Archive for April, 2010

Summer is coming: Now is time to get ready

by Dr. Michael Tomaszewski

Texas A&M University

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Hot weather is just around the corner. Start to “summerize” your facilities now. Clean the fans. Dust and debris accumulations on fan blades and grills can cause increased electrical load, diminished fan efficiency, reduced fan output and escalating electrical bills.

Fly control is important

Plan for fly control. Flies contribute to mastitis and impact cow comfort. Cows may not eat as often if bothered by flies, resulting in a loss in milk production. Consider new foam insecticide applicators. Install applicators in appropriate locations before fly season starts. Evaluate including a larvacide in the ration. Look for fly breeding areas and eliminate them. A little detective work to identify and clean up these areas reaps big benefits from reduced fly loads. Investigate introduction of parasitic wasps. Some dairies have been successful in including these natural predators, along with good farmstead sanitation, as effective fly control procedures. Don’t forget about fly control on the heifers and dry cows.

Talk with your nutritionist to insure that cows receive rations they want to eat during the summer months. One key to reducing summer production drops is to provide a diet that is palatable. Consider altering your feeding schedule so cows have fresh feed in front of them more frequently. Feed during cooler parts of the day and at night to encourage cows to come to the feed area.

Clean water essential

Manage water troughs to insure they are clean and adequately sized for the number of cows that have access to them. Test your water quality. Install water troughs so cows have access to water before and after milking. Be careful not to impede cow flow. Production may increase due to increased water availability.

Shades set north and south

If you have dry lots, provide adequate shades. Orient them North-South so the sun can help dry wet spots as the shade moves.

Historically, Texas has higher somatic cell counts (SCC) in the summer. Note the table below from the Market Administrator with August and September having the highest SCC counts for Texas. Although late lactation cows may be a contributing factor to high SCC, continue practicing mastitis control measures. Check that milking standard operating procedures are being followed. Evaluate whether milkers adequately cover the teats pre- and post-milking with an appropriate teat sanitizer.

And don’t forget about milker’s comfort in the parlor. Provide a fan or some other way to make it more comfortable in the pit during milking. Hot parlors are not conducive to proper milking procedures.

These are but a few of the proactive measures you should evaluate before you get hit with the summer heat.


To contact Dr. Michael Tomaszewski at Texas A&M University, call 972-845-5709 or e-mail him at

The heat is on: Dairies need to prepare

By Ron Goble

Summer time is hard on dairy animals. Whether a producer is looking at his herd reproduction program, or his milk production performance, heat stress can knock the economic legs out from under an otherwise efficient operation.

When times are tough it is even more important to make sure you are doing what is necessary to improve inadequate cow cooling systems on your dairy.

Under extremely dry conditions – 10 to 20% humidity – cows may not show signs of heat stress until temperatures are in the mid to upper 80s. In very humid conditions, however – above 75% – heat stress can start with temperatures as low as 70 degrees.

Research from the University of Georgia has found a delay of about two days between the onset of heat stress conditions and when cattle actually showed the signs of heat stress. Indicators that cows are experiencing heat stress are:

• Feed intake is reduced

• Milk production declines

• Cows are less active and stand more

• Cows often crowd together, especially around water tanks

• Panting and open mouth breathing

• Rectal or milk temperature increases

Impacts bottom line

Dairy specialists point to the fact that heat stress negatively impacts all aspects of dairy cattle production. Milk production decline and reproduction losses during the summer months substantially impact the economic potential at your dairy.

“The annual economic impact of HS on animal agriculture in America has been estimated at $2 billion, with the dairy industry alone accounting for $900 million of this loss,” according to Todd Bilby, dairy specialist at Texas A&M. “Heat stress occurs over a wide combination of solar radiation levels, ambient temperatures, and relative humidity This is further aggravated by metabolic heat production (generated by the cow herself).”

Herds with inadequate cooling systems can experience a reduction in milk production of 20% or more when the temperature-humidity index begins to rise above 72. It may be time  to take inventory and possibly alter the cows’ environment.

It’s time for fresh look

It never hurts to take a fresh look at your cow comfort and cooling systems. It might be time to evaluate the cooling system in your holding pen. Does a roof provide shade? If not, add shade.

If you don’t already have soakers and fans to cool cows while they wait to be milked there is still time to install them. Fans should be mounted at a 30-degree angle so air blows downward around the cow. Install parlor exit lane sprinklers to increase cooling beyond milking time.

Maintenance is also critical to assure that your fans are working properly. Don’t be surprised, but they may require cleaning to be operating at peak efficiency.

It is also important to have sprinklers or soakers at feed bunks to encourage cows to maintain their dry matter intake levels. Put the sprinklers and soakers on a timer so cows are soaked to the skin and then allowed time to air dry.

