Archive for July, 2010

Conversations: Ask you management team about lagoon management

The 2009 dairy economy was stress enough, but now 2010 is bringing additional environmental regulations. As producers and their advisors meet in the conference room (or kitchen), the conversation will certainly address ways to manage manure.

By Bill Braman, Ph D.

Public relations and regulatory pressures on manure storage and handling are mounting across the country. Odor reduction and solids disposal are two key issues. State and federal regulations will have significant impact on our industry, applying more stringent regulations – especially on large-herd dairies. While many types of manure management systems already exist, one low-cost option is gaining traction: treating manure lagoons with bacteria.

1) How are some of the new EPA regulations going to affect me?

In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set new standards for the treatment of waste on dairy herds of 700+ head. These dairies are obligated to meet updated air reporting requirements. Additionally, these regulations allow for direct EPA intervention if requested by a neighbor or local authority regarding complaints to investigate releases of hazardous substances. For the most part, these regulations shouldn’t affect smaller operations, but as our industry continues to consolidate, these regulations could have a profound impact on how expansion and consolidation plans are drafted. Ask whether or not the new EPA regulations affect your current operation or potential expansion plans.

2) What is the idea behind using bacteria to treat manure?

While there are some bacteria native to manure lagoons, the idea is to supplement this native bacteria with strains specifically selected to accelerate the degradation of solids and odor-producing gasses. The approach is called bacterial seeding, and is fairly common at municipal waste treatment facilities. This process helps maintain a robust bacterial population that breaks down waste through digestion. Discuss the types of bacteria currently growing in your lagoon.

3) Is this type of treatment effective in reducing odors or solids?

Odor is largely due to anaerobic decomposition. Research shows that by increasing the activity level of beneficial bacteria, foul odors can be mitigated. For example, Chr. Hansen Animal Health & Nutrition developed a bacterial manure treatment product proven to reduce odor-producing compounds such as ammonia nitrogen and organic nitrogen. Since the bacteria essentially liquefies the solids, the lagoon can be easier to agitate and pump – and even be pumped lower since there is less risk of clogging. Review how you may save on agitation and pumping time and expenses when solids exist in a more liquid state.

4) Is the bacteria safe for a lagoon?

Lagoons that don’t have adequate amounts of natural bacteria are actually more of a concern than a lagoon with supplemental bacteria. Without adequate numbers of bacteria, a lagoon can accumulate excess solids on the bottom or form a firm top crust, increasing the difficulty and expense to clean the lagoon.

Multi-stage lagoons benefit, in that fluids can flow more easily from one stage to the next – keeping solids suspended longer. Identify how your lagoon could benefit from easier flow and clean out..

5) Can the manure still be used on cropland?

Due to the digestion process, nitrogen binds in the cells of the bacteria. This nitrogen is organic and gets released into the soil as the bacteria break down. In fact, after cleanout, the predigested manure solids absorb into the soil quickly, with less opportunity for caking on the surface. Untreated manure can burn crops if applied incorrectly, and the odor from spreading can be offensive to neighbors. Ask about the nutrient values of bacteria-treated lagoons to learn how this could impact your crop management program.

6) It’s February. Will this treatment be effective in winter?

Fermentation activity is certainly reduced in colder temperatures. However research demonstrates there is fermentation activity in the lagoon even when frozen over. Discuss how much fermentation activity occurs year-round in a lagoon, especially in warmer climates.

6. How much bacteria is needed to be effective?

The treatment protocol is typically designed as a two-step process. The first step is a “shock treatment” of the existing lagoon contents. One cost-saving opportunity is to begin a program right after your lagoon has been pumped – that way less product is needed for the initial shock treatment. The second step is built around an ongoing application (typically bimonthly) that is appropriate for the number of animals, waste and water volume. Ask about calculating the amount of water used for flushing and the total volume in the lagoon to get an idea of how many gallons you would need to treat.


Bill Braman, Ph.D., is vice president of sales & marketing for Chr. Hansen Animal Health & Nutrition. Contact him via phone: 888-828-6600; or e-mail uswbr@ For more information, visit

Dairy Research Institute formed

Designed to  align resources and boost dairy research, the institute is first of its kind to provide industrywide approach to technical research to meet consumer needs

Rosemont, Ill. — Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy announced the formation of the Dairy Research Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization designed to strengthen the dairy industry’s access to and investment in the technical research needed to drive demand for dairy products and ingredients, globally.

The institute brings together leadership from across the dairy industry, scientific community, academics, government and other organizations to plan and fund leading-edge dairy research in three key priority areas: nutrition science, product development and sustainability.

“The Dairy Research Institute fulfills a vital need to align our industry’s research efforts to address consumer needs and increase sales,” said Kevin Ponticelli, chair of the Dairy Research Institute Board of Directors and executive vice president of DMI, which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of the nation’s dairy farmers. “In an increasingly competitive marketplace, it is critical that we work together as an industry to increase and manage the industry’s investment in research.”

The launch of the Dairy Research Institute builds upon the unprecedented efforts of dairy producers, processors and manufacturers to work together pre-competitively through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, formed in 2008. The Dairy Research Institute is affiliated with the Innovation Center, and provides a forum for industry to identify major research needs to support dairy industry innovation, and grow dairy sales.

“The U.S. dairy industry has a long history of using science-based research to provide the knowledge, guidance and tools needed to foster innovation and promote the nutrient-rich value of dairy and the industry’s long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Greg Miller, executive vice president, research, regulatory and scientific affairs for DMI and president of the Dairy Research Institute.  “Through partnerships and a commitment to sound science, we will support the importance of dairy in the diet and the sustainability of the products and ingredients we produce. The dairy industry needs to remain at the forefront of research to meet the challenges of today and those yet to come.”

