PDPW Dairy's Bottom Line -- September 2019

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

Plan now for 2020 business


usiness planning or budgeting is often considered a once-ayear project. While setting a baseline budget or plan for each year is important the reality is that planning for a dairy operation is an ongoing aspect of management. With the challenges of the planting and growing season this year along with the current opportunity provided by higher milk prices, it’s not too early JIM MORIARTY to start planning for next year. Critical decisions about forage and feed needs will be made during the next couple months. They’ll have a big impact on 2020. As producers look ahead they should also evaluate cash-flow demands and capital-replacement priorities. Determining and obtaining feed needed on dairy operations for the next 12 to 15 months will be more challenging than normal. With winter kill on alfalfa, delayed and prevent planting, and periods of heavy rain during hay harvest, this year’s crop yields and quality will be more variable than usual. Commodity prices range widely with each crop report. It’s important for farmers to identify how much forage and grain will be needed for next year for their targeted cow and heifer numbers, then make the best assessment on yields and quality of their own raised feeds. That will help determine where there are gaps that need to be filled. There may be opportunities to buy high-moisture corn or silage from neighboring grain farmers this fall; be prepared for those opportunities as they arise. Producers should know what prices they are willing to pay, their harvest windows, ability to store and separate feed of different qualities and how much cash is needed to buy feed. From a whole-farm standpoint, now may be a good time to evaluate cash flow and payment priorities. Milk prices are at a much higher point than in recent years, which should enable positive cash flow. Cash flow available after meeting operating expenses and debt payments each month should first be allocated to obtaining sufficient feed inventories and then paying down any accumulated account payables. The next priority would be paying down operating lines of credit to rebuild funding availability and working capital for the future. Assess for capital replacement, purchases Once feed inventories, account payables and lines of credit are situated, assess the need for capital investments. After several low-margin years, it’s likely deferred replacement of equipment and facilities will need to be addressed. That aspect of cash-flow planning takes more careful analysis because those items are typically higher cost. There usually isn’t sufficient cash or borrowing availability to take care of everything at once. Replacing or updating items that are essential to the efficient daily operation of the dairy should take greatest priority, including feeding and milking equipment and cow-comfort items such as curtains, stalls and ventilation. As labor availability continues to be challenging, investments

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Please see MORIARTY, Page E2

Estimate fair price for corn silage


hroughout Wisconsin there’s considerable variation in corn growth due to the cool wet spring and delayed planting. Much of the state’s corn acreage will likely mature later in the fall this year than during a typical year. The wet spring and summer also made it difficult to harvest high-quality first-crop haylage. The potential combination of late-maturing corn and low forage inventories creates an opportunity to harvest additional corn silage MATT to ensure AKINS adequate forage going into the winter season. Late-maturing corn may also be the reality for grain producers, which could translate into a scenario for grain, dairy and beef producers to harvest corn silage instead of dry corn on those acres. In situations like those the buyer and seller of silage must agree on a price for the silage. A few methods are available to determine the value of standing corn silage. A simple calculation involves multiplying the corn price by a factor of eight to 10 to estimate value per wet ton of forage. That method doesn’t factor in multiple other inputs, however.

The cool wet weather of spring and summer have made it difficult to predict quality and yield in crops such as corn.  estimated corn-grain yield per acre  silage dry matter on a percentage basis  estimated corn-silage yield  local prices for corn and low-quality hay  fertilizer values for phosphorus and potassium To aid in calculating fair prices for silage the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension’s Forage Team has made tools available online. Visit fyi.extension. wisc.edu/forage/econom-

ics/ to explore those tools. In addition, the UW-Extension Corn-Silage Pricing-Decision Aid – a spreadsheet developed by Ryan Sterry, Joe Lauer and Lee Milligan – uses inputs specific to many circumstances. It provides a minimum price for the seller and a maximum price the buyer should pay to give a starting point for negotiation. A mobile application called Corn Silage Pricing App, developed by Ryan Sterry and Greg Blonde, is also available for download at that site using the

same spreadsheet as the Corn-Silage Pricing-Decision Aid. The decision aid considers who will conduct specific harvesting tasks such as chopping and hauling, and who will pay for storage costs. The spreadsheet also considers costs of grain harvest – including combining, trucking and drying – that the seller would have incurred if the grain was harvested. In a sample scenario the estimated corn-grain yield was 150 bushels per acre,

estimated silage yield was 20 tons wet feed per acre, $4 per bushel of corn at the local cooperative, $100 per ton for low-quality hay, and $0.40 per pound of phosphorus and $0.30 per pound of potassium removed. In that example the buyer will do the harvesting, hauling and storing of silage in a bunker at their farm. For the seller the minimum price to recover nutrient-removal costs and the grain value was $491 Please see PRICE, Page E3


Take better care of yours in tough times M any of us in agriculture are experiencing the most challenging seasons of our careers. Every time we hear a favorable forecast of better weather, better prices or new trade opportunities, the good news seems to be crushed by something else out of our control. I believe it’s important to know what we can control and to regularly focus on those things. One thing we all probably can do is take better care of what we have. That advice is

great any time. But I believe it’s especially important during difficult or HANK challenging WAGNER times. There are five areas to consider – and choose – to improve in. Yourself. What one thing can you do to take better care of yourself? It may be taking some personal time to relax and

think – or intentionally not think – about anything. Spend time with someone who inspires and motivates you or just makes you laugh. Change something about your diet, exercise habits or even how often you brush your teeth. Investing in yourself will help you be happier, more productive and have more self-esteem regardless of current or future challenges. Other people. What one thing can you do to take better care of the

people you’re responsible for or connected with? Select one thing you can do to take better care of your spouse; you are the only spouse he or she has. If you don’t know what to choose just ask. What about the rest of your family? If you have children remember you are the only parents your children will ever have. They need you more than any generation before us. Think about your employees also; they are not merely humans who work for you,

they are people with families and personal lives. Taking better care of them creates the opportunity for them to be happier and more productive whether they are at work or away from work. Animals. We already take great care of our animals – but ask yourself if there is one more thing that can be done. It could be installing a cow brush, sprinkler system or some fans. Perhaps it’s Please see WAGNER, Page E3

