Archive for September, 2010

October 2010: California/Arizona DairyBusiness

Matching animal requirements with herd feeding practices

By Jed Asmus, Independent nutritionist

and Jennifer Heguy, UCCE dairy advisor

Nutritionists, UC Extension advisors and specialists often talk about the cost of feeding excess. This article expands on that theme and will cover the logic and lost opportunities associated with over supplying nutrients to your animals.

The focus is the intricate relationships between milk production, dry matter (DM) intake and body weight, and how your animals’ nutritional needs are determined by stage of lactation and level of production.

When a cow calves, she enters a period of negative energy status, caused by DM intake limiting her ability to meet the demands of lactation. This will be the case for approximately the next 10 weeks of lactation.

Energy is partitioned to the mammary gland for milk synthesis, and because she cannot consume enough DM to meet the demand of lactation, she takes it from her body reserves, and body weight decreases. For this reason, she is at a high risk for metabolic diseases, especially during the transition period. The transition period is comprised of the three weeks before and after calving, and is the time when milk fever, ketosis, retained fetal membranes, metritis and displaced abomasum primarily affect cows.

After production peaks at around 56 days in milk (DIM), the cow’s production slowly tapers off. This is matched with increased intake, which reaches the highest levels between weeks 10 and 20 of lactation. During this time, the cow is in a state of balanced energy status (body weight is maintained).

The third period, positive energy balance, is when the cow compensates for the body weight lost in the previous two periods. Dry matter intake continues to taper off, but is at a level that allows for milk production (decreasing), continued weight gain, as well as maintenance of pregnancy. Weight gain continues throughout the dry period as the cow approaches the transition period.

Despite the fact that nutrient requirements change as an animal proceeds through her lactation, it is not uncommon for dairy producers to feed all lactating cows one ration. The idea behind this practice is that by feeding one ration to the herd, there is little chance of under-feeding the lower-producing cows, ensuring maximum milk production.

However, the cost of this practice is rarely justified with more milk, or more importantly, increased profits. To illustrate our point, we will assume the lactating herd is broken up into two groups, high production and late lactation. Currently, they are fed one ration designed to meet the requirements of the highest producing cows in the herd (80 lbs. fat corrected milk). The ration costs $5.50 per head per day for high cows consuming 57 lbs. of dry matter. The late lactation cows are producing 60 lbs. of milk and eating 54 lbs. of dry matter.

In this example, the average feed costs to produce 100 lbs. of milk is $7.65 per head per day. While the average feed cost per hundredweight in our herd is $7.65, the cost for the high string is $6.88 while the low string is $8.68. This large divide in the cost to produce milk is caused by two factors: 1) Late lactation cows are producing less milk, while their intakes are relatively high, and 2) These cows are consuming a diet that is supplying nutrients above their requirements, and the extra energy, protein, etc. is going to their back in the form of fat and out into the environment in the form of feces.

The opportunity to decrease the cost per hundredweight and save feed comes from feeding your lower producing cows a ration that is designed to meet their required intake levels (3 lbs. lower than your high cows) and is less nutrient dense. In general, lower cost ingredients contain fewer nutrients, and can be fed at higher levels to the lower producing cows, based on their biological needs.

A great way to determine if you are feeding excess protein is to measure milk urea nitrogen (MUN). Milk urea nitrogen increases when the cow is being provided excess protein beyond her biological needs. Ideally, string MUN’s will run between 10 and 14 mg/dl. A sample above 14 mg/dl is an indication that excess protein is being fed, and it may be beneficial to reevaluate the ration.

Another tool to evaluate the nutritional status of your herd is to measure feed efficiency. Feed Efficiency is the amount of milk produced (fat corrected), divided by the amount of dry feed consumed on a daily basis. Using our example herd, the average feed efficiency is 1.26 lbs. of milk per pound of DM consumed.

For comparison, the low string is 1.11 while the high string is 1.4 lbs. of milk per pound of DM feed consumed. The benchmark for feed efficiency is somewhere in the range of 1.4 and 1.6 lbs. of milk per pound of DM feed consumed, but will fluctuate depending on stage of lactation and animal age.

In the above situation, we are over feeding nutrients to an already less efficient group of animals. While changing nutrient density will not affect feed efficiency (still consuming the same amount of DM), it will decrease the cost of feed (lower priced ingredients) thus increasing your return on investment.

Feeding according to animal requirements is good for the animal, the bulk tank, as well as the pocketbook.

Cal/West promotes researcher D. Johnson

WOODLAND, Calif. – Cal/West Seeds announced the promotion of David Johnson to assistant director of research.

This promotion is in recognition of David’s significant and varied contributions to Cal/West Seeds during his 14 years of service. In this new capacity, he’ll continue to fulfill the responsibilities of plant breeder and to manage all research activities at the West Salem, Wisc. research facility.

Jonathan Reich, executive vice president of research and development for Cal/West Seeds said: “As the senior inventor of the patented StandFast® alfalfa, the development of varieties with the fast growth and standability traits has been the most significant breeding improvement in alfalfa during the past 25 years.”

Johnson was born and raised on a wheat farm near Kimball, Neb. His educational and experience background includes a BS in Agriculture and an MS in Agronomy, both from the University of Wyoming. He received his PhD in agronomy and plant genetics with a minor in agricultural economics from the University of Arizona. He has been the ASA/CSSA/SSSA/WSSA Congressional Science Fellow working for the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Upon leaving that position, he worked as the research associate/post doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in their plant pathology department before joining Cal/West Seeds in 1995.

David Jones enjoys summer internship at AG

David Jones of Stevinson, Calif. has worked as the Accelerated Genetics marketing communications intern. He was based out of the Accelerated Genetics administrative headquarters located in Baraboo, Wis.

