

skills to help guide producers through potential energy-savings projects. Visit focusonenergy. com/agribusiness or call 888947-7828 for more information. Focus on Energy is a Mission Sponsor of Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.


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6 November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Employment-at-will best option Blake Knickelbein

Blake Knickelbein

Increasingly more farms are consolidating with other producers; fewer family members are being hired as employees. Consequently today’s dairy producers need to have sound employment practices in place. Most employment in Wisconsin is considered “at will,” meaning the employer or employee may terminate the employment at any time for any reason. As a result employers are more apt to hire an applicant knowing he or she can be fired if the arrangement doesn’t work out. On the contrary when the firing

process is burdened with legal complexities, an employer is generally more inclined to keep a poor-performing employee and may even be reluctant to hire new employees. Similarly when employees understand they’re working as an employeeat-will, they tend to perform better because they recognize poor performance might result in termination. In today’s agricultural industry employers tend to be quicker to hire an applicant even when they’re uncertain about his or her qualifications because

there are often few — or no — other applicants. Though employment-atwill offers a relative ease in employee termination, the practice is subject to exceptions. An employee cannot be terminated if the termination violates public policy or a state or federal statute, or for discriminatory reasons. Employers need to be mindful of written, verbal or implied contracts that might limit their legal options to terminate an e m p l oye e . Un l e s s a n employer wants to create an employment relationship for a specific time p e r i o d , t h e e m p l oye r

should not enter into a contract with an employee. There are a few ways an employer could establish a written or verbal contract with an employee. The employer could sign a contract stating the job will be available for the entire calendar or crop year or could verbally inform the employee. That scenario voids employment-at-will status and initiates a contract with t h e e m p l oye e . I f t h e employee is fired prior to the end of the calendar or crop year, the employer may be liable for damages for breach of contract. A producer shouldn’t

November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 7 include provisions in any document given to an applicant or employee or make any statements that suggest the employment will be available for a definitive time period. Employment-related documents provided to applicants and employees should indicate the employment is “at will” and can be terminated at any time, with or without cause or notice, at either party’s discretion. Employment-at-will status can also be negated by an implied contract. Often poorly worded handbooks are to blame for such misunderstandings. If an employee has the understanding a “threestrike” policy is in place because of language in a handbook, the employer could be legally bound to give an employee three warnings before termination is appropriate — even if an employee’s actions are egregious. Employee handbooks and policies must be carefully drafted

and routinely reviewed. The employment-at-will relationship is almost always viewed as the best fit for employers. Especially in times when finding quality agricultural employees is difficult, producers should ensure they

maintain at-will-employment relationships rather than imply an employment contract. As always, producers should meet with advisers to review employment practices and reduce risks related to employment.

Blake Knickelbein is an associate at Twohig, Rietbrock, Schneider & Halbach, SC, a law firm focusing on agricultural law, business and corporate law, and a Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin corporate sponsor. Email knickelbein@twohiglaw. com to reach him.

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8 November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

2018 crop hygiene may pose challenges John Goeser

The 2018 growing and harvest season saw historic weather challenges. Tar spot, a new fungal disease, appeared in Wisconsin, killing plants and contributing to secondary diseases. Not surprisingly a relatively dirty crop looks to be in store. Now that most of the feed is in the silo, dairy managers will need to approach the forages of 2018 from both a proactive and reactive perspective. The proactive approach to managing the crop is to evaluate mold and yeast levels in the feed and record molds that potentially pose a threat. Determine the conJohn Goeser centration present in a specific feedstuff. Initially, identification of the molds present isn’t as important as the concentration levels. If mold and yeast levels are at 100,000 colony-forming units or less, that will indicate a relatively clean crop. But if mold and yeast levels are observed between 100,000 to 1 million or more colony-forming units in the cool months, additional preservative strategies may be necessary. Heavy rains brought with them the potential for soil and silt pollution, which could exacerbate feed-hygiene issues. In cases of high-ash silage, where ash is greater than 4.5 percent of dry matter, producers may want to test for enterobacteria. As the 2018 feed supply is fed, be on the lookout for symptoms that point to deteriorating herd health. An increase in clinical symptoms such as digestive upset, variations in manure or feed intake, breeding challenges and abortions warrant an aggressive reactive approach. While

As the forages of 2018 are fed, dairy managers need to be on the lookout for not only observable mold in feedstuffs but also clinical symptoms of declining herd health.

