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Washington State University Dairy News

March 2023 WSU Dairy Newsletter

Note from the Editor

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist

According to the calendar, spring began at the beginning of this week. According to the snow on the ground in Pullman this morning, perhaps spring has not sprung yet. Regardless of the weather, this time of year brings eagerness and excitement to campus. Students just returned from Spring Break and are counting down the days to final exams and graduation. I imagine many farmers have similar feelings this time of year as they eagerly wait to start fieldwork.

Everyone, especially in the dairy industry, has a packed schedule. This is one reason why I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the farmers and industry representatives that donated time and energy towards our students during this academic year. From opening up your farm for a field trip to offering career advice, your contributions to our student programs are greatly appreciated. Our students have varied backgrounds, and most of those backgrounds do not include dairy experience. By interacting with our students, you open doors to career opportunities that they did not even realize existed. Thank you!

We hope you enjoy the articles in this newsletter. As always, please share any suggestions you have for future article topics by emailing me at Here’s to a safe, successful, and joyful spring season!


Impact of Educational Workshops on the Adoption of Genomic Selection Tools within the Dairy Industry

Allison Herrick1, J. Shannon Neibergs2, Joseph Dalton3, Amber Adams Progar1, Holly L. Neibergs1

1Department of Animal Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington; 2School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington; 3Department of Animal, Veterinary and Food Sciences, University of Idaho, Caldwell, Idaho

The first round of workshops for the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WSARE) genomic selection grant ended this past February. The goal of these workshops was to provide an educational resource for individuals within the dairy industry to learn more about genomic selection tools. Attendees were introduced to information surrounding how the tools work, different options they are able to select from, and a variety of ways in which they could utilize the information for decision making within their herds. By maximizing ways in which the genomic data could be used, producers have the opportunity to see larger economic returns on their investment.

Within the workshops, attendees were asked to complete a pre- and post-workshop survey. The initial survey gauged the amount of information individuals had surrounding genomic selection tools prior to attending the lecture, as well as determining those who have used genomic selection within their herds or have at least seen information on the technology. After sitting through the interactive talk, demonstrations on how to use the genomic information, and then a hands-on portion where attendees could select or cull animals based on genomic results, they were asked to complete a post-workshop survey. This survey asked the same informational questions to gauge an increase in understanding of the topic, and then were asked if their opinions changed on the topic and how likely they were to implement the technology. Satisfaction with the workshop and interest in more information was also polled to determine overarching feelings towards the workshops.

We had 36 individuals attend the workshops, and we analyzed their anonymous surveys to evaluate the workshop’s success. When analyzing the knowledge-based questions surrounding genomic selection, there was a significant increase in correct responses from 83% correct to 94% correct overall. Prior to starting the workshop, 59% of attendees stated that they have used genomic selection, 54% stated they would utilize the information when selecting replacement heifers, and 73% would use the information to make breeding decisions. After the workshops were completed, 87% stated that they found the workshop to be helpful and 80% responded that they would like more information. Everyone in attendance stated that they would be incorporating genomic selection within their own herds (57%) or that they would be strongly considering the technology for future use (43%).

Producers who attended manage over 20,600 cows and 6,600 replacement heifers, in addition, the veterinarians who attended provide consultations to more than 56,000 cows and 30,800 heifers. Attendees estimated that they would also discuss the information learned throughout the workshop with roughly 240 other individuals. We were incredibly happy with the potential these workshops have for educating individuals throughout the industry and the positive feedback we have already received. The surveys showed how impactful extension and outreach programs can be, and that the impact goes far beyond just the individuals within the room. There is a large potential for genomic selection throughout the industry, and we look forward to continuing hands-on workshops with economic data as the study continues!

Acknowledgement: Funding for this project (# SW21-925) was provided by the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.


What’s New in Dairy Science Research?

By Callan Lichtenwalter, WSU Animal Sciences Ph.D. student

It is officially spring and the snow storms have transitioned into rain storms (at least for now).  The new season means it is time for me to break down some new research in dairy science.  I hope you enjoy my selection for the March newsletter.

