Note from the Editor

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist

Welcome to the September 2022 Newsletter! It has been a busy summer for the dairy faculty and students at WSU. Our summer excitement included research presentations at international conferences, new grant funding opportunities, discussions about potential renovations for the Knott Dairy Center, Extension workshops, and recently published research results in top-tier science journals. Our dairy program is heating up! The September 2022 Newsletter will highlight some of these successes, including updates from our dairy student organizations. We hope you enjoy!

As always, I am extending an open invitation for suggestions on future newsletter topics. Please feel free to reach out to with your ideas.


And that’s a Wrap. . . LEADS Training 2019 – 2022 

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist

In 2019, my research team, the University of Washington PNASH Center, and the Washington State Dairy Federation began a partnership focused on promoting safety on dairies. This included the development of the Leaders Enabling Advanced Dairy Safety (LEADS) training program. We started out strong with rolling out our new in-person training in Fall 2019, and then the pandemic hit. Fast forward to Fall 2022 and I am happy to report that we provided the LEADS training to almost 70 dairy producers, employees, and industry representatives from across Washington State. Overall, 100% of participants learned something new and 100% of participants left the training with a smile. I call that a success!

Although the funding for this project is ending, our partnership will continue. Besides building upon the LEADS program and our online Dairy Safety Kit, we are looking for ideas from you. Which safety topics are you interested in learning more about? Which formats (videos, brochures, etc.) work best for you? I am excited to hear all the new ideas that come forward!


WSU Dairy Club Sets Goals for the New Year

By Benjamin Wycoff, Dairy Club President

Dairy Club is looking to give students opportunities to meet and learn from the many professionals that make up the dairy industry as well as gain hands-on experience on the farm.  Members will learn about the many professions that composite the dairy industry, such as: nutritionists, veterinarians, milkers, farm managers, and reproductive technicians. Regardless of experience level, members will be able to gain hands-on experience on a dairy farm.

The breadth of the dairy industry is large, and as such the variety of aspects we may come in contact with gives students from many different pursuits the opportunity to involve themselves in relative material. Many Animal Science pre-vet students are able to work with large animals, some for the very first time; whereas those of the major interested in management can learn about the many mechanisms that go into making the dairy industry successful. Those outside of the Animal Science major, such as those interested in Agribusiness, can still participate to understand and explore the importance of dairy as a staple in agriculture.

We hope to find balance in giving dairy veterans more experience and information to expand their repertoire while also introducing newcomers to the industry in a meaningful way, allowing them to pursue their own interests within dairy confidently.


Educational Workshops – Expanding Knowledge on Genomic Selection

By Allison Herrick, Animal Sciences PhD student 

The Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WSARE) program is a competitive research and education program that services the western United States. Its research programs are focused on needs of the agricultural community and requires that industry members are an integral part in the development and implementation of the research projects. Investigators at Washington State University and the University of Idaho have been providing educational workshops on the use of genomic selection on commercial dairies across both states to assess the role of genomic selection tools for reducing financial risk and increasing sustainability. To date, the study has followed roughly 1,200 replacement heifers from six dairies across Washington and Idaho prior to breeding and is now gathering data on their first lactation, their health, and reproductive performance. The data collected will provide needed information to calculate return on investment for genomic testing, and to compare profitability between heifers that are traditionally selected and those selected using genomics.

Gathering lactation data on all of the cattle in the study will be ongoing throughout the next year. Three educational workshops on genomic selection have been held in person and two have been held online with a focus on dairy producers and veterinarians. Additional workshops will be held in the coming year, and as the financial data becomes available. These data and information have also been presented to students in the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine as well as the Department of Animal Sciences. Those attending these educational sessions learn more about genomic selection, specifically what the technology is and the different ways it can be used within the dairy industry. Attendees are given a packet of anonymous information on a set of heifers from the study, where they go through and select animals they wish to keep based on parental information, which mirrors traditional selection techniques that much of the industry uses. Using the same subset of heifers, they rank them based upon the genomic results of the heifers themselves, and then compare the two selection methods to determine if the same individuals are kept. After selecting the heifers, educational participants are given a set of bulls, and work through various matings based upon different production goals. Future workshops will be available on genomic selection this winter, so be on the lookout for information regarding those if there is any interest in learning more about genomic technology and different ways it can be used to achieve goals.


What’s New in Dairy Science Research?

By Callan Lichtenwalter, Animal Sciences PhD student 

There’s a chill to the air, classes are back in session, and the Cougs are playing every Saturday.  That must mean that fall is approaching, and with it, a new set of dairy science articles for me to discuss.  Please enjoy my selection of articles for the fall newsletter!

Calm Contagion in Calves [1]

Researchers in Sweden wanted to know if mixing a calf experienced with a stressor into a group of calves inexperienced with a stressor would lessen the fear response of the inexperienced calves when the stressor was presented.  In other words, would one calm calf help keep other calves calm during a stressful situation.  To do this, they trained older calves to be unafraid of a red and white umbrella opening and closing 3 times (the stressor).  They then mixed these older, experienced calves in with a group of calves that had never encountered an umbrella.  They found that the presence of an experienced calf caused the inexperienced calves to have lower hear rates and resume their normal behavior more quickly after exposure to the umbrella than calves that did not have a calm companion.  So, if you’ve noticed that fear behavior can be contagious in your calves, then calm behavior can be as well if they have a more experienced calf to model.  Calm calves can lead to increased worker safety and increased calf welfare.