Test your system early and replace defective sprinkler nozzles and repair leaky water lines before a heatwave hits your neighborhood.

Not just for milking herd

Although shade and cooling for the milking herd might be your first priority, cooling is just as important for dry cows and heifers. At a minimum, provide dry cows, heifers and calves with shade.

Check water availability for your cows. Dairy Extension specialists say cows may double their water intake during the summer. If you’ve expanded your herd, verify that your water supply system can keep up with the increased water demand this summer. Provide baby calves with water as well. Milk isn’t enough, especially when temperatures climb into triple digits.

Humidity and diet

Extension dairy specialist Donald E. Pritchard, at North Carolina State University, who works with dairies in both hot and humid conditions, suggests that you ask your nutritionist to check rations for changes that will help maintain intake and/or milk production.

While the two main responses to heat stress are eating less and producing less milk, Pritchard says an elevation in the somatic cell count also can be problematic.

He says to check and be sure your cows are receiving adequate levels of vitamins A and E, and selenium. These nutrients help promote a strong functioning immune system which is needed to combat udder invading bacteria and elevating SCC values, Pritchard points out.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota say cows lose potassium through sweating and sodium is excreted in their urine in response to heat stress. Increasing potassium and sodium in their diet dry matter is recommended. Balancing for dietary cation-anion differences (DCAD) is one way of accounting for these two elements.

All that said, dairy specialists emphasize that water is still the most important nutrient of all. Make sure they have plenty and easy access to it.

Sure, healthy hooves matter

Even hoof trimming can make a big difference in how a cow survives the effects of high temperatures. Cows usually stand more in the heat of summer in an effort to cool themselves. If their claws are properly trimmed and balanced they are better able to handle the increased standing time under sprinklers and soakers.

Heat stress also can significantly decrease pregnancy rates with impacts lingering well into the fall months. Designing strategies to reduce negative effects of summer temperature on fertility; such as enhanced cooling, ration adjustments, and reproductive protocol changes, will improve your dairy farm profitability, says Bilby.


■  To contact Todd Bilby at Texas A&M, call 254-968-4144 or e-mail him at,

■  To contact Dr. Donald E. Pritchard at North Carolina State University, call 919-515-8805, or e-mail,

Dairy farmers eligible to receive funding for on-farm energy evaluations

USDA announces a new initiative to improve agricultural energy conservation and efficiency in 29 states

U.S. agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack announced $2 million will be made available to dairy, beef, poultry and swine producers to help cut energy-related production costs, is a positive step that can produce long-term savings for dairy farmers, according to Richard Clauss, vice chair of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and a dairy producer from Hilmar, Calif.

“In these tough economic times, anything we can do to cut energy costs will improve our bottom line and help keep producers in business,” Clauss said. “Today’s announcement is a step forward in making energy evaluations more broadly available to producers.”

The new agriculture energy conservation and efficiency initiative, announced in conjunction with a meeting of the Innovation Center’s Sustainability Council here today, will provide funds for on-farm energy audits in fiscal year 2010 and will cover approximately 1,000 energy evaluations in 29 states. Funding for this initiative is being made available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

“This new energy conservation and efficiency initiative is an example of the kind of support envisioned in the memorandum of understanding between the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the USDA,” said Thomas P. Gallagher, CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Dairy Management Inc.™ “It makes good business sense for producers and is good for the environment.”

The first step of the new initiative is funding on-farm energy evaluations that can help producers identify how their operations can become more energy efficient. Producers will select an independent, certified Technical Service Provider who will conduct the audits. Energy savings recommendations identified in the evaluations may be implemented by producers at their discretion. Partial funding may be available from the USDA to assist producers in cost-effective implementation of audit recommendations.

“The energy assessments and management plans provided for in this initiative will give producers tools they can use to reduce on-farm energy costs at a time when they are being squeezed financially,” said Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “Producers who choose to take advantage of this program can benefit by identifying measures they can implement to cut on-farm production costs.”

States participating in the initiative are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will implement this agricultural energy conservation and efficiency initiative in partnership with the USDA’s Rural Development. To learn more about this program and how to apply for funding, producers should visit

Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy provides a forum for the dairy industry to work together pre-competitively to address barriers and opportunities to foster innovation and increase sales. The Innovation Center aligns the collective resources of the industry to offer consumers nutritious dairy products and ingredients, and promote the health of people, communities, the planet and the industry. The Board of Directors for the Innovation Center represents leaders of 30 key U.S. producer organizations, dairy cooperatives, processors, manufacturers and brands. The Innovation Center is staffed by Dairy Management Inc.™ Visit for more information about the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

Dairy industry a key player in childhood obesity battle

Dairy Council of California

By Peggy Biltz

The recent launch of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative created to combat childhood obesity has helped create an urgency around this issue like never before, and the dairy industry is primed to be a key player in the battle.

