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Washington State University Dairy News

March 2024 WSU Dairy Newsletter

Note from the Editor

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist

Happy Spring! The additional sunshine and warmer weather is hopefully making all of us a bit happier. Campus is buzzing with students preparing for the final stretch of the semester and our graduating students eager to start their new careers out in the “real world”. Now that I have been in this position for almost 10 years, I realized that one of my favorite parts about engaging with students is watching them grow. I know how cliche it sounds, but many of our Animal Sciences students have limited prior livestock experience and watching them learn about the livestock industry with a fresh perspective is inspiring. Besides the excitement we share with our graduating students, we also have much enthusiasm for our upcoming renovations at the Knott Dairy Center. These renovations will rejuvenate the Knott Dairy Center’s research and teaching capabilities, as well as improve farm efficiencies. Exciting times lie before us, so stay tuned!


By Sadie Muller, CUDS PR

CUDS Update

With the addition of the new semester, also comes new CUDS members! Happy March everyone, my name is Sadie Muller, and I am one of the three PR chairs you will be hearing from throughout the year! Charity Jordan, Berenice Lainez-Pintor, and I decided that this year we would improve the online presence for the Cooperative University Dairy Students (CUDS) and become public on every platform! Throughout the weeks we plan to have member introductions, educational videos, and interviews from industry professionals that we cannot wait to share. (Find our posts with the links down below!)

CUDS was started in 1979 by Dr. Melvin Ehlers and Dr. Joe Hillers, to allow students to get more direct experience in the management and day-to-day work of a dairy enterprise. The original group began with 6 members and 20 cows, but today in our 47th year of CUDS, we now have 15 members and an average milking herd of 30-36 cows.

This January following the annual CUDS review, 14 new members joined the team and began training in the daily routine of the farm and in their different chairs. Prior to this year, CUDS members specialized in just one aspect of the farm, but the team felt that they lacked experience on other parts of the dairy. Knowing this, we switched to members holding 2-3 different positions, and working together in their groups to create a better overall understanding of dairy management. These groups include milk quality/udder health, herd health, reproduction, finances, calves/heifers and dry cows, lactating cows, and public relations. This year’s students have already shown so much growth in their positions and dairy knowledge. We hope to continue to advance our communication and professionalism as we face different adversities.

Prior to this year and the addition of new advisors, Dr. Adams-Progar devoted countless hours to helping, teaching, and managing CUDS. We cannot thank her enough for the time that she spent with us, and we wouldn’t be where we are now without her kind guidance. Dr. Marcos Marcondes is the new faculty advisor along with doctoral student Allison Herrick, who have both provided so much positive guidance for us already. We are not only excited to be welcoming new input from our advisors but will also be prioritizing the use of industry professionals and CUDS reviewers to navigate our way through this year.

We hope to see you each week on social media, and if there are any questions or interest getting involved, you can reach out to our PR team at . We’d like to dedicate one last thank you to the countless industry professionals, mentors, CUDS reviewers and WSU faculty that have helped us in any way throughout the years. Without your guidance, CUDS would not be where it is today.

We hope you all are enjoying the onset of warm weather, just as we are here at the WSU Knott Dairy Center. Happy spring break, and Go Cougs!!


Cooperative University Dairy Students (CUDS) PR Team


Follow us:

Instagram and Facebook: @cudsofwsu

TikTok: @wsu.cuds

Twitter (X): @cudsofwsu

Linkedin: CUDS of WSU




Amber’s Top Ten Tips: Managing Pest Birds

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist

Have you heard? The recent mysterious disease affecting cattle in the United States is avian flu and the source is wild birds. We knew those pest birds were causing problems on farms, but I didn’t expect them to become the root cause for a serious cattle health concern. My research team has been studying pest bird management on dairies for over eight years and we have learned a few tricks that we would like to share with you.

Below are some highlights from our pest bird management research:

  1. Seasonality

Pest bird prevalence on dairies in the Pacific Northwest is seasonal, in which birds often inhabit dairy barns during the colder months and then move outdoors once the temperatures rise. Regardless of your cow housing system, pest birds will consume and spoil cattle feed at the feed bunk and your stored feed, unless you have effective bird deterrence methods in place.

