Amber’s Top Ten Tips: Calf Jackets and Jersey Calves
Across the United States, calf mortality rates are between 5 and 7%. Changes in weather or environmental conditions are associated with an increased risk for calf illnesses. This is why we see more calf illnesses when the seasons change. Jersey calves, in particular, are susceptible to colder weather because of their small body frame. Using calf jackets is one management practice we use to help calves cope with cold weather conditions. Some farmers have witnessed the benefits of calf jackets firsthand, while others are not convinced that jackets are effective. Scientifically, we have only a handful of research studies that measured the effectiveness of calf jackets and the results are conflicting. During the winter of 2017, the Adams Progar Lab at WSU completed a study on a Washington State dairy to measure how the use of calf jackets in Jersey calves impacts calf health, behavior, and growth during the first two weeks of age. Please consider our key findings below when deciding whether providing calf jackets to your calves would be beneficial and economical.
Calves that wore jackets and calves that did not wear jackets had similar body temperatures. Body temperatures averaged 101.28 °F throughout the study. Note: a calf’s body will allocate more energy towards maintaining internal body temperature during cold weather, resulting in less energy available for calf health and growth.
No difference in growth or average daily gain was found between calves that wore jackets and calves that didn’t wear jackets. Overall, average daily gain from birth to weaning was 1.12 lbs/day, with calves weaning at 129.4 lbs. Note: the American Jersey Cattle Association recommends an average daily gain from birth to first pregnancy of about 1.2 lbs/day.
All calves spent an average of 66% of their first two weeks of life lying down, regardless of whether they wore a jacket. Calves that wore jackets were not more active than calves that did not wear jackets. Note: during the first two weeks of life, calves typically spend the majority (50% or more) of their time each day lying down.
Calves that wore jackets and calves that did not wear jackets were similar in the number of treatments they received for illnesses. Calves that wore jackets were not healthier than calves that did not wear jackets. Note: this result matches results from previous studies.
Age and health
Over the course of the study, 98% of health treatments for calf illnesses occurred during when calves were 2 – 3 weeks of age (see Figure 1). Note: diarrhea was the most common symptom documented during this timeframe.
Use of small equipment for on-farm data collection
We used two types of small devices to collect body temperature data and housing conditions data. For body temperature data, we used temperature recording devices (iButton® DS1922L, Maxim, San Jose, CA) and for housing conditions, we used HOBO® data loggers (ONSET U12-012, Bourne, MA). Note: please contact me if you are interested in learning how to use these inexpensive tools on your farm.
Housing conditions (hutches) and the environment
For housing conditions, we used ambient temperature and relative humidity to calculate the temperature-humidity index (THI) within each hutch. As the environment, or outdoor weather, decreased by 1°F, the THI within the hutch decreased by 1.8 units. Note: this study did not consider wind speed. It is interesting to point out that the relationship between the environment and hutch THI is very strong.
Housing conditions (hutches) and lying behavior
As hutch THI decreased by one unit, calf lying behavior increased by about 2%. Note: small changes in lying behavior are not necessarily a bad thing, but if the THI gets low enough, it could greatly affect calf behavior. More lying behavior means calves are not as active, and possibly not eating or drinking as much.
Housing conditions (hutches) and body temperature
As hutch THI decreased by one unit, calf body temperatures decreased by 0.03°F. Note: The fluctuations in hutch THI can vary greatly throughout the day, potentially causing calf body temperatures to also fluctuate. These fluctuations challenge the calf’s immune system.
Calf jacket tips
The evidence of whether calf jackets work is not strong; however, if you have a positive experience with jackets, then I encourage you to continue using them. One thing to keep in mind is to check the jacket for sizing/fitting as the calf grows. It is a simple check that can make a world of difference. Many thanks to the American Jersey Cattle Association for providing monetary support for this project.
This year will be the 41st year of the existence of Cooperative University Dairy Students or CUDS. The advisory team would like to invite to a celebration on Saturday January 26, 2019 at the Ensminger Pavilion on the WSU Pullman campus.
We are in the initial planning stages in regard to specific plans and will share more this fall.
Please reply and indicate your interest in attending, and also forward names and e-mail addresses for members that you know so that we can add them to our mailing list.
Joe Harrison, Amber Adams-Progar, and Amber Merk
ashington State University and the University of Idaho are co-sponsoring a dairy genomics workshop in Prosser, WA on October 10, 2018, at the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center from 10 AM to 2:30 PM.
This meeting will bring together faculty from several universities to provide dairy farmers and advisors with the latest on genomic testing and research. More detailed information about the workshop and who to contact for registration (email@example.com) can be found on the Veterinary Medicine Extension calendar. Lunch will be provided by Zoetis and Neogen.
Dairy Farm Operations Manager, WSU Knott Dairy Center (Pullman, WA)
Would you like to be part of the heritage of producing quality milk for the world renowned Cougar Gold Cheese, and the distinguished Cooperative University Dairy Students (CUDS)?
The Department of Animal Sciences within the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University is seeking candidates for a Dairy Farm Operations Manager (Administrative Professional). The Dairy Farm Operations Manager is responsible for the management of the Department of Animal Sciences Dairy teaching and research herd (Knott Dairy Center). Duties include for planning, scheduling, and directing of personnel resources and facilities for the milking cow herd and replacement heifer events (calving, breeding, milking, nutrition and feeding, health care, forage utilization, milk and livestock sales. This position coordinates animal and facility use serves as the central person for communications and organizational issues in coordination of the needs of multiple research, extension, and courses. Additionally, the manager teaches classes and advises students as assigned by the department chair. The Dairy Farm Operations Manager is an important representative of the Department of Animal Sciences, WSU, and the dairy industry. Please see the full position description posting at wsujobs.com for more information and to apply.
This year will be the 41st year of the existence of Cooperative University Dairy Students or CUDS. The advisory team would like to invite to a celebration on Saturday January 26, 2019 at the Ensminger Pavilion on the WSU Pullman campus.
We are in the initial planning stages in regard to specific plans and will share more this fall.
Please reply and indicate your interest in attending, and also forward names and e-mail addresses for members that you know so that we can add them to our mailing list.
Joe Harrison, Amber Adams-Progar, and Amber Merk
New Publication Tackles Approaches to Nutrient Recovery from Dairy Manure
Interested in learning more about emerging technologies for separating nutrients from dairy manure? WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources has a new publication that summarizes the various approaches being explored for nutrient recovery on dairies – and what we know about the current costs and performance that are associated with each strategy. The publication, Approaches to Nutrient Recovery from Dairy Manure, was a long term effort by Craig Frear (formerly of WSU CSANR), Jingwei Ma (a WSU graduate student), and Georgine Yorgey (WSU CSANR). This publication is a companion to The Rationale for Recovery of Phosphorus and Nitrogen from Dairy Manure.
WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources has worked on various aspects of anaerobic digestion and nutrient recovery for a number of years. Please visit our Anaerobic Digestion topic page for additional publications, videos, and resources, including links to our Anaerobic Digestion Systems Extension Publication Series.
Georgine Yorgey, Associate Director, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hoof Care: Beware Too Much of a Good Thing
Hoard’s Dairyman hosted a webinar called “Supervise Hoof Health with a No Lameness Tolerance Policy” on June 11, 2018. The presenter was Karl Burgi, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine and Program Director at the Dairyland Hoof Care Institute, Inc. This article will be a synopsis of the portion of that webinar related to hoof trimming; readers are encouraged to view the entire archived webinar at https://hoards.com/article-23342-supervise-hoof-health-with-a-&lsquono-lameness-tolerance-policy.html. Photos used here are from that webinar and used with permission.
Rates of lameness in cows producing over 90# milk/day on U.S. dairies ranges from 13.2 to 54.8%, with a mean of 25%. This huge variation is due to differences in management and factors affecting cow comfort on different farms, of course, but also attitudes about lameness. Some managers react to individual lameness cases; others recognize the effects of lameness on production and animal comfort and devote resources to prevention measures.
A 2017 study calculated the per-case cost of lameness at $527 per cow, which also includes pro-rated death and culling losses. A study of digital dermatitis (DD, a.k.a. hairy heel warts) in heifers revealed affected animals averaged 750 fewer pounds of milk over their first lactation and were open 28 more days than unaffected heifers. Lameness is also responsible for a 20% increase in premature culling and 2% death rate.
Lameness in early lactation is particularly costly because it affects peak lactation and lactation curves. Plus, if a cow becomes lame, the risk of recurrence is increased in subsequent lactations. This is because lameness and its predisposing factors can cause permanent changes to the skin, fat pad, ligaments, and bones of the foot. Therefore, a lameness management program should emphasize prevention for greatest success.
Lameness can be assessed on dairies by hoof lesion scores, locomotion scores (3-, 4-, and 5-point scale systems are available), management software, and/or hoof health analysis. The main foot lesions are DD, sole ulcers, white line disease, thin soles/toe ulcers, and foot rot. If DD is reduced, all other types of lesions will be reduced as well. The presentation includes recommendations for DD treatment and control not discussed here.
There are two types of hoof trimming: functional (routine to deal with hoof growth and maintain proper weight-bearing angles and surfaces) and therapeutic (treatment of issues causing lameness). Mr. Burgi states when it comes to functional trimming, “less is more” but “more is better” for therapeutic trimming. Ironically, hoof trimming may be a causative lameness factor if lameness cases persist in spite of addressing the following issues successfully:
Cows are handled properly by crowd gates and humans (i.e., not rushed).
Cow comfort is addressed and cows spend at least 12 hours lying down daily.
Effective hoof baths are installed, used, and maintained properly (see webinar).
Cows have secure footing on floors.
Heat abatement measures are taken when needed to encourage lying time.
Cows spend less than 2.5 hours/day out of pens (3× milking).
For each animal, assess the need for hoof trimming 3 to 8 weeks pre-calving and 1 to 3 times during lactation, or more often depending on the environment and an animal’s history. Routinely check first-calf heifers by 4 months into lactation. Note problem animals requiring more frequent monitoring in a computer management or other record-keeping system.
Pastured springing heifers should be brought in from pasture about 2 months before calving to give them time to develop protective fat pads in their feet and adjust to concrete. Their feet should be examined and trimmed at this time. Springing heifers stand significantly more time than cows. Standing on overgrown or improperly trimmed hooves will result in inflammation, which can predispose heifers to sole ulcers and a shortened productive life. Inflammation appears as redness in the sole (Photos 1 and 4); redness also means there is no overlying protective sole in that area.
Hoof trimming should not cause lameness, reduce cow welfare, or prevent lame cows recovering from their initial problem. Hoof trimming mistakes include:
Trimming hooves too short. Normal claws should be 3” long with about ¼” sole thickness.
Over-trimming heels, which changes (lowers) the angle where toes meet the ground (Photo 1); sole ulcers and white line disease can result.
Grinding or otherwise over-trimming claw walls (Photo 2). The wall is weight bearing; grinding removes the wall and permanent P3 (coffin bone) remodeling and loss will follow. Never remove the wall unless the animal is lame and the wall is involved—in such a case, apply a hoof block after trimming.
The sole is ground down excessively (Photos 3 and 4). Less than ¼” sole thickness causes inflammation resulting in sole ulcers and lameness. Soles can be ground away during excessive hoof trimming or by harmful environmental conditions (coarse sand, poor grooving, and exposed cement aggregate).
Leaving claws unbalanced.
Sole is not left flat.
Inflammation occurs before lameness. Some factors increasing the risk of inflammation include:
Calving—stressful time for all cows and heifers; any pre-calving foot issues are exacerbated after calving
Excessive standing—reduces hoof circulation, which affects hoof health; secondary to overcrowding, too much time in head catches or holding pens, heat stress, or uncomfortable beds
Delayed treatment—lets DD become chronic, facilitates secondary ulcers and foot rot
Lack of trimming—causes trauma from abnormal forces on hoof structures
Lack of blocking of ulcers—affected tissues do not have time to heal and inflammation continues. Blocks take pressure off painful tissues and increase oxygen contact with hoof tissues, which can kill some hoof disease bacteria.