Long before childhood obesity became the national concern it is today, Dairy Council of California – in partnership with California’s dairy producers and processors – has been dedicated to improving the eating habits of children and adults through the use of our nutrition education programs. Through Dairy Council, the dairy industry has made great strides in California in forming relationships with educators and health professionals that get our science-based programs into the hands of children and adults. In fact, nutrition education will play a central role in the First Lady’s efforts considering her focus on educating individuals on how to make healthy food and lifestyle choices, and our success in the state positions us well to put Let’s Move initiatives into action at the grassroots level.

Focus on parents

Let’s Move objectives strongly align with long-held Dairy Council nutrition education and health philosophies, including the charge to help parents make healthy choices.  Parents play a key role in making healthy lifestyle and eating choices for their children and Let’s Move is putting together parent education tools.

Dairy Council programs that reach school-aged children include parent components designed to help reinforce at home the nutrition lessons learned in the classroom. Our programs that are delivered to adults through their health professionals teach many lessons about managing not only the individual’s diet, but also the diets of the entire family. Children learn through the example of their parents. Considering life-long habits are formed at an early age, without the proper parental influence, good habits do not stand a chance.

Focus on balance

Balance is another key focus of the Let’s Move initiative. During the launch, the First Lady acknowledged that a fun part of childhood is enjoying certain treats and we can’t ask kids to give all of that up.

“It’s just about balance,” she said. “It’s about small changes that add up – like walking to school, replacing soda with water or skim milk, trimming those portion sizes a little.”

To help achieve this balance she encourages choices from all food groups. This total diet approach is the backbone of Dairy Council’s nutrition education philosophy and over the years it has helped countless individuals improve their eating habits, whether early on in life when eating habits are just being formed or during major life changes such as pregnancy.

Our program evaluations show time and time again that learning how to eat a balanced diet can be effective, particularly when individuals learn they do not have to eliminate foods they love – balance and moderation is key. This maintains milk and milk products as a cornerstone of a healthy diet.

Focus on schools

Getting schools on board to provide healthy food and beverage choices for students is another major initiative within Let’s Move. Dairy Council staff has a long-standing relationship with California schools, including school food service directors.  As discussions continue about what foods and beverages should be included on campus, Dairy Council will continue to work to help maintain a strong position for milk and milk products in our schools.

Also in schools, Dairy Council is working with Dairy Management, Inc. on its Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative, which teaches kids to “fuel up” with nutrient-rich foods and “get up to play” 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

There will likely be a lot of momentum behind the childhood obesity battle in the near and distant future and the dairy industry should be proud of not only our nutritious product offerings, but also our history of bettering the health and wellbeing of countless children throughout California.

The launch of the Let’s Move initiative not only brings a new energy to a fight that we as an industry hold so dear, but it also complements and even strengthens what California’s dairy industry has been doing for quite some time.


Peggy Biltz is chief executive officer of the Dairy Council of California.

For more information on the Dairy Council of California’s mission and nutrition education programs,
go to: www.dairycouncilof, or e-mail:

Dairy organizations respond to new FAO GHG report

Statement from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy

Today, the FAO released its report, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Dairy Sector — A Life Cycle Assessment.” It states that approximately 4.1% of total global GHG emissions are related to the global dairy sector. This figure includes emissions associated with milk production, processing and transportation as well as the emissions from meat production from dairy-related culled and fattened animals.

Considering just global milk production, processing and transportation and excluding meat production, the global dairy sector contributes 2.7% of global GHG emissions, according to the new report.

This new data cited for the global dairy sector is good news for dairy because it is significantly less than the 18% figure cited for global livestock agriculture in the November, 2006 FAO report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options.” The 18% number has often been inaccurately attributed to dairy GHG emissions.

In the United States, work is underway through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to build a foundation of credible data to help tell consumers about the long-standing commitment of dairy farmers — and the entire industry — to the environment. The Innovation Center has been working with the University of Arkansas Applied Sustainability Center and other experts to determine GHG emissions for U.S. dairy, beginning with a comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) for fluid milk. Based on preliminary research the U.S. dairy industry shared with FAO, the University of Arkansas attributes an estimated 2 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions to U.S. dairy.

This is important, because research shows that consumers want to know the producers of the products they buy care about the environment. It further indicates that, when consumers believe that dairy is not only nutritious, delicious and delivered at a good value, but is also environmentally friendly, they intend to purchase more dairy.

The Innovation Center’s research and commitment to continue working voluntarily to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the entire U.S. dairy supply chain provide the support we need to tell dairy’s good story.

Regarding the timing of the Innovation Center’s LCA report:

In support of the industry’s commitment to sustainability, the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas is completing a greenhouse gas (GHG) life cycle assessment (LCA) of fluid milk for the U.S. dairy industry.