nutritional stress may be a primary factor, the problems producers see may actually be caused by fungal, mycotoxin or bacterial contamination. Simply assessing mold and yeast may not be sufficient. Though investing upward of a couple hundred dollars to assess those factors may seem expensive, the long-term cost could be far more if a shotgun approach is used to mitigate herd-nutrition challenges. When producers observe clinical symptoms it’s a good idea to seek the advice of a nutritionist. There are a number of different classes of feed additives available to combat specific challenges. It’s critical to understand what nutritional foe needs to be addressed. If immune suppression is determined to be caused by mycotoxins, certain feed additives can be incorporated to bind toxins. A nutritionist might advise using additives that are meant to boost the

immune system. True binders act like a key in a keyhole — they connect to something and then cause it to disappear or flow out of the digestive tract. Those ration inclusions, also known as “flow agents,” will attach to the detrimental component and create a complex that can’t be absorbed, so it flows out of the animal. The 2018 crop may increase awareness of a newer class of feed-hygiene-contaminant factors that are bacterial in nature. Veterinarians and nutritionists should be partnering because their areas of science and expertise overlap. Clostridia is the buzzword right now. But there are other pathogenic or contaminant bacterial groups, such as Salmonella spp., E. coli spp., among others, that exist in the class. Binders and immune-boosting supplements likely aren’t the right strategy for the class of anti-nutritional factors.

If those bacteria rear their ugly heads, consider researchbacked probiotic supplements that have demonstrated ability to suppress negative bacteria. Another class of feed additives to consider in cases of rumen upset are live-yeast supplements; but those are more broad-spectrum. They cover general gut challenges and have shown benefits and results in humans as well as cattle. Keep an eye on the feed, intakes and large pen-manure scores transitioning into feeding the 2018 crop. It will be interesting to see what happens when the refrigeration months are past and anti-nutritional factors that might have been dormant in the crops start to bloom in March, April, May and when temperatures warm. John Goeser is director of nutritional research and innovation with Rock River Lab Inc. of Watertown, Wisconsin. Email johngoeser@ rockriverlab.com to reach him.

November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 9

Water-quality considerations for out-wintering cattle Aaron Pape

Out-wintering is an old technique that’s back in vogue. T h e c a t t l e - fe e d i n g a n d manure-management strategy is one in which animals are ke p t o u ts i d e o n pa s t u re through the winter. Cattle spread their own manure across the pasture, reducing machine and labor costs. The nutrients in the manure contribute to future pasture growth Aaron or next year’s Pape c o r n c ro p i f cattle are out-wintered on cropland. To minimize the risk of manure and nutrients running off into surface waters, thoughtful placement of out-wintering locations is a must. Manure deposited in the wrong place at the wrong time can pose risks to water quality just like mechanically spread manure. Cattle managers should be aware of several factors to maximize the benefits of out-wintering while reducing the risk to water quality. Location is key to successful o u t -w i n te r i n g . Id ea l ly out-wintering sites are internally drained to eliminate the risk of nutrient loss into waterways. If no such sites are available out-wintering sites should be located on low-sloped land well away from surface waters. While it’s acceptable for cattle to walk across concentrated-flow areas to move between feeding, watering and bedding sites, it’s important to avoid feeding and out-wintering in concentrated-flow areas at all costs. Out-wintering locations should be rotated each year to avoid excessive nutrient buildup and lesser dissolved-phosphorus risk. Erosion is generally not a major issue in well-managed pastures, so particulate-phosphorous loss is often not a

Cornell University

Location is key to successful out-wintering. Ideally out-wintering sites are internally drained to eliminate the risk of nutrient loss into waterways. If no such sites are available out-wintering sites should be located on lowsloped land well away from surface waters.

concern. But there’s still phosphorus-loss risk in pastures, especially in the dissolved form. Runoff water and melting snow react with the phosphorous at the soil surface and carry it off pastures and into water bodies. Because pastures are rarely tilled, the phosphorous deposited from manure and surface-fertilizer applications tends to accumulate near the soil surface. The greater the phosphorous concentrations at the soil surface, the greater the risk of dissolved-phosphorous loss. Stratified soil sampling is recommended — at zero to 1 inch and zero to 6 inches. Be sure to analyze soil samples separately to see if phosphorous stratification is an issue. Research conducted by UW-Discovery Farms has shown paddocks that are continuously used for out-wintering have soil-test phosphorous levels nearly double the values of surrounding paddocks. Those

