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Washington State University Dairy News

June 2023 WSU Dairy Newsletter

Note from the Editor

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist

Happy June Dairy Month! I have many fond memories from my childhood that revolved around June Dairy Month. Whether it was serving free ice cream outside the local bank or serving pancakes on a dairy for the June Dairy Breakfast, I always enjoyed sharing my passion for dairy with other community members. The June Dairy Breakfast was by far my favorite event, though. Every year, a dairy farm was honored to be selected as the host for the June Dairy Breakfast. I appreciated the farmers’ willingness and courage to invite the public to their farms. By opening their doors, farmers allowed community members to learn about the dairy industry firsthand and build understanding relationships with those whom produce the food they consume.

Have you ever considered allowing the public to visit your farm? I know we have several dairies in Washington that open their doors to the public, but I recognize that this is not a good option for everyone. If you are interested in jumping into agritourism, make sure you have appropriate risk management practices in place. For example, biosecurity measures need to be addressed to ensure your animals and your visitors are safe. Many resources are available to help you assess and manage your risks. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you!

This issue of the WSU Dairy Newsletter includes articles from faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students in Animal Sciences. We hope you enjoy them! We also hope you have a fantastic June Dairy Month. Cheers to you for producing a nutritious, delicious product!


Insights to Beef-on-Dairy

By Blake A. Foraker, Assistant Professor and Meat Scientist

Beef-on-dairy has become norm for U.S. dairy producers utilizing genomic selection tools to identify replacement genetics in their herd.  There is no doubt that the practice has improved the sustainability footprint and, correspondingly, profitability of the dairy and beef industries.  Crossbred beef × dairy animals are considerably better suited for the beef production system than straightbred dairy animals because of fewer days to finish, more efficient conversion of feed to weight gain, and higher yielding carcasses, among other important distinctions.  As recent liquidation of the U.S. beef cowherd begins to influence fed cattle slaughter numbers, the consistent supply of dairy-originating slaughter cattle (15- 20% of U.S. fed cattle slaughter) will be as important as ever.

During my time at Texas Tech University, I had the opportunity to work with leading researchers, namely Drs. Dale Woerner and Bradley Johnson, on the most exhaustive and comprehensive beef-on-dairy research projects completed to date, studying many aspects of the production system from calf growth to eating quality of beef products.  I have shared some important considerations and highlights of my learnings, as well as links to peer-reviewed publications of the work, below.

  • Beef-on-dairy had minimal influence on dairy cow lactation performance. Read more here.


  • Even when marbling did not differ, beef from Holsteins was more tender than beef from conventional cattle, which was attributed to metabolic differences in the muscle between the two biological types of cattle. Beef × dairy cattle realized some of benefit of dairy-breeding on tenderness, which was intermediate to beef from conventional cattle and Holsteins. Read more here.


  • The more triangular shape of high-value middle meat cuts (e.g., New York strip steaks) and darker color of steaks from dairy cattle has prevented effective side-by-side merchandising of beef from dairy and conventional beef cattle in the retail case. We showed that strip steaks from beef × dairy cattle were not different in shape from those of conventional beef cattle.  Further, steaks from beef × dairy and conventional beef cattle reached 20% discoloration (the point at which consumers begin to discriminate against discoloration) nearly 24 h after steaks from Holsteins reached the same threshold. Read more here.


  • The expression of beef- versus dairy-type in beef × dairy cattle had no influence on eating quality attributes. Read more here.


  • When selected for hindquarter muscling and harvested at a lesser backfat thickness, beef × dairy cattle (like that in Figure 1) produced equivalent, if not greater, carcass cutout value and subprimal yield to conventional beef cattle. Total animal muscularity, and not just that in the form of ribeye area, should be a major consideration for dairy producers selecting beef-on-dairy sire candidates.  Additionally, because sire variation within a breed has been reported as large as variation between breeds, producers should consider an individual sire’s effects more so than breed effects alone.  Read more here.


  • The prevalence of liver abscesses has been and will continue to be a primary concern for beef × dairy cattle. Reports of liver abscesses in 50% or more of some feedlot contemporary groups of beef × dairy cattle are not uncommon.  The financial loss of an abscessed liver pales in comparison to the influence of liver abscesses on trimming of outside skirt (i.e., diaphragm), which was second in value per hundredweight ($11.88/cwt) only to tenderloin in 2021.  Dairy producers retaining ownership in beef × dairy cattle through the finishing phase should have a conversation with those involved in feeding their cattle (e.g., calf ranch, grow yard, feedlot) to minimize packer discounts related to liver abscesses.  Read more here.

Figure 1.  An adequately muscled, high-yielding SimAngus × Holstein steer.