The Dairy Research Institute builds on the legacy of nutrition and product research conducted by the National Dairy Council since 1915, and will leverage their expertise, as well as other partners, including five dairy research centers at major universities and government agencies, such as the USDA’s Agricultural Research Services and the Department of Defense’s Natick Soldier Center, and other leading scientific, health and nongovernment organizations. The Dairy Research Institute also will coordinate with the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the National Milk Producers Federation, the Milk Processor Education Program, DMI, U.S. Dairy Export Council, Global Dairy Platform, and other industry and non-industry partners.

“The U.S. dairy industry understands the important role research plays in giving consumers the nutritious dairy products they want — when, where and how they want them,” said Connie Tipton, president and chief executive officer, International Dairy Foods Association. “By working together to prioritize, support and share research with stakeholders, we will be better positioned to meet consumer needs, and protect and promote dairy in the marketplace.”

Dairy Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization affiliated with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and was created to strengthen the dairy industry’s access to and investment in the technical research required to drive innovation and demand for dairy products and ingredients, globally. The institute will work with and through industry, academic, government and commercial partners to drive pre-competitive research in nutrition, products and sustainability.

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 31 key U.S. producer organizations, dairy cooperatives, processors, manufacturers and brands. The Innovation Center is supported and staffed by Dairy Management Inc.

About Dairy Management Inc. Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) is the nonprofit domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing sales of and demand for U.S.-produced dairy products and ingredients on behalf of America’s dairy producers. DMI manages the American Dairy Association®, National Dairy Council® and U.S. Dairy Export Council®.


For more information, contact

CWT expands export assistance product list, accepts bids

ARLINGTON, VA – Following an economic evaluation of the competitiveness of U.S. butter and anhydrous milkfat (AMF) prices, Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) added these two products to those currently eligible for assistance under the CWT Export Assistance program.

In the past month, the butter price at the CME has moved up to more than 13¢/lb. As a result, the prices of butter and AMF in the U.S. have moved above the world price for these two commodities. Providing export assistance on these two products will allow CWT members to maintain market share in light of the increase in the U.S. price.

Following the decision, CWT accepted four bids from Dairy Farmers of America and three bids from Land O’Lakes for 1,714 metric tons (3.78 million lbs.) of butter and AMF to Europe, the Caribbean, South America and the Middle East. Delivery will take place from July through November.

CWT also accepted two bids from Dairy Farmers of America for 97 metric tons (213,848 lbs.) of cheddar cheese to Europe and Asia. This product will be delivered from August through November 2010.

Since CWT reactivated the Export Assistance program on March 18, 2010, it has assisted members in making export sales of cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Gouda cheese totaling 17,330 metric tons (38.2 million lbs.) to 23 countries on four continents. The totals have been adjusted due to the cancellation of a bid for 38 metric tons of cheese to Africa.

Quality quarrel: Longstanding U.S. debate gets global pressure

Milk quality export paper trail would go all the way back to individual U.S. farms under EU requirements

By Dave Natzke

The U.S. dairy industry has gained some time to discuss and avert a potential disruption of some dairy product exports.

As Eastern DairyBusiness went to press this month, it was unclear how or when the United States would deal with new European Union (EU) dairy product export certificate requirements. Under those requirements, dairy products entering EU countries must be made from milk with less than 400,000 cells/milliliter (cells/ml), certified at the individual farm level. The EU has accepted dairy products made from commingled tankers or silos with less than 400,000 cells/ml since 1997.

The EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) announced the requirements in early April 2010, originally setting an Oct. 1, 2010 deadline. However, both the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to intervene, saying requiring individual farm certification would create hardships for U.S. dairy farmers and processors. Furthermore, NMPF and USDEC said the 400,000 cells/ml standard raises both scientific and World Trade Organization trade questions.

EU and U.S. food and agriculture officials met in early July, agreeing to extend implementation of the revised SCC certificate program to Dec. 1, 2010. Even that, however, is a “soft” deadline, as the EU and U.S. work out details.

Current U.S. standard: 750,000

The current U.S. legal limit for bulk tank SCC, established under the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, is 750,000 cells/ml. California’s legal SCC limit is 600,000 cells/ml.

By one measure, most U.S. dairy producers already meet the EU standards. Regional and seasonal variations exist, however. Based on latest Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) herd records, SCC levels fluctuate by geography – presumably related to regional climate – as well as season and, to a lesser extent, herd size.

Somatic cell scores (SCS) of milk are reported to USDA’s Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory as part of an individual cow’s test-day yield information. The test-day data is reported annually for all herds (including owner-sampler herds) enrolled in DHI SCC testing (97% of all DHI herds in 2009).

The SCS are converted back to a milk SCC for calculating herd and state averages. Nationally, average test-day herd SCC during 2009 was 233,000 cells/ml, down 29,000 cells/ml from 2008. Most states (42) had lower average SCC than reported a year earlier; only six states had higher averages.

Somatic cell scores (SCS) of milk are reported to USDA’s Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory as part of an individual cow’s test-day yield information.

According to DHI test-day data:

• Highest average annual SCC levels were in Southeast states, where heat and humidity can combine to pose the biggest milk quality management challenges (see Table 1). Nine of the top 10 states with highest 2009 average test days greater than 400,000 cells/ml were in the Southeast. Three states in the region had annual herd test-day averages of more than 400,000 cells/ml for 2009: Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Although climatic conditions likely contributed to regional SCC differences, differences between adjacent states were substantial, suggesting herd size and mastitis-control practices, including genetic selection, impacted state differences as well, according to the report’s authors.

