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Dairy Herd Management
Manure digester keys success

In 2007, Charlie, George, Tom and Mark Crave were milking 600 cows and operating an on-farm specialty cheese plant on their 1,600-acre farm near Waterloo.

Patience pays off

Ever been to a social function when someone was standing just a little too close, just inside your personal space? Chances are, consciously or unconsciously, you took a step away.

Cut manure and feed costs with dietary changes

We’ve all heard pseudo-scientists and friends of the environment claim that production agriculture contributes more to greenhouse gases and pollution than all of the cars in America.

The top 9 ways to mess up a good cow feeding plan

You’ve all heard that there are three diets for every lactating cow diet formulated: the diet on paper, the diet delivered and the diet consumed. Your feeder holds the power to deliver a great diet — or really mess things up.

Review revenue growth potential

Volatile times increase your stress level and make it difficult to focus on what you can control on a day-to-day basis on your farm. Careful review of accurate and timely business records, however, may help you identify areas that may help improve revenues.

Dashboard puts dairy in control

When it comes to visualizing the impact of potential change on your dairy, David Galligan has gadgets galore.

Look for profit, not price

A common comment made by dairy producers these days is, “If we could just get the milk price up, I would be fine.”

Test corn before feeding

The recent corn harvest was quite unfavorable, and livestock feeders need a long-term plan for feeding the 2009 crop. In much of the Midwest, corn harvest was later than in any year in recent memory, and the prolonged moist conditions in many cases caused molds to develop on the kernels, as ears were standing on stalks in the field.

Key elements mark top advisory teams

Dairy producers and those who advise them are learning more about and benefiting from the implementation and use of on-farm management advisory teams.

Properly use health products

A producer’s ability to correctly use an animal health product determines the product’s ability to perform. Human error is often responsible for a product’s perceived failure.

Ask the Vet: Mastitis pathogens

This month I’ll continue discussing bacteria that cause mastitis. As you may remember, we covered the Gram-positive bacteria last month, so this month we’ll cover the Gram-negative bacteria, which are usually referred to as coliforms. Gram-negatives are common in a cow’s intestinal tract. Because of this, they are everywhere in the cow’s environment. Infections by this family of bacteria can range from mild to very severe.

Which milk type should you feed?

My columns on bottle- versus bucket-feeding calves piqued much interest in the dairy community (see accompanying sidebar). Inevitably, the conversations steered to one question. What should we be feeding our calves: whole milk, transition milk, treated/waste milk or milk replacer?

How organic dairies differ

Large organic dairies are much more likely to generate returns above capital and labor costs, suggesting that organic milk production will migrate toward larger operations, as has conventional production, according to a USDA Economic Research Service costs study. The smallest organic operations use much more unpaid labor, accounting for most of this cost difference.

Relying on robots

Gone are the days when milking chores dictate when you get up in the morning and when you have to be home to milk cows at night.

‘Audit’ not always a bad word

A reworking of the old 5-Star Dairy Quality Assurance Program, the National Dairy FARM Program is a verifiable animal well-being program. FARM stands for Farmers Assuring Responsible Management. The program seeks to provide uniform best management practices in dairy animal care and quality assurance.

Robots offer new freedom

Remember the Hanna-Barbera cartoon show, “The Jetsons”?

What is your level of profitability?

Tom Kriegl, University of Wisconsin Extension and Center for Dairy Profitability agricultural economist, has developed a scale to help farm families estimate how profitable their operation is, and to give them a sense of the amount of risk their farm business has — without requiring them to become economists.

Take the farm to the next level

Tom Kriegl, University of Wisconsin Extension and Center for Dairy Profitability agricultural economist, says if a family is realistic, they can usually figure out within 10 or 15 minutes where their farming operation falls on the profitability chart (at lower left).

Preparing for the unexpected

If you were severely injured or died today, would your spouse or family know what to do with the farm? Who would milk the cows tonight, tomorrow or next week? Who would plant the crops or harvest hay? Would your family be able to make sound decisions regarding the farm’s future in a time of severe stress or grieving? Unfortunately, this situation happens far too often for many families; the main farm manager or owner suddenly is injured or passes away, and the famil

Bunk management isn’t just ‘bunk’!

How quickly would you adopt a practice that improves milk and component yields plus feed efficiency — without costing any money? “In a snap,” you say?

