PDPW Dairy's Bottom Line -- January 2022

Page 1

Volume 24: Issue 1 January 2022

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

Dairy Innovation Hub: partnership at its best Heather White

Page 7 Five candidates on ballot for PDPW board

Page 9 PDPW Business Conference, Mar. 16-17, Wisconsin Dells

Page 10 Manage amidst increasing costs

Page 16 Calves need winter care

The Dairy Innovation Hub concept was first imagined during an informal meeting at Mitch Breunig’s Mystic Valley Dairy near Sauk City, Wisconsin. After the initial idea was d e ve l o p e d , dairy groups and passionate dairy leaders partnered Heather with UniverWhite sity of Wisconsin-System to transform the original collection of ideas on a whiteboard into a reality with practical and powerful purpose. Funded through a $7.8 million-per-year investment by the state of Wisconsin, the UW-Dairy Innovation Hub positions Wisconsin’s dairy community for economic, environmental and social success. It advances science, develops talent and leverages collaboration at UW-Madison, UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls, as well as in the broader dairy sector. There are four priority areas. • Enhance human health and nutrition. • Enhance animal health and welfare. • Steward land and water resources. • Grow farm businesses and communities. In a little more than two years, the Dairy Innovation Hub has funded more than

University of Wisconsin

Andrew Sommer, doctoral student at Kerri Coon’s lab, pours out a liquid bait solution while switching a fly trap on a summer day in the UW-Dairy Cattle Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

100 proposals and managed 11 faculty searches, recruiting some of the best and brightest minds to Wisconsin for faculty positions. It’s been exciting to see new discoveries coming to light. • In the UW-Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences a t M a d i s o n , Fra n c i s c o Peñagaricano and Kent Weigel are researching “Innovative solutions for sustainable improvement of dairy cow fertility.” Using genomics, their aim is to help farmers identify, rank and select the most fertile cows in their herd, with an end goal to reduce reliance on hormonal treatments such as ovulation-synchronization protocols. • At UW-Department of Food Science at Madison, Yu Hasegawa and Brad Bolling are researching whey-fortified fermented milk for

inhibiting intestinal inflammation. The objective of the project is to determine how fermented-milk products regulate gut inflammation and how they could help prevent chronic inflammation. • At UW-Platteville, “Evaluation of biochar incorporation into manure systems for improving air quality and odor management” is a project being led by Joe Sanford in agricultural and biological systems engineering. Because farmers are looking for a cost-effective method to manage greenhouse-gas emissions and reduce odor from manure systems, that study looks to meet those objectives. • In the UW-Department of Plant and Earth Science at River Falls, Christopher Holtkamp is working to develop policies that encourage social connections in communities where larger farms are becoming more common. Because an increase in large farms often correlates with the exiting of small farms, there’s a potential for social relationships among community members to be impacted. With the intent to contribute to stronger and more-sustainable economic vitality, the project aims to inform local areas about upcoming changes occurring in Wisconsin communities. Please see HUB, Page 2

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


January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

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 Katy Schultz Fox Lake, Wis. 920-210-9661 katylschultz@gmail.com Vice President Janet Clark Rosendale, Wis. 608-341-6709 vafarmsllc@hotmail.com Secretary John Haag Dane, Wis. 608-576-0812 jahaag5@gmail.com Treasurer Steven Orth Cleveland, Wis. 920-905-2575 orthlanddairy@gmail.com Directors Andy Buttles Lancaster, Wis. 608-723-4712 stonefront@tds.net Ken Feltz Stevens Point, Wis. 715-570-6390 feltzfarms@hotmail.com Corey Hodorff Eden, Wis. 920-602-6449 corey@secondlookholsteins.com Paul Lippert Pittsville, Wis. 715-459-4735 lippert4735@gmail.com

PDPW Advisers Andrew Skwor 608-963-5211 askwor@msa-ps.com Kurt Petik 920-904-2226 kurt.petik@raboag.com Roger Olson 920-362-4745 roger.olson@zinpro.com Peter Weber 715-613-6664 pweber@genex.coop www.pdpw.org mail@pdpw.org 800-947-7379

Hub From 1

One of the greatest benefits of the Dairy Innovation Hub is that it supports communities and people beyond the scope of dairy and agriculture. • ‌Impacting such critical areas as infant and women health is Beth Olson, associate professor at UW-Department of Nutritional Sciences at Madison. The Dairy Innovation Hub is funding work she’s doing to compare consumer preferences as stated on surveys with purchasing data to create nutritional messaging that closes the gap between what people say they prefer and what they ultimately buy. “Consumers consistently rank nutrition very highly when asked about product preference,” Olson said. “But when they go to the store to actually make purchases they don’t always buy based on nutrition.” • ‌Wastewater treatment also has implications far beyond dairy. Zhezhen Fu is an assistant professor in the UW-Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Platteville. Funds from the Dairy Innovation Hub are supporting his aim to create a new template for dairy-wastewater treatment. By using bio-inspired wood templates instead of expensive and complicated ceramic-membrane-filtration systems, Fu hopes to develop a reduced-cost, excellent-efficiency method for dairy-wastewater treatment. Regarding the UW-Pioneer Farm facility, Fu said, “The dairy center generates more than 3 million gallons of wastewater each year. If we can do some treatment and recycle that wastewater it can save the farm money and improve the environment.” • ‌S tudents and faculty at Kerri Coon’s lab at UW-Madison are studying the potential role flies play in transmitting mastitis- and enteritis-causing bacteria to dairy cows. Other researchers at UW-Madison are studying the effects of enteric

methane, carbon-dioxide emission and oxygen consumption of large animals fed and managed in freestall barns and on pasture. The project relies on a Dairy Innovation Hub-funded C-Lock Inc. GreenFeed unit. • ‌Elsewhere in the state, Patrick Woolcock – an assistant professor in the UW-Agricultural Engineering Technology Department – has a Dairy Innovation Hub-supported faculty fellowship. Through it he’s exploring expansion opportunities for the Mann Valley Farm’s dairy-manure-composting program. Equipment used in the project is funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub. An aspect of the Dairy Innovation Hub that can’t be over-emphasized is the collaboration between each campus. Collaboration is encouraged and fostered across leadership teams as well as with faculty and facilities. Researchers are working together across campuses on projects that simply would not happen otherwise. Sometimes when one dreams big, an idea grows that has great breadth and potential impact – as has been the case with that first meeting at Mystic Valley Dairy. The Dairy Innovation Hub is an example of the great things we can accomplish when we have the courage to chase after big dreams, and the fortitude to persevere in the face of challenges. It takes a lot of people to take an initial concept and turn it into something tangible. Faculty and leaders at UW-Madison, UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls knew that working together would make for a larger impact. It’s been a real pleasure to serve as the inaugural faculty director for the Dairy Innovation Hub to help make the novel idea a reality. Cheers to a new year filled with even more grant awards and exciting outcomes. Heather White is the faculty director of the University of Wisconsin-Dairy Innovation Hub; email heather. white@wisc.edu to reach her. Visit dairyinnovationhub.wisc.edu for more information about the Dairy Innovation Hub.

Upcoming Educational Events JAN 18-20

The Dairy Signal™ Online, 12 – 1 pm CT Visit www.pdpw.org to participate in live-streamed event. Audio/video recordings also available free.

JAN 19-20, 2022

Financial Literacy for Dairy® (Level 2 begins)

PDPW headquarters Juneau, Wis. Visit www.pdpw.org for details; all sessions held in compliance with CDC guidelines.

JAN 25-27

The Dairy Signal™ Online, 12 – 1 pm CT Visit www.pdpw.org to participate in live-streamed event. Audio/video recordings also available free.

FEB 1-3; 8-10;

The Dairy Signal™ Online, 12 – 1 pm CT Visit www.pdpw.org to participate in live-streamed event. Audio/video recordings also available free.

FEB 9-10, 2022

Financial Literacy for Dairy® (Level 2 resumes) PDPW headquarters Juneau, Wis. Visit www.pdpw.org for details; all sessions held in compliance with CDC guidelines.

FEB 15-17; 22-24; MAR 1-3

The Dairy Signal™ Online, 12 – 1 pm CT Visit www.pdpw.org to participate in live-streamed event. Audio/video recordings also available free.

MAR 2-3

Financial Literacy for Dairy® (Level 2 concludes) PDPW headquarters Juneau, Wis. Visit www.pdpw.org for details; all sessions held in compliance with CDC guidelines.

MAR 8-10, 2022

The Dairy Signal™ Online, 12 – 1 pm CT Visit www.pdpw.org to participate in live-streamed event. Audio/video recordings also available free.

MAR 15-16, 2022

Cornerstone Dairy Academy™ Kalahari Resorts Wisconsin Dells, Wis. Visit www.pdpw.org for details; all sessions held in compliance with CDC guidelines.

MAR 16-17, 2022

PDPW Business Conference Kalahari Resorts Wisconsin Dells, Wis. More details to come; all sessions to be held in compliance with CDC guidelines.

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

January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Optimal herd health starts at birth Ehsan Khafipour and Kelly Reed

The future success of one’s milking herd begins with the health of calves born today. By providing proper nutrition and management, a calf ’s gut microbiome and immune system can have a good start. That will help production, performance and ultimately the dairy producer’s bottom line. The foundaEhsan tion of herd Khafipour health starts with calves, and calf health starts with nutrition to support immune function and growth. Calves are born with Kelly Reed 100 percent of their genetic potential. Dairy managers need to provide environment and nutrition to capitalize on that potential – or they’ll lose it. A calf’s milk phase is expensive, whether that be whole milk or milk replacer. It’s not enough for them to just survive. Optimal nutrition for calves to thrive and be productive is the long-term goal. Quality nutrition and proactive management are vital from day one. Establishing a healthy gut microbiome from birth can have a lasting impact on a calf’s life. Providing excellent-quality colostrum is critical because it helps develop a calf’s microbiome and is an essential part in keeping the calf healthy. A calf’s microbiome at birth is immature. Colostrum helps develop it, protecting the gut lining and helping shape the immune system. A good starting point for evaluating the effectiveness of the colostrum program is to measure serum total proteins in the blood of calves. Improved passive transfer results in healthier calves. But according to the 2007 National Animal Health Monitoring System

survey, about 19 percent of dairy-heifer calves in the United States failed to passive-transfer. To provide successful passive transfer of immunity, feed excellent-quality colostrum promptly after birth – within one to two hours. Minimize bacterial contamination of colostrum by properly preparing the udder, collecting colostrum in a clean container and following other sanitation best practices. Colostrum management is the single-most important management factor in determining calf health and survival. Feeding gut microbes for optimal growth and establishing a healthy microbiome is critical. The rumen and intestine microbiomes contribute to most of a dairy animal’s functions. They play a key role in the digestion of nutrients, education of the immune system, functionality of gut epithelium and creation of a proper gut environment. Components of the gut microbiome produce a range of metabolites that impact the function of distant organs such as the lungs, liver, udder and reproductive system. Therefore establishing proper rumen and intestine microbiomes early in life and supporting their populations throughout different life stages is pivotal for the longterm health and production efficiency of dairy calves and cows. Various factors affect establishment of the gut microbiome. Colonization of the rumen and intestines starts during and after birth. Microbes from the vaginal tract and cow environment are among the first colonizers, followed by those introduced by colostrum, milk, and liquid and solid feed. Among those, colostrum and milk microbiota perhaps play a more-important role in intestinal-microbiome development than those of the rumen. During the first several weeks of a calf’s life, microbiomes of the rumen and hindgut are changing quickly from one