Based on latest Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) herd records, SCC levels fluctuate by geography – presumably related to regional climate – as well as season and, to a lesser extent, herd size.

• As expected, the seasonal pattern for milk quality is shows the biggest challenges in April-July. The highest quality milk is produced in November and December (Table 2).

• Herds of 100 cows or less tended to have a greater number of test days above 400,000 cells/ml (see Table 2). Herds of <200 cows averaged more than 10% of all test days above 400,000 cells/ml.

• The United States has been making progress on lowering average SCC. Annual SCC for test herds averaged above 300,000 between 1995-2003, but fell to 233,000 in 2009. The decline from 2008-09 was the largest annual year-to-year decrease since the downward trend started in 2001-02 (Table 2).

Debate continues

The SCC discussion has been a national debate for at least two decades. The National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments has tried – and failed – to lower U.S. SCC limits from the current 750,000 cells/ml on several occasions since the mid 1990s.

The argument often used against the lower limits – and one used by NMPF and USDEC against EU’s new requirements – is that SCC between 400,000-750,000 cells/ml do not pose a human health threat, especially since exported dairy products are from pasteurized milk.

In the letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Ann Hamburg, NMPF and USDEC contend the EU standard of 400,000 cells/ml for individual farms is “inappropriate,” and may be motivated more by trade issues than concerns over product quality or safety. Even within its own member countries, the EU enforces acceptance of milk that is “out of compliance” on an individual basis, and differently for products such as cheese aged more than 60 days, the letter states.

The letter states the U.S. dairy industry will discuss the feasibility of a revised EU certification program for SCC testing with FDA and the other relevant agencies, seeking a plan that is viable and non-burdensome for U.S. dairy producers, cooperatives and processors.

What impact on exports?

While the Southeast faces the largest SCC challenges, that area is not currently a major export supplier. USDA’s latest dairy export data shows just one Southeast state – Tennessee – recorded any dairy exports in 2009, and just two – Tennessee and Kentucky – were sources of dairy exports in the past decade. (USDA said about $548 million in dairy exports were “unallocated” in 2009, without a state designated as a source. USDA bases export share estimates on each state’s dairy product production, instead of using data from export shipping locations.)

We know, however, that milk moves much greater distances than in the past, and may move to other regions under federal order balancing. In addition, the EU requirements cover not just primary products, but also byproducts, such as whey. Several processors have already implemented standards meeting EU requirements.

Measurement differences

We’re all aware the U.S. measures length, weight and area using different units than the EU. Turns out there’s also a difference in how SCC is calculated,  too, noted Jeff Reneau, professor of dairy management at the University of Minnesota.

The EU uses the “geometric mean” a calculation made by taking the cube root of the three monthly SCC. In the U.S., the arithmetic mean calculation is normally used. According to Reneau, the geometric mean  reduces the influence of the occasional high SCC spike, yielding a lower number (Table 3).

Another question, Reneau said, is how monthly SCC will be determined. Fewer bulk tank SCC tests are done (bimonthly) in the EU than in the Upper Midwest, for example, where SCC tests are run on every pickup. Therefore, using the single “official” SCC test or some random selection of a single bulk tank SCC test done during any month would be comparable to what is done in the EU.


■ Read “Somatic cell counts of milk from Dairy Herd Improvement herds during 2009,” at

■ Visit the NMC (National Mastitis Council) website,

$u$tainability must be economically viable, too

Editor’s Update

By Dave Natzke

The third leg of sustainability – economics – is getting more attention. Are more consumers getting it?

“Sustainability” is like pornography: It’s hard to pin down a single definition, but almost everybody is pretty sure they know it when they see it.

In its narrowest definition, almost all eyes have been on the perceived “green” side of environmental and social issues. And that focus has paid “green” for some companies, marketers and producers who have been able to form consumer perceptions.

How much? As I regularly report, one need only check out the American Farm Bureau Federation’s latest quarterly Marketbasket Survey. In that survey, shoppers in 32 states reported paying $2.06 per half gallon of regular milk ($3.06 for a full gallon), but substantially more for what some perceive as more “sustainable.”

A half gallon of “rbST-free” milk was $3.38, about 65% higher than regular milk, with the retail markup equal to about $30.69/cwt. (That’s not the price; it’s the markup.) Organic milk, at $3.65 per half gallon, was about 80% higher than regular milk.

It’s not just milk. According to Farm Bureau’s survey, the average price for a dozen regular eggs was $1.53; the average price for a dozen “cage-free” eggs was $2.91, about 90% more than regular eggs.

How much of that markup is returned to producers? I’m no poultry expert, but in the dairy case, not much.

Producer viability

The third leg of “sustainability” is gaining attention, as more people recognize if sustainability isn’t economically viable, it probably isn’t, well, sustainable.

Earlier this summer, crop protection company BASF hosted a media summit to address what it called a “A Grounded Approach to Agricultural Sustainability.” Among the presentations, BASF reported results of a survey it commissioned regarding farmland stewardship issues. The survey results exhibited some gaps – and some surprising similarities – between consumers and growers.

• Consumers believe organically grown food is safest; growers think conventionally grown food is significantly safer than consumers do. Growers had the same opinions of conventional and organic food in terms of safety.

• Both consumers and growers believe farmland stewardship practices are better now than 10 years ago, and both agree practices will improve in the next 10 years.

• When buying crop inputs, growers place the most importance on product effectiveness. Consumers also think growers place significant importance on environmental impact.

