Archive for March, 2009

4/09 SUCCESS STRATEGIES: Avoid decision paralysis

By John Ellsworth

This has been a trying time in the dairy industry. As I write this column, no one is cash flowing. How can they, with $10/cwt. milk, record-high feed, fuel, labor and insurance costs and the recent difficulty in acquiring financing? Thus far, most banks seem to understand. But there is, at best, the possibility of delays on renewals.

 In the entire scenario of finance and the world economy, my biggest concern is over paralysis – that is, the inability to make a decision.

What can I do now, you ask? Here is what I have been doing with clients in 2009 in an attempt to free up any paralysis in their thinking. The concept was developed by Dan Sullivan, president and founder of The Strategic Coach organization in Chicago. As you go through this process, please keep in mind of what Sullivan has often reminded his clients: “All progress begins with telling the truth.”
Here’s how it works:

1.)   On a sheet of paper, draw lines to divide it into four sections.

2.)   In the top left quarter, write “DANGERS.” List the items that are possible sources of loss for you, such as low milk prices, high feed costs, reproductive problems in your herd, etc.

3.)   In the top right quarter, write “OBSTACLES.” List items where you are stuck, that is, you can’t seem to move forward. Possibilities are your present cash flow, the need to plan for the next generation or other areas.

4.)   In the bottom left quarter, write “WEAKNESSES.” Make a list of items where you are lacking a resource. Some examples might include new financing, a feed loan that is presently greater than the value of your feed inventory or the lack of CPA-prepared financial statements.

5.)   Finally, in the bottom right quarter of your sheet, write “SETBACKS.” Make a list of all items that you have actually lost in the current downturn. These might include your profitability, lending relationship with your bank, some of your former suppliers or other items.

After you have made a list for each category, review them and ask yourself if all the items on the lists are equal to each other. Circle the item on each of the four lists that is most critical. Which of them is most important to your business? What can you do about each of these four top items?

Remember, our objective here is only to “unparalyze” your thinking. In my experience, this exercise frees up clients’ thought processes and then accomplishes two other tasks. First, it identifies specific problems. Additionally, it helps to identify potential solutions. That is ultimate goal of the exercise.

As Victor Frankl said of his experience at Auschwitz, the vilest of Nazi concentration camps, his survival depended upon the realization that his old life was over. His new life and future would be vastly different.
The same holds true for us in the dairy industry. The old game is over. We are in a new game now. Even when we start to see the next upturn  – and I hope we do before you even read this article –  we will all need to update our thinking and processes. The scrutiny to which we will be subjected is going to be intense.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. However, each of us must decide if we truly wish to operate in this environment and, if so, be prepared to change our thinking. How will you deal with this and move forward in your dairy business? I hope this process will assist you to accomplish that task. Give it a try. I think you’ll be glad you did.



•  John Ellsworth of Modesto, Calif., is a consultant with the financial and strategic consulting firm Success Strategies. He can be reached at 209-988-8960, or by e-mail:

4/09 PEOPLE POWER: Great Hiring Practices Are Still Required

Just because the unemployment rate is higher and the pool of potential employees is larger, reject any thought of reducing your recruitment and hiring efforts. Although it seems difficult and time consuming, extra efforts to identify and select outstanding candidates produces rewards far greater than the cost.

Dr. Bob Milligan 

We now have the highest unemployment in nearly 30 years.  Few businesses are hiring.  As you prepare for the cropping season, your dairy business could be an exception. To fully capitalize on this opportunity, you should utilize great hiring practice.  Reject the urge to reduce your recruitment and selection efforts because hiring someone will be easier.  Making the best hiring choices goes a long way to determine the level of stress you will face – and the success of your farm.


Good procedures for choosing equipment and supplies and hiring employees have more similarities than you might think.  Consider the purchase of a new tractor.  You begin by specifying what you need – horsepower, features, etc. – given the tractors you already have and the characteristics of your farm.   You then collect information and compile – formally or informally – a list of possible makes and models that you might purchase.  Finally, you collect detailed information including cost and lastly select a tractor for purchase.


