Archive for April, 2009

5/09 Promotion: dairy tells its story online

 

Dairy checkoff launches myDairy social media program

By Billy Travis

Over the past few months, we’ve all been hearing more about some new ways to communicate on the Internet. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are only a few. For someone like me who avoids the computer outside of running my farm business, it’s a whole new language. 

Billy Travis is a Kentucky dairy producer, National Dairy Board member and chair of Dairy Management Inc.’s Producer and Industry Relations Committee.

Billy Travis is a Kentucky dairy producer, National Dairy Board member and chair of Dairy Management Inc.’s Producer and Industry Relations Committee.

Yet, nearly 60% of Americans younger than 30 say they obtain most of their national and international news online. The new way of communicating, especially among our future dairy consumers, is through the Internet. Social media has power: 

• 112 million bloggers

• 3 billion photos on Flickr, a web site that allows browsers to post photos and other images 

• 140 million users on Facebook, a social networking website

• 30 million LinkedIn users, a business professional networking website

• 13 hours of video uploaded every minute of every day to YouTube 

Market research indicates that currently more than 373 million people use social media. That number is expected to grow to 1 billion globally by 2012. Social media is increasingly influencing pop culture, meaning that it also influences how the public perceives dairy products, dairy producers and milk production. And, with less than 2% of the U.S. population involved in farming today, many people don’t have the opportunity to visit a dairy farm in order to learn firsthand how we produce safe, wholesome and nutritious milk and dairy products. That’s an important reason why social media needs to be on our radar. 

Dairy producers, through our checkoff investment, have launched a new initiative to help us tell our story through “myDairy,” a social media initiative that kicked off with two webinars (web-based meetings) that attracted more than 350 dairy producers, dairy collegiate students and other industry representatives.

Create dairy industry “moovement” online

The dairy checkoff’s social media program, myDairy, aims to deliver positive information about dairy farms and milk production to millions of consumers by helping producers and other industry advocates who use online communication tools to connect directly with consumers online. By mobilizing dairy producers, experts and other enthusiasts who already spend time online, dairy can develop a network of social media-savvy advocates to tell the dairy industry’s story, and reinforce and build its positive image among the public. 

Another compelling reason to establish a strong, positive presence online for dairy is that today, more than ever before, many individuals, groups and organizations have negative, uninformed or inaccurate opinions about modern dairy farming. These anti-dairy forces are actively and effectively using social media to share their point of view with a wide public audience. 

Bottom line, social media matters to our current and future consumers, and to the future of the dairy industry. 

As part of the myDairy strategy, the dairy checkoff has launched a comprehensive program that includes: online monitoring of websites, blogs and other online commentary; marketing of the producer-funded website dairyfarmingtoday.org on YouTube, Facebook and Flickr; and a password-protected toolkit to support dairy advocates who tell their story online. 

The myDairy toolkit is a great resource for those who want to tell dairy’s great story of how we care for our animals, land and water to provide safe, wholesome and nutritious dairy products. The toolkit includes: 

• Tips on how to use social media to share positive dairy experiences online 

• Ways to set up and maintain a blog and other social media

• A secure blog for dairy advocates to share their social media experiences 

• Consumer-tested messages to help ensure that the industry speaks with one voice when talking with the general public about modern dairy farming 

• Information about emerging online services and trends 

• Tools to respond to online discussions 

Dairy advocates can post questions to dairy checkoff staff for help in responding to consumer questions. One Minnesota producer who started her own personal blog following the myDairy webinar said that “it’s funny that, when writing about the farm, how a farmer would understand something varies so differently from how a consumer would think about it … The toolkit provides great tips for making videos on-farm and taking photos … I’m excited to be a part of it.” 

This excitement is building – and we all have a role to play. Even if you’re like me and the social media movement has passed you by, tell your children, grandchildren and other family and friends out the myDairy program – and have them help spread the word. 

It’s as simple as an e-mail. Contact mydairy@rosedmi.com for more information and get started telling your story. 

