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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.

December 2023 WSU Dairy Newsletter

Note from the Editor

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season! For me, the holiday season includes time to reflect on the past year. The WSU Animal Sciences Department’s achievements over this past year were plentiful, including several accomplishments directly related to the dairy industry. Faculty obtained external funding to study cow health in organic farm settings, evaluate your return on investment when using genomic selection methods, test feeding and nutrition methods to improve farm sustainability, and identify handling techniques to reduce employee injuries when handling cows. Extension programs this year focused on helping you implement beef-on-dairy practices, develop strong leaders on your farm, increase employee understanding about cow behavior, consider the advantages and disadvantages of genomic selection, and identify alternative methods for pest bird deterrence. Wow! That’s a busy year. We could not have done it without your assistance.


To those whom provided ideas for research projects, submitted letters of support for grant proposals, or volunteered to participate in on-farm research, we thank you. To those whom attended Extension events, shared ideas for educational needs within the industry, and offered advice on how to make our Extension programs more impactful, we thank you. To those whom opened up their farms to provide field trip and work opportunities for our students, we thank you. We appreciate each and every one of you for your support in 2023. We have big plans for 2024 and look forward to working with you to meet our goals next year. Please reach out at any time to share your ideas for 2024. Happy New Year!



Can activity monitoring devices detect the onset of digital dermatitis?

Digital dermatitis is one of the leading causes of lameness in dairy cows. Lameness can negatively affect milk production and cow longevity. Locomotion scoring is a tool we use to identify cows with lameness, but it requires time and can be subjective among employees. I have often pondered . . . can we do better?

Cows are prey animals and as such, try to not show vulnerability. This means that a cow could be suffering from a foot ailment for quite a while before it shows it is in pain by changing its gait. What if technology could detect changes in behavior for individual cows and alert the farmer that the cow needs attention? Some activity monitoring devices currently offer this feature, but not specifically for the detection of digital dermatitis. Several studies have demonstrated that behavioral changes recorded by activity monitoring devices can distinguish a clinically sick (lame) cow from a healthy cow. My colleagues and I wondered whether the technology could actually detect the onset of digital dermatitis. Could subtle changes in cow behavior be associated with the development of digital dermatitis, even before a foot lesion is visible?

For this study, a graduate student directly observed every lactating cow’s rear feet during the morning milking every day for two months. The presence or absence of lesions were noted during each observation. Daily behavior data were collected using activity monitoring devices. Our international colleagues implemented machine learning approaches to test our theory. Behavioral data from the activity monitoring devices could be used to identify cows with digital dermatitis with 79% accuracy. The system identified cows with digital dermatitis 2 days prior to clinical signs (visible lesion) with 64% accuracy. These results show promise! We hope to continue conducting studies in this area. Early detection would allow for earlier treatment, quicker recovery, and better longevity for our cattle. If you are interested in reading more about this study, please visit the following link:



January 30, 2024: Communication workshop for veterinarians, Mt. Vernon

Contact Dr. Craig McConnel ( for more information


January 31, 2024: Communication workshop for veterinarians, Sunnyside

Contact Dr. Craig McConnel ( for more information


March 5, 2024: Genomic selection workshop, Lynden

Contact Dr. Amber Adams Progar ( for more information


March 7, 2024: Genomic selection workshop, Sunnyside

Contact Dr. Amber Adams Progar ( for more information


Thanks for reading our December 2023 issue of the WSU Dairy Newsletter! Our next newsletter will be available in March 2024.


September 2023 WSU Dairy Newsletter

Note from the Editor

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist

The leaves are starting to change color here in Pullman, signaling that we are well into our Fall 2023 Semester. As the leaves change, the WSU Dairy Program will follow suit. In this issue of the WSU Dairy Newsletter we will introduce a new Animal Sciences faculty member with much passion for the dairy industry. We will also announce a transition in the CUDS program advisor position. Additionally, I am making a big move to Florida while maintaining my role as a WSU Animal Sciences Dairy Management Specialist.

Wait! Did you read that right? Yes, you did! My family is moving to Florida this week. Wish us luck as we pack our car with two dogs, two cats, a bird, a three-year-old child, and two adults. I am sure our 42-hour journey will make for a fun adventure. The fact that you (the WA State dairy industry) and I will be able to continue all the great work we have been working on the past 9 years is absolutely wonderful. I will still be at all our in-person Extension events and industry meetings, including the Washington State Dairy Conference in December. I will still be available via an email, phone call, or text message. As always, I am here for you.



Welcome Dr. Kimberly Davenport!

Dr. Davenport enthusiastically joined the Department of Animal Sciences at WSU in August as an Assistant Professor of Functional Genomics Teaching and Extension! Dr. Davenport grew up in Moscow, Idaho where she became interested in agriculture by participating in 4-H and spending time on her grandparents’ farm in Weiser, Idaho. She received her undergraduate education at University of Idaho where she discovered her love of the dairy industry and enjoyed learning about dairy production across the US. Dr. Davenport also completed a semester at Massey University in New Zealand, where she studied dairy production in a seasonal pasture-based system. She continued her education at the University of Idaho and earned her PhD in livestock genetics with Dr. Brenda Murdoch, and then spent two years at the University of Missouri for a postdoctoral fellowship in dairy cattle reproduction with Dr. Tom Spencer before joining WSU as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Davenport is thrilled to be back in the Palouse and looks forward to serving the agricultural industries in Washington.

Dr. Davenport’s integrated research and Extension program will focus on genomics and biotechnology in agricultural species. She is interested in understanding how different genes are regulated to influence economically important traits, as well as how cutting-edge genetic technologies can be better understood and incorporated to improve sustainability and profitability of the dairy industry. Dr. Davenport is looking forward to learning more about the Washington dairy industry, and how she can translate the genomics research and technology developed in the laboratory to directly meet the needs of the industry. Please contact Dr. Davenport with any questions and/or to talk about anything related to animal genetics! Contact information and more information about Dr. Davenport can be found on her departmental website (


Figure Above: CUDS recruitment table at CAHNRS Fall Festival

CUDS in Recruitment Mode

By Jiwon Ha, CUDS Public Relations Chair

The Cooperative University Dairy Students (CUDS) organization is currently run by 17 undergraduate students from WSU from a variety of majors. We meet twice a week for a meeting focused on topics about dairy management styles and other protocols that pertain to our current herd. Additionally, each member is required to participate in two of the shifts available each week. There are four shifts available that is divided into the morning and afternoon time-frames to accommodate for a busy college student’s schedule; the two types of shifts include milking and heat checkups.

