PDPW Dairy's Bottom Line July 2017

Page 1

Volume 19: Issue 5 July 2017

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

Manage dairy-calf heat stress GEOF SMITH

Page 4 High-producing cows: enhance their fertility

Page 7 Another Dairy Dialogue Day tour coming

Page 8 An ethical will; what is it?

Page 10 Discover tiled fields

Summer is in full swing now and we’re experiencing heat-stress conditions in many parts of the United States. Dairy producers are familiar with the effects of heat stress on cows. If they’re not kept cool, p ro d u c t i o n drops and so does the milk check. But not Geof Smith everyone is awa re t h a t heat stress also has negative effects on young calves. Although calves can tolerate more heat than adult cows, they do reach a point where they need to expend energy to cool themselves. True heat stress is caused not only by the outside temperature but also humidity. When those factors are combined, a temperature-humidity index can be calculated. When humans or animals become heat stressed, the body relies on thermoregulatory mechanisms like sweating and panting to release extra heat. Calves lose most of their extra heat through evaporative cooling and increased respiration. When the water-vapor content of the air is high, the elevated humidity can drastically decrease a calf’s ability to lose heat through its skin and lungs. Calves can tolerate higher temperatures at lower

– levels routinely seen during July and August in many parts of the Midwest – calves suffer severe heat stress. Producers need to take steps to help them keep cool. Calf heat stress = growth-rate decrease

The “Cool Cow” application is available at no charge for both Android and iPhones. With this app, enter outside temperature and relative humidity; it will then calculate the temperaturehumidity index to determine how severe heat-stress conditions are for calves.

humidity because they can release heat more efficiently by sweating and panting. At temperature-humidity-index values of 75 or less, heat production in calves has shown to be fairly constant – whereas this level is considered heat stress in adult cows. At temperature-humidity-index values of more than 75, water loss through breathing and sweating increases; the calf becomes stressed. At values of more than 85 or 90

Likely the most noticeable symptom in heat-stressed calves is a decrease in growth rates. A recently published study from Europe showed Holstein calves fed 6 liters — about 1.65 gallons — of milk a day had an average daily gain of 1.05 pounds during normal temperatures – versus 0.83 pounds per day during the summer, on the same diets. As a rule of thumb, for every 10-degree increase in air temperature at more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, expect average daily gain to decrease by at least 5 percent. One of the main reasons for the decrease is because calfstarter intake decreases significantly in hot weather. When calves become cold their starter intakes increase to help generate heat, but calves eat less solid feed in hot weather. By eating less calf starter they generate less heat in their stomachs, which helps maintain a lower core body temperature. Heat stress also decreases blood flow to the intestines so calves also have lower nutrient absorption. See HEAT, Page 2

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


July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Save the dates for on-farm twilight meetings

1901 Fish Hatchery Road Madison, Wisconsin 53713 Toll-Free: 1-888-AGRI-VIEW Madison Phone: 608-250-4162 Madison Fax: 608-250-4155 agriview@madison.com www.agriview.com

PDPW Board of Directors President Marty Hallock Mondovi, Wis. 715-495-2812 marbec@nelson-tel.net Vice President Mitch Breunig Sauk City, Wis. 608-643-6818 mysticvalley336@gmail.com Secretary Brian Forrest Stratford, Wis. 715-650-0267 bforrest70@gmail.com Treasurer Linda White Reedsburg, Wis. 608-393-3985 linda@krdairy.com Directors Andy Buttles Lancaster, Wis. 608-723-4712 stonefront@tds.net Jay Heeg Colby, Wis. 715-507-0030 jcheeg@yahoo.com Steven Orth Cleveland, Wis. 920-905-2575 orthlanddairy@gmail.com Katy Schmidt Fox Lake, Wis. 920-210-9661 katy_schmidt@live.com Dan Scheider Freeport, Ill. 815-821-4012 dnscheider@gmail.com

PDPW Advisers Mark Binversie Investors Community Bank Manitowoc, Wis. mbinversie@ investorscommunitybank.com Eric Cooley UW-Discovery Farms Sturgeon Bay, Wis. etcooley@wisc.edu Dr. Randy Shaver UW-Madison Dairy Science Madison, Wis. rdshaver@wisc.edu Chad Staudinger Dairyland Seed St. Nazianz, Wis. cstaudinger@dairylandseed.com

Ron and Zoey Brooks will host an ACE meeting Aug. 28.