 

Climate control: Keep cows productive year-round

Year-round cow comfort is essential for milk production. Maintaining steady temperatures and proper ventilation not only increases total production throughout a cow’s lactation cycle, but will help maintain peak production regardless of the season, resulting in increased profitability. HVLS (high volume, low speed) fan technology uses the concept of uniform air movement to create a natural environment for dairy and other livestock-housing facilities in an amazingly quiet, energy-efficient and cost-effective way.

 

Year-round cow comfort is essential for milk production. Maintaining steady temperatures and proper ventilation not only increases total production throughout a cow’s lactation cycle, but will help maintain peak production regardless of the season, resulting in increased profitability.

Year-round cow comfort is essential for milk production. Maintaining steady temperatures and proper ventilation not only increases total production throughout a cow’s lactation cycle, but will help maintain peak production regardless of the season, resulting in increased profitability.

It’s routine for dairy producers to consider turning on their cooling fans only when the temperature humidity index (THI) begins to rise in warmer weather, which makes sense when the cost of operating numerous high speed fans carries a severe economic impact.  With current milk prices low, all variable input costs and consequential returns have to be closely monitored.

 

As a cost-effective alternative, HVLS fans are specifically designed so fan speeds and air velocities can be adjusted as needed. Constant air circulation provides the much-needed air movement to help transition milk cows year-round despite seasonal changes and provides optimal cooling during the hottest months.  Compared to traditional on/off high speed fans, the variable speed control on HVLS fans allow the user total management of cow comfort needs.

From a technical perspective, HVLS fans, ranging in size from 6- to 24-ft. in diameter, operate using a small 1 to 2 horsepower motor and specially designed airfoils with winglets created to move air effectively and evenly. The deep steady jets of air and their extensive reach combine to move air over obstacles, providing comfort to all areas of the barn.  More recent developments of this technology allows these very large fans to virtually eliminate EMI and RFI (electromagnetic and radio frequency interference) “noise” prevalent in older technology (and still used by some), thus causing no interference with electronic identification and robotic milking systems. Other benefits include the reduction of flies and birds, drier alleys and reduced bacteria counts.

It’s important to note that air movement and increased ventilation should not be limited to summer use, but rather be incorporated year-round to maintain air quality and even temperatures.  During cooler months reducing the velocities of HVLS fans will continue to improve air quality but will not cause wind chill.

By improving herd health, dairymen not only maintain production through lactation cycles but may also increase total lactations per cow.  Additionally, reducing the speed of HVLS fans during cooler months allows producers to stratify the warm air created by body heat released from cattle.  

With their small motors, immense coverage area and effective air movement, HVLS fans cost only pennies-per-hour to operate which is a negligible amount compared to the extraordinary costs of cooling using ineffective high speed fans. HVLS fans make cow comfort easily attainable year-round without affecting the bottom line.

NCBA criticizes FDA decision on feed ban

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) criticized a decision by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to proceed with implementation of a new feed ban on April 27, 2009, despite numerous objections from farmers, ranchers, states, and members of Congress.

“This decision is extremely disappointing,” says Dr. Elizabeth Parker, Chief Veterinarian for NCBA. “By going ahead with implementation of this unnecessary ban, the FDA is ignoring the substantial costs and environmental burdens it imposes on America’s cattle producers.” 

For years, the livestock industry has made it clear to FDA and the Administration that this rule would exacerbate the problems producers are already facing regarding carcass disposal. 

In fact, as early as December 2008, NCBA and producers across the country began voicing concerns about increased costs and disposal issues as many renderers discontinued their services in anticipation of this ban. “Unless FDA provides solutions for these problems, delaying the compliance date is an empty gesture,” says Parker. 

FDA is establishing a compliance date of October 26, 2009 to give renderers additional time to comply with the new regulations and allow producers more time to identify appropriate methods of disposal. However, they have not provided any means to resolve the disposal issues created by the rule. 

“This amounts to an unfunded mandate,” Parker continues. “FDA has acknowledged that this rule creates tremendous disposal issues for producers, yet they have not identified any viable solutions to that problem. Moving forward with implementation without addressing these concerns is irresponsible.” 