Improving calf welfare and production by providing long-hay [1]

Pre-weaned dairy calves are often seen performing abnormal repetitive behaviors like tongue rolling or oral manipulation of non-food items.  It is thought that they express this behavior because they are unable to satisfy their drive to suckle.  One way to reduce this behavior is to provide forage.  Researchers from the University of California Davis wanted to know if providing long hay in either a bucket or a PVC pipe feeder would reduce the incidence of these abnormal repetitive behaviors in Holstein heifer calves housed individually.  They found that providing the calves with long hay increased dry matter intake, grain intake, average daily gain, rumination, and eating time in both feeding methods (so just a bucket would work fine).  There was also some reduction in the abnormal repetitive behaviors.  Providing your heifer calves with long-hay in a bucket can help improve both their welfare and their performance.

Heritability of sole lesion recovery [2]

Sole lesions are a leading cause of lameness in dairy cows, and a cow’s ability to recover from these lesions is very important for her longevity in the herd.  Because of the importance of recovering from lesions, researchers from the United Kingdom wanted to know how heritable lesion recovery was in dairy cattle.  Holstein cows were assessed in two ways; did they develop a lesion in any claw during the duration of the study (susceptibility), and, if a claw lesion occurred in early lactation, were they able to recover from the lesion by late lactation (recovery).  Sole lesion susceptibility was estimated to be moderately heritable at 0.25, and sole lesion recovery was estimated to be moderately heritable at 0.27.  Correlation between the traits was low.  Although more research is needed to corroborate these results, if lameness is a problem on your farm, breeding animals for sole lesion recovery could be a viable way to reduce lameness in your herd.

Automated milk feeders can help detect illness in heifer calves [3]

Automated milk feeders (AMF) can help streamline labor, allow calves to make their own feeding decisions, and provide farmers with information on individual calf feeding behavior in group housing.  However, concerns about the spread of disease in group-housed systems has made the implementation of AMF challenging.  Using data recorded from AMF software, researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison wanted to see if there was a relationship between calf feeding behavior and disease.  After collecting data on Holstein heifer calves for one year, the researchers found that as milk intake and drinking speed increased, the risk of a calf becoming sick decreased.  When the interval of time between visits to the feeder increased, the risk of calves becoming sick also increased.  These results suggest that AMF systems can be successfully used on dairies, and that the information provided by AMF systems on calf eating behavior can be used to assess calf health.

[1] Downey, B.C. and C.B. Tucker. 2023. Providing long hay in a novel pipe feeder or a bucket reduces abnormal oral behaviors in milk-fed dairy calves. J. Dairy Sci. 106(3):1968-1985.

[2] Barden, M., A. Anagnostopoulos, B.E. Griffiths, B. Li, C. Bedford, C. Watson, A. Psifidi, G. Banos, and G. Oikonomou. 2023. Genetic parameters of sole lesion recovery in Holstein cows. J. Dairy Sci. 106(3):1874-1888.

[3] Perttu, R.K., M. Peiter, T. Bresolin, J.R.R. Dórea, and M.I Endres. 2023. Feeding behaviors collected from automated milk feeders were associated with disease in group-housed dairy calves in the Upper Midwest United States. J. Dairy Sci. 106(2):1206-1217.


Passing the Torch to New 2023 CUDS members

By Amber Adams Progar, CUDS Advisor

If you are familiar with the CUDS program, you can really appreciate what I am about to announce. Our 2023 CUDS member cohort has 16 new members and 1 returning member. Many of our 2022 members will graduate in May and begin their professional careers. Congratulations! With almost an entire turnover in members for 2023, we are bound to have a few hiccups but we are energized by all the new ideas and perspectives. It is my honor to announce our class of 2023. Welcome!

Kaycie Leslie – President

Alika Robinson – Facilities

Alyssa Martinez – Finances

Andra Sullivan – Calves, Heifers, and Dry Cows

Cruzita Perez – Cow Comfort

Elisabeth Ramirez-Zepp – Drugs, Report, and Supplies

Gladiola Banuelos – Nutrition/Feed Management

Jiwon Ha – Public Relations

Lindsey Holmquist– Herd Health

Mackenzie Potter – Reproduction

Maddy Evans – Milk Quality and Udder Health

Madeleine Wegan – Sire Selection

Noelle Belanger – Calves, Heifers, and Dry Cows

Olivia Swanlund – Reproduction

Raina Pierce – Facilities

Samuel Hamilton – Milk Quality and Udder Health

Spencer Jameson – Herd Health


Stay tuned . . . this year is bound to be an exciting one for CUDS!


Thanks for reading our March 2023 edition of the WSU Dairy Newsletter! Our next newsletter will be available in June 2023. Happy Spring!