The hiring of the best people utilizes a similar procedure, with two major differences.  First, the choices are more important, as there are greater productivity difference among people than among different brands and models of equipment and inputs.  Second, each manager is essentially on his or her own when hiring employees. 


Unfortunately, most hiring procedures are far less detailed and less reliable that the procedures used to purchase new equipment.  What then, is included in a reliable hiring procedure?


Begin by specifying what is needed.  In human resources this means defining the competencies you are seeking to enable the person in the position to succeed.  Competencies are the skills, knowledge, experience performance behaviors and personal attributes that contribute to enhanced employee performance and personal success.”  I recommend you select the three to five competencies that are the most critical to success in your open position. 


The following is an example competencies set for a milker position:

  1. Successful experience in completing repetitive tasks
  2. Positive work attitude
  3. Reliability
  4. Gentle


Recruitment is defined as the process of attracting individuals on a timely basis, in sufficient numbers and with appropriate qualifications to apply for a job.  Note that the focus in this definition is on attracting a pool of applicants – not just one qualified applicant.  This focus on the one candidate instead of a pool is the most common mistake made by managers.  Without a pool of candidates the probability of hiring a great candidate is very low. 


How then is a great pool of candidate achieved?  Recruitment is a process of marketing your farm and the position you have available.  You must develop a recruitment plan that reaches great candidate AND entices them to apply for your position.  An example for a job announcement or want ad:


EXCELLENCE, TRAINING, TEAM ATMOSPHERE!!!!  We are seeking reliable, gentle workers to milk our prized herd of dairy cows.  Top of the Hill Dairy Farm is a progressive family business producing wholesome, nutritious milk for families like yours.  We are committed to producing superior quality milk for consumers and to providing outstanding job satisfaction for our employees.  The new employees will be responsible for all tasks required to milk our cows in a timely and professional manner.  The position requires gentleness with the animals and precision in the milking process.  We provide initial and continuing training.  Apply to help serve consumers like you!! 


Answering the following questions will provide you the information needed to write great recruitment material:

  • List words and phrases that describe the positive attributes of your farm
  • List words and phrases that describe the positive attributes of this position
  • Describe the position
  • What are the qualifications required for success in the position?
  • What are great candidates for this position doing now (be creative)?
  • How should candidates apply for the job?


Selection involves choosing from the pool of candidates the individual or individuals who best match the competencies needed to succeed in the position.  The interview is the heart of selection.  Here are some ideas to consider when planning your interviews:

  • Remember that you are a) determining the “fit” of this candidate for the position AND b) promoting the position and your farm.  You want the candidate to accept should you decide to offer him/her the position.
  • Am interview is a formal, high-stress situation.  While working to make both parties feel at ease to the degree possible, it should be treated as a formal interaction not as a “bull shit” session.  Careful planning and preparation is crucial. 
  • You must prepare questions in advance that are built to measure the candidate on the selected competencies.  Each candidate must them be asked these same questions. 


Competencies, Recruitment, Selection.  Recently I coached a manager much like you through the above procedures.  He had previously essentially hired the first candidate.  I asked him how he felt after he hired an outstanding candidate.  His answer was “It was easier!”  Although it seems difficult and time consuming, hiring outstanding candidates produces rewards far greater than the cost. 



Robert Milligan is senior consultant, Dairy Strategies LLC, and professor emeritus, Cornell University. He can be reached via phone: 888-249-3244, ext. 255, e-mail:, or log on to

4/09 CALF CONNECTION: Protocols must be followed

By Sam Leadley



One common objective in calf rearing is healthy calves. But that objective is hard to reach if our collection, storage, mixing and feeding equipment is contaminated. We get high bacteria counts in our colostrum and milk/milk replacer. These high counts translate into scours, extra work caring for sick calves and unnecessary expenses.

Sometimes contaminated equipment results from a lack of effective cleaning protocol. For an example of a protocol that works well for manual cleaning of colostrum and milk equipment see Click on Calf Facts and scroll to “Washing Milk Containers Protocol.”