“Udder Comfort is our staple.” — Mike Creek

PALMYRA FARM, HAGERSTOWN, MARYLAND, The Shank and Creek families 100 Ayrshires +20,000M 4.0F 3.5P, 100,000 SCC, 2019 Dairy Shrine Distinguished Breeder 11x WDE Premier Breeder, 9x Premier Exhibitor, 5x WDE Premier Sire Palmyra Tri-Star Burdette Pictured at 2018 World Dairy Expo with 2x Grand Champion Ruth (l-r): Mary, Mark, Samantha, Mike Jr., Elizabeth and Evan Creek. Not pictured: Mike Creek Sr. and Ralph and Terrie Shank. “Since 2004, Udder Comfort™ is our staple. We use it heavily on show cows and fresh cows,” says Mike Creek Jr., part of Palmyra Farm’s 5th generation. At the 2019 World Dairy Expo, National Dairy Shrine will honor 4th generation brother and sister Ralph Shank and Mary Creek as Distinguished Dairy Cattle Breeder. They have bred 49 All-Americans, 146 nominees, 77 Ayrshire bulls in A.I., including Burdette, Berkely and Reality. Twice Expo Grand Champion, Palmyra Berkely P Ruth-ET EX94 combines their lines. “Ruth is what we’ve been breeding for, for 30 years,” says Mike. He leads her, but she’s Evan’s cow. In 2009, Mike started Palmyra Farm Cheese. (https://wp.me/pb1wH7-1R) The herd’s milk quality is key, with high components and low SCC. “Starting lactations with Udder Comfort is an easy, non-invasive tool for quality milk, quality udders as well as quality of life for our fresh cows,” says Mike.

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Keep the milk in the system 1.888.773.7153 1.613.652.9086 uddercomfort.com Call to locate a distributor near you. For external application to the udder only, after milking, as an essential component of udder management. Always wash and dry teats thoroughly before milking.



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

PDPW: Who we are

Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) is Dairy's Professional Development Organization®. With a vision to lead the success of the dairy industry through education, our mission is to share ideas, solutions, resources and experiences that help dairy producers succeed.

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 Janet Clark Rosendale, Wis. 608-341-6709 vafarmsllc@hotmail.com Directors Andy Buttles Lancaster, Wis. 608-723-4712 stonefront@tds.net Ken Feltz Stevens Point, Wis. 715-570-6390 feltzfarms@hotmail.com John Haag Dane, Wis. 608-576-0812 jahaag5@gmail.com Corey Hodorff Eden, Wis. 920-602-6449 corey@secondlookholsteins.com Steven Orth Cleveland, Wis. 920-905-2575 orthlanddairy@gmail.com

PDPW Advisers

Jim Barmore GPS Dairy Consulting Verona, Wis. jmbarmore@gpsdairy.com Paul Fricke UW-Madison Dairy Science Madison, Wis. pmfricke@wisc.edu Kurt Petik Rabo AgriFinance Fond du Lac, Wis. kurt.petik@raboag.com Andrew Skwor MSA Professional Services Baraboo, Wis. askwor@msa-ps.com

www.pdpw.org mail@pdpw.org 800-947-7379

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Motivation key to growing excellent heifers


aising quality replacement heifers requires considerable investment, patience and difficult work. It also calls for motivation to keep becoming better at it. While many calf and heifer managers naturally pursue excellence in their work, a wide variety of other factors – negative and positive – contribute to instilling motivation. Sometimes the commitment to improve is triggered by frustration about heifer-raising challenges such as scours, respiratory disease, overcrowding, undersized heifers or failure to meet first-lactation milk-yield NOAH LITHERLAND expectations. Other times motivation is ignited after visiting the farm of an award-winning peer who excels in developing quality heifers. Or maybe the motivation to raise top-notch replacements is birthed out of discussions with consultants and veterinarians who challenge current management practices and use peer-reviewed research to encourage steps in the right direction. Whatever the source, it’s difficult to find elite dairies that are not also growing excellent replacement heifers. Producers motivated to grow excellent replacement heifers can start down that path to success by starting with little things that have a big impact. Some of the keys include increasing heifer comfort with bedding management and effective fly control. Develop a schedule for continued improvement by evaluating and charting calving frequency; prepare for the positives and negatives. Seek the advice of peers and experts who can provide high-impact areas of focus. Measure progress to gain immediate feedback by weighing nursery calves, evaluating heifer reproductive efficiency and comparing peak milk yield by lactation. Hallmarks of excellent replacement-heifer programs include maternity with less than 2 percent failure of passive transfer and a rate of less than 4 percent for calves born dead. Nursery-feeding programs should balance nutrition from milk as well as starter to develop

Key Area High-quality colostrum for newborns Feed and manage to protect a calf’s intestines

Call to motivation Calves need sufficient maternal immunoglobulin G for protection from pathogens during the first two weeks.

Respiratory function

Protect the respiratory tract; damage leads to a permanent negative impact on long-term performance.

Starter-grain intake

Calves are grown from the inside out. Develop the rumen and microbial ecology through starter-grain nutrition. Mounting evidence suggests the gut-microbial community is established early in life and is difficult to change once established.

Rate of growth

Calf growth reflects nutrient balance, health and welfare. An average gain of 1.8 pounds per day in Holsteins is a good goal for the entire heifer growing phase.

Transition success

Successful transition is evidence of a successful nursery phase. The goal is to maintain rate of growth and calf health.

Age at puberty

Holstein heifers reach puberty at about 600 pounds. Early puberty means a greater number of estrogen and progesterone cycles of higher intensity, which research indicates might have a maturing effect on the mammary gland.

Reproductive efficiency

Heifers need to average greater than a 50 percent conception rate.

Weight at calving

Weight at first calving impacts feed-intake potential because larger heifers can eat more feed.

Peak milk yield

The target peak milk yield by first-lactation heifers should be 80 percent of peak milk of mature cows.

Maintaining intestinal-barrier function protects the calf from pathogens. Loose manure is not normal and is an indicator of intestinal inflammation.