composition to the next. The first group of colonizers changes the gut environment in a way that promotes the growth of a certain group of secondary colonizers and so on. Their adequate abundance maximizes calf growth and immune efficiency, and promotes robustness and resilience of the microbiome against stressors and infectious agents. Effectively impact microbiome development – Calf nutrition and management strategies are critical for preparing the proper rumen and intestine microbiomes for life, particularly the timely feeding of colostrum. Research at the University of Alberta showed that delaying first colostrum feeding by 12 hours tends to decrease Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp. compared to calves fed colostrum immediately after birth. Other strategies during the pre-weaning stage – such as feeding liquid calf diets fortified with probiotics and postbiotics – can improve proper colonization of the calf’s microbiome, help prevent microbial imbalance and reduce incidence of infectious diseases. Low rumen pH at weaning accompanied with an imbalance of rumen and intestine microbiomes can compromise epithelial-barrier function and result in leaky gut. As a result, a weaning strategy that includes postbiotic supplementation can provide influential members of the microbial community a competitive edge as compared to opportunistic and pathogenic microorganisms. That prevents excessive growth of those species, and helps maintain the diversity and balance of the microbial communities in the rumen and intestines. The outcome is controlled fermentation, and improved rumen and hindgut environment. Together those strategies can improve calf growth, minimize weaning-associated feed-intake depression,

Diamond V

Quality nutrition and proactive management are vital from day one.

and reduce calf susceptibility to infectious diseases within and outside the gut. Better calf health leads to better-performing cows – Sufficient nutrition and management early in life improves performance, health and the well-being of young calves. And it can allow them to express genetic potential for milk production and longevity. It’s important to recognize and capitalize on those effects via management and feeding practices. Through genetic selection in breeding programs, producers might achieve 150 to 300 pounds more of milk production per lactation. Striving for continued genetic improvement is important. But it’s key to remember that managers can have a significantly greater impact on lifetime performance. Lifetime performance is influenced by early life development. Dairy producers can capitalize on the early life of a calf through nutrition. Ensuring the f u t u re ’s p ro d u c t ive cow depends on today’s calf feeding and management practices. Ehsan Khafipour is the director of microbiome research and technical support at Diamond V, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Dr. Kelly Reed, veterinarian, is a ruminant field technical specialist at Diamond V. Email ehsan_khafipour@diamondv.com or kreed@diamondv.com to reach them.


January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Start cash-flow planning Brad Guse

With 2021 in the rear-view mirror, the agricultural outlook continues to be less than stable; input prices and markets continue to exhibit volatility. It’s during such times of uncertainty that cashflow planning Brad Guse takes on added importance. First let’s explain how a cashflow budget differs from a profitand-loss budget. A profit-and-loss projection is a predictor of earnings; it includes non-cash items, accruals and depreciation. While earnings support debt repayment in the long term, it takes cash to make the debt payments. A cash-flow budget accounts for all uses and sources of cash in an operation. It further identifies when those cash flows are moving in and out so shortfalls or surpluses can be pinpointed. During spring planting, for example, a lot of cash goes out to put crops in the ground. Meanwhile the cash sale of those crops may not occur until much later, creating a shortfall for the period between. In that case, the cash-flow projection would account for the financing needed to put crops in the ground or the increase in operating-loan balances to cover input costs. Key definitions involved with cash-flow planning • ‌Cash from operations – the cash provided by or used by the ongoing operations of the business. Such cash can be reconciled back to the earnings by accounting for accrual adjustments. • ‌Cash from investing activity – the cash inflow or outflow from capital-asset purchases or sales, or other investing activity. • ‌Cash from financing activity – that’s primarily the cash sources and uses tied to debt. It’s also where nonfarm draws and capital contributions are accounted for. • ‌Net cash flow – the difference between inflows and outflows during a given period.

Avoid projection pitfalls Cash-flow planning is an essential tool but it’s easy to fall into traps. Be sure to avoid the following common mistakes when making projections. • ‌Unrealistic assumptions – projections should be based on realistic and current market conditions. Being too optimistic or too pessimistic does little to help in the planning and analysis process. • ‌Inaccurate debt schedule – be sure to understand repayment streams. • ‌Not accounting for nonfarm-cash uses accurately – using an estimate of family living costs is not acceptable. Have a clear understanding of the real number. Keep assessing Cash-flow planning is not a one-and-done projection. Producers need to be ready to adapt by updating cash-flow projections as conditions change. That could include performing a stress test to determine the impact of a reduction in revenue or an increase in interest rates. Doing so will help analyze the risk-management plan and offer an idea of how much working capital is really needed. Conducting an enterprise analysis can help determine which parts of an operation are generating or draining cash, and whether those levels are appropriate. For example it’s readily understood that replacements are necessary and that raising replacements on a dairy farm reduces cash flow. It’s important to know if the drain matches the replacement rate. Cash-flow planning requires a continuous evaluation to ensure a producer’s operation maintains positive trends and eliminates negative trends wherever possible. Take time now to make a cash-flow projection to be better prepared for the road ahead. Brad Guse is senior vice-president of agricultural banking at BMO Harris, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email bradley.guse@bmo.com to reach him.

Arm & Hammer

Maintaining consistent feed intake in the dairy herd is key to the health of dairy cows.

Consistent feed intake critical for cow health Ben Saylor

Consistent feed intake is more important than many producers may realize. Because cows are creatures of habit, the more consistency in their daily routine, t h e b e t te r. The same goes for the Ben Saylor rumen and its microbial community. In a perfect world a steady flow of nutrients enters the rumen day in and day out, providing a constant supply of energy to the rumen bugs and ultimately to the cow herself.

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

Consider what happens when that perfect standard isn’t reached. Contrary to what one might think, a period of reduced intake causes a fair amount of stress to the cow’s digestive system. When a cow goes off-feed, that steady flow of nutrients producers aim for shuts off, affecting important metabolic and physiological processes. Those consequences put her at risk of multiple digestive and immunological challenges. More than one factor can cause cows to go off feed. • ‌Empty feed bunks – It sounds simple, but keeping fresh feed in front of cows can be an issue on dairy farms. The causes vary but

Editorial Managing Editor Julie Belschner 608-219-8316 jbelschner@madison.com Advertising Sales Manager Tammy Strauss 608-250-4157 tstrauss@madison.com

January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Fine-tune weaning for great gains Amanda Krahn

The milk-fed phase is one of the most costly pieces of a heifer-rearing proAmanda gram. It can be Krahn te m p t i n g to make cuts to save cost at that stage of life, but if a farm has chosen to make an investment in milk-based nutrition for the youngest members of its herd it cannot afford to lose the progress they have made at weaning.

include changes in dry-matter content, an increase in pen size without changing the amount of feed delivered, a feeder who makes a mistake or an equipment malfunction. • ‌Calving – Feed intake by cows during the three weeks before calving can decrease by 33 percent, and by as much as 88 percent the week before calving. That reduction in intake can have a dramatic impact on rumen function, emphasizing the importance of an effective transition-cow-management program. • ‌Environmental stressors – Heat stress can affect feed intake. When that happens it’s important to put appropriate heat-abatement measures in place to maintain intake as much as possible. • ‌Diseases and disorders – Cattle impacted by bovine viral diarrhea can have as much as an 80 percent reduction in feed intake. Cows with transition disorders such as hypocalcemia, mastitis or metritis can experience a decrease in intake of as much as 50 percent. Gastrointestinal tract has critical functions ‌The primary responsibility of the gastrointestinal tract is the digestion of feedstuffs. That includes the absorption of

In early life, before a calf has had significant rumen development, she is extremely efficient at converting the nutrients provided by milk into lean tissue – muscle – and frame growth. To capitalize on that phase of the calf’s life – and reap the health, growth and future milk-production benefits that research has shown to come from feeding larger volumes of milk – many dairies have started feeding more milk to their pre-weaned calves to drive weight and frame growth.

When a dairy takes that approach to its calf program, it can develop some rock-star calves that have excellent condition and hair coats prior to weaning. But the plan can quickly backfire and create a post-weaning slump if the weaning process isn’t created appropriately. And all who have seen that post-weaning lag recognize it can create a huge bottleneck in the system. The weaning strategy that’s created on a farm is important to help reduce setbacks and the stress of transition. The volume

of milk fed when calves are at their peak intake is a key factor to consider when determining the number of days during which calves should be weaned. The more milk calves are fed, the longer and slower the weaning process must be to ensure they have a smooth transition from milk to grain. First determine how many pounds of solids that calves are fed per day. That’s easy to do on herds that feed milk replacer. It’s

short-chain fatty acids, minerals and other key nutrients in the ration. ‌A second function involves creating a protective barrier that stands as the first line of defense for the immune system. That barrier regulates the flow of materials in and out of the gastrointestinal tract, protecting the animal from pathogens and other harmful substances while allowing nutrients to flow freely into the bloodstream. ‌A third function is communicating between the host and the microbiome as well as nutrient sensing and signaling. To perform all three critical functions optimally, a cow needs to have a healthy gut.

75 percent, 50 percent and 25 percent of their voluntary feed intake. The heifers were all fed the same diets and their recovery was tracked for three weeks once feed intake was restored. Heifers that experienced the greatest reduction in feed intake during the treatment period, or 25 percent of their voluntary intake, had several reactions. • ‌reduced production of short-chain fatty acids • ‌reduced capacity of the rumen and small intestine to absorb nutrients • ‌reduced protective-barrier function of the gastrointestinal tract • ‌reduced ruminal pH in the recovery period once normal feed intake was restored In a study from Iowa State University, reduced feed intake resulted in a systemic inflammatory response and altered intestinal morphology.

levels of intake were restored. A study by Pederzolli, et al., published in 2018, showed a 50 percent reduction in the absorptive surface area of the rumen following a period of reduced feed intake. That reduction in the ability of the rumen to absorb short-chain fatty acids could explain why cattle are at a greater risk of developing ruminal acidosis following an off-feed event.

Feed-intake reduction has consequences Research shows that reduced feed intake can be detrimental to the aforementioned functions. A study in Germany exposed animals to 48 hours of complete feed withdrawal. Compared to animals that were not subjected to the treatment, absorption of short-chain fatty acids was reduced by 50 percent. A University of Saskatchewan study by Zhang et al. evaluated the impact of different levels of reduced feed intake. In the study, 18 Angus heifers were fed diets at

Recovery has long road Studies have shown that recovery after an off-feed event can be extensive. In a study by Zhang, et al., recovery took the longest in heifers that experienced the greatest reduction in intake. Although their ruminal pH was greatest during the period of feed restriction, pH was reduced drastically when normal

Please see WEANING, Page 6

Prevent reduced feed intake As seen from the results of the studies, periods of reduced feed intake can have a significant impact on the long-term health of dairy cows. To avoid off-feed events, implement management strategies. • ‌Follow strict feeding protocols to prevent empty feed bunks. • ‌Avoid overcrowding so all animals within a pen have access to feed. • ‌Offer fresh cows a high-forage diet for two or three days after calving before transitioning them to a more energy-dense ration. Ben Saylor is the technical-services manager at Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email benjamin. saylor@churchdwight.com for more information regarding studies specifically cited.