Heat Continued from Page 1

In addition to effects on growth, a calf’s immune system functions poorly during heat stress. She doesn’t respond as well to vaccination. Some studies have shown an increase in mortality rates. Plan to prevent heat stress Because heat stress is unavoidable in many parts of the country, producers need to have plans in place for how to deal with it. There are several methods to help mitigate the effects of heat stress on calves. Provide shade for calves. Use fans or openings in the hutch to allow more airflow. One study from Washington State University showed that even placing a concrete block under the back of the hutch can improve airflow, lower the inside-hutch temperature and reduce carbon dioxide levels. Another study with calves housed in barns showed that when fans were run between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., average daily gain improved 23 percent and feed efficiency improved 20 percent compared to calves in barns where fans were not run. Put reflective insulation covers on hutches. The disposable covers can reflect heat and significantly

decrease internal hutch temperatures. Increase milk feeding. Just like it takes extra calories to keep warm in the winter, it takes additional energy for a calf to cool itself in the summer. Several studies show that calves will gain more weight during times of heat stress with increased milk feeding. For example, in one study calves fed a 21:21 milk replacer at 1.5 pounds of powder per day gained 20 percent more weight compared to calves fed 1 pound of powder per day. Although there are anecdotal reports of increased bloat problems during periods of heat stress, more research needs to be done. If heat stress truly slows abomasal emptying, producers may need to feed more frequently – three times a day versus two – to ensure calves can safely handle the increased caloric intake. Keep calf starter fresh. Because calves will eat less starter when it’s hot, feed only a small handful at a time and replace often. Offer lots of fresh water and consider feeding electrolytes. When it’s hot, calves will drink a lot more water so it’s important to keep fresh water in front of them at all times. Calves may benefit from drinking electrolytes during the summer months although little research has been done in this area. When any animal sweats, it loses

Later this summer, four dairies will host Agricultural Community Engagement® twilight meetings. Open to the public and free, the meetings are an opportunity to tour impressive dairies and to take advantage of frank communications about issues important to local communities and neighborhoods. Meetings begin with an hourlong tour of the hosting dairy

water and electrolytes. Potassium is the main electrolyte lost in bovine sweat although some sodium is lost as well. In adult dairy cows, multiple studies have shown that supplementing additional sodium and potassium during periods of heat stress can increase milk production. Additional electrolyte feeding is common in the broiler industry and has been shown to improve animal performance during heat stress. More research needs to be done to see what effect electrolyte feeding would have on combating heat stress in calves, but anecdotal reports are that it helps to some degree. Electrolyte products for dealing with heat stress would be quite different than those formulated for calves with diarrhea. For example, the primary objective would be to replace sodium and potassium rather than seeking an electrolyte with alkalinizing agents such as acetate or bicarbonate. The effects of heat stress can limit calf well-being and may negatively impact future productivity. Have a plan in place to mitigate the effects of heat stress – a largely unavoidable part of dairying in the Southeast and Midwest. Dr. Geof Smith, veterinarian, is professor of ruminant medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University. Contact geoffrey_smith@ ncsu.edu for more information.

July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Marty, Becky, Jonathon and Josh Hallock will host an ACE meeting Aug. 29.

Tom, Joan and Charlie Oberhaus will host an ACE meeting Aug. 30.

Chuck, Gary and Troy Ripp will host an ACE meeting Aug. 31.

starting at 6 p.m. after which ice cream will be served with a question-and-answer session to follow until 8:30 p.m. Previous Agricultural Community Engagement® twilight meetings have brought forth dynamic conversations about soil, water and nutrient management, working partnerships between rural and urban stakeholders, updates on roadways and bridges at local and state

levels, and opportunities to speak directly with elected officials and community leaders. Hosting dairies are: Aug. 28 – Brooks Farms, N1757 County Road A, Waupaca, Wisconsin Aug.29 – Mar-Bec Dairy, W962 County Road NN, Mondovi, Wisconsin Au g . 3 0 – Coz y No o k Fa r m , S11W30780 Summit Ave.-U.S. Highway

18, 1.3 miles east of Wisconsin Highway 83, Waukesha, Wisconsin Aug.31 – Ripp’s Dairy Valley LLC, 6626 Ripp Drive, Dane, Wisconsin The events are co-presented by the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Wisconsin Towns Association and Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. Call 800-947-7379 or visit www.pdpw. org for more information and to register.