Consider a list of 10 key areas of focus for growing excellent replacement heifers and the correlating calls to motivation. as a productive first-calf heifer. Make a goal of achieving a peak milk yield of 80 percent of mature cows. Consider a list of 10 key areas of focus for growing excellent replacement heifers and the correlating calls to motivation. Many producers desire to grow excellent replacement heifers. Producers often come to a fork in the road at some point with one path leading to complacency or hesitancy to invest in facilities and equipment. SHELLY O’ LEARY Those who are motivated will choose the other path – that Those who are motivated to raise excellent heifers generally enjoy the of aggressively pursuing exrewards of clean sleek well-proportioned high-performing heifers. cellence in replacement-heifer development. the grower. calves’ digestive function and As heifers grow into breedminimize bouts of intestinal Noah Litherland is a dairy techniing size and age, it’s important inflammation or scours. Those cal specialist for Vita Plus. Email to maintain efficient growth programs should also maintain NLitherland@vitaplus.com to reach through transitioning, calving calf health and growth in the and entering the milking string him. transition from the nursery to

Assess nitrogen-use efficiency of manure


siders fertilizer as ystems that source nitrogen the sole nitrogen from manure have an added source. When challenge to achieve greater comparing the nitrogen-use efficiency. In the dataset of maUniversity of Wisconsin-Disnured fields to covery Farms Nitrogen-Use non-manured Efficiency Project, 44 percent of ABBY corn-grain fields and 80 percent AUGARTEN fields, a greater percentage of maof silage fields sourced nitrogen nured fields had from manure, differentiating nitrogen-use efficiency values the research by UW-Discovery less than the average compared Farms from research that con-

to those that didn’t apply any manure. Manure can be a challenge for nitrogen-use efficiency for a few reasons. Data shows that fields using two or more sources of nitrogen – fertilizer, manure or legume credits – have greater nitrogen rates on average. Greater nitrogen rates that don’t have a proportionate yield gain cause a lesser nitrogen-use

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farm’s financial position and equity growth. The longer-term plan frequently From E1 requires balancing and trade-offs to prioritize those that enhance productivity, efficiency and working envi- investments that provide the ronment for employees also greatest return and impact to needs to be taken into strong profitability. Pre-plan now consideration. Longer-term Planning is an important investments such as new and ongoing part of manbuildings, parlor upgrades, aging every farm. While it land purchases and large may seem like a task to put crop-equipment items will off until the end of the year, often need to be part of a pre-planning now can set three-to-five-year plan to the stage for the coming year. scale in purchases with the

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efficiency. Additionally organic nitrogen sources such as manure depend on variable weather conditions, soil type and management to transform nitrogen into a plant-available form. Logistical factors including storage and transport often determine when and how manure is applied to the field,

Evaluating feed needs and gaps should help prepare for opportunities to buy additional feed that may be available this fall at a timing and price that fits the cash flow. Ensuring sufficient feed inventory of high quality for the fall are keys to herd performance and profitability for the next year. Taking time to evaluate cash flow now can help to better allocate available cash flow to paying down account payables and operating lines. Proper plan-

Please see MANURE, Page E3

ning can help prioritize capital purchases to their highest need and hopefully avoid impulse purchases that are not as important to the overall operation. The bottom line is that while there is a lot of 2019 still left, it is not too early to plan for a successful 2020. Jim Moriarty is a dairy director with Compeer Financial, a Vision Sponsor of PDPW. Email Jim.Moriarty@afs.compeer. com to reach him.

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Thursday, September 5, 2019 | E3

Ensure safety during harvest S ilage is vital to the dairy industry – nearly every operation incorporates at least some in their total mixed ration. While the smell of freshly chopped silage often triggers memories of previous harvest seasons it should also serve as a reminder that working with silage equipment, silos and bunkers requires the utmost caution. Silage gas forms during the fermentation process and has lethal poMELISSA PLOECKELMAN tential, especially for those working with traditional silos designed to limit the introduction of oxygen. Nitrogen and carbon dioxide gases form in sealed silos after ensiling. Carbon dioxide comprises the majority of gas produced; it’s necessary to maintain high-quality silage. However its odorless colorless nature makes it dangerous. It displaces oxygen in the silo and can overcome a person with little to no warning. Other gases also form during silage fermentation; nitrogen dioxide is perhaps the most prevalent. Nitrogen dioxide – also highly toxic – has a strong odor similar to bleach and can appear as a fog or smoke from a distance. In high concentrations the fog appears yellow to reddish-brown in color and can even stain the silage surface and silo wall yellow, orange or red. Like carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide is heavier than air; it settles beneath the air and lies directly on top of the silage. The heavier-than-air property

Price From E1

per acre or $24.57 per ton of wet forage – or $70.21 per ton of dry forage. The maximum price the buyer would want to pay for the silage – not including the cost of harvesting and storage – would be $707 per acre or $35.35 per ton of wet forage or $101 per ton of dry forage. With a difference of $10 per ton of wet silage there’s significant room for negotiation on each side. Moisture content at harvest should be considered to adjust the price; wetter silage should have less dry matter harvested and would warrant a lesser price per wet ton. Adjustment for starch, or neutral-detergent-fiber content, is not part of the spreadsheet. Depending on corn maturity the price per ton may be adjusted, with silage harvested pre-tasseling, or at the V14 to V18 stage, having 90 percent of milk production per ton compared to harvesting at the R5 or halfmilk-line stage. Silage harvested in the silking to milk stage, or R1 to R3 stage, would have 75 percent to 80 percent milk production per ton; silage harvested at the dough stage, or the R4 stage, would have 85 percent to 90 percent milk production per ton. Because the decision tool needs estimated corn yield to estimate corn-silage yield, immature corn-silage yields would need to be estimated in the field. That would be done by harvesting a small area by hand and calculating estimated yield based on weight and moisture content. Alternatively, wagons could be weighed during harvesting. Another option for pricing immature corn is to use the forage-quality analysis and a hay-market price for a similar-quality hay. Then use moisture content to adjust the price per ton of wet forage. Ultimately the buyer and seller need to work through the details to ensure a fair price is reached for both sides.