With the new school year, the current members were able to share about the club’s success and future goals with the public through events that took place in both August and September. In August, the yearly Welcome Back BBQ from WSU Animal Sciences department allowed countless other clubs including ours to set up a booth to engage with incoming freshmen and other students. In addition, we also had an opportunity to promote the cooperative during the CAHNRS Fall Festival held in September.

With a lot of people interested in joining clubs, we have opened up our application for anyone who wishes to join our organization for next year. For any questions, email Kaycie Leslie: The application form was released to the public last week and will stay open until October 27th at 5:30 pm. When the time-frame for the application closes, our members will evaluate and release a schedule for interviews of those who have passed the first stage of the recruiting process. Everyone in CUDS is excited to meet new people who are equally eager to learn more about handling dairy cows and dairy management overall

We have both sad and happy news coming towards the end of this month. Our current CUDS advisor, Dr. Adams Progar, is moving to Florida (all the way on the other end of the US) and won’t be able to stay with us throughout the rest of the year in-person. However, we are fortunate enough to welcome Dr. Marcos Marcondes, an amazing dairy nutritionist and faculty member of the WSU Animal Sciences department. Although a lot of changes are happening, there are also exciting events that await all of us CUDS members.


New WSU Research: Regrouping is Stressful for Heifers

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist


Dairy animals go through multiple regroupings during their lifetime. As you probably know, groups of dairy cattle have a social structure or hierarchy. With every regrouping of animals, the social structure is altered and needs to be re-established. My research team was interested in evaluating whether regrouping 6-month-old heifers would affect heifer behavior or salivary cortisol concentrations. As a reminder, cortisol concentrations increase when an animal experiences stress.

For this study, we allowed heifers housed together (existing heifers) to establish a social structure and then introduced new (novel) heifers to the group. We measured behavior and salivary cortisol concentrations in both types of heifers (existing and novel). Salivary cortisol concentrations on the day of regrouping and one day post-regrouping were higher in both novel and existing heifers, when compared to cortisol concentrations one day prior to regrouping. This result would indicated that regrouping is stressful for both novel and existing heifers. In regards to changes in behavior, novel heifers spent more time standing and less time lying than existing heifers. We frequently observed existing heifers displacing novel heifers that were lying down. Being displaced often can cause negative effects on heifer growth and reproduction, especially if displacements are also occurring at the feedbunk. My research team recently published a scientific journal article from this study that can be found at:

Take a look and let me know if you want to chat about our results.




Thanks for reading our September 2023 issue of the WSU Dairy Newsletter! Our next newsletter will be available in December 2023.


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!

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!

December 2022 WSU Dairy Newsletter

Note from the Editor

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist

The holidays are upon us, and so is the frigid weather. As I compile this newsletter, it is a refreshing 1°F outside. On days like today, I am especially grateful to all the hard-working dairy farmers and workers that bundle up and head outside every day, regardless of the nasty weather, to provide quality care for their animals. Thank you! As you head out the door, though, can you do me a favor? I know a lot of your focus is on keeping the animals warm and safe, but please take a few minutes to make sure you are warm and safe as well. Frost bite can be prevented with safety precautions. It always surprises me when I look at the National Weather Service chart on frost bite. When it is 0°F with a 15 mph wind (which is definitely not unheard of in parts of Washington), you can start developing frost bite after a mere 33 minutes outside. Please take care of yourselves. On a lighter note, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season full of joy and good company. I look forward to catching up with you in 2023. Happy Holidays!


Cooperative University Dairy Students gain Off-campus Experiences

By Holly Guest, CUDS Public Relations Chair

As the year comes to an end, we would like to use this newsletter as an opportunity to review the latest updates and events that happened over the last few months for the Cooperative University Dairy Students. It has been a busy Fall season for CUDS, filled with team bonding, exciting field trips, a growing herd, and a successful end to our recruitment process.

The Cooperative University Dairy     Students would like to officially welcome thirteen new members to our program. We look forward to working alongside each and every one of you in the upcoming year. The opportunity to share the knowledge we have gained through our experiences in CUDS is a very rewarding one. The members of CUDS are excited to pass the torch to these capable individuals and see what they achieve for our herd and our organization in the future.

One of the highlights from this fall season was the chance for CUDS members to travel to the West side of Washington on an overnight field trip. Members had the opportunity to learn about all things dairy from a variety of well-respected industry professionals. A special thank you to the Steensma family for hosting us as well as showing us around their dairy farm and thank you to both the Edaleen dairy and Werkhoven dairy who also welcomed students onto their farms for great tours. The off-campus learning opportunities within CUDS give us students the chance to learn more about the dairy industry, network with well-respected farmers in our state, and also gain perspective and inspire new goals that we want to one day see in place at our own dairy.

This month, CUDS had the wonderful privilege to attend the Washington State Dairy Conference. At the conference, our members were given the chance to showcase what we have been learning over the past year. This was another fantastic opportunity for our students to meet with other farmers in the same industry and get great feedback to take back to our own operation. Getting the chance to show all of our hard work was a highlight for many of our members, and the conference was a wonderful chance to not only show what we have been doing but also learn more about current events in the industry. Furthermore, we are pleased to announce that the Cooperative University Dairy Students earned the 2022 Progressive Genetics Herd Award for the 23rd year! This award is a recognition of our achievement of high standards in our breeding practices for Registered Holstein cattle. One goal that CUDS continues to work towards is breed improvement of Holstein cattle through cooperation with other breeders, so we are incredibly proud and appreciative to receive this acknowledgement.

Beyond the daily management of our herd and dairy operation, the members of CUDS have participated in team bonding events such as a team dinner, game night, and impromptu study sessions. This has not only helped unify our members and given us a better sense of community, but it also helped members decompress from the stress of work, school, and finals.

Finally, I would like to take a moment to show our appreciation and acknowledge Dr. Joe Hillers and everyone else who has gone above and beyond to support our program this year. On behalf of the Cooperative University Students, thank you to all these generous supporters, the CUDS program is profoundly grateful for the time and funding you have dedicated to our proud cooperative.


How are WA dairy farmers reducing their environmental footprint on air emissions?