• Consumers actually trusted chemical companies more than growers did.

“Consumers feel good about advances the agricultural industry has made, and are asking growers to continue to place importance on environmental impacts,” said Paul Rea, vice president of BASF U.S. Crop Operations. “In the end, it comes down to consumers having trust in growers, both to provide a safe food supply and to have minimal impact on our environment.”

According to Peter Eckes, president of BASF Plant Sciences, sustainability is a complex topic as agriculture strives to produce more food to meet the needs of a growing population, while using less acreage, water and energy – all while trying to stay profitable.

“Growers are often in the middle of actions by policy makers and the marketing chain, facing unintended consequences,” he said.

Of course, if you’re a crop input company, that’s what you’re expected to say. But Robert Thompson, former University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign ag policy chair, agreed, warning “sustainability” mandates eliminating use of modern technologies are short-sighted and misguided.

“Ag research will be critical to productivity growth,” Thompson said. “By 2050, food production must double. We could double acreage, with a huge environmental impact. About 70% of all fresh water is already used for agriculture, so that can’t be doubled. So we have to triple the ‘crop per drop’.”

Consumers are still evolving, wanting the fundamentals of quality, value and price, Thompson said. Most don’t understand sustainability; about 10% say they make purchasing decisions based on their perception of sustainability, he said.

Mike Geske, a Matthews, Mo. corn grower and National Corn Growers Association board member, said “sustainability” has been part of his business since he began farming. “Lower inputs are a moral imperative,” he said.

So is communication. “There is a lot of fragmentation,” Geske said. “There needs to be better dialogue, and industry must be better organized on public policy and education efforts.”

Dr. Jeffrey D. Armstrong, dean of Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said ecological, social, cultural and economic factors must be addressed in a holistic fashion. He said human capital development is critical, and that the “sustainability discussion” must move to the “pre-competitive” state.

“Activists and some NGOs take a political/emotional approach for their version of sustainability,” he said. “The academic community must communicate better on a science-based approach.” He said public funding for agricultural sustainability is woefully short, and ag productivity growth has slowed in the last decade as the United States falls behind in pubic research.

“Just educating consumers isn’t going to get us out of this,” Armstrong said. “Consumers ‘vote’ on small bits of information, often based on perception. All aspects of sustainability should be taught in schools.”

That includes adequate economic returns to producers. “Margins don’t allow full adoption of sustainability,” Armstrong said.

“Consumers still want variety and choice, but they also want information on production practices,” said Terry Uhling, senior vice president, J. R. Simplot Co. “Consumers remain diverse, so we can’t paint them with a one brush. Economics, cost, safety, instantaneous convenience are changing the ‘face’ of the dinner table.”

As multi-national companies strive for product consistency, global “sustainability” standards will result, Uhling said.

J.P. Ruiz-Funes, senior vice president of corporate strategy and business development for Land O’Lakes, said the link of sustainability and productivity must be emphasized, and increased productivity must be the pillar of the message. He credited the Gates Foundation and others with helping lead to a resurgence of education to convert subsistence farming to commercial farming in developing countries. But while he is encouraged by funding for global food production research, the liveliehood of farmers must be addressed.

“Sustainability is the business of the business,” said Ruiz-Funes. “Environmental sustainability means we have to feed more people with smaller impacts on resources. One means to do that is through development of farmers in other countries.”

Roger Thurow, former correspondent of The Wall Street Journal and co-author of “Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty,” offered a final perspective. He said food production will need to double by 2050 to meet growing population/prosperity needs.

“There are 1 billion people chronically hungry now, equal to 16% of the world’s population,” he said, urging people to become “outraged.” “People are dying from criminal negligence; starvation is the disease of the soul.”

Measuring ‘sustainability’

Nevin McDougall, senior vice president, BASF Crop Protection/North America, said “sustainability” may add business risks, and requires improved communication. Unfortunately, new technologies and science are not easily communicated. He warned private industry must avoid an “arrogant” stance regarding sustainability, instead developing transparent tools to measure their environmental impact.

BASF unveiled a new Eco-Efficiency Analysis tool – still in the development stages – which compares the social, economic and environmental profiles of products and production methods for use in on-farm management decisions. The tool could, for example, calculate a pesticide application’s impact on water or fuel usage, other input costs and crop yield, assigning an overall “sustainability score” to the product. It takes the product’s entire life cycle into account, from raw materials sourcing, to product manufacture, use and disposal.

Theoretically, the score would not only help growers tailor cropping systems to maximize profitability, but could also follow a crop all the way through the food/feed value chain, useful for marketers and consumers who make purchasing decisions based on “sustainability” issues.


For more information about the summit and to listen to a recording of the general session, visit

To offer your own opinion or response, e-mail Dave Natzke, national editorial director, DairyBusiness Communications, e-mail:

Old problem, new looks: Johne’s disease is major research focus

Researchers provide updates on prevention, vaccination, transmission, detection and nutrition.

By Emma Wall

Emma Wall, PhD., is a post-doctoral associate in the University of Vermont’s Department of Animal Science and Department of Medicine. Contact her via e-mail:

Herd health – in particular Johne’s disease – was a major topic during the 2010 American Dairy Science Association/Poultry Science Association/American Society of Animal Science (ADSA/PSA/ASAS) joint annual meeting in Denver, Colo.

By now, the basics of Johne’s disease (paratuberculosis) should be well known. The infectious bacterial disease is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium avium ss. paratuberculosis. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Johne’s Information Center estimates up to two-thirds of all U.S. dairy herds have at least one infected animal. Although young stock are more susceptible to infection, older cattle can also be infected.