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Matt Akins is a dairy-heifer specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Dairy Science and UW-Extension. Email msakins@wisc.edu for more information.

means the highest concentration of gas is generally located at the surface of the silage – the very location a person will go if they need to enter the silo for any reason. It’s critical to know that opening a silo door near the silage surface makes it possible – even likely – that gas could exit the silo, flow down the chute to settle at the base of the silo, and enter the feed room or flow into the barn area. People and livestock are both susceptible to the toxic exposure to silo gases – especially children. If at all possible, stay out of the silo for two to three days after filling. If unloader breakdowns or other circumstances necessitate entry into the silo, it’s strongly recommended to use a self-contained breathing apparatus; dust masks, gas masks and air-purifying respirators are not sufficient protection. Lacking a self-contained breathing apparatus, consider other recommendations to reduce – though not eliminate – risk of silo-gas exposure if silo entry is necessary. Run the blower that enters the silo for 15 to 20 minutes before entering the silo. Open all silo doors from the upper chute to the level of settled silage. Open all windows in all adjacent feed rooms. Keep the blower running the entire duration of working in the silo. Never enter a silo without another person present to arrange for assistance. Visual contact should be maintained at all times between both people in case other sources of noise


drown out calls for help or gases cause the person in the silo to lose consciousness. Post appropriate signage around the base of the silo to warn others of the potential for silo gases. Clearly noticeable signs with messages such as “Danger! Deadly Silo Gas” should be visible to warn all family members, workers and visitors to stay away from the area. Prior to entering any silo ensure the power supply for all unloading mechanisms are disabled and labeled “out of service.” While gases are particularly unsafe other hazards accompany silage production, including exposure to dust and mold, silage avalanches, falls from silos, and injuries caused by equipment rollovers or accidents. Farm machinery is the leading cause of on-farm fatalities. Specifically regarding silage production, it’s imperative to take precautions while cutting, chopping, unloading and packing. Before entering a silo, disable machinery and unplug power to unloading equipment. Provide workers whose responsibilities include the operating of heavy equipment with high-visibility shirts or vests. And when machinery is in use, keep children out of the work area. Weather and sleep deprivation also play a role in farmworker well-being; when employees have been working extra hours to ensure time-sensitive chores are completed, don’t skip the use of safety checklists. Re-

Safety around all farm machinery should take top priority during the fall harvest season. member – an unwanted incident causes work to slow if not stop completely. It’s more important to keep people safe than to accomplish any project on the list. The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center has created safety resources to help farmers stay safe when working with silos and silage. Whether downloaded for discussion in team meetings or printed for posting in visible areas throughout the farm, the

available checklists are designed to keep farmers, families and employees safe when working with silage. Visit www.umash. umn.edu/farm-safety-checksilage-storage/ to view the resources and for more information. Melissa Ploeckelman is an outreach specialist with the National Farm Medicine Center. Email ploeckelman.melissa@marshfieldresearch.org to reach her.

efficiency is lesser it can be inferred that manure man agement in that system can From E2 still be improved. Fall applications of mawhich might differ from nure on loamy sand can be what would be best for challenging. Unused ninitrogen management and trogen from manure appliwater quality. cations can lead to unmet For farmers who apply yield potentials and conmanure and fertilizer to sequences to groundwater their fields, knowing the quality. Implementing a efficiency of their manure 16.6 ton per acre ÷ 168 20.6 ton per acre ÷ 228 Production low-nitrogen strip test to is valuable. Efficient use pounds nitrogen per acre pounds nitrogen per acre measure the efficiency of efficiency of manure nitrogen can manure application and allow farms to reduce their = 0.10 ton per pound = 0.09 ton per pound nitrogen How productive was any additional fertilizer is fertilizer application and nitrogen the field at this low use efficiency a good way to assess how decrease cost of producnitrogen rate? low use efficiency well corn is utilizing mation. On the other hand if (nitrogen uptake in field-nitrogen strip - nitrogen uptake in Uptake efficiency nure. a low-nitrogen test strip low-nitrogen strip) How much of Shifting manure applidemonstrates inefficient applied fertilizer Additional nitrogen applied as fertilizer cations from fall to spring, use of manure, nitrogen was used by the crop = 93 percent of fertilizer taken up by the crop using a cover crop or exadjustments to manure perimenting with nitromanagement can be conThe chart shows the additional fertilizer contributed to a gain in yield of 4 tons per gen-inhibitor products are sidered. acre. Almost all of the additional nitrogen applied as fertilizer was used for that yield all possible management A low-nitrogen test gain. However because overall the efficiency is lesser it can be inferred that manure strategies to improve levels strip is a small strip in the management in that system can still be improved.‌ of nitrogen captured from field – 100 feet long by manure. and fertilizer applied to except the low-nitrogen field. one width of the fertilizer Visit www.uwdiscovit, produced even less per A UW-Discovery Farms strip. applicator – that receives a pound of nitrogen applied eryfarms.org/on-farmAccording to UW-Dismanure application but no case study was conducted than the low-nitrogen test projects/nitrogen-use-efcovery Farms-specific on a field in western additional nitrogen aside ficiency for more informastrip. nitrogen-use efficiency Wisconsin with irrigated from that in the starter. The chart shows the ad- tion. benchmarks, that field loamy sand. Following Four different calculacorn-silage harvest in the had low-use efficiency. In ditional fertilizer contribtions are used to measure Abby Augarten is a nitrothe low-nitrogen strip the uted to a gain in yield of 4 fall, 14,000 gallons per nitrogen-use efficiency, tons per acre. Almost all of gen-use efficiency project manure application did acre of liquid manure was allowing for the measurnot produce a greater yield the additional nitrogen ap- coordinator for the Univering of the efficiency of the injected into the field. plied as fertilizer was used sity of Wisconsin-Discovery at the amount of nitrogen Starter was applied to the manure application, the Farms. Email abigail.augarentire field; side-dress was applied. The field-nitrogen for that yield gain. Howadditional fertilizer and ten@wisc.edu to reach her. ever because overall the strip, which had manure the overall efficiency of the applied to the entire field

Wagner From E1

arranging for better feed, cleaner waterers, less time in self-locks, less overcrowding or a calmer environment. If you can’t think of an idea, ask your employees, veterinarian, nutritionist, breeder or another consultant for

Manure nitrogen Fertilizer nitrogen Total nitrogen supplied Nitrogen uptake Yield

low-nitrogen test strip 168 pounds nitrogen per acre 3 pounds nitrogen per acre 171 pounds nitrogen per acre 106 pounds nitrogen per acre 16.6 ton per acre at 65 percent

insight. Equipment. Do you have a program in place for preventative maintenance? You could do something as simple as wash and inspect more frequently. Or possibly it’d be useful to offer extra training to those who maintain and operate your equipment. Helping them understand why you want to take better care of your

field-nitrogen test strip 168 pounds nitrogen per acre 60 pounds nitrogen per acre 228 pounds nitrogen per acre 159 pounds nitrogen per acre 20.6 ton per acre at 65 percent

equipment can go a long way in how they use it. Environment. We are only stewards of the resources that will be passed on to future generations. Often doing the right thing for our environment is also the right thing for your business. Extra testing and diligent use of nutrients can limit negative effects to our environment but also add

to the bottom line. Hire a crop consultant or schedule some time with your county agent or agronomist to find just one thing you can do to take better care of the environment around you. Hopefully better times are around the corner. Until then, doing one thing better in each category will bring about positive results that you can control.

