Volume 20: Issue 4 June 2018
BOTTOM LINE Sharing ideas, solutions, resources and experiences that help dairy producers succeed.
BY THE NUMBERS
Page 3 Water tours coming up
Financial climate better than 1980s
A Page 4 Virtual dairy farm brain is data-overload remedy
Page 6 Manage for opportunities
Page 8 Death and divorce: protect farm assets
s tough as things are in today’s agricultural economy, things were considerably worse just more than 30 years ago. Commodity prices were down at support levels established by the federal Farm Bill and interest rates on farm loans were in the mid to low teens for most of a decade. The combination of low commodity prices and high interest rates resulted in cash-flow problems for Bruce Jones nearly all farmers. But it was particularly hard on farmers who had borrowed heavily to expand their holdings of farmland. Highly leveraged farmers depleted their cash reserves while trying to make up the difference between their net-cash receipts and their loan-repayment obligations. Ultimately those high-debt farmers ran out of cash reserves and had difficulties obtaining the operating loans needed to cover short-run cash deficits. The financial problems of farmers with high debt were further complicated by declines in farmland values. Low farm incomes pushed land values downward. In turn, credit regulators ordered lenders to foreclose on some farm loans. Those foreclosures drastically increased the amount of acres for sale in a short period of time. The influx in the supply of land for sale put significant downward pressures on farmland values. Eventually commodity prices rose, farm incomes increased and farmland values stabilized. When that occurred the financial crisis
for agriculture essentially came to an end. There are now some people in the agricultural community who believe we’re set to go through another farm-financial crisis. It’s true we’re again seeing cash-flow problems as we did prior to the farm-finance crisis of the 1980s. However we’re not dealing with interest rates on farm loans that are well above 10 percent. Instead interest rates on farm loans are about 5 percent. Thanks to those low interest rates, it’s been a bit easier for farmers to stay current on their loan payments. Another important difference between farm-financial conditions 30 years ago and today is the relative stability of farmland values. In the decade prior to the 1980s farm-financial crisis, the average annual percent change in Wisconsin farmland values was almost 17 percent per year. In contrast the average percent change in Wisconsin farmland values during the 2008-2017 period was about 4.5 percent per year. That sizable difference in land-value growth rates is evidence that the farmland market is not operating as it did three decades ago. The high annual growth in land values for the 1971-1980 period is an indication that optimism about future land values was a key driver of the farmland market during that period of time. People bought land fully expecting to reap significant financial gains. Those expectations didn’t coincide with the economic realities. Corrections were instated that prompted the market value of farmland to decrease until it was back in line with the See JONES, Page 2
Professional Dairy Producers I 1-800-947-7379 I www.pdpw.org ™
June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line
PDPW Board of Directors President Jay Heeg Colby, Wis. 715-507-0030 firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President Katy Schultz Fox Lake, Wis. 920-210-9661 email@example.com Secretary Dan Scheider Freeport, Ill. 815-812-4012 firstname.lastname@example.org Treasurer Brian Forrest Stratford, Wis. 715-650-0267 email@example.com Directors Mitch Breunig Sauk City, Wis. 608-963-6819 firstname.lastname@example.org Andy Buttles Lancaster, Wis. 608-723-4712 email@example.com Janet Clark Rosendale, Wis. 608-341-6709 firstname.lastname@example.org Marty Hallock Mondovi, Wis. 715-495-2812 email@example.com Steven Orth Cleveland, Wis. 920-905-2575 firstname.lastname@example.org
PDPW Advisers Jim Barmore GPS Dairy Consulting Verona, Wis. email@example.com
Mark Binversie Investors Community Bank Manitowoc, Wis. mbinversie@investors communitybank.com Dr. Randy Shaver UW- Madison Dairy Science Madison, Wis. firstname.lastname@example.org Andrew Skwor MSA Professional Services Baraboo, Wis. email@example.com
Continued from page 1
economic returns from farmland. The relatively low growth in land values that has occurred in recent years is encouraging because it’s a sign the mistakes of the 1970s aren’t being repeated. Farmland values have generally kept pace with returns from land, which have risen at relatively modest rates. That’s heartening because it suggests the farmland market hasn’t been distorted by irrational speculative expectations about future land values. So there appears to be no reason to expect a dramatic decrease or increase in farmland values in the very near term. The discussion of farm-financial conditions today as well as 30 years ago generally coincides with my career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I joined the faculty of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in 1984 at the depth