January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Dairy trends, opportunities re-emerge in 2022 Patrick Geoghegan

The consumer-purchasing landscape has gone through seismic shifts in the past two years. As we look to the new year we ’ re s e e i n g many of the trends we were talking about prior to Covid19’s re-emerPatrick Geoghegan ge n c e ; t h o s e trends are providing great opportunities for dairy to shine. Let’s examine some of the developments seen in 2021 and consider what opportunities lie ahead. Dairy sales increase Despite numerous changes experienced at retail and food service, we’re seeing Americans are still quite interested in dairy. Remember 96 percent of Americans have dairy products in their refrigerators, a household penetration exceeded only by one or two other products. Because 2020 was an outlier,

we’re looking at 2019 sales data as a comparison for dairy-sales growth. Using the first half of 2019 as a more-normal baseline, we see a 10 percent elevation in 2021 cheese sales. As regular activities resumed for many consumers across the country, people began dining out again. That meant less

money spent at the grocery store and more money spent in restaurants. The good news is that while food-service sales have increased up to a new record, somewhat in line with where they were trending prior to the pandemic, that hasn’t necessarily come at the expense of retail sales.

Monthly retail sales have maintained the elevated level they reached in 2021 and continue to increase, which is great news for the dairy sector. Because some home-based behaviors are expected to linger, research indicates that in-home consumption will stay at levels more than pre-COVID.


traditional thinking that a seven-day weaning period is adequate. Calves fed 2 to 2.5 pounds of solids should be weaned during 10 to 14 days to ensure they have adequate grain intake to help develop the rumen before weaning. Similarly, for calves fed 2.5 pounds-plus of milk solids at their peak intake, consider extending the weaning duration to 14 to 21 days. For herds feeding three times per day or autofeeder herds, a weaning period of 21 days or greater is also recommended. A general rule of thumb when establishing weaning programs is that the weaning process should have the same number of step-downs as there were stepups in early life when ramping up calves to peak milk intake.

When structuring a weaning plan, take into account housing constraints, the date calves need to come out of the hutch or pen, and how high-pressure calving times will be handled. It’s common to first establish the date of exit from the hutch. Then build the milk-feeding program backward from there to ensure there will be enough time for calves to wean appropriately while maximizing the time calves are at peak milk intake. If a farm is having post-weaning issues beyond the length of the weaning process, evaluate several items. • ‌When is the weaning process started? Research from the University of Guelph shows that when calves are weaned later – at eight weeks instead of six weeks, for example – calves

transition and maintain their average daily gains better. • ‌How are the calves weaned? • ‌A re calves consuming enough grain prior to weaning? • ‌Are calves consuming adequate amounts of water? • ‌How long are calves able to stay in their hutches or pens after weaning? • ‌What size group do calves move into after weaning? All those pieces together create a smooth transition from a milk-based diet to a grain-based diet. Eliminating the potential post-weaning growth slump creates a better, healthier candidate for the future milking herd.

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more challenging for herds that feed pasteurized milk. For those who feed whole milk, it’s recommended to send five to seven days of milk samples to the farm’s creamery or another lab to ensure percent solids of the milk is appropriately accounted for. In addition, powder or other products added to milk – such as probiotics, colostrum powder and coccidiostats – also need to be accounted for. After pounds of solids is determined, the weaning duration can be established. For herds where calves are fed 2-plus pounds of solids per day, managers should challenge the

Amanda Krahn is a calf and heifer specialist with CP Feeds, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email asmith@ cpfeeds.com to reach her.

January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Five candidates vie for PDPW board Three dairy-producer members will be elected to seats on the 2022-2023 PDPW board of directors during the 2022 PDPW Business Conference. PDPW bylaws allow one vote per dairyfarm membership; each dairyfarm member can vote for as many as three candidates. This writing also serves as an official announcement of the upcoming business conference. Board members help facilitate the development of programs to bring cutting-edge research, elite training, peer-networking events and hands-on educational opportunities to the dairy industry. Involved in PDPW programs and committees, they also

proactively seek leadership opportunities on non-PDPW committees in the dairy and agricultural industries. This year’s candidates hail from two states; they bring different skill sets and ideas from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Scott Brenner is co-owner of Hunter Haven Farms near Pearl City, Illinois. The farm consists of about 1,000 dairy cows and 1,650 acres of farmed cropland. Before becoming a co-owner, he worked as the herdsman at Hunter Haven Farms for more than 15 years. He has for more than 10 years served on the Stephenson County fair board and

for the past five years as a member of the Stephenson County Farm Bureau board of directors. He’s an enthusiastic advocate for agriculture and consumer education; their farm has hosted many tours throughout the years. Brenner and his wife, Jennifer Brenner, have five children. Incumbent Ken Feltz of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, operates Feltz Family Farms Inc. and Feltz’s Dairy Store Inc. with his

wife, Jackie Feltz, and their family. Their dairy farm consists of 700 acres, all of which are cropped to grow feed for their 700-cow herd. Five full-time employees and all three Feltz children handle responsibilities at the farm and store, with help from part-time employees. Purchased in 1995, the Feltz farm started with a 50-cow herd and

As of June 2021, an IRI survey found that consumers were preparing and eating 80 percent of their meals at home. That number was just 48 percent in 2019. For the 16 percent of Americans who say they don’t expect to ever return to the traditional workplace in their current job, more meal occasions are happening at home rather than restaurants near the office. Considering all the supply-chain shifts our dairy community has faced, the industry has largely been able to meet consumer buying demands while also answering their questions about their food. As we move forward, we’re seeing sustainability and storytelling as key drivers for dairy’s continued success. And from a Wisconsin standpoint those can be strengths for us.

seen. One in 13 Americans says the environment is the biggest issue facing the United States. That’s more than health care, education and COVID. So that tells us sustainability is becoming an increasingly important issue for our customers. Many consumers have already changed habits and purchasing decisions because of those concerns; 67 percent of Gen Z consumers reported already changing behaviors and purchases because of climate change. In the same IRI research report, 59 percent of consumers reported trying to buy products in an environmentally friendly way and 70 percent of consumers stated they would like companies’ sustainable practices to be more visible. With all that in mind, it’s clear now more than ever that to move the industry forward we must further advance and promote dairy’s sustainability efforts. Tell dairy’s story with transparency – Consumers for some time now have been wanting to know more about what they’re eating. A recent Innova study found that three in five global consumers now say they want to learn more about where their food comes from and how it’s made.

Signal Theory research shows that farmers are among the most trusted sources of information about food; they’re seen as very credible and competent. All that shows us that consumer trust depends on shared values – and storytelling with transparency has become a key strategy in achieving this. Storytelling is one of our strengths in Wisconsin. Sharing the message – telling consumers about the products and the people making them – will help consumers feel more connected with the food they’re buying. We’re blessed in this state to work in an industry so rich in history and tradition, both important factors for consumers. With a 180-year history and an acclaimed reputation for crafting truly great cheese – along with ongoing innovation and the industry’s most rigorous standards of excellence – there are solid opportunities for growth. We must listen to our customers and share what we have done and continue to do regarding sustainability. We must be intentional and transparent in our storytelling to drive dairy forward in 2022 and beyond. The next time someone asks what the dairy industry is doing

in terms of sustainability, tell them. • ‌Due to modern management practices, innovative practices in cow health, and improved feed and genetics, the environmental impact of producing a gallon of milk in the United States shrunk significantly in just the past 15 years. It requires 30 percent less water, 21 percent less land and a 19 percent smaller carbon footprint. • ‌In the United States dairy’s greenhouse-gas footprint is less than 2 percent of the nation’s total. • ‌And the industry wants to do even more. That’s why it created The Net Zero Initiative to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. With farmers and processors working together, we will build on already-positive impressions of dairy while continuing to drive sales and earn consumer trust. Visit bit.ly/netzero-dairy to learn more about the Net Zero Initiative.

Key opportunities lie ahead Sustainability important concern for Americans – Sustainability was a hot topic for consumers pre-pandemic but decreased a bit during the worst days of the pandemic when we were primarily focused on staying safe and healthy. But it’s returned. Consumers are once again focused on sustainability – and at the greatest levels we’ve

Scott Brenner

Ken Feltz

John Haag

Corey Hodorff

Randy Rau

Please see CANDIDATES, Page 8

Patrick Geoghegan is executive vicepresident of industry relations at Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, a mission sponsor of PDPW. Email hello@ WisconsinDairy.org to reach him. Visit bit.ly/netzero-dairy to learn more about the Net Zero Initiative.


January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Candidates From 7

a diversified business. A retail store was added in 2017; from it they sell various dairy products including fresh cheese curds, milk and ice cream. Incumbent John Haag of Dane, Wisconsin, owns and operates Haag Dairy LLC, along with his wife, Julie Haag, and son and daughter-in-law Josh and Melissa Haag. They milk 120 cows with two robots; they also raise 200 head of young stock, selling a number of them for dairy replacements. John Haag is responsible for managing the dairy herd and all financials. He is past-president of the Lodi FFA Alumni, current president of the Dane County Dairy Promotion Committee and has served as secretary of PDPW for the past two years. Incumbent Corey Hodorff of Eden, Wisconsin, is part of the fourth generation to own and operate his family’s century farm, along with his wife, Tammy Hodorff, brother Clint Hodorff and father Doug Hodorff. They milk 1,250 cows and crop 1,300 acres at Second Look Holsteins LLC near Eden. On the farm Corey Hodorff oversees team members and management of dairy operations. He’s served as a 4-H leader, a Fond du Lac County Dairy committee member, a Fond du Lac County Junior Holstein adviser and the Fond du Lac County Holstein Association director. Randy Rau of Dorchester, Wisconsin, owns and operates Looking Forward LLC with his brother Dick Rau and their nephew Vince Rau. The dairy is home to 1,250 cows. All crops are purchased from Dick Rau, the current landowner. In the near future Randy and Vince Rau will transition into complete ownership as they complete the buy-out of Dick Rau’s portion. All PDPW members will soon receive mailed ballots for voting, to be returned to PDPW headquarters. Ballots can also be cast on-site at the PDPW Business Conference; they must be received by 1 p.m. March 17. Call PDPW at 800-9477379 for more information.