By Jera Monaghan, WSU Animal Sciences M.S. student

Dairy producers across the nation are tasked with decreasing their environmental footprint. The US Dairy industry has created the following goals: achieve carbon neutrality, recycle water on farms, and preserve surface and ground water quality. Dairy producers have been implementing technology for years on recycling water and reducing run off, thus the current focus has pivoted toward reducing carbon emissions. Sources of carbon emissions on dairies are from enteric fermentation (35%), manure (33%), feed (26%), and energy (6%), and targeted efforts are looking to reduce emissions in all areas (US Dairy, 2022).

Currently, private and public entities are researching and developing technologies that can be used by producers to reduce their carbon footprint. Of the technologies, the most notable and common are anaerobic digesters, lagoon covers, manure separation technology, precision land application, and diet adjustment. Additionally, these new technologies have the potential to decrease the amount of other air pollutants: particulate matter, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and other volatile organic compounds. While these technologies exist, the dairy industry has been slow to adopt due to the cost of implementation and maintenance and education about what system is the most sustainable option for their operation.

WA dairy farmers have been taking the initiative to implement new technologies to control air pollutants on their dairies. The most common technology on dairies across the state is some degree of separation technology for their manure systems. Manure separation technology can include settling lanes and mechanical presses, in which both reduce the solid load in their lagoon that has the potential to react with microbial activity to releases gas emissions. Reduction in solids can decrease the amount of ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions (Aguirre-Villegas et al., 2017). Producers are composting those solids and pen scrapings, which create a carbon dense soil amendment to improve soil carbon retention and a secondary revenue stream (Aguirre-Villegas et al., 2017). Producers also use precision manure application techniques such as annual soil testing and injection and incorporation of dairy manure, which allows producers to titrate their applications to crop demands. Finally, producers have begun to add carbon and nutrient capture technology through digester development, centrifuges, and denitrification and nitrification systems. Developing these technologies can also have second-hand effects of improving water quality by removing excess nitrogen and phosphorus that can be leached or volatized off the farm (Frear et al., 2018).

To increase adoption prevalence in the dairy industry, government and private industries are going to need to incentive the opportunities. Types of assistance include incentive opportunities to make the technology more lucrative, market development to sell carbon captured products, and educational events to help producers make informed decisions. WA State officials are planning to implement the Climate Commitment Act that may include voluntary programs for producers to get involved in carbon trading. WA State also has a number of public focused projects that help producers make environmentally conscious programs such as the Dairy Nutrient Management Program, Sustainable Farms and Fields, Soil Health Initiative, and local funding opportunities at county conservation districts.  The next decade is going to be an exciting time for producers to get involved in reducing their carbon footprint to propell the industry toward neutrality while maintaining the production of nutrient-dense products for society.

 Aguirre-Villegas, H.A., and R.A. Larson. 2017. Evaluating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Dairy Manure Management Practices using Survey Data and Lifecycle Tools. Journal of Cleaner Production 143: 169-179.

Aguirre-Villegas, Horacio, Larson, A. Rebecca, and Ruark, D. Matthew. 2017. “Solid-Liquid Separation of Manure and Effects on Greenhouse Gas and Ammonia Emissions” Sustainable Dairy Fact Sheets. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

Frear, Craig, Ma, Jingweim and Yorgey, Gerogine. 2018. APPROACHES TO NUTRIENT RECOVERY FROM DAIRY MANURE.  Washington State University. Pullman, WA

US Dairy “U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative” Undeniably Dairy. Aug 2022,


What’s New in Dairy Science Research?

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

It is hard to believe it is already December and time for the last newsletter of the year. Please enjoy my selection of new articles on dairy science research for the winter newsletter, have a wonderful holiday season, and I will see you in the new year with another round of new research articles!

Dam Choline Supplementation and Calf Immunity [1]

Researchers from the University of Florida wanted to test if choline supplementation of a dam in late gestation would improve the immune function of her calf.  Choline is a vitamin-like nutrient that you may have heard of as rumen-protected choline (RPC).  RPC has been shown to help transition cows adjust to the high energy demands of lactation and prevent ketosis and liver problems.  To see if RPC supplementation could also improve calf health, researchers randomly supplemented half of their cows with RPC three weeks before their expected calving day.  Of the calves born from those two groups, half were randomly assigned to receive colostrum from supplemented dams and half received colostrum from non-supplemented dams.  Calves that received colostrum from RPC-supplemented cows had a 17.4% increase in antibody absorption regardless if their dam was supplemented.  Calves born from supplemented dams had fewer fevers and they had fewer blood markers of inflammation when their immune system was challenged.  Although more research is needed to work out the fine details of choline supplementation, it is something that should be on your radar as a multipurpose supplement that can help improve both calf and transition cow health.

Positive Welfare with a Farmer’s Perspective [2]

Most, if not all, dairy farmers are familiar with the traditional ideas of animal welfare, which emphasize reducing or eliminating negative experiences for cows.  A new area of study in welfare, positive welfare, explores not only how negative experiences can be reduced but also how positive experiences can be increased.  Many dairy farmers already implement and value positive welfare on their farms, as shown in a recent study of dairy farmers in the United Kingdom.  Researchers asked farmers why they valued positive welfare, what positive welfare practices they had already implemented, and how grants from the government might help them implement further positive welfare schemes on their farms.  Farmers valued positive welfare for a variety of reasons including pride in their operation, productivity and comfort of their cows, and consumer perceptions.  Several farmers in the study had already enacted positive welfare practices, and those that had not were able to see realistic goals to aim for in the future.  Farmers were also more likely to enact positive welfare practices on their farms with financial support from the government, likely because cost was listed as one of the main barriers to achieving positive welfare.  If you would like to know more about positive welfare or how to apply it on your farm, please reach out to an Extension agent, and keep up the good work caring for your cows.

Selenium Deficiencies, Inflammation, and Mastitis [3]

Selenium is an important mineral that can help reduce inflammation and support a healthy immune system.  Researchers from an agricultural university in China wanted to see if a selenium deficiency in dairy cattle would increase the likelihood of a cow getting mastitis.  To test this, they compared cows eating a normal ration to cows that had a selenium deficient ration.  They found that when cows had a systemic selenium deficiency, there was less selenium found in the mammary tissue.  Because of this reduction in mammary tissue selenium, there was an increase in inflammatory molecules in both the udder and in the blood of selenium deficient cows.  Mammary cells that were selenium deficient also showed signs of structural damage.  Altogether, this research demonstrates the importance of maintaining proper selenium concentrations in the dairy cow ration so that the cells in her udder can remain healthy and be more likely to resist microbial infection.  Selenium is deficient in the soil in many parts of the United States, so make sure to regularly test your hay and feeds to ensure a balanced ration.

