Archive for September, 2008

Prebuy feed now

By Susan Harlow, editor, Northeast DairyBusiness

Fall is an opportune time for dairy producers to consider prepurchasing feed.  John Berry, agricultural marketing educator for Penn State Extension, Lehigh County, said August through December are good months in which to buy grain.
   “Now we’re just waiting for harvest, so the price is not going to change much and there’s the highest probability of success for good prices.” 
  And you’ll probably have much less success in March through May, when grain sellers historically sell their product.
   Berry said prebuying feed is a way to insure some profitability, not make a killing in the market. Purchasing feed as cheaply is possible isn’t the goal, so have reasonable expectations. “You’re not going to hit a home run every time,” he said. 
    “In today’s volatile market, there are more opportunities than they’re used to be, but they come and go more quickly than they used to.”
   Nevertheless, one producer familiar to Berry discovered that he can make more profit by prepurchasing grain than by preselling his milk.

          Berry recommends:
1. Know your cost of production.  Part of that calculation will be the  purchased feed cost – it will tell you what you can afford to pay for feed. “Then ask: Is the market offering me an opportunity for profit? Maybe it’s time to lock in some profit. Can I make money on $4 corn? On $6 corn?” Berry said.

 2. If you’re in an area where grain is available directly from producers, be aware of variations in quality. Verify test weights, moisture levels, timeliness of delivery and the credit-worthiness of the seller.
    “We become very comfortable buying through a grain elevator, but an individual producer may not be as experienced,” Berry said. “You don’t want to be left holding the bag.”

 3. Another approach is to use the futures market to lock in a feed price, then buy grain locally when you need it. “The gains from one can offset losses from the other,” Berry said.
   Establish the price you’d like to pay – again, by knowing cost of production. Then talk to a broker or your grain company. If you’re a loyal customer, the company may purchase grain at your requested price if it becomes available.
    Price information is easy to find through the Internet,  DTN or charting services.  But you don’t need to drive yourself crazy tracking prices minute by minute, Berry said. Just be informed.

 4. Find out what substitute ingredients are available, locally or at a discount. Can your nutritionist make these work in your ration?

     “Just keep in mind – don’t make any mistakes,” Berry said. “Don’t get emotional about prices and let your bin get empty because you’re still waiting for a lower price, then have to buy to feed your cows.
   “Realize you won’t get the best price – the lowest one – always but avoid the highest priced grain.”
  If you can control your feed costs, you’re in as good a position as anyone else to make money, Berry said. But your first goal should be to feed your cows correctly and only then to minimize feed costs.









Forage insurance available


The deadline to sign up for a Risk Management Agency (RMA) pilot program of insurance for pasture and forages is Nov. 30.
   The program began last year in parts of the country including Pennsylvania. This year it includes the Southern Tier region and Cortland County of New York.
   For more information, contact Fay Benson, 607-753-5213, or For a description of the program visit