Develop vision for future success Julie Sweney

Turning the page on the calendar to a new year is refreshing and invigorating. It’s a new year filled with ample opportunities to improve what we do Julie and how we do it. It’s a chance Sweney to learn more about ourselves and to support others in achieving their goals. With a new year ahead of us there are a few things we should consider regarding how we can make it our best year yet. Prepare for best by preparing for worst While it’s uncomfortable to discuss what a farm business would do if the worst would happen to any family owners or partners in the business, it’s still important to not leave that conversation to a rainy day. Worst-case scenarios never give warning that they’re about to take place. Being prepared helps make the best of any situation. Building a farm-succession plan helps ensure that the transition to the next generation is carefully thought out; it helps build ideal conditions for it to take place. Asking the difficult questions now allows for everyone’s goals to be heard and creates a plan that’s successful in achieving objectives. Begin by having a simple conversation with other family members or partners involved in the farm; immediately schedule when the next conversation will take place. Dedicate time to build a thorough succession plan, regardless of how busy life seems. Involve legal counsel to ensure the plan is properly vetted, before moving forward to include a financial institution as well. If a will needs to be established, make a priority to do so. Have the uncomfortable conversations now so the difficult decisions are already made without needing to also deal with heartache and grief. Delegate more to stress less The number of tasks a farmer sets out to accomplish on any given day often becomes mired in new tasks that appear during the day, with plenty more waiting for attention tomorrow. Become a master at a to-do list by delegating tasks to others on the team. The lead decision maker on the farm needs to keep up-todate on finances, nutrition programs, dairy markets and so much more. But his or her time might not be best spent gathering information and reviewing data. Empower other team members with the responsibility to do those things and to share their perspectives on what’s best

for the farm. By involving them in the decision-making process, they’ll feel the leader’s confidence and trust in that person. It’ll also lessen the load on the leader’s shoulders. Work with professionals who can utilize their expertise and experience to perform tasks efficiently on the farm. Occasionally it might be best to outsource a task that’s beyond the talent of those working on the farm. A great example would be building a plan for dairy-price risk management. Any dairy farmer can study the markets and make decisions. But working with someone who has studied the markets and has several years of experience can provide the perfect insight needed to build a solid risk-management plan. It can make use of a variety of available dairy-insurance options, including Livestock Gross Margin, Dairy Revenue Protection and Dairy Margin Coverage. Often a dairy risk-management plan is put on the back burner because farmers don’t fully understand it and honestly don’t quite have the time. The truth is there is far more to understand than a farmer will ever have time for. Leaning into the talents of a seasoned expert is the best way to start and manage a risk strategy. Take personal time Every great leader paves the way for expectations on his or her farm, leading by example. That’s true in nearly every regard – animal care, sustainability efforts and especially the foundation of accomplishing everything through that person’s work ethic. Establishing a strong work ethic in a team is important; it ensures work is done well and efficiently. It’s incredibly important for team members to have a strong work ethic on a farm, where there’s always plenty of work to be done. But taking time to rest and relax is also important. Leaders need to lead by example and show their teams that – as important as the farm is to them and as passionate as they are to be farmers – it’s important to take time away from farm responsibilities. Family and team members will realize themselves that taking a break allows them to come back to the farm with a renewed sense of purpose and focus. Maintaining the work-life balance will also make them better, happier employees. Make the most of the year ahead by embracing these concepts. No matter who we are, what style of operation we have or what our goals are, there’s always ample opportunity to learn and to help support others in becoming better. Julie Sweney is director of communications and marketing with FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative. Email jsweney@farmfirstcoop.com to reach her.

January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


PDPW Business Conference: bold ideas, big results Plans are being finalized for the 2022 PDPW business conference. Scheduled for March 16-17, the annual event will once again be held at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. New this year are sessions simultaneously translated into Spanish. Keynote sessions will present a combination of powerhouse thought leaders to sharpen producers’ ways of handling challenges. Break-out and specialty sessions, as well as Hands-on-Hub sessions and learning lounges, will expound on bold ideas and big results for dairy. The Hall of Ideas and Equipment show will foster idea-sharing and networking for producers and suppliers alike. The Nexus™ stage will showcase five companies whose novel ideas, products and services offer innovative solutions to forward-thinking producers. In follow-up to a

15-minute presentation, representatives from each company will engage in a question-and-answer session with attendees. Rounding out the program will be previews of upcoming university research as well as separate youth-leadership sessions for teens ages 15 to 18. Exhibitor information and applications for the Hall of Ideas and Equipment show are available now. Visit www.pdpw.org/businessconference and click “Exhibit” for more information. Register for Business Conference now at www.pdpw.org/businessconference – then click “Register Now” – or call PDPW at 800-9477379. Those interested in attending the youth-leadership sessions can choose the one-day student-registration rate to register for one or both days. Session information is available in the “Agenda and Program” tab.

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January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Manage in world of increasing costs Jim Moriarty

As we begin a new year, one factor that’s front and center across our economy is increasing prices. Dairy farmers are seeing the effects with sharp i n c re a s e s i n feed, fertilizer, seed, fuel and labor expenses. Fo r t u n a t e l y milk prices have also increased Jim Moriarty so there’s still an opportunity for profitable margins. Yet it’s important to not become complacent about the situation. It can feel like there isn’t anything that can be done about increasing costs. But there are steps managers can take to focus on areas within their control, while preparing for things outside their control. There are strategies to help producers be successful through the current period of increased prices and costs. Continue to increase productivity. As prices for feed and other inputs increase, it can be tempting to simply cut purchases. But it’s important to negotiate prices and evalua te p u rc h a s e s , w i t h o u t detracting from growth in percow productivity. The best avenue to increase revenue and spread out production costs is to invest in cow care, genetics, and excellent-quality forage a n d fe e d i n g re d i e n ts to increase per-cow and wholeherd production. Extend risk-management coverage. Milk-price forecasts for 2022 are favorable, with Class III and Class IV prices well more than historical averages. There’s reason to be optimistic regarding milk prices, but there are always factors beyond control that could cause milk price to decrease unexpectedly. Think about a disruption in exports, for example. As


The new year shows promise for an opportunity for profitable margins, particularly for producers who are proactive in establishing strategies for financial success.

As prices for feed and other inputs increase, it can be tempting to simply cut purchases. But it’s important to negotiate prices and evaluate purchases, without detracting from growth in per-cow productivity. producers buy and lock in greater-cost fertilizer, seed, feed and other inputs for 2022, it’ll be critical to put price floors in on milk price. Every farm should have Dairy Margin Coverage in place at the $9.50 margin level for as much as 5 million pounds. It’s strongly encouraged to obtain Dairy Revenue Protection coverage on at least part of a dairy’s production through all four quarters of 2022. Fix interest rates on term debt. Short-term and variable-interest rates have been at a reduced level for an extended period, which has helped interest costs on many farms. Market indications are for variable

rates to increase in the coming year. Fixed rates on term debt have also started to increase but are still favorable. For those who have variable or shortterm rates on term debt, now may be a good time to extend the fixed-rate coverage. That particularly applies to land purchases, where increased rates can impact the cost of land ownership. Prioritize capital expenditures. Increased costs are also causing the price of new buildings, building improvements and equipment to increase sharply. It’s important to reinvest in the business while focusing the capital budget on investments that

generate the best return. Those are likely going to be the investments that increase cow-care productivity as well as enable workers to be more efficient. Possibly some capital purchases will need to be delayed if they don’t have as good a return. Balance debt structure. As purchases of new equipment or improvements are made, it can be tempting to use a shorter-loan term to obtain a reduced interest rate. Producers need to balance the goal of reduced interest rates with the need to keep annual debt-service obligations manageable, in the event profit margins are squeezed. Some may want to choose longer loan terms to reduce annual principal-payment demands. A guideline is to keep annual principal, interest and capital-lease payments at less than $2.50 per hundredweight of energy-corrected milk production. Maintain working capital. The backstop to prepare for things outside one’s control is to maintain solid working-capital levels. It’s important to ensure payables are current, and that there is plenty of availability in operating lines and other revolving lines of credit so there’s a cushion if things don’t go according to plan. It does appear producers will be working through increased expenses for most if not all of 2022. Fortunately there are a number of steps that can be taken to manage through those costs to continue to generate profits on the farm. With the new year beginning, now is the time to act on the controllable areas, and continue to prepare financial positions for the unexpected. Jim Moriarty is a dairy team director with Compeer Financial, a vision sponsor with PDPW. Email jim. moriarty@compeer.com to reach him.

January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Taste cheese far from home Becky Levzow

The cheese case I stood in front of looked like so many others I’ve seen. There were a dozen or so familiar and favorite brands, including some produced in Wisconsin. I needed to remind myself I was more than 7,000 miles from home. There’s nothing like seeing the power of U.S. dairy exports until actually seeing our products for sale in places far, far from home. My experience happened in Dubai as part of a mission trip to the United Arab Emirates, hosted by the checkoff-founded U.S. Dairy Export Council. I was joined by fellow dairy farmers Alex Peterson of Missouri, Marilyn Hershey of Pennsylvania and Larry Hancock of Texas. U.S. Dairy Export Council President and CEO Krysta Harden served as our host along with other staff members. The trip’s purpose was to see how U.S. Dairy Export Council-led efforts are growing sales of U.S.-produced cheese in one of the world’s most fertile regions for dairy growth. Dubai is home to more than 3 million residents, making it the hub of the United Arab Emirates and one of the Middle East’s largest metropolitan centers. It represents a $2 billion market with 12,000 restaurants that have built a reputation for cutting-edge culinary excellence and created a destination for celebrity chefs. And I’m happy to share that U.S.-produced cheese is on their plates. That was obvious during our visit to the International Centre for Culinary Arts, which consistently ranks among the world’s best culinary-training institutes. Students enrolled there must participate in the USA Cheese Guild program to become a Certified USA Cheese Specialist. Since 2018, 155 chefs have earned that accreditation in the Middle East and North

Home to more than 3 million residents, Dubai represents a $2 billion market with 12,000 restaurants. Grocery stores in the Middle East are replete with cheese produced in the United States, as Becky Levzow sees firsthand on a U.S. Dairy Export Council-affiliated trip.

Africa through the International Centre for Culinary Arts, which developed the program thanks to U.S. Dairy Export Council and producer-checkoff dollars. Those chefs aren’t learning about cheese produced anywhere else in the world – just ours. We saw the program in action. Students representing a variety of countries asked questions about our farms. For an hour and a half, they wanted to know about our sustainability practices, how we care for our animals, how we assure the quality of our products that reach their kitchens and so much more. We then watched as they produced cheese boards and explained the rationale for their pairing decisions. They also needed to make cheese-based appetizers and desserts from scratch. The energy in the room was amazing. We made an impactful connection with a young audience of chefs who one day will be calling the shots in restaurants and hotels around the world. Imagine their power as U.S. dairy ambassadors.