of the farm-finance crisis of the 1980s. I had the good fortune of working with many farm families who were able to work through the tough times of the 1980s and eventually undertake some expansion and modernization projects when economic conditions improved. Those family businesses have gone through some
management transitions. Now the farmers who survived the trying times of the early 1980s are easing out of the family business and letting the next generation of agricultural leaders take over. Bruce Jones is a recently retired professor of dairy science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line
Water tours to highlight innovations To showcase the ways that communities, dairy producers, consumers and other stakeholders collaborate to keep water safe and accessible, a multi-stop tour is being offered June 26 near Verona, Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin-Discovery Farms and Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin plan to collaborate once again to highlight water-quality innovations and practices. A chartered bus will arrive to collect participants at 9:30 a.m. at Verona Park and Ride and will return at 3:30 p.m. The tour begins with a stop at Sunburst Dairy, a 500-cow dairy owned and operated by Brian, Yogi and Cory Brown. The family routinely hosts tours of their farm near Belleville, Wisconsin, including a previous Wisconsin Farm-to-Table event. Attendees will see firsthand the farm’s conservation
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and cropping strategies. As president of the Farmers for the Upper Sugar River farmer-led watershed group, Brian Brown will highlight the work the group is doing to protect water quality and enhance it for future generations. The next stop takes participants to the banks of the Sugar River. Wade Moder, executive director of the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association, will share work the association is doing with farmers as well as management practices for invasive aquatic life. At the city of Verona Public Works Department, Assistant Director Marty Cieslik will discuss how explosive population growth and increased business demands in Verona impact storm-water management, and infrastructure construction and inspection. Attendees will also tour the
The outside seating area at Wisconsin Brewing Company in Verona, Wisconsin, is a customer favorite in warm weather. Contributed
Wisconsin Brewing Company to learn more about the role water plays at the brewery. Kirby Nelson, vice-president and brew master, will share how the company crafts its specialty brews and handles processes for managing wastewater streams. Tickets are $30 per person; t h ey i n c l u d e b u s t rave l , snacks, refreshments and lunch. Comfortable shoes are
Brian Brown’s Sunburst Dairy in Belleville, Wisconsin, is located in the Upper Sugar River Watershed. The river runs through the farm.
recommended. As many as 4.5 credits of continuing-education units are available for the p ro g ra m t h ro u g h D a i r y AdvanCE. Visit www.pdpw.org or call 800-947-7379 to register and for more information.
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June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line
Information overload calls for ‘virtual brain’ VICTOR CABRERA
airy farmers are inundated with data. On-farm milking, feeding, activity monitoring and reproductive systems gather data while artificial-insemination companies, milk processors and breed associations continually update producers with new information. In addition, weather forecasts, commodity prices and ever-changing regulations keep producers juggling facts and figures. All this data holds little value if it’s not transformed i n to u s a b l e information. A team of researchers at the University o f Wi sco n sin-Madison is progressing with a project Victor Cabrera that will not only sort disjointed streams of information but also apply artificial intelligence to mimic the same kind of “reasoning” a successful dairyherd manager would use. Researchers from the comp u te r a n d d a i ry- sc i e n ce departments are working on a web-based project that has been compiling data streams from three well-managed dairy herds in southern Wisconsin. We called this project the “Virtual Dairy Farm Brain” because we’re trying to mimic the thinking of a good dairyfarm manager. We’re going to start by seeing what the manager decides to do with the data and then see what our system would suggest as potentially the best decision. Once the on- and off-farm data is collected from the dairy farms it’s integrated into a data warehouse and stored in realtime on a secure server at the U W- M a d i so n Wi sco n s i n Institute for Discovery. Data from more than 4,000 cows