Quality variation remains DDGS challenge

An ethanol byproduct suitable for livestock feed could be easier sold and used if it was more uniform each time it is produced, said two Purdue University agricultural engineers.
Dry distillers’ grains with solubles (DDGS), the grain product left over after ethanol is produced from corn, is often chemically different from ethanol plant to ethanol plant and, sometimes, even within a plant, said Klein Ileleji and Richard Stroshine. Those differences can create shipping, storage and livestock feeding challenges, they said.
“The big issue with DDGS is the fact that the product is so variable,” Ileleji said. “Obviously, that can have a huge impact on the final product and how it is handled.”
“If livestock producers don’t have a consistent feed product, it makes it difficult for them to cost effectively formulate a good feed that will provide their animals with the nutrition they need,” Stroshine said.
Ileleji and Stroshine will address DDGS handling and storage issues during a session of the Integrated Corn Ethanol Co-product Conference. The conference will be held Nov. 18, 8:15 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., at the Beck Agricultural Center. The center is located at the Purdue Agronomy Center for Research and Education, seven miles northwest of Purdue’s West Lafayette campus along U.S. 52.
The conference is intended for those in the ethanol industry, livestock producers and animal nutritionists. Conference registration is free for those attending at the Beck Agricultural Center, although preregistration is required. The conference also can be viewed online. The Internet Webinar fee is $20 for members of the American Society of Animal Science and Purdue Extension county educators, and $30 for all others.
DDGS can take on different physical properties from batch to batch during the ethanol extraction and post-extraction processes, Stroshine said.
“In that process we break the corn down and let the starch ferment into ethanol,” he said. “Whatever is left — the liquid remaining after ethanol is removed, along with the hulls, the germ, the protein and the gluten material — goes into the DDGS. These leftovers are separated into solid and liquid portions. The solids are sent to a rotary dryer, where different amounts of the liquid condensed solubles can be added back. Differences in the amounts of solubles added cause variations in composition and particle size.”
Individual DDGS particles can be larger or smaller, meaning some particles might be holding more sugars, oil and moisture than others, Ileleji said. When that happens, and under favorable environmental conditions such as high humidity and temperatures, DDGS particles can stick together and form clumps, or what Ileleji calls caking. Problems occur when DDGS cake up in bulk shipments transported by rail car or other means.
“When the product cakes up it can be very difficult to unload,” Ileleji said. “That makes DDGS expensive to move. Because the product can cake up, two major rail carriers have stopped transporting DDGS.”
During their conference session Ileleji and Stroshine will present research they’ve conducted on identifying the causes of DDGS variability and suggestions on how the ethanol industry can produce a more uniform product. In a separate session, Ileleji will provide an overview of Purdue DDGS research.
Other Purdue speakers are scheduled to address livestock-related DDGS issues, including digestibility, animal performance and carcass qualities, feed supplements, effects on excretion and manure management.
“The two talks from Purdue animal scientists will revolve around the nutritive value of DDGS as affected by conditions within the ethanol plant,” said Scott Radcliffe, Purdue swine nutrition specialist. “One of the unique aspects of this research was that it was done across species using the same batches of DDGS. Nutrient digestibility was investigated in swine, broilers, roosters and cattle. Growth performance and carcass characteristics were investigated in swine, broilers and sheep.”
To preregister for the conference or to view the entire conference schedule, visit The site includes a link to the preregistration page for the Webinar. Lunch, refreshments and conference materials will be provided for those who attend the conference at Beck.
For additional conference information, contact Radcliffe, phone: 765 496-7718; or by e-mail: Or, contact Ileleji, phone: 765-494-1198; or by e-mail:

Missouri cow is new Holstein butterfat champion

MS Bayless Champ Flipper-ET, a four-year-old registered Holstein owned by Derek Page, Mt. Vernon, Mo., is the new all-time champion for butterfat production in a single lactation in the Holstein breed.

Calving at 3 years, 9 months of age, Flipper completed a 365-day record on three times-a-day milking of 3,705 lbs. of butterfat. She produced 64,130 lbs. of milk and 1,891 lbs. of protein, both of which rank Flipper first nationally for milk and protein in the senior-three-year-old division as well. She peaked at 242 lbs. of milk in one day.

Classified Excellent-91 at 4 years, 1 month of age, Flipper produced a great lactation as a two-year-old as well, with 42,870 lbs. of milk, 1,730 lbs. of butterfat and 1,305 lbs. of protein on three times-a-day milking, calving at 2-2.

Flipper is a daughter of Calbrett-I H H Champion-ET and is out of Clinita Terry Future-ET, an EX-92 Dam of Merit with a top record of 3-9, 2x, 365d, 36,420M, 795F, 973P.

Page purchased Flipper in the Norman Bayless dispersal in April 2006, and less than two weeks later she was the fourth-place senior two-year-old at the Southern National Holstein show.

Page said one of the funniest things about Flipper’s record is that he didn’t want her to milk that much because he wanted to show her as a three-year-old at World Dairy Expo. “We tried to slow her down by just giving her hay and grain,” Page said, “but she just kept losing condition, so we put her on a TMR and away she went. If we hadn’t tried to slow her down, she probably would have set the all-time milk record too.”