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July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Ovsynch protocol offers more pregnancies PAUL FRICKE

Many dairy farms incorporate hormone-synchronization protocols for timed artificial insemination. But artificial insemination based on estrus detection continues to be an important part of the overall reproductive-management program Paul Fricke on most dairy farms. Results from the first field trial evaluating the Ovsynch protocol showed that Ovsynch and timed artificial insemination yielded

similar pregnancies per artificial insemination compared to cows artificially inseminated after a detected estrus – 39 percent versus 37 percent. It also showed median days to first artificial insemination and days open were less for cows f i rs t i n s e m i n a te d u s i n g Ovsynch than for cows artificially inseminated after estrus detection – 54 versus 83 median days to first artificial insemination and 99 versus 118 days open. Initially the impact of timed artificial-insemination protocols on 21-day pregnancy rates increased artificial-insemination service rates with little to no effect on

pregnancies per artificial insemination. The newer generation of timed artificial-insemination protocols, particularly for first insemination, can increase the artificial-insemination service rate in addition to pregnancies per artificial insemination at first service. After the Ovsynch protocol was developed in 1995, several modifications were tested in an attempt to increase pregnancies per artificial insemination to timed artificial insemination. Those modifications include • presynchronization using two prostaglandin F2 alpha treatments – for example Pre-

synch-Ovsynch • presynchronization using a combination of GnRH and prostaglandin F2 alpha –such as G-6-G and Double-Ovsynch, and • adding a second prostaglandin F2 alpha treatment 24 hours after the first treatment within the Ovsynch protocol to induce complete luteal regression. Because of those modifications, producers can now expect pregnancies per artificial insemination at first artificial insemination to exceed 50 percent in high-producing cows. That’s a level of fertility that had not consistently been achieved in high-producing Holsteins.

Figure 1. Treatment schedule is shown for the Double-Ovsynch fertility program evaluated in the field trial.

The idea that fertility programs and timed artificial insemination can lead to greater fertility than artificially inseminating at estrus detection in high-producing dairy cows – at first insemination – has not been definitively tested. We tested the hypothesis that a Double-Ovsynch protocol would yield a greater service rate and more pregnancies per

artificial insemination than artificially inseminating at estrus detection at a similar day-in-milk range. Lactating Holsteins on a commercial dairy farm were randomly assigned to receive their first artificial insemination after a synchronized estrus or to receive their first timed artificial insemination after a Doub l e - Ovsy n c h p ro to co l .

Pregnancy status was determined 33 days after insemination and was reconfirmed at 63 days after insemination using transrectal ultrasonography. Intentionally, days in milk at first insemination were similar between treatments – 76.7 versus 76.9 days for estrus versus Double-Ovsynch cows, respectively. However, more Doub l e - O vsy n c h c ows we re

inseminated within seven days of the voluntary waiting period than estrus cows – 100 percent versus 78 percent; see Figure 1. This was expected based on research showing almost one in four dairy cows are not cycling and won’t show signs of estrus at the end of the voluntary waiting period. Overall, Double-Ovsynch cows had more pregnancies per

July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line artificial insemination than artificially inseminated cows at both 33 days – 49 percent versus 38.6 percent – and 63 days – 44.6 percent versus 36.4 percent post-insemination. Pregnancy loss from 33 to 63 days after insemination did not differ between groups. Thus, submission of cows for first insemination using Double-Ovsynch yields not only a greater proportion of cows inseminated, but also 27 percent more pregnancies at 33 days and 23 percent more p re g n a n c i e s a t 6 3 d a ys post-insemination than cows artificially inseminated after detected estrus. Together the increased proportion of cows inseminated combined with pregnancies per artificial insemination for Double-Ovsynch cows yielded 64 percent more pregnant cows at 33 days after insemination and 58 percent more pregnant cows at 63 days after insemination than cows submitted


Effect of treatment on submission rate, pregnancies per artificial insemination and percentage of pregnant cows 1 Treatment

Difference1, %







Submission rate, % (no./no.)




P/AI at 33 d, % (no./no.)




Pregnant cows at 33 d, % (no./no.)




P/AI at 63 d, % (no./no.)




Pregnant cows at 63 d, % (no./no.)




1 Relative difference due to treatment for each Item was calculated as the difference between DO and Estrus cows divided by Estrus cows. – Estrus; n = 284 – DO; n = 294

for first insemination after detection of estrus. The table shows the effect of treatment on submission rate, pregnancies per artificial insemination and percentage of pregnant cows at 33 and 63 days after insemination in lactating Holstein

cows. The two treatments were either artificial insemination after a synchronized estrus or timed artificial insemination after a Double-Ovsynch protocol. Practically speaking, a Double-Ovsynch protocol that includes the second

prostaglandin F2 alpha treatment can be described as a fertility program because all cows can be submitted for first service within seven days of the end of the voluntary waiting period and about half of cows can be expected to conceive at first service.