[1] Zenobi, M.G., J.M. Bollatti, A.M. Lopez, B.A. Barton, C.L. Hixon, F.P. Mausnell, W.W. Thatcher, K. Miller-Cushon, J.E.P. Santos, C.R. Staples, and C.D. Nelson. 2022. Effects of maternal choline supplementation on performance and immunity of progeny from birth to weaning. J. Dairy Sci. 105(12):9896-9916.

[2] Stokes, J.E., E. Rowe, S. Mullan, J.C. Pritchard, R. Horler, M.J. Haskell, C.M. Dwyer, and D.C.J. Main. 2022. A “good life” for dairy cattle: Developing and piloting a framework for assessing positive welfare opportunities based on scientific evidence and farmer expertise. Anim. 12(2540):1-26.

[3] Zhang, Y., Y. Xu, B. Chen, B. Zhao, X. Gao. 2021. Selenium deficiency promotes oxidative stress-induced mastitis via activating the NF-κB and MAPK pathways in dairy cows. Biol. Trace Elem. Res. 200:2716-2726.


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Identifying genetic regions associated with Bovine Respiratory Disease using farm records

By Allison Herrick, WSU Animal Sciences Ph.D. student

Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is one of the costliest diseases within the cattle industry, costing the beef and dairy industries over 3 billion dollars every year. Cattle with BRD are impacted with acute and long-term effects on production and fertility. BRD is a multifactorial and multi-pathogen disease, making it difficult to fully prevent and control with vaccination and good husbandry practices. Infection incidence is influenced by the cattle’s genetics and identifying genomic regions associated with BRD can be used with genomic selection to produce healthier, more BRD-resistant animals.

We performed a study to identify genomic regions associated with susceptibility to BRD among pre-weaned dairy calves on three commercial dairies in Washington that were part of a genomic selection study sponsored by the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. The study consisted of 482 animals (61 calves with BRD and 421 healthy controls). Farm records were used to identify Holstein calves that were diagnosed or treated for BRD prior to weaning. Calves were genotyped and an analysis was performed to determine if a genomic region was associated with BRD. The regions identified as associated with BRD were compared to results from previous studies, that used stricter BRD diagnostic criteria to identify animals that had BRD.

After the analysis was performed, 25 genomic regions on 13 different chromosomes were associated with BRD susceptibility. Many of these regions contained genes that are known to be important in the immune response and lung function which could provide insight into the progression of disease for calves with BRD. When comparing our results to regions identified previously with a different diagnostic criteria for animals with BRD, there was only one region that was shared. This research will be continued with a larger set of individuals from farms in other locations throughout the United States, with the goal of identifying genomic regions that are consistent across many different studies. The use of these validated genomic regions will be used to create selection tools for producers to reduce the incidence of BRD.


Amber’s Top Ten Tips: Observing behavior to detect disease

By Amber Adams Progar, Associate Professor and Dairy Management Specialist

As you may know, my research team studies cattle behavior. When I made the decision to pursue a career in animal behavior, most of my family and friends did not know what that meant. Are you going to be a psychologist or therapist for cows? Will you be like Dr. Doolittle? What happened to your dream of becoming a veterinarian? All these questions came up as everyone attempted to wrap their minds around animal behavior as a career choice. The farmers I grew up around understood nutrition, reproduction, economics, and animal health but behavior seemed foreign to them. When you stop to think about it, though, you use behavior observations every day on the farm. We use behavior for detecting heat, monitoring feed intake and quality, handling cattle safely, and identifying sick animals. One of my lab’s goals is to determine how we can evaluate changes in behavior to detect disease earlier, allowing farmers and veterinarians to provide treatment sooner. While our lab is still working on this topic, I found several studies published this year that highlight how behavior can be used to detect disease in cattle.

Below are some highlights from these studies:

  1. Subclinical Mastitis

Noseband sensors recorded rumination behavior in healthy cows and cows with subclinical mastitis in a study out of Lithuania. Cows with subclinical mastitis had a 61% decrease in rumination time and a 48% decrease in drinking time starting 4 days prior to diagnosis (Antanaitis et al., 2022a).

  1. Diseases in Calves

Researchers in Canada collected drinking behavior data from automated milk feeders. Milk consumption and drinking speed data detected disease 5 to 4 days before disease was detected by the farmer (Morrison et al., 2022).

  1. Neonatal Calf Diarrhea

Automated milk feeder behavior data were also collected by researchers in Canada to compare behavior between calves diagnosed with neonatal calf diarrhea and healthy calves. Prior to diagnosis, calves with diarrhea had fewer rewarded visits to the feeder than healthy calves (Conboy et al., 2022).

  1. Foot and Mouth Disease

Crossbred calves with foot and mouth disease spent less time eating (32 min/day vs. 56 min/day) and standing (70 min/day vs. 105 min/day) than healthy calves (Somagond et al., 2022).

  1. Bovine Respiratory Disease

In Kentucky, calves wore pedometers and researchers collected behavior data from automated milk feeders. Calves diagnosed with bovine respiratory disease drank 9% less milk, consumed less starter grain, and took fewer steps (428 steps vs. 646 steps; Cantor and Costa, 2022).

  1. Recovery vs. Relapse in Calves

Similar to #5 above, researchers compared automated milk feeder data and followed calves with bovine respiratory disease. However, comparisons were made between calves that recovered from bovine respiratory disease and calves that relapsed. Calves that relapsed consumed 63% less starter grain, drank 21% less milk per minute, spent almost 60 minutes more time lying, and took 41% fewer steps than calves that recovered (Cantor et al., 2022).

  1. Anaplasmosis

Heifer calves exposed to anaplasmosis were monitored using activity and rumination collars. Anaplasmosis reduced heifer rumination by 34% and activity by 11%. The behavior data accurately predicted anaplasmosis sickness up to 3 days prior to a clinical diagnosis (Teixeira et al., 2022).

  1. Automated Body Condition Scores

Although not a behavior, automated body condition scores were 5% higher in cows with mastitis than healthy cows in Lithuania (Antanaitis et al., 2022).