However, many of us have this or a similar protocol already  in place. Then what is the problem?

A buildup of biofilm and residual wash water indicates cleaning protocols are not being followed.

A buildup of biofilm and residual wash water indicates cleaning protocols are not being followed.

In the accompanying picture, we see a milker pail where there were cleaning failures. The milker bucket was to be rinsed out, washed with hot water containing a chlorinated detergent including brushing, rinsed with an acid solution and set upside down on a rack to dry. Note the biofilm buildup on the inside and residual wash water in the bottom. 

This farm and another with poorly cleaned equipment  collected samples of their colostrum and milk replacer. Laboratory culturing showed t there was high bacteria contamination at both locations including especially high undesirable coliform counts. Thus, we went looking for failures in cleaning colostrum and milk replacer handling equipment. We found them, as you can see in the example in the picture. In both cases there had been no monitoring of established cleaning protocols for some time. 

These are the steps I take in monitoring cleaning protocols: 

• Before I observe actual employee behavior, I go to the work site and determine if it is possible to perform the task correctly in that setting with the tools and materials available. For example, are cleaning chemicals and an adequate supply of hot water and brushes available.

• I observe actual employee behavior instead of just talking about doing the job. This is best at the regular time employee does the task.

• I compare observed behavior to the training standards, which may be incorporated in the protocol. Examples are water temperature, use of chemicals, use of brushes and whether steps are done in correct order.

• When deviations from the protocol are observed, I review these differences privately with the employee. This is in contrast to “chewing out” the employee in front of her or his peers.

• When deviations from the protocol are observed, I provide a training opportunity for the employee. For a checklist to plan training see, click on Calf Facts and scroll to “Training Employees to Follow Protocols.”

• When performance of the task results in an objective, measurable outcome, I provide resources for collecting information to provide employees with feedback. In these instances, after the farms had provided the appropriate training, colostrum and milk replacer samples were collected and cultured to provide evidence that cleaning procedures were working well. 

• My employee feedback is related directly to the protocol. In the case of the milker bucket failure, the feedback provided the actual wash water temperature (too low), chemicals (failure to use chlorine) and brushing (incomplete brushing of inside surfaces).

•  I give  employee feedback in straightforward, understandable terms. In the case of the milker bucket failure, I used a thermometer to show the employee the actual water temperature. I held up the detergent container and pointed out the absence of chlorine.

• I actively solicit employee reactions to their evaluations, using this information to revise protocols when needed. At one location the employee pointed out that she was expected to finish morning cleanup at a certain time, but the parlor wash cycle did not leave enough hot water to meet the wash protocol standard. This was useful information. A small but separate water heater was added just for the manual wash up sink making protocol compliance possible within the worker’s time limits.

• Where outcomes are the result of more than one employee’s work, I involve all employees in evaluation, retraining and/or protocol revision. The milker bucket example actually involved two employees that worked different shifts. It was necessary to meet with them at shift-change time to do the re-training.

•  I communicate with employees (evaluation, feedback, and training) in a language they understand. This refers not only to using the workers native language: Don’t say “hyperfluidity of feces” when saying “scours” would be better understood.



Sam Leadley is a replacement consultant with Attica Veterinary Associates, Attica, N.Y. Contact him via e-mail:; phone: 585-591-2660; or visit

4/09 MILK QUALITY: In Tough Times, Keep Milking Facilities, Equipment Top-of-Mind

By Keith Engel


In tough economic climates, the first reaction is often to cut costs to curb short-term spending. When considering these decisions, evaluate what effect the short-term cuts will have on long-term goals and profitability. At a time when quality and efficiency are more important than ever, carefully evaluate these areas to harvest the highest-quality milk and optimize returns.


Maintain quality

Whether it’s quality milk, quality of work or ration quality, don’t let short-term decisions affect long-term results. Look for opportunities to save money while getting the same results, or to make additional investments resulting in higher returns. Ask yourself, “What level of change can be made to gain higher profits without affecting the dairy’s profitability long-term?” Make sure that short-term decisions affecting your dairy align with long-term goals.