In a pre-publication of the final rule, FDA said that, “the underlying bases for these new measures were fully considered through the notice and rulemaking process.”  Yet the FDA never completed a risk assessment to determine the costs and benefits of the new feed ban. 

“The rule creates significant costs and environmental problems, and has no demonstrable benefit,” Parker explains. “Our existing feed ban has proven highly successful in limiting bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the U.S. herd.”

Since 1997, the U.S. has prohibited ruminant feed from including parts of other ruminants. This proactive “ruminant to ruminant” feed ban, combined with other government and industry safeguards, is responsible for the extremely low level risk of BSE in the U.S. This was confirmed by years of robust USDA surveillance and reaffirmed by the U.S. “BSE Controlled Risk” designation by the OIE, the international animal health standard setting body.

 

Wisconsin Farm Bureau: FDA moving too fast

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation was among groups requesting a 60-day delay in the effective date of the rule, saying more time was needed to evaluate unintended consequences.

“It’s estimated that farmers will be charged between $100 and $150 per animal to have a rendering company pick up their animals,” reads the letter from Jeff Lyon, Farm Bureau’s director of governmental relations.  “In addition, rendering companies will have the increased burden of trying to determine the exact of age of animals which is difficult to do.” 

“With nearly 1.3 million milk cows in Wisconsin, we are concerned about the adverse effect the rule will have on the Wisconsin dairy industry and our rendering industry,” the letter continues.  “With a 6% annual death loss (national average), there will be nearly 80,000 animals annually in Wisconsin that will need to be disposed of from our nearly 14,000 dairy farms.”

WFBF believes that rendering is the best way to dispose of dead animals, and that Wisconsin is fortunate to have a relatively strong rendering industry with a selection of vendors for farmers to choose from. 

“The increased cost to farmers will cause many of them to not utilize rendering companies and dispose of their animals on the farm which has the potential to adversely effect the environment for the long term,” reads the letter.  “In addition, if dairy farmers are not using rendering companies, the cost for the pickup of other livestock will also increase because of more distance between stops.”

Farm Bureau also contends the risk factors for BSE are overstated and need to be more fully evaluated before the rule takes effective.

Since BSE was discovered in the United States, nearly 900,000 tests have been conducted since June 1, 2004 (more than 100,000 in Wisconsin) to determine whether BSE is an issue in the United States.  To date, only two animals have tested positive for BSE under the program and both cases were in animals born before the United States banned the practice of feeding recycled ruminant protein to other ruminants. 

“It appears that FDA is trying to get to absolute zero, when in fact we are nearly there,” read the letter.

WFBF supports strengthening the ruminant feed ban in order to eliminate possible loopholes that might allow specified risk materials (SRM) to reach ruminants through misfeeding or cross-contamination.  Better labeling, which is not part of the rule, would help farmers with compliance.  Due to negligible chance of discovering BSE, WFBF believes that SRM could be included in pet food without a significant health risk.

Hoof care vital under any economic condition

When it comes to dairy management, hoof care often gets set aside on many operations. However, proper hoof health and reduced lameness have proven over time to be a valuable investment for producers.

Paul Windschitl, Hubbard Feeds dairy nutritionist, says, “By maintaining proper hoof health, producers can reduce their chances of mastitis, cow injury and reproduction problems. Producers should make hoof care a top priority in the herd.”

Windschitl offers the following recommendations for producers to ensure proper hoof care.

Hoof health recomendations

  • Routine hoof trimming should be implemented through the herd. When trimming, it is important to balance the hooves, trim them evenly and flat and not over-trim.
  • Comfortable, free-stalls are important to prevent laminitis due to excessive standing time.
  • Locomotion scoring should take place regularly to indicate and diagnose lameness issues. Workers should also watch for cows lying down often or not getting up to eat when feed is available.
  • Proper nutrition and adequate fiber are vital parts to hoof health and preventing laminitis problems. If fiber in the diet is off or if the cows are not getting adequate feed, hoof health and milk production are affected. Additives such as biotin and Zinpro® are also recommended.
  • All cows should go through foot baths 3-4 days per week to help ensure hoof care. Proper foot bath requirements include:
    • 8 – 10 feet long, 3 feet wide and approximately 5 inches deep
    • Baths should be changed approximately every 200 cows
    • After going through the foot bath, cows should enter a clean, dry area
  • Producers should work with their veterinarian or nutritionist to design a hoof care plan fit for their operation.