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. Email hwagner@ frontiernet.net for more information.

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E4 | Thursday, September 5, 2019



Canada to pay dairy farmers ‌The government of Canada plans to make available to Canadian dairy farmers $1.75 billion through an eight-year time period. About $345 million will be paid in the first year to the country’s 11,000 dairy farmers, according to Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of Agriculture and AgriFood Canada. The government announced its plans following recent ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The $1.75-billion investment would be in addition to the $250 million investment program that bene-

fits more than 3,300 dairy producers, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The intent is to mandate the Canadian Dairy Commission to make the payments. The federal government will continue to work with the Dairy Farmers of Canada to determine terms and conditions for future years. Payment will be in the form of direct payments and is planned to benefit dairy producers in proportion to their quota. The owner of an 80-cow farm, for example, will be awarded compensation in the form of a direct payment of $28,000 the first year.


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Thursday, September 5, 2019 | E5

Butter sculpture unveiled in New York ‌“Milk. Love What’s Real” is the theme of the 51st-annual butter sculpture at the New York State Fair. The sculpture shows a grandfather and child dunking cookies in milk and a young couple sharing a milkshake. It illustrates how love for real dairy connects many cherished moments in people’s lives. The American Dairy Association North

East Butter Sculpture also depicts the important role that real cow’s milk plays in the most memorable family experiences. New York ranks fourth nationally for milk production. Dairy is the most important agricultural product in the state, accounting for 47 percent – or more than $2.5 billion—of all agricultural products sold statewide.

“Milk. Love What’s Real” is a national industry campaign led by milk processors and supported by dairy farmers. The sculpture was constructed during a 10-day period by artists Jim Victor and Marie Pelton of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, using more than 800 pounds of butter from O-AT-KA Milk Products in western New York. It’s the 17th-consecutive year Victor and Pelton have created

the butter sculpture at the New York State Fair. After the fair the sculpture will be deconstructed with assistance from the Cornell University-Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners and transported to Noblehurst Farms near Linwood, New York. There it will be recycled in a methane digester to create electricity and liquid fertilizer for crops. Visit AmericanDairy. com for more information.

‘Milk. Love What’s Real’ is the theme of the 51st-annual butter sculpture at the New York State Fair. The sculpture shows a grandfather and child dunking cookies in milk and a young couple sharing a milkshake.

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E6 | Thursday, September 5, 2019



Beverage joins value- Sustainable practices showcased at dairy added milk market ‌A beverage featuring a blend of dairy milk with almonds or oats recently was introduced by Live Real Farms. The beverage was created to help satisfy changing consumer tastes and to capitalize on growth in the value-added milk market, according to Dairy Farmers of America. There are five new products in the “Dairy Plus Milk Blend” line. They are Dairy Plus Almond-Original, Dairy Plus Almond-Unsweetened Vanilla, Dairy Plus Almond-Sweetened Vanilla, Dairy Plus Almond-Chocolate and Dairy Plus Oat-Original. The Live Real Farms brand was developed by Dairy Farmers of America, which is owned by more than 8,000 family farms. Dairy Plus Milk Blends currently are available at supermarkets in Minnesota. The line is expected to be expanded nationally in early 2020. Visit dfamilk.com for more information.

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‌S ustainable-farming practices recently were highlighted at a field day at Model Dairy Farms near Dodgeville, Wisconsin. The event focused on the “4R approach” to nutrient stewardship – using the right nutrient source, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. The event featured discussion on nutrient-management plans and precision-farming technologies. Kyle Levetzow of Model Dairy Farms uses no-till practices to improve soil health and reduce erosion. The Iowa County Land Conservation used a rainfall stimulator to show how no-till protects soil structure and water quality. Staff members of Insight FS shared how they work with farmers to use 4R nutrient-stewardship principles

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Representatives from Wisconsin’s Iowa County Farm Bureau help to coordinate a nutrientstewardship field day at Model Farms near Dodgeville, Wisconsin. From left are Kyle Levetzow, Jackie McCarville, Don Ley, Laura Daniels, Adam Heisner, Krista Dolan and Justin Doyle. and technology. “Sustainable 4RWI” is a collaborative project of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and Insight FS. They show how farmers and agricultural retailers can sustainably manage crop nutrients. Policy makers also were invited to participate in the event. Visit wfbf. Amber Radatz, co-director at the University of Wisconsincom and insightfs.com for Discovery Farms, right, shares on-farm research findings related to water-quality monitoring and nitrogen-use efficiency. more information.

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Thursday, September 5, 2019 | E7

Read results of LOYAL FARM EQUIPMENT dairy auction

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‌Team Sartori, from Sartori Cheese in Plymouth, Wisconsin, was recently named the 2019 Grand Master Cheesemaker during the Blue Ribbon Dairy Products Auction held during the Wisconsin State Fair. They earned the coveted title with Sartori Reserve Rosemary & Olive Oil Asiago, the first-place entry in the Flavored Hard Cheese Class. Each blue-ribbon entry from the Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Products Contest sold during the event, which raised $51,620 for student scholarships and dairy promotions at the Wisconsin State Fair. This year’s event marked the second-greatest auction on record. Leading off the auction was 20 pounds of Team Sartori’s award-winning Rosemary & Olive Oil Asiago, which sold for $2,400 to DR Tech of Grantsburg, Wisconsin. There were a plethora of other auction results with both buyers and sellers from Wisconsin. Mild Cheddar Made by Timothy Stearns, Agropur, Weyauwega Buyer — WE Energies, Milwaukee Amount — 42 pounds Price per pound — $35 Total sell price — $1,470 Baby Swiss Made by Shullsburg Team, Prairie Farms, Shullsburg Buyer — Crane Farms, Burlington Amount — 12 pounds Price per pound — $45 Total sell price — $540 Mediterranean Feta Made by Kristi Wuthrich, Klondike Cheese Co., Monroe Buyer — Emmi Roth USA, Monroe Amount — 10 pounds Price per pound — $160 Total sell price — $1,600 Honey Goat Cheese Made by Team LaClare, LaClare Family Creamery, Malone Buyer — Wisconsin Aging & Grading Cheese, Kaukauna Amount — 10 pounds Price per pound — $120 Total sell price — $1,200 Smoked Cheddar Made by Shawn Sadler, Associated Milk Producers Inc., Jim Falls Buyer — Nelson-Jameson, Marshfield Amount — 42 pounds Price per pound — $20 Total sell price — $840 Ultra Sharp Cheddar Made by Tom Hand, Gilman Cheese Corporation, Gilman Buyer — Nelson-Jameson, Marshfield Amount — 24 pounds Price per pound — $32.50 Total sell price — $780 Copper Kettle Organic Parmesan Dijon Herb Rubbed Fontina Made by Team Lake Country Dairy, Lake Country Dairy/Schuman Cheese, Turtle Lake Buyer — Saz’s Hospitality Group, Milwaukee Amount — 33 pounds Price per pound — $135 Total sell price — $4,455 Hand Stretched String Cheese Made by Heydi Luis, Cesar’s Cheese, Sheboygan Falls Buyer — Elegant Farmer, Mukwonago Amount — 10 pounds Price per pound — $110 Total sell price — $1,100 Blue Cheese Made by Team Almena, Saputo Cheese USA Buyer — Alpma USA, Milwaukee Amount — 14 pounds Price per pound — $145 Total sell price — $2,030 Grand Champion Sour Cream – French Onion Dip Organic Sour Cream Made by Westby Cooperative Creamery, Westby Buyer — Saputo Cheese USA, Milwaukee Amount — 20 pounds Price per pound — $100 Total sell price — $2,000 Reduced Fat Greek French Onion Dip Made by Adam Buholzer, Klondike Cheese Co.,