This LCA is already being recognized as an important contribution to LCA science.

·         The U.S. dairy industry LCA is following ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards, which are widely supported by environmental scientists.

·         The critical review has been conducted by leading experts in LCA science from the University of Michigan, the University of Iowa, and Sylvatica, an LCA research and consulting firm.

·         Abstracts have been accepted for presentation at the 7th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment in the Agri-Food Sector (September 22-24, 2010 in Italy).

·         A series of articles based on the detailed findings of the life cycle assessment will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals in 2010, with publication expected in 2011.

This LCA measures the GHG emissions of fluid milk from farm to table, which includes everything from what is fed to cows through how a consumer disposes of a milk container. This comprehensive effort gathered data from more than 500 farms and 50 processing plants across the United States, while analyzing 150,000 round trips transporting milk from farm to processor.

When completed, the LCA will provide the industry with a scientific baseline of the carbon footprint of fluid milk in each part of the supply chain so that we can continue to improve the business value of our industry, reduce GHG emissions, and provide products that are healthy for people and the planet.

The data will serve as the foundation for the creation of best practices and decision-support tools for farmers, processors, and others throughout the dairy supply chain.

Additional resources:

·         The FAO news release and report can be found at or click here:

·         The International Dairy Federation has additional information and a news release about the FAO report at

·         For more information on the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Sustainability Commitment, go to Or contact

Statement from International Dairy Federation

The International Dairy Federation (IDF) welcomes the new FAO report on “Greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy sector” as a significant step to quantify the GHG emissions from the dairy sector and provide an informed basis to target emissions mitigation within the supply chain.

“For the first time, FAO reveals that the environmental impact of the dairy sector accounts for 2.7%. This figure includes emissions related to milk production, processing and transport. This study is a fundamental part of the process of understanding and continually minimizing the environmental impacts of the dairy sector as we have committed to do in the Global Dairy Agenda for Action signed by IDF and other partner organizations.” explained Richard Doyle, IDF president. The FAO findings also indicate significant variations among the different regions and climate patterns of the world.

In the recent years, IDF has been particularly active in placing environmental considerations at the top of its priorities. Further to a strategic plan on environment in 2008, IDF identified the need to undertake a report of this nature and has encouraged FAO to do so. “The global dairy sector and its partners are implementing a global Agenda for Action in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the supply chain. Our sector is responsibly focused on providing consumers with the nutritious dairy products they want, in a way that is economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible.” stressed Richard Doyle.

The dairy sector has already implemented a significant number of initiatives to mitigate GHG emissions. A Green Paper captures specific actions implemented in a number of key areas to address the environmental impact on climate change. It is an online catalogue of initiatives and improvements already made and those in progress as compelling evidence of the dairy sector’s commitment. With more than 270 case studies, the IDF Dairy Sustainability Website is a transparent portal that shares best practices and actions taken by the global dairy sector to improve the overall performance of the dairy sector.

This interim FAO assessment provides us with a robust benchmark for our future targeted actions. It will help to identify the key areas of impact and work out practical and cost-effective adaptation options to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy sector. “We will use this study as a significant contribution to existing knowledge and a strong incentive to achieve the objectives set out. We look forward to the wider study carried out by FAO and aiming at identifying low carbon development pathways for the livestock dairy sector. It is instrumental for IDF to continue to work with FAO and with the stakeholders of the dairy chain to move concerted global action programs forward. “ added Christian Robert, IDF Director General.

Another important milestone will be the ongoing IDF work on Life Cycle Analysis / Life Cycle Management and Carbon Footprint in the Dairy Sector. The objective is to develop a common LCA standard methodology for carbon footprint as a consensus paper of the world dairy sector. This work is expected to be released in the coming months.

• IDF has a dedicated website on sustainability which aims at sharing best practices, promoting environmentally focused initiatives and improving overall performance of the dairy sector. It is a transparent portal to action to contribute to mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. More information at www.dairy‐sustainability‐

• Further information on these publications is available on the IDF website at

FAO: Milk production contributes less than 3% of GHG

The dairy sector accounts for about 4% of all global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) according to a new United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report. The estimate  includes both emissions associated with the production, processing and transportation of milk products as well as emissions related to meat produced from animals originating from the dairy system.

Considering just global milk production, processing and transportation and excluding meat production, the sector contributes 2.7% of global anthropogenic GHG emissions.

In 2007, the dairy sector emitted 1 969 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, of which 1 328 million tonnes are attributed to milk, 151 million tonnes to meat from culled dairy animals, and 490 million tonnes from calves from the dairy sector that were raised for meat. The CO2 equivalent emission is a standard measurement for comparing emissions of different GHGs.

The global average of GHG emissions per kilogram of milk and related milk products is estimated at 2.4 kg CO2 equivalent.

Methane contributes most to the global warming impact of milk, accounting for about 52% of the GHG emissions in both developing and developed countries. Nitrous oxide emissions account for 27% of GHG emissions in developed countries and 38% in developing countries. Carbon dioxide accounts for a higher share of emissions in developed countries (21%) than in developing countries (10%).

The FAO report, Greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy sector, covers all major milk production systems from nomadic herds to intensified dairy operations. It focuses on the entire dairy food chain, including the production and transport of inputs (fertilizer, pesticide and feed) used for dairy farming, on-farm emissions and emissions associated with milk processing and packaging as well as the transportation of milk products to retailers. The margin of error of the estimates is ±26%.

“This report is fundamental to understand and identify opportunities for reducing the environmental impact of the dairy sector while providing safe and nutritious foodstuffs,” said Samuel Jutzi, director of FAO’s Animal Production and Health Division.

The assessment is part of an ongoing programme to analyse and recommend options for climate change mitigation. The next step is to use a similar approach to quantify GHG emissions associated with other major livestock species, including buffalo, poultry, small ruminants and pigs. The effectiveness, welfare and trade implications of policy options will then be carried out through economic modelling. A final report will be published in 2011.

In a controversial 2006 report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, the FAO said 18% of all greenhouse emissions were caused by the livestock sector, using an aggregate life cycle approach. The final report on livestock GHG emissions will use the same approach but with updated  data and providing a breakdown into different production systems, as well as indicating solutions for policy-makers, producers and processors.

Is there meat in your dietary future?

Opinions & sacred cows

by Ron Goble

In an effort to tie diet to climate change, San Francisco Board of Supervisors called for citizens of their whacked out community to make Mondays a “meatless” day.

Besides approving rules against using plastic grocery bags, mixing recycling with compost, smoking in sidewalk cafes, and identifying itself as a “Sanctuary City” for illegal aliens, San Francisco supervisors have passed a resolution asking residents to observe meatless Mondays, their latest legislative endorsement of healthy, eco-conscious living.

While they admit that the resolution has no teeth to put the bite on residents who choose not to refrain from eating meat, they are trying to draw attention to the relationship – farfetched as it may be – between diet and climate change.

Sponsored by Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, Mondays will be known as “Vegetarian Day” and restaurants, grocery stores and schools are urged to offer more plant-based options.

I can only imagine what is going through the minds of salmon fishermen, poultry producers, hog farmers, cattlemen and dairy producers. After all, one day a week takes about 15% of their market off the table in San Francisco. I don’t know of any industry that would appreciate being singled out by government like that and possibly losing 15% of their market.

I recommend that consumers take matters into their own hands and make a point of eating high on the hog – so to speak – every single “Meatless Monday.”

It would do my heart good to see those who frequent fine dining establishments in the City by the Bay to order beef tenderloin for two even though they may be dining alone. In doing so, they might share their meal with some of the many homeless people in the city.

If you are ordering a Big Mac at Mickey D’s, you might ask them to super-size it!

I like what Carter Nguyen, working behind the counter at Prather Ranch in the Ferry Building, told an ABC Channel 7 reporter. He dismissed the idea of a meatless Monday, telling his interviewer that he “eats meat every day.” Certified organic beef is a specialty at Prather Ranch.

Those of us living in the real world understand that San Francisco is known for its off-the-wall causes it embraces. Hope Bohanec, campaign director for In Defense of Animals told Fox News she was very excited and very proud of the supervisors. “We want to thank them for being forward-thinking and choosing to embrace and support a compassionate, environmental and healthy diet,” she gushed.

I contend that those involved in animal agriculture display compassion and environmental sensitivity every time they provide Americans with countless options for healthy and nutritious dining. Consumers can thank a farmer, rancher or dairy producer for providing essentials for life – protein and vitamin-rich products.

And if you want to fight obesity and live to be 100, just push yourself away from the table after you’ve enjoyed a well balanced meal; have a glass of red wine for your heart; a glass of milk for strong teeth and bones; and some ice cream for your disposition.

Have an opinion or response? E-mail Ron Goble, Associate publisher/editor, Western DairyBusiness at:

The Ag Agenda: Horror flicks can’t hold a candle to greenhouse gas regulations

By Bob Stallman, President

American Farm Bureau Federation

We’re all familiar with the typical B-rate horror flick where you just know the young starlet will stumble on a broken tree branch while being chased by the bad guy. Although you see it coming and know her demise is inevitable, you still want to smash your knuckle into the silver screen to halt the hideous phantom.

Unlike the movies, a very real disaster could be heading toward farm and ranch families. Unless something is done to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases, agriculture could face some pretty dire consequences. But unlike the helpless girl who stumbles and falls, farmers and ranchers are fighting back.

Nightmare in the country

Last year, EPA set out to regulate emissions from both mobile sources, such as cars and trucks, and stationary sources, such as buildings and factories.  According to the timeline announced by EPA, regulations could go into effect as early as next year, and these requirements could have unfortunate consequences for farmers and ranchers.

While EPA says it does not intend to regulate small emissions sources right away, farmers and ranchers run the risk of being caught by what an individual state has set as an amount of emissions per source (Montana’s is 15 tons). And even though EPA’s proposed rule contends it will begin regulating sources that emit more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases, the plain language in the Clean Air Act states that sources of 100 tons to 250 tons are subject to regulation.

These new EPA greenhouse gas requirements could lead to widespread costs for the economy and will put a strain on federal and state budgets that are not equipped to handle issuing the number of permits that will be required.

For farmers and ranchers thinking of expanding or renovating their operations, they will have to think twice.  By regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, livestock and other agricultural producers will be spending their days trying to obtain costly and time-consuming permits as conditions to continue farming.   For those sources now subject to the law, construction permits can run into tens of thousands of dollars.

Farmer’s revenge

The good news is we have a date certain and know what we are up against. Yes, we see the monster lurking behind the tree.  It’s now up to Congress to knuckle-up to stop it from happening.

Farm Bureau strongly backs a Senate resolution by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), to disapprove of EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations. There are also two companion measures in the House: one by Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), and one by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas).

If Congress does not approve these resolutions, EPA will forge ahead and farmers will be forced to grapple with a scope of regulation we have never before faced in our history, all while trying to cope with requirements that are economically burdensome and environmentally questionable. That’s fact, not fiction.

Farmers and ranchers must contact their congressional members and let them know the impact these costly regulations will have on their operations and the economy in general.

Unlike the girl in the horror flick, falling down is not an option for agriculture. We must band together to escape the scary regulator’s grasp.

Dairy producers get heads-up on new air, water regulations

By DairyBusiness Staff

TULARE, Calif. – Dairy producers are all hounded by the reality of doing business under the watchful eyes of regulators. Whether it is someone holding you accountable for air quality or water quality, it has become harder and harder to jump through all the regulatory hoops.

During Dairy Profit Seminars at World Ag Expo recently, Paul Martin, director of environmental services, Western United Dairymen, and Cynthia Cory, director of environmental affairs, California Farm Bureau Federation, gave producers an update on the things they need to watch for in the months to come.

Martin called for the audience to give dairy producers a “well deserved round of applause” for the job they have done so far in addressing water issues on their dairies. “Producers have dealt with three years of a new regulatory program that has been very detailed, very costly and very time consuming, and they have stepped up to the plate,” Martin declared.

Their compliance rate has been impressive and the water board has a new-found respect for dairymens’ performance, he said.

“We still have more to do,” Martin admitted. “The order calls for all dairies at the rate of 100 to 200 a year to install monitoring well systems to test the water that is first encountered under their property. It’s controversial and expensive and could be as much as 50% of the total compliance costs with the WDR.”

According to Martin, the water board recognizes the huge expense that meeting the regulations costs producers. Both scientists and dairy groups presented to the water board that they were concerned about the usefulness of this monitoring well approach. Although the program continues to move forward, the board authorized pursuing “alternative monitoring proposals.”

In the meantime, to date, 50 dairies have been ordered to install monitoring wells. Orders were given to these first 50 dairies because they had not done their nutrient management plans that were due at the end of last year.

Martin said their proposal calls for monitoring relatively few dairies located in clusters. The water board has indicated an interest because they don’t have the manpower to monitor every dairy.

“And why are we making the proposal? One simple reason: save producers time, money and paperwork,” Martin said. “We expect the existing program will cost each dairy between $36,000 and $55,000 over the next 14 years. This hits the smaller dairies hardest because each dairy will have to install a four or five well monitoring network, no matter what the size of the operation. Total cost over the life of the program is $64 million. Our alternative proposal would only cost $5 million, total.”

Martin explained that under the alternative proposal, the framework for participation must be voluntary for producers to choose to join the program or continue on the individual monitoring path. Administration of the program must be independent of milk processors and trade associations, and has to be run by producers themselves.

Whatever results is found in individual cluster-testing would be used to formulate the regulation of similar areas. The clusters would be located in a variety of areas that represent different soil types and conditions.

Martin envisions that the organizational structure of the alternative proposal would be a non-profit that regularly interacts and reports to the water board; develop an approved budget; and set fees to fund the monitoring system. He indicated that they would create a steering committee in the region to put the program together.

Martin said they have obtained legal representation to help develop the template for the program, complete with options on tax exempt status to determine the best structure.

“A lot of questions remain,” he declared. “Should there be a deadline for opting in or out of the program? How do they address the fee questions, late sign up penalties and billing systems?”

There are also governance, administration and technical questions to answer.