  1. Detection of Bovine Respiratory Disease

Based on data from ear tag activity monitoring devices, rumination time did not differ between calves with bovine respiratory disease and healthy calves. However, calves with bovine respiratory disease showed more inactive behavior. Differences between the two groups could be detected up to 4 days prior to diagnosis (Gardaloud et al., 2022).

  1. Healthy vs. Sick Cows

When comparing activity and rumination behavior in sick and healthy cows, researchers noticed that sick cows experienced a 45.53-minute drop in average time spent ruminating one day before diagnosis (Zhou et al., 2022).

Observing behavior plays an important role in animal care and well-being. I cannot wait to share results from our current behavior research with you soon. If you get the urge to chat with someone about cattle behavior, please reach out to me. I love a great conversation!


Thanks for reading our December 2022 edition of the WSU Dairy Newsletter! Our next newsletter will be available in March 2023. Happy Holidays!

September 2022 Newsletter

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.

June 2022 WSU Dairy Newsletter

Letter from the Editor

Happy National Dairy Month! This is the month society dedicates to thanking YOU, our dairy farmers, for all your hard work that provides us with wholesome food products. Thank you!

Summer is officially here and the WSU campus in Pullman is fairly quiet. The hustle and bustle of groups of students headed to class is gone, until August. This is the time of year for scientific conferences, research, and preparing for the fall semester. I had the pleasure of attending two conferences so far this summer. The International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR) Conference was in Montreal this year. Some of the most interesting research I saw focused on using different types of technology to detect the onset of diseases in cattle. This is also an area of research that my lab has been working on lately. I’ll discuss more about this research in my Top Ten Tips article below. The second conference I attended was the International Society for Agricultural Safety & Health Conference, which was held in Fort Collins last week. It was intriguing to learn about the new methods of monitoring on-farm safety and teaching safe practices.

From a research and Extension standpoint, our dairy faculty have multiple projects in the works right now. Dr. Holly Neibergs conducted genomic selection workshops for dairy producers and veterinarians. Dr. Marcos Marcondes is conducting a research trial on calf nutrition, Dr. Martin Maquivar just started a study assessing repeat breeders, and my lab will be installing lasers next month to test their efficacy in deterring birds from the freestall barns. All of us can not wait to share our results with you in upcoming newsletters!

In the meantime, grab a scoop of ice cream and enjoy our June newsletter.


Amber Adams Progar,



What’s New in Dairy Science Research?

Callan Lichtenwalter, Ph.D. Student, WSU Department of Animal Sciences

It may not feel like it yet, but summer is here and that means it’s time for another round up of new dairy science research.  Please enjoy the articles I have chosen to write about for the June newsletter.

Importance of Providing Water to Calves [1]

Farmers may not think to provide water to their calves since calves get hydration from milk, and on average in the U.S., calves are not provided water until 17 days of age.  Researchers from New Zealand wanted to understand how providing water to calves receiving different quantities of milk would affect calf feeding consumption and behavior.  Fifty mixed-breed calves were provided with either high milk allowance (10 L/day) with and without water or low milk allowance (5 L/day) with or without water.  As the calves aged, they began to drink more water, and this was more pronounced in calves receiving a high milk allowance.  All calves also ate more hay and calf starter with age, but calves that were provided with water ate more hay than the calves that were not provided with water.  Across the study, there was a small increase in environmental temperature, but this small increase still caused calves to increase their water intake (8% increase for every 1°C (1.8°F) increase).  The results of this study show that providing fresh drinking water to calves can benefit their welfare, particularly on warmer days, and it may contribute to increased consumption of fiber and the development of the rumen.

Finding a Balance with High Concentrate Feeds [2]

High concentrate feeds are important in the dairy industry because they help support the high energetic demands of a lactating cow.  However, when too much concentrate is added to the diet, there can be negative effects on the cow.  A study on Holstein cows from China looked at how a low versus high concentrate diet affected rumen pH, the amount of inflammatory molecules in the blood, and the amount of fat in the milk.  The high concentrate diet fed in the study caused cows to experience sub-acute ruminal acidosis and have higher concentrations of inflammatory molecules in the blood and lower concentrations of fat in the milk than cows on the lower concentrate diet.  From these results we can see that too much concentrate can cause health and welfare issues for the cow and reduce the components in her milk.  If you have concerns about your cows’ diet, contact your nutritionist to see if any adjustments need to be made.

Affects of Different Calf Feeding Methods [3]

Nutrition is extremely important for the growth and development of calves.  Conventional methods suggest providing milk at about 8-10% of calf birthweight to encourage their transition to solid foods.  Researchers from Iran wanted to see if feeding calves using alternative methods would have an impact on their growth or feed intake.  Using 39 Holstein calves, the researchers tested feeding using the conventional method described above, a low milk intake method where milk provided increased until 30 days of age and then decreased until weaning, and a high milk intake method where milk provided increased until 30 days of age and then decreased until weaning.  Calves fed using the high milk intake step-up/step-down method had a greater dry matter intake, starter feed intake, and average daily gain, but were less feed efficient than the calves fed using the other two feeding methods.  If you plan to sell your calves at a few months of age, the high milk step-up/step-down feeding method might work well for you.  Otherwise, the conventional method is probably still your best option, but contact a vet or nutritionist if you have questions or concerns.

[1] Lowe, G.L., M.A. Sutherland, M. Stewart, J.R. Waas, N.R. Cox, and K.E. Schütz. 2022. Effects of provision of drinking water on the behavior and growth rate of group-housed calves with different milk allowances. J. Dairy Sci. 105(5):4449-4460.

[2] Ma, N., J.A. Abaker, G. Wei, H. Chen, X. Shen, and G. Chang. 2022. A high-concentrate diet induces an inflammatory response and oxidative stress and depresses milk fat synthesis in the mammary gland of dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 105(6):5493-5505.

[3] Valehi, M.M., G.R. Ghorbani, M. Khorvash, F. Hashemzadeh, H. Rafiee, and J.K. Drackley. 2022. Performance, structural growth, and digestibility by Holstein calves fed different amounts of milk through step-up/step-down or conventional methods. J. Dairy Sci. 105(5):3988-3996.