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July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

People Perspective

Life is lived by two lists HANK WAGNER

Most people live life operating by two lists. It’s important to be aware of those lists and how they impact our lives every day. It’s also important to learn how to use these lists to help bring a Hank Wagner positive outcome to every new day. Regardless of what happened yesterday the sun will set and rise again to initiate a new day. Each day gives us an opportunity to spend 1,440 minutes in whatever way we choose. It’s there that these lists have the power to

People typically live life by two lists. One list brings sadness, frustration, worry and even depression. The other list focuses on those things that bring joy, happiness and peace to our lives and to our relationships.

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shape our choices. One of the two lists each of us has includes things we’re not thankful for or situations we’re unhappy with. Frustrations with weather typically land on this list, as do low prices for products we produce, lost markets and lower-than-normal production. And then there are the people issues – family members, neighbors, landlords, community leaders or even national policymakers whose decisions don’t align with our goals. Also employee issues – not having enough of them or not having the right kind. Fortunately there’s the other list to override the negativity of the “unthankful list.” It’s the second list that reminds us what we’re grateful for. Interestingly, weather and people can make this list just as readily as the other list because it’s our attitude that determines which list we put them on. So how can we use both lists to our advantage? Being aware of them is the first step. We daily

make decisions based on our thoughts regarding the people and circumstances on these lists. Because our thinking impacts everything we do, it’s imperative our thoughts match the outcomes we want. The next step is to intentionally choose thoughts and actions from the right list. Simply choosing to focus more on our “thankful list” will change the outcome of our day in a positive way. For more impact, this list should be a written one so we can tangibly refer to it during times of grief or fear. The process of writing this list promotes a positive attitude and can be a rewarding family or team activity, especially in challenging or troubling times. Making a conscious choice to always focus on our “thankful list” is important. But is there anything productive that can come from the other list? As a matter of fact, there is. Because m u c h o f wh a t’s o n t h e “unthankful list” are things we can’t even change, make the

July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


By popular demand: another Dairy Dialogue Day tour coming Designed for dairy producers to gain new ideas directly from fellow dairy owners and managers on their home turf, PDPW will present an August edition of Dairy Dialogue Day tours. Featuring two dairies in south-central Wisconsin, the p o p u l a r d ay- l o n g c h a rtered-bus tour will showcase two high-performing dairies. Herd owners and partners will share tips on topics such as developing quality genetics, managing high production and reproduction, exploring different types of stall bedding and comfort, and optimizing calf growth. In addition, tour participants have the opportunity to present questions for discussion. Craig Carncross and his wife, Jen, represent the third generation to care for the herd and land at Wargo Acres. Tour participants will see firsthand evidence of high-quality genetics and high herd production in this registered Holstein dairy. Near Middleton, attendees will have a close look at the work of the Meinholz families. Partners Art, Louie, Brian and Craig Meinholz work together with their families to carry on

choice to not worry about them. Author Keith Caserta has been attributed with saying, “Worry is like interest, paid in advance, on something you may never own.” Consider the weather. No matter how much we worry or complain about it, we’re not going to change it. The one benefit to giving any attention to the “unthankful list” is to identify things we have the power to fix. If mistakes, failures or frustrations on this list are creating stress, I recommend doing these three things with them. First learn the lesson. Then apply it or make the adjustment. Finally, move on.

Craig and Jen Carncross with sons Gavin and Nolan own and operate Wargo Acres near Lodi, Wisconsin. The dairy is known for deep cow families and excellent herd production.

a legacy that began in 1946. A local favorite for school tours, Blue Star Dairy hosted the June 2017 Dane County Breakfast on the Farm. Scheduled for Aug. 16, the tour will be facilitated by University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Randy Shaver. A chartered bus will depart at 9:30 a.m. and return by 3:30 p.m. to Compeer Financial – formerly Badgerland Financial – at 1430 N. Ridge

Meinholz family members with Blue Star Dairy are, clockwise from back row, left, Art and Lori Meinholz; Katelyn, Austin and Brooke with parents Sherri and Craig Meinholz. Front row, from left, are Brian, Rhonda, Molly, Louie, Joanne and Kelsey Meinholz; Megan, Liam and Lee Meinholz. Katelyn, Molly and Kelsey are daughters of Brian and Rhonda Meinholz.

Drive, Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. Space is limited to the first 50 farmers. The tour includes bus travel,

refreshments and lunch. Visit www.pdpw.org or call 800947-7379 for more information and to register.


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Regardless of how bad things may appear, there is always, always, always something to be thankful for. Not only will the “unthankful list” be downsized, items may be added to the “thankful list.” Hank Wagner is a dairy producer and a John Maxwell Team teacher, mentor, speaker and coach. Contact hwagner@frontiernet.net for more information.