has been streaming in for several months. A packed room at the 2018 PDPW Business Conference underscored the impact information overload is having on dairy producers. Virtual Dairy Farm Brain researchers presented their vision to attendees and surveyed them to better understand their needs regarding data analytics. About 91 percent of the participants rated data integration as “important” or “very important.” The Virtual Brain presents data in real-time visual dashboards, enabling decision-makers to detect changes and immediately institute corrections or improvements. In addition the data warehouse will simplify otherwise time-consuming calculations by bringing the data together and “thinking” like a dairy manager to enact wise decisions. A majority of surveyed participants – 83 percent – reported they use feed efficiency and milk income as
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June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line key performance indicators, rather than feed cost, for the basis of management decisions. Feed efficiency, defined as milk produced divided by the amount of dry matter consumed, is calculated by integrating data collected by three separate systems — daily-milking information recorded by milking-system software, dry-matter intake collected by feed-monitoring software, and daily-pen allocation from herd-management software. Similarly, income over feed cost is calculated by integrating milk-composition data from three separate sources — the milk processor’s database, an external e c o n o m i c d a ta b a s e a n d feed-monitoring software. As researchers monitor the program they’ve discovered interesting information regarding management strategies that
are commonly accepted as standard. Eighty-eight percent of the surveyed participants indicated their primary strategy for grouping milking cows is determined by parity or stage of lactation. However data has shown when cows were grouped by nutritional requirements or parlor efficiency instead, improvements were seen in herd health, productivity and diet formulation while feed costs and nutrient emissions decreased. Currently users of Virtual Dairy Farm Brain can plot a cow’s daily-milk production on-demand and compare it with the daily herd-level milk production during a selected time period. Users can then integrate that data with a cow’s recorded health and reproduction events or other m a n a ge m e n t fa c to rs to
analyze the impact of those events on milk production. Fifty-eight percent of surveyed attendees reported their culling decisions are based mostly on reproduction while 39 percent pointed to production as a primary culling factor. If sorting through data is one monumental task, applying artificial intelligence to arrive at a logical action is certainly another. Collaborating with the UW’s Center for High T h ro u g h p u t C o m p u t i n g allows the project to continue moving toward its ultimate objective of sparing dairy producers countless hours of calculation and data interpretation. Devising algorithms that analyze what’s happening on farms is one of the many roles the computer scientists play in the Virtual Brain project. By
discovering which inputs result in which outcomes the entire team can build a program that more accurately predicts the potential results of a broad range of everyday management decisions. A s t h e p ro j e c t m ove s through the stages of ensuring the web-based prototype is m o r e w i d e l y a va i l a b l e , researchers also look forward to creating a mobile-friendly application. In the meantime interested dairy farmers still have an opportunity to be involved in the project. Farms that use multiple data sources are eligible to participate in data-streaming at no cost to the farm. Victor Cabrera is an associate professor of dairy science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reach him.
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June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line
Manage dairy for opportunities Tim Baumgartner
airy producers have been operating in an environment of depressed milk prices since 2015. Processing capacity in the United States is strained and an erosion in basis has been seen across the Midwest. Those who have been involved in the dairy industry a while are familiar with its cyclical nature. Industry members and producers alike Tim have been through good Baumgartner margins and bad margins before. During a down cycle producers have the opportunity to focus on two key factors, both of which ultimately increase dairy profitability. When lenders talk with their clients about improvements within their businesses, two areas receive focus — managing the operation to improve revenue and managing the operation to control costs. Dairy producers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and across the United States received stronger premiums for their milk prior to 2015. In the current climate components play a much more critical role in the net price producers receive in milk checks. The first question when working to improve revenue should be “Can the butterfat, protein and other solid levels in milk be improved to generate a higher pay price?” In today’s environment increasing components and improving milk