“I feel our calf program has been highlighted as one of the best in the country BECAUSE of our Agri-Plastics hutches! We raise a healthier calf that thrives in both individual and group hutches.”

-Kelli Cull Budjon Farms Monroe Buyer — Cheese Market News, Madison Amount — 10 pounds Price per pound — $55 Total sell price — $550 Colby Jack Longhorn Made by Bill Stocker, Shullsburg Creamery, Shullsburg Buyer — Nelson-Jameson, Marshfield Amount — 10 pounds Price per pound — $80 Total sell price — $800 Aged Cheddar Made by Dan Stearns, Agropur, Weyauwega Buyer — Masters Gallery Foods, Plymouth Amount — 42 pounds Price per pound — $50 Total sell price — $2,100 Muenster Queso Para Fundir Made by John (Randy) Pitman, Mill Creek Cheese, Arena Buyer — Chr. Hanson, Milwaukee Amount — 20 pounds Price per pound — $75 Total sell price — $1,500 Grand Champion Butter – Salted Butter Made by Team 3rd Shift, Foremost Farms USA, Reedsburg Buyer — Ivarson, Milwaukee Amount — 10 pounds Price per pound — $25 Total sell price — $250 Unsalted Butter Made by Team Weyauwega Cheese, Old World Creamery, Sun Prairie Buyer — Process Automation, Green Bay Amount — 10 pounds Price per pound — $270 Total sell price — $2,700 Chipotle Jack Made by Maple Leaf Cheesemaking Team, Maple Leaf Cheesemakers,

“I feel good my investment will last a long time. I particularly like the bedding doors on the back of the group hutches.”

Raise healthier calves in heavier, better ventilated calf hutches! Call or visit us online today to learn more!


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E8 | Thursday, September 5, 2019



Internships help students weigh career choices BOB MITCHELL

For University of WisconsinMadison‌

‌Tuskegee University student Naomi Waldon spent a summer internship in a dairy-science laboratory at UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN‌ the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That expeBrianna Brown, center, uses ultrasound technology before rience helped convince her assisting with a biopsy on a dairy cow. She worked with research was in her future. graduate student Virginia Pszczolkowski, left, and assistant “It solidified my plans to professor of dairy science Sebastian I Arriola Apelo, go to grad school,” she said. background, at the University of Wisconsin–Dairy Cattle Tuskegee student Brianna Center.

Brown spent her summer the same way. But she decided graduate school wasn’t her cup of tea. “I like research, but now I know I don’t want to pursue it as a career,” she said. Both decisions were great outcomes, said Milo

Wiltbank, a UW-Madison dairy-science professor. He helped to arrange research internships for three animal-science students from Tuskegee University. “The idea of laboratory internships is to introduce students to research,” he said. “Some find they love it and some don’t. Those are important things to learn.” The internships expanded UW-Madison’s ties to Tus-


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kegee University, a historically black university in Alabama. Tuskegee graduates several students with bachelor’s degrees in agriculture. The head of Tuskegee’s agricultural-sciences program, Olga Bolden-Tiller, is Wiltbank’s colleague. Both are reproductive physiologists. Bolden-Tiller already has steered two students to graduate school at UW-Madison. One of the students is Kalyanna Williams, who earned her master’s degree and now works as an instructor in the dairy-science department at UW-Madison. Research internships can be game-changers for Tuskegee students, Williams said. “I had four internships in college,” she said. “The first one was in a dairy-science lab at Iowa State (University). I’ve continued in dairy science so the experience stuck with me.” Hosting the Tuskegee students can help change the way people in the dairy-science department view their mission, Williams said. “The students come from different backgrounds and offer different viewpoints,” she said. “They ask questions we may not have heard before and they remind us we’re serving a diverse audience. We serve non-farmers as well as farmers. Non-farmers are a mixed group. It’s good for people to see that.” Wilbank said, “We don’t have enough students from underrepresented groups applying to graduate school so this is a recruiting tool. It also introduces our labs to students who have a different way of looking at the world. Our graduate students need extra help in the summer and the interns provide a reliable extra pair of hands.” Tuskegee senior Shandrell Miller helped on three projects in Wiltbank’s laboratory. Two of the projects are related to reproduction. The other project involves dairy nutrition. Miller conducted ultrasounds, collected blood samples, gave shots and took feed samples. She plans to pursue veterinary school, and said the research experience helped her prepare. “I might not be doing dairy-nutrition research, but what I learned will help me understand animal diets,” she said. Brown said she wants to work in a veterinary practice that treats a variety of animals. She previously had worked with small animals in a clinic so one of her goals was to gain experience with cows. She worked with Sebastian Arriola Apelo, an assistant professor at UW-Madison, examining the role of amino acids on milk-protein synthesis. “It was a great experience,” Brown said. “I love working with cows.” Naomi Waldon worked in the laboratory of Heather White, a nutritional physiologist. Waldon helped conduct a variety of laboratory analyses and collected data at the UW-Arlington Agricultural Research Station. “For one study I herded cows to scales so I could take their weights,” she said. “The other study focuses on catching the onset of a disease. I had to find specific cows and take blood samples. I became pretty good at herding.” Waldon said she was fairly sure she wanted to pursue graduate school. Now she’s certain and has a better idea of what to expect, she said. “I really loved what I was doing, and it showed me I should continue down this path,” she said. “It also showed me the standards here are high, and what I need to prepare for.” Bob Miller is a freelance writer for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Dairy Science. Prior to his retirement, Miller worked in the office of external relations for UW–Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