continuously out-wintered paddocks had large phosphorous losses. The University of Wisconsin recommends soiltest phosphorous levels for managed pastures to be in the range of 15 to 30 parts per million. Soil-phosphorous levels at the surface that are twice or more than the optimal level increase the risk of nutrient loss during snow melt and heavy rains. By rotating out-wintering areas every year, nutrients are spread around the farm to facilitate pasture growth and reduce risk to water quality. Avoid causing cattle to walk through areas of heavy manure deposition near previous feed areas. If cattle are traipsing through previous feeding areas on their way to water or bedding sites, they’ll break apart cow patties with their hooves. Those broken and fragmented manure pieces are more likely to contribute to runoff and nutrient loss than whole hardened

patties. When out-wintering cattle, it’s recommended to begin winter feeding at the point farthest away from water and bedding areas to keep cattle from walking over old manure. In a bale-grazing system feed from the back side of the bale grid. Cause the cattle to walk around the uneaten bales to reach their water and bedding. Out-wintering can be a cost-effective system for wintering livestock; the strategy offers many benefits when managed well. Livestock managers who follow the guidelines are on a great path to a productive profitable farm and will help protect water and soil resources. Visit bit.ly/2PSvPt4 for more information. Aaron Pape is a tile-drainageeducation coordinator with UWDiscovery Farms, a program of the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Email aaron.pape@ces.uwex.edu to reach him.

10 November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Little things make big difference Gary Sipiorski

Milk prices continue to challenge the operating costs of dairy farms. Sometimes wise economic and management decisions become lost in all the activities. It’s important for key family members and employees to Gary c o n s i s te n t l y Sipiorski gather in team meetings to discuss how each person can do their work a little better, to take care of things that are within control. In effective meetings with the appropriate personnel everyone around the table knows what the checkbook looks like. They’re not ignoring the

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November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 11 elephant in the room; they’re just not feeding it. Every positive idea leads to the entire dairy performing better as little as one idea might seem. Unfortunately during difficult times the first to be neglected is self-care. Whether a person owns the farm, has partial ownership, or is a wage-earning family member or employee, taking care of one’s physical well-being is critical. Especially when stress is great it’s important to eat right and sleep enough. Take a split second to assess safety concerning livestock, equipment and potential gaseous feed- or manure-storage areas. The often-spoken cliché is true. Things can be replaced; people cannot. Taking care of family is also important. Start by keeping home troubles at home and farm troubles on the farm. Young children may not grasp farm economics; but they can

read stressed parents. Kids are only young once. Give each other a much-needed time-out with simple family activities. A picnic under the maple tree in the backyard can be inexpensive and enjoyable. The mind works much better when it has a break from tasks that need to be done. Everyone knows taking care of the cows and young stock is a must. What’s sometimes missed is the value of consistently doing the basic things correctly. Be sure bedding material in the stalls is clean and dry and that most cows are laying down after they’ve eaten. Clean waterers routinely, push up feed regularly, and keep the milking system cleaned and maintained. When those fundamental tasks are kept in check, savings accumulate in both time and money. Maintaining somatic cell counts at or less than 100,000 is more important than ever in keeping a good relationship

with the milk processor. It’s also better for the cows. Squeezing another one-tenth out of the protein or butterfat content in milk increases the milk check. Once the feed supply has been inoculated, packed and covered, the next step is to be waste conscious; uncover only as needed and feed it fresh. New or even used equipment may not be in the budget. Preventative maintenance in the fall is far better than crawling under cold steel at 20 degrees below zero in the dead of winter. One may not want to look at monthly or quarterly income and expense numbers during an extended down cycle. But it’s crucial in those times. Have open team meetings with family and employees w h o n e e d to k n o w t h e expenses. Those numbers should be freely discussed to stimulate ideas of how a couple cents can be saved here or a nickel and dime there.

However small it may seem, every few cents per hundred weight still adds to the bottom line. Take the first step of assessing what needs to be done, then follow by responding with the right actions. Remember to lean on those who can help. Every producer needs access to a capable lender, accountant, financial consultant, veterinarian, nutritionist, crop adviser — and the list goes on. In the meantime increasing one’s personal skill set is invaluable. Attend meetings with positive people at helpful programs, such as those the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin conducts. Each of those partners wants to see dairy businesses succeed. And by the way, they don’t want to feed the elephant either. Gary Sipiorski is a dairydevelopment manager with Vita Plus. Email gsipiorski@vitaplus.com to reach him.