Derek farms with his parents, Leon and Betty. The herd is enrolled on Holstein COMPLETE and the 100-cow Holstein herd has a rolling herd average of nearly 30,000 lbs. of milk.

TAHC: Be aware of bovine TB requirements

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) is emphasizing animal health requirements as more states find cases of bovine tuberculosis (TB).

Bovine TB is caused by Mycobacterium bovis (M.bovis), which can be spread through contact with infected animals. A state can lose its “TB-free” status if two infected herds are detected within a 48-month period, with strict cattle marketing and movement restrictions imposed.

Texas regained its TB-free status in October 2006. Two states, New Mexico and California, lost their TB-free status in September.  Minnesota’s cattle TB status was downgraded in April 2008. In Michigan, only the Upper Peninsula is cattle TB-free

According to Texas Animal Health Commission information officer Carla Everett:

• Beef heifers consigned to Texas for “breeding” purposes must individually identified and have a negative TB test within 60 days prior to entry.

Individual identification (ID) can include an official ear tag, registration tattoo, registration brand or an RFID  radio frequency identification device.  The identification information must be recorded on the certificate of veterinary inspection issued in the state of origin within 30 days prior to the animals’ movement.
USDA regulations require that beef breeding animals transported from non-TB-free states have a negative TB test within 60 days prior to movement, unless the animals are nursing a negative dam, or if the animals originate from a recognized accredited herd, which undergoes regular testing.  Tested animals are provided with individual identification. The test results and identification must be recorded on the certificate of veterinary inspection.

• Since October 2007, TAHC has had stringent TB entry requirements for dairy cattle. Due to their close confinement, dairy cattle have a greater risk of exposure to cattle TB if an infected animal exists in the herd.
Dairy breeding cattle must have official ID and a certificate of veterinary inspection prior to entering Texas.  Sexually intact dairy cattle older than two months of age must have a negative TB test within 60 days prior to entering Texas, unless they are being transported directly to slaughter or to an approved feedlot, then slaughter.   Sexually intact dairy cattle younger than two months of age must hae an entry permit and are restricted to the premises of destination until they are tested negative for TB at the age of two months.

• Mexican-origin (“M”-branded) steers recognized as potential rodeo and/or roping stock, and enteringTexas from other states must have had a negative TB test within the previous 12 months and be accompanied by a certificate of veterinary inspection, issued within the previous 30 days.

Texas originally gained its TB-free status in 2000, but lost it in 2002.  Nearly 2,800 Texas herds were tested before the state regained its ranking in October 2006.

Producers who have questions about importing to Texas are invited to call the TAHC’s permit desk at 800-550-8242, ext 777.  A chart on cattle entry requirements can be viewed on the TAHC’s web site at

Eastern DairyBusiness to Launch in January

A new dairy title will debut in January with the launch of Eastern DairyBusiness magazine by DairyBusiness Communications.  According to Publisher Joel Hastings, coverage will be provided for the eastern half of the U.S.  The company’s Midwest and Northeast DairyBusiness magazines will be combined and coverage for the Southeast will be included.
“We’re combining the economic engine of the Northeast region with the strength and growth potential of the Midwest while adding in the evolving Southeastern states, to include 14 of the nation’s top 23 dairy states,” according to Hastings.  This region produces 50% of the nation’s milk and is home to 80% of U.S. milk producers.
The region also boasts some of the top university dairy science departments and researchers, the most progressive and forward-thinking dairy producer organizations and a strong base of dairy-related companies, providing a deep well of editorial resources and an even larger pool of marketing opportunities.
Eastern DairyBusiness will retain the highly acclaimed Pro-Dairy section, a special editorial package produced by Cornell University and featured in Northeast DairyBusiness for eight years. Monthly themes focus on critical dairy management components. Special issues will highlight two of the nation’s largest agricultural shows –- Empire Farm Days and World Dairy Expo -– as well as the comprehensive annual Dairy Statistics issue.
The magazine also will feature new opportunities for reader connections with advertisers both in print and on companion web sites.
The initial circulation will be 22,000 controlled and BPA audited, including dairy producers with 100+ herds and larger, veterinarians and nutritionists.  All producers and industry participants will be able to purchase subscriptions priced at $20 per year.
Combined with the company’s sister publication, Western DairyBusiness, the two magazines will provide complete coverage of the nation’s dairy industry.  National advertisers will be able to place a single order and receive a single invoice.  Ad content can be differentiated between the two regions at the advertiser’s option.
DairyBusiness Communications, based in Syracuse, NY, produces multi-media for the dairy industry including three monthly magazines (Western DairyBusiness, Eastern DairyBusiness and Holstein World), DairyProfit Weekly newsletter, three direct response buyers’ guides, DairyLine Radio, six active web sites and DairyProfit Seminars.   A division of Multi Ag Media, LLC, it is affiliated with Farm Market iD and Phoenix Data Processing.