Hoof inflammation can be prevented or reduced by providing an adequate number of comfortable stalls; using heat abatement measures to keep cows comfortable while lying; investigating all lameness cases within 24 hours; and using anti-inflammatory medications based on veterinary recommendations. Also, hooves should be trimmed 3 to 8 weeks before calving so all close-up animals have proper hoof anatomy and function. Close-up and fresh cows should have excellent cow comfort, including no overcrowding. Lameness in close-up, calving, and fresh animals should be avoided at all costs due to the major negative effects on milk production and animal welfare.
Due to their associated costs, long-term implications, and effects on animal well-being, lameness cases need to be investigated and addressed promptly. Few conditions causing lameness improve on their own and many can progress to career-ending ulcers, abscesses, or bone/joint infections in otherwise productive cows. Having a well-defined lameness program with designated trained people responsible for lameness detection and prompt treatment is essential, as is a record-keeping system to flag and record actions.
Your Voice Should be Heard: Dairy Worker Safety Survey
What are your thoughts on dairy worker safety? As you may already know, employee injuries on Washington dairy farms are often related to cattle handling or slips, trips, and falls. These injuries are often preventable. In addition to reducing the rate of injury occurrences, effective safety training programs can help reduce costs to you as an employer.
On behalf of the WSU Animal Sciences/Extension program and the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health (PNASH) center, we are asking for your help in completing a 10-minute survey on worker safety practices. Questions included will pertain to the current safety practices and training needs of your farm. Focusing on dairies in the Pacific Northwest, our goals include identifying and understanding what dairy owners like yourself want and need to promote safety on your farm. With the information provided to us in this survey, our partnership can do a better job of providing services and research that directly benefit dairy owners and their employees. Please visit the survey at https://is.gd/dairy_survey.
Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.
Livestock producers such as dairy farmers feed their animals complex rations, usually on a least-cost nutrient basis. This means they meet animals’ nutritional requirements using the most cost-efficient feeds they can obtain. This addresses two aspects of farm sustainability: animal welfare (meeting animals’ nutritional needs) and financial success (reducing expenses to increase profitability). Livestock nutritionists are constantly adjusting the rations their clients feed based on the cost and availability of ingredients; farmers make recommended ration changes gradually to not upset critical populations of intestinal digestive microbes.
Table 1. Comparison of chemical analysis results: 2017 pea variety trial and canola meal values.
(1) TDN = total digestible nutrients; an overall measure of energy contained in a feedstuff. (2) LCP = crude protein. (3) NDF = neutral detergent fiber; low number desirable and associated with greater feed intake by livestock. (4) ADF = acid detergent fiber; low number desirable and associated with higher feed (fiber) digestibility. (5) Provided for comparison to peas. Nutritional content depends on process used to extract oil. Sources: Neibergs et al., 2016 and Canola Council of Canada, 2015.
Dry peas (a.k.a. field peas, Photo 1) are a cool season annual crop well suited to northwestern WA. They can be seeded directly into previous crop residue in mid-March to mid-May or whenever soil temperature is over 40°F (O’Neal, 2017). Cold-tolerant varieties can be planted in the fall as a cover crop or to produce dry peas for livestock or humans. In areas with dry summers, fall planting can result in higher yields due to earlier spring growth, earlier bloom, and earlier harvest; there will be more nitrogen fixation, as well (O’Neal, 2017).
In Washington State, 90,000 acres of dry edible peas were planted in 2016. They yielded an average of $12.30/cwt, and were valued at $317 per harvested acre (Mertz, 2017).
Benefits of Peas
Peas have the potential to be a beneficial rotational crop for many reasons:
They are an alternative to summer fallow and another option for crop rotation
Peas can be inter-seeded with corn, oats, barley, or other crops to boost protein content of hay and haylage
They are a legume and will fix atmospheric nitrogen to improve soil fertility
Peas have a taproot that can help reduce soil compaction and improve water and nutrient movement
They can mature by mid-August so a fall crop or cover crop can still be planted
Peas can be combined to save harvesting labor; equipment is available locally
Post-harvest aftermath can be baled, tilled in, or grazed
The low moisture of dry peas facilitates long-term storage as a feed commodity
Are Peas the Answer?
Hoping for a high-protein feedstuff they could grow locally for more control over price and availability, dairy producers in northwestern WA wondered about the suitability of dry peas. Peas were grown in northwestern WA for decades until local processing ceased around 2010. Nevertheless, pea planting and harvesting equipment is still available in the area, as are growers with experience in and historical knowledge of pea production. Could these resources support a mini-resurgence of the northwestern WA pea industry as a source of high protein livestock feed?
WSU-NWREC 2017 Pea Variety Trial
Faculty at the WSU-Northwestern Research and Extension Center (NWREC) conducted a dry (grain) pea variety trial in 2017 with three pea varieties and one bean variety. Funding was provide by the Northwest Agricultural Research Foundation ($2,037). Seed was provided by John De Vlieger (Fava and Dundee varieties), Skagit Farmers Supply (Flex), and Albert Lea Seed (Admiral). Pre-planting and post-harvest soil data is available for those interested. Pre-emergent herbicides treflon (1 pint/acre) and dual magnum (1.5 pint/acre) were incorporated pre-planting. Fertilization was 18 lbs of nitrogen per acre and 60 lbs of phosphorus per acre at the time of planting. Production data are presented in Table 2; chemical analysis by variety is contained in Table 1.
Table 2. WSU-NWREC 2017 pea variety test plot details.
Precipitation over growing season
Growing Season Observations and Comments
All seed varieties emerged and grew well. They thrived in the 2.9% organic matter, 6.8 pH soil with less than 3” of rainfall throughout the growth period. Chemical analysis content provided in Table 1 shows all pea varieties compared favorably with canola meal with respect to energy content, crude protein, and fiber digestibility.
Black aphids attacked the fava beans, but it was unknown if this affected productivity. The major challenge, however, was Canada geese: they moved through the fields in an orderly fashion from east to west, devouring all peas they encountered. Fortunately, data could be collected from the western side of each plot because these areas had not yet experienced any goose damage (Photo 2). Fava beans matured later than peas. The literature suggests pea production may be improved by planting a mixture of varieties; that was not done in this trial.
With their high protein content and positive environmental effects, peas are once again a crop worth considering for northwestern WA, this time as a locally-produced livestock feed. To increase the likelihood of success, growers will need to conduct soil tests and probably raise soil pH (peas do not perform well in acidic soils) and have a plan to mitigate effects of grazing geese. Additional studies of how grain peas could contribute to high-value crop disease control, soil quality, nutrient cycling, reduction of livestock feed costs, and a myriad of other factors would be excellent candidates for SARE on-farm research project funding.
Amber’s Top Ten Tips: Considerations for Bucket Feeding Pre-weaned Calves
Is it better to offer milk/milk replacer in buckets or bottles for preweaned calves? This is a common debate within the dairy industry. Feeding milk in bottles allows calves to exhibit suckling behavior, which minimizes the occurrences of non-nutritive sucking behavior. Buckets are easier to clean and sanitize, which minimizes calf exposure to potentially harmful pathogens. We understand the obvious advantages and disadvantages of both feeding systems; however, we often overlook an important aspect, labor. Drinking out of buckets is not intuitive for calves so additional labor is needed to train them. How long does it take to train calves to drink from buckets? Well, that is exactly what researchers at Washington State University wanted to determine. Cameron Mandel, Amber Adams Progar, Bill Sischo, and Dale Moore recently published a study in the Journal of Dairy Science that monitored 1,235 bucket-fed calves. Below I will highlight some important results from this study. Please consider these results if your dairy uses, or is contemplating switching to a bucket feeding system:
Use of a bucket vs. bottle feeding
According to the USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System, dairies in the United States fed milk or milk replacer to 59% of preweaned heifer dairy calves using buckets, with 38% more calves in the East than the West fed with buckets. In comparison, a study concluded that about 92% of dairy farms in Quebec fed heifers with buckets.
Heifer vs. bull
After 3 days of age, heifer calves were 1.5 times less likely to require assistance compared with bull calves.
Twins had almost twice the odds of requiring assistance after 3 days of age than singletons.
Calf position at birth
A calf born facing forward was less likely to require assistance with drinking after 3 days of age, when compared to a calf born backwards. Sixteen percent more of the calves born backwards needed assistance drinking than calves born forwards.
About 4% more calves born to heifers tended to require assistance longer than calves born to cows.
The level of difficulty during calving (calving score) did not appear to affect the amount of time a calf required for training. Calving score was assigned as a 1 (normal delivery), 2 (some assistance), or 3 (difficult birth).
Average training requirement
The average time required for training was 3.4 days. After 3 days of age, almost 60% of calves consumed the entire morning milk allotment without assistance.
Time of year
Calves were enrolled onto the study between the beginning of May and the end of July. A calf born after June 8th was 2-5 times less likely to need assistance after 3 days of age than calves born during the first week of the study.
Calf behavior – depressed vs. alert
Depressed (slow to respond to the environment) calves were four times more likely to be assisted than alert calves.
Calf behavior – sternal vs. standing
Alert, sternal (lying down) calves were 2.4 times more likely to require assistance than alert, standing calves.
Article citation: Mandel, C., A. Adams-Progar, W. M. Sischo, and D. A. Moore. 2017. Short communication: Predictors of time to dairy calf bucket training. Journal of Dairy Science 100:9769-9774.
Cooperative University Dairy Students Annual Industry Review (January 25 – 26, 2018) & Dairy Club Banquet (January 25, 2018)
The Cooperative University Dairy Students are busy working on projects and preparing for the annual CUDS Review. Recently, CUDS recruited new members, and starting in January 2018, there will be 12 new members. CUDS has recently installed an inline sampler so they measure their components. Currently, the CUDS herd is producing an average of 82.5bs/head/day with 47,000 SCC, 3.38% milk protein, and 4.36% butterfat.
Every year a panel of invited reviewers consisting of industry professionals from Washington, travel to Pullman to hear presentations from CUDS members. Each student in CUDS develops goals and projects for their chair position (nutrition, herd health, finances, etc.) and works towards accomplishing these throughout the year. The annual CUDS Review will be held January 25-26, 2018 this year.
On Thursday night, January 25, the WSU’s Dairy Club will be hosting a banquet as a way to fundraise for the club. Social hour begins at 6:00 and dinner begins at 6:30. A note from the club’s event chair:
“WSU Dairy Club is a student-led organization that encourages its members to participate in leadership and community outreach projects. The club is centered on educating the community, as well as providing educational opportunities for our members to learn more about the dairy industry. A few of our main events of the year include various guest speakers, Dairy Olympics, American Dairy Science Association regional and national meetings, and Cougar Youth Weekend.
We invite you and your colleagues to join us for good food and good fun. Tickets are available for $15 at the door or $10 if you RSVP in advance. Drink tickets for alcoholic beverages can be purchased for an additional $5. Please RVSP by emailing Chris Mandella (email@example.com).”
Grateful for Dairy Manure Derived Struvite in Our Stockings this Holiday Season
The mobile cone unit moved from Snohomish County to Whatcom County this month to continue to remove phosphorus from manure in the form of Struvite. The mobile nutrient removal technology also stirred some interest while sitting outside the Yakima Convention Center at the annual dairy meeting a few weeks ago (pictures below).
We are planning field days on the eastern and western sides of the state to get an up close look at the nutrient removal system. Stay tuned for announcement of those dates. Also, if you are interested in being a collaborator farm by having this technology demonstrated at your farm, please fill out this WSU short info form, or email / call Liz Whitefield (firstname.lastname@example.org, 253-445-4562).