The disease continues to pose big challenges for dairy producers. First, animals can become infected, and infect other animals, for years before they show any symptoms. Second, current detection methods are not always accurate, costing the producer  both time and money. By some estimates, the disease costs dairy producers at least $200/cow/year, mainly due to decreased milk production long before other symptoms become apparent.

Ongoing Johne’s disease research presentations at the ADSA/PSA/ASAS meeting focused on three main topics:

1) Understanding transmission

2) Prevention and vaccine development

3) Current and new detection strategies

Understanding transmission

Pennsylvania State University Research showed there are different strains of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, and these strains affect Holstein cattle differently. Specifically, strain 2 seemed to be more virulent than the others. If strain identification is incorporated into future disease detection methods, producers might be able to fine-tune prevention strategies based on the strains present in their herds.

Research from the W. H. Miner Agricultural Institute showed Mycobacterium avium ss. paratuberculosis, if present in manure used for fertilizing crops, has the potential to infect animals consuming the feed. Producers of infected herds will need to consider this as a potential area of disease transmission when establishing prevention protocols.

Researchers at Texas A&M discovered some of the genes involved in the invasion and persistence of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis in the intestine. Their study may lead to specific targets for Johne’s disease treatment.

Prevention, vaccine development

Researchers with the USDA’s National Johne’s Demonstration Herd Project evaluated Johne’s disease transmission risks in common cattle housing systems. The research looked at calving areas, and pens for pre- and post-weaned heifers, bred heifers, cows and bulls across 62 dairy and 20 beef farms over a 6-year period.

On beef farms, calving and pre-weaned heifer areas were the highest risk areas for disease transmission and the best places to focus on prevention.

However, on dairy farms, the calving area alone seemed to be the most important. They found the best prevention strategies on dairy farms were to:

• make sure udders and legs of cows in the calving area are clean

• use individual animal calving areas or allow fewer animals in the calving area

• prevent Johne’s disease clinical or suspect animals from entering the calving area

Cornell University researchers used mathematical modeling and predicted keeping calves away from shedding animals, combined with culling positive animals, was the most effective strategy for preventing new infections.

Research from the University of Minnesota argued that although young stock are susceptible, disease transmission in adult animals should also be an area of focus when developing prevention strategies. This is supported by Cornell research showing adult animals can be infected by so-called “super shedders” – animals shedding a very high bacteria levels in manure.

Vaccine development seems to be a very active area of study right now. Researchers at Washington State looked at the potential for using a protein on the surface of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis as a vaccine and found, unfortunately, it did not induce a strong enough animal immune response to be effective. However, calfhood injections with the mutant form of the bacteria did not lead to an infection, and researchers are actively pursuing the idea of using this mutant as a vaccine.

Cornell researchers investigated the use of a different mutant as a vaccine. Preliminary experiments on mice showed it partially prevented disease.

Another group at the University of Minnesota looked at the effectiveness of vaccination against Johne’s across three dairy herds from 2005-2009. They found that although fewer vaccinated animals tested positive for the disease, vaccination had no effect on overall lactation or breeding performance. In contrast, other University of Minnesota research showed vaccination protocols reduced herd-level financial losses.

Researchers in India are looking at a new vaccine, developed for goats, that seems to be very effective at preventing Johne’s in both goats and sheep. Their data, although preliminary, show this vaccine may also be effective in dairy cows.

Tri-Lution, a microbial feed additive, has the potential to relieve some of the negative effects of Johne’s disease in infected herds, according to research presented by the product’s manufacturer, Agri-King. The company reported that supplementation with Tri-Lution not only increased milk production, but also decreased bacteria shedding in manure. Therefore, the product has the potential to decrease costs associated with the disease by alleviating some of the milk loss, and by decreasing potential infection rates. This seems to be a pretty new concept though, so more research is needed.

Current, new detection strategies

Researchers from Michigan and Switzerland presented information on a new, high-throughput assay for detecting Johne’s in milk samples. The method is based on an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) already in use. The researchers described a new, fully-automated system capable of running more than 1,000 samples per day, adding efficiency and speed. If adopted, this could save producers money and time, since the lab can turn the samples over much faster.

At the University of Tennessee, scientists are trying to improve the sensitivity of ELISA. Their results show the potential for improving these tests by detecting new proteins that are found on the membrane of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis.

Although ELISA on blood or milk samples is often used to detect disease, researchers at Purdue University reported fecal sample culturing is the most accurate method to detect animals actually shedding the disease.

Several researchers reported a more sensitive method of disease detection is real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This method uses DNA amplification to detect and amplify DNA from Mycobacterium paratuberculosis. If it isn’t present in the sample, nothing will amplify. It is more sensitive than other methods, and faster. A few research groups argued this method’s high sensitivity could make it the new “gold standard” for detecting Johne’s disease.

Take home messages

• The calving area is consistently the highest area of risk for disease transmission. Have strategies in place to decrease the risk of infecting new animals.

• Currently, vaccines available for prevention of Johne’s do not always produce consistent results. They have different efficacies on different herds, and don’t always protect animals from infection or shedding. Nevertheless, vaccines may reduce shedding and severity of the disease, so they are probably still cost effective. New vaccines are being tested and hopefully better ones will become available.

• If your herd is infected, there may be nutritional products on the market that can alleviate the effects of Johne’s on lactation performance. Ask your nutritionist.

• Finally, there are several methods of detection available. Work with your veterinarian, test your herd regularly, and encourage the testing laboratory to use cutting-edge detection techniques.