NFFC seeks more DFA oversight

The National Family Farmers Coalition (NFFC) returned to the national media this week, carrying its message that the Bush administration is stonewalling antitrust regulation against Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), the nation’s largest dairy co-op.

NFFC dairy subcommittee members emphasized their disappointment with the Bush administration and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for failing to release a report on DFA antitrust investigations. Furthermore, NFFC said DFA’s structure, business practices and financial situation left the U.S. dairy industry in the position of facing a collapse similar to the U.S. housing market.

In July, NFFC asked the U.S. Senate judiciary committee to hold hearings on the matter, and organization leaders met with Senate staffers in recent weeks. However, with Congress set to recess and national elections just weeks away, such hearings are not likely until 2009, when a new administration takes over.

John Bunting, a New York dairy farmer and NFFC dairy subcommittee member, said DFA’s numerous joint ventures meant it should no longer be considered for cooperative exemptions under the federal Capper-Volstead Act.

Peter Carstensen, a University of Wisconsin-Madison law professor who specializes in antitrust law, said dramatic changes in the dairy industry structure – without corresponding changes in federal regulations – has left the dairy industry open to collapse if a single large entity, such as DFA, suffers a financial setback.

NFFC leaders also alleged DFA’s activities were not only negatively affecting dairy farmer milk prices and market competition, but also hurting dairy product consumers.
“There is no conflict of interest between the farmers’ best interest and the consumers’ best interest, said Bunting. “What happens in between becomes terribly important. DFA has virtual veto power over changes in federal milk marketing order system  and has limited or controlled access to processing plants by other co-ops. We need a complete investigation.
“In dairy,” we’re at the same point as we were last year in housing, and this bubble is going to implode,’ Bunting said.

“DFA exercises control through its exclusive arrangements for fluid milk,” Carstensen said. “This results in other regions being compelled to join because DFA controls access. We know that when farmers have competition for milk, they get better prices. When DFA exercises control, farmers get less for their milk. On the other hand, consumers continue to pay more.”

Paul Rozwadowski, a northern Wisconsin dairy farmer and NFFC dairy subcommittee chair, said the DFA investigation into corruption in the dairy industry is one of the largest in U.S. history. “The lack of enforcement of U.S. antitrust laws by the present administration has allowed big co-ops, like DFA, to take advantage of Capper-Volstead laws, pushing through their proposals on milk marketing orders by bloc voting and manipulating prices at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. All this leads to a price paid to dairy farmers that does not reflect their cost of production and is causing many of them to go out of business, and leaving the rest of us without enough money to pay our bills and we are barely surviving. It is very difficult to plan for the future under these circumstances. It’s also forcing consumers to pay a lot more for dairy products.”

Carstensen said structural changes would not come without pain, but could head off bigger problems later.
“We’re trucking milk long distances with a complex system of balancing,” he said. “It’s within the realm of possibility that DFA and some of its partners could go into bankruptcy and be unable to deliver on some of their contracts. We would lose the present organization of the market, and it would become quite chaotic. I’m not sure how it would work out from there. That’s what concerns me, and especially how farmers would be assured of being paid. Right now, so much of their money flows through a single cooperative, and may even be pledged as collateral by that co-op for their bank loans, so if that co-op would suffer some kind of financial reversal and go into bankruptcy, there would be enormous financial chaos and transferring payments back to farmers.”