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12 November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Fake it, take it or make it Hank Wagner

I believe we all fit into one of three groups. Every day we have the power to choose which group we will be in; but most often our subconscious habits and behavi o rs h o l d u s captive to the same group day after day. Hank Wagner First there is the “fake it” group. That’s a group of people who are living out their lives trying to be somebody else. Many times we see other people who we perceive to be happy and successful. We want to be more like them. Or

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November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 13 we may allow people around us to pressure us into doing certain things or being a certain type of person. Being in that group is stressful and unfulfilling because we’re trying to be someone we’re not meant to be. We’re attempting to live our lives trying to please others, rather than focusing on just being all that we’re meant to be. The good news is nobody has to remain in that group of people. The way out is to take steps to enter the “make it” group. Next there’s the “take it” group of people. I believe that’s by far the largest group and the place where most people live out their lives. It’s not necessarily a bad place to be. It’s often better than the “fake it” group. But it’s not as fruitful as the “make it” group. People in the “take it” group take each day as it comes. They make choices or decisions throughout their days based on whatever that day

gives them. It’s not entirely bad to live out life in that group. It’s important to choose to maintain a great attitude despite being bombarded with the many perceived stressful uncontrollable events that can occur throughout the day. The third group is where the fruit is; the “make it” group. It’s the most rewarding group but also the smallest. Sometimes we find ourselves in one of the first two groups by default. We may accidentally be in the first group because we accepted the habit of trying to fulfill expectations of others rather than choosing to understand who we are or who we’re meant to be. Or we may be in the second and largest group because we didn’t realize there was another way. Or maybe we didn’t want to exercise the actions necessary to be in the third group of people. People who live in the first two groups are still making choices and taking actions. But

the actions they take are too often determined by others or circumstances as they present themselves — good or bad. The “make it” group is proactive rather than reactive; they are thinkers who are motivated by goals and visions. They know what they want out of life. They are willing to make sacrifices to obtain it. They are the people who are often looked upon as the ones who receive all the breaks — the lucky ones. Many things happen in life that we have no control over. But we can control how we react to them. We can learn from them, adjust and continue the path to accomplish our vision. The first step required to be in the “make it” group is to have vision and know what is wanted of life. Many people have said they can’t be in the make it group because they don’t know how to create visions or set goals for themselves, their families or businesses. There are people who can help with that

process, including the team at Wagner Leadership Training, if goal-setting isn’t a strength. There are other things the “make it” group takes advantage of. • Choosing to think about and plan every day before it starts. That helps integrate a vision into every single day. • Having some strategic relationships, including a person to hold one accountable to one’s vision. • Investing in growing themselves. Everyone is born with purpose and destiny. But nobody comes out of the womb ready to make it happen. 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: Lessons from Africa.” It’s available online at amazon.com and at most book stores. Contact hwagner@frontiernet.net for more information.

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14 November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Make sound decisions, act Bob Le Cocq

Good decision-making is important in business. But for those in the dairy industry it’s critical. The complex issues facing producers can swiftly lead to consequences dramatically affecting finances, operational stability and even tranBob Le Cocq sition of the business. When it comes to making sound financial decisions a long-term approach is usually required; it’s often helpful to work backward from the desired objective and then develop the strategy and tactics needed to arrive there. One method of identifying goals is through benchmarking. Benchmarking identifies an industry standard for production and finances based on a period of time, considers the size and location of a group, and compares the findings to other operations. Understanding the best practices of the top-25 percent helps producers better comprehend ways to improve their operations. There can be a big difference between those at the top or the bottom, which can sometimes skew the numbers. Often when reviewing a database there are those who ask why such a large variance exists. To arrive at the answer, it makes sense to conduct studies of the top performers to identify the most efficient methods and the best ways to improve production as well as the most beneficial cost inputs. Aside from benchmarking, other tactics can encourage good decision-making and executing. To paraphrase Forbes magazine contributor Erik Larson,

7 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE DECISION MAKING Decision making is the process of making choices by identifying a decision, gathering information, and assessing alternative resolutions.


Using a step-by-step decision-making process can help you make more deliberate, thoughtful decisions by organizing relevant information and defining alternatives. This approach increases the chances that you will choose the most satisfying alternative possible.





Step 4: Weigh the evidence Draw on your information and emotions to imagine what it would be like if you carried out each of the alternatives to the end. Evaluate whether the need identified in Step 1 would be met or resolved through the use of each alternative. As you go through this difficult internal process, you’ll begin to favor certain alternatives: those that seem to have a higher potential for reaching your goal. Finally, place the alternatives in a priority order, based upon your own — All team members value system.