June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line q u a l i ty a s m ea s u re d by somatic cell count are two of the best ways to increase margin to achieve the highest pay price for milk. Increasing total pounds of raw milk sold is often considered the best option for generating more revenue. But if that change doesn’t create the necessary income other options should be considered. More and more producers are turning to risk-management programs or milk-marketing plans as a way to improve revenue. Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle and the Margin Protection Program are two examples. Those livestock-insurance products protect against the loss of gross margin in milk production in the case of a decrease in the selling price of milk. Though those products
have differences they share the primary objective of managing risk for dairy producers. Seek advice from a processor or marketing consultant to discuss the details of those products and their predicted performance based on herd s i z e a n d ava i l a b l e fa r m resources. Some producers shy away from pursuing those options, generally because of two primary objections. 1) I tried that once, and it was the worst thing I ever did. That mentality is not uncommon in businesses already stretched thin, but it can have stifling effects. A look at any operation will uncover management strategies and business changes that didn’t have the desired result immediately. Some changes need to be tweaked to fit the circumstances specific to the
business. Most changes are accompanied by a learning curve that can seem costly and u n co m fo r ta b l e . T h ro u g h adaptation, education and p e rs eve ra n c e , c h a n ge s designed to improve business eventually become a routine part of business. Computers, smartphones and global-positioning systems are all proof positive of that. While historically risk management or having a milk-marketing plan hasn’t received much consideration, it’s becoming a key component for an increasingly larger percentage of dairy operations across the United States. 2) Factoring in the cost and averaging it out over time, the end price received isn’t much different. There’s a reasonable chance the statement is correct on account of
the extreme nature of the lows – a s we l l a s t h e h i g h s. Depending on the specifics in the dairy, risk-management products can still be a solution to surviving sustained periods of low prices. Understanding costs and choosing sound decisions to manage and control those costs are important. Evaluating feed rations, labor efficiency, sizing replacement herd to the milking herd, net herd-replacement costs, uses of capital and borrowing are all critical aspects to understand and to be able to determine where opportunities exist, which ultimately will improve revenue to create a profitable return for a dairy operation. Tim Baumgartner is a dairy-lendingteam leader at Compeer Financial, a mission sponsor of PDPW.
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June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line
Plan ahead for death, divorce
ear George: As I plan our wedding I want to protect my fiancé and me – and my farm assets – in case tragedy strikes by way of death or divorce. Please advise. In marital planning being legally prepared for divorce or a successor’s death is essential to a sound farm-succession plan. Many options exist to limit t h e a dve rse impact of d ivo rc e o r a George s u c c e s s o r ’s Twohig death on the farm’s future. Here’s a closer look at three of the most common methods. • L egal structure — The farm business can be operated and farm assets can be held by one or more LLCs, other legal entities or companies. Ownership interests – units – can be gifted or otherwise transferred to the successor, rather than specific assets. The successor’s individual property interests are easier to maintain and trace when they’re viewed as units rather than interests in specific assets, such as farm personal property or real estate. Also in a divorce or at death, a discount in value – often in the 30 percent to 45 percent range – may apply to a minority interest in a company held by the successor because they lack marketability and control. • Restrictions on transfer of interest — The company’s operating agreement or a buysell agreement should restrict the transfer of units and essential farm real estate to qualified family members. The agreement should give the successor the option to acquire any spousal interest in the event of a divorce or the spouse’s death.
In marriage, making a plan to protect farm assets isn’t romantic, but it’s essential to sound farm-succession planning.