“Public intervention now, before a big collapse, is essential,” he continued. “We need to have some system for balancing milk supply and access to processing facilities. Cash flow from buyers to farmers must be protected. It won’t be easy. USDA and DOJ have sat on their hands for years while these problems have grown. We’re going to have serious difficulties making appropriate restructuring  of both of industry organization ownership and  allocation of responsibilities. There will be some pain.”

“DFA could be broken into self-standing structures, because they do perform valuable, necessary services, and without them a lot of people would be without milk,” Bunting said. “But, I hope what we would end up with greater transparency.”

Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, charged that dairy’s changing structure is affecting more than market competition.

“As the structure of the dairy industry has changed, production methods have also changed,” Lovera said. “A lot of these methods are ones consumer are not comfortable with or are not happy about. The more consumers learn, the more they are turning to other products, like organic milk.”
She cited use of recombinant bovine somatotropin, herd size and pasture availability. “There’s a reason milk cartons and labels show ‘happy’ cows on pasture. It’s a perception being put out by the industry when, in fact, the reality is the way the milk has been produced has changed. As a consumer group, we’re very supportive of calls to have the Senate take a look at what’s going on in the dairy industry.”

Summit to address animal handling practices

When food animal handling practices came under fire in Colorado, a coalition of livestock groups came together for a solution. The group helped form state legislation that would allow producers to address the issue in a workable timeframe and avoid a ballot issue to mandate change.

“We needed time to do research, to retrain employees and to be able to make the investment required to retrofit some of these operations,” said Ivan Steinke of the Colorado Livestock Association. “We were able to come up with something understandable and implementable.”

Steinke will share his experience at the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) 2008 Food System Summit, Oct. 8-9, in Indianapolis. During a breakout session on Food Animal Well Being, Steinke will be joined on a panel discussion of “Ballots, Initiatives and Ingenuity” by Mitch Head of GolinHarris, a leading public relations firm.

Additional breakout sessions will address the important food system topics of immigration, food safety and energy/sustainability. Summit participants will also get an in depth review and analysis of CFI’s latest nationwide Consumer Trust Survey.

“Balancing for Success” is the theme of this year’s event –- reflecting CFI’s belief that truly sustainable systems must be scientifically verified, ethically grounded, and economically viable.

The full agenda and registration information are available at

NMPF to fight dairy inclusion in New Zealand trade pact

The National Milk Producers Federation will seek the full exclusion of New Zealand’s dairy products under the newly-announced Transpacific free trade agreement, because of the New Zealand dairy industry’s unique structure and excessive manipulation of dairy markets globally and in the U.S.

The Bush Administration announced it wants to create a free trade pact with four nations: Chile, Singapore, Brunei and New Zealand. The U.S. already has trade agreements with the first two of these, while Brunei is essentially a small city-state. The real change as a result of a so-called Trans-Pacific trade agreement between these nations and the U.S. would be to throw open American markets to one large multinational company that works under the auspices of the New Zealand government. New Zealand is the world’s largest dairy exporter, and benefits tremendously from the defacto dairy monopoly in New Zealand whereby one company controls more than 90% of the country’s milk production.

“New Zealand’s government must be salivating at the prospect of getting unfettered access to our consumer markets, even while the U.S. remains constrained by where it can export our dairy products around the world, including to our neighbors, such as Canada,” said Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of NMPF, noting that there would be no new opportunities for U.S. dairy exports under a Trans-Pacific agreement, given existing relations with the other significant economic participants.

“The heightened prospect of greater manipulation by New Zealand of not only global markets, but also our domestic industry and policy, would make an already uneven playing field in the global markets even worse,” Kozak said. “This manipulation of our markets will drive down dairy farmer income in America, force farms out of business, and create a ripple effect swamping dairy plants and other rural businesses – all at a time when our economy is slowing and unemployment is rising.”

Kozak said that NMPF is a strong supporter of balanced trade and the multilateral trading system.