Happiest of holidays to you and your loved ones this season from the WSU Livestock Nutrient Management Program.
Western Washington and Oregon Pasture Management Calendar Debuts
A new Extension publication, “The Western Oregon and Washington Pasture Calendar (PMW699),” was created to provide pasture managers and their advisors with a scientific basis for pasture management decisions and the timing of critical actions. A team of Extension educators and NRCS staff recently conducted a series of train-the-trainer workshops throughout western Oregon and Washington to teach fellow professionals and livestock managers how to use this new educational tool. Publication of the Calendar and support for the workshop series were provided by a western regional USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant.
Pasture Calendar Contents
The Pasture Calendar starts with the basics: grass terminology, factors controlling perennial forage growth, and plant growth cycles. Maps of Forage Management Zones are included (Fig. 1).
The western Oregon and Washington calendars are divided into 24 management periods consisting of the first and second half of each month (Fig. 2). For each management zone or resource area, a color-coded table indicates what typically happens with grasses during a certain period. These plant growth periods include:
Very slow growth
Rapid growth—cool soils
Rapid growth—warming soils
The Pasture Calendar includes extensive appendices and references. Appendices are:
How Pasture Plants Grow
The Nitrogen Cycle
Nitrates in Forages
Alternative Forage Crops
Endophyte Toxins in Forage
The Pasture Calendar emphasizes and explains critical pasture management practices, such as:
Performing soil tests and addressing fertility issues
Selecting a forage species and variety well suited to local growing conditions
Leaving at least three inches of grass stubble at all times
Rotating pastures to let them rest and regrow to grazing height (> eight inches) before regrazing
Grazing or mowing grasses to keep them in vegetative phase and vigorous
Monitoring livestock body condition
Establishing sacrifice areas for livestock confinement during critical periods.
Fall Is All!
The vital importance of fall pasture management is stressed throughout the Pasture Calendar. In early fall (typically September), grass plants generate new roots to replace the ones shed during the “summer slump.” It takes energy for plants to generate these roots, and roots in turn are needed for plants to obtain water and nutrients from soil. Most importantly, next season’s growing points are being established—overgrazing during this period will cause delayed and reduced pasture growth the following spring.
Protect the Lower 3”
Grasses store their sugar for regrowth in the lowest three inches of above-ground growth, not in their roots as previously believed. This means anytime pasture grasses or grass hayfields are grazed or mowed to less than three inches tall, the plants lose their energy reserves and regrowth will be delayed by up to six weeks (Fig. 3). If this mismanagement occurs month after month, plant vigor is affected and desirable pasture plants die; bare soil and weed incursions result. Expensive pasture renovation is then needed but will be pointless unless pasture management practices are changed.
Sacrifice Areas Save Plants
Anytime livestock have the potential to graze pastures below three inches, they should be removed from pastures, confined to a sacrifice area, and fed stored forage such as hay or haylage. The need for a sacrifice area could arise during muddy winter months, the pasture summer slump, or if there is not enough pasture for the livestock under management. Conservation District funding may be available to help develop sacrifice areas, which also help protect soil and water quality.
Where to Get the Pasture Calendar
This 50-page, full color publication will soon be available for free downloading at http://pubs.wsu.edu (search for PNW699).
Susan Kerr, WSU NW Regional Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist, email@example.com
Amber’s Top Ten Tips: Understanding Dairy Cattle Welfare from an International Perspective
What is animal welfare? This is a question I commonly receive from students, farmers, fellow scientists, and the general public. It is this question that sparked much discussion at the 7th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group Level earlier this month in Ede, Netherlands. As an attendee and presenter at this conference, I chose to participate in a workshop focused on defining animal welfare. My intent was to finally have a definition of animal welfare that was mutually-agreed-upon by an international group of scientists, government officials, and non-governmental organizations. However, the outcome of the workshop was not what I expected. The take-home message was that everyone views animal welfare differently; therefore, we were not able to agree on a single definition of animal welfare. Although frustrating, it was important for me to hear this message and push myself to better understand the diverse perspectives people bring to the table when discussing animal welfare.
I would like to share these insights with you. Conference attendees that focused on dairy cattle welfare were asked to create a list of the top three current welfare concerns within the dairy industry and then create a list of the top three potential solutions to these concerns. If you were asked this question, how would you answer? The group identified the top three dairy cattle welfare concerns as: 1) cow-calf separation; 2) cow transition period; and 3) transportation. Do you agree? Here are the group’s top suggestions on how to potentially solve these concerns:
Cow-calf separation. Part-time nursing from the cow
This solution would allow calves to nurse from the cow only during specific times of the day. For example, calves could be separated from the cows during the day and then allowed to nurse at night. Another method would be to house the calves and cows together, but offer a separate area that is only accessible to calves. Could this work? Some European countries allow calves to nurse from cows during the first couple months of life. Average daily gains for these calves are impressive at 1.98 – 3.09 lbs/day.
Cow-calf separation. Educational system for farmers to exchange experiences
By offering more opportunities for farmers to build educational networks, would ideas be shared and improved? Educational systems like this have been successful in other industries and areas of the world (cotton in Tanzania and rice in Uganda). Sheep and beef farmers in New Zealand viewed the information exchange between farmers as vital to their success.
Cow-calf separation. Timing of cow-calf separation
Should calves be separated from their dams earlier or later? A survey revealed that 55.1% of US respondents and 68.7% of German respondents favored later separation (days or weeks after birth) over early separation (within first few hours of birth). How to then wean and separate the calves without causing additional distress is still a concern.
Transition period. Social stability during the transition period
Providing adaptable housing systems for transition cows could decrease the number of times transition cows need to be regrouped. As seen on Canadian farms, every time a regrouping occurs, cow feeding time decreases (15 minutes less on the day of regrouping), lying time decreases (3 hours less the day after regrouping), and 2.5 times more displacements occur at the feedbunk.
Transition period. Tools for the early detection of disease
The ability to detect or predict the onset of disease in transition cows would help farmers provide treatments earlier. Researchers in Denmark used the GEA® CowView Real-Time-Location-System to monitor cow behavioral patterns and found that a change in behavior (15% or higher) is an indicator of a change in a cow’s health status. Some heat detection technologies already provide behavior data that can be used to identify changes in cow health.
Transition period. Cow management
Would managing cows to maintain a consistent body condition score throughout the transition period decrease the incidences of disease during this period? Could a shorter dry period or no dry period be considered? A study conducted in the Netherlands noticed that cows provided with no dry period produced about 8 lbs/day less than cows provided with a short dry period (30 days); however, the cows with no dry period had 87% less severe negative energy balance four weeks after calving.
Transportation. Improve truck design and driver training
The transportation of calves, in particular, was discussed as a concern. In Australia, calves transported in trucks with straw bedding had 10% lower creatine kinase activity (an indicator or physical stress and/or muscle damage) than calves transported with solid steel or steel mesh flooring. Other ideas mentioned were: 1) providing additional handling training for truck drivers; 2) installing equipment to control the climate inside the truck; and 3) installing monitoring systems inside the trucks.
Transportation. Mobile slaughterhouse
This suggestion is straightforward. Designing a mobile slaughterhouse would eliminate the need to transport cattle to the slaughterhouse, thus eliminating some of the welfare concerns surrounding cattle transportation. It should be noted, though, that this concept could be very difficult to control from a biosecurity standpoint.
Transportation. Determination of a cow’s fitness for transportation
How would you measure a cow’s fitness for transportation? This is exactly the question Irish veterinarians face when they must decide whether a cow qualifies for a casualty slaughter. Currently, little scientific information is available to help farmers and veterinarians make these very difficult decisions, so we must rely on our best judgment. Perhaps this is an area that requires more attention from scientists?
Although not a solution to welfare concerns, we, as an industry, need to be selective in the words we choose to describe animals. Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human-specific characteristics to nonhuman animals, and occurs commonly in the dairy industry. Participants at the animal welfare workshop were given a situation, had to determine whether it was an animal welfare issue, and provide a reason for the decision. The situation: a cow can’t get pregnant. Is this an animal welfare issue? Why? This may seem like a simple example for you, but the group was divided in half. Some members of the half that said it was an animal welfare issue used the rationale that if a human female found out that she could not get pregnant, then she would be distressed and her welfare would be compromised. This is anthropomorphism. No evidence exists to support the claim that this particular situation is an animal welfare concern. This situation could become an animal welfare concern if, for example, it was known that the cow was experiencing pain.
What are your thoughts on the potential solutions discussed above? Do you agree or disagree with the top three dairy cattle welfare concerns identified by the group? I would enjoy hearing your opinion on these topics. Hope to hear from you soon!
The decreasing supply of domestic phosphate fertilizers virtually guarantees that the disruptive price spikes that have embattled agricultural operations over the past decade will become even more frequent. The cost of phosphorus has climbed nearly back to its historic high of 2008, and its price has outpaced that of farm commodity prices nearly two to one in recent years.
At current rates of extraction, the US will completely deplete its phosphate reserves within 30 years, while worldwide demand continues to increase. The shrinking availability of this essential nutrient presents an unprecedented challenge for agricultural producers, and within only a couple of decades the impacts on farm output, food prices, and global security will likely be severe. Competitive advantages will accrue to growers who adopt systems for more efficiently using and recycling phosphorus, reducing their vulnerability to volatile fertilizer markets.
Washington State University is leading the way toward development and adoption of a recycled, locally available phosphate fertilizer that promises Washington hay growers a more economical, reliable nutrient source in future years. Struvite, or magnesium mono-ammonium phosphate, is produced from dairy manure and wastewater treatment facilities in the form of a precipitated crystal. It is nutrient-dense (6-29-0), odorless, lightweight, and totally unlike the biosolids more typically exported from these sources. Extracted from clarified liquid in mineral form, struvite contains no cellulosic material and absorbs no water. Currently its most common use is on commercial golf courses, testifying to its ease of use and minimal environmental foot print.
Struvite dissolves slowly in the soil, releasing nutrients at almost exactly the rate plants need, which reduces the volume of phosphorus that gets lost to erosion and leaching. Agronomists predict struvite may significantly reduce the rate at which farmers apply phosphate to fields, a further environmental and economic benefit of this recycled nutrient. And struvite’s salt index and heavy metal content are significantly lower than all other commercial NPK fertilizers.
The WSU Mobile Nutrient Recovery Project is conducting onsite demonstrations of a technology that extracts phosphorus at Washington dairy operations and produces struvite, which can then be economically shipped to hayfields within the area. Essentially, the process recovers phosphorus where it is in excess, creating threats to local water systems, and makes it available where it is needed in the wider agricultural region.
WSU is supporting this initiative with field plot studies and greenhouse trials that provide growers an ever-growing body of data on how struvite performs in different soil types and with various crops. . Struvite fertilizer applications have been applied to two commercial alfalfa operations in Moses Lake and Kittitas to date. WSU Livestock Nutrient Management Program is currently working with commercial growers to understand better how it is best applied and how to maximize the advantage of its slow-release characteristic.
Kevin Fullerton, Scientific Assistant, WSU Puyallup
Cow Comfort: How Do Your Cows Spend Their Time?
This article is a synopsis of an excellent research summary paper called “Economic Benefits of Improved Cow Comfort” by Dr. Rick Grant of the Miner Agricultural Research Institute. The entire paper (pdf) is available at dairychallenge.org.
We all realize that for cows to be able to produce milk up to their genetic potential, we need to maximize their dry matter intake (DMI). But did you know we also have to do all we can to help them maximize the time they spend lying down? Lying (resting) time is strongly correlated with milk production, herd longevity, feet/leg health, and DMI. Why? It’s all about rumination.