It should give the remaining owners the option or obligation to the purchase of the successor’s entire interest in the event of his or her death, disability, termination of employment or other triggering events. It should provide a valuation method resulting in a practical purchase price, often including a minority discount, of the withdrawing owner’s units and practical payment terms. The agreement may allow the successor’s spouse to continue ownership if the other owners want the spouse’s continued participation or if the successor has qualified descendants working in, or coming into, the farm business. • Marital property agreements — The successor and senior generation will want the successor to maintain
management, control and individual ownership of his or her present and future interests in farm assets. A marital p ro p e r ty a g re e m e n t ca n establish how assets and debts will be held during the marriage as well as each spouse’s obligations in the event of a divorce or death. The marital property agreement should clarify each spouse’s obligation to contribute to the family support during the marr i a ge , c o n s i d e r i n g ea c h spouse’s income and other financial resources. It should also identify the property, owned at that time or acquired later, that will be held as the couple’s marital property or by one of them as his or her individual property. The mari ta l p ro p e r ty a g re e m e n t should detail the financial arrangement in the event of
the successor or the spouse’s death, usually including the survivor’s right to receive all marital property, retirement accounts, IRAs and outside financial investments. It should also include the decedent’s right to control the distribution of his or her individual property. But when most of the assets are farm assets held as the successor’s individual property, the marital property agreement may require the successor’s estate to make distributions — sometimes funded with life insurance — to provide for the long-term financial security of the surviving spouse and children. Required distributions often include an agreedupon amount or a percentage of the value of the deceased s p o u s e ’s n e t i n d i v i d u a l property being distributed
June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line outright to the surviving spouse and/or held in trust for the benefit of the surviving spouse and children. The marital property agreement should also establish the financial arrangement in the event of the couple’s divorce, including the division of marital property, IRAs, retirement plans and other outside financial investments; it should also include each party’s right to retain his or her individual property. When most of the assets are farm assets held by the successor the marital property agreement may provide for the spouse to receive a greater share of non-farm assets and/or a reasonable payment to the successor’s spouse for his or her financial security. A reasonable paym e n t w i l l co n s i d e r t h e spouse’s separate income and assets and often the length of the marriage and/or the spouse’s contributions to the
farm and to the successor’s opportunities on the farm. The marital property agreement should include the successor’s right to acquire the spouse’s interest, if any, in farm assets and often a waiver or limitation on maintenance payments considering property division, spouse’s separate income and the needs of any children. The goal should be to provide the in-law and the children with reasonable financial security while also considering the farm’s financial limitations and that the senior generation will transfer farm assets to the successor to continue the farm legacy.
programs for you
wisconsin dairy tours Tuesday, July 17, 2018
7:45 am - 5:45 pm
Son-Bow Farms, Spring Valley, Wis. and Alfalawn Farm, Menomonie, Wis. share success tips with participants, showcasing innovations they’re using to save money, time and labor. Solids separation, reduced hauling costs, 60-cow rotary, 75,000-80,000 SCC on sand. Roundtable with producers and their consultants.
Bus pick-ups in Marshfield and Eau Claire
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 email@example.com for more information.
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2018 ACE On-the-Farm Twilight Meetings Town and county officials, community leaders, dairy farmers and neighbors, YOU’RE INVITED. Join local community leaders and dairy farmers to learn together and discuss important issues relating to our communities, resources and farming. Dairy tour starts at 6:00 p.m. Ice cream served at 7:00 p.m. with community/dairy discussion lasting until 8:30 p.m. You choose: Mon. Aug 27 Mark & Tim Keller, Kellercrest Hols., Mt. Horeb, Dane county Tue. Aug 28 Tom & Lorene Mueller, Miltrim Farms, Athens, Marathon county Wed. Aug 29 Tony & Jake Brey, Brey’s Cycle Farm, Sturgeon Bay, Door county Thu. Aug 30 Steve & Dan Smits, Double S Dairy, Markesan, Green Lake county RSVPs to PDPW appreciated; walk-ins also welcome. This event is brought to you by Wisconsin Towns Association, Wisconsin Counties Association and Professional Dairy Producers®
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For details on these programs and more, visit pdpw.org or call 800-947-7379.
June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line
Approach future with faith HANK WAGNER
here are difficult challenges right now for many people involved in agriculture. My family and I are also living with difficulties. Before 2018 even began our dairy industry was shaken as some producers scrambled to find a market for their milk. Even producers who still had a Hank Wagner p ro c e s s o r to take their milk were impacted. By early 2018 most dairy farmers had lost the option to use Posilac. Producers saw production decrease by as much as 10 pounds per cow.