“Throughout the world, dairy is one of the most protected agricultural sectors and NMPF has been at the forefront leading the charge for reform,” said Kozak. The Trans-Pacific agreement, however, doesn’t offer any reform, but “only the opportunity for a one-way flow of trade directly into our market from an industry that is known for its manipulative dairy trading policies. Let’s be frank here – the Trans-Pacific FTA is really at heart simply an agreement with New Zealand, given the other countries involved,” he said.

“The U.S. government – and for that matter, the New Zealand government – should continue their efforts to level the international trade field through the World Trade Organization,” Kozak said. “By embarking on this new agreement, the U.S. is unilaterally opening up the floodgates to a monopolistic dairy industry almost exclusively focused on growing its exports and power over world dairy markets, while doing nothing to address the tremendous distortions in other markets that so negatively impact global dairy trade and prospects for more balanced trading opportunities for our producers.”

Kozak concluded by saying that “NMPF does not believe that full exclusions of entire sectors are a good solution for the vast majority of free trade agreements.” However, no other country in the world, let alone the U.S., has a dairy industry with the characteristics of that in New Zealand. In New Zealand, one company controls over 90 percent of the milk produced, owns the rights to the vast majority of the market access granted to New Zealand under the Uruguay Round, and handles 95 percent of that country’s exports. The only way to deal with such a unique and monopolistic situation, Kozak said, “is through an equally unique response: full exclusion of all dairy products.”

Use necropsies to provide answers to clostridial disease

When a cow or calf dies unexpectedly, you may debate whether to call a veterinarian. A necropsy is the right thing to do, but will it be worth the expense?

The answer is almost always yes, said Dr. Glenn Songer, microbiologist at the University of Arizona.

“My belief is that diagnostic investigation should be a priority, even if you think you know exactly what is going on,” reported Songer to attendees at a Clostridium perfringens Type A symposium during the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, Nev. “Diagnosis is the only way to know the true cause of death. You need this information to prevent future losses, especially with emerging diseases like C. perfringens Type A infection.”

C. perfringens Type A produces alpha toxin and is implicated in deadly gastrointestinal diseases, such as abomasal ulcers and hemorrhage in calves.  Some speculate that it is involved in the pathogenesis of hemorrhagic bowel syndrome (HBS) in cows.

There is much confusion surrounding C. perfringens Type A, as C. perfringens Type A and Type C cases in calves will look almost identical in histopathology. Diagnostic follow-up work needs to be done in every case.

The first step in obtaining an accurate diagnosis is to call a veterinarian as soon as possible after a death. Samples must be from an animal that died very recently. “The best specimen for necropsy is a typically affected, untreated calf,” said Songer.

An accurate diagnosis also involves good communication. Your veterinarian will submit a field necropsy report along with tissue samples to the diagnostic laboratory. He or she will want a complete history of the case. The diagnostic lab requests information such as the breed, type of operation, age of animal, clinical signs, treatments, if other cases have been observed and if any other diseases are occurring in the herd.

Songer urged producers to be diligent. “Don’t stop with one calf,” said Songer. “Focus on the herd. I know it’s costly, but the answer lies with diagnostics. Losing animals is much more expensive than necropsies and diagnostics. The more animals we look at, the more we learn and the sooner we can control this disease.”

If diagnostic results suggest C. perfringens Type A, Songer recommends developing a management strategy with your veterinarian. For example, HBS cases may be addressed by correcting nutritional and environmental factors that are promoting clostridial overgrowth.

Currently, only one cattle vaccine has demonstrated reasonable expectations of efficacy against alpha toxin. Clostridium Perfringens Type A Toxoid is available under conditional license from Novartis Animal Health US, Inc. The product can be given to pregnant or non-pregnant animals, and has been demonstrated to be safe in calves as young as one month of age.

“Work with your veterinarian to develop a preventive management program,” urged Songer. “You probably won’t eliminate every death, but there are steps you can take to minimize losses. Your veterinarian can help you determine if options like vaccination will work in your operation.”

Novartis Animal Health researches, develops and commercializes leading animal treatments that meet the needs of pet owners, farmers and veterinarians. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Animal Health conducts business in 40 countries and employs about 2,700 people worldwide. For more information, visit