Resting Associated with Rumen Health
Rumination decreases food particle size and increases the surface area exposed to digestive enzymes; this increases the rate and efficiency of food digestion and transit time. The faster food moves out of the rumen, the sooner there is room for more food to come in. More food coming in more quickly means more milk. Rumination also causes self-buffering of rumen pH through natural bicarbonate in cows’ saliva; more chewing means more saliva and more buffering. Any factor that reduces rumination–lack of effective fiber, stressful environment, lack of resting time, overcrowding, too much time in holding area, too much walking distance, illness, estrus, etc.–can result in rumen acidosis, reduced milk production, reduced milk components, more lameness, and more culling.
Cows Have Daily Time Budgets
Dairy cattle have a daily time budget correlated with optimal health and production (Figure 1). Keeping “time outside the pen” to a minimum is critical because cows will forfeit feeding time to make up for lost resting time. Research has documented that for every three minutes of resting time lost, cows will sacrifice one minute of feeding time. Lack of adequate resting time can cause a five pound drop in milk production the following day. Correspondingly, one additional hour of resting is correlated with two to four more pounds of milk. This concern for adequate resting time is part of a new focus in dairy management called Cow Comfort Economics.
Figure 1. Typical Cow Time Budget, hours/day
(1) Also referred to as “time outside the pen,” which includes anything taking time away from eating, drinking, or resting (milking, walking to milking, time in holding areas, hooftrimming, headlocks for vet checks or breeding, etc.)
“…the cow only has, on average, 2.5 to 3.5 hours per day to spend outside the pen and away from the feed, water and stalls. If we force the cow to spend more than about 3.5 hours per day outside the pen, then she will need to give up something&emdash;typically feeding and/or resting. Every farmer should know how long their cows spend outside the pen.”
— Dr. Rick Grant, “Economic Benefits of Improved Cow Comfort,” 2015, p. 2.
Stall Comfort and Feed Availability Effects
It seems logical that comfortable cows would be more productive, and studies have documented this effect. Bedding factors (type, amount, moisture, maintenance), stall design (width, length, location of neck and brisket rails, etc.), and stocking density all affect resting time. Researchers documented an 11.6 pounds of milk advantage of sand over other bedding types in one study. Cows found the sand stalls more comfortable, rested more, and produced more milk. Costs of renovating stalls to implement recommendations for larger and softer stalls were recouped in an average of 1.9 years in one cow comfort economic study; benefits came from higher milk production, lower SCC, reduced lameness, and less culling.
Feed availability can be considered another aspect of cow comfort. Ensuring feed is always available to cows can result in four to eight more pounds of milk per day. Feeding more than once a day results in greater feed availability, but excessing feeding frequency (>three times in 24 hrs) ironically reduces cow resting time and DMI. Targets for maximizing feed intake include:
Empty bunk <3 hours a day (goal: 0 hours empty)
3% feed refusal
Understocked bunk capacity (allow 2’ per cow)
Feed TMR 2x/day with feed push up every 30 min. for 2 hours after feeding
Stocking Density, Parity, and Dominance Issues
Overstocking is a bad idea for so many reasons, not the least of which is cow comfort (Figure 2). Competition for feed causes cows to eat fewer meals but feed more quickly. In one study, cows in overstocked facilities were observed to eat 25% faster and rumination was reduced by an hour a day; milk fat was reduced, rumen health was compromised, and feed efficiency was reduced.
Figure 2. Effects of Overstocking
Feeding rate (slug feeding)
Alley standing time
Lower status animals (first calf heifers, smaller individuals, lame cows) will often choose to forego eating to avoid confrontations with more dominant individuals. When they do have bunk access, they often engage in slug feeding, which can result in chronic sub-acute ruminal acidosis and reduced rumination. Lower milk production, reduced milk fat, and increased lameness risk follow once again. Anything interfering with DMI in first-calf heifers is a concern because these animals still have nutritional growth requirements in addition to maintenance and lactation requirements.
Higher status cows often dominate the most comfortable stalls, too, so in addition to reduced access to feed, lower status animals may experience reduced resting time and therefore reduced rumination. If first calf heifers and other lower status animals can be separated from higher status animals, increased feeding time, meals per day, feed intake, lying time, and milk production should result.
Heat Stress Effects on Cow Comfort and Rumination
Genetic selection for higher-producing dairy cattle has resulted in animals that perceive heat stress at a temperature-humidity index of just 68°F. Management efforts to pro-actively address heat stress can prevent reduction of up to ten pounds of milk per day. Hot cows spend more time standing and less time lying down and resting, too; this is associated with decreased rumination, DMI and production and increased slug feeding and lameness. Actions to help keep cows cool include shade, fans, providing cooled water, periodic large water drops over shoulders in the presence of fans, and feeding 60% of the ration in the evening. Do not overlook addressing dry cow comfort related to heat—it is associated with a better transition period.
Figure 3 depicts the ultimate goals and outcomes of addressing cow comfort: increased cow longevity, increased milk quality and quantity, increased revenue, decreased expenses, and greater profitability, mediated through increased resting and rumination time.
Warmer temperatures contribute to higher incidences of hoof ailments during the summer months. Management practices, including the use of footbaths and routine hoof trimming, are your best allied force against hoof disease. The Adams Progar lab at WSU will wrap-up a two-long study on behavioral indicators of hoof disease by the end of this year. Our study aims to test the effectiveness of an alternative footbath product compared to copper sulfate and identify the impact hoof disease has on cow behavior. In light of the upcoming summer heat, here is a review of information related to hoof health:
Annual estimated costs related to hoof disease
Mild cases of lesions (any form of lesion) cost an average of $169/affected cow; whereas, severe cases cost an average of $538/affected cow. When comparing incidences of digital dermatitis, sole ulcers, and white line disease, sole ulcers tend to incur the highest cost for treatment, labor, loss of milk, etc.
White line disease
The highest prevalence of white line disease occurs in older cows (4+ lactations) during late lactation (200+ days in milk). Keep this in mind as you observe your cows for hoof disease.
The highest prevalence of digital dermatitis occurs in first lactation cows during late lactation (200+ days in milk).
The highest prevalence of sole ulcers occurs in older cows (4+ lactations) during mid-lactation (100-199 days in milk).
Rear feet vs. front feet
Lesions are 80% more prevalent in a cow’s rear feet than the front feet. This is one reason why at the WSU Knott Dairy Center, we have been working with a hoof specialist to analyze all lactating cows’ rear feet on a monthly basis.
While copper sulfate and formaldehyde are the most popular footbath products, alternatives (such as organic acids) have been shown to be as effective or slightly (4%) more effective than conventional products.
When comparing whole-herd hoof trims vs. partial-herd hoof trims (specific cows are selected to get hoof trimmed), herds that use partial-herd hoof trims have 40% higher prevalence rates for infectious digital dermatitis than whole-herd hoof trims.
Using a footbath on a bi-weekly (every two weeks) basis leads to nearly 25% more cows with active digital dermatitis than if a producer uses the footbath on a weekly basis.
Herd-level lying behavior
The average number of hours cows spend lying in a day (~10 – 12 hours) remains consistent, even if a herd’s lameness prevalence increases.
First lactation cows spend less time lying for an extended period of time, which means they lie for a short period and then stand again. This improves as they progress through their first lactation. Thanks to Vantage Dairy Supplies, the Adams Progar lab is collecting cow behavior data with the CowManager® system (Figure 1). We hope to better understand how hoof disease impacts other behaviors, such as eating.
Dear Dairy Farmers: Did you complete your Pest Bird Management Survey?
A couple of weeks ago, you should have received a survey in the US mail or an email from the WSDF with a link to an online survey. Researchers from Washington State University and Trinity Western University are studying pest bird damage and current pest bird management practices used on Washington dairies. Our goal is to determine the true economic impact of pest birds on dairies and identify the most effective methods of pest bird deterrence. This survey is your opportunity to share how pest birds impact your farm. Please help our team help you. The deadline is July 1st.
If you would like more information about this project, please contact Amber Adams-Progar (firstname.lastname@example.org, 509-335-0673).
Since April, there has been a baby boom within the CUDS herd. After five months without heifers, we now have five! During the summer months, members are in and out of Pullman but still working on their projects and goals. Our sire selection and reproduction chairs are diligently working towards incorporating Jerseys into the CUDS herd. Jeff Wendler from Columbia River Dairy is graciously donating ten sexed Jersey embryos with the hopes of getting them implanted by the end of June. The calves, heifers, & dry cows and nutrition chairs are beginning the process of collecting urine pH’s in our close-up cows. The nutrition and herd health chairs are collaborating to test BHBA concentrations of our fresh cows to help detect incidences of subclinical ketosis thanks to a testing kit provided by Church & Dwight. The public relations chair is currently working on her project aiming towards introducing all our current members to the public through Facebook (follow us at CUDS of WSU). Throughout the latter portion of the spring semester and through the beginning of the summer, CUDS members have been meeting with industry professionals to prepare for CUDS Annual Review.
Dairy Nutrient Management Tools Workshops – Two Scheduled in Western Washington
Join us in Lynden on Wednesday August 1 or in Enumclaw Thursday August 2 for a closer look into how you can best manage your dairy farm nutrients with helpful and resourceful tools. Get the inside scoop about relevant state farm issues—nutrient and precision nutrient management, feed management, compost, manure and food safety, and irrigation.
Workshop is free of charge to all. Registration is not necessary, just remember to sign in when you arrive. Lunch and morning snacks will be provided. We hope to see you there!
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Lynden Public Library (Lynden Meeting Room)
10:30 AM to 3:00 PM
Wednesday August 2, 2017
Green River College, Enumclaw Campus (Room 15 upstairs)
10:30 AM to 3:00 PM
Dairy Nutrient Management Tools Workshop Agenda
10:15 AM Registration, Coffee and Morning Sweets
10:30 AM What Goes in Must Come Out. How to Reduce on Farm Feed Imports of Nitrogen and Phosphorus – Joe Harrison
11:00 AM FNMP2.net: Connecting Feed Decisions with Crop Nutrient Management Plans – Joe Harrison and Liz Whitefield
11:30 AM Tools for Practical Irrigation Scheduling – Troy Peters
Noon Lunch (Provided)
12:30 PM Turn your Compost Up a Notch with the Compost Mixing Tool Calculator – Andy Bary
1:00 PM Precision Nutrient Management in Western WA – Doug Collins
1:30 PM Lagoon Liners. Case Studies from Three Dairies – Joe Harrison
2:00 PM Fall Soil Nitrate Testing- Factors Affecting Test Values – Andy Bary
2:30 PM Food Safety Implications with Manure – Andy Bary
The dairy industry has always been on the leading edge of advancements in animal science. Groundbreaking research in nutrition, genetics, technology and reproduction helped develop key management practices underpinning dairy profitability and worldwide competitiveness. The next major game changer is here: genomic testing is now available and affordable at the farm level.
A genome is the entire collection of an individual’s DNA. The bovine genome contains 22,000 to 25,000 genes. There are places on chromosomes where individual animals can differ in their DNA sequence. These markers are called “single nucleotide polymorphisms” (SNPs). SNPs are of great interest to geneticists because they help explain and predict differences between individuals.
Genomics examines how genes interact to influence how an individual develops. A tissue sample (such as an ear snip from a dairy calf) can be analyzed and a mass of data can be obtained about that animal’s genetic merit. It is no longer necessary to breed a bull or cow and keep records on its progeny’s performance to determine the parent’s breeding value, a process that takes years for initial data collection and many years for improved accuracy. Genomic testing now makes it possible to predict the potential performance of individual animals directly, saving time and hastening on-farm genetic progress.