 

Management changes reduced Johne’s disease incidence

by T.S. Gatz

A six-year demonstration herd project involving nine Wisconsin dairies shows dairy producers who change husbandry significantly—and do it well—can lower the rate of Johne’s disease infection in their herd. At the conclusion of the trial, the rate of infection moved from a 9.8% average across the nine trial herds to just 3.2%.

The project focused primarily on two simple steps: hygiene and testing. The hygiene component included just four “to do” items:

1) prompt calf removal from the cow;

2) feed high-quality colostrums from a test-negative cow;

3) feed pasteurized milk until weaning; and

4) implement a hygienic rearing system that has feed and water free from manure contamination. The testing part of the project involved testing all cows once in each lactation, labeling ELISA-positive or “suspect” cows and using separate maternity pens for ELISA-negative cows.

Dairy producers Mark Breunig, A-OK Farms, Sheboygan Falls, Wis.; Chuck Ripp, Ripp’s Dairy Valley LLC; Ken Verhasselt, Verhasselt Farms, Kaukauna, Wis.; and Harvey and Jackie Mess, Lawn View Farm, Norwalk, Wis., were among the nine Wisconsin herds involved in the field trial. All four agree that the management practices undertaken on their dairies proved to be wise investments of time, labor and dollars.

“Before the field trial, we thought we could visually see the cows that were infected with Johne’s, but we learned that we couldn’t,” Ken Verhasselt stated. “And, while it was hard to sell the strong-positive cows and a big challenge segregating our newborn calves, both of these changes in management proved to be smart moves.”

Chuck Ripp said, in addition to identifying and culling strong-positive cows, the “best” management move his dairy made during the field trial was switching to giving newborn calves colostrum from negative-test cows. He emphasized that it’s the little things that can make the big difference in lessening Johne’s in a herd.

Dairy producer Mark Bruening saw his within-herd incidence of Johne’s move from 13 percent positive to less than 3%. This improvement, he said, traced to numerous management changes that also spread over to other areas of improved herd health. “And we learned that good animal husbandry practices make everything go easier,” Bruening summarized. 

Lawn View Farm, owned by Harvey and Jackie Mess of Norwalk, Wis., called the learning about Johne’s and implementing management changes a “life-saving program.” “Our milk check is bigger, our cows are healthier, and we’re in this business for the long haul. Our goal now is to share our story and help other producers get serious about controlling Johne’s disease. We’re living proof that a control program is both possible. . .and affordable.”

To learn more about results of this demonstration herd project—and each participating herd owner’s perspective on the project and Johne’s disease control in general, please go online to www.johnesdisease.org where the 29-page document “Healthy Cows-unabridged” is available. Simply click on the “Educational Material” tab at the top of the web page, followed by a click on “Healthy Cows unabridged.” The document is presented in printable pdf form and includes a handy “Preventing Infectious Disease or Pathogens on Your Dairy Farm” sheet. The “Educational Material” tab offers additional material such as “Raising Calves. . .The 5 C’s of a Healthy Start,”  a Johne’s testing brochure, a Johne’s prevention and control brochure for dairies and a Johne’s prevention and control brochure for beef producers.

The six-year demonstration herd project was headed by Dr. Michael Collins of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, with Dr. Vic Eggleston of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine as project manager.  

Financial support for the field trial came from USDA-APHIS-Veterinary Services, the University of Wisconsin Industrial and Economic Development Research Fund, the Wisconsin Agriculture Experiment Station, the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and the nine cooperating dairy producers who paid for the required management changes on their farms and the sample collection from all of their cows for the six years of the project.