For more information on Johne’s disease, visit:

USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Insection Service website:

• the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine Johne’s Information Center website:

• the National Johne’s Education Initiative website:

Essential oils, probiotics among other topics

Essential oil research is a hot topic. Using essential oils as feed additives has shown the potential to improve lactation performance of dairy cows and also to increase weight gain and health of calves. This year, research from several institutions looked at the potential of using essential oils in place of antibiotics for both preventative and treatment strategies. Results look promising, and research is ongoing.

Probiotics, also a hot research topic, were covered in an animal health section. Researchers from the University of Alberta reported intravaginal treatment of pregnant cows with probiotics during the transition period improved the health status the cow, and also newborn calves. Treatment of lactating cows with probiotics was shown to decrease the risk of sub-clinical mastitis, increase feed intake and milk production, and improve overall immune status.

Feeding a low-energy diet during the dry period may prevent metabolic disorders in dairy cattle. Research from the University of British Columbia showed that cows fed a low-energy diet (NEL=1.34 Mcal/kg) for three weeks prior to calving had lower dry matter intake, and fewer were diagnosed with subclinical ketosis than cows fed a traditional close-up diet.

Corn silage harvest dry matter alters milk yield. Researchers from Illinois State University found that compared to corn silage harvested at optimum dry matter content (between 33%-36% for the hybrids used in their study), corn silage harvested at 30% dry matter resulted in 5% to 13% less milk per ton and 7% to 25% less milk per acre. The research could impact corn silage hybrid selection.

Increased feed bunk stocking density increases the social aggression of postpartum dairy cows. Consistent with previous observations in transition cows, research from the W. H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute showed that lactating dairy cows increase aggressive behavior during overcrowding. The researchers suggest future work to look at the relationships between overcrowding, clinical illness and feed bunk competition.


For more information on topics covered at the 2010 American Dairy Science Association meeting, go to:

Passion-driven management styles impact the bottom line

Numbers only go so far. Leadership ability and business passion are major factors in a dairy’s success.

By Mark Mapstone

Your personality and passion for dairy farming are critical to your business success. I know – we don’t feel comfortable talking about these things in dairy circles. We’d much rather talk about cow genetics, the latest corn variety or a design of a heifer facility.

For many years, we at Farm Credit have worked with progressive dairy producers to use financial data to figure out the keys to success. It’s been a wonderful endeavor and we have all learned a lot. We’ve also come to realize there was just so far you could go with the numbers. What we can’t measure is your leadership ability and passion for dairying, even though we know they are critical to success, and account for why some farmers just get by while others earn a very good return over time.

We all have a pretty good notion of what leadership is. It’s your personality coming through to the people who work with and for you. You don’t need much leadership when you’re doing all the work yourself. However, as your business grows and  adds employees and management, your leadership becomes a highly critical success factor.

Your passion for the business of dairying – especially certain parts of the business – will determine how well you and all your employees execute for success. For example, can you imagine someone who detested working with other people being a successful leader?

Leadership and passion shape decision making

I’ve had the opportunity to get to know many successful dairy managers over the years. What I’ve observed is how the individual manager’s business passion shapes their management decision making. I’m a firm believer the person’s area of passion shapes their perspective and influences how they make business decisions. In turn, their decisions have a major impact on their operation’s bottom line. In many cases, we can see the result of someone’s passion in their benchmark numbers.

There are four common management styles I see in my dairy clients, with typical impacts on results. Think about yours, and think about the management styles of your spouse, partners and others with whom you work closely.

1) All about the Cows. These folks tend to “live, eat and breathe” cows, are very production-oriented and achieve better-than-average milk production. If the cows are comfortable and milking heavy, they are happy. DHIA ranking is important, and farmstead appearance is a high priority. They tend to be the high component people, own registered herds and milk 3x. They put more emphasis on cow comfort and individual attention than the average manager. They tend not to enjoy bookwork.

All about the Cows management tends to lead to higher input costs and lower labor efficiency. These managers tend to invest more in facilities than the average. Decision making is heavily influenced by output, rather than cost. They tend to operate beyond the point of diminishing returns. As a result, cost of production may be higher than average.

Common Characteristics

Tend to spend more time and expense on cows because they enjoy working with them.

High input-high output mindset. Decisions are evaluated more on how the cows are milking than about cost.

Tend to be early technology adapters. Often use many combinations of technology at the same time.

Tend to operate on the right hand side of the point of diminishing returns curve, where a dollar of additional inputs returns less than a dollar of additional output.

Tend to put their nutritionists on a pedestal, no matter how high purchased feed costs or how low component test is.

•  Salesmen flock to this type management style because of the inherent profit potential.

2) Crop & Machinery Enthusiast. These folks generally love working outdoors growing and harvesting crops. Good soils, high yields, improving cropland and big shop facilities excite them. They tend to be grain growers, and many are still 2x milkers. They tend to work more acres per cow than the other styles. They will often work more ground or do custom work to be able to justify bigger or newer equipment. The potential of buying additional crop land is always in the back of their minds. Most with this passion are men – their wives tend to be the bookkeepers and chief financial officers.

When looking at the numbers, they tend to invest more in equipment and shop facilities than the average, so business overhead tends to be higher. Because they grow grain in addition to forages, lower purchased feed costs – but higher crop costs – result. Additional crop sales help offset additional costs.

Common Characteristics

•  Favorite honeymoon or family vacation is “attending a farm equipment show.”

•  A bigger-is-better philosophy when it comes to machinery size.

•  A common ailment is “new paint disease.”

•  There are often financial tensions between the husband and wife.

•  Tend to trade in equipment with lots of useful life still in it.