In the early days of genomic testing, a computer chip was developed that could assess 50,000 (50K) SNPs in the genome of a submitted sample. This complete test remains expensive, but research advancements have resulted in chips that test 6K or 7K of SNPs for about $40 a sample and are nearly as accurate measures of genetic breeding value as the 50K test. Custom chips can be developed as well. Genomic results on each animal are submitted to the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding, which calculates the predicted transmitting ability (PTA) of various traits. Producers can use an individual animal’s PTAs with the same confidence as high accuracy data from bull progeny tests.
The major focus of current genomic-based selection is on economically-important traits. For example, net merit dollars (NM$) is an estimate of lifetime profitability of a specific dairy cow compared to a baseline of same breed herdmates. NM$ is a favored indicator for selection because it includes several traits of economic importance, such as milk production, fertility, calving ease, health and longevity.
How can producers use genomic testing to benefit a farm’s bottom line? A group of replacement heifers could be tested and only those with high genetic merit could be selected for development. Those with lower genetic potential could be sold, bred to calving ease beef bulls for higher-value beef crosses, or kept as ET recipients. Sexed semen could be used selectively in high genomic breeding value heifers, justifying the higher cost of such semen.
In the future, producers will increasingly turn to genomic testing to reduce the incidence of involuntary culling factors such as lameness, mastitis and metabolic diseases. Genomic testing will identify animals with higher feed efficiency—another very valuable trait. Look for genomic testing results to start appearing in sale catalogs, too.
Something to keep in mind about all this selection for rapid genetic progress will be if and how management systems will need to change to accommodate these genetically-superior animals. For example, finely-tuned nutrition programs for these high production potential herds will be more critical than ever. Nevertheless, being able to identify and develop a farm’s best heifer prospects through genomic testing should help producers focus limited resources (such as space, feed and labor) on individuals with the greatest likelihood of contributing to farm profitability in the long run. Genomic testing is indeed worthy of the buzz it is receiving.
Susan Kerr, Northwest Regional Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist, email@example.com
As we watch the snow melt and the grass grow green, you may notice a remnant from the colder weather lingering in your barns. This past fall, researchers from Washington State University and Trinity Western University recorded pest bird numbers on eleven Washington dairies. The number of pest birds (primarily European starlings) on these farms increased as temperatures dropped. The highest average number of birds recorded at any given time was almost 5,000 birds, with 92% of those birds being starlings.
Although temperatures are now rising, these large numbers of birds are expected to linger in dairy barns until mid-April to early May. Perhaps the number of birds we found on dairies surprised you but, according to a small survey of Washington dairy producers a couple of years ago, the pest bird problem seems to be a big problem for many dairies. Producers have self-reported losses from bird damage that range from $1,000 to $200,000 per year per farm. These losses, of course, cause concern. With this concern in mind, an interdisciplinary research team comprised of dairy producers, animal scientists, wildlife biologists, veterinarians, and agriculture economists. Our goal is to understand how the presence of pest birds on Washington dairies affects dairy cow welfare (including nutrition and health) and farm profitability.
Within the next month, our research team will release a wide-spread survey for all Washington dairies. Although this survey is thorough, it should only require minutes of your time to complete and your identity will be anonymous. This survey is your opportunity to share how pest birds impact your farm. Please help our team help you.
If you would like more information about this project, please contact Amber Adams-Progar (firstname.lastname@example.org, 509-335-0673).
Pest Bird Management on Dairies
Amber Adams-Progar, Karen Steensma, Susan Kerr & Stephanie Shwiff
1. Washington dairy farmers said…
Pest birds cause $1,000 – $200,000 in damage every year on our farms.
Common bird deterrence methods are not effective.
3. What we plan to do…
Measure economic impact of pest birds in Washington dairies.
Test efficacy of alternative bird deterrence methods.
2. We responded by…
Establishing a research team to address these problems.
Obtained a $238,105 Western SARE grant for research and education.
4. What we expect to find…
Presence of pest birds negatively impacts dairy cow well-being and production.
Alternative deterrence methods may be more economically feasible and effective than traditional methods.
CUDS is having an exciting spring semester in Pullman. We currently have 15 members, with 10 of them being new to CUDS. Our main focus is on training the new members to take shifts as well as take care of their newly appointed chair positions. Each member is assigned a chair position that is dedicated to improving an aspect of the herd.
Calves, Heifers, and Dry Cows
Brianna Parmentier and Adriana Lopez
Drugs and Supplies
Marcy Bartelheimer and Caroline Vadino
Shelby Felder and Chris Mandella
Milk Quality and Udder Health
Nathaniel Herrera and Heather Young
Records and Public Relations
Reproduction and Sire Selection
Alecia Fox and Morgan Hawley
Lindsey Richmond, our President Emeritus, will be graduating in May. CUDS will greatly miss everything Lindsey has contributed to the group but we wish her the best in her future endeavors and know that she will serve the dairy industry well.
This group of students is excited to continue learning about the dairy industry. CUDS will have a booth at the National Holstein Association Convention in Bellevue, WA from June 28 – July 1, 2017. Please stop by and let us know if you have any questions.
Practical Biosecurity Recommendations for Dairy Farm Tours
Most Americans are now at least three generations removed from direct farming experience. This lack of knowledge and experience can manifest itself in consumers as misconceptions about modern farming practices; susceptibility to agenda-driven social media messages; and decisions based on inaccurate information. Farm tours can educate the public about best agricultural practices, strengthen connections between farmers and consumers, dispel misinformation, and cultivate the next generation of farmers.
If you choose to allow farm tours on your dairy as a way to increase agricultural literacy, seriously consider the steps needed to reduce any risks such tours could pose to your farm, cattle, employees, and tour guests. Sponsoring educational events can be very rewarding, but it is no reason to lower disease-prevention standards. For more information about diseases of concern, contact local veterinarians and/or public health officials.
Why Care about Biosecurity?
Animal disease outbreaks have varying degrees of ripple effects on animal welfare and well-being, farm profitability, workload, product quantity and quality, ability to transport and/or sell animals, veterinary and medication costs, and human health. Incursions of new diseases onto formerly negative premises can result in the loss of added value of breeding animals that were previously disease-negative, as well. Education about the need for disease prevention should help moderate participants’ feelings of inconvenience regarding farm biosecurity requirements.
Biosecurity risk ranges from low to high. For farm tours, factors that increase risk include the number of different premises visited, degree of visitor contact with animals and/or manure, and the presence of contagious diseases in the area. The complexity of an event’s biosecurity plan depends on the specific pathogen(s) of concern and the desired degree of risk containment.
Communicate with Participants before the Event
Participants should pre-register so biosecurity expectations and other program details can be shared with them. Instruct participants to be punctual so access to the farm can be monitored. Explain what ages of children are allowed, if any. Do not allow visitors to bring dogs or other animals. Also, inform anyone who has travelled internationally within a week they will not be able to visit the farm.
Park Visitors Away from Livestock
Do not let participants drive their vehicles through your farm gate and onto your property where you drive your vehicles. Contaminated tires and overlap of farm and off-farm traffic is an important means by which some diseases are spread. Designate a location near the farm where people can park safely and walk onto the farm with clean rubber boots. If such a site is not possible nearby, consider running a shuttle service from a more distant site to the farm. Optimal parking sites are on paved areas that can be disinfected and where livestock are excluded. If pastures must be used for parking, livestock should be excluded from the area for several weeks.
Display Clear Signage
Post large, legible, waterproof signs that instruct participants where to park, where to go, and what to do. REGISTRATION, PARKING, THIS WAY, and EXIT are just a few suggestions that will help direct and control traffic and behavior. A WELCOME sign would help set a friendly tone for the event.
Insist on Clean Footwear and Clothing
It is critical for farm tour participants to wear clean clothing and disinfected footwear, especially if they live on a farm themselves. Anyone with soiled clothing or footwear should not be allowed access to the premises. The farm footwear and clothing policies should be shared during the pre-registration process and in all event promotional materials.
Varying levels of restriction are possible, depending on host farm risk tolerance and ease of implementation:
Farm hosts could require participants to change out of street shoes and into clean rubber boots at the car parking area; participants might need to bring their own clean boots or the farm host might provide them.
A boot washing and disinfecting area may be established at the car parking area for people to use before they enter the farm property. Washing boots thoroughly with soap and water to remove all visible debris before stepping in a disinfecting footbath will extend the effective life the disinfectant in the bath. Provide an appropriate disinfectant and long-handled boot brushes. If a disinfectant footbath is used, it should be monitored so the solution can be changed before it becomes visibly soiled and inactivated. Tour participants should wash and disinfect their boots again when they leave.
The farm may provide heavy-duty plastic overshoes to be worn throughout the event and discarded at the parking area before participants go home. The rustling noise created by plastic boots in motion can disturb some animals, though, and a lot of plastic waste can be generated. Also, these boots can develop holes that render them ineffective.
Additional boot washes may be required before entering cattle housing areas.
For added biosecurity, some farms supply clean cloth or disposable coveralls for participants to wear during tours.Consult with your veterinarian regarding the most effective disinfectant to use. Follow label directions regarding proper storage, dilution rates, and disposal methods. Ensure disinfectant efficacy by changing footbaths before they become visibly soiled and inactivated. It is pointless to use disinfectants if adequate contact time is not allowed.
Control Entry and Foot Traffic
Establish a single entrance for visitors. This will ease communication, information sharing, and monitoring of compliance with biosecurity protocols. After a reasonable arrival time has been allowed for the event, lock the gate and post a phone number latecomers can use to contact the host to request entry to the event. Unmonitored entry of latecomers will not ensure compliance with biosecurity protocols.
Farm visitors do not need to access all your property. Use gates—even temporary ones—to control access and foot traffic. Permanent locking gates in key areas help with overall farm security and are a good investment that helps prevent theft and damage.
Have a Greeting Area
Visitors should be funneled to a registration table or greeting area where they can meet the tour host, get a schedule, learn the locations of bathrooms and hand washing stations, and sign in. Visitor logs with accurate contact information are very important in case a human or animal disease outbreak necessitates follow-up contact after the event. This is a good time to welcome everyone, share your farm mission, and preview what will be shared during the tour. Be sure to review biosecurity expectations and see if participants have complied thus far with disinfected boots, clean clothing, and other guidelines. Use this time to ask participants to wash their hands, address any biosecurity deficiencies, and/or dismiss non-compliant visitors.
Keep Visitors Safe
Do not permit visitors access to high-risk areas with working machinery, bulls, cows with calves, guard dogs, barbed or electric wire, grain bins, manure lagoons, gravel pits, etc. Do not allow strollers, pacifiers, eating, smoking, or drinking in livestock areas. If children are allowed on the tour, be sure parents supervise them at all times—this may require handholding.
Have hand-washing stations available for use after livestock area tours, at rest rooms, food service areas, entrances, and exits. Remind participants to wash hands after contact with animals, using the bathroom, and before eating or smoking. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not very effective if hands are dirty or greasy; such hands should be washed with soap and water. Hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can be quite effective on visibly clean or lightly soiled hands.
Any food and beverage provided should be served in compliance with standard food safety practices: keep cold foods below 40°F and hot foods above 140°F, protect all food from insects, and use only potable water for beverages.
Control the Flow
Have a plan for the day with an established route and approximate amount of time needed at each station. Ensure there is enough room for all to see and hear what is being presented—this may necessitate dividing visitors into groups and using PA systems. Additional farm staff or volunteers may be needed to keep all participants in view at all times. Provide seating if needed for those who need to sit. Keep foot traffic away from cattle feed and feeding areas, manure, and carcasses. Visit young animals before mature animals. Keep visitors away from intake fans that bring air in from outside, past visitors, and onto cattle.
Limit Direct Contact with Livestock
Prevent needless contact with cattle—participants with limited previous livestock contact are at higher risk of contracting common but relatively innocuous conditions such as ringworm and sore mouth; this is particularly true for children. People who do contact livestock directly should be advised to wash contacted skin with soap and water promptly. Better yet, provide disposable gloves to those who might be learning hands-on skills.