Evaluate labor needs

Managing your labor force in a more efficient manner will save time and money. Evaluate job performance and ways to organize work to gain efficiencies while maintaining quality procedures. Have key performance indicators in place that align with your current goals and share them with your employees so everyone knows what is expected.

Schedule and organize work to save on labor. An example of this is to evaluate the milking routine and shifts. Ask yourself:

• Can we reach the same efficiency and quality of milking procedures with one less person?

• Can we reorganize the milking routine to milk more cows per hour? 

• Will it work to have two 12-hour shifts rather than three 8-hour shifts? 

Keep your quality goals in mind when making labor changes. It does not mean cutting corners, but rather organizing the work to optimize efficiency, milk quality and profitability.


Mark and date product level on the barrel to minimize waste. If large fluctuations in product usage are seen, check to ensure the product is not being wasted while still providing proper teat coverage.

Mark and date product level on the barrel to minimize waste. If large fluctuations in product usage are seen, check to ensure the product is not being wasted while still providing proper teat coverage.

Monitor usage, limit waste

Minimizing waste saves money. To limit waste, you must first monitor normal product use levels. Mark and date product barrels each week to quickly evaluate usage, comparing it with previous usage. In regards to teat dip, if you find that more dip is being used now than in the previous week, you can investigate if cow numbers went up or if dip is being wasted while filling cups or during application. If usage declines, check dip coverage. 

Work with your supplier to manage inventory, ensuring you have the right amount of product without running out or overstocking. Make sure to evaluate product needs vs. results.


Maintenance before failure

Keeping your milking system well-maintained and optimized ensures the most-efficient and highest-quality milk harvest. Scheduling maintenance before failure will reduce emergency calls, unexpected downtime and emergency labor charges. 

Regularly scheduled maintenance provides additional benefits, including:

• added efficiencies. Regular maintenance ensures machines are harvesting milk in a timely fashion, allowing for complete milk-out and advanced milk quality.

• reduced parlor downtime. You can schedule regular maintenance and predict when the parlor will be down. Emergency calls can result in more downtime at unexpected times.

• keep costs predictable. This allows you to budget for regularly scheduled maintenance compared to emergency calls, which are often unexpected and cost more.  

In tight times there’s no easy solution, but don’t lose sight of the important management practices that helped your dairy successfully reach this point—ever-improving efficiencies, skilled employees and, most importantly, healthy and productive cows. Keep these factors top-of-mind as you navigate through the tough times to ensure your cows, people and operation are performing at optimal levels both now and in the future.


Keith Engel is sales consultant – hygiene & supplies for GEA Farm Technologies/
WestfaliaSurge. Contact him via e-mail:

Make profitable feeding decisions


    With economists projecting a $100 per cow loss per month in Illinois, dairy producers face a difficult spring and summer, said Mike Hutjens, dairy Extension specialist at the University of Illinois.
“The good news is we’re going to improve this fall,” Hutjens said, speaking at the Vermont Large Dairy Conference in February. Before then, however, producers will have to scrape through the next few months.

    Hutjens discussed his three golden rules:
1. Never give up milk production, because your income will drop faster than expenses. Cows produce 2 pounds of milk for every 1 pound of dry matter (DM) in a ration. Cutting DM saves 9 to 11 cents per pound but will cost 36 to 40 cents in milk income.
2. Maintain components. Milk protein is worth $2.30 per pound, while milk fat is worth $1.10 per pound. Is there a way to feed to increase components? Do you know the protein vs. fat content of your milk?
3. Don’t make changes that will hurt profitability in the long run. For instance:
• Maintain age at first calving at 23 to 24 months. It costs  $2 a day to feed a heifer. Make sure she’s ready to join the milking herd on time.
• Follow an accelerated calf program, which can increase milk by 1,100 pounds in a cow’s first lactation.
• Get cows bred on time. A cow cost you $2 a day after 120 days open; $8 a day after 200 days.
• Watch for lameness; lame cows average 6 fewer pounds of milk.
• Maintain a low somatic cell count (SCCC). Cows increase 2 pounds of milk with every decrease in SCCs linear score.