With resources comes optimism

By Gordon Murdoch, Animal Sciences Department Chair and Professor

Recently, WSU was the fortunate recipient of state government 2023 support for our Knott Dairy Center to the tune of $10 million. As with all success stories, this outcome became a reality due to the effort and support of many. As Chair of the Animal Sciences department, I have witnessed the industry support for our faculty, our staff and our students and now I am pleased to add infrastructure to that list of support that we have received. Surprisingly, the $10 million will not resolve all of our challenges for a sustainable, modern, on-campus dairy that is amongst the best in the nation for fulfilling our land-grant research, teaching and Extension missions. However, this critical financial resource does perpetuate optimism and adds to the resolve of our department, the dairy industry, alumni and the citizens of Washington State. We intend to be progressive, visionary and effective as we move into the future where dairy continues to provide the high-quality, nutritional commodity we all expect. Moreover, the dairy industry provides milk and milk products in a safe, sustainable and environmentally responsible manner. Livestock are at the hub of integrated food security and sustainability and I hope that you join me in my excitement to improve our facility and serve this critical industry.



What’s New in Dairy Science Research?

By Makenzie Melby, WSU Animal Sciences M.S. student

Hello readers! If you’ve been following the newsletter for a while, you may have seen Callan Lichtenwalter’s writings in this section. She has graduated from her Ph.D. program, and I will be taking over the dairy science research news for the time being! My name is Makenzie Melby, and I am studying safety in human-dairy cow interactions. I hope you enjoy reading about a few recent research articles!

Prepartum Heat Stress Impacts Postpartum Immunity [1]

Uterine diseases affect nearly 40% of postpartum dairy cows. Researchers at the University of Florida conducted research to determine the role heat stress plays in the development of these diseases. Primiparous cows were separated into two study groups; one set had pens equipped with shade, water soakers, and fans, while the other had barn shade only and experienced heat stress. After giving birth, all cows were placed in fresh pens equipped with the cooling system the first group received. While there was no difference in vaginal bacteria between the two groups postpartum, the cows that experienced heat stress had higher levels of pro-inflammatory markers and decreased levels of anti-inflammatory markers; heat stress negatively affected the cows’ immune systems. Ensuring cows are not experiencing heat stress prepartum may help reduce uterine diseases postpartum by preventing cows’ immune systems from weakening.

Citrus Flavonoid Extract May Improve Lactation [2]

Flavonoids are compounds found in plants that have many positive effects on the health of both humans and animals, and they are present in high quantities in citrus fruits and their byproducts. At the Beijing University of Agriculture, researchers fed dairy cows either 0, 50, 100, or 150 grams of citrus flavonoid extract (CFE) per day for 25 days. On the last five days of this diet, samples of the cows’ rumen contents and milk were collected. CFE increased milk yield and feed efficiency without impacting feed intake. CFE also improved energy and protein production in the rumen without affecting rumen pH. In cows that were supplemented 150 grams CFE per day, methane producing microbes in the rumen were inhibited. While further studies are needed to determine the effectiveness and safety of citrus flavonoids, CFE may prove to be a beneficial supplement for dairy cows.

Healing of Caustic Paste Disbudding Wounds [3]

Almost all dairies in the United States perform disbudding procedures on their calves. Two of the most common methods of disbudding are using a hot iron or caustic paste. At the University of California, Davis, the wound healing process following caustic paste application was monitored, as well as the pain and sensitivity experienced by calves in the horn area. The wounds were re-surfaced with new epithelial tissue after an average of 16.2 weeks, and they were fully healed after 18.8 weeks. This is longer than hot-iron disbudding wounds take to heal; previous studies have found that hot-iron wounds heal in 7 to 9 weeks. The period of time where the disbudding wound was more sensitive than the control group was around 6 weeks, which is similar to findings for hot-iron disbudding. Understanding the long-term healing and sensitivity process of different disbudding methods is important to properly manage your calves and improve their welfare.

[1] Molinari, P.C.C., B.D. Davidson, J. Laporta, G.E. Dahl, I.M. Sheldon, and J.J. Bromfield. 2022. Prepartum heat stress in dairy cows increases postpartum inflammatory responses in blood of lactating dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 106(2):1464-1474.

[2] Yu, S., L. Li, H. Zhao, S. Zhang, Y. Tu, M. Liu, Y. Zhao, and L. Jiang. 2023. Dietary citrus flavonoid extract improves lactational performance through modulating rumen microbiome and metabolites in dairy cows. R. Soc. Chem., Food Funct. 14, 94-111.