The law of supply and demand kicked into action; milk prices plunged to even less. Not far behind was a notice to expect decreased premiums and increased hauling costs. At the same time farmers desperate to cut costs faced the stark reality of a shrinking labor force. That takes a toll on suppliers of all kinds. When farmers are profitable much of their money is spent locally; many other businesses and their employees benefit. The opposite is also true. Ah but spring was just around the corner. And just as a few robins, a hint of green in the lawn and geese flying north brought tidings of hope and warmth to come, Mother Nature delivered an
unexpected blow. Snowstorm Evelyn and her heavy wet snow — as much as 36 inches of it — and strong winds made for a long weekend for those caught in the throes. Some needed to draw from deep within themselves to endure the most difficult challenge of the year and maybe even of their lifetimes. It was a time for hard work, quick thinking and problem solving to deal with collapsing barns, injured cattle and a storm that was still raging. The storm passed, but for many the damage is still there. With spring quickly approaching there wasn’t much time to repair buildings. A late spring will put a heavy load on an already stressed industry. Rather than focus on all that has gone wrong, it’s far healthier to recognize something good can come from all those challenges. Regardless of how many correct choices we make in life, this world is not Heaven and we will always have challenges. Most we can learn from and become stronger as a result. I believe that’s why the people of agriculture have such strong character, strength and determination. Some things simply cannot be changed. Though that can
make them more difficult to deal with, we must be careful to never play the “ blame game.” It never pays dividends to spend energy blaming events or people; sometimes ba d t h i n gs j u s t h a p p e n . Instead we must continue to draw from the fire that burns within us. We must have faith the best is yet to come. If our focus on things going wrong seems to be zapping energy and spirit, it’s a great time to start a thankful list. Create a family or business project to see how many items can be added to a thankful list. No matter how bad circumstances seem, we still all have so much to be thankful for. After the snow storm I received a text message from a good friend, “If you can’t find joy in the snow, you’ve still got snow, but no joy!” Whether snow, drought, rain or other challenges, that’s good advice. Commit daily to being positive, happy and thankful, regardless of the circumstances. Hank Wagner is a dairy producer and a John Maxwell Team teacher, mentor, speaker and coach. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line
Reduce energy use and lower costs FOCUS ON ENERGY
Many systems dairy producers use every day can be adjusted and maintained to increase savings with little to no time or money invested. Systems such as milk-vacuum pumps and cooling equipment, ventilation a n d c i rc u l a t i o n fa n s, water-heating equipment and cleaning systems all present opportunities for energy savings. Regular maintenance is key to ensuring equipment operates reliably and efficiently. Many farm equipment suppliers offer annual tune-up services to keep systems running at peak performance. Those tune-ups can uncover potential issues before they arise and can increase the equipment’s operating efficiency. For example a refrigeration tune-up includes many things. • Cleaning and inspecting
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condenser coils, evaporator coils, drain pan and fans. • Replacing screens, grills, filters and dryer cores. • Inspecting and adjusting heat-reclaim operation and replacing relays and capacitors as needed. • Tightening line-voltage connections. • Adding or removing refrigerant charge. Every farm should have a preventive-maintenance plan. Begin with making a plan for routine maintenance or retain a service technician to carry out performance assessments of critical equipment in search of potential saving opportunities. There are several possible recommendations. • Add a variable-speed drive on a milk-vacuum pump, which allows for the lowest possible output while giving adequate vacuum for the milking pump. That could save thousands of dollars on energy each year. • I n s ta l l a n o - a i r- l o s s condensate drain on air
compressors to improve air quality and eliminate waste issues. That could also save thousands of dollars each year. • Keep farm equipment turned off when not in use. Use preset timers to increase convenience and energy savings. • Use natural light whenever possible. Install occupancy sensors to turn off lights when a space is unoccupied, especially near entrances, in hallways and storage areas. • Use timers on engine-block heaters during cold months to warm engines prior to starting up. That improves air quality by reducing carbon-monoxide emissions by an average of 60 percent and provides a payback in as little as one month. • Operate milking equipment during off-peak times of day when electricity cost is lowest. • Reduce heating costs with a heat-recovery system. It captures the heat wasted from the refrigeration unit’s condenser and converts incoming cold water into stored hot water.