Know your numbers        
Feed is one cost over which you have some control, so knowing your feed benchmarks is especially crucial now, Hutjens said. On your dairy, you should know feed cost per pound of DM, feed cost per hundredweight, income over feed cost, and feed efficiency, or the ratio of pounds of 3.5% fat-corrected milk to 1 pound DM. This number shows how efficiently your herd converts feed into milk. Feed efficiency goals should be:
• Entire herd – > 1.5
• High-producing cow group – > 1.7
• High-producing heifers – > 1.5
• Low-producing cows – > 1.3
• Fresh cow group – < 1.5
      Hutjens outlined the 55-15-30 rule for a ration, which includes 55% DM from forage and 30% from concentrate. “The other 15% is yours to call, such as more forage, by-product feeds or economical grain sources” he  said.
When making changes in feed, watch cows’ response, Hutjens said. They will “talk” to you by way of milk urea nitrogen, fecal scores, DMI and other indicators. If the response is negative, you’ve made the wrong decision. Some changes you may consider:
• Balance rations using  a rumen model program in order to reach optimal levels of metabolizable protein, the proper ratio of amino acids and energy levels in the ration.
•  With high-quality forage, you can adjust forage levels in the ration to their most economical level. Try increasing corn silage levels. “Feed cost per cow per day may drop 15 to 30 cents as protein prices remain competitive,” he said.
• Review additives such as rumen buffers, yeast cultures, monensin and silage inoculants. Hutjens said he sees producers cutting back on rumen-protected amino acids, monensin and other protein supplements. True, additives will boost ration cost. But they can increase income or health improvement four-fold.
• Lower starch levels. New research shows that you can reduce starch to a 18 to 20% level, with 19 to 26% recommended. Be sure to feed more high-quality fiber, feeding sources of sugar and an ionophore.
A fecal starch analysis (cost: $10 to $20 for a sample from half-dozen cows) is useful to estimate total starch digestibility. If fecal starch is more than 5 to 6%, look at kernel processing of corn silage and processing corn grain in order to increase starch availability and cut fecal losses of starch. Corn processing can increase FCM by 2 pounds. But make sure it’s done correctly.
• Take a look at the economics of byproducts and cheaper nutrient sources such as distillers grain and corn gluten feed. Two computer programs that can compare the economics of byproducts are Feed Val from the University of Wisconsin ( and Sesame from The Ohio State University (
• Monitor weigh backs and fine-tune feed bunk management in order to minimize feed costs.
• Shift from a one-group TMR to multiple TMRs, A higher forage ration fed to low groups can save 75 cents or more per day, Hutjens said.


3/09 Farmers are engaging consumers in a new way

By Bob Stallman, President

 American Farm Bureau Federation

Seventy, 60, even 50 years ago, many Americans had a direct relationship with agriculture. Chances are, if they did not farm, they likely grew up on a farm or ranch, or they had a relative involved in agriculture in some way. Today, the average consumer is three generations removed from farming. Because of this, engaging the public in discussion about agriculture has become a major priority of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Today, communicating with consumers means that farmers and ranchers must be active in a wide range of conversations. No longer can we only reach out to traditional media such as print and broadcast outlets to help us tell the story of American agriculture.

We must go to where today’s consumers hang out – the places where they gather the bits of information they use to set the course of their lives. I’m not only talking about their food choices, but how they gather information that helps determine their opinions on topics such as agriculture’s relation to the environment and how farmers care for their animals.

Today we need to dig a little deeper. As farmers and ranchers, we need to engage consumers in a two-way conversation that includes us listening to their concerns, as well as sharing our personal stories about the ethics that drive us as caretakers and food producers. Simply educating consumers might have worked in simpler times, but not today.