Amber’s Top Ten Tips: Using thermography on dairies

Amber Adams Progar, Dairy Management Specialist, WSU Department of Animal Sciences

Summer is here. Are you ready for the heat? Are your cows ready for the heat? As we know, heat stress has a multitude of negative effects on cattle well-being. Our ability to detect heat stress, as well as other ailments, early is essential for a positive prognosis for our cattle. One method to detect heat stress in cattle is to use thermal imaging to measure eye temperatures in cows. Thermography also shows potential in helping us identify cows with mastitis, foot issues, septic arthritis, and even cows in heat. Below are summaries of studies that tested  using thermography on dairies:

  1. Eye and rectal temperatures

Eye temperatures from thermal images and rectal temperatures in 113 calves were positively correlated, indicating that thermal imaging of eyes could help producers identify calves with a fever (Cossa et al., 2021).

  1. Heat stress identified by eye temperature

Forty cows exposed to mild – severe heat stress conditions displayed increased respiration rates and core body temperatures, as expected. Eye temperatures recorded with thermal imaging showed that left eye temperature readings had better repeatability than right eye readings. The lacrimal sac part of the eye was most closely correlated with the respiration rates and core body temperatures (Shu et al., 2022).

  1. Thermography does not detect feed efficiency

Thermal images of the cheek, right rib, muzzle, left flank, front, front limb, and hind limb were recorded in high-efficiency and low-efficiency cows, but no difference in temperatures was detected between the two groups of cows (Lombardi et al., 2022).

  1. Pasture access does not affect eye temperature

Average eye temperature, as recorded by thermal imaging, was not affected by housing in one study. Twenty-nine cows housed either indoors full-time or with overnight access to pasture did not differ in their eye temperatures (Crump et al., 2022). Eye temperatures tend to be higher when cows experience chronic stress.

  1. Calves with septic arthritis

Eleven calves with septic arthritis had higher skin temperatures, as recorded by thermography, in the areas of their affected joints (Arican et al., 2020).

  1. Detecting estrus

Muzzle and vulva temperatures were recorded via thermal imaging in 10 cows during different stages of estrus. Muzzle temperatures were 8% higher during standing heat than non-estrus. Vulva temperatures were 10% higher during standing heat than non-estrus (Tiwan et al., 2021).

  1. Udder temperature and SCC

Thermal images of all quarters of udders for 28 cows were compared to somatic cell counts. The front udder quarters were the most correlated with somatic cell counts (Machado et al., 2021).

  1. Mastitis detection

Udder surface temperatures for 105 cows were recorded using thermal imaging. Healthy quarters were 90.3 – 90.7°F and quarters with intramammary infections were 91.8 – 92.7 °F (Velasco-Bolaños et al., 2021).

  1. Locomotion score and foot temperature

Over 200 cows in New Zealand were observed for locomotion scoring and thermal images of their hind feet were recorded. For every one-unit increase in locomotion score, mean foot temperature increased by 0.944 degrees (Werema et al., 2021).

  1. Onset of digital dermatitis

My former graduate student conducted a study during the summer of 2020 that aimed to use thermal imaging to detect the onset of digital dermatitis. The intent was to identify cows developing digital dermatitis sooner so we could provide treatment sooner and, ultimately, improve the animal’s prognosis. We found that foot temperature increased by 73% from 16 days prior to diagnosis to the day of diagnosis (Magaña, 2021).


Thanks for reading our June newsletter!

We’ll see you in September for our next edition!

March 2022 WSU Dairy Newsletter

Letter from the Editor

Hello Spring! We are wrapping up our first week back from Spring Break at WSU, which means the reality of graduation is setting in for our seniors. The excitement of graduation blends with anxiety over what the future might hold. I had many discussions with students recently about their career plans and noticed that an increasing number of students are seriously considering careers in the dairy industry. Most of these students do not have a background in dairy. This is great news! This means that the Animal Sciences faculty and staff are providing eye-opening experiences for our students, encouraging them to try new things outside their comfort level.

With this great news, I have a request for you. Hands-on experience through internships is one of the most impactful training opportunities we can provide our students. If you have an internship position available, please reach out so we can help you connect with one of our students.

In the meantime, pour yourself a glass of milk and enjoy our March newsletter.

Thank you!

Amber Adams Progar,



What’s New in Dairy Science Research?

Callan Lichtenwalter, Ph.D. Student, WSU Department of Animal Sciences


I am happy to be back with another article that takes new research in the dairy world and brings it directly to farmers in Washington State.  I hope you enjoy the new research I selected for the March newsletter.

Does pair housing calves affect calf health or welfare?

Researchers from Europe wanted to know how housing calves in pairs would affect their health, feed intake, and behavior compared to individually housed calves.  They took calves from 2 to 15 days old and sorted them into groups of 22 individually housed calves and 44 pair housed calves.  Their health and feed intake were measured daily, and one behavioral test was performed to understand how the calves acted in an unknown environment.  The incidence of diarrheal and respiratory illness did not differ between the pair and individually housed calves.  Consumption of milk, calf starter, and average daily gain also did not differ between the two groups of calves.  Based off the behavioral evaluation, the researchers concluded that individually housed calves might be deprived of normal movement behavior in their housing conditions.  From these results, we can conclude that pair housing calves does not impact their health or growth and can be a viable option for dairy farmers interested in increasing natural behaviors in calves.

Does pre-weaning illness in replacement heifers impact reproduction and lactation?

Replacement heifers represent a significant cost on many dairies, so knowing if disease early in life affects reproduction and lactation can help farmers make financially sound decisions when choosing replacement heifers.  Researchers at Michigan State University looked at the health records of 2,272 cows to see if diarrheal disease or BRD had an impact on reproductive success or first-lactation milk production.  Heifer calves with a history of BRD required more inseminations to reach pregnancy and were less likely to produce a calf than those without a history of BRD.  Average daily gain and first-lactation milk production was not affected by a history of BRD.  Heifer calves with a history of diarrheal illness needed more inseminations to achieve pregnancy.  They also had reduced average daily gain and first-lactation milk production.  Therefore, pre-weaning illness does have a negative impact on later reproductive efficiency and lactation in dairy cows.

Can dairy cows be bred to produce less methane?