Dairy antibiotics degrade in soil

In the first large study to track the fate of a wide range of antibiotics given to dairy cows, University of California, Davis, scientists found that the drugs routinely end up on the ground and in manure lagoons, but are mostly broken down before they reach groundwater.

DeLaval unveils game-changing rotary

In mid-November, DeLaval rolled out the world’s first robotic rotary milking parlor at EuroTier 2010, Europe’s largest livestock show, held in Hannover, Germany. The Automatic Milking Rotary, or AMR, is a long-anticipated game changer for the global dairy industry.

I love grass — forages, that is!

There, I said it! I prefer grass forages to alfalfa!

Behind on grain bill: What to do now

Many farms are far worse off. It’s great that you’re looking for help now.You speak of adding cow numbers and borrowing money. Neither is advisable until the real issue(s) that caused the problem are discovered and addressed. How and why did the purchased feed expense get so out of hand?

Hold off opening that silage bunker

Nothing’s more exciting than opening a corn silage bunker to see how this year’s crop turned out. OK, so maybe there are a few things that might be more exciting.

Formulate feed for grass grazing

Feeding a seasonal herd of 300 cows, pastured and milked three times a day, isn’t as challenging as you might think. Rob Hunt of Vergennes, Vt., ought to know. He’s been doing it successfully for years.

Set up time required for organic dairy

As a conventional dairy producer, Justin Burbrink, Brandt Farm, Bartholomew County, had a goal of maximizing milk production. Under organic dairy production for three years, his goals became maintaining herd health and focusing on moving toward totally grass-based, self-sufficient production.

Questions to ask your dairy cows

When your next feed bill arrives, you’re not going to want to open it. And when you do, it’s tempting to log on to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and look for the lowest-priced feed ingredients.

Cattle and cold

Folks in North Dakota like to say that 25 below zero keeps the riffraff out of the state. But to Russell Edgar, Bathgate, N.D., it means opportunity.

Devoted to dairy

The Stephenson High School varsity basketball teams have “got milk?

Dairy damage control

Corby Werth considers being a spokesman for the Michigan Dairy News Bureau an honor. So when a reporter called from the Northern Express in the Traverse City area, he was ready to set the record straight.

MDNB helps dairy industry tell its side of story

Some people who don’t seek out all the facts tend to believe the first thing they hear, says Steve Edwards, a large-animal veterinarian. “If no one says otherwise, it becomes the truth in their minds,” he says.“That’s why we need to be telling dairy’s story — and preferably first. We need to be telling our story of milk production in a positive fashion, and not reactive and defensive.”

Is LGM a good margin-protector?

We’ve been hearing more about how the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy, or LGM-Dairy, insurance program is being made easier and more convenient to use. But isn’t it more convenient to just contract milk through my cooperative to cover the same risks?

More questions to ask your cows

Your cows are never wrong! So spend more time “interrogating” them. Ask about what you can do to improve feed efficiency — changes that won’t mean huge costs and diet changes.

Avoid dairy-cow transition to disaster

Think about transition cow management in terms of all the changes going on in a dairy cow’s body. Going from a pregnant, nonlactating state to being non-pregnant and lactating — her hormones are changing like crazy.

Dairy matters

June may be the official month to celebrate dairy, but dairies deserve recognition every month, says Steve Dick, executive director of Ag United for South Dakota.

Robot frees dairy family

The first robotic milker installed in the Dakotas is apparently working well.

Good neighbors

Looking to sell corn silage? Want to save some money on fertilizer? Want to boost your soil health?

Sheep keep soil in place at Green Dirt Farm

Military families know the drill. At the end of three or four years in one location, it’s time to pack up the house and move on to another destination. Each move brings new opportunities, people to meet and places to discover.

Crypto passes from animal to human

Diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans are termed “zoonotic” diseases. One of the more common zoonotic diseases is that caused by the protozoan parasite cryptosporidium.

Cows are his calling

Kyle Stockwell has been out of high school for less than four years. Yet he already knows what he wants to do — continue the family farm and milk cows. So far he deserves an “A” for his effort.

He chose cow college!

Kyle Stockwell knows cows. As a matter of fact, knowing cows is his job. “Spend enough time with the cows and you know when something is going on,” says Stockwell, Hudson.