Getting on the Same Wavelength

If someone would have told me three years ago that Farm Bureau would soon be communicating via blogs, Facebook, YouTube or through podcasts, I would have said, “What kind of pod?” But, as the social and technological environment changes, farmers and ranchers must be able to reach out to the public directly using tools consumers themselves use, and most importantly engage our nation’s youth who get the majority of their information from the Internet.

Most recently, the American Farm Bureau launched a Web site for consumers. The site, Your Agriculture, at, aims to talk with the non-farming public about agriculture issues, farmers and ranchers and the food, fiber and fuel they grow.

On the site, consumers have the opportunity to meet a farmer and take a tour and ask questions about his or her operation. There is also an entertaining quiz to test your farm I.Q. on points such as the nutritional value of white versus brown eggs. There is even a consumer guide to farm policy, which makes understanding the farm bill a bit more digestible.

A Pod on the Download?

The Your Agriculture Web site is the most recent effort taken by Farm Bureau to reach out to consumers. Other tools we’re using include several blogs: the FBlog at allows farmers and consumers to engage in direct dialogue with one another, while the Foodie blog at is a forum for the public to discuss the latest in food trends and the food industry.

The next time you are on Facebook, check out the American Farm Bureau Federation’s page for all the latest happenings, news and conversations about agriculture and food-related topics, such as dairy prices, food safety and stretching your food budget. And stay tuned for upcoming audio podcasts from Farm Bureau on timely issues that can be downloaded onto your mp3 player with just a click of your mouse. And if I’ve lost you at this point, ask your grandkids or kids (like I did mine). They’ll explain.

If we keep at it and stay on the same wavelength with consumers through direct dialogue, rather than monologues, more people will come to understand that we care about the same things they do: safe, healthy food produced by dedicated professionals.

Study: Colostrum replacer cuts Johne’s disease risk

An extended study tracking 497 cows on 12 commercial dairy farms proves plasma-based commercial colostrum replacer like Acquire™ can prevent transmission of Johne’s disease. 

Calves fed plasma-derived colostrum replacer had 44% less risk of being infected with the bacterium that causes Johne’s disease, according to University of Minnesota research to be published this spring. 

The study, designed by doctoral dissertation fellow Patrick Pithua of the U of M College of Veterinary Medicine, also implicated raw maternal colostrum feeding programs as a source of infection with the Johne’s disease pathogen. 

More than 68% of U.S. dairy operations were reported to be infected with this organism in 2007, according to a National Animal Health Monitoring Systems study. Johne’s disease also ranks among the most economically important diseases of cattle by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Significant in its use of multiyear field data, the U of M study demonstrated plasma colostrum replacement technology, such as APC’s Acquire colostrum replacer, was an effective management tool in herds attempting to reduce the prevalence of Johne’s disease. 

Results also highlight the risk of feeding colostrum contaminated with bacteria and viruses. Replacing maternal colostrum with commercial colostrum replacer reduces a significant route of infection in newborns.

“The USDA estimates Johne’s disease costs the dairy industry $200 million to $250 million in lost productivity each year,” said Jim Quigley, Ph.D., vice president and Director of Calf Operations for APC. “As this study proves, colostrum replacer containing Proteiva™ Functional Proteins is a clean, convenient and consistent way to ensure calves get enough immune antibodies to protect against Johne’s disease infection. 

“Using a commercial plasma-derived colostrum replacer like Acquire could save producers many times the product cost in lost milk production, early culling or poor conditioning several years from now,” Quigley said, “particularly when Johne’s is endemic in the herd.

“Most importantly, this research shows these products can reduce the spread of Johne’s disease through the herd over time, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in control costs per cow.”

The U of M clinical trial followed 497 heifer calves born in herds affected by Johne’s disease on 12 commercial Holstein dairy farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Alternately with each calf born, half were fed maternal colostrum and half, colostrum replacer, within an hour of birth. As adults, the cows were tested for the Johne’s disease infection at 30, 42 and 54 months of age.