Methane is a natural product of digestion in cows, but it is also a potent greenhouse gas.  Researchers from the Netherlands wanted to see if including reduction of methane emissions into their breeding strategy would be a feasible practice.  Based on their calculations, selecting for reduced methane emissions along with other production traits can produce healthy, productive cows that produce less methane.  Currently, measuring methane can be difficult and new technology would need to be implemented on farms to accurately select for low methane emitting cows.  How reducing methane emissions impacts other traits is also still unknown.  For now, selecting for cows that produce less methane does not seem like a practical strategy for most dairy farmers, but this may change as more knowledge is gained.


Bučková, K., R. Šárová, Á. Moravcsíková, and M. Špinka. 2021. The effect of pair housing on dairy calf health, performance, and behavior. J. Dairy Sci. 104(9):10282-10290.

Abuelo, A., F. Cullens, and J.L. Brester. 2021. Effect of preweaning disease on the reproductive performance and first-lactation milk production of heifers in a large dairy herd. J. Dairy Sci. 104(6):7008-7017.

de Haas, Y., R.F. Veerkamp, G. de Jong, and M.N. Aldridge. 2021. Selective breeding as a mitigation tool for methane emissions from dairy cattle. Anim. 15(1):1-10.



Responses of rbST injections on high-performance dairy heifers

Anna L. L Sguizzato¹ and Marcos I. Marcondes²

¹Department of Animal Science, Federal University of Viçosa, Viçosa/MG, Brazil

²Department of Animal Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA


Have you heard about Holstein × Gyr cattle? Girolando, as it is also called, is a common breed used in many dairy farms in Brazil. This crossbred unites the Holstein milk production with the Gyr rusticity, which is a great complement for pasture-based systems. Bearing this in mind, it is essential to acknowledge that, despite recent efforts to improve requirements, performance, growth, and reproduction, research is still needed to overcome production flaws such as late puberty and detrimental effects of high gain diets on dairy heifers, especially in heifers bred early in their life (11 to 13 months of age).

Based on literature evidence (Weller et al., 2016; Albino et al., 2017a), the exclusive use of nutritional strategies is insufficient to control the negative impacts of high feeding plans in prepubertal dairy heifers. Thus, the use of non-nutritional strategies, as frequent application of recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST), become a feasible strategy to enhance mammary growth (Radcliff et al., 1997; Sejrsen et al., 2000), or to increase N retention (Crooker et al., 1990) in dairy heifers. Therefore, a study conducted in Brazil, supervised by Dr. Marcondes, aimed to evaluate the use of rbST as an alternative strategy to overcome the detrimental effects of high-performance diets on the development of dairy heifers during pre-puberty.

The study was conducted at the Federal University of Viçosa, where 34 Holstein × Gyr heifers, with a body weight of 218 ± 49 kg and 14 ± 4 months of age were submitted to an 84-day trial to evaluate the use of recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) on digestibility, performance, blood metabolites, carcass traits, and mammary development. The 34 heifers were divided into three blocks according to their initial BW, and two treatments (no rbST injections or rbST injections) were randomly assigned to the animals within each block. Heifers received a diet formulated to achieve an average daily gain of 1 kg, according to the NRC (2001). In addition, every animal in the rbST treatment received rbST shots (500 mg of recombinant bovine somatotropin – Boostin®, Merc Animal Health) every 14-day. To mimic the stress suffered by these heifers, the no rbST animals received saline injections (sodium chloride, 0.9%), as a placebo, on the same days.

The rbST treatment did not influence any of the variables evaluated on the digestibility trial. Regarding performance, final BW and growth were not affected by treatments. However, the serum IGF1 was higher for rbST animals, which resulted in greater carcass traits and mammary gland development.

For carcass, rbST heifers presented a 25% increase in lean tissue deposition (Figure 1). In addition, we observed an increase in parenchymal tissue for the mammary gland and a reduction in fat pad tissue for rbST heifers (Figure 2). It may seem different at first look, but we aim to reduce pixel values for parenchyma and fat pad when evaluating mammary gland ultrasound results. The explanation is simple. In ultrasound, darker areas – lower pixel – represent structural or secretory tissues, as the parenchyma. On the other side, brighter areas – higher pixel – represent reservoirs tissues, as the adipose tissue. Thus, the reduced pixel value found for parenchyma represents greater secretory tissue deposition, and the reduced pixel value seen for the fat pad represents reduced adipose tissue deposition in the gland. If you still have questions about this analysis, check the companion paper written by Albino et al. (2017b) and learn more about this technique.

Figure 1. Representation of carcass ultrasound results. A – Carcass ribeye area between treatments. B –  Carcass ribeye area and backfat thickness among days. Differences were considered when P – the value was ≤ 0.05. Adapted from Sguizzato et al., (2022).


Figure 2. Representation of mammary gland ultrasound results. Differences were considered when P – value ≤ 0.05. Adapted from Sguizzato et al. (2022).

Moreover, to confirm the results obtained for the mammary gland, we observed reduced expression of IGFBP3 on mammary tissue of rbST heifers (P = 0.023). The IGFBP3 is a major IGF binding protein found in the bovine mammary gland, which can exert dependent or independent effects on cell growth, proliferation, and apoptosis, depending on the stimulus. However, according to our overall findings, we could associate the reduction in IGFBP3 expression with the increased IGF1 serum concentration on rbST heifers, resulting in greater parenchyma growth. Therefore, our study proved the efficacy of rbST as a non-nutritional strategy to improve mammary gland development and lean carcass gain of Holstein × Gyr heifers submitted to high-performance management. Nevertheless, a deeper investigation is still needed to understand the absence of the expected responses to the other variables evaluated and the efficacy of this technology with purebred Holstein heifers.


Albino, R.L., A.L. Sguizzato, K.M. Daniels, M.S. Duarte, M.M. Lopes, S.E.F. Guimarães, M.M.D.C.A. Weller, and M.I. Marcondes. 2017a. Performance strategies affect mammary gland development in prepubertal heifers. J. Dairy Sci. 100:8033–8042. doi:10.3168/jds.2016-12489.

Albino, R.L., S.E.F. Guimarães, K.M. Daniels, M.M.S. Fontes, A.F. Machado, G.B. dos Santos, and M.I. Marcondes. 2017b. Technical note: Mammary gland ultrasonography to evaluate mammary parenchymal composition in prepubertal heifers. J. Dairy Sci. 100:1588–1591. doi:10.3168/jds.2016-11668.