“We are working hard through the CARES coalition,” said Martin. “That involves most everyone in the dairy industry: Farm Bureau, processors, dairy associations and businesses that service the dairy industry.”

The ultimate decision by individual dairy producers whether to get involved or not is strictly voluntary, however.

New air regulations reviewed

Cynthia Cory discussed the changes coming for diesel truck regulations under the jurisdiction of the Air Resource Board.

She has been working with a number of other agricultural associations on this issue for the past 18 months, most recently trying to get the word out to the agricultural community about the upcoming compliance deadline.

In the 1990s, diesel particulate matter (PM) was identified as a toxic air contaminant and the State Air Board has been trying ever since to figure out how to protect the people from diesel particulate matter. A series of rules indicated they were going to replace all the diesels in the state, but the energy crisis put things on hold. Now they are back at it.

“Regulators went after, what I call the low-hanging fruit,” Cory said. Original plan rules were back on the table, covering garbage trucks, urban trucks and school buses. They singled out off-road vehicles (construction equipment). It was the first time Cory saw regulators look at the regular consumer businessman trying to make a living and told them they had to replace their equipment.

“I knew agriculture was not going to escape the burden of the diesel air rules. First our trucks and then our tractors,” Cory said, and that’s exactly what is happening.

The bottom line is eventually everyone driving a truck over 14,000 GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) in the state will be required to have a 2010 engine. “The air coming out of the tail pipe must be cleaner than the air going in,” she said. “This is the first rule that requires trucks coming into the sate must meet the same regulations. Visitors can have a three-day pass, once a year.

If you drive your diesel truck less 1,000 miles a year, or less than 100 hours, you can get out of the rule. That won’t work for many. You have to have an odometer and hour meter on it so you can’t use as PTO just sitting stationary and running.

Diesel pickups under 19,500 GVWR with the original diesel bed are out of the rule.

Agricultural vehicles are considered to be those used exclusively to deliver fertilizer and pesticides; one owned by a farming business and used exclusively in the “agricultural operation;” in field use trucks for silage or manure; those used exclusively to haul products from farm to “first point of processing;” and specialty vehicles.

She said “specialty ag vehicles” are exempt until Jan. 1, 2023 with unlimited mileage. She defined these vehicles as cotton module movers, water trucks used to control dust or irrigate crops, feed trucks at calf and cattle feedlots (not dairies), nursery rigs used to refuel, repair, or refill helicopters or planes.

There will only be 1,100 of these specialty vehicles allowed in the San Joaquin Valley, and total in the state cannot exceed 2,200.

Engine requirements

Low-mileage ag vehicles (10,000 miles or less a year) are exempt until 2023, and you do not have to replace engine with 2010 engine until 2023.

Limited-mileage ag vehicles are exempt until 2017. Vehicles that fall in this category have mileage limits depending on the engine model year.

• 1995 and older – 15,000 miles a year.

• 1996-2005 –20,000 miles a year.

• 2006 – 25,000 miles a year.

• 2007 and newer – no mileage limit.

She reminded the audience that Mar. 31, 2010 was the deadline to report all vehicles and ag vehicles in the fleet as of Jan. 1, 2009. And she said by April 30, 2010, you have to have “AG” stickers on all your ag vehicles.

Three compliance options

She outlined three compliance options:

Option 1 – Best available control technology (BACT) schedule. 1) Specifies dates of compliance based on engine model year, 2) Most straightforward, and 3) No reporting required.

Option 2 – Percentage limit option. 1) Specifies dates that percentages of vehicles must meet PM and NOx BACT, and 2) Requires annual reporting.

Option 3 – Fleet (1 truck or more) average option. 1) Specifies dates that fleets must meet a declining fleet average target, and 2) Provides most flexibility.

Small fleet provisions

She also outlined “optional small fleet provisions” involving three vehicles or less. No action is required until the first deadline, Jan. 1, 2014.

• By Jan. 1, 2014, one vehicle must at least have a 2004 model year engine with a diesel particulate filter, which will be exempt until 2019.

• Remaining trucks must meet PM (Particulate Matter) and NOx (nitrogen oxide) BACT (best available control technology).

Special provisions for NOx exempt area vehicles:

• Truck tractors and vehicles with GVWR over 33,000 lbs. operated less than 7,500 miles (hours limitation applies for yard goats and vehicles using PTO to perform work while stationary).

• Smaller vehicles operated less than 5,000 miles (same hourly limitations apply).

• Must meet PM BACT, but exempt from NOx BACT until Jan. 1, 2021.

• Subject to reporting requirements.

• Any vehicle operated exclusively in attainment areas (following counties: Alpine, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Monterey, Plumas, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Trinity, Tehama, and Yuba).

• No mileage limits.

• GPS tracking or other method.

• Reporting required.