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Auction From E7

Monroe Buyer — Oshkosh Cold Storage, Oshkosh Amount — 12 pounds Price per pound — $300 Total sell price — $3,600 Goat Milk Feta Made by Team Saputo Cheese USA Buyer — Chr. Hansen, Milwaukee Amount — 10 pounds Price per pound — $50 Total sell price — $500 Low Moisture Part Skim Mozzarella Made by Roger Krohn, Agropur, Luxemburg Buyer — Chr. Hansen, Milwaukee Amount — 13 pounds Price per pound — $55 Total sell price — $715 Baked Cheese Made by Eric Schmid, Brunkow Cheese, Darlington Buyer — Rock River Laboratory, Watertown Amount — 10 pounds Price per pound — $85 Total sell price — $850 Dill Havarti Reduced Fat Peppercorn Feta

Made by Luke Buholzer, Klondike Cheese Co., Monroe Buyer — Nelson-Jameson, Marshfield Amount — 20 pounds Price per pound — $150 Total sell price — $3,000 Havarti Made by Matt Henze, Decatur Dairy, Brodhead Buyer — Bader Rutter, Milwaukee Amount — 10 pounds Price per pound — $200 Total sell price — $2,000 Pastorale Blend Made by Mike Matucheski, Sartori Cheese, Antigo Buyer — Berenz Packaging, Menomonee Falls Amount — 20 pounds Price per pound — $95 Total sell price — $1,900 Pavino Made by Team Emmi Roth Monroe, Emmi Roth USA, Monroe Buyer — Elegant Farmer, Mukwonago Amount — 18 pounds Price per pound — $90 Total sell price — $1,620 Feta Made by Micah Klug, Agropur, Weyauwega Buyer — Nelson-Jameson, Marshfield Amount — 18 pounds

Price per pound — $65 Total sell price — $1,170 Swiss & Almond Cold Pack Made by Team Pine River, Pine River Pre-Pack, Newton Buyer — Saputo Cheese USA, Milwaukee Amount — 12 pounds Price per pound — $350 Total sell price — $4,200 Creamy Dessert Spread Made by Team Scott’s of Wisconsin, Scott’s of Wisconsin, Sun Prairie Buyer — Weyauwega Star Dairy, Weyauwega Amount — 10 pounds Price per pound — $240 Total sell price — $2,400 Grand Champion Yogurt – Vanilla Yogurt Made by Steve Buholzer, Klondike Cheese Co., Monroe 2% Greek Yogurt Made by Matt Martin, Klondike Cheese Co., Monroe Buyer — Bader Rutter, Milwaukee Amount — 20 pounds Price per pound — $75 Total sell price — $1,500 Rhubarb Swiss Yogurt Made by Yodelay Yogurt, Madison Buyer — Berenz Packaging, Menomonee Falls Amount — 10 pounds

Thursday, September 5, 2019 | E9

Price per pound — $65 Total sell price — $650 Organic Grassmilk Plain Yogurt Made by CROPP/Organic Valley, LaFarge Buyer — Saputo Cheese USA, Milwaukee Amount — 10 pounds Price per pound — $30 Total sell price — $300 Grand Champion Milk – Chocolate Milk Low Fat Raspberry Kefir Made by Weber’s Farm Store, Marshfield Buyer — Chr. Hansen, Milwaukee Amount — 20 gallons Price per gallon — $40 Total sell price — $800 Low Fat Goat Milk Made by Team LaClare, LaClare Family Creamery, Malone Buyer — John Yingling, Mequon Amount — 10 gallons Price per gallon — $10 Total sell price — $100

Westby Cooperative Creamery plant manager Ryan O’Donnell receives grand champion sour cream award, among others, from Meghan Buechel, 2019 Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs.

Westby brand organic sour cream takes top honors ‌The Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Promotions Board has recently awarded firstplace honors to Westby brand organic sour cream. It’s the first time an organic Westby Cooperative

Creamery dairy food has earned top honors. In addition Westby brand conventional French onion dip took first-place honors for Please see WESTBY, Page E10

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E10 | Thursday, September 5, 2019




Listen for connection first


e’ve heard it again and again. Farmers represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population. Everyone else is multiple generations removed from production agriculture. That means those of us blessed to call ourselves farmers must do a better job of telling our stories. It’s no easy task, especially with our farm workload in addition to all the other challenges we face today. Ensuring cows are milked, equipment is working and SHELLY calves are healthy MAYER will always take priority. In addition to all that, it’s difficult to address all the questions, misconceptions and even outright lies we see swirling around on social media and in other outlets. It can feel so overwhelming; I’ve been there. But I had a lightbulb moment when we began selling farmstead beef at farmers markets this past summer. We received amazing feedback from customers about the flavor of the beef. We knew all along it was good stuff; we’ve been eating it ourselves for years. But it sure was reassuring to receive such strong positive reactions from others. The farmers-market experience has also been a little jarring and eye-opening. The intent of those farm-to-consumer venues is noble. But I’m convinced that focusing solely on telling our story is a little off-base. I believe if we concentrate too much on telling our story, we run the risk of appearing self-serving rather than consumer-serving. Connecting with our customers is what we really should be doing. They aren’t wrong about what they want to eat or how they feel