Just Say No
Do not allow participants to bring dogs with them. In addition to disease transmission, injury to animals or people is possible if strange dogs are allowed on the farm premise. Also, unpleasant interactions are likely to occur between resident farm dogs and visiting dogs.
It is difficult to disinfect baby strollers, chairs, and wheelchairs properly, so discourage their use. Young children should walk, be carried, or left home. Farm-origin vehicles such as four-wheelers or golf carts can transport those who need assistance. Provide chairs, lawn area, or bedding bales for sitting.
Keep It Clean
Avoid conducting farm tours during rainy/muddy weather if possible. Situate garbage cans and paper towels throughout the tour. Give each participant a garbage bag to take to their vehicle for dirty boots and/or clothing to take home for laundering, disinfecting, or discarding.
Use the Right Disinfectant
A wide array of products is available to inactivate pathogens on farm equipment, tools, boots, livestock facilities, footbaths, and other surfaces. Disinfectants are not a shortcut to biosecurity and are just one aspect of disease control. Your veterinarian can suggest the most appropriate disinfectant to use. To increase the likelihood of disinfectant effectiveness and safe use, follow these recommendations:
Clean surfaces before using a disinfectant. Surfaces must be cleaned with soap and water and thoroughly rinsed or disinfectants may be inactivated by organic material present.
Read the label! Use a product with documented effectiveness against pathogens of concern under typical farm conditions of use.
Follow mixing instructions on the label and abide by safety warnings and recommendations for personal protective equipment use. Do not mix different types of disinfectants unless specifically indicated on their labels to do so.
Determine if farm water hardness or other factors will effect successful product use.
Store concentrated and diluted disinfectant as indicated on the label; create fresh solutions before each use of short-stability preparations.
Allow recommended contact time to ensure maximum kill of pathogens.
Do not let disinfectants contact livestock unless specifically stated on the label as safe and allowable.
If disinfectants are used on feeding surfaces or other livestock contact areas, rinse them off after the required disinfectant kill time and before animals contact the disinfected surfaces.
Dispose of used or non-storable chemicals as instructed on the label, paying close attention to personal and environmental safety.
Costs vs. Benefits
The biosecurity steps responsible for the greatest reduction of risk for the least cost are:
Changing clothing for employees who leave and return to a farm on the same day.
Establishing requirements before a vehicle can enter a premise.
Establishing parking areas away from dairy barns.
Preventing access to restricted areas if visitors have been in contact with cattle.
Providing plastic booties for visitors.
Installing signage advising visitors without authorization to stay off the farm.
Special Considerations for Certified Organic Livestock Production Systems
Organic livestock producers and processers must abide by the USDA’s National Organic Program regulations when using sanitizing agents that will contact organically certified crops, livestock, or food products (milk, eggs, and meat). Products not on the national list of approved substances might be allowed on a case-by-case basis by the organic program certifier if contacted in advance of the event and a determination of non-contamination is made. For example, a chemical not on the USDA’s National Organic Program list could be approved for use in a foot bath or boot wash if there is a safe place for legal disposal of the chemical residue off the organic property where it will not contact organic crops or livestock. Organic producers should always contact their certifier if they have any questions about products they would like to use for biosecurity purposes on a certified organic farm.
Although highly educational and enjoyable, farm tours come with certain risks. These risks include introducing new diseases or pathogen strains to host farm or participants’ animals as well as zoonotic (animal-to-people) disease risks to participants. Such risks can be mitigated through careful pre-event planning and protocol development. Transparent education about biosecurity concerns can add to the value of the event for prospective dairy cattle owners in attendance as well as keep the event enjoyable and safe. Each farm host will have to weigh the potential risks of hosting an event with potential benefits. If an event for the public will be held, following the above-mentioned suggestions should help reduce risks significantly. Consult your veterinarian for information about diseases of concern, appropriate disinfectants, and designing your biosecurity plan.
I inherited this philosophy from my father who lived through the Great Depression.
For a time I worked with him in his small construction business. He never threw anything away nor did he buy any new tool to replace an old one unless we had fixed it multiple times and there was just no hope of saving it again. He also struggled with adopting to new or better ways to improve productivity. The way he had always done it was the best way.
Unfortunately, this thinking did not always work to our advantage. Dad’s construction business might have been a little more profitable had we invested in some new tools and new technologies to make the business more profitable. “Broken” can mean several things. For example…
Everyone agrees that heat stress is a critical concern in animal production. For animals that are housed indoors, a properly designed and operating ventilation system is critical to the farms economic performance. A ventilation fan that does not rotate is clearly “broken” and must be fixed. But what about a barn ventilation system that was designed for the climate and animal genetics in 1996? Even if everything is operational, the system might still be considered “broken” if it is not getting the job done.
Clearly, animal heat stress results in production losses. A simple “return on investment” calculation would be ideal to determine “broken.” You know, calculate the economic loss from a heat stress event and determine how many heat stress events per year. Then, compare those economic losses to the investment in some new ventilation system or cooling technology. The final decision is the lower of the two costs over some period of time.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Questions like the number, intensity, and duration of heat events per year is hard to quantify as are questions related to the temperatures prior to and after those heat events. Also, what is the economic and productivity impact from these different heat event scenarios? What is the expected benefit from the proposed ventilation or cooling system?
And now, add one more thing: Climate Change. How is climate in your region changing? Will there be more heat events in the future or less? Will there be more variability? Will the timing of heat events change (e.g. early spring heat vents). Considering all this, how do we make that investment calculation?
Unfortunately, neither of these guides will provide a simple answer to this problem. There are no shortcuts nor is there a “right” answer. It is a matter of making the best decision we can with the information available.
Bottom line: “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it…but be careful how you define “broken.”
Always Considering Climate—David
David Schmidt M.S. PE is a researcher and educator in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota and regional project coordinator for Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate, a national project of the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center and funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Amber’s Top Ten Tips: Dairy Cattle Handling
Dairy employees with excellent stockmanship skills are true assets. Few employees enter the dairy industry with these skills, but effective dairy cattle handling training can greatly improve employee safety, animal safety, and your dairy’s finances. Because this training is so important, I partnered with the University of Washington’s Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center to help you determine the best dairy cattle handling training model for your dairy. We are currently looking for Washington dairies that are willing to work with us on this study. If you are interested, please contact me at email@example.com. As you consider this opportunity, let’s take a look at the many aspects of dairy cattle handling.
Here’s the latest information about dairy cattle handling:
Headlock Stocking Rates. Providing enough headlocks to allow every cow in a group to lock-up at the same time is important for handling efficiency. When designing a new handling facility for your dairy,
Potentially Dangerous Incidents. The number of potentially dangerous incidents (handler is kicked, head-butted, pushed, or run over by cows) are higher when moving cows to the hoof trimming area than moving cows to the milking parlor. Employees should be trained to move cows from a safe distance, especially when moving them towards a less-familiar area, such as the hoof trimming area.
Heart Rate. A 91% greater increase in cow heart rates (an indication of stress) occurs when handlers move them to hoof trimming rather than milking. Ensure your cattle experience as little stress as possible near the milking parlor, which may mean you need to move your hoof trimming away from the parlor.
Tactile vs. Auditory. Moving cows by pulling on their head collars or neck straps leads to increases in head-butts from cows; whereas, shouting leads to increases in kicking behavior.
Milk Production. Dairies that have employees trained in stockmanship have an average of 243 lbs. more of milk production/lactation/cow than dairies that do not have employees trained in stockmanship.
Insurance Premiums. An average of 73% of dairy employee injuries are due to cattle, leading to insurance premium increases, especially over the last five years.
Milking Parlor. Dairy employee injuries commonly occur in the milking parlor area. These injuries can typically be attributed to employees not paying attention to the cows and/or employees not having adequate cattle handling skills.
Calf Handling. Calves negatively-handled (rough handling and shouting) experience higher heart rates and respiratory rates after disbudding than calves gently-handled.
Tactile vs. Visual. Cattle have a higher reactivity to a tactile stimulus than a visual stimulus. Using visual stimuli rather than tactile stimuli to move cows to the parlor will minimize the amount of stress they experience prior to milking.
Behavior and Performance. Gentle handling has been shown to improve cow flow through the parlor by 39% and decrease defecations in the parlor by 84%, when compared to rough handling of cows.
In the summer of 2016, a corn silage variety trial was conducted at the Washington State University Northwestern Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon, WA. The trial was sponsored by Blue River Hybrids Organic Seed of Ames, IA (www.blueriverorgseed.com).
Eight varieties of organic hybrid seed were planted on May 16 into non-organic soil in four repetitions. Samples were harvested on Sept. 26-27, 133 days after planting. According to WSU Ag Weather Net, that 133-day growing season provided 1499 Growing Degree Days (GDD). The number of GDDs was the lowest in four years but 80 GDDs higher than the previous eight-year average. The area Ag Weather Net station on the WSU-NWREC recorded 8.7 inches of rain during this time.
Ideally, harvest would have been conducted one or two weeks later but this harvest date was the only one that fit Blue River staff’s multi-state travel schedule. Derek Johnson, the Western Region Assistant Sales Manager for Blue River Hybrids, said “The corn was a little bit wetter than [we would have liked]. Overall, we were we pleased with the tonnage we got in this trial. In most of the hybrids, it equaled or exceeded our results in Wisconsin.”
Reviewing the analysis data in Table 1 provided by Blue River Hybrids, four of the eight varieties were outstanding in at least two analyzed criteria; two of these top four were arguably the top performers, depending on which criteria are most highly valued by a producer. Variety 27B16 was the clear winner for harvested tons per acre, tons per acre adjusted for 70% moisture, acid detergent fiber (ADF, a measure of fiber digestibility), milk production per acre of corn silage, and as a percentage of the average of all varieties’ milk per acre. However, variety 06B21 had the lowest days to maturity (a very important factor in the PNW with low heat units and GDDs) and therefore the lowest percent moisture (highest percent dry matter). It also had the lowest neutral detergent fiber (a measure of intake), highest starch content (an energy measure), highest starch per acre, and highest percentage of the average of all varieties’ starch pounds per acre. On the other hand, variety 09R19 had the highest milk per ton of silage and percentage of the average of all varieties’ milk per ton of silage.
Table 1. Results of 2016 Corn Silage Variety Trial at WSU-NWREC. Most desirable results for each characteristic are in bold font. Statistical data analysis to determine if there are significant differences between varieties has yet to be conducted.
Harvest % Moist
ADF % (%DM)
Starch % DM
Starch lbs % of Ave.
7 Hr Star Digest
Milk/Ton % of Ave.
Milk/A % of Ave.
Photos from various stages of the trial are below. We plan to conduct another corn silage variety trial in 2017 and encourage those interested to inquire about touring the trial at their convenience next summer—just call Susan Kerr ahead of time at 360-848-6151 to arrange a tour.
Dr. Susan Kerr, WSU NW Regional Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the September 2004 WSU Dairy Newsletter we reported that we had received our first research funding to study the capture of excess phosphorus (P) from liquid dairy manure in the form of struvite (magnesium-ammonium-phosphate) (see figure 1). Since that time we have refined the technology to efficiently extract P from raw manure and anaerobically digested manure, as well as evaluated ways to make the process less expensive. The fluidized bed technology is being adopted by both the dairy industry as well as waste water treatment facilities across the US.
We are happy to report that we have been granted a USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant to build and operate a mobile struvite system in Washington State during the next two years. Funding from NRCS of $461,000 has been matched by the Washington Dairy Industry with an additional $150,000.
Struvite can be used effectively as a fertilizer and pure struvite has a fertilizer formula of 6 29 0 + 16% Mg. The release of P from struvite is slow to moderate and thus makes it a desirable source of P. We plan to collaborate with crop producers in WA to evaluate the use of struvite as a source of fertilizer as part of the project.