Study finds dairy industry gained no long-term sales or competitive advantage from rbST-free milk

 

Only 8%-12% of consumers are concerned enough to change purchasing or consumption behavior

A research report just released1 concludes that the dairy industry’s shift to recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST)-free milk was an overly quick response to a problem that seemed bigger than it was in reality. Study findings suggest that although only 8% to 12% of consumers were concerned enough about rbST to change purchasing or consumption behaviors, milk-processing companies instead opted to forgo giving consumers a choice, and adopted rbST-free policies without adequate analytical assessment for fear of losing retail accounts to competitors who had already made such a move. In addition, according to the report, most industry executives who were interviewed said that given the same situation, they would not make the same decision again.

“The circumstances that led executives to make the shift to sourcing milk from non-rbST-supplemented cows are understandable – however, the outcome is questionable,” said Tom Nagle Jr., principal author of the report. “Since the milk business is a commodity business, clear points of product differentiation are difficult to come by, but once identified, rather quickly adopted by others. rbST-free differentiation is particularly challenging as all milk – organic, conventional and rbST-free – contains bST, a naturally occurring protein hormone that enables adult cows to produce more milk. The executives we interviewed said that, unfortunately, their companies have not realized any long-term sales or competitive advantage by making the switch.”

The study, which was conducted by Statler Nagle LLC of Washington, D.C., included interviews with 10 senior executives at milk-processing companies, as well as a review and analysis of more than 15 consumer studies. Based on both primary and secondary research, Statler Nagle determined the outcome of the shift to “rbST-free milk” to be questionable in terms of business results and consumer response.

No benefit for businesses, little desire from consumers

In the survey, milk processors reported that total milk sales seem to have experienced no discernable “sales bump” from the changeover, which should have occurred had there been a significant group of consumers who were reducing or eliminating milk consumption because of concerns about hormones. This is explained by a quantitative research review, which shows that no more than 15%, and as few as 8% to 12%, of consumers are concerned enough about the issue to change their purchasing or consumption behaviors. Further, out of that 8% to 12%, one-third to one-half already satisfy this preference by purchasing organic milk.

From 2004 through 2008, research showed that mothers’ beliefs about the healthfulness of milk remained stable at very high levels. This is a critical observation, because this was the same time period when reports of consumer concern were being felt by retailers and processors alike. Quantitative measures suggest that these reports either were not true or represented a segment too small to affect national survey ratings.

For processors, retailers and consumers, the downside of the full changeover to milk from non-rbST-supplemented cows is that the underlying cost of milk is increased, regardless of whether a direct premium is charged for that milk supply.

A value-added approach offers more

There is strong evidence that an rbST-free, value-added tier – rather than a full changeover – would have had excellent potential to satisfy the limited consumer demand for such a product, while keeping the majority of the milk supply available at a lower cost and addressing consumer preference for the ability to choose.

“Interviews with executives in markets that currently have, or previously had, a third tier of rbST-free products, along with conventional-milk products, saw positive outcomes,” said Nagle. “This option now has been largely abandoned due to the series of decisions to eliminate the ability to use rbST. This seems to represent a significant lost business opportunity.”

Finally, many survey respondents expressed personal and professional regret that a precedent had been established to take a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved, safe technology – an innovation that had delivered higher efficiency and lower costs to the entire value chain, from farmers to consumers – “off the table” without any scientific evidence of negative health consequences. This seemed, to most respondents, to be an unfortunate precedent that could have greater consequences for many different foods over time.

“Our report is not an attempt to repeat the substantial argumentation for or against the use of rbST or other productivity innovations, but it can serve as a lesson for industry decision makers,” said Nagle. “Gathering substantially more input before making such a massive change is the best way to prevent changes that will affect, but not necessarily benefit, the industry and its customers. The alternative is to accept higher costs while setting precedent for giving up sound, safe technologies without sound science to prove the need.”