•  Tax problem? No problem! They tend to use accelerated depreciation as a way to reduce farm income tax liability.

•  Tend to take on marginal or distant crop ground, hurting efficiency. Will often rent additional ground “just because it’s available.”

3) All about the Numbers. At the end of the day, financial results are what motivate this person. They tend to act as the chief financial officer (CFO) and have more direct involvement with farm records than the other styles. Their general operating style tends to focus on “return on investment.” They understand lower input or investment levels require less output to make a good return. They tend to have less production per cow than “cow guys,” but with correspondingly less input costs. The result is better financial efficiency.

There is a definite range within this style, but most would label them “tight with a buck.” Often seen as strong willed or controlling, their decisions are often contrary to cow comfort, production per cow and employee morale.

When looking at the numbers, these farms generally own older facilities and equipment, but spend more on repairs than “crop guys.” Lower investment per cow is the result, and generally lower debt per cow, as well. This type of operator tends to leave money on the table in good years, but also loses less money in bad years. They tend to operate below the point of diminishing returns.

Common Characteristics

•  This type tends to know where he/she stands with the numbers at all times.

•  These folks have an internal fear of going beyond the point of diminishing returns on input costs. They tend to operate on the left side of the point of diminishing returns curve.

•  Their “new” equipment is the trade-in from the crop and equipment guy.

Favorite hobby is beating up on the feed consultant, and salespeople tend to avoid this type of management style whenever possible.

•  Due to their tight-fisted approach, they’re often viewed as inflexible or unfeeling by employees.

4) Outside Interests. This person tends to be less involved in the day-to-day operations than other styles, because their passion may be elsewhere. They tend to have the chief executive role in the business. Most have experienced business success – part of what has got them to their current position. The “day-to-day” no longer excites them, so they develop off-farm passions, including industry-related activities, like serving on boards, showing registered cows, doing research or being involved with politics. Some are mechanically or engineering oriented and spend time working on antique tractors, participating in tractor pulling, or with cutting-edge technology projects on the farm. Some have off-farm interests that regularly take them away from day-to-day activities.

Having outside interests is normal for someone near retirement age or in a later stage of a successful career. Generally, these managers have strong middle management in place to take care of  day-to-day activities. The problem comes when there is no capable secondary management in place.

An “outside passion” is harder to measure by looking at the numbers, but generally, business performance tends to be lackluster in certain areas. Outside interests often lead to higher machinery and equipment investment per cow and higher overhead costs. Lower labor efficiency may result., and the CEO’s interests may distract farm employees’ time and efforts from focusing on the core business. If the CEO is away from the business for extended periods, the business often lacks direction and focus, leading to lower performance.

Common Characteristics

•  Management attention and follow-through are often lacking.

•  Hard to get this dairy producer to focus on the little details. One of my Outside Interests clients was once described as a “hummingbird with attention deficit disorder.”

•  The business often supports the hobby in terms of additional operating expenses, i.e., cattle merchandising, tractor pulling, restoring tractors, manure digesters, etc.

What’s it mean for you

Each dairy producer has his/her own area of passion. There is no right or wrong to this. A business with four owners might have someone in each of the above categories. When a dominant passion drives a business, the resulting management style can pull the business out of balance, affecting profitability.

There are five keys to dairy business profitability:

1. Gross revenue (production and price)

2. Production efficiency (conversion of raw materials into finished product)

3. Capacity (effective use of plant and equipment investments)

4. Dairy husbandry (internal herd growth)

5. Cost control (tight with a buck in the right areas)

Each of these carries equal weight in contributing to the bottom line. Overly focusing on one – at the expense of others – can depress that bottom line. For example:

• The All about the Cows manager may excel at #1 and #4, but place little or no focus on #2 & #5. The result will excellent herd performance and production levels, but very poor profitability, due to very high costs.

• The All about the Numbers manager may excel at #2 & #5, but in doing so depress production and herd performance and leave profit opportunity on the table.

People don’t easily change management styles. A person could choose to change over time; be forced to change roles in the business; or simply evolve with their stage of life. You may be a combination of more than one style.

The key is to understand how your passion drives your style, and then assess if that style is pulling your business out of balance.

On farms with multiple key managers, balance can come from different passions/management styles contributing to decisions. Those differences may create tension, but when all are treated with mutual respect, the different styles can create balance and synergy that enhance the bottom line.

The key is finding a balance between the different styles. Many farms have found creative ways, including regular farm manager meetings, dairy profit teams and/or participating benchmark programs, like Farm Credit’s Large Dairy Benchmark and Dairy Profit Analyzer.

How is the balance between management styles at your farm? Do you have at least one person with the cow, cropping and numbers passion? If not, how will you go about finding or developing that passion in someone? Is the balance between management styles in a good place, or could your farm use some help? A business consultant can help you ask yourself these tough questions.


Mark Mapstone, CAC, is a business consultant with Farm Credit East, ACA, in New York. Contact him via phone: 315-841-3398 or e-mail:

Farm Credit East’s 2009 Northeast Dairy Farm Summary is available at a cost of $50. Contact your local Farm Credit East office ( or phone Trudy Rouleau at 800-562-2235.

Conservations: Ask your nutritionist about a TMR audit

Feed is the single greatest operating expense on dairy farms. As producers and their advisors meet in the conference room (or kitchen) to discuss the feeding program, the conversation will turn to how to reduce inefficiencies when feeding and how to better maximize your return on the investment in feed.