In the coming months we will be looking for dairies across WA who are interested in cooperating with us to extract P in the form of struvite from liquid manure. Feel free to make contact of your interest.
Dairy producers in WA are adopting practices to make more effective use of nutrients in dairy manure for crop production. Among these practices are: no till seeding, flow meters on manure lines, lots of manure testing, double cropping, and use of nutrient management consultants,
Jason Sheehan enlists the help of agronomic professionals to precisely manage nutrients on his dairy farm in Sunnyside, WA. He is able to track how much nitrogen is applied to his fields through regular sample analysis and with use of flow meters which record the manure volume. His fields are mapped into zones based on differences in nutrient status in addition to yield records from previous years. This technology allows Jason and his team to work together to efficiently manage farm nutrients saving both time and money.
The following video gives an overview of the efforts at J & K Dairy in Sunnyside, WA.
Cooperative University Dairy Students (CUDS): A New Generation
With the retirement of Dr. John McNamara this past year, CUDS enters into a new era. Cooperative University Dairy Students currently has 11 members and a new advising team. The new advising team started in May with Hannah Chiapetta as the new day-to-day advisor with support from Dr. Amber Adams-Progar, Dr. Joseph Harrison, and Mr. John Swain. Currently, Hannah is working towards her PhD at WSU with Dr. Harrison. She grew up in Northern California on a 150-cow dairy for 10 years. In May of 2015, she graduated with a BS in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University.
At the end of August, CUDS members returned to begin a new school year. As students returned, CUDS members began the process of updating/evaluating all their protocols and standard operating procedures. During the first weekend of the semester, Dr. Martin Maquivar led a herd audit workshop at the Knott Dairy Center. CUDS members evaluated the history of each cow’s current lactation to evaluate each cow’s performance and health. We are in the process of scheduling more workshops based on CUDS members’ suggestions during the Welcome Back interviews.
The CUDS members are dedicated to ensure the CUDS animals receive great care. Current members are: Marcy Bartelheimer (Sire Selection), Dakota Cameron (Reproduction), Elise Chalcraft (Milk Quality and Udder Health), Shelby Felder (Nutrition), Karena Gutierrez (Herd Health), Adriana Lopez Ayala (Drugs and Supplies), Grace Montgomery (Reproduction), Lindsey Richmond (President), Rafael (Alex) Soria (Public Relations and Records), Stephanie VanVolkenburg (Herd Health), and Heather Young (Calves, Heifers, and Dry Cows and Cow Comfort). We are looking forward to a fun and educational year!
WSU Partners with Washington Dairy Producers to Address Pest-Bird Management Issues
A new Washington State University research project will soon be starting, with a focus on pest-bird management on dairy farms. The project aims to determine how the presence of pest-birds (such as starlings) affect dairy cattle well-being and economic losses on dairies. Alternative bird deterrence methods, such as exclusionary netting, will also be tested to determine which methods are economically feasible and effective. The research team is looking for Washington dairy farms that are willing to assist with this project. If you would like to participate in the study, or if you have any questions about the study, please contact Amber Adams-Progar (email@example.com or 509-335-0673), Susan Kerr (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Karen Steensma at (email@example.com).
Amber’s Top Ten Tips: Technology for the cows (and calves)
Precision dairy technology is increasingly gaining attention on dairy farms across the world. This new technology aims to improve dairy cattle care and well-being, in addition to the dairy producer’s quality of life. Currently, the technologies range from automatic milking systems to calving alerts that send you text messages. Yes, you did read that correctly, your cow can send you a text message to let you know that she has calved or will calve soon. The possibilities of these amazing inventions are awe-inspiring and exciting; however, we must remember to proceed cautiously. New technology requires an investment of our time and cannot replace best management practices.
Let’s take a look at ten of the precision dairy technology tools currently available for dairy producers:
Automated Calf Feeders – Automated calf feeders used for starter grain are available, but milk/milk replacer feeders are most common. Each calf is individually identified, offered a pre-programmed amount of milk, and monitored by the machine. If a producer sets “drinking speed” as one of the behaviors to be monitored, calf mortality rates could drop by up to 4%.
Automatic Milking System – Cows with higher milking frequencies in automatic milking systems tend to have lower somatic cell counts. If the pulsation ratio for the milking apparatus is changed from the standard setting to 70:30, the peak flow for milk per cow increases by 4%; whereas, a 75:25 setting results in an 8% increase in peak flow. This improves milking efficiency.
Heat Detection – A wide variety of heat detection technologies exist, with many of them offering either an ear tag or neck collar sensor system. Producers have noticed an 18% decrease in time to pregnancy for their cows monitored by these systems. Be mindful of false positives, though.
Calving Alerts – A small device attached to a cow’s tail monitors contractions and alerts the producer, via a text message, that the cow is close to calving. The accuracy for most of these devices range from 82% to 100%.
Activity/Rumination Monitors – These monitors can provide information on how much time per day a cow is spending lying, eating, standing, and ruminating. Cows spend 4% less time ruminating during hot weather.
Non-contact Temperature Readers – Besides using infrared temperature readers to check body temperatures, these readers can also be used to examine other health parameters. Infrared thermography has detected a 15° temperature increase in hooves of cows with impaired mobility, compared to cows with normal mobility.
Mastitis Detection – Somatic cell counts and electrical conductivity tests have been used to detect mastitis; however, measuring protease activity may become an option soon. Researchers noticed a 95% increase in protease activity in milk samples from mastitic cows than non-mastitic cows.
Environmental Enhancement – The inclusion of mechanical brushes in pens to encourage grooming behaviors is gaining popularity. Cows close to calving tend to increase their brush use by 77%.
Automated Feed Mixers and Distributors – One robot has the ability to mix, distribute, and push-up feed all by itself. The timing of feed delivery is crucial, though. Delivering fresh feed to cows between milkings, as opposed to during milkings, causes a 10% reduction in dry matter intake.
Body Condition Scoring – Recording body condition scores helps dairy producers analyze their nutrition programs, but it is time-consuming and may not be consistent between different scorers. Specially-designed cameras can automatically provide body condition scores that typically fall within a 2% range of manual body condition scores.
In response to dairy producers’ pleas for more forage options in western Washington, several forage trials are underway at the Northwestern Research and Extension Center (NWREC) in Mount Vernon, WA. This article will share preliminary results of these demonstrations and variety trials. Tours of the plots can be conducted for interested persons, contact Susan Kerr at 360-848-6151 or firstname.lastname@example.org for arrangements.
Birdsfoot trefoil (BFT) is a non-bloating legume, meaning it is a high protein forage that can be grazed fresh without the risk of bloat associated with alfalfa and some other legumes. It also has condensed tannins that are purported to help control internal parasites in livestock. Producers could consider it for grazing heifers; organic producers could use it to meet their 120 grazing day requirement without sacrificing the nutritional content of alfalfa, but without the risk of bloat. It may be suitable for hoy or haylage as well. It has the potential to become an invasive weedy species in some areas.
Demonstration plantings (100% BFT and 50% BFT – 50% Timothy) in September 2014 were underwater in January 2015 (Photo 1, with annual ryegrass weed incursion), but ready for a first cutting in April. This apparent tolerance to waterlogged soil is a definite advantage for western WA production. BFT was seeded at 20# per acre and 1/4″ deep. Pre-planting fertilizer and BFT-specific inoculum were included. Five cuttings were made that year with production averaging 4.5 tons/acre. Results of the fresh forage chemical analysis on the 8/19/15 are included in Table 1.
Dry Matter Basis
Dry matter, %
Crude protein, %
Acid detergent fiber, %
Neutral detergent fiber, %
Nonstructural carbohydrates, %
Total digestible nutrients, %
Net energy of lactation, mcal/lb
Estimated net energy, mcal/lb
Relative feed value
Table 1. Chemical analysis of fresh birdsfoot trefoil cut 8/19/2015.
A BFT variety trial was planted on 9/17/15. Weeds were to be controlled with tillage and mowing, but the plot experienced severe weed pressure and chemical herbicide was applied in mid-June. The three varieties included:
Norcen from Stock Seed Farms, Murdock, Nebraska
Pardee from Allied Seed, Nampa ID
Witt from Allied Seed, Nampa ID
The Witt variety out-performed the other two throughout all growth stages at the NWREC variety plot.
BFT is reputed to be “difficult to establish”, but experience at the NWREC BFT fall-planted plots tend toward concluding it is just slow to emerge, especially in cold, wet soils. Patience is rewarded, however, with vigorous and hardy plants that regrow well after harvest (Photo 2). Indeed, there are reports of > 40-year-old BFT plants in Whatcom County that originated in conservation plantings. To see what difference in stand establishment and vigor might be seen with a spring planting, a small plot was seeded at the NWREC on June 7, 2016. The plants emerged much more quickly than in fall plantings and have done well.
BFT’s use may be as part of a grazing program. BFT hay made at the NWREC in August was unpalatable to horses and goats and ignored by steers on pasture. Due to unavoidable delays in harvesting, this hay was made from overmature BFT so its innate tannin content may have been too high for good palatability. Thanks to the recent acquisition of some haying equipment by the NWREC, hay can be made at more appropriate maturity levels in the future (weather depending) and palatability re-assessed.
Summer 2016 Forages
Plot space became available for more demonstrations in early summer of 2016, so teff, Italian ryegrass, and a sorghum-sudangrass hybrid were seeded in the first two weeks of June. Teff and sudangrass are warm season C4 plants, meaning they thrive in hot summer months. Having alternative forages come on when C3 cool-season grasses are going into their summer slump would extend grazing options and even provide some forage for haying. Also, these annual grasses would provide another option in crop rotation systems. Teff is gaining popularity as horse hay due to its low nonstructural carbohydrate (sugar) content, which is highly desired by some horse owners, so this crop could become its own profit center for farms capable of making small bales. Teff is also being used as an income-producing crop as ground is transitioning from one crop use to another.
Teff established and grew well in the demonstration plot was hampered by extreme weed pressure. It was planted elsewhere at the NWREC as a cover crop and soil stabilizer and has done well. The plot was mowed in mid-August and has responded well with regrowth; we hope for a second cutting. Hay from the first cutting was too weedy to feed; chemical analysis is pending.
A sorghum-sudangrass hybrid grew very poorly in the demonstration site, but very well elsewhere at the NWREC as a cover crop. Sudangrass must be fed carefully due to the possibility of prussic acid (cyanide) poisoning. The precursor compound is present in higher levels in young plants and plants affected by drought, wilting, freezing, trampling, and/or high fertilization rates. Risk is greatly lower in sudangrass hay and silage. Sudangrasses are also often plowed under as a green manure crop.
The Italian ryegrass plot was very successful (Photo 3). It established quickly and shaded out weeds, so it had much less weed pressure than the other forage plots. It grew back very well after mowing. The biennial cool season grass will not go to seed unless it goes through a winter, meaning it stays vegetative the entire first year of planting, producing an impressive quantity of high-quality forage. It can be planted in the spring for multiple harvests that year (winterkill likely) or planted in late summer for fall and spring grazing or harvest (winterkill less likely). Italian ryegrass dries poorly so it is difficult to make into hay. It is best suited for grazing, greenchop, haylage, or baleage. It can fit into a farm’s forage plans as a rotational crop (not after corn, though) or emergency feed. It has the potential to become and invasive weed species in some areas.
Additional Forage Work
We currently have a corn silage variety trial sponsored by Blue River Hybrids (Photo 4). Samples will be collected and data analyzed at the end of September; results will be made available to producers through various venues and on request.
We are in Year Two of a simulated grazing impact trial on timothy. A stand planted in 2014 has been divided into three areas and “grazed” (mowed) at 3”, 6”, or 12” repeatedly. The middle height is thriving, but both the over- and under-grazed stands are struggling. The purpose of this demonstration is to show the effects of repeated abuse on pasture grasses and motivate managers to follow best pasture management and grazing practices. These include never grazing or mowing below 6” and keeping plants vegetative and growing vigorously.