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July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Legally Speaking

Farm-succession planning is inherently challenging because of the broad spectrum of financial and emotional factors it brings together.

Consider an ethical will GEORGE TWOHIG

Dear George: My husband and I are ready to finalize our last will and testament to ensure our farm and its assets are divided according to our wishes when we pass away. However, I wish this document would somehow convey the love and gratitude we feel toward our famGeorge ily members for Twohig their roles in the success of our farm business. Is there any way we can ensure our assets are divided fairly, and formally tell our loved ones how important they’ve been to us? – Wondering in Wisconsin Dear Wondering: Many years ago I read a letter two parents wrote and left with their living trust to be read by their

children after their deaths. The letter outlined their thoughts about their lives and their farm, and hopes for their family and farm after they died. This was my first experience with an “ethical will.” The parents had updated their living trust from time to time, which effectively provided for the transfer of essential farm assets to the on-farm children at a price the farm could afford to pay, and for a reasonable inheritance to the children who left the farm. The ethical will, written to serve an altogether different purpose, showed clearly that the parents were proud of each child and they wanted them – and future generations – to understand the reasons behind the difficult choices they made. Farm-succession planning is inherently challenging because

of the broad spectrum of financial and emotional factors it brings together. When drafting either a will or a living trust, each must be drafted in such a way as to detail the plan of distribution, as well as any special farm bequests, options and trusts. It must also meet legal requirements. Most wills and trusts are written in formal legalese and lack personality, life or warmth. Though love, affection, gratitude and challenges may be implied by the document, they are seldom stated. Unlike a will or a living trust, an ethical will is not a legally binding document. Whether the ethical will is conveyed via letter, a statement in the living trust or even a video recording, the objective is simple: to convey values – not valuables – and explain why the plan of

distribution chosen was necessary and fair. Some choose to reflect on experiences as a parent and farmer, including challenges faced while farming – challenges the next generation may encounter as they continue the family-farm legacy. The ethical will is also a great vehicle to share thoughts and beliefs you hope will endure, or to elaborate on specific reasons special farm bequests were made. It should capture the essence of what is important to you and convey the last messages you want to leave with your family. Here’s an example of an ethical will written by a farm couple with multiple children, not all of whom want to be part of the farm after the parents die. “Dear children: We appreciate the love and support we have always received from each

July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line of you. We want to thank each of you for all you have done for us. Although we didn’t always say it, we always felt it. “We are proud that each of you is self-sufficient in your successes and accomplishments in your lives and careers. We have always recognized that each of you would develop your own personal interests, career objectives and experiences, varying from personal circumstances. While we enjoyed the benefits of being the third generation to manage and own our family farm, we never wanted you to feel any obligation to invest your career in our family farm if you did not so desire. We have always believed our family’s real legacy was founded in the passing of quality values to each upcoming generation. We hope you appreciate the strength, resiliency and independence you’ve each gained from growing up on the farm. “We take pride in the history, success and future of our family

farm and we hope you share that pride and believe that it’s a legacy worth continuing. We appreciate Allen and Brenda’s many years of work, effort and commitment to willingly accept the challenges, burdens, responsibilities and risks of careers on our family farm. Over the years they have proven themselves to be excellent farmers, good partners and qualified successors. We have made a commitment to Allen and Brenda that they would have the opportunity to be the fourth generation to eventually take over management and ownership of our family’s farm. We are satisfied that they have earned that right. We hope you appreciate and share our belief that Allen and Brenda have earned the opportunity to eventually own the farm. “In 2016 we began our longterm succession-planning process by gifting units in the company to Allen and Brenda. We intend to continue transferring earned equity in the company and other farm assets to them

Your hopes and dreams.


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during our lives as they continue their careers in our family farm. In our estate plan, we’ve made special provisions for the transfer of the company to Allen and Brenda, and for their opportunity to acquire our farm real estate at a price the farm can afford to pay. We recognize our farm assets will constitute the majority of our estate. However we know from experience that our family farm generates limited net income, which must be committed to paying existing debt, replacing depreciating assets, improving the farm and providing for family support. “We trust Allen and Brenda will successfully continue our family’s farm legacy. We hope the transfer of earned equity to them as our successors will eventually lead to their transfer of our family farm to a qualified and committed generation that follows them. “We ask you to understand that our decisions were made with equal love for each of you


and our best effort to balance our goal to continue the family farm while still being fair. We hope you’ll accept our plan of distribution as being fair, equitable and necessary for the continuation of our family-farm legacy.” Managing a successful dairy business takes proficiency on so many levels – usually across many employees and spanning decades of time. Many dairy farmers are unfamiliar with the most effective ways to ensure that assets are fairly transferred to and protected for those who will be stepping into their shoes when they pass from the scene. An ethical will serves a purpose. What message would you like to leave to your children and grandchildren? George Twohig is a partner and attorney at Twohig, Rietbrock, Schneider & Halbach S.C. in Chilton, Wisconsin; the firm focuses on agriculture and agri-business. Contact george@twohiglaw.com for more information.