Incentives for agriculture

There are incentive programs for ag.

• Voucher Incentive Program: Must be a small fleet (3 vehicles or less); Approximately $20,000 – $35,000 per truck; Can be combined with loan guarantee.

• Proposition 1B (funding on hold): Replacement funds available for 2003 and older trucks; Available for large and small fleets; Grants competitive: cost-effectiveness and reductions; Loan guarantee program for small fleets in development.

• Loan Assistance Program: Fleet must have 20 or fewer trucks; Qualify as a small business (100 or fewer employees, less than $10,000 in revenue); Loans for used trucks, new trucks, or exhaust retrofits.

• Lower Emission School Bus Program: About $200 million for replacements and retrofits; Additional local and state fund.

Important contacts

For more specific information, contact:

• Tony Brasil, Chief, In-Use Control Measures Section, by e-mail at or call 916-323-2927.

• Ron Nunes, e-mail at or call, 916-327-0376.

• Diesel Hot Line – 866-634-3735.

• Websites: or

For the complete panel discussion via podcast, please visit and click on “Dairy Profit Seminars.” Then click on “WDB Seminar #1: Air & Water.”

Respiratory disease: Treat the infection and the inflammation

Early detection, rapid response and aggressive treatment are the keys to effectively treating bovine respiratory disease (BRD), more commonly known as pneumonia. This was the advice to dairy calf and heifer raisers from Tom Shelton, D.V.M., M.S., senior technical services specialist for Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health.

Tom Shelton, D.V.M., M.S., is senior technical services specialist for Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health.

In his March 25 presentation, “Respiratory Disease: Early Intervention is the Best Medicine” at the Dairy Calf and Heifer Conference in Lexington, Ky., Shelton discussed the anatomy and physiology of the bovine respiratory system and best management practices to most effectively manage respiratory disease.

“The short- and long-term effects of pneumonia are nothing to sneeze at,” Shelton said. “Pneumonia is a critical issue on dairy farms, costing you time and money to treat calves now and negatively affecting an animal’s health and productivity far into the future.”

The challenge

Pneumonia is the most important disease in calves older than 30 days and according to the National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS), results in an average loss of $15 per calf per year. In addition, long-term effects of pneumonia include a negative impact on growth, reproductive performance, milk production and longevity.

Cattle lungs are small, relative to the animal’s size, and prone to infection. Compared to other organs, they also have the most potential to decrease future performance from lung damage which persists throughout the animal’s life and cannot be repaired.

Another challenge is the growth rate of respiratory bacteria. Shelton said bacterial populations can double every 30 minutes, and a single infectious BRD organism can explode into trillions in less than 24 hours.

“With the rapid snowball effect of bacteria, it’s critical to identify and treat BRD symptoms immediately,” explained Shelton.

An emerging respiratory pathogen, Mycloplasma bovis, can result in ear and joint infections, as well as mastitis and abortion in adult cattle.

Early intervention

Effective colostrum management and vaccination programs are two great steps toward prevention. But even the best managed operations can and will have pneumonia cases.

“The solution to most of these challenges is early detection,” said Shelton. “If treatment is started too late or stopped too early, failure in treating the disease is likely to occur.”

“Detection of pneumonia is a problem on calf ranches and dairy farms,” said Shelton. “More than 50 percent of cases are under-diagnosed, and more than 40 percent are not detected early enough.”

Treat infection and inflammation

“In addition to treating the infection, it’s equally important to treat the inflammation,” Shelton explained. “Inflammation is a vicious cycle, and it increases both pathogen virulence and the severity of the disease and causes tissue damage. And in BRD, inflammation often causes more damage than the pathogens themselves.”

Lung protection therapy is a management practice used in treating pneumonia that addresses both the infection and the inflammation. Use both a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory to quickly respond to the inflammation and an antibiotic to treat the bacteria.

A well-rounded approach

Shelton suggests the following best management practices to quickly and effectively respond to BRD symptoms:

  • Work with your veterinarian to administer an effective BRD vaccination program.
  • Provide the right amount of antibody protection at birth by feeding one gallon of colostrum as soon as possible after birth and another gallon 12 hours later.
  • Monitor calves regularly for signs of pneumonia (cough, nasal discharge, watery eyes, drooping ears, labored breathing, increased breathing rate, depression, loss of appetite, slow to respond, weak muscles, etc.)
  • Quickly and aggressively treat the animal with both a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic.
    • The anti-inflammatory will break the vicious circle of inflammation.
    • The antibiotic will act on the bacteria that initiate the infection process.
  • Monitor the animals health regularly to determine how she’s responding to treatment.
  • Select follow-up treatment protocols if she doesn’t respond.

For more information about respiratory disease management, contact Dr. Shelton at, (208) 867-3502; or contact your veterinarian or animal health company representative.