June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line
Show the public you care JENNIFER VAN OS
uring June Dairy Month consumers around the nation are reminded by businesses and grocery stores that dairy products have an important place at every table. B rea k fa s t o n the Farm events present opportunities to meet the farmers and Jennifer see the animals, Van Os relive family traditions that hearken back to a time gone by, and learn about the ever-increasing capabilities of drones, robots and other technologies commonly used on farms today. For producers those events are often a breath of fresh air – a reassurance that
Consumer perceptions of the way production animals are treated are a driving force in their purchase decisions.
production agriculture is not merely necessary, but enjoy-
Twohig Rietbrock Schneider & Halbach “Attorneys for Agriculture” (920) 849 - 4999
Legal, business and planning solutions for Wisconsin’s farms and agribusinesses.
able and worthwhile. Public perception is a major factor in consumer-purchasing decisions. Because films such as “Eating Animals” and “Cowspiracy” lead viewers to presume the scenes of animal neglect and abuse are an accurate depiction of today’s farms, it behooves dairy producers to stay committed to providing animals the best care possible and to share the truth of animal and food safety. Highly visible campaigns such as ag-gag laws, California’s Proposition 2, and more have unfairly sullied the reputation of farmers. The rapid-fire dissemination of information through social media amplifies the noise; the agricultural industry is caught in the crossfire. Ironically consumers and producers across the board agree animals deserve to be treated well. The challenge is to effectively manage business operations, routinely share animal-welfare methods and protocols, and give consumers repeated opportunities to see this for themselves. A biological understanding of
what’s appropriate for each species is important. It’s not enough for producers to proclaim, “We take care of our animals so they will take care of us.” Consumers want to see that producers take care of animals even when there’s no guarantee the animals will “take care of” the producer. In addition producers do well to acknowledge that education alone isn’t enough. Exposure to a practice that seems rational to one person may appear as an excuse or defensive to another because values and emotions play a role. It’s critical to recognize the pros and cons of every management decision as well as the emotional component. The common ground between consumers and producers starts with, “We care about our animals and we are committed to doing the best we can so they have a good life.” As long as consumer perceptions drive purchases, it will continue to be important to engage with the public and demonstrate there is no “cowspiracy.” Observe management practices from the lens of a
June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line
passerby. View farm buildings and animal facilities from the perspective of one who’s never stepped foot on a farm. Promote events that give people opportunities to see agricultural production at its best. Not every dairy producer can host a Breakfast on the Farm or other on-farm community gatherings, but every dairy producer can encourage friends and neighbors to attend. Jennifer Van Os joined the University of Wisconsin–Madison faculty in March 2018 as assistant professor of dairy science and as a UW-Extension animal-welfare specialist. Her research focuses on understanding, evaluating and improving the welfare of dairy animals from a biological perspective. In her role as animal-welfare specialist she’ll be reaching out to consumers to promote animal welfare based on scientific research. She’ll also serve on corporate advisory councils to further best practices in management and housing to help the Wisconsin dairy industry adapt alongside growing scientific research in animal welfare. Email email@example.com to reach her.
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Before there was a Columbia County Moo-Day Brunch, there was Breakfast on the Farm. And in 1979, Florian and Helen Ring hosted the event on their farm in the town of Wyocena. Helen Ring, 91, and her son, Larry Ring, attend the 2017 Moo-Day Brunch at the University of Wisconsin-Arlington Agricultural Research Station, where many of the hosts from 40 years of Columbia County June Dairy Month observances were on hand to be recognized.
During June Dairy Month consumers around the nation are reminded by businesses and grocery stores that dairy products have an important place at every table. Breakfast on the Farm events present opportunities to meet the farmers and see the animals, relive family traditions that hearken back to a time gone by, and learn about the ever-increasing capabilities of drones, robots and other technologies commonly used on farms today.
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Volunteers work on making large batches of egg, ham and cheese omelets at the 2017 Manitowoc County Breakfast on the Farm.