Another memorable moment happened when we visited one of the area’s largest grocery chains, which contained my aforementioned cheese favorites. There are more than 200 LuLu Hypermarket stores in the region. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear I was walking into one of our state’s cheese-centric outlets. The stores are modern, clean, bright and filled with cheese options from our homeland. We couldn’t miss a case near the door that just screamed “U.S. cheese.” But not to worry if we did; there were five more in the store. LuLu boasts 300 U.S. cheesestock-keeping units, between dairy case and deli. U.S. products account for more than 54 percent of those options, thanks to the U.S. Dairy Export Council-led USA Cheese Retail program. U.S. Dairy Export Council employees embedded in Dubai and other parts of the Middle East manage the program, which is designed to help ease supply-chain challenges and the path of moving our cheese into those parts of the world. Since

the LuLu partnership began in 2018, sales have increased from 60 to 120 metric tons, equating to a $1 million increase in U.S. cheese purchases. I sometimes hear farmers question the value of our exports program. Some think if their cooperative doesn’t export, they aren’t impacted by it; I disagree. Maybe one co-op doesn’t export but someone else’s does – and that gives others more space in the store. More than 16 percent of our domestic milk production goes to an international destination such as Dubai. If not for our export program, think what we would do with one day per week of milk production. We can’t consume everything we produce so we need a new home. And sometimes that home is outside the United States. That’s good for all of us. U.S. dairy farmers put boots on the ground in Dubai and markets around the world with funding of the U.S. Dairy Export Council from the national dairy checkoff, as well as state and regional organizations. The U.S. Dairy Export Council also has in-market offices and staff in Mexico and Central America, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South America, South Korea and Europe. U.S. Dairy Export Council experts living in those markets understand the culture and customs, speak the language and know how to identify opportunities to introduce more of our products to audiences that have a hunger for U.S.-produced dairy foods. They are our eyes and ears, and a big reason why a dairy case in the middle of Dubai feels like home. Becky Levzow serves on the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board of Dairy Management Inc., a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email joyrama1@yahoo.com to reach her.


January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Dairy’s Foundation underwrites dairy-centric programs such as Cornerstone Dairy Academy.™ The two-day program concludes with students putting recent learning to work at the PDPW Business Conference.

Invest in next generation of rural leaders Professional Dairy Producers Foundation

Consider what it takes to build the next generation of rural leaders. For generations, rural communities and families have been considering that and looking for solutions. Strong farms, businesses and rural co m m u n i t i e s d e p e n d o n attracting young people. They then need to be developed into the next generation of business owners and managers, community volunteers, church-council and school-board members, elected officials and more. We’re fortunate to have a stronger support system than ever before. Programs such as 4-H and FFA are training young leaders. More community leaders and governments are recognizing the need to start young with leadership and rural-development programs. Advancing technologies and expanding access to rural broadband mean it’s possible to be connected and engaged from more remote locations than ever before. But we face special challenges in the dairy industry. Research and technology advancements are exciting, but increasing social pressures and workforce shortages pose challenges. That

combination means we need to attract and retain the best talent of every generation in order to continue growing and improving our industry. For almost 20 years the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation has focused on the future of the dairy industry across the nation. The foundation was established as the charitable arm of PDPW. It’s the only national foundation where dollars are managed by dairy farmers with an unwavering desire to support and move the dairy sector forward. Developing the next generation of dairy-industry leaders was a priority from the start, b u t i t h a s b e co m e m o re laser-focused through the years. We understand leaders are not born; they are developed and grown. Also known as Dairy’s Foundation, the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation is unique because it supports a range of programs to serve leaders at every stage of development and growth. Those tailored opportunities begin with youth leadership and an introduction to a variety of dairy-related careers for teenagers. Following those opportunities are internship and

mentorship programs for college students and early-career professionals. And manager training, continuing-education programs and networking opportunities are valuable for dairy professionals at any stage of their career. “The Future of Success” youth-leadership sessions were presented during the 2021 PDPW Annual Business Conference. The sessions were designed to help teens ages 15 to 18 discover their inherent leadership styles, find value in building strong teams and learn how to make the most of available tools. Four fast-paced interactive sessions were held during the two-day conference. Youth sessions are once again planned for the 2022 Business Conference and will be open to high school students. Stay tuned for registration information. The PDPW Mentor Program is designed for students of fouryear universities, technical schools and short-course students – for those who want to experience modern dairy-production systems and stimulating career opportunities, with production agriculture as an option. Students are paired with forward-thinking dairy farmers.

They spend time working sideby-side with dairy-producer mentors. “I enjoyed being able to see different types of operations on different scales and learn more in depth about certain aspects of dairy that could potentially be another career field,” said Johanna Hanes after completing the PDPW Mentor Program with Marty Hallock, owner of MarBec Dairy near Mondovi, Wisconsin. Students who complete the program receive complimentary registrations to the PDPW Business Conference for networking and professional-development opportunities. Currently teenagers are growing up in a world that is different than 10 years ago; the skill sets they need to prepare themselves for the future continue to evolve. PDPW Stride™ is a single-day program for high-school students looking to amplify and excel in leadership skills. The multi-session program is full of team exercises and group challenges; it will introduce attendees to career opportunities in the dairy industry. The 2022 program will be held April 2 at Kalahari Resorts in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.

January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line Dairy’s Foundation is able to develop and fund many more programs through the strong support of both dairy producers and industry partners. The “Two Cents for Tomorrow” campaign is a convenient automated way for servant dairy farmers to pledge an ongoing 2 cents per hundredweight of milk sold from their farm. The “Plant a Seed, Inspire a Dream” competition allows foundation supporters to form teams and challenge one another to earn bragging rights as the team that raises the most funds. The foundation also provides giving options that allow supporters to leave legacy gifts on their behalf for the future of the dairy industry. Additionally gifts can be given in honor or memory of another, as well as through GoFundMe, Facebook fundraisers and Amazon Smile donations. For organizations in need of funds for projects that will fill new needs in the dairy industry and that align with the foundation’s core objectives, a grant program is available. The grant cycles run January through May, with a June 1 deadline, and July through November with a Dec. 1 deadline. Dairy’s Foundation firmly believes that rural America grows leaders – and needs to continue doing so. From the days of the pioneers to the generations that endured the Great Depression and other hardships, we’ve overcome challenges and built strong families, farms and communities. The foundation is proud to play a role in building the next generation of leaders to ensure a strong future for the dairy industry and rural communities that we call home. The Professional Dairy Producers Foundation is a mission sponsor of PDPW. Email info@dairyfoundation. org to reach the group.


Reevaluate alfalfa’s role Don Miller

In recent years the amount of alfalfa in dairy rations has steadily declined. Dairies have been reducing the percent of alfalfa in total mixed ration. Producers are replacing it mainly with corn, soyDon Miller bean-meal protein and a mixed bag of other feedstuffs including distiller’s grain, cottonseed meal, almond-seed hulls and various food byproducts – to reduce feed costs and increase milk production. Corn and soybean meal as replacement-protein sources have been the major drivers in the reduction of alfalfa in dairy rations. But in the past several years there’s been a sharp increase in the price of corn, soybean meal and other commodities. The cost of soybean meal, the most widely used protein supplement in dairy rations, continues to be at record levels. Experts agree the price trend will likely continue for at least another year and possibly longer. Dairy operations that rely primarily on corn and soybean-meal protein are seeing substantial increases in costs for milk production. One possible solution to reducing input costs is to modify the type and-or percentages of forages in the ration as well as the protein source. Dairy managers may want to look at the new class of alfalfa varieties, which appear to fit that role well. New alfalfa has advantages The importance of alfalfa in a dairy ration has been wellknown for years for its feeding value and as a good protein source. But many dairies under-utilize alfalfa in the ration, using it mainly as an


The five stems of alfalfa on the left are of the reduced-lignin Hi-Gest® variety. On the right are five stems of a greater-lignin-variety alfalfa, which is less digestible to cows.

excellent-quality fiber source for the rumen. New alfalfa varieties have increased fiber digestibility and leaf-to-stem ratios. The improved quality justifies the reexamination of alfalfa as a larger component of dairy rations. Improved fiber digestibility – Alfalfa has always been considered a good fiber source for the rumen, but the new excellent-forage-quality alfalfa varieties offer a significant improvement in fiber digestion. That improvement amounts to 5 percent to 10 percent more as measured by undigested neutral detergent fiber 240 – or uNDF 240 – which is the amount of neutral detergent fiber remaining undigested after 240 hours. Rates of digestion are also better by 5 percent to 10 percent. The improvement in fiber digestibility increases alfalfa’s value in several ways. In addition to providing adequate fiber for the rumen, that fiber is more digestible, increasing the amount of energy available to produce milk. Also the ingested fiber is digested more completely and at a faster rate, allowing for greater rates of feed intake and increased milk production. Improved leaf-to-stem ratio – New alfalfa varieties have more leaves and that

means more protein. There is a 5 percent to 8 percent improvement in the leaf-to-stem ratio, which translates into a 3 percent to 5 percent increase in crude protein. On a ton of alfalfa hay, a 3 percent increase in crude protein – from 18 percent to 21 percent crude protein – will increase the amount of crude protein by 60 pounds, or a total of 420 pounds of crude protein for each ton of hay fed. Comparatively 100 pounds of alfalfa protein is equivalent to 220 pounds of soybean meal. Adding more alfalfa in the ration can considerably reduce the need for soybean meal. In difficult economic times the advantages of the new generation of excellent-quality-alfalfa varieties give dairy producers the option of growing more of their own excellent-quality forage for herd rations. With that in mind, 2022 may be the year to reconsider alfalfa’s role in corn- and-or soybean-meal-based rations, and utilize alfalfa more fully to reduce input costs – particularly the inflated cost of soybean meal as a protein supplement. Don Miller is director of product development at Alforex Seeds, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email don.miller@alforexseeds.com to reach him.


January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Methods aid in selecting silage-corn hybrids John N. Anderson

What’s laid before cows in a total mixed ration comes from a multitude of sources. Forages are a major component, of which corn silage may be the ingredient in greatest proportion – perhaps 30 pounds of dry matter and almost 50 percent of the ration. Even small differences in key nutritional components of corn silage can affect dry-matter intake, milk production and milk components. That impacts income compared to feed cost directly and significantly. Fiber-digestibility differences may exist between hybrid types. In comparing brown-midrib hybrids to non-brown-midrib varieties, the former can contain 8 to 15 points more neutral-detergent-fiber digestibility at 30 hours. And that’s for hybrids grown in the same environment in the same year. Data shows brown-midrib hybrids offer better digestibility. Also having substantial impact on income compared to feed cost is starch quantity and quality, as well as dry matter and particle size. Starch digestion of the grain, or kernel, portion of corn silage is affected by maturity, particle size, fermentation and genetics. A novel examination of genetic differences was undertaken and reported in 2020 at the American Dairy Science Association annual meeting. It was conducted by Nicole Schlau and Dave Taysom at Dairyland Labs in Arcadia, Wisconsin, with Dave Mertens at Mertens Innovation and Research in Belleville, Wisconsin. It was titled “In vitro gas production detected differences among corn hybrids at silage maturities.” Visit youtu.be/ BHr1TPTHV2c to see the presentation. Three similar-maturity hybrids – floury-2, brown midrib and standard-silage non-brown midrib – were collected within local environments in the Midwest and the eastern United States. Dry-matter contents of the hybrids were similar. The floury-2 gene is a naturally occurring genetic mutation that produces soft endosperm with irregularly shaped protein bodies and greater lysine content. For the study the mean dry-matter percentages for the whole-plant harvest of the hybrid types were • floury-2, 33.4 percent; • brown midrib, 34.2 percent; and • standard-silage non-brown midrib, 34.6 percent. Grinding to a very-fine size makes it difficult to determine differences between hybrids. For the study, particle size of the

In-vitro gas production detected differences among different corn hybrids at silage maturities.