Although Johne’s disease usually is transmitted to newborn calves, its onset does not show up until cows are at least two years old − and carriers may never show symptoms of infection. Although most producers know the basics about Johne’s disease, control efforts have been unsuccessful in preventing the widespread infection of most dairy herds. 

Acquire colostrum replacer is an easy-to-use, effective alternative to maternal colostrum, with 125 grams of globulin protein in each single-dose pouch. This complete, high quality colostrum replacer allows dairy operators to both control calf globulin protein intake and save the labor of testing each batch of maternal colostrum for inconsistent globulin protein levels.

“Newborn calves depend on adequate amounts of globulin protein for successful passive transfer, and commercial colostrum replacers are a viable alternative to make administration simpler,” Quigley said. “Feeding Acquire can simplify colostrum management and ensure that all calves receive the same consistent, high quality globulin protein every time.”


About APC Inc.

APC−an LGI Company is the recognized global leader in plasma protein fractionation and applications research for feed and industrial use. Since 1981, APC has been proud to provide customers in the ruminant, swine, companion-animal, poultry and aquaculture industries with high quality functional proteins. Its Proteiva™ Functional Proteins do more than provide overall animal nutrition; they retain biological activity after consumption to help animals reach their full potential. APC’s pioneering research on the benefits of spray-dried plasma proteins in animal diets has yielded more than 200 published peer-reviewed journal articles, and more than a dozen patents related to processing and feeding plasma proteins. For more on APC, visit

Can you afford metritis?

     Metritis can cost a large dairy herd nearly $80,000 a year in culled cows, lost milk and reproductive losses, said Michael Overton of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia and John Fetrow of the University of Minnesota, in a paper given to the 2008 Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council convention in Omaha, Nebraska.
The study found these costs for each case of  metritis:
• Culling in first 60 days in milk (DIM) – $85.
• Milk loss – $83.
• Reproductive problems – $109.
• Treatment – ranges from $53 to $109.
Depending on the treatment used, the authors estimated the cost per case to range from $358 to $386.
The average risk of metritis in a dairy herd is 10% but can run as high as 30%.
    Overton and Fetrow looked at the economics of metritis by studying a large California herd with 500 cows that were diagnosed with metritis in the first 10 DIM. They concluded that a 1,000-cow herd with a 22% incidence of metritis can lose $79,000 a year. In today’s economic climate, that makes it well worth your while to pay close attention to transition cow management.


Make the most of manure


    You can cut fertilizer costs and get the most out of your dairy manure by following these recommendations, from Karl Czymmek and Quirine Ketterings of Cornell University’s Department of Animal Science:

1. Rotate from sod to corn. Rotation breaks will give first-year corn crop a yield boost without requiring extra inputs.
Eliminate sidedress and manure nitrogen (N) on first-year corn after alfalfa or grass sods.
Test your soils. Take soil samples before manure application to see where phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are needed most. Then, prioritize fields that need N and are low to medium in P and K to take advantage of all three macronutrients in manure.
4. Eliminate starter P from corn fields that get manure and are high or very high, manure or not, in soil test P.
Know the fertilizer value of your manure. Get it tested.
Apply manure based on crop need. Because most sod N is released to the following corn crop in the first two years, third- and fourth-year corn needs the most N from other sources. Make sure you apply enough manure to these fields to satisfy N needs. Only buy fertilizer N if you are sure it is needed.
Follow Cornell guidelines for potassium. Cornell guidelines for potash are based on crop response trials and show that most of our soils have tremendous K-supplying capacity. Limited testing of K needs for alfalfa in recent years confirms a lack of a yield response if fields are high or very high in K.
Incorporate manure on the day of applying in spring to double the N value.
Request an Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test (ISNT) test for your soil samples to prioritize manure and fertilizer use.  The ISNT can help identify fields that do not need manure or sidedress N.
Reduce or eliminate starter fertilizer on corn fields that receive generous amounts of manure.
    For more information, see the Agronomy Factsheet Series on the Nutrient Management Spear Program website: