Archive for September, 2009

Panel finds no evidence of links between drinking milk from cows supplemented with rbST and human health risks 

Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly and Co.,  announced an independent panel of physicians, nutritionists and animal scientists has completed a thorough review of the research and published a summary paper addressing scientific issues relevant to recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST), the supplement approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for increasing milk production in lactating dairy cows. Led by Richard Raymond, M.D., former undersecretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and former chief medical officer of Nebraska, the panel addressed questions and concerns on rbST pertaining to general biology, human health and animal health, nutritional content, environmental impact and milk quality.

The paper is the first comprehensive review and compilation of scientific data since the initial documentation was provided to the FDA in support of the approval of rbST. The paper was presented at the 2009 Joint Meeting of American Dairy Science Association® (ADSA), Canadian Society of Animal Science (CSAS) and American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) in Montreal, Canada.

“Upon extensive review of the scientific data, particularly the data on human health, the panel concludes with confidence that milk from rbST-supplemented cows, like all milk – organic, conventional or rbST-free – is a good and wholesome source of vital nutrients,” said Dr. Raymond. “In addition, contrary to some claims, there is no scientific link between drinking milk from cows supplemented with rbST and any human health issues, including the decline in age of puberty and the risk of breast cancer.”

The safety of milk and meat from cows supplemented with rbST has been comprehensively and consistently documented. Specific to human safety, regulatory authorities, together with their scientific assessment bodies, in 56 countries, including Australia, Canada, European Union member states, South Korea and the United States, have determined that milk and meat products from cows supplemented with rbST are safe for consumption by people of all ages.1,2,3,4 In addition, scientific bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have reached the same conclusions. Furthermore, all major global dairy markets have no restrictions on the import of dairy products from rbST-supplemented cows.

“One of the myths about rbST percolating in the public is that drinking milk from rbST-supplemented cows causes breast cancer. This is false as the evidence does not support any cause and effect, and the actual rate of breast cancer in women in the United States has been declining in recent years,” said David Clemmons, M.D., Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “In fact, in 75 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, there are no known risk factors other than age and living in Western society.”

Ronald Kleinman, M.D., Charles Wilder Professor of Pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School, added: “The public should know that bST, by nature, is a major regulator of milk production in lactating dairy cows. Also, hormones are naturally present in foods consumed by humans, regardless of whether they are sourced from animals or plants. Dairy products are natural, nutritious foods and science has shown that milk from rbST-supplemented cows is indistinguishable from organic or rbST-free milk. In fact, conventional milk has the same levels of hormones and nutrient composition as milk labeled as rbST-free or organic.”

The FAO has stated that within 50 years, as the world’s population continues to grow exponentially, global food needs will have increased by 100 percent, of which 70 percent of that increase will have to come from improved agricultural efficiencies and advances since there is not enough water, land and natural resources to meet these food needs. 5,6,7 rbST is one example of the kinds of efficient food production practices that will help feed the world.

Members of the rbST expert paper panel include:
• Richard Raymond, M.D., former undersecretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
• Connie W. Bales, Ph.D., R.D., associate research professor in the Department of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center
• Dale Bauman, Ph.D., Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Animal Science and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University
• David Clemmons, M.D., professor of Medicine and Biochemistry at the University of North Carolina
• Ronald Kleinman, M.D., Charles Wilder Professor of Pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School
• Dante Lanna, Ph.D., professor of Biotechnology and Animal Metabolism at University of São Paulo
• Stephen Nickerson, Ph.D., professor of Lactation Physiology at the University of Georgia
• Kristen Sejrsen, Ph.D., associate professor at Aarhus University, College of Agricultural Sciences

In March and April 2009, the expert panel assembled for two meetings, chaired by Dr. Raymond and sponsored by Elanco, during which the expert paper was independently developed by these experts.

Additional information about Elanco is available at www.elanco.com.

# # #

Click here to view the expert paper.


Marketing: Develop a corn strategy

By Matt Mattke

After having dealt with $4.50 to $8.00 corn over the past year, a $3.25 price likely looks more than just a little bit attractive to the majority of dairy producers out there. And especially with price risks remaining due to the corn crop being a couple weeks behind in development, it may be very tempting for a producer to lock in a $3.25 price for the next twelve months and be done with it.

With the horrible milk prices producers have had to endure over the past nine months, we believe a more strategic approach needs to be implemented when pricing this year’s corn feed. If corn continues to fall and goes from $3.25 to $2.25 that is a lower cost that the majority of producers cannot afford to miss out on. While fundamental chatter such as a weak US Dollar and frost risk could suggest corn prices are at a low, we see the technical chatter on the charts painting a different picture.

First, intermediate and long-term technical indicators we monitor remain bearish and suggest further downside in corn. Second, chart ‘A’ below shows how every bull market that has taken corn above the $3.00 level has resulted in a subsequent bear market that has taken corn back to $2.25. If milk prices can go from $21.00 to $9.00, corn can definitely go from $8.00 to $2.25.

While we see the corn charts pointing towards the $2.25 level these are still extremely volatile markets, and developments could occur that could reverse the current trend. Thus, here is a strategic way to approach pricing your feed corn for this year.

The first step is to pick an ideal purchase target; we’ve chosen $2.25. Next, pick a safety target or “stop” above the current market price.  This price should be a price level that is above downtrend resistance on the charts, and should be a price level that corn should not reach unless the trend is changing from lower to higher.

In chart “B” downtrend resistance off of the June and August highs is our safety stop and it comes in at the $3.48 price level.  So as long as the corn price is below $3.48 we are going to aim for the $2.25 target to buy the next twelve months. However, if the corn price is able to break through that $3.48 downtrend resistance then the trend could be changing and higher prices could be coming down the road. So if the corn price closes over $3.48 before hitting $2.25 then corn needs to be purchased. At that point the next step in the decision process would be does this purchase need to be covered with put options?

Overall, a strategic approach to purchasing corn is to have a Plan A, while also having a Plan B to fall back on in case the market doesn’t offer the opportunity originally sought.

FYI

Matt Mattke

Stewart-Peterson Market360® Adviser

E-mail: mmattke@stewart-peterson.com

Phone: 800-334-9779

Web site: www.stewart-peterson.com

oct09article_A

oct09article_B

Production Pointers: Genetics/replacements

Genetics/replacements

Sept. 28, 2009

‘Healthy Heifer’ program launched

Novartis Animal Health announces the introduction of Healthy Heifer™, a new heifer management program designed specifically to maximize the long-term value of dairy replacement heifers through established health and management protocols. The veterinarian-verified management program  – which emphasizes prevention, rather than treatment – works to ensure heifers are well-prepared for a highly productive and profitable role on the dairy. To learn more, visit http://dairywebmall.com/dbcpress/?p=4207 or www.healthyheifer.com.

Gold Standards: DCHA offers tips

The Dairy Calf & Heifer Association (DCHA) created ‘Gold Standards’ to outline production and performance expectations in six categories for Holstein calves from birth to six months of age. The standards were developed by a team of producers, contract growers, consultants and industry representatives who surveyed producers, DCHA members and university specialists across the United States.

Gold Standard V: Mortality & Morbidity

Mortality

The Gold Standards state that it is understood that some calves are born with a heartbeat and breathing, yet die not long after birth; therefore the age of 24 hours shall be used to distinguish between “dead-on-arrival” (stillbirth) and “calf mortality.”

All newborn calves should be placed in an environment that will be safe from adult animals and adult animal diseases. Every newborn calf should receive care to its navel to control infection.

In order to meet the Gold Standards established by DCHA, target mortality rates are:

1. 24 hours to 60 days of age: < 5%

2. 61 to 120 days of age: < 2%

3. 121-180 days of age: < 1%

Morbidity

Defining scours as a case of diarrhea, which requires any intervention for more than 24 hours, the Gold Standards target morbidity rates for scours are:

1. 24 hours to 60 days of age: < 25%

2. 61 to 120 days of age: < 2%

3. 121 to 180 days of age: < 1%

For Holstein calves, from birth to 6 months of age, pneumonia is defined as a case of respiratory disease, which requires individual animal treatment with an antibiotic (does not include use of feed-grade medication fed with regular ration).

The Gold Standards target morbidity rates for pneumonia are:

1. 24 hours to 60 days of age: < 10%

2. 61 to 120 days of age: < 15%

3. 121 to 180 days of age: < 2%

For more information on the DCHA Gold Standards, visit http://www.calfandheifer.com/

ISU researchers: embryonic test for bovine genetics

Looking at the genetic makeup of cattle to determine their value is nothing new.An examination of a small sample of hair or blood can reveal if a calf has any genetic diseases that will lower the market price. Now, a team of clinicians and diagnosticians and genetic researchers at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine are looking to test those calves earlier before they are born

Dr. Jim West and Dr. Paul Plummer are researching a method to determine if a bovine is genetically sound when it is still an embryo prior to being implanted in its mother. This process, if successful, would allow producers to select which embryos are valuable before spending the time, effort and expense of producing a calf only to find out that it has genetic defects that render it of little value.

Until now, the problem has been biopsy samples of embryos are so small — only a few cells – that it was impossible to accurately read the genetic information.New technology may allow West and Plummer to get accurate genetic information from samples as small as two to three cells and still keep the embryo viable, even if it is frozen for long-term storage. The study is being funded by a Grow Iowa Values Fund Grant. The goal of the grant program is to support development of technologies with commercial potential and to support the growth of companies using those technologies. The researchers are working with Ames Center for Genetic Technologies, Inc. as their corporate partner.

Elsewhere on www.dairybusiness.com

Heifer performance, economic results seen in repro research

Milk yield and reproductive performance of first lactation Holstein cows is closely related to age at first calving and weight after calving.

According to records processed at DHI Provo, the average age at first calving is greater than 25 months for Holstein herds in the western United States. In fact, less than 3% of U.S. dairy producers achieve the recommended target of ≤ 24 months of age at first calving and ≥ 1,230 lb (live weight) after calving. Increased age at first calving results in increased costs due to additional rearing expense, and lost income opportunity from not having milk in the tank earlier in the animal’s life. For more information, visit http://dairywebmall.com/dbcpress/?p=3426


NMPF task force outlines four-part strategy

The National Milk Producers Federation’s Strategic Planning Task Force agreed to pursue a four‐part approach to implementing sweeping changes as to how federal dairy policies protect producers and how farm‐level milk prices are established.
Recognizing the need to promote programs that will help reduce price volatility and protect producer income, the Task Force agreed last week at a meeting in Chicago to take action on the further development of a multi‐pronged approach that, if fully implemented, would assist in maintaining the on-going viability of the nation’s dairy farms and revise some of the more perplexing and less popular aspects of the national milk pricing system.
The four features of NMPF’s plan include:
1) revamping the safety nets of the Dairy Product Price Support and Milk Income Loss Contract programs;
2) creating a new dairy producer income insurance program;
3) addressing the need to improve participation in the producer self-help program, Cooperatives Working Together, while allowing it to better address periodic
imbalances in the milk supply; and
4) reforming the Federal Milk Marketing Order program.
“These four tracks are the foundation for a new future direction for milk pricing in the U.S.,”
said Jerry Kozak, NMPF president and CEO.  “With the concurrence of the Task Force, we will immediately begin hammering out the specific details of each element of this new and comprehensive program.  We will move quickly, but responsibly, to fashion a dairy safety net and milk pricing system that work in tandem, leveraging the outcome of one program to the benefit of another, whenever possible.  For example, we believe a producer income insurance program can be structured to achieve a measure of production control now advocated by a segment of our industry.”
“We shouldn’t underestimate how big a challenge these changes represent, but we also
shouldn’t underestimate the shared desired to dramatically alter the current system. Both the
Task Force members and our staff recognize that the status quo is not as attractive as the
potential to make far‐reaching, positive changes down the road, ” Kozak said.
The Strategic Planning Task Force has been meeting to analyze what long‐term steps are in the
best interests of the U.S. dairy producer sector.  As a result of Friday’s meeting, the Task Force
instructed NMPF staff to immediately begin fleshing out the operational aspects of the four
elements.
In particular, the Task Force is pursuing how an income insurance program would be designed
in such a way as to provide a better safety net to protect the net profit margins of farmers,
which the current price support program and the MILC don’t always do during times of high
production costs.  In addition, the Task Force is exploring not only improving price discovery
mechanisms and how changing the Federal Milk Marketing Order program would improve the
pricing signals sent to farmers, but also the elimination of unpopular aspects of the current
system, such as make allowances.
Rounding out its assignment from the NMPF Board of
Directors, the Task Force is also seeking new ways to address the free‐rider issue associated
with participation in the CWT program and how the program itself can become even more
effective in the future.
As this long‐term approach progresses, NMPF continues to focus on short‐terms steps to help
farmers, including urging the Congress to appropriate $350 million in dairy aid to farmers in the
fall.  House and Senate appropriators are expected to decide in the coming days on the extent
of the aid package, and how it will be used.  NMPF has recommended that Congress allocate
the money for purchases of cheese products that would then be donated to food banks and
similar charitable organizations that serve needy populations.
Visit www.nmpf.org for more information.

The National Milk Producers Federation’s (NMPF) Strategic Planning Task Force agreed to pursue a four‐part approach to implementing sweeping changes as to how federal dairy policies protect producers and how farm‐level milk prices are established.

Recognizing the need to promote programs that will help reduce price volatility and protect producer income, the Task Force agreed Sept. 18, at a meeting in Chicago, to take action on the further development of a multi‐pronged approach that, if fully implemented, would assist in maintaining the on-going viability of the nation’s dairy farms and revise some of the more perplexing and less popular aspects of the national milk pricing system.

The four features of NMPF’s plan include:

1) revamping the safety nets of the Dairy Product Price Support and Milk Income Loss Contract programs;

2) creating a new dairy producer income insurance program;

3) addressing the need to improve participation in the producer self-help program, Cooperatives Working Together, while allowing it to better address periodic  imbalances in the milk supply; and

4) reforming the Federal Milk Marketing Order program.

“These four tracks are the foundation for a new future direction for milk pricing in the U.S.,”  said Jerry Kozak, NMPF president and CEO.  “With the concurrence of the Task Force, we will immediately begin hammering out the specific details of each element of this new and comprehensive program.  We will move quickly, but responsibly, to fashion a dairy safety net and milk pricing system that work in tandem, leveraging the outcome of one program to the benefit of another, whenever possible.  For example, we believe a producer income insurance program can be structured to achieve a measure of production control now advocated by a segment of our industry.”

“We shouldn’t underestimate how big a challenge these changes represent, but we also  shouldn’t underestimate the shared desired to dramatically alter the current system. Both the  Task Force members and our staff recognize that the status quo is not as attractive as the  potential to make far‐reaching, positive changes down the road, ” Kozak said.

The Strategic Planning Task Force has been meeting to analyze what long‐term steps are in the  best interests of the U.S. dairy producer sector.  As a result of the meeting, the Task Force  instructed NMPF staff to immediately begin fleshing out the operational aspects of the four  elements.

In particular, the Task Force is pursuing how an income insurance program would be designed  in such a way as to provide a better safety net to protect the net profit margins of farmers,  which the current price support program and the MILC don’t always do during times of high production costs.  In addition, the Task Force is exploring not only improving price discovery  mechanisms and how changing the Federal Milk Marketing Order program would improve the  pricing signals sent to farmers, but also the elimination of unpopular aspects of the current  system, such as make allowances.

Rounding out its assignment from the NMPF Board of  Directors, the Task Force is also seeking new ways to address the free‐rider issue associated  with participation in the CWT program and how the program itself can become even more  effective in the future.

As this long‐term approach progresses, NMPF continues to focus on short‐terms steps to help  farmers, including urging the Congress to appropriate $350 million in dairy aid to farmers in the  fall.  House and Senate appropriators are expected to decide in the coming days on the extent  of the aid package, and how it will be used.  NMPF has recommended that Congress allocate  the money for purchases of cheese products that would then be donated to food banks and  similar charitable organizations that serve needy populations.

Visit www.nmpf.org for more information.

‘California conditions’ lead to DFA base increase call

By Dave Natzke

Public knowledge of a Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) request for increased milk production bases in the co-op’s Western Marketing Area has drawn angry reactions from dairy farmers suffering through a period of prolonged low milk prices. Dairy Profit Weekly talked with DFA’s Glenn Wallace, Western Area chief operating officer, and John Wilson, DFA’s senior vice president, marketing and industry affairs, to discuss the rationale behind the request.

Wallace admitted the letter has struck a nerve at a period of severe economic stress in the dairy industry. At the same time, changing marketing conditions – and the anticipation of improved prices – warrants the call for more milk in California, he said.

DFA, like other California dairy co-ops, established production bases in late 2007 and early 2008 to address state milk production levels that were far exceeding processing and marketing capacity. More recently, DFA established a base program in Colorado (Mountain Area).

DFA’s base program doesn’t restrict a producer’s ability to produce milk, Wallace explained. Instead of spreading marketing costs of excess milk over all members, the base program subjects those who produce over their base to the true cost of marketing the excess milk.

“DFA, CDI, Land O’Lakes and Security Milk Producers established base programs for their California producers, capping how much milk they can produce individually without being subjected to costs associated with marketing excess milk,” Wallace said. “Production was so extremely high in California, there wasn’t a home for the milk. It was going on the ground, to calf ranches, and being condensed and shipped all over the country.”

“The base programs are driven by local supply relative to local plant capacity,” Wallace continued. “This wasn’t part of an effort to manage national supply. In early 2008, California was producing more milk than there was plant capacity. A lot of milk had to be hauled out of state to keep it off the ground. The base program has been effective.”

Bases were originally established – not on marketing needs – but on 2007 historical individual milk production levels. “We felt that was fair, because if producers wanted to grow beyond the base, we felt they should bear the added cost of marketing that milk,” he explained.

Since then, DFA’s milk and dairy product demand and sales have grown, without an adjustment in base.

“We now have more market than we have base,” Wallace said. “DFA’s Western Area is very short of milk to meet the commitments we have on a daily basis.”

As a result, DFA has been purchasing milk from other co-ops – including California Dairies Inc. (CDI) – to meet demand. However, CDI has a new 5 million pound-capacity plant coming on line by the end of January 2010, Wallace said, and DFA expects CDI to redirect milk currently supplied to DFA to its own plant, resulting in further DFA milk shortfalls.

Other conditions have also changed, the DFA leaders said.

Wallace said demand for Class 1, cheese and other value-added products is improving in California. At the same time, the decline in California milk production in areas where plant capacity is located has created an imbalance in demand and supply.

Wilson said DFA’s creation of an Ingredients Division means the co-op will resign from DairyAmerica – a nine-member federated company marketing nonfat dry milk powder – at the end of September. DFA will then begin marketing its own nonfat dry milk in an effort to provide a full line of dairy products to customers.

In response, a Sept. 3, 2009 letter to DFA’s 350 Western Area members asked them if they were interested in increasing individual milk bases. Members had until Sept. 18 to respond. Wallace said several members were caught in the middle of expansion plans when bases were established in early 2008, and some have expressed interest in higher bases. If producers request a base increase, they will have until June 2010 to meet that commitment. If they do, the adjusted base becomes permanent.

Bases were in the news earlier this year, in a different context. As recently as early June, CDI had proposed reducing California milk production by 5%, asking DFA, Land O’Lakes and Security Milk Producers to join in that effort. Collectively, the dairy organizations agreed California production would decline at least 5%, without base reductions.

California milk production was down 3.5% from year-earlier levels in the first quarter of 2009, and down about 3% in the second quarter. USDA estimated preliminary July 2009 production was down 5% from July 2008, and it will likely be down about 6% in August (USDA was scheduled to release August milk production estimates on Sept. 18). DFA Western Area member milk production was down 6.5% in August, Wallace said.

Wilson realizes a request for increased base might be sending mixed messages to U.S. dairy producers. He doesn’t, however, expect the request for more base to have a negative psychological impact on dairy prices.

“We don’t want to confuse the dairy situation today with the forward-looking plans for our members in California,” Wilson said. “We need better prices, and if we don’t get them soon, it will be a disaster. It already is a disaster. We’re looking for milk when prices improve into the future.

“Today’s milk supply and consumption is pretty much in balance nationally,” Wilson continued. “The problem is in inventories of American-style cheese and powder. If we got rid of 100 million pounds of cheese and 100 million pounds of powder, the price situation would be greatly different. Part of it is also the fact milk production per cow has been resilient. Summer temperatures in the middle part of the country were extremely mild.”

Given economic conditions, Wallace doesn’t anticipate an enormous rise in base, and expects the need to buy milk from other sources to continue.

“It’s all dependent on price,” Wallace said. “I don’t expect to get more milk if prices don’t improve. If we go another 90 days where we’re at today, in my opinion we’ll have dramatic fallout in California. I’m talking to dairy producers on a daily basis who have lost $4 million to $10 million this year so far in cash flow. They’ve also lost a lot in equity. We’re approaching a point of no return for many producers.

“In the future, we anticipate the milk price will improve,” Wallace added. “If it doesn’t, we won’t have any milk. We do not have any expectations producers will continue to produce at $10/cwt. But I have to give our members the opportunity to grow first.”

Ready for some football? NFL teams with USDA, DMI

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA will work with the National Football League (NFL) and the nation’s dairy farmers to promote good nutrition and fitness in the nation’s schools.

“Childhood obesity is a very serious issue that endangers the long-term health and welfare of our nation’s youngsters,” said Vilsack. “To reverse this dangerous trend and give our kids the opportunity to eat smarter, exercise more and lessen their risk of disease, both the public and private sectors will have to work together to marshal their combined expertise and resources.”

Vilsack met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Thomas Gallagher, chief executive of Dairy Management Inc., which runs the National Dairy Research and Promotion Program. The NFL and DMI are launching “Fuel Up to Play 60,” an innovative nutrition and fitness program based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, in some 60,000 schools this fall. The social marketing program empowers students to assume leadership in being more active and eating more healthy foods.

The campaign will inspire kids to “fuel up” with the nutrient-rich foods they often lack-fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low- or no-fat dairy products-and “get up and play” with 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Student teams will evaluate their school’s “wellness” and choose the healthy eating and physical activity programs on which the school will focus.

At the meeting, Vilsack discussed a plan to develop a Memorandum of Understanding between USDA, the NFL and DMI to allow USDA programs and “Fuel Up to Play 60” to collaborate and collectively tackle the critical issue of children’s health.

“USDA is excited to bring this partnership the experience and resources of our successful school-based health education efforts like Team Nutrition schools and the HealthierUS School Challenge,” Vilsack said.

“NFL is a proud partner of ‘Fuel Up to Play 60’. It is an important component of our overall NFL Play 60 campaign,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “Our goal is to raise awareness about the importance of staying fit and eating right, especially for America’s young people. This partnership is a powerful alliance linking the USDA, National Dairy Council and the NFL to address childhood obesity and emphasize the role of daily physical activity in a healthy lifestyle.”

“National Dairy Council is honored to work together with USDA and the NFL on Fuel Up to Play 60,” said Thomas P. Gallagher, chief executive officer of Dairy Management Inc., the managing organization for National Dairy Council. “Child nutrition, particularly in schools, has been a cornerstone of National Dairy Council for nearly a century. This program centers on youth taking the lead in changing the school environment through increasing opportunities for eating healthier and getting more physical activity.”

USDA manages 15 nutrition programs, which touch the lives of one in five Americans each year. And across the country, USDA designated ‘Team Nutrition’ schools have worked to forge the link between classroom nutrition activities and healthy meals served in the cafeteria. USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge recognizes ‘Team Nutrition’ schools that are creating healthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition and physical activity. USDA is also the one of the lead agencies along with the Department of Health and Human Services, working to develop the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the nation’s official dietary advice.

USDA launches ‘Know Your Farmer’ program

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan  announced a new initiative – “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” – to begin a national conversation to help develop local and regional food systems and spur economic opportunity.

To launch the initiative, Secretary Vilsack recorded a video to invite Americans to join the discussion and share their ideas for ways to support local agriculture. The video, one of many means by which USDA will engage in this conversation, can be viewed at USDA’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/usda. Producers and consumers can comment on the ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ YouTube playlist, as well as submit videos or provide comments on this initiative by e-mailing KnowYourFarmer@usda.gov.

“An American people that is more engaged with their food supply will create new income opportunities for American agriculture,” said Vilsack. “Reconnecting consumers and institutions with local producers will stimulate economies in rural communities, improve access to healthy, nutritious food for our families, and decrease the amount of resources to transport our food.”

The ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative, chaired by Deputy Secretary Merrigan, is the focus of a task force with representatives from agencies across USDA who will help better align the Department’s efforts to build stronger local and regional food systems. This week alone, USDA will announce approximately $65 million in funding for ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiatives.

“Americans are more interested in food and agriculture than at any other time since most families left the farm,” said Merrigan. “‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ seeks to focus that conversation on supporting local and regional food systems to strengthen American agriculture by promoting sustainable agricultural practices and spurring economic opportunity in rural communities.”

In the months to come, cross-cutting efforts at USDA will seek to use existing USDA programs to break down structural barriers that have inhibited local food systems from thriving. Today, USDA announced a small initial group of moves that seek to connect local production and consumption and promote local-scale sustainable operations:

  • USDA’s Risk Management Agency announced $3.4 million in funding for collaborative outreach and assistance programs to socially disadvantaged and underserved farmers. These programs will support ‘Know You Farmer’ goals by helping producers adopt new and direct marketing practices. For example, nearly $10,000 in funding for the University of Minnesota will bring together experts on food safety and regulations for a discussion of marketing to institutions like K-12 schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and other health care facilities.
  • USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service proposed regulations to implement a new voluntary cooperative program under which select state-inspected establishments will be eligible to ship meat and poultry products in interstate commerce. The new program was created in the 2008 Farm Bill and will provide new economic opportunities for small meat and poultry establishments, whose markets are currently limited.
  • USDA’s Rural Development announced $4.4 million in grants to help 23 local business cooperatives in 19 states. The member-driven and member-owned cooperative business model has been successful for rural enterprises, and bring rural communities closer to the process of moving from production-to-consumption as they work to improve their products and expand their appeal in the marketplace.
  • USDA’s Rural Development will also announce a Rural Business Opportunity Grant in the amount of $150,000 to the Northwest Food Processors Association. The grant will strengthen the relationship between local food processors and customers in parts of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and will also help the group reduce energy consumption, a major cost for food processors.

What’s ‘natural’? USDA wants to know

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that it will solicit further public comment as it seeks to define the conditions under which it would permit the voluntary claim “natural” to be used in the labeling of meat and poultry products. The agency made the announcement through the publication of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR).
FSIS is seeking comments to clarify and resolve issues surrounding the “natural” claim, including how best to coordinate FSIS’ regulation of “natural” claims with the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) voluntary “naturally raised” marketing claim standard. FSIS believes that the ANPR will facilitate the emergence of consensus on the meaning of “natural” and will allow the Agency to move quickly to a proposed rule.
The current FSIS policy states that the term “natural” may be used in the labeling of meat and poultry products provided that the product does not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredients, chemical preservative, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient and that the product is not more than minimally processed.
In October 2006, FSIS received a petition requesting it to initiate rulemaking to establish a codified definition for the voluntary claim “natural” and to delineate the conditions under which the claim can be used on the labels of meat and poultry products. In December 2006, FSIS held a public meeting and requested comments on “natural” claims.
FSIS received a high volume of comments that expressed divergent views on the use of the claim “natural” following the December 2006 public meeting.
Therefore, FSIS is publishing an ANPR to solicit more focused comments on the issue. The ANPR requests comments on a number of issues related to the use of “natural” claims in the labeling of meat and poultry products.
For detailed description of these issues, please refer to the ANPR, which is posted on FSIS’ Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/
2009_Notices_Index/index.asp.
During the ANPR process, FSIS will continue to apply its current “natural” claims policy described in the FSIS Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book (PDF Only).
Comments on the ANPR must be received by November 13, 2009. Comments can be sent to Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, 5601 Sunnyside Ave, Room 2-2127, Beltsville, Md. 20705; or through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. Go to www.regulations.gov and in the “Search for Open Regulations” box, select “Food Safety and Inspection Service” from the agency drop-down menu and then click on “Submit.” In the Docket ID column, select FDMS Docket Number FSIS-2006-0040A to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.
For further information contact Rosalyn Murphy-Jenkins, Senior Technical Advisor, Labeling and Program Delivery Division, Office of Policy and Program Development, USDA, FSIS, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Block A, 2nd Wing, 2nd Floor Room 2-2124, Beltsville, MD 20705, or by phone at (301) 504-0868 or by e-mail at Rosalyn.Murphy-Jenkins@fsis.usda.gov.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced it will solicit further public comment as it seeks to define the conditions under which it would permit the voluntary claim “natural” to be used in the labeling of meat and poultry products. The agency made the announcement through the publication of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR).

FSIS is seeking comments to clarify and resolve issues surrounding the “natural” claim, including how best to coordinate FSIS’ regulation of “natural” claims with the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) voluntary “naturally raised” marketing claim standard. FSIS believes that the ANPR will facilitate the emergence of consensus on the meaning of “natural” and will allow the Agency to move quickly to a proposed rule.

The current FSIS policy states that the term “natural” may be used in the labeling of meat and poultry products provided that the product does not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredients, chemical preservative, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient and that the product is not more than minimally processed.

In October 2006, FSIS received a petition requesting it to initiate rulemaking to establish a codified definition for the voluntary claim “natural” and to delineate the conditions under which the claim can be used on the labels of meat and poultry products. In December 2006, FSIS held a public meeting and requested comments on “natural” claims.

FSIS received a high volume of comments that expressed divergent views on the use of the claim “natural” following the December 2006 public meeting.

Therefore, FSIS is publishing an ANPR to solicit more focused comments on the issue. The ANPR requests comments on a number of issues related to the use of “natural” claims in the labeling of meat and poultry products.

For detailed description of these issues, please refer to the ANPR, which is posted on FSIS’ Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/2009_Notices_Index/index.asp

During the ANPR process, FSIS will continue to apply its current “natural” claims policy described in the FSIS Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book.

Comments on the ANPR must be received by Nov. 13, 2009. Comments can be sent to Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, 5601 Sunnyside Ave, Room 2-2127, Beltsville, Md. 20705; or through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. Go to www.regulations.gov and in the “Search for Open Regulations” box, select “Food Safety and Inspection Service” from the agency drop-down menu and then click on “Submit.” In the Docket ID column, select FDMS Docket Number FSIS-2006-0040A to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.

For further information contact Rosalyn Murphy-Jenkins, Senior Technical Advisor, Labeling and Program Delivery Division, Office of Policy and Program Development, USDA, FSIS, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Block A, 2nd Wing, 2nd Floor Room 2-2124, Beltsville, MD 20705, or by phone at (301) 504-0868 or by e-mail at Rosalyn.Murphy-Jenkins@fsis.usda.gov.

Editor’s Update: The need for speed

Computers Aid Information management

By Dave Natzke

Whether checking futures prices to make marketing decisions, visiting websites to learn more about herd health, or posting a Facebook comment to help educate consumers, computers are growing as dairy management tools. While a June 2009 USDA survey of 31,500 ag producers shows the percentage of all dairy operations using computers hasn’t changed much in four years, more dairy producers in higher annual income levels are using computers in their businesses.

Dairy producers generating $250,000 or more in sales and government payments are more likely to utilize computers, and are near the top among all U.S. farm operators in embracing computer technology.

Dairy producers generating $250,000 or more in sales and government payments are more likely to utilize computers, and are near the top among all U.S. farm operators in embracing computer technology.

Dairy details

According to the survey, about 60% of U.S. dairy operations have computer access, 57% own or lease a computer, 45% use computers for business, and 52% have Internet access. While on par with producers of other livestock and crops, dairy producers lag grain and cotton producers somewhat.

But dairy producers generating $250,000 or more in sales and government payments are more likely to utilize computers (see Table 1), and are near the top among all U.S. farm operators in embracing computer technology.

Dairy producers’ need for speed on the “information highway” was also evident. Just four years ago, “dial-up” was used by 76% of all dairy producers. In 2009, “dial-up” (32%) was still the leading means of Internet access for dairy producers, but digital subscriber line (DSL) access (31%) is catching up (see Table 2). Among dairies with sales and government payments >$250,000, DSL access was the leading method (33%), with wireless (12%), cable (11%) and satellite (11%) Internet access also posting gains in the past two years.

There may be more “speed” on the way. The 2008 Farm Bill mandated the Federal Communications Commission and USDA to develop a rural broadband strategy, and a report was released in August. Also, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funded several broadband initiatives, including $2.5 billion for USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, designed to support the expansion of broadband service in rural areas.

Logging on

Dairy producer computer use is impacting the relationship between DairyBusiness Communications and dairy producers. Our staff tracks the number of “hits” (or visits) to our websites. For the May-July 2009 period:

www.dairybusiness.com, which features daily news updates from Dairy Profit Weekly, as well as business/management articles and links to electronic versions of Western DairyBusiness and Eastern DairyBusiness, averaged more than 107,000 hits per month, or >3,500 hits per day. That’s more than triple the average number of daily hits in 2008.

• HolsteinWorld (www.holsteinworld.com) averaged nearly 160,000 hits per month, or >5,000 hits per day.

• All-Breeds Access (www.allbreedaccess.com) averaged nearly 63,000 hits per month, or >2,000 hits per day.

• DairyLine Radio (http://dairyline.com) averaged >67,000 hits per month, or >2,100 hits per day.

The impact goes further. DairyLine Radio (http://dairyline.com) began conducting polls on dairy-related issues. More than 500 producers provided opinions and comments on a mandatory national supply management program. (About 50% favored it; 38% didn’t; and 12% weren’t sure.) What surprised me is that so many producers didn’t just “check a box,” but provided lengthy, passionate, in-depth opinions.

Finally, last month, I summarized an e-mail survey of producers responding to questions related to the economy and herd health management practices. This month, we surveyed producers about their milking parlors/systems.

Milk parlor/systems survey

To prepare for the September 2009 issues of Western DairyBusiness and Eastern DairyBusiness, the editors surveyed dairy producers on their milking parlors/systems. We found regional similarities – and differences:

• Cow traffic was cited by both regions as the biggest factor limiting efficiency. To improve efficiency, Western producers expressed the need for crowd gates and employee training; in the East, crowd gates and upgrades in existing, older equipment were most often mentioned.

• Automatic takeoffs were overwhelmingly the technology most could not live without.

• Producers in the West were slightly more likely to add parlor technology, including linking parlors to management software and monitoring cow identification, milk weights, cow activity and milk conductivity.

When asked what they wanted to read more about:

• Western producers emphasized technology and employee training to improve efficiency.

• Eastern producers wanted more information on robotics.

In response to those survey results, this month’s Western DairyBusiness and Eastern DairyBusiness magazines target those topic areas. Be sure to visit www.dairybusiness.com for additional articles and columns.

Congratulations to Dino Migliazzo, dairy producer from Atwater, Calif., who was drawn as the winner of the $100 VISA gift card from all producers completing the online survey.

Watch your e-mail inbox for our surveys for the remainder of 2009.

Land values, credit conditions

Add land values to the things on the decline in major U.S. dairy states. USDA’s 2009 Land Values and Cash Rents report shows the value of ag real estate, cropland and pasture declined in most dairy states, but rental rates held fairly steady. USDA economists cited the overall economy, resulting in less commercial and residential development and demand for recreational land. Low dairy and livestock returns reduced producer interest.

Latest quarterly reports from Federal Reserve district banks indicate land values were weak to stable in the nation’s heartland, but credit conditions worsened, including slower repayment rates and increased demand for loan renewals and extensions.

CWT: Bigger herds

Another 87,000 cows will retire this fall through the Cooperatives Working Together (CWT). CWT’s chief operating officer Jim Tillison said the average herd size, at 296 cows, and average production per cow, at 20,884 lbs. per year, are higher than any previous CWT removal. About 73% of the herds selected are from the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast, but 70% of the cows and 72% of the milk are from the West and Southwest.

Policy differences

The International Dairy Foods Association’s recommendation for alternative policy measures to a proposed $350 million increase in USDA purchases of cheese and nonfat dry milk has drawn the response of Gary Genske, certified public accountant serving dairy farmers and a vocal proponent of changes in federal policies to address supply management and imports. In a letter to IDFA president and CEO Connie Tipton, Genske chided IDFA for undermining “the considerable effort that has been taking place for over six months to get short-term as well as long-term dairy farm milk price issues resolved.”