Using NSAIDs to Reduce Lameness [2]

Data suggest that periods of inflammation can have lasting effects within the body.  For a dairy cow, two common periods of inflammation are the days after calving and when she is experiencing lameness.  To attempt to counteract this inflammation, scientists in the U.K. and New Zealand tried giving NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and ketoprofen) to cows following calving and NSAIDs in addition to a therapeutic hoof trim during incidences of lameness.  They found that cows who received a 3-day course of NSAIDs after calving, and NSAIDs coupled with a hoof trim when lame, had a 10% reduction in overall lameness compared to cows that did not receive NSAIDs after calving or during lameness.  They were also less likely to be culled from the herd.  Cows that just received NSAIDs and a hoof trim when lame, but no NSAIDs after calving, did not show as strong of a reduction in overall lameness.  Including NSAIDs in a cow’s post-calving recovery period and when she presents with lameness could keep her from developing lameness in the future, so consult your veterinarian for the best options for your animals.

Wildfires and Milk Production [3]

Our colleagues at the University of Idaho conducted a study on how exposure to wildfire smoke can affect lactating cows’ milk production.  During a particularly smoky week in September of 2020, and the following week, researchers measured milk production and milk components from lactating cows in the university’s herd.  They found that elevated PM2.5, a measure of air pollution, led to a decrease in milk yield, percent fat in milk, and percent protein in milk for at least one week after exposure.  When temperature and humidity were high, this effect was even more pronounced.  The researchers also found evidence of altered metabolic and immune processes in their lactating cows at this time.  Although little can be done to prevent exposure to wildfire smoke, keeping cows cool on days with poor air quality can help reduce the harmful effects of smoke exposure.

[1] Stentfelt, J., J. Yngvesson, and M.V. Rørvang. 2022. A calm companion lowers fear in groups of dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 105(8):6923-6935.

[2] Wilson, J.P., M.J. Green, L.V. Randall, C.S. Rutland, N.J. Bell, H. Hemingway-Arnold, J.S. Thompson, N.J. Bollard, and J.N. Huxley. 2022. Effects of routine treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs at calving and when lame on the future probability of lameness and culling in dairy cows: A randomized controlled trial. J. Dairy Sci. 105(7):6041-6154.

[3] Anderson, A., P. Rezamand, and A.L. Skibiel. 2022. Effects of wildfire smoke exposure on innate immunity, metabolism, and milk production in lactating dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 105(8):7047-7060.


WSU Cooperative University Dairy Students begin Recruitment

By Holly Guest, CUDS Public Relations Chair

The Cooperative University Dairy Students organization (CUDS) is a student-run dairy program. The students in CUDS have the opportunity to gain hands on training by managing a herd of 32 lactating Holstein cows. All the milk produced by the CUDS herd is marketed to the Washington State University Creamery, otherwise known as Ferdinand’s. Here students can learn how the milk produced by their herd is processed and turned into the world-renowned Cougar Gold Cheese along with other nationally recognized cheese and ice cream products.

Management of the herd includes milking, giving vaccines, working with veterinarians, and much more. Each student in CUDS is assigned a chair and the opportunity to manage a specific part of the herd. Some of these chairs include, but are not limited to Reproduction, Cow Comfort, Milk Quality, and Finance. By training alongside other members, CUDS members gather a complex understanding of not only what it takes to manage a dairy farm, but how to manage a business as well.

CUDS is also a fun way to get to know peers with similar interests. Every year our cooperative gets new members with varying dairy production knowledge. This year, CUDS members set up a booth at the Welcome Back Barbeque for WSU Animal Sciences and the CAHNRS Fall Festival. Prospective members were able to learn a little more about our organization and set up shadowing opportunities.

Beyond the management side of CUDS, students are able to enjoy team-bonding events, like going out to dinner or a movie. CUDS also provides an opportunity to network with companies and people in the dairy industry. One of those opportunities happens when CUDS goes on fieldtrips to various dairies around Washington. CUDS creates an interesting and challenging environment for students to get hands on experience at the Knott Dairy Center. CUDS applications for interested students can be found on our website:


New WSU Extension Factsheet Aims to Help Attract Raptors to Dairies 

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist

Thousands and thousands of wild birds will flock to Washington State dairies this fall. Are we ready? One of the keys to minimizing bird damage on your farm is to prevent the birds from establishing a night roost in your barns. As the temperatures outside drop, wild birds look for warm shelters and freestall barns are especially attractive because of the warmth from cow body heat. The accessibility of feed in freestall barns is a bonus for the birds. What can you do?

It is important to implement preventive measures now before the birds get settled in. Once they set-up a night roost, it is more difficult to remove them from the farm. A variety of pest bird deterrence methods are available to you, everything from netting to professional falconry. Over the past seven years of pest bird management research conducted on Washington State dairies, one pest bird deterrent has been most consistently effective. Farms with native raptors present tend to have fewer pest birds. This deterrence method can be tricky, though, because you are relying on wild animal behavior. My research team recently published an Extension factsheet focused on helping you attract native raptors to your farm. The factsheet can be found at:

We hope the factsheet is helpful. Please reach out if you have any questions about native raptors on your farm. This fall, we will be testing the efficacy of using lasers in freestall barns to deter pest birds from establishing night roosts. We look forward to sharing our results with you once the study is completed. Let us know if you are in Pullman this fall, we would happily show you our lasers at the WSU Knott Dairy Center.