kernels was set to a standard to measure the difference. Kernels were quartered to expose the starch consistently between samples, which somewhat assimilates kernels that have been processed by a forage-harvester kernel processer. Only the kernels were studied. They were tested unfermented because the fermentation process leads to increased starch digestibility. The study showed no advantage from any grind-size difference. Maturity at harvest, particle size and fermentation were similar for the three hybrids. Therefore researchers looked at gas production to gain a better understanding of the hybrids’ starch-digestibility differences. That metric was chosen because gas production is an indirect measurement of digestibility; microbes produce gas as they digest feed. The in-vitro gas production of the hybrids was significantly greater in the floury-2 hybrid compared to the brown midrib and standard-silage non-brown midrib at nine through 24 hours. That parallels an excellent-producing cow’s key rumen-fermentation time. Researchers also concluded that floury-2 kernels had the shortest lag time and the fastest rate of gas production. The gas production was significantly increased at the time points listed in the graph. The early-time-point gas-production difference is consistent with plant-biology work that showed floury-2 as a soft-starch type of endosperm with a reduced level of

prolamin, or zein, proteins – and a physiologically more-disorganized protein matrix containing misshapen protein bodies. Those are indications of potential for greater starch availability compared to nonfloury-2 hybrids, where starch may be more fully encapsulated, especially early in fermentation. Kernel processing may also be enhanced due to the greater fragility of the kernel, giving an advantage in starch digestibility. The in-vitro gas fermentation studied through time, zero to 120 hours, showed differences that have relevance toward better understanding by isolating the starch nutrient of corn silage. Researchers concluded it’s possible to determine differences between hybrids when particle size and maturity are similar, and fermentation is not a factor. Continued silage-corn-hybrid starch-digestibility work is being undertaken to better evaluate and use information from the laboratory to the ration. That data will likely aid producers and nutritionists in meeting the challenges inherent in feeding excellent-producing dairy cows in an inflatedcost feed environment. John N. Anderson is a silage technical leader with Brevant Seeds, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email john.anderson@brevant.com for more details regarding the study “In vitro gas production detected differences among corn hybrids at silage maturities.”

Growing Farm Safety Traditions

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January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Give calves special care during winter Larry Judge

Most people who raise calves would agree things are a lot easier during the warmer time of year. Milk stays hot longer, water doesn’t freeze and the calf’s environment stays drier. Barns can be kept wide open, making Larry Judge v e n t i l a t i o n optimal too. But when cold air comes in water begins freezing, forcing calf raisers to close their barns. Calf nutrition is negatively impacted and air quality deteriorates. On most farms that leads to increased levels of calf diseases. Frustrated calf caretakers wonder why things have become so bad when just a short while ago things were so good. Factors lead to poor heath Calves need an increased energy level in their feed once the weather turns cold. They need it to maintain body temperature and a good growth rate as well as optimal immune function. Therefore calves need more milk and-or an increased concentration of energy in their milk. Calf raisers should be careful that total milk solids don’t exceed 15 percent. The best way to increase energy intake is to feed a greater volume of milk or milk replacer – versus increasing the concentration by adding more milk replacer. Several available additives can help raise energy levels in whole milk. Reduce heat loss to conserve as much of the calf’s energy intake as possible. That can be done by providing an adequate bed of straw so the calf is well-insulated while lying down. A dry bed also keeps the calf’s hair coat clean so it can provide the optimal insulating


As weather turns colder, calves need additional attention to be healthy and grow well.

Everyone who has cared for calves knows that promptly recognizing poor health and providing quick treatment is essential. Any delay is sure to reduce the success of therapy, regardless of the products and protocol used. effect. Calf jackets are effective tools for helping calves maintain core body temperature during cold weather. Maintain good air quality. Closing the barn helps keep the calf warmer but it also reduces air quality by decreasing freshair exchanges. A cold draft will indeed chill calves, but stagnant air with increased ammonia and pathogen content can cause an increase in respiratory disease. In most calf barns doors and curtains need to be adjusted frequently as the outside environment changes, in order to achieve the minimum of four air changes per hour required to maintain good air quality. That becomes a labor issue because those adjustments are needed every few hours when weather conditions change.

An effective solution to the problem is either an automatic curtain or a positive-pressure system – or fan and tube. Of the two systems, the positive-pressure is simpler and more-economical. When installing a positive-pressure system, be sure to use the specifications from the University of Wisconsin; staff have calculated the requirements for fan-and-tube sizing as well as air-hole size and placement. When specified properly, that system will provide fresh air at the calf’s level without creating a chilling draft. Provide drinking water. For older calves, especially near weaning, providing drinking water during cold weather can be challenging. Calves will not consume much calf grain or starter unless adequate water is available – and that’s often the

most overlooked calf-care practice. That may require fresh water to be delivered more than twice a day during freezing conditions. And ensure drinking water is clean; if a person wouldn’t drink it, don’t expect the calf to drink it either. Monitor feeding activity. Everyone who has cared for calves knows that promptly recognizing poor health and providing quick treatment is essential. Any delay is sure to reduce the success of therapy, regardless of the products and protocol used. Therefore feeding activity should be closely monitored as an important indicator of calf health. There are a number of things a producer can do to detect disease promptly. • ‌Observe each calf’s respiratory rate, activity, and feed and water consumption between feedings. • ‌When feeding milk, observe how the calf is drinking. If she takes frequent breaks or is still drinking after other calves have finished, they’re likely not 100 percent healthy. At that point, digging deeper into the problem requires a physical examination of the calf. All that’s needed is a stethoscope and a thermometer.

January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Zinc, manganese play essential roles Eliza Ruzic

When it comes to raising dairy cows, or any mammals for that matter, there are two minerals that play a big role in keeping them healthy – zinc and manganese. Energy metabolism and protein synthesis depend on zinc to get the most out of the feed the animal eats. Zinc aids in feed efficiency and nucleic-acid metabolism, which upholds the Eliza Ruzic integrity of deoxyribonucleic acid and ribonucleic acid. It’s also essential for vitamin A utilization and transportation within the animal. Those functions affect the animal’s ability to regulate reproductive hormones. The biggest utilizer of zinc within the body are the processes that produce and regenerate epithelial tissue. Epithelial tissue is found throughout the animal’s body – including hooves, skin, eyes, hair, digestive organs, and anything that isn’t bone, muscle or blood. A telltale sign of inadequate dietary zinc is poor hoof health – namely less-durable hooves. Animals in extreme-wear facilities can benefit from increased levels of dietary zinc. So can those that are susceptible to digital-dermatitis pressure, such as cattle that routinely walk long distances over abrasive concrete or where coarse recycled sand is used for bedding. In those instances the durability of the hoof horn is important. Digital dermatitis – warts – will appear when the skin at the junction of the hoof is penetrated by treponemes, the bacteria that cause warts. Animals that regularly walk through manure that reaches past the hoofskin junction are at the greatest risk because treponemes grow best in anaerobic conditions. Adequate levels of zinc in the diet help

• ‌Take a rectal temperature. A calf’s normal body temperature is 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit; anything more than 103 degrees is classified as a fever. • ‌Listen to the lungs using the stethoscope, paying attention especially for expiratory sounds. Any noise heard when the calf breathes out is abnormal. • ‌Reach under the calf’s belly to feel the navel; it should be


Hoof health goes hand-in-hand with proper amounts of dietary zinc and manganese.

uphold the integrity of the skin, making it more difficult for treponemes to infect the animal. Incidentally zinc also aids in wound healing and tissue repair. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include rough or dingy-looking hair coats and hoof problems. Others that relate to zinc but are also caused by other deficiencies include decreased dry-matter intake, reduced milk production, decreased reproductive performance and a slower immune response to challenges. Some minerals have antagonistic effects on zinc absorption when available in excess – including copper, calcium, phytate and iron. Sometimes those minerals are ingested through water consumption, so it’s important to periodically sample water to ensure mineral levels are in line. Because zinc is a greatly utilized mineral for various functions within the animal, it’s unlikely for dairy cattle to experience zinc toxicity. The body naturally regulates zinc absorption so if excess zinc is ingested the animal simply won’t absorb it. Another important mineral to understand is manganese. There are three main areas within the animal dependent on manganese

small and dry on the end, and free of bad odor – which can indicate an infection. • ‌Be sure to assess hydration status. The best way to do that is by performing a skin-tent test; simply pull some loose skin on the side of the neck out and let it go. Skin should snap back quickly; any delay indicates dehydration. Taking a few minutes to do a physical exam helps make

– reproduction, white blood cells and bone integrity. Reproductive-hormone production is dependent on adequate levels of manganese in the animal to maintain a regular reproductive cycle. White blood cells are needed to fight infections; manganese aids in the killing ability of macrophages, the cells that attack invading pathogens. Manganese is also integral in the synthesis of bone matrix – a vital process during pregnancy for the forming of the fetus’ skeletal structure. Symptoms of manganese deficiency include cystic ovaries, silent estrus, decreased conception rates, delayed immune response and skeletal abnormalities in a developed fetus – specifically in the legs, feet and joints. When available in excess, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and cobalt can block manganese absorption. Furthermore when calcium and potassium are too much, manganese can be lost through fecal excretion because it isn’t absorbed by the animal. Manganese toxicity can result in abortions, decreased dry-matter intake, slow growth rates, anemia and abdominal discomfort. Excessive manganese toxicity can be lethal to pre-ruminant calves at more than 5,000 parts per million in the diet, but such levels are unlikely. Proper facility management, animal handling and hygiene all play huge parts in raising productive, profitable animals. Ensuring they have the baseline minerals necessary to nurture their bodies at a cellular level is also important. Producers should work with a nutritionist to ensure their animals are consuming macro and micro minerals at optimal levels for optimal performance and overall animal health. Eliza Ruzic is the Wisconsin accounts manager at Zinpro Corporation, a mission sponsor of PDPW. Email eruzic@zinpro.com reach her.

the best treatment decisions possible. Though frequently more difficult, caring for calves during the winter while maintaining good health and growth rates is possible. All it takes is a few adjustments in feeding, attention to the calf’s environment including ventilation and bedding, and careful monitoring of the calf’s health status. It’ll be

necessary to bundle up a bit more, but caring for calves during the colder months can be just as successful, rewarding – and fun – as during warmer times of the year. Dr. Larry Judge is a professional services veterinarian with Armor Animal Health, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email larry.judge@armorah. com to reach him.


January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Effectively use data Andy Bohnhoff

“Big data” is a way of describing a large amount of data that’s uncomfortable to store, move or manipulate. Lately the dairy industry has been inundated with big data in most areas of the business. We have individual-cow data that’s collected multiple times Andy daily for each Bohnoff animal and for tens to hundreds of different things. Global Positioning System and accelerometer data track an animal’s every move. Parlor data measures flow rates from every teat or quarter. And daily feed information tracks individual ingredients fed to different pens. We have the ability to collect so much data that it starts to become overwhelming. What do we do with the data? Where do we even start? Those are questions dairy managers and owners ask themselves after committing to a new technology that does a great job of collecting data – but a bad job of creating a user interface that displays the data in a meaningful way. Another complexity is created when there are multiple technologies that control different data streams on a farm – streams that don’t communicate with each other. A common example of that is feed-management software and herd-management software. Data manipulation and integration starts with a plan that focuses on the end goal. Producers should ask themselves, “What information do I need to know to make valuable decisions in my business?” Focus on big-dollar items and then work backward from there. “What is my biggest cost and how can I control it so I know

Prairie Estates Genetics

Look at trends for income compared to feed cost during animals’ lactation curves, split out by lactation group.