About Statler Nagle

Statler Nagle, LLC is a unique marketing resource, located in Washington D.C. The firm was founded in 2007 by two national leaders in the field of generic and industry marketing. Architects of the universally recognized “Got Milk?” and “Plastics Make it Possible” campaigns, Tom Nagle and Jean Statler are sought after for their counsel on creating, building, measuring and evaluating industry marketing programs. Their demonstrated success has been built from years of experience, and strong, enduring client relationships. Taken together, Statler and Nagle’s talents combine to form a formidable consulting resource: part marketing guru, part Washington operative and part market research data geek.

# # #

1 “An Understandable Path to a Questionable Outcome,” A Report on the Experience of the Fluid Milk Industry’s Widespread Shift to an “rbST-Free” Milk Supply. Tom Nagle Jr. April 20, 2009. Report commissioned by Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly and Company, and the maker of Posilac®.

California dairy families committed to continuing strong air quality practices despite district suspension of rules

California’s dairy families are committed to “continue our role in enhancing air quality in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Western United  Dairymen President Ray Souza, following a court order that will force the San Joaquin Valley Air District to suspend critical dairy air quality rules.  “This is not a responsibility that dairy families will shy away from. We are proud of the role that we play, along with our fellow Californians, in making our state a better place to live.”

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District announced this week that it will suspend in May Rule 4570 that regulates emissions from dairies and other confined animal facilities after a court ruled that the district did not sufficiently address the public health impact of the rule. The district’s governing board will hear at its regular May meeting a staff recommendation to set aside the rule’s enforcement until the health study has been completed. The Fifth Appellate District Court ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed in July 2006 by the Association of Irritated Residents (AIR) challenging the rule on a number of substantive issues and one procedural matter regarding the adequacy of the staff report on the public health impact. The court found against AIR on all of the substantive issues raised in the suit. WUD had intervened in the case on behalf of California dairy families.

Rule 4570 (Confined Animal Facilities) covers about two-thirds of the confined animals in the air basin. Adopted in June 2006, it requires affected facilities to use waste and feed management practices to reduce the release of contaminants – - VOCs, ammonia and methane. It also calls for compliance testing, sets up a compliance schedule, and establishes recordkeeping requirements for all facilities.

In a press release issued by the air district, Seyed Sadredin, the district’s executive director and air pollution control officer, said, “We are disappointed that Bay Area attorneys representing AIR rejected our proposal to leave the rule in place and continue the progress that we have made in significantly reducing dairy emissions. Setting the rule aside at the peak of the Valley’s ozone season is not in the best interest of the Valley residents.”  

WUD’s field staff and environmental staff will “continue to work with our members to help with their continued compliance with these regulations,” said CEO Michael Marsh. “Dairy producers have made great strides, at a considerable financial cost, in implementing these regulations. They will continue to rely on science-based approaches to these complex and critical air quality issues. Our members are not about to walk away from the responsible, thoughtful approach they have taken to solving our valley’s air quality problems.” 

The district has prepared a draft health assessment that is available for public review and comment. District staff will recommend at the May board meeting that the rule’s enforcement be suspended until the health study is completed. The board will then consider the health study at its June meeting and decide whether to re-adopt the rule in its original form or to direct staff to being the public process for amending the rule.   

WUD is a voluntary membership organization representing more than 60% of the milk produced in California. Membership benefits include resources in labor law, environmental regulations and pricing issues. Members decide the direction of state and federal legislative efforts affecting the dairy industry.

 