Step 1:these Identify the decision need to “With ingredients in place, You realize that you need to make a decision. Try to personally commit to doing clearly define the nature of the decision you must ownership and management make. This first step is very important. Step 5: Choose among whatalternatives they said they would do. Once you have weighed all the evidence, you are Fassler goes on to say, “With Step 2: Gather relevant information to select the alternative that seems to be the teams execute in ways which build ready Collect some pertinent information before you make best one for you. You may even choose a combination these ingredients in place, ownyour decision: what information is needed, the best of alternatives. Your choice in Step 5 may very likely be ership and management teams relationships and financial strength.” sources of information, and how to get it. This step the same or similar to the alternative you placed at involves both internal and external “work.” Some

in ways the top of your listexecute at the end of Step 4.

of self-assessment. Other information is external: you’ll find it online, in books, from other people, and from other sources.

Step 6: Take action ” You’re now ready strength. to take some positive action by beginning to implement the alternative you chose in The decision-making Step 5.

is internal: you’ll seek through a process Mikeinformation Fassler, principal at itThe Family Business Consulting Group

which build relationships and financial

proimproved decision-making clearly done at the beginning, cess is a great priority. But it Step 3: Identify the alternatives As you collectperformance information, you will probablythe identify Stepout7: Review your decision & need its consequences doesn’t to be complidrives business and decision is merely the several possible paths of action, or alternatives. You In this final step, consider the results of your decision employee engagement and cated the point of paralysis. can also use your imagination andalso additionalcome of that work. and evaluate whether or notto it has resolved the need information to construct new alternatives. step, you identified in Step 1. If the decision has to not met unlocks the business value of In thisAccording There’s a time decide and a to Mike Fassler, you will list all possible and desirable alternatives. the identified need, you may want to repeat certain diversity. But if business leaders principal at The Family Busitime toa new act.decision. It’s not steps of the process to make For necessary example, you might to gather or treat decision-making like a ness Consulting Group, the towant have all more thedetailed information so somewhat different information or explore additional mystical art or an arcane instinct ingredients for ensuring exea “perfect” plan can be conalternatives. the result is tons of data with few cution and follow-through on structed. Don’t waste time or correlations and no causes – decisions made by ownership energy trying. Take the time which is no way to run a busi- a n d m a n a ge m e n t te a m s needed to evaluate options ness. include three things. and possible outcomes — then • a lignment on goals — pull the trigger. Make a deciMatt Lange, a business umassd.edu consultant with Compeer Finan- Owners, managers and key sion and create enough flexicial, has said decision-making players need to agree on what bility in the decision to and executing the decision are the business is trying to account for contingencies. simply part of a greater process, accomplish. • c l a r i t y r e g a r d i n g Bob Le Cocq is a dairy specialist whether part of idea development or in speaking to the authority to act — Agree on with Compeer Financial, a vision question of business direction. who has what responsibilities. sponsor of the Professional Dairy If analysis and evaluation are • accountability to deliver Producers of Wisconsin.

November 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line 15

Keep kids safe, away from tractors National Farm Medicine Center

Living and working on a farm offers many benefits for both children and adults, including the development of a good work ethic and sense of responsibility as well as instilling a love and respect for the land. Unfortunately farm work consistently ranks among the deadliest of occupations in the United States. On average a child dies from injuries on a farm once every three days. The leading cause of those deaths is the tractor. Though tractors are responsible for more than 40 percent of unintentional farm-injury deaths of children younger than 15, many farm children regularly ride tractors with family members. No matter the season tractors and heavy equipment pose dangers to children. The danger isn’t exclusive to tractor rollovers. Sudden stops,

The Childhood Agricultural Safety Network advises farm parents that a simple way to protect a child is to say, “No, you can’t be on or near this tractor.”

driving over holes, stumps and uneven surfaces, or making a sharp turn can cause the extra

rider — or the driver — to be ejected. Not even a tractor cab ensures safety. In cases where children are riding along, the mere presence of a child can be distracting to the operator. In a second a child can fall out and be crushed by a tire or run over by the implement trailing behind. “We’re trying to preserve the best parts of agricultural tradition, but at the same time change social norms so people view unsafe practices for what they are – unacceptable,” said Barbara Lee, director of the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety in Marshfield, Wisconsin. The National Farm Medicine Center and the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety created a website to provide easy access to agricultural safety

information and resources for farmers and employees to make the workplace safer for all. Visit www.cultivatesafety.org for guidelines, videos and resources on a number of topics, including farm-mapping resources that help producers digitally identify and map hazards through a birds-eye or augmented-reality view. In addition a section on safe agri-tourism provides more than 200 free resources to help agri-tourism operators keep visitors safe. National Farm Medicine Center focuses on evolving issues in agricultural health and safety. The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety within the National Farm Medicine Center is one of eight Centers for Agricultural Disease and Injury Research, Education and Prevention funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



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