Prairie Estates Genetics

The bar graph displays income as compared to feed cost across two different time points by lactation group.

I’m getting the best return on my investment?” Feed is the largest cost on a dairy operation. Determining income as compared to feed cost is the best way to measure its impact – return on investment – on a dairy operation. Income as compared to feed cost is measured by subtracting feed cost from milk income per cow per day. That’s milk price per pound of fat, protein and other solids, multiplied by the average combined pounds of fat, protein and other solids per cow. Subtract that number from feed cost per head.

The math can be done on the individual-cow level, or on the herd level – then divide that by the number of animals in the data set. Keeping milk price at a constant value when using that calculation helps assess trends. The key to utilizing data correctly is to ensure to have only one variable changing at a time so it’s easier to recognize positive or negative trends. The calculation also requires determining production and feed cost per cow. Unfortunately those numbers are usually found in different places. The data can be manually

collected and entered into a spreadsheet. Or it can be obtained from feed software and parlor information, or animal-management software, and entered into a spreadsheet or other data-integration interface. Decide how to accurately collect the necessary information and create a schedule for ensuring it’s done. Similar to how dairy operations have a day or morning for doing weekly pregnancy or herd checks, choose at least one day a week for the dairy to devote to calculating its cost of production.

January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Barn features animal-welfare innovations Morgan Henriott

Green Bay Dressed Beef, an American Foods Group company, opened the doors in April 2021 to a newly designed cattle-receiving barn, with animal-handling, safety and producer ease in mind. The barn is an example of new technologies incorporated into American Foods Group’s commitment to animal welfare. The facility measures about 60,000 square feet and can house 1,400 animals across 50 pens. The barn was designed with a focus on animal welfare. It features five unloading docks – two designated for farm trucks and three for semi-tractor trailers. It also contains two pen scales, a receiving chute with a head catch for radio-frequency-identification-tag reading, two serpentine systems for cattle movement, and feed and equipment storage, as well as designated office space for barn personnel. The features are designed to strengthen animal welfare, give producers an easy experience and benefit employee safety. A unique advantage for gooseneck haulers is the designated drive-through unloading

That data can then be used to calculate income as compared to feed cost per cow per day. There’s more than one way to use it to make decisions. One option is to look at historical data in graphical form. The first graph was generated by looking at trends for income compared to feed cost during the animals’ lactation curves, split out by lactation group. That data set uses shaded areas above and below the curve to indicate variation or statistical power. The more animals in the data set the more the shading disappears and the greater the confidence in the data. Notice there’s a wavering of the income as

American Foods Group

Innovations at the newly designed Green Bay Dressed Beef cattle-receiving barn are a result of American Foods Group’s commitment to humanely treating animals processed at the facility.

dock. The covered ground-level dock eliminates issues caused by backing and aligning a trailer. The barn also utilizes hydraulic ramps that can be raised to the floor height of a trailer, allowing cattle to walk directly off. The simple process is intended to reduce animal

stress; it prevents jumping or tripping off the trailer, limiting potential for injury. Three dock bays are located on the north end of the barn, specifically designed to unload cattle from semi-tractor trailers. The multiple docks are intended to reduce the amount of time

animals are held on trailers, and to allow for easy unloading and alignment to the docks to prevent slips or falls. The two pen scales allow for expedited movement of cattle off trailers to holding pens.

compared to feed cost, especially in the lactation-1 group at about 180 days in milk. That trend is troubling because income as compared to feed cost was increasing and then it decreased before increasing again. That wavering in the data indicates some inconsistency and calls for further investigation. The bar graph displays income as compared to feed cost across two different time points by lactation group. If there was a significant feed change between those time points one could compare to see if that feed change had a positive or negative impact on

income compared to feed cost. Another way to capitalize on the data is to use it to predict certain scenarios. If a producer wants to make an investment on a feed additive or corn-silage variety, he or she can use the data to manipulate the increased cost as a feed cost, and calculate what it would take from the production side to pay for that investment and create additional income. For instance if it costs an extra 5 cents per cow per day for a feed additive, it would take an additional 5 cents in income from milk to offset that investment. Most businesses wouldn’t consider an investment like that unless it

had a 2:1 or 3:1 payback; that’s the equivalent of about 1 pound of revenue-corrected milk, which has fat and protein content in consideration along with milk volume. Big data is here and can be extremely valuable to guide decision-making on a dairy farm. A special thanks to the University of Wisconsin-Dairy Innovation Hub for funding the data project that created the graphs.

Please see INNOVATIONS, Page 20

Dr. Andy Bohnhoff, veterinarian, is director of forage and nutrition at Prairie Estates Genetics, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email abohnhoff@ prairieestatesgenetics.com to reach him.


January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Look back, look forward Sara Hagen

The year 2021 was another year for the record books – and not in a good way. Sara Hagen Sustained volatility in weather and markets along with lingering uncertainty due to the COVID global pandemic continue to influence inventory and pricing of commodities, forages and inputs. Without dwelling too much on the negative, let’s recap the factors that led to the current situation and give insight into how to adapt for 2022. Problem: Feed is easily the No. 1 expense on a farm. Solution: Incorporating more alfalfa and corn silage into the ration can have a positive impact on animal well-being and income as compared to feed cost, ensuring a healthy herd and bottom line. As commodity prices continued to increase in the most recent growing season, protein from forage increased in its value to the grower. Alfalfa is

Innovations From 19

The barn design provides the option to run cattle through a small serpentine system, with a designated receiving chute after unloading. The chute allows animals to be individually identified using a head restraint and a radio-frequency-identification-tag reader. Additionally a crowd pen was constructed at the south end of the barn, utilizing a serpentine system to aid cattle movement into a single-file chute. That design allows cattle to be moved from a small group into a single file, taking advantage their natural behavior and leading to calm and efficient cattle movement.

an excellent source of soluble and rumen-degradable protein, making it an ideal substitution for expensive soybean meal. More rumen-available protein means the potential for more microbial protein to be synthesized, therefore further reducing total protein costs in a lactating-dairy-cow ration. Action: Those planning to seed alfalfa in spring 2022 should choose a variety that has a dense leaf supply throughout the entire plant, especially in the lower third. The leaf-tostem ratio drives protein content in alfalfa because the majority of protein exists in the leaves; new growth in the lower canopy will have the most digestible nutrients. Invest in premium products that have been extensively tested in on-farm research trials for realistic performance expectations in a specific geography. Because yield continues to be the profit-driver of any crop, it’s critical it provides tonnage without sacrificing quality.

Non-slip grooved-concrete flooring is present throughout the facility, from receiving to restrainer. The flooring assists with cattle footing; it helps prevent slips or falls that could injure an animal. Pen capacity was determined by industry recommendations for pen stocking to allow adequate room for animals to move around. The pens and alleyways were constructed with animal safety and injury prevention in mind. They are built with carbon-steel pipes measuring 3 and 6 inches in diameter, placed 6 inches deep in the concrete flooring to prevent rusting. Pens are inspected daily for sharp or protruding edges that could pose a hazard to cattle. Each holding pen is equipped with automated and insulated water to provide a constant flow of







93.5 Min






Apparent Total Tract Starch Digestibililty as % of Total Starch Goal and minimums set based on 15th and 85th percentiles, respectively, of long-term population data. Visit rockriverlab.com/file_open. php?id=272 for the full Dairy Fecal Starch Analysis Report.

Farm B manure, pen 1 2018 Dry matter: 15.12% Moisture: 84.88% Dry matter Ash Starch Apparent total tract starch digestibility as % of total starch

Dry matter basis 15.12 16.87 4.43

Manure 60-day average 15.7 15.4 3.58

Manure 4-year average 24.9 15.8 3.00


Sara Hagen

Sample test results

water even during cold Wisconsin winters. The ceiling is equipped with automated lighting throughout, preventing shadows that may hinder cattle moving. Large fans and ventilation units are spread throughout the facility to allow for adequate airflow and air exchange. The increased airflow in the barn helps control flies and provides optimal resting conditions for cattle. It’s common to see animals lying down, chewing their cuds, throughout the facility. The increased capacity of the barn allows cattle to rest longer. The barn has a 24-hour video-monitoring system of critical areas to ensure appropriate animal handling. The facility design is only a part of actions taken by American Foods Group to ensure the humane handling of animals,

which the company states is a moral responsibility. That commitment is demonstrated by a training and animal-handling program based on industry recommendations and regular evaluation of animal-welfare procedures. Internal and external audits are conducted to ensure proper handling. American Foods Group is committed to the humane treatment of animals and recognizes the value of treating its animals in the most humane way possible. Morgan Henriott is director of food safety and quality assurance at American Foods Group, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email Jennifer Dibbern, vice-president of marketing and corporate communications at American Foods Group, at jdibbern@ americanfoodsgroup.com for more information.

January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Robots aid in energy efficiency Focus on Energy

The farming landscape has changed considerably through the years. Our ancestors would never have imagined dairy cows being milked by robots. But now it’s common practice, with more than 35,000 operational robotic-milking systems around the world. The first robotic-milking system in the United States was installed in 2000 on a 130-cow dairy farm near Omro, Wisconsin. The United States now has more than 300 farms with robotic-milking systems, with more than 200 of those systems in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Larger dairies have used robotics for more than a decade; now small to medium farms are investing in the technology. According to the University of Minnesota, the

P ro b l e m : W i d e s p rea d drought and warmer-than-average temperatures during the height of the past summer impacted corn-silage yield and quality. Dry conditions generally lead to increased fiber digestibility but they also cause decreased starch digestibility. Much like boiling water softens potatoes but hardens eggs, drought-stress softens stalks and hardens kernels. Solution: Growing silage-specific hybrids means increased fiber and starch digestibility as compared to traditional dual-purpose products, and therefore greater profitability. Brown mid-rib hybrids offer unmatched fiber digestibility, but the trade-off is usually reduced yields and-or agronomics. Action: When reviewing the 2022 crop plan, choose greatly digestible forages with milk-per-acre advantages, which takes those variables into consideration – especially when growing conditions aren’t ideal. Review harvest performance from private and public trials in each local area to identify best performers in fiber and starch digestibility as well as tonnage.

estimated useful life of a robotic-milking system is seven to 15 years. The upfront costs can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the long-term benefits and savings can outweigh initial expenses. Robotics save on labor The biggest savings robotic-milking systems bring to modestly sized dairy farms is a stable labor force. Farmers want a reliable technique for milk processing and fewer personnel issues. Each robot can milk about 60 cows as many as three times each day. The average daily milk produced per cow in Focus on Energy a robotic system is about 100 pounds. Robotic-milking systems allow farms to Cows at Feltz Family Farms near Stevens Point, milk more cows and produce more milk Wisconsin, are milked by robots. The system Please see ROBOTS, Page 22

Problem: Corn growth from planting to harvest is not a linear process; encountering stress at critical development points can have severe impacts on the final product. After pollination the vast majority of growth occurs in the ear, so any stress will only further affect starch content and digestibility. Solution: Fiber digestibility remains relatively unchanged the longer forage is in storage, but starch digestibility steadily increases throughout the life of that feedstuff. Action: Delay feeding newcrop corn silage until at least 60 days after harvest – longer if late-summer growing conditions are hot and dry again in 2022. If forage inventories require feed-out of new-crop corn silage earlier than that threshold, alternative carbohydrate sources will need to be included in the ration. Though corn prices have increased in response to the growing conditions, avoid replacing inflatedpriced corn starch with other g ra i n s o u rc e s b e c a u s e dry-matter intakes and milk production will be negatively affected – and not worth the substitution.

has led to substantial savings in energy costs since being installed.