Software tool can help dairy producers manage feed costs

With more livestock feedstuffs than corn and soybean grains available to Ohio dairy producers, finding the bargains while managing a balanced diet can be a challenge. As the industry faces a dire economic situation, an Ohio State University computer software program is available to help alleviate some unnecessary management costs.
    SESAME, a Windows-based program created by Ohio State animal scientists, estimates the break-even prices of up to 140 types of feedstuffs based on their nutrient content — metabolizable energy (ME), rumen degradable protein (RDP), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), etc. — according to current market prices.
    Normand St-Pierre, software developer and an OSU Extension dairy management specialist, said the software could be used to help producers determine which feedstuffs are bargains and which are overpriced.
    ”There has been so much more visibility in the last six months with feedstuffs and their costs because of the economy,” St-Pierre said. “The good news: prices of most feeds have fallen from their highs of last summer. The bad news: milk prices have fallen much faster than feed prices. The result: the worst economic situation in the U.S. dairy industry I have ever seen.”
    St-Pierre uses SESAME on a monthly basis to estimate break-even prices of all major commodities traded in Ohio, and to identify feedstuffs that currently are significantly underpriced. For example, some feedstuffs currently considered as bargains include: soybean meal, ground shelled corn, blood meal, wet brewers grains, dried distillers grains, feather meal, gluten feed and hominy. Overpriced feedstuffs include: bakery byproducts, beet pulp, canola meal, fish meal, molasses, soybean hulls and roasted soybeans. Feeds breaking even include: alfalfa hay, corn silage, whole cottonseed, tallow, wheat bran and wheat middlings.
    ”Producers think that ruminants need corn and soybeans, and they don’t, as long as the proper nutritional requirements are met,” St-Pierre said. “Beef and dairy cattle have a tremendous ability to use a large diversity of feed. Producers must remember, though, that it does not mean they can formulate a balanced diet using only feeds in the bargain column.
    ”Feeds in the bargain column offer savings opportunities, but their usage should be maximized within the limits of a properly balanced diet.”
    In addition, there are reasons that a feed might be a very good fit in a feeding program while not appearing to be a bargain, he said.
    ”For example, molasses is often used to reduce ingredient separation in total mixed ration,” St-Pierre said. “Molasses is also an excellent source of sugars. Some nutritionists balance rations for sugars. In those situations, molasses might not be at all overpriced.”
    Dairy producers can find the latest nutritional information and feedstuffs costs in OSU Extension’s dairy newsletter at http://dairy.osu.edu, by clicking on “Buckeye Dairy News.”
    The latest version of SESAME can be downloaded at http://www.sesamesoft.com. Users can try the software for free for seven days, after which the cost to register the program is $99.95. There is a version for users in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and another version for other international users.
    St-Pierre will offer a SESAME workshop at the Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference. The event will be held April 21-22 at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. For more information, visit http://tristatedairy.osu.edu/ .
    For more information, contact St-Pierre at 614-292-6507 or st-pierre.8@osu.edu.

Stress and more: dealing with being down

By Susan Harlow, editor
Eastern DairyBusiness

These are undeniably stressful times for farmers.
Not every farm family undergoes stress in traumatic economic times, nor is stress necessarily bad. “What for one family may be a catastrophic event may be a minor setback for another,” said Randy Weigel, Extension specialist at the University of Wyoming, in a conference call sponsored by the Center for Dairy Excellence.
Yet suicide and help hotlines report sharp upticks in usage, Weigel said.
Ranchers and producers in hard times may respond in one of three, increasingly serious, ways: stress, depression or suicidal thinking. They’re not caused only by financial crises, but by any disaster. High Plains ranchers, for instance, have suffered under several blizzards during spring calving season. In fact, farming is one of the top 12 occupations with stress-related experiences, Weigel said.
Stress can deplete your energy, affect your relationships with others and cause illnesses such as ulcers, Weigel said.
(Farm and Ranch Family Stress and Depression: A Checklist and Guide for Making Referrals may be found at:
http://ces.uwyo.edu/LIFE/Ranchers_reacting_to_disaster.htm)
Some signs of depression that producers may show include:
• Change in routine, such as not going to church or dropping 4-H.
• A rise in illnesses such as colds.
• A decline in farmstead’s appearance.
• A decline in the quality and care of livestock.
• More farm accidents.
• Children who also show signs of stress, such as problems in school.
In fact, children are often the first to show signs of crisis in a family, Weigel said. Studies of Iowa farm families in the 1980s showed that financial stress led to marital conflict and a resulting decline in quality of parenting. Children can lose hope, become isolated and afraid of divorce, homelessness or violence. Younger children may have temper tantrums or cling to their parents; school-age children suffer academically, have problems sleeping and may be sullen and defiant. Adolescents may drink or use drugs and neglect their appearance.
That’s why it’s so important to maintain a strong relationship with your spouse, if you’re married. Keep lines of communication and be willing to ask for help, Weigel said. Your children need you.