Pumpkins were ensiled in five-gallon buckets with and without straw last fall (Photo 5). Straw was included as a variable in the study to see if and how pumpkins could help upgrade the nutritional value of this low-value fiber source (straw) while expanding the volume of pumpkin silage, without excessive dilution of the nutritional value of pumpkins. Chemical analysis results are in Table 2. Palatability factors are unknown because the microbial content of this ensiled material could not be guaranteed as safe so it was not fed to livestock.
% Dry matter
% Crude protein
% Protein solubility
Table 2. Nutritional content of pumpkins, pumpkin silage, pumpkin/straw silage, and straw from this study.
Future Forage Work
Additional forages to be studied in the future at the NWREC include sainfoin and festolium. Sainfoin is another non-bloating legume with high condensed tannin content; it is also naturally somewhat resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. It is better suited to dryland production and may not do well in western Washington’s wet clay soils. Plots will also be established in Centerville and San Juan County; it will be interesting to compare performance among these various soil types and precipitation zones. Festolium (a fescue-ryegrass hybrid) is purported to have more of the best traits and fewer of the undesirable traits of both ryegrass and fescue, meaning higher palatability, good persistence, good regrowth, better disease resistance, and higher winter hardiness.
We need to control weeds more aggressively in the variety trial and demonstration plots because weed growth is confounding some of the results. We also need to continue to build our haying capacity at the NWREC so we can harvest when needed and be independent of haying contractors’ schedules. Donations of haying equipment that fit into our long-term Research and Extension plans would be greatly appreciated.
Condensed tannins: C.L. Marley, R. Cook, R. Keatinge, J. Barrett, and N.H. Lampkin. 2003. The effect of birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) and chicory (Cichorium intybus) on parasite intensities and performance of lambs naturally infected with helminth parasites. Veterinary Parasitology, 112:147–155. doi: 10.1016/S0304-4017(02)00412-0
Amber’s Top Ten Tips: Understanding Dairy FARM Evaluations
Approximately 90% of the milk supply in the United States currently participates in the National F.A.R.M. (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) Program. Since its inception in 2009, the program’s participation has grown to include 82 co-ops and processors from across the nation. With the program’s increase in popularity, you most likely have already participated in an on-farm evaluation. I hope the information below will help you prepare for your next evaluation and encourage you to use some of the techniques below to monitor animal well-being on your dairy.
Last month, I completed the training to become a FARM Program on-farm evaluator. As I learned more about the program, I gained a deeper appreciation for how the program aims to emphasize “Animal Care is Everyone’s Responsibility”. Is the program perfect? No, but it is an honest attempt at uniting dairy industry stakeholders to achieve a common goal: provide the best care possible to dairy animals. These days, we need to unite as an industry in order to address the challenges that lie ahead.
Let’s take a closer look at the on-farm evaluation process and techniques evaluators use to monitor animal well-being:
Importance of On-farm Evaluations
Why do we conduct on-farm evaluations? What is the purpose? The basis of these evaluations is to assure consumers that dairy producers are providing optimal care to their animals and provide producers with resources to continually improve animal care.
These evaluations are conducted by certified evaluators like me that completed the FARM Program evaluator training. The process for these evaluations will be explained in-depth below. Over 33,000 second-party evaluations have been conducted.
At the beginning of each second-party evaluation, the evaluator will ask you a series of questions about your farm. This is a perfect time for you to ask questions about the FARM program. Once the meeting concludes, the evaluator will proceed to the cow housing facilities to collect cow observation data.
Cows are scored on a scale of 1 – 4, with a 1 representing a clean cow and a 4 representing a cow that has manure on her udder/belly and up towards her back. The goal is to have at least 90% of observed animals with a score of 2 or lower.
The locomotion scoring system is on a scale of 1 – 3, with a 1 representing a cow sound on all four legs and a 3 representing a severely lame cow. The goal is to have at least 95% of observed animals with a score of 2 or lower.
Body Condition Scores
Body condition is analyzed by using a scale of 1 – 5, with a 1 representing a cow with no fat cover over her tail head, short ribs, hooks or pins and a 5 representing an obese cow. The goal is to have at least 99% of observed animals with a score of 2 or higher.
Hock and Knee Lesion Scores
Hock and knee lesion scores are evaluated on a scale of 1 – 3, with a 1 representing a cow that has hair loss less than the size of a quarter with no swelling and a 3 representing a cow with severe swelling and/or an abrasion. The goal is to have at least 95% of observed cows with a score of 2 or lower.
After the evaluator completes his/her animal observations, the evaluation will conclude with a closing meeting. The evaluator will discuss the observations with you, share any recommended areas for improvement, and, if needed, develop a corrective plan with you. Once again, consider this meeting to be an excellent opportunity to ask questions.
To maintain the integrity of the FARM program, a third-party (in this case, a company called Validus) selects a random sample of evaluated farms to verify each year. The objective is to test whether the third-party evaluators reach the same conclusions as the second-party evaluators. Approximately 750 third-party verifications have been completed.
Effectiveness of the Program
A 3% improvement in cow hygiene cores occurred from 2014 to 2015, in addition to a 2% improvement in locomotion scores and a 4% improvement in hock and knee lesions.
Join us for the Climate Impacts to Water Conference: Managing the Uncertainties of Water Supply and Quality in the PNW
The PNW’s $21.8 billion agricultural sector ($13.2 billion for crops and $8.6 billion for animals; USDA-NASS, 2013) is vulnerable to risks associated with climate change, especially, increased pressures on water resources in arid environments because of its reliance on regional climatic factors. Severe droughts are projected in semiarid regions of the U.S. during the upcoming century (Ault et al., 2014; Steinemann, 2014). Annual average temperatures in the PNW are projected to increase by 3.3 to 9.7° F by the end of the century and availability and timing of precipitation is also expected to shift (Mote et al., 2014). Excessive spring precipitation, longer freeze-free seasons, decreases in mountain snowpack, and reduced stream flow could also reduce available water, and further stress agricultural production and management (Mote et al., 2014; Abatzoglou et al., 2014; DOE, 2011).
In the PNW, seasonal variations in water supply and demand of the Columbia River Basin have resulted in localized water shortages that are expected to increase with competing demands for fresh water resources into the future (DOE, 2011). To reduce negative economic, social and environmental consequences associated with drought, agricultural producers, advisors and managers must be better informed about regional climate projections (immediate and long-term), on-farm water management, and conservation opportunities. There is a two day upcoming regional conference—Climate Impacts to Water: Managing the Uncertainties of Water Supply and Quality—occurring on January 25-26 at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA. Regional agricultural producers, agriculture professionals, consultants, educators and specialists, NRCS, local and state employees and others interested in the topic are invited to more about the consequences and management of water in the PNW. Because agricultural advisors and similar stakeholders serve as key resources to producers for information about risks and management, increasing awareness and accessibility to relevant resources through this PNW Climate Impacts to Water conference will improve abilities to address concerns about sustainable water management, and risks to production systems and local environments.
The objectives of this conference are to:
Improve your understanding about projected climate impacts on water accessibility in the PNW, and learn about sustainable management decisions.
Create awareness of resources for adopting strategies that will make farming operations more resilient to climate change, while minimizing impact.
Build on the regional network of advisors and educators and take the knowledge gained at the conference and encourage adoption in the field
The areas of emphasis are:
Regional projections of climate and water supply
Multiple facets of water management, including agricultural and stormwater
Abatzoglou, J.T., D.E. Rupp and P.W. Mote. 2014. Seasonal climate variability and change in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Journal of Climate. 27:2125-2142. doi:10.1175/JCLI-K-13-00218.1.
Ault, T.R., J.E. Cole, J.T. Overpeck, G.T. Pederson and D.M. Meko. 2014. Assessing the risk of persistent drought using climate model simulations and paleoclimate date. Journal of Climate. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00282.1. In press.
Department of Ecology (DOE). 2011. Columbia River Basin: Long-term water supply and demand forecast. Washington State Legislative Report 11-12-011. [Online]. Available at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/biblio/11-12-011.
Mote, P., A.K., Snover, S. Capalbo, S.D. Eigenbrode, P. Glick, J. Littell, R. Raymondi and S. Reeder. 2014. Ch. 21: Northwest. Climate change impacts in the United States: The third national climate assessment. J.M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and G.W. Yohe (Eds.).U.S. Global change Research Program:487-513. doi:10.7930/J04Q7RWX. [Online]. Available at: http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/regions/northwest. Accessed: 2014, October 9.
United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS). 2013. State agriculture overview (WA, OR and ID). [Online]. Available at: www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/.
Steinemann, A. 2014. Drought information for improving preparedness in the western states. American Meteorological Society Bulletin:843-847. doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-13-00067.1
Celebrating—and Learning—during Dairy Month
On June 16-17, 2016, 96 Anacortes Junior High School students, teachers, and chaperones visited the Vander Kooy Harmony Farm #2 in Mount Vernon, WA. This visit was coordinated by WSU Skagit County Extension and included 4-H staff, a Master Gardener volunteer, and WSU faculty. Representatives of the Washington State Dairy Ambassador program also participated.
Each tour day featured one busload of students in the morning and another in the afternoon; many special needs students participated. Each group of students was divided into four sub-groups that rotated between four learning stations:
Station 1: Crops and soils discussion and demonstration.
WSU Skagit County Extension Director Don McMoran taught students about soil types, soil health, typical local crops, and how manure can benefit soil fertility and health. He sent each group home with a canning jar of soil suspended in water and instructed them to set it in their classroom and watch what happens as the particles settle. The students were eager to do this.
Station 2: Insect demonstration.
WSU Master Gardener Virgene Link brought an impressive array of preserved insect specimens to share with the students. She highlighted how most insects are non-problematic or even beneficial and we should not just reach for the “bug spray” when we see an insect. Students enjoyed looking at insects under a microscope and with magnifying glasses.
Station 3: Tools of the trade.
With assistance from advisor Annie Lohman, 2016-17 Skagit County Dairy Ambassador Juliana LeClair and Alternate Dairy Ambassador Leanna DeVries engaged students with a selection of the tools and used on a dairy farm. Students were introduced to water floats, moisture meters, A.I. straws, pH meters, esophageal feeders, OB chains, and balling guns to name just a few.
Station 4: Dairy cow milking, feeding, and welfare.
WSU Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist Susan Kerr explained modern milking practices while students watched the process in the milking parlor. They learned about milk’s journey from cow to table, steps to insure milk safety and quality, and a cow’s lifecycle of production. They watched cows willingly enter the parlor and stand quietly for milking. Next they went to the freestall housing area and watched cows eat their TMR, relax, interact, ruminate, and make milk. Ways farmers keep cows comfortable, clean, healthy, and productive were highlighted.
Some questions, comments, or myths addressed during the tour included: “I heard boy calves are killed at birth;” “My mother says things are added to milk to make it taste unnatural;” “I heard that pasteurization destroys the nutrition in milk;” “Cows only have molar teeth;” and a favorite, “Is it true that a cow could eat a human?”
Tour participants left the farm knowing where dairy products come from, what it takes to make milk, and how much producers care about cow comfort and welfare. They saw firsthand how technology and mechanization have made farms more efficient and productive, keeping food prices low. Students learned how American dairy farmers feed the U.S. and the world.
Although time consuming and a bit of an inconvenience on a working farm, such educational tours can go a long way toward dispelling common myths and misunderstandings about dairy production. If you are interested in partnering with a school in your area to host such an event and need some assistance, please contact Susan Kerr at 360-848-6151 or email@example.com.
Thank you, Vander Kooy family!
Dr. Susan Kerr, WSU Regional Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org