July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Locate tile lines with varied tools AARON PAPE

Tile drainage is a common land-improvement technique that can increase crop yields and consistency. It also allows for improved field trafficability, a l l o w i n g farmers to go into their fields earlier Aaron Pape in the spring because those fields aren’t as wet. And h eav y e q u i p m e n t i s l e ss likely to rut and compact the soil. While planting on time goes a long way toward simplifying farm-management aspects, tiled fields call for proper management of nutrients. In particular, special

and when fields often have excessive moisture. Evidence of tiles can sometimes be seen on Google Earth as light-colored lines in darker-colored soil. This is especially true in fields with little residue. Google Earth has multiple years of imagery, so if the timing of one year’s imagery doesn’t clearly show tiles, an earlier year’s image may offer more definitive proof. Walk fields after rain

farmers may own or operate tiled fields and not even know it – and tile lines are u n d e rg ro u n d so l o ca t i n g them can be difficult. To determine if tile lines exist within a field and where they’re located, use one or more of these four methods.

In the spring or early summer while soil is fairly bare, walk around the field after a rain event of a half-inch of rain or more. Soil above tile lines will be drier than the surrounding area, and will appear lighter in color. Timing is important; these conditions will only be visible for a short period of time – two to 24 hours after rain.

Look for tile outlets

Use yield monitors

All tiles have an outlet located downslope of the field. If there’s a ditch, creek or other surface water along a field, it’s likely a tile would outlet there. If outlets haven’t been maintained, they can easily be hidden under a mat of reed canary grass and other vegetation. Walking quietly along the ditch bank, the outlet might be found by listening for the trickle of water running from the outlet. But if the tile outlet enters the ditch below the waterline, that method won’t work. If the outlet is found, mark its location with a stake so it can be easily found later for ongoing maintenance.

Review yield maps after harvest. Crops growing above tiles often yield more than the surrounding plants. That yield bump may show on a yield map. If there are lines of higher-yielding areas of a field, a tile may be the cause. Without proper installation maps, tiles can be difficult to find. But with the right tools and in the right conditions, tiles can be reliably located. Once it’s confirmed a field has been tiled, take necessary precautions when applying manure and nutrients. This balancing act keeps farms productive and water clean.

A photo captured by Google Earth clearly shows visible tiles.

attention must be given to the rate and timing of manure and nutrient applications made to those fields. Because many fields were tiled up to 80 years ago,

Twohig Rietbrock Schneider & Halbach “Attorneys for Agriculture” (920) 849 - 4999

Legal, business and planning solutions for Wisconsin’s farms and agribusinesses.

Use Google Earth The satellite-imagery program can be downloaded for free. Imagery is often taken in spring before trees have leaves

Aaron Pape is a tile-drainageeducation coordinator with the University of WisconsinDiscovery Farms, a program of UW-Extension. Contact aaron. pape@ces.uwex.edu for more information.

July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


Precision dairy technology: key lessons JEFFREY BEWLEY AND BARB WADSWORTH JONES

Precision dairy monitoring is a rapidly growing field, increasingly practical for dairy-herd managers at all levels. Important lessons have been learned from years of conducting research and using precision dairy-monitoring technologies. Data provided by a device for precision dairy monitoring is only valuable if information is recorded properly for each cow and is subsequently used by the producer. Improperly managed devices Jeffrey will be a source Bewley of frustration ra t h e r t h a n information. Producers should consider several things before purchasing a technology. In addition to Barb return on investWadsworth ment, total Jones investment cost and ease of use, factor in the ability to measure incidence of mastitis, standing heat and daily milk yield. When predicting heats and improving heat detection, precision technologies have shown themselves beneficial. Lying time, rumination time and individual-cow activity are easily and accurately measured. Plus there’s a direct correlation between changes in these behaviors and estrus, making this type of technology one of the most popular. It has the potential to predict calving events. By predicting calving events, problems like dystocia and stillbirths can potentially be prevented or decreased. Some technologies provide more accurate and useful