  1. Bird Species

European starlings, pigeons, sparrows, and crows are the most commonly observed pest birds on Pacific Northwest dairies. It is important to know which species is most prominent on your farm so you can choose an appropriate deterrence method. Let me know if you need help identifying the species, as our team has become quite adept at bird identification.

  1. Feed Loss

A study we published in 2019 estimated the cost of feed loss from pest bird consumption to average around $55 per cow per year. This estimate focuses purely on bird consumption of feed at the feed bunk and does not include any spoilage of feed. Do you know the total cost of feed losses from bird depredation on your farm?

  1. Dissemination of Disease

Pest birds carry many types of bacteria and viruses in their fecal matter and even on their feet. Obviously, birds move from farm to farm, increasing the spread of pathogens. This is how scientists believe the avian flu strain causing health issues in cattle started. Finding methods to reduce cattle exposure to wild birds, including their fecal matter, is vital to minimizing their effect on cattle health.

  1. Implementing Deterrence Methods

If there is one piece of advice you need to hear, it is that implementing pest bird deterrence methods needs to occur when bird prevalence on your farm is low. For most dairies with freestall barns, for example, implementing deterrence methods in the summer months is ideal because the birds are not inhabiting the barns. Once birds establish a night roost in a barn, it becomes drastically more difficult to get them out.

  1. Investing in Bird Deterrence

How much should you invest in bird deterrence on your farm? Only you can answer that question. If you are unsure about feed loss, you can use 4.4% loss as a good place to start. The losses that are more difficult to calculate are potential cattle morbidity/mortality from bird exposure. Once you have a decent estimate of your losses from pest bird damage, you will feel more comfortable choosing a deterrence method. Be prepared, your cost of pest bird damage may surprise you.

  1. Lethal Methods

Lethal methods of deterrence may be appealing, but make sure you consider the potential consequences. Shooting pest birds is a popular deterrence method; however, most farmers report the method as only “somewhat effective”. Using poison for bird deterrence is another option, but then you run the risk of unintentionally causing harm to beneficial bird species or other non-target animals.

  1. Unpredictability of Deterrence Methods

Contrary to what many believe, birds are actually very smart. Any bird deterrence method you use needs to be unpredictable for the birds, otherwise they will become acclimated to it and it will lose its effectiveness. A great example I can share came from a vineyard. The farmer hired a professional falconer to keep the pest birds out of his vineyard. Everything worked beautifully until the birds started to associate the presence of the falconer’s truck with the presence of the falconer’s raptors. Hence, the birds started flying away when the truck showed up and then returning after the truck left. Birds are smart.

  1. Lasers

Could lasers be used to deter birds from establishing night roosts in freestall barns? Maybe. We conducted a study last year to take a closer look at this idea. We had limited success, but we learned a few lessons that may make lasers an effective method for your farm. In our case, the lights in the freestall barns at dusk were fairly bright, which decreased the brightness of the lasers. This may be something you want to consider if you are looking at lasers as a solution to your pest bird problem.

  1. Native Raptors

Several native raptor populations are declining, while invasive species populations (European starlings) are increasing. Employing nestboxes and perches for native raptors on your farm may attract raptors to your farm and, ultimately, deter pest birds from inhabiting your farm. If this idea interests you, we have a factsheet available to help you consider this option.


Reach out at any time if I can help you with anything. I hope you have a fantastic spring!


Thanks for reading our March 2024 issue of the WSU Dairy Newsletter! Our next newsletter will be available in June 2024.


Assistant Manager position at WSU Knott Dairy Center

The Department of Animal Sciences at Washington State University is seeking an Assistant Manager for the Knott Dairy Center (KDC). The Assistant Manager works closely with the Manager to ensure the KDC meets the milk supply needs for the WSU Creamery, and actively participates in teaching, research, and extension.  Position duties entail assisting with planning, budget forecasting, managing and directing personnel resources, and facilities for KDC’s dairy herd and production (milking, calving, breeding, nutrition and feeding, health care, forage utilization, pasture grazing schedules, and livestock sales).  For a complete job description and to apply go to WSU Knott Dairy Assistant Manager . WSU is an EO/AA Educator and Employer.