 

 Depression is a serious mental illness, a persistent mood disorder that may range from mild to severe and affects 10% of Americans. And 50 to 65% of those cases go untreated, even though depression is a highly treatable illness, Weigel pointed out. Untreated, though, depression may lead to suicide.
Some signs of depression:

• A sad mood, loss of pleasure in normal activities, changes in appetite, difficulties sleeping, lethargy and suicidal thoughts.

But remember, Weigel said, these symptoms may also have other causes, such as changes in medication.

Male depression is especially complex, because men’s sense of self worth is often tied to their ability to provide. “We need to make men feel needed as people, not just wallets. Men are more likely to commit suicide when their wallets are empty,” he said.
Although women are more likely to attempt suicide
, men are four times as likely to succeed, Weigel said. A potent combination for suicide is a mental condition combined with feelings of extreme helplessness. Indications that someone may be considering killing themselves are:
• Withdrawing from family and friends
• Loss of interest in everyday life, such as animals
• Talking about suicide
• Substance abuse
• Changes in mood; rage
• Making arrangements
   How should you respond to someone who appears suicidal? Weigel said to take your concerns seriously. Be direct but nonjudgmental .Stop by; be willing to listen. Get help if it seems urgent. Weigel recommended several resources, among them the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-SUICIDEOr go to: http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 Many land-grant universities are also offering help for farmers under stress. They include:
• Colorado State Extension: Anger, managing stress, living through transitions

http://ext.colostate.edu/pubs/pubs.html#consumer 

•North Carolina State Extension: Family communication

http://ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/Family.html 

•University of Minnesota Extension: Taking care of self

http://www.extension.umn.edu/ResourceManagement/toughtimes.html.

•North Carolina State Extension: Recovering from disaster

http://ces.ncsu.edu/disaster/factsheets/stress.html 

For more resources, contact Weigel at 307-766-4186  weig@uwyo.edu. Or the Center for Dairy Excellence at 717-346-0849. Or www.centerfordairyexcellence.org

OSU Extension fact sheets address dairy management issues

    ”Reducing costs to improve short-term cash flow” is the theme of a series of Ohio State University Dairy Issue Briefs launched by OSU Extension’s Dairy Working Group to aid livestock producers facing critical economic issues.
    ”Plummeting prices in the dairy industry are creating critical cash-flow and long-term survivability issues on Ohio’s 3,328 dairy farms,” said Dianne Shoemaker, OSU Extension dairy specialist. “Cost-cutting decisions must be made with full awareness of both short and long-term production and economic consequences.”
    Through a series of 26 Dairy Issue Briefs, OSU Extension’s Dairy Working Group is addressing five key areas impacting Ohio dairy producers: nutrition, crop and feed costs, reproduction and health, calf and heifer management, business issues, and people and stress management.
    So far, nine briefs have been completed. They include:
    * Information on using corn silage in dairy cattle diets to reduce cash feed costs.
    * Tips on re-evaluating the culling policy when lactating cows may no longer be profitable.
    * Changing from a confinement system to a grazing system to potentially reduce short-term costs.
    * Lowering feed costs in management intensive grazing systems.
    * Exploring the option of removing additives from the diet to reduce short-term costs.
    * Evaluating whether dollars should be spent for silage crop inoculants.
    * Determining if weaning calves earlier would save a significant amount of money.
    * Observing signs of stress and depression among farm family members.
    * Information on the status of dairy exports.
    OSU Extension educators, College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Science specialists, and researchers with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center author the briefs.
    The completed briefs, as well as future briefs, can be found at http://dairy.osu.edu, or by contacting Dianne Shoemaker at 330-263-3799 orshoemaker.3@osu.edu.

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