Analysis by his CPA firm indicates U.S. dairy farmers are suffering $4/cow/day in operating losses and, collectively, lost another $10 billion in the past year in lower asset values. Genske said producers were not receiving a fair share of the retail dairy dollar, and that milk protein concentrate imports are adding to the overproduction of cheese. He also said dairy cooperatives are not representing the best interests of their producer members.

Tunnel vision

Writing in a special report, “Current Dairy Situation FAQs,” University of Wisconsin-Madison professor emeritus Ed Jesse said there’s light at the end of the dairy tunnel, but the length of the tunnel remains in doubt. He said the first six months of 2009 may have been the worst period dairy farmers have experienced in several generations.

Not this ‘Time’

I get Time magazine. An article by Bryan Walsh in the Aug. 31, 2009 issue (“The Real Cost of Cheap Food”) blames modern agriculture for obesity, antibiotic resistance and degradation of animal life. Not identified as an “opinion” piece, and offering little or no substantiation to any claims, one wonders where the editor was. The article appeared in Time’s weekly list of the ‘10 most popular’ stories, meaning producers must spend more time in social networks talking to/with consumers.

FYI

To offer your own opinion or response, e-mail Dave Natzke, national editorial director, DairyBusiness Communications, e-mail: dnatzke@dairybusiness.com.


Milk quality: Use roadmap to validate change in the parlor

The roadmap illustrates the decision-making process. Full execution of each step is critical for success.

The roadmap illustrates the decision-making process. Full execution of each step is critical for success.

By Dean Kohler

In the milking parlor, we strive to improve milk quality, cow throughput and employee performance – without sacrificing operational strengths. To make improvement, you must understand the pathway of making change, leading to more effective decision-making and, ultimately, desired results.

The roadmap below illustrates the decision-making process. Full execution of each step is critical for success.

Understanding the roadmap

We often make decisions following the roadmap without knowing it. But it’s important to review to ensure nothing is overlooked.

• Improve herd performance. To initiate change, recognize where improvement is needed – even in high-performance herds.

• Identify challenges and limitations. Once an area of improvement is identified, recognize and understand current limitations. These will vary depending on the challenges you face.

• “How can I improve?” Look for potential solutions. For example, work with your equipment dealer and veterinarian to choose potential milk quality solutions. Set short- and long-term goals that can be monitored regularly.

• Implement change. This requires commitment by you and your employee team. Involve everyone in training sessions and follow-up meetings to discuss challenges and progress.

• Evaluate progress. Use goals to evaluate progress. If you’ve seen positive change and are happy with the results, continue forward. If you experience challenges or see negative results, answer the question, “How can I improve?

• Validate goals. This step is necessary to confirm positive change is meeting your expectations. If not, identify the current challenges and limitations before moving forward.

A real-life example

The greatest challenge you face today is identifying ways to improve cash flow – either increasing income or reducing expenses. Successful managers accomplish both.

A challenge I’ve seen recently is a shortage of high-quality bedding. Products like kiln-dried sawdust are either very expensive or too scarce for consistent supply, leaving producers asking, “Where do I go from here?” I’ve used the milk quality roadmap to make decisions.

For example, a dairy milks 450 cows and houses them in a freestall barn, using kiln-dried sawdust on mattresses. Due to a bedding shortage, they now use a combination of green sawdust and a limestone byproduct, which appears to have resulted in somatic cell counts rising from 200,000 to 275,000 over a three-month period. The dairy wants to improve.

The dairy’s challenges and limitations are that the bedding source does not promote udder health, leading to high bacteria counts, and inadequate bedding storage to allow the product to go through a heating process. While price and availability are challenges, the quality of the bedding source is the major limitation.

Asking “How can we improve?” led the dairy to draw two main conclusions: 1) improvements can be made by finding a high-quality bedding source, or 2) if the current bedding source must be used, better management can help improve milk quality issues.

Because other bedding sources are not readily available, the dairy decides to change the type of premilking teat dip to target the bacterial load. In the past they were able to meet their milk quality goals by using a .5% iodine dip for both a pre- and postmilking dip. They chose to apply premilking teat dip that is specifically designed to give them a fast 15-second kill and has superior cleaning capabilities. The farm sets a goal of lowering SCC to 225,000 by the end of a six-month period.

Two months after the change, SCC and clinical mastitis dropped, but not as quickly as anticipated. The herd manager worked with his team, using teat score monitoring, to determine the lime in the bedding was having a negative effect on teat condition. A decision was made to switch to a postdip with higher iodine and emollient levels, providing better kill opportunity and superior skin conditioning.

At the end of six months, the dairy is close to validating their goal by lowering SCC to 230,000. They are happy with cow response, and will continue to use this protocol until kiln-dried sawdust prices are more reasonable, or another high-quality bedding source becomes available.

Summary

The roadmap can be applied to multiple areas on the dairy, allowing you to set, evaluate and validate goals for continued improvement and success. Work with your milk quality specialist to ensure each change is goal-oriented, measured regularly for success, and validated, with an ultimate goal of the highest milk quality possible.

FYI

Dean Kohler is sales consultant – hygiene & supplies for GEA Farm Technologies/WestfaliaSurge.

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