June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line
Manage newborn calves after dystocia GEOF SMITH College of Veterinary Medicine North Carolina State University
n a previous issue the topic of avoiding stillbirths on the dairy farm covered four keys to decreasing the number of newborn-calf deaths due to difficult calving. Genetic selection, nutrition, pen management and employee training each play a critical role in decreasing the number of stillbirths on dairy operations. Geof Smith Another important factor to avoiding stillbirths is to appropriately identify and care for calves in stressed or critical condition after birth. In dairy cattle it has been estimated that 75 percent of newborn-calf mortality occurs within an hour of birth. Though most calves will naturally progress from sitting to standing in the time frame immediately following birth, those having endured a difficult birth will need more attention. Learning to spot which calves need help and properly administering care to them can reduce death loss distinctly. Assist calves after difficult birth
In cases of dystocia the calf should be positioned in sternal recumbency immediately after its birth. Sternal recumbency is a posture in which the calf is sitting straight up; the position allows both lungs to expand. Fluid from the mouth or nose should be removed. Do that
Newborn calves that have undergone difficult births need a higher level of attention to ensure their health.
carefully with a bulb syringe or turkey baster — or use clean hands. Never hang the calf upside down. A dam’s instinct is to lick her calf immediately after giving birth. Sometimes that process calls for human assistance. To stimulate the calf’s breathing rub the newborn with a towel and insert fingers in its ears or nose or both. As part of standard cow-and-calf management train employees to have a good understanding of normal calf behavior after delivery. After a typical birth the calf should be capable of lifting its head within three minutes, sitting up on its own within five
minutes, and should be trying to stand after 20 minutes. After an hour a newborn calf should be standing. To better assess calves born during difficult circumstances, a calf-vitality scoring system originally developed by the University of Guelph is available from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a mobile application. Similar to an Apgar scoring system used to assess newborn human infants based on color, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone and respiration, the calf VIGOR scoring system is designed to evaluate calves shortly after birth on their visual appearance, initiation of
movement, general responsiveness, oxygenation, and heart and respiration rates. Beware red flags of newborn stress Signs of calf distress include meconium staining, where calves are born stained with a yellow-brown color as a result of oxygen deprivation while the calf is still in the amniotic sac. When that happens the calf’s colon contracts and pushes the meconium – the “first manure” – out of the calf. Those calves will take longer to stand, won’t nurse well, and will have decreased efficiency in absorbing immunoglobulins.
June 2018 • PDPW • Dairy’s Bottom Line
After a normal birth newborns will stand within 60 minutes of being born. In difficult births delays in sitting and standing can lead to health problems down the road.
Other signs of newborn calf stress include prolonged time to sitting up, irregular breathing, hemorrhages or red spots in the eye, cyanotic or blue mucous membranes, and/or a swollen tongue or head. Prompt the calf’s breathing
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In general cardiac resuscitation is not attempted on calves because a newborn calf born without a heartbeat is unlikely to live long. Most calf-resuscitation techniques focus on ensuring the calf is breathing. Techniques that can be used to stimulate breathing include acupuncture, a procedure in which a needle is placed directly on the midline of the nose and inserted all the way to the bone. Typically the needle is left there several minutes after insertion and until the calf is breathing well on its own. Another technique to stimulate breathing involves pouring ice-cold water over the
calf’s head or into the ear to stimulate a gasp reflex. For that to be effective cold water needs to be close to the maternity area because calves can’t go without breathing long. Some people are advocates of giving caffeine to calves that are weak. Although this technique hasn’t been studied specifically in calves, caffeine has been used extensively in preterm infants that have trouble breathing. Caffeine is also used in neonatal foals to stimulate their cardiac and respiratory systems after birth. Anecdotally there are positive reports of administering caffeine to weak calves after birth. Most commonly that’s done by giving the calf a “5-hour-energy drink” that contains 200 milligrams of caffeine. Although more research is needed to assess the efficacy of that practice in resuscitating calves after dystocia, there are many reports of dull calves responding to caffeine and becoming alert within 15 to 30 minutes. Multiple studies have shown a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as Flunixin administered to calves born after dystocia can improve vigor, suckle reflex and weight gain during the first week. Veterinarians often do a good job recognizing that dystocia is painful for the cow; it can also be quite painful for the calf. Although there are multiple reasons stillbirths continue to be a major problem in the dairy industry, training employees on proper calving management and calf care after birth is critical to maximize calf survival. In addition maternity-barn personnel need to be trained to promptly identify weak or sick calves so immediate medical attention can be provided. Dr. Geof Smith, veterinarian, is professor of ruminant medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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