information than visual observation. On that note, no “best” technology exists and multiple factors play into what is best for each operation. Information captured by technologies can influence dairy-management decisions and lead producers to make investments they otherwise wouldn’t. For example, when a precision technology indicates lying time of cows is longer for cows housed in a barn with waterbeds than for cows housed in a barn with rubber-filled mattresses, a producer is more likely to invest in waterbeds. Dairy-cattle breed differences in behavior, physiology and production parameters can be determined using technologies. For example, Holsteins are found to have higher reticulorumen temperatures than Jerseys and crossbreeds. Technologies can be used to determine changes in cow behavior. Transitions from one housing system to another, for example, can affect lying times. As measured via one technology, lying times were longer for cows that were moved into a newly built compost-bedded-pack barn from a freestall barn with pasture access. As the field grows and more cows are managed with technologies, we will continue to learn more about what these technologies can and cannot do. Jeffrey Bewley is an assistant professor in animal and food sciences at the University of Kentucky, where his program focuses on implementation of precision dairy technology. Contact jeffrey.bewley@uky.edu for more information. Barb Wadsworth Jones is a director in the Southwest Regional Dairy Center at Tarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas. Contact bwjones@tarleton.edu for more information.

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July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

By the Numbers

Productivity or efficiency: What’s the difference? BRUCE JONES

The word efficiency is typically used interchangeably with the economic term productivity. But there’s a big difference between productivity and efficiency. P ro d u c t iv i ty refers to producing greater quantities of output with a given quantity of inputs. EffiBruce Jones‌ ciency refers to generating the greatest net returns per dollar of input. P ro d u c t iv i ty i s w i d e ly understood by agricultural

Figure 1

producers because it involves performance measures commonly discussed as a part of coffee-shop chats. Bushels of

Figure 2

corn per acre, pigs weaned per litter and pounds of milk per cow are all productivity measures that indicate the level of success producers have in producing a specific output. U.S. farmers have been successfully increasing productivity during the past half century. Data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that corn and milk yields – Figures 1 and 2 – have increased dramatically during the 1966-2016 period. Corn yields have increased from about 73 bushels in 1966 to almost 175 bushels in 2016. Likewise, milk per cow in the United States has increased from about 8,500 pounds in 1966 to almost 23,000 pounds in 2016. Those huge jumps in corn and milk yields are clear evidence that grain farmers and dairy producers have dramatically improved their productivity. Asset turnover is a financial ratio that – in my opinion – also reflects the productivity of farming operations. This ratio, computed by dividing total value of production by

total value of assets, reflects how successful a business has been in generating output – value of production – from inputs – total assets. The only difference between the conventional output-to-input productivity measure and total asset-turnover ratio is that the latter measure accounts for the price of the output and the value or prices of the assets used to produce the output. The asset-turnover ratio is commonly referred to as a measure of financial efficiency. But I’m not inclined to support that thinking because there’s more to efficiency than just producing more output per unit of input. I prefer to consider the asset-turnover ratio as a measure of productivity – and operating profit margin, a second financial ratio, as a measure of efficiency. The operating-profit-margin ratio is computed by dividing net returns – net farm income before interest expense less a return to unpaid-operator labor – by the value of production. This ratio reflects the relationship between the price

July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line of output and the average cost of producing output. High operating-profit-margin values are an indication of high levels of efficiency because they mean a firm is successfully controlling costs of production relative to the price of output. In contrast, low operating profit margins are generally signs of inefficiency because they indicate production costs are high relative to output price. It’s not enough to merely compute performance measures such as asset turnover and operating profit margin. Rather, those measures must be compared to some industry standards or benchmarks to determine whether a business is performing well or poorly. The asset-turnover and operating-profit-margin values presented in Figures 3 and 4 are financial measures made available by the Economic Research Service Agricultural Resource Management Survey, which can be used to assess the financial performance of dairy operations. These data reflect the performance of large dairies – sales of $1 million or more – that had the highest level of productivity and efficiency of all U.S. dairy farms in the survey, set for the 1996-2015 period. As shown in Figure 3, the asset turnover for high-performing dairy operations was about $0.50. That means dairies were generally able to produce about $0.50 of milk and other output per $1 invested in assets. Dairy operations with asset turnover at less than $0.50 need to consider what they can do to ra i s e p ro d u c t iv i ty to what’s being achieved by high-performing dairies. Some firms will liquidate excess unproductive assets to improve productivity. Others will better utilize assets by producing more output with the same set of assets, which