By Curtis Harms, D.V.M

Curtis Harms, D.V.M., is Central Region Manager with Diamond V. Contact him via office phone: 712-336-8113, cell phone 712-330-0177; e-mail:; or visit

Every feeding program on every dairy includes a large number of elements that impact the dairy’s overall production and profitability. Well-formulated, well-prepared total mixed rations (TMR) with the right particle length nutritionally lay the groundwork for a well-fed, well-performing herd. The TMR and feedstuffs directly affect rumen health and function, milk production and milk components. The optimization of rumen performance and day-to-day feeding consistency lay the foundation for herd health and dairy profitability.

1) What is included in a TMR audit ?

A TMR audit helps many dairies identify opportunities to advance their feeding program and increase profitability by doing a better job of feeding. A TMR audit typically focuses on the feeding center and daily feeding activities. Factors that are examined include:

Proper use of feeding software, a useful tool in monitoring mixing time, travel time, accuracy of ingredient measurements and ingredient order. Feeding software helps feeders feed more consistently.

How feed is processed in the TMR mixer and the challenges the feeder faces.

The number of trips and travel times needed to get ingredients. Ideally, trips are minimized as the costs of diesel, tire and equipment wear/tear as well as labor add up.

How the bunker face, piles and commodity sheds are being managed to minimize shrink and improve consistency. At some dairies, the use of upright bins may limit shrink from wind loss, birds, tire loss, etc. and, in doing so, pay for themselves.

If defacing and blending forages prior to feeding can create a more consistent ingredient for every pen of cows that day.

Developing a clear harvest and forage storage plan can contribute to the production of higher quality forages to support higher milk production.

The planning of equipment maintenance: what needs to be done, by whom and when. Could a written schedule help get things done on time and help avoid tasks being overlooked or forgotten?

The timing of feed delivery. Fresh feed should be available when cows return from the parlor. Every opportunity to drive optimum dry matter intake promotes profits. Each additional pound of dry matter intake equals 2.5 lbs of milk.

How is inventory management and communication? Can it be improved? Who is responsible for ordering feed? Key ingredients should always be on hand. Plan ahead to make the diets more consistent.

How efficiently is labor used: from mixing feed to opening gates to moving cows.

Ask your nutritionist to evaluate your current feeding practices and identify areas for change or improvement. Discuss and prioritize areas to focus on for better feed management.

2) To what degree is teamwork a consideration?

Good communication among team members is invaluable. Protocols and communication systems should be in place and actively used. For instance, how often do your cows run out of feed? What should night milkers do if feed runs out before morning? How is this communicated to the feeder when it happens? Do you have accurate pen numbers for the feeder every day? How often should workers run moistures? What is the plan if forages get wetter today? What is the plan if excessive refusals occur? What happens to refusals? They have value too.

Ask your nutritionist for input and insights on effective teamwork and communications. Discuss what changes might be appropriate and how your dairy could benefit.

3) What other advantages are there to doing a TMR audit?

Another tremendous benefit to the TMR audit is that it holds the whole team accountable. That is important because optimizing feeding practices, rumen performance and consistency every day is a key component in herd health and dairy profitability.

Decisions should be based on sound science and good data, not one person’s perception. We find that on every dairy opportunities exist to improve in specific areas, but these opportunities require time and focus to identify and act on.

Ask for your nutritionist’s help in developing a plan based on your TMR audit, prioritizing the steps to be taken, presenting it to your team and monitoring its implementation.

2010 dairy cow earning power improving slightly

The “cow” economy is making a slow recovery. Using USDA’s monthly milk production and price estimates for the first half of 2010, the “average” gross income from milk sales generated by an “average” cow is up about $283/cow from the same period in 2009 (Table 1).

The “average” U.S. cow produced 10,672 lbs. of milk so far in 2010, up about 297 lbs. from January-June 2009. USDA’s preliminary year-to-date 2010 all-milk price is $15.38/cwt., up $3.48/cwt. from 2009. Thus, the “average” cow generated $1,640 in milk sales so far in 2010, compared to $1,357 for the same period in 2009.

Year-to-date 2010 estimated gross income trails the $1,964 generated in the first half of 2008, and $1,704 during the first half of 2007.

Multiply $283 by 9 million cows, and January-June 2010 gross income is up $2.55 billion over the first half of 2009. However, at $24.3 billion, total U.S. 2009 gross income from milk sales was down more than $10 billion compared to 2008’s $34.8 billion.

There’s a $788 spread between the state with the lowest gross milk income per cow so far in 2010 (Missouri, at $1,178) compared to the highest (Florida, at $1,966).

Gross milk income per cow, January-June, 2009 & 2010

New heavy-duty Kuhn power tillers

Kuhn introduces the EL 282 series power tillers for use on tractors up to 270 h.p.

Kuhn introduces the EL 282 series power tillers for use on tractors up to 270 h.p. The heavy-duty power tillers are offered in working widths of 10′, 13′, and 15′. These machines are designed for intensive work applications and provide superior reliability for long life and reduced operating costs.

The EL 282 series is designed with features that reduce power-robbing soil buildup under the hood. A set-back main gearbox reduces PTO angles, decreasing vibration and increasing service life, and an upgraded PTO shaft offers lower maintenance. An oil cooling system reduces gearbox operating temperatures for outstanding reliability under heavy use. The multi-speed main gearbox offers a choice of rotor speeds to better match varying field conditions. These EL power tillers perform exceptionally well for producers with crop applications where proper seedbed preparation is essential.

Kuhn North America, Inc., of Brodhead, Wis., is an innovator in agricultural and industrial equipment, specializing in spreaders, mixers, hay tools and tillage tools. Kuhn- and Kuhn Knight-brand products are sold by farm equipment dealers throughout the United States, Canada, and many other countries. For more information, visit