[3] Drwencke, A.M, S.J.J. Adcock, and C.B. Tucker. 2023. Wound healing and pain sensitivity following caustic paste disbudding in dairy calves. J. Dairy Sci. DOI:


CUDS Members Tour Skyridge Dairy

By Jiwon Ha, CUDS Public Relations Chair

First established in 1977, CUDS (Cooperative University Dairy Students) was created to provide an opportunity for WSU students to gain hands-on experience working with dairy cattle and to learn more about the management aspect of the farm. On March 25th of 2023, the current group of CUDS members was fortunate enough to travel west towards Sunnyside, Washington, to tour and learn more about the Skyridge dairy farm founded by Dan DeGroot. He had a vision to establish a farm that projected sustainability along with the hopes of optimizing cow comfort. To support his goal, Mr. DeGroot tried different practices like uses of efficient and new technology, recycling of waste and water, and environmentally friendly land management.

Skyridge was successful in making advancements with their technology concerning motors, fans, sensors, and more that help aid in water and energy conservation. The upgrades helped reduce energy consumption significantly where Mr. DeGroot was able to cut down on 50 percent of overall usage. His efforts on environmental conservation were successful from recycling most of the manure produced from the dairy and composting it with used straw bedding to utilize them in freestall barns. By upcycling manure and old beddings, energy is saved, in addition to decreasing the cost of transportation. By limiting the trips made to move manure off the farm, Mr. DeGroot helped reduce fuel usage which eventually led to lower carbon emissions as well. On top of recycling solids, he was also supportive of reusing water multiple times throughout the farm to limit waste and maximize efficiency.

Although managing such a large dairy farm could be difficult, Skyridge was able to accomplish and create an effective layout that properly cared for the entire herd. With carefully designed programs for land and manure management, it enabled Mr. DeGroot to save labor, enhance crop growth, minimize chemical uses, and maintain a sustainable facility. Milking approximately 3000 Holstein cows, compared to WSU Knott Dairy Center with about 175 total lactating cows currently, Skyridge has a considerably sizable difference. In addition, another contrast between the two dairies was that Mr. DeGroot employs a number of experienced staff to assist in managing his herd while KDC and CUDS recruit students which allows them to be exposed to handling and working with dairy cattle.

After the tour, numerous members of CUDS were impressed with the efforts put into overseeing a facility housing such an abundant number of cows. A couple of others also highlighted the enlightened experience of learning more about the Skyridge incorporation of reusing lagoon water to wash away manure collected in the pens. Additionally, the new parlor system introduced to the members was another interesting topic to talk about. KDC utilizes the herringbone milking parlor where six cows are stationed 45 degrees away from the machine on each side. However, at Skyridge, they had a parallel milking parlor allowing the cows to stand straight side by side that held approximately 30 – 40 cows per side; they also had multiple parlors to milk cows in a systematic order consistently. Interestingly, despite such differences in the facility system with parlors and holding pens, Mr. DeGroot also mentioned that newborn calves were sold off and bought back once they were fully grown. This was not only a great opportunity to learn more about other dairy operations, but it was also a chance for CUDS as a team to bond together to explore more about the world of the dairy industry.


New research documents the seasonality of pest birds on dairies

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist

Brace yourself, what I am about to tell you may surprise you. Until recently, no research studies had ever documented the seasonality of pest bird presence on dairies. Thankfully, my research team and I spent the last couple of years investigating pest birds on dairies during different seasons. We conducted our study at the Washington State University Knott Dairy Center and at the University of Idaho Dairy Center. We also included data collected from ten dairies in Whatcom County. As you can see in the figure below, pest bird abundance significantly decreased as environmental temperatures increased. This probably matches what you witness firsthand on your farm. At least we now have the scientific evidence to back-up our predictions.

Figure A. Starling abundance and temperatures at the time of bird abundance measurements at the KDC and UI dairies. Bird abundance from Knott Dairy Center at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, USA (farm 1) and The University of Idaho Dairy Center in Moscow, Idaho, USA (farm 2), and the respective temperature (°C) on the day of bird abundance measurements, across 12 weeks (four consecutive weeks each in winter 2021 (weeks 1–4, mid-November–mid-December), spring 2022 (weeks 5–8, March), and summer 2022 (weeks 9–12, July).


Why is the research important? Understanding how the weather influences pest bird presence on dairies allows us to identify the most opportune times of the year to implement pest bird management practices. This research also sheds light on the pest bird problem. Although we recognize pest birds as a big problem, most people do not. Few research teams conduct studies related to pest bird management on livestock operations. If you are interested in reading the full article, it can be found at:

Meanwhile, in Pullman, my team and I will continue our efforts to better understand the pest bird problem and develop effective pest bird management methods for dairies. We extend many thanks to all the farmers that allowed us to conduct this important research on their farms.



Thanks for reading our June 2023 issue of the WSU Dairy Newsletter! Our next newsletter will be available in September 2023. Have a fun summer!