the unknown. That fear is all too often stoked by corporate marketing departments and anti-agriculture activists. There are actions busy farmers can take. Look at the conversations we have with non-farm family, friends, neighbors and strangers as an opportunity to share our passion about agriculture. Instead of becoming frustrated with questions or misconceptions, take a step back to listen and ask questions. Understand what’s motivating the other person’s passion or concern. CONTRIBUTED‌ Rather than being so eager While spending time at farmers markets it was common for young moms to make another person to listen to our story, we should instead about their food. It’s true that to ask questions about our products. In their questions we heard all the seek to find common values. We many are poorly informed or common buzz words like genetically modified organism-free, natural, are all looking for healthy food even afraid of certain products and free of one ingredient or another. Rather than first answering their raised in a responsible way. If we because of inaccurate food infor- questions, we learned to first ask them for clarity. start by finding a shared connecmation, farming propaganda and tion instead of jumping right into Our repeated experiences at comes from. In their questions food guilt. But every consumer defending our position – and farmers markets provided good we heard all the common buzz knows what he or she wants. trying to prove we’re right and reminders of just how blessed words like genetically modified It’s our job to connect with others are wrong – we’ll find we consumers. As we’re listening to organism-free, natural, and free we are to be able to enjoy the have a lot in common after all. fruits of our labor. We eat fresh of one ingredient or another. them we need to take in “data” As dairy farmers we are so beef we raised ourselves as well Rather than first answering while they share their beliefs, blessed to have a direct link with as garden-fresh vegetables we their questions, we learned to fears, questions and general the world’s best meat and milk planted, weeded and watered first ask them for clarity. We thoughts. Listening to their – and also the understanding – and so much more. Even on asked for example what GMOstories and questions without of how it’s made. Realize not our worst days on the farm, free meant to her. Nine times judgement can be really difeveryone is as fortunate as we we know we are blessed with a out of 10 her answer was totally ficult – especially when their are. We have an opportunity to special bond with our animals different than I would have beliefs, truths and absolutes connect with others and share guessed. It led to an opportunity and the land. That connection are counter to our own. But what we know. But first let them for me to explain that I also care comes from a legacy rooted in a that’s the first essential step in commitment by our parents and share what’s important to them. deeply about what I feed my hearing their stories and pograndparents to do things right. We can open the door for a contentially connecting with them. family. It often includes a push from the versation and a life-changing “I have a family,” I would say. We shouldn’t think our story is younger generation to adopt new experience for both the con“I care about my food. I also more important than another technologies and practices to be sumer and ourselves. We need person’s story. If we want to shift question where my food comes to commit to connecting with even more sustainable and proanother person’s understanding from and care about how it’s our consumers in the process of ductive. of agriculture and the food we’re grown.” sharing how their food is grown Most people don’t have this Boom; we have something in producing, we need to first build common. After I listened to their opportunity – about 98 percent. and raised. a personal connection. Sadly their ideas about food While spending time at farm- stories, they asked about mine. Shelly Mayer is the executive direcproduction are fed to them by We connected. I often learned ers markets it was common for the media, internet and outdated tor of Professional Dairy Producers more than they did – and they young moms to ask questions typically returned the following stereotypes of agriculture. Their of Wisconsin; email smayer@pdpw. about our meat. They wanted org to contact her. Visit pdpw.org questions stem not from a disweek asking for more beef. And to know what’s in our meat, for more information. together “our story” continued. like of famers but from a fear of how it’s grown and where it

Utility heads say zero-carbon electricity possible before 2050, but questions remain CHRIS HUBBUCH


State Journal‌

From E9

the second year in a row. Dairy companies from across Wisconsin submitted a record 445 cheese, butter and other dairy food entries in the 2019 competition. Westby Cooperative Creamery also earned a third-place for its organic, whole milk, plain Greek yogurt and a second-place for its organic French onion dip bringing the award total to five. Westby Cooperative Creamery has been in continual operation since 1903 and is unique in that it accepts both organic and conventional milk from its patron-member-owners. Westby brand dairy foods include cottage cheeses, sour creams, dairy dips, yogurts, butter, cheese curds and other cheese products. Visit www.westbycreamery. com for more information.

‌Leaders of three Madison-area utilities say Wisconsin will be able to generate carbon-neutral electricity before mid-century, though the means and costs remain unclear. “We have the will. We will find the way,” said Jeff Keebler, president and CEO of Madison Gas & Electric, which earlier this year set a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. “We as an entity want to do it. We as a community want to do it. Technology is rapidly evolving.” Though he wouldn’t predict what the utility’s generation portfolio might look like in the coming decades, Keebler said he expects MGE will meet its goal ahead of schedule. “Every decision that we’re making, we’re looking at it in the context of how fast does this get us where we need to be,” he



said. Last month, Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order establishing a statewide goal of carbon-free electricity by 2050, a target shared by MGE and Xcel Energy, which plans to retire its Midwest coal fleet by 2030. Wisconsin’s other largest utilities — We Energies, WPS Corp. and Alliant Energy — have announced plans to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent. A 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned greenhouse gas emissions need to drop 45 percent in the next decade and fall to near zero by 2050 in order

Twohig Rietbrock Schneider & Halbach



to minimize the risk of catastrophic climate change. Alliant CEO John Larsen said he believes the industry can de-carbonize sooner. “Directionally, we’re on that path,” Larsen said. “We put innovation and creativity into it, and I’m optimistic.” Utilities are run by engineers and innovators who are good at solving problems, said Mike Peters, president of WPPI, a Sun Prairie-based cooperative that distributes energy to 51 nonprofit utilities across Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan. “I’m very confident we can get there by 2050,” Peters said. The three utility presidents spoke last week at an event organized by Customers First, a coalition of utilities and consumer

groups. The panel was moderated by Rebecca Ryan, an author and consultant who advises organizations on how to prepare for the future. Ryan, who said climate change is the number one fear among local governments, said utility leaders need to consider a range of possible scenarios, such as potential regulations, the rise of self-contained “microgrids,” or a widespread blackout. “For my money, we don’t need better technology,” she said. “We need better ethics and better strategy for making wise decisions.” In addition to wind, solar and storage, utility leaders said a zero-carbon future will also depend on new ways of managing customer demand. That could be done through internet-enabled thermostats and smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa as well as rates that vary by time of day, especially with the adoption of more electric vehicles. The key, Keebler said, is to get those smart devices working together in a way that reduces overall system

demand, lowering costs for all ratepayers, not just those who might be cutting back. “It’s the integration of those things — you need someone or something to play the conductor,” he said. “It’s about achieving efficiency and being able to generate into that through clean sources.” Larsen said customers today — and increasingly in the future — expect more two-way communication and individualization. “Maybe it will be an app like Spotify, where we know what they want, perhaps just by understanding behaviors,” he said. “And we will tailor what we do.” Peters suggested municipal utilities could go back to making their own power and functioning as self-contained systems that could operate independently or as part of the larger electrical grid. “They were microgrids before it was cool to be microgrids,” he said. “Maybe in the future we go back to locally sited generation within those communities, but WPPI would be working with them to manage that.”


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