Supreme Cow award remains in Indiana

Before the World Dairy Expo this month, there was the Indiana State Fair. And for just the second time, the Indiana State Fair named a Supreme Cow as champion over all breeds exhibited during the open dairy show.

MILC helps support dairy farms

USDA’s Milk Income Loss Contract Program, administered by the Farm Service Agency, compensates dairy producers when domestic milk prices fall below a specified level. The 2008 Farm Bill authorized MILC through Sept. 30. The program has no set funding level.

Take steps to increase dairy profits

Like many farmers, dairy producers want to increase their profits after a sluggish economy while still producing the best milk possible. One way to increase profits is to improve dairy-herd management.

Make the most of corn silage; figure all the angles

Raising corn silage was a struggle in early spring for the Phillips brothers. The weather just wouldn’t cooperate on Northpointe Farm, their operation in Augusta County, Va. It was hot and dry in March, and cold, damp and wet in April, just when they needed to plant corn.

Cheese important to Indiana dairymen

When consumers browse the cheese aisle at grocery stores, they see a popular and versatile dairy product that can be enjoyed in different ways, from grilled between two slices of bread to topping off a salad.

Processing plant adds margin stability

Tom and Judy McCarty and their four sons have learned a lot since they moved to Kansas 12 years ago to try to forge a way that would allow the entire family to be involved in dairy farming, a three-generation family legacy.

Dairy turns to robotic milkers

When is it time for change? There are multiple considerations — some that go far beyond the usual economics and logistics.

Dairy declines

It is hard to imagine, but at one time Missouri was home to close to 1 million dairy cattle.

Tribute Farms: dairy under irrigation

Three things brought Peter Gaul to southeast Missouri: soil, water and climate. The New Zealand native says this trifecta makes a large-scale, forage-based seasonal dairy successful.

Grower expands N.Y. cranberry bog

Peter Paquin eagerly thinks ahead about his cranberry bog business. And why not? A year ago, he grew 2.5 million pounds of berries at two locations and sold his crop for 80 cents a pound.

Watch high producers closely

It’s as plain as the numbers in your milking reports. Cows in early lactation are generally more profitable than cows later in lactation.

Iles Dairy closes after 78 years

It was a tough day back in August when David Iles Jr. milked his cows for the last time. After that last milking, D.E. Iles Dairy of Littleton, N.C., was no more — Iles carried the last of the animals to market that same day.“The cows looked at me like they were saying, ‘What is this all about?’” Iles says.

EZid unveils its new electronic ear tag

EZid, a division of Avid Identification Systems in Greeley, Colo., has announced the release of the EZid HDX Electronic Ear Tag for cattle.

Try protocol for timed AI in heifers

We spend a lot of time talking about improving fertility within the milking herd, but we tend to overlook heifer fertility. One reason for this oversight is that the national average conception rate for heifers is 57%, a number producers can only dream of achieving in lactating cows.

Firing employees is never easy

As an employer, deciding whether or not to terminate an employee can be agonizing. The employee likely has a family to support; or the terminated employee may speak badly about you to your friends, neighbors or other employees. However, the most important concern you should have, besides the success of your farm business, is to make sure the employee is legally terminated, as the employer-employee relationship is filled with legal pitfalls.

A dash of oregano, please

Alex Hristov is onto something big — greenhouse gas big! Cows chew and belch all the time. It’s what they do. And when they do it, they emit methane gas — big time, says the Penn State University dairy scientist.

Should he stay or leave the dairy?

Dad and I have had long, sometimes heated arguments over whether to stay in the dairy business. He doesn’t want to spend money for technology to keep up. I say you have to invest forward. He owns the farm (230 acres). We average 17,680 pounds on 143 cows with a 480,000 somatic cell count (SCC). What’s your counsel? Should I look for opportunities elsewhere?

Can you pick out the dairy imposters?

If you’re old enough to remember the commercial for recording tape, “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” you probably remember that the singer’s voice on tape supposedly shattered glass. Experts say even a person singing live can’t shatter glass.

Goat milking becomes reality

Not far over the Hancock/Henry County line in Henry County you’ll find a farm that raises forages, goats and llamas. It’s a goat dairy, one of the few in Indiana, and it’s well on its way to turning milking goats into a profitable business.

Drought brings feed hazard

Drought increases many feed safety and harvest challenges, says J.W. Schroeder, North Dakota State University Extension dairy specialist.