Crooker, B.A., M.A. McGuire, W.S. Cohick, M. Harkins, D.E. Bauman, and K. Sejrsen. 1990. Effect of dose of bovine somatotropin on nutrient utilization in growing dairy heifers. J. Nutr. 120:1256–1263. doi:10.1093/jn/120.10.1256.

Radcliff, R.P., M.J. Vandehaar, A.L. Skidmore, L.T. Chapin, B.R. Radke, J.W. Lloyd, E.P. Stanisiewski, and H.A. Tucker. 1997. Effects of Diet and Bovine Somatotropin on Heifer Growth and Mammary Development. J. Dairy Sci. 80:1996–2003. doi:10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(97)76143-5.

Sejrsen, K., S. Purup, M. Vestergaard, and J. Foldager. 2000. High body weight gain and reduced bovine mammary growth: Physiological basis and implications for milk yield potential. Domest. Anim. Endocrinol. 19:93–104. doi:10.1016/S0739-7240(00)00070-9.

Weller, M.M.D.C.A., R.L. Albino, M.I. Marcondes, W. Silva, K.M. Daniels, M.M. Campos, M.S. Duarte, M.L. Mescouto, F.F. Silva, and S.E.F. Guimarães. 2016. Effects of nutrient intake level on mammary parenchyma growth and gene expression in crossbred (Holstein × Gyr) prepubertal heifers. J. Dairy Sci. 99:9962–9973. doi:10.3168/jds.2016-11532.



Amber’s Top Ten Tips: Consumer Perceptions

Amber Adams Progar, Dairy Management Specialist, WSU Animal Sciences


Have you ever scratched your head and wondered where some of the common misperceptions about dairy farming originated? I spend a great deal of time pondering this question. As the number of dairy farms decreases, the number of people with connections to, and an understanding of, dairy farming will also decrease. I thought it might be intriguing to look into dairy consumer perceptions about dairy farming and dairy products from a United States and global perspective.

Below are some highlights from recent articles that I thought were interesting:

  1. Ranking Sustainable Practices

Over 5,000 consumers from six European countries were asked to rank, in the order of importance, three practices: agroforestry (integration of animals and trees on the same plot of land); prolonged maternal feeding (calves can suckle directly from their mothers for the first 3–5 months after they are born); and alternative protein source (use of home-grown protein crops, such as lupins, beans and peas, as animal feed). Prolonged maternal feeding was ranked #1 by 42.1% of consumers; whereas, agroforestry and alternative protein source were ranked #1 by 33.3% and 24.6% of consumers, respectively (Naspetti et al., 2021).

  1. Intent to Purchase Based on Sustainable Practices

The same consumers described in #1 above were also asked to rank their intent to purchase dairy products that were made on farms that used agroforestry, prolonged maternal feeding, or alternative protein sources. Consumers favored products made from farms that used agroforestry and prolonged maternal feeding practices, but using alternative protein sources was not as appealing (Naspetti et al., 2021).

  1. Label Claims can Make a Difference

A survey sent to 900 United States dairy consumers asked participants to rank the importance of 63 attributes/label claims to the sustainability, naturalness, or healthiness of dried dairy products. The label claim “environmentally sustainable practices” was most often perceived as sustainable, while “no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors” was most often perceived as healthy (Schiano et al., 2021).

  1. Antibiotic Use on Dairies

One survey of 983 adults in the United States showed that 90.7% of respondents thought antibiotic use on dairies posed some threat to human health. Additionally, 71.5% of respondents claimed they would be willing to pay more for milk from farms that do not use antibiotics (Wemette et al., 2021).

  1. What Makes Frozen Desserts Healthy?

Over 1,000 ice cream and frozen dessert consumers reported that labels such as “naturally sweetened”, “reduced sugar”, “no added sugar”, and “all natural”, as well as a short ingredient list, indicated that a frozen dessert was “healthier” (Sipple et al., 2022).

  1. Animal Welfare Concerns

A survey of 409 Brazilian dairy consumers revealed that 48.7% of respondents thought cows suffer on dairy farms. The three most common concerns were movement restriction, cow-calf separation, and excessive production or reproduction (Comin et al., 2022).

  1. Precision Livestock Farming

Consumer participants from three European countries expressed concern that data from precision livestock farming systems were vulnerable and could be misused in cyber-crimes. They also expected precision livestock farming to improve animal health and welfare (Krampe et al., 2021).

  1. Gene-editing to Improve Animal Welfare

In Brazil, 864 citizens participated in a survey about using gene-editing to improve animal welfare. Sixty percent of respondents stated that using gene-editing for increased muscle growth was not acceptable; whereas, 40% of respondents stated using gene-editing to improve heat resistance or increase polled cattle was also not acceptable (Yunes et al., 2021).

  1. Cattle Housing Systems

Over 3,600 survey respondents from eight European countries were asked to rank four different dairy cattle housing systems. Over half of respondents ranked compost bedded barns as the best housing for health, space, and comfort for cows (Waldrop et al., 2021).

  1. Animal Welfare Influences Buying Decisions

In Italy, 69% of 969 consumers reported they pay attention to animal welfare at the time of purchasing dairy products, and they mostly acquire information about animal welfare through the mass media (Rubini et al., 2021).


As we near June Dairy Month, let’s make a concerted effort to find new ways to help more people feel connected to our industry. Share your story, it’s a good one!



2022 Class of CUDS Members Ready to Take the Helm

Amber Adams Progar, Copperative University Dairy Students (CUDS) Advisor


And just like that . . . a new cohort of CUDS members are trained and ready to manage the herd. We received a phenomenal pool of applicants and conducted interviews last semester. New members started training this past January and completed their training a couple of weeks ago. It is my pleasure to introduce you to our class of 2022.

Andrew Bartelheimer – President

Avery Ahearn – Reproduction

Katie Beckner – Milk Quality & Udder Health

Usha Caldwell – Finances

Holly Guest – Public Relations

Alyssa Hawley – Calves, Heifers, and Dry Cows

Doan Hoang – Calves, Heifers, and Dry Cows

Alissa Jilk – Reproduction

Rania Kraus – Sire Selection

Kaycie Leslie – Herd Health

Mary Morse – Nutrition/Feed Management

Olivia Poncia – Cow Comfort

Heston Richmond – Herd Health

Lauren Sandoval – Drugs, Supplies, and Records


We are excited to see what the next year brings for the CUDS members and herd. Welcome to our new members!


Thanks for reading our March newsletter! We’ll see you in June for our next edition!