Figure 3

typically happens when dairies increase to a three-timea-day milking schedule. But there are always producers who fail to improve overall productivity; in the short run they will have earnings problems. In the long run, most of them will eventually go out of business because of an inability to compete with those achieving peak productivity. The profit margins in Figure 4 are in essence efficiency s ta n d a rd s fo r U. S. d a i ry operations. The values show that during the 1996-2015 period, high-performing dairy operations were typically able to capture about a $0.15 net return on each $1 of output produced. The one exception was 2009, when unusually low milk prices resulted in a negative profit margin for even the highest-performing dairies. A positive profit margin is an indication that production costs are less than the value of output. A 15 percent profit margin for high-performing dairy operations means the costs of production are about 85 percent of the value of milk and other output produced. Profit margins less than 15 percent indicate a business isn’t as efficient as possible. The remedy for that p ro b l e m i s to e l i m i n a te waste, and cut costs. Those actions will be difficult, but necessary for a business to be


Figure 4

competitive with those operating efficiently. Asset turnover and operating profit margin – measures of productivity and efficiency – are two important financial measures that dairy producers can use to evaluate the performance of their dairy operations. High values for the turnover ratio and the operating profit margins indicate a producer is doing well in terms of productivity

and efficiency. Alternatively, low values for either of those measures are signs that dairy operators may need to make adjustments in their operations in order to improve the financial performance of their dairy businesses. Bruce Jones is a professor of dairy science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Contact bljones1@wisc.edu for more information.

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July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line

Focus on What Matters

Food Armor delivers transparency, accountability KATIE MRDUTT

The Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association has long been managing p ro p e r d r u g usage in animal agriculture to meet industry Katie Mrdutt standards and expectations. That matches today’s ever-increasing demand for safe meat and milk. I t wa s 19 9 5 wh e n t h e

association created the Best Practices Taskforce to develop more effective drug management in the areas of prescription writing, drug reconciliation, protocol writing and record keeping. After partnering with Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin in 2010, Food Armor was born. The grass-roots approach focuses on the proper use of medications on farms, and relies on close working relationships between farmers and

veterinarians. The program has since progressed into a certifiable model detailing requirements for antibiotic stewardship, including third-party verification. “Food Armor was built on the need to proactively address drug residues and proper use,” said Kim Brown Pokorny, Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association executive director. “The evolution of this program demonstrates the need for the program and the farm-to-fork

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July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line beans and alfalfa. Kevin Borst’s wife, Lindsey, is a veterinarian; she views the program from two angles. “Consumer confidence has become very important to the dairy industry over the past couple of years,” she said. “With quality-control programs like Food Armor instituted on farms, consumers can feel very confident farmers are taking all the necessary steps to keep their food safe. It’s great for public perception.” Kevin Borst said he agrees. “As farm owners, we should be doing everything possible to make sure a tank of hot milk or a cow with residue never leaves the farm,” he said. “Food Armor has helped us develop a quality-control program when it comes to producing safe food for consumers.” Borst Family Dairy is only one of numerous operations with a mission of producing safe quality dairy products while maintaining high standards of care and welfare for cows and land. Due in part to the sweeping rise of consumer demand for certifiably safe meat and milk products, the Food Armor program continues to grow. In 2016 the Food Armor Foundation was established to support national expansion and growth. It’s committed to

Kevin Borst says, “The Food Armor® program has forced us to be more diligent in reviewing disease and death records, and continuously reviewing and updating our protocols.”

transparency and accountability for how food is produced as well as ensuring collaboration between veterinarians and producers to safeguard food safety and proper drug use. The Foundation Board of Directors is comprised of veterinarians, food-industry

executives, educators and dairy producers. “Each member of this Board of Directors brings an invaluable amount of experience w i t h t h e m ,” sa i d B row n Pokorny. “The Food Armor program is certain to create an impact with this group of out-


standing leaders.” The inaugural board includes Dr. Brian Lubbers, veterinarian, director of the clinical microbiology section of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory; Kim Stackhouse, director of sustainability for JBS-USA; Dr. M. Gatz Riddell, veterinarian, professor emeritus at Auburn University; Bruce Feinberg, senior director of global protein/dairy-quality systems at McDonald’s Corporation; Dr. David Rhoda, veterinarian; Chuck Adami, president and CEO of Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Association; Keith York, owner of Merry-Water Farms; Marty Hallock, owner of Mar-Bec Dairy; Dr. Jennifer Walker, veterinarian, director of stewardship at Dean Foods; Dr. Jeff Bleck, veterinarian, Dairy Doctors Veterinary Services; and Dr. Karl Solverson, veterinarian, Solverson Veterinary Services. Visit www.foodarmor. org for more information. Dr. Katie Mrdutt is a Food Armor Outreach Specialist with the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association. Contact mrdutt@wvma. org for more information.

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July 2017 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line


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