Problem: Record-setting temperatures combined with a lack of rain during and after pollination in 2021 caused under-developed ears with hard kernels, resulting in poor starch digestibility. Solution: Immediate adjustments to kernel processors were required to mechanically reduce particle size. But corn silage still went into storage with lessthan-ideal starch content and digestibility potential. Action: Test for fecalstarch concentration to identify that key profitability metric, and screen manure for large pieces of corn. Evaluate total tract-starch digestibility with multiple time points to identify an opportunity to grind added corn even finer. Problem: Once kernels reach physiological maturity at the black layer and dry weight has been achieved, harvest can begin as soon as whole-plant moisture meets the ideal range for the storage structure. In 2021 silage started to dry down faster than it could be harvested, leading to greater chances for anti-nutritional factors such as molds, mycotoxins, fungi, yeasts and bacteria due to poor fermentation. Drier forage is lighter

and fluffier, causing more oxygen to surround particles and therefore creating an unstable anaerobic environment. Solution: Testing silage periodically throughout the feed-out stage with a reputable forage-testing laboratory will allow producers to stay ahead of potential issues. Remember not all visible mold causes toxins and not all contaminants are visible. Action: Feed-hygiene issues can have a compounding and even synergistic effect so it’s important to know both concentration and identification of those performance robbers, to move forward with the most effective and efficient solution. Additionally those same pathogens affecting corn grain can affect corn commodities, so ensure the supply is clean and from a reputable source. The upcoming year can be a successful forage-growing season if we take into account opportunities presented in 2021 and adjust accordingly. Sara Hagen is product-support specialist at Dairyland Seed, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email shagen@dairylandseed.com to reach her.


January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Ensure efficient milking equipment Matt Roberts

The wish list of milkingequipment upgrades can grow – the latMatt Roberts est technology, more data and increased automation; the list goes on. It’s nice to always have the latest and greatest milking equipment, but consider what situations really call for upgrades. • ‌What is costing the most to repair and maintain? • ‌How can the cost of ownership be reduced?

Robots From 21

compared to a conventional parlor system, and they do so with less labor. The machines can also store milk-production data, including a cow’s weight, body temperature and previous milking visits. Farmers can review the data from their computers or smart devices. The robotic way of milking is convenient for cows as well. Farmers have more time and flexibility to focus on herd health. Robotic-milking systems give farmers hundreds of data points every time a cow is milked. They can easily detect when cows are ill, have udder health issues or need breeding. Robotics offer energy efficiency Robotic-milking systems can reduce a farm’s environmental footprint in a few ways. Robotic-milking areas require less lighting than standard milking parlors, plus they use less water-sanitizing and cleaning

• ‌What can be upgraded to save money and gain efficiency? • ‌How could labor be reduced? Upgrades can be as simple as new liners, milking claws and detachers. Or they can be as complex as new parlor stalls or a full parlor retrofit. They could also include adding new technology such as milk meters, automated cow-prep or automated post-dipping. Consider the greatest needs to prioritize which upgrade is the right fit. Put cow comfort first So often the focus is on cow comfort in a freestall barn. But

equipment between milkings. Farmers can also install systems equipped with variable-speed drives to regulate motor speed. That can reduce a system’s energy use by as much as 5 percent, which is equivalent to $450 in annual savings. Robotic-milking systems also have the potential to reduce electric demand. Transition for success Feltz Family Farms in central Wisconsin is an example of a family-run business that has integrated a robotic-milking system into its operation. The fifth-generation dairy farm has since 1995 been owned and operated by Ken and Jackie Feltz. Their priority has been to create a modern, sustainable and environmentally friendly facility focused on cow comfort. In 2016 they built a climate-controlled facility with two robotic systems able to milk 120 cows. Through the years additional robots have been retrofitted into their older barns. They are now milking 480 cows with robotics and another 200 cows in the traditional parlor. After upgrading to robotic technology,


Milking-equipment dealers can complete a milking evaluation to determine which upgrades are right for each system, and can help producers achieve their goals.

consider the milking parlor. With the correct milking equipment cows are more comfortable in the milking stall. That results in better milk letdown, faster milking times and more turns per hour – making

it easier on labor and the bottom line. Take time to watch cows and employees during milking to identify problem areas. • ‌A re cows having trouble coming in and out of the parlor?

Feltz Family Farms experienced a noticeable production increase while decreasing the number of milkings per day. In addition they’ve seen greater longevity with their 680-cow herd, including an increase in reproduction and improved overall health – and a decrease in stress. Focus on Energy adviser Kevin Weiler has since 2019 worked with Feltz Family Farms along with multiple Trade Ally contractors. Weiler has found many opportunities to deliver energy savings. • ‌Lighting has been replaced with light-emitting diodes. • ‌Waterers have been upgraded to zero energy. • ‌Variable-speed drives have been installed on ventilation fans, milk-transfer pumps and vacuum pumps. The upgrades save 138,673 kilowatt-hours per year, equating to more than $16,600 in annual energy-cost savings.

high-tech farming systems because data points can be viewed in real time, and used to track a dairy farm’s progress and profit margins. Dairy farming is certainly a time-honored and historical career path, and current updates to the industry make it more lucrative and appealing to the future workforce. When transitioning to a robotic-milking system, it’s important to ensure it aligns with a farm’s long-term goals. The systems can increase complexities by relying on manufacturer maintenance services and depending on parts that may be expensive to replace. Producers should evaluate their current operations to assess if improved labor efficiencies, herd management and milk production are worth the financial investment of adding the technology.

Farming future exciting The most exciting aspect of robotics is its connection to the next generation of farmers. Millennials are interested in

Focus on Energy is Wisconsin utilities’ statewide energy-efficiency and renewable-resource program funded by the state’s investor-owned energy utilities and participating municipal and electric cooperative utilities; they are a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Visit focusonenergy.com or call 800762-7077 for more information.

January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Last call for Cornerstone Dairy Academy Applications are due by Jan. 31 for Cornerstone Dairy Academy™. The annual three-pillar leadership-development program is scheduled for March 15-16, in conjunction with the PDPW Business Conference at Kalahari Resorts in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Segmented into three leadership-learning pillars – influential, servant and visionary – participants choose upon applying which of the three categories they’d like to be selected for. Those who have already completed one or two leadership pillars are encouraged to apply again to participate in another. The two-day training is designed to provide communication, collaboration and

Lake Breeze Dairy Group

Employees from Lake Breeze Dairy Group take advantage of leadership training and networking time March 16-18, 2021, during Cornerstone Dairy Academy and PDPW Business Conference. From left are Filadelfo Lopez, Geoff Gerrits, Austin Brady, David Mulder and Heather Winkler.

networking tools to college-age students, recent graduates pursuing dairy-related careers and

• ‌Do they hit their backs on the stalls when they leave? • ‌Are cows comfortable and calm during milking, or do they dance around? • ‌Can employees easily reach each cow to attach the milking unit? • ‌Are cows milking out quickly or is there a delay after unit attachment? Keep a watchful eye on those areas to pinpoint what to discuss with a milking-equipment dealer. Dealers can complete a more in-depth milking evaluation to determine which upgrades are right for each system, and can help producers achieve their goals. Focus on biggest opportunities When prioritizing what to upgrade first, producers should think about management goals and how they want to manage their farms in the future. Work with a milking-equipment dealer to prioritize upgrades to meet the farm’s goals currently and into the future. Dealers can help determine what will work best with an existing milking system and management style. Don’t overlook getting an outside perspective; tour other dairy farms and talk to other farmers using similar technology. There are five key points to consider when contemplating milking-equipment upgrades. • Could the herd be better managed with daily per-cow milk data? Milk meters provide production data for every

those who are at a crossroads in their career. The program is also meant to provide continued

cow at each milking, allowing milkers to keep a closer eye on individual cows. For example finding cows that are decreasing in milk can help identify sick cows for more-immediate treatment, something that’s not feasible using only monthly test data. Many milk meters also contain a sensor to measure milk conductivity, helping detect mastitis sooner as well as leading to a faster and better cure rate. Additionally the data can be used to maximize parlor efficiency by grouping cows based on milking speed. • Would automated milking-unit removal make the dairy more efficient? Detachers ensure milking units come off when a cow completes milking, eliminating over-milking. That results in healthier udders and less time spent milking. If a detacher system is already in use, consider the age of the system. There are many old detachers in use that aren’t working properly and can no longer be fine-tuned because the technology is outdated. • Should parlor labor be cut? Consider adding a teat-prep system or automatic post-dipping. Teat-prep scrubber systems allow milkers to milk more cows per hour, milk the same number of cows with less labor or add cows without additional labor. Herds using teat-prep systems experience more consistency and efficiency in cow prep across employees, resulting in cleaner teats, fewer mastitis cases and reduced

education to dairy producers and industry professionals who want to expand their networks and effectively lead and work with others. “Our goal is to have our managers grow as leaders,” read a Facebook post March 18, 2021, on Breeze Dairy Group LLC’s page. “PDPW Cornerstone/Business Conference is a great way to get them off the farm to learn and network with other managers.” Applications must be submitted online by Jan. 31, 2022; visit pdpw.org/programs/Cornerstone2022/details to do so. Visit pdpw.org or call PDPW at 800-947-7379 for more information, including descriptions of the skill sets taught in the influential, servant and visionary leadership pillars.

somatic-cell counts. Automatic post-dipping saves labor by eliminating the need for an employee to post-dip cows. • Is the milking system old and difficult to maintain? Consider the time spent maintaining the system to keep it running. Many older parlor systems, 20 to 25 years old or more, were built for cows milking 60 pounds per day – not like current cows knocking on the 100-pound door. The older systems can’t handle that volume of milk flowing through them as can newer systems. Newer systems also provide more data more often to help producers make better management decisions. Invest in equipment and technology that will make it easier to attract and retain employees, and make the workplace such that people will want to work on your farm – whether they’re family members or outside labor. • Might the cows be made more comfortable in the milking stall? Look at the stalls when cows aren’t in the parlor. Shiny spots or wear points can indicate cows have pressure points on them and are uncomfortable. In such cases consider upgrading parlor stalls. Indexing stalls adjust to the cow to make her more comfortable – and that makes milking easier for employees. Matt Roberts is an eastern regional sales manager with GEA, a corporate sponsor of PDPW. Email matthew.roberts@gea.com to reach him.


January 2022 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line