During the summer, Jones was responsible for interviewing, researching and writing feature articles for the “Genetic Trends” newsletter, writing news releases, designing promotional brochures, updating the company website, working with the Accel-Link electronic newsletter, helping with the development of advertising campaigns, and representing Accelerated Genetics at various conferences, conventions, shows and events throughout the summer.

Jones has been extremely involved in his family’s farm – Jones Farms Dairy. He has been involved with milking, feeding, calf care, general herdsman duties and maintenance. In addition, Jones has worked at the California Polytechnic State University dairy milking cows, ensuring cow comfort and overall dairy cleanliness.

Besides his on-farm-related activities, Jones has worked as special projects intern for the Holstein World where he was responsible for video editing for online newscasts and commercials, online show and event coverage, photography and blogging.

This fall Jones returns to Cal Poly where he is majoring in dairy science with minors in ag communications and agribusiness.

Monfore joins WWS as management advisor

Dr. Gene Monfore has joined the World Wide Sires , Ltd., team as a dairy farm management advisor. In this role, Monfore will conduct training and provide technical support for the World Wide Sires distribution team around the world.

John Schouten, WWS chief executive officer commented, “World Wide Sires is pleased to add Dr. Monfore to our team. He has been a leader in the industry and was very successful in his previous work as technical support veterinarian and dairy farm management consultant for another organization. He will be a great asset to the WWS teams around the world.”

Monfore brings more than 30 years of experience in technical support for the dairy industry, having provided veterinary and consulting services all across the U.S. and in many other countries.

Monfore and his wife currently reside in Visalia, but will relocate to Indonesia.

Land O’ Lakes, J.D. Heiskell & Co. form joint venture

TULARE, Calif. –  Land O’Lakes Purina Feed and J.D. Heiskell & Company have announced the formation of a joint venture feed and grain company in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

The new company will be called “Golden State Feed and Grain” and will have its principal offices in Tulare. The entity will operate Land O’Lakes Purina Feed’s feed mill in Hanford, and J.D. Heiskell and Company’s feed mill in Pixley, and sell rolled grains, mixed feeds, mineral blends, commodity blends and other value-added products to central California livestock feeders.

J.D. Heiskell & Company will continue to sell feed commodities and by-products under its own name.

“We formed this partnership to capture many advantages our united businesses can bring to the animal agriculture community in this market,” said Heiskell senior vice president and chief operating officer Ryan Pellett.  “We’ve combined the purchasing power of J.D. Heiskell’s commodity trading business with Land O’Lakes Purina Feeds’ market-leading proprietary nutrition products to create a peerless array of competitively priced products for local feeders. We have increased both our inbound and outbound transportation options with locations in two counties and on the two major railroads serving the state. Consolidation of production capacity in this market was inevitable and we think that this strategic partnership accomplishes that in a way that will strongly benefit our shared customer base.”

“We are excited about this venture, which is grounded in a shared commitment to serving California agriculture, and in particular the region’s dairy industry,” said Dave Hoogmoed, president of Land O’Lakes Purina Feed Division.

Golden State Feed and Grain will employ many of the production, sales and office personnel that worked for its two founding firms and will be headquartered at 116 W. Cedar Ave., Tulare, Calif.

Longtime dairyman Lynn Fletcher dies at 88

TULARE – Lynn Winfield Fletcher passed away at home on Sunday, Aug. 15, surrounded by his loving family. Lynn was born in Arkansas on Feb. 18, 1922. At six months of age his family moved to Norwalk, Calif.

Lynn attended elementary and high school in Norwalk, graduating from Excelsior Union High School. He and his brother Quintin were well known musicians and tap dancers performing at many Southern California venues.

While a junior in high school he met the love of his life, Alberta. They were seldom separated from that point on and married in January, 1942. Lynn worked for Bank of America after graduating from Fullerton Junior College. He served his country during WWII in North Africa and Italy. After returning from the war in 1945, Lynn and Alberta settled down and he started working on the family’s farm and dairy. He managed the cows while his father-in-law handled the farming.

Lynn was very active in the community serving on the Carmenita and ABC Unified School District Board for many years. They were also big supporters of the AFS (American Field Service) program, hosting a student from Norway for a year, Rick Rabben, who became their adopted son.

Lynn’s work ethic inspired his sons, Edwin and Robert, to join him on the dairy and together they moved the dairy from Cerritos to Tulare in 1974 and expanded the operation from 140 to 670 cows.

His daughter, Nancy, also followed his lead by working for the industry at the California Milk Advisory Board. As his sons took charge of the dairy, Lynn and Alberta were free to travel extensively.

Lynn was an early volunteer for the World Ag Expo, wearing his orange jacket proudly while he helped exhibitors at the East office.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Alberta, and his children and their spouses: Ed and Denise Fletcher, Nancy and David Duxbury, Rob and Kathy Fletcher, and Rick and Elsie Rabben.

His grandchildren are: Michelle and Michael Surkan, Seattle; Jill and Kevin Espinola, Laguna Beach; Neil Fletcher, Majorca, Spain; Todd and Jane Fletcher, Chicago; Mark and Amanda Fletcher, Tulare; Kim Fletcher, Fresno; Greg and Samantha Fletcher, Tulare; Chad and Pilar Hardcastle, Stockton; Kurt Hardcastle, Visalia; Elisabeth Rabben and Martin Stuevold, Norway; and Ellen and Sindre Rabben-Svedahl, Norway. He also is blessed with seven great grandchildren: Lucinda and Rowan Surkan; Tessa Espinola; Kai Fletcher; Bruce Hardcastle; Mari Rabben-Stuevold; and Stine Rabben-Svedahl.

S&W Seed releases world’s first 8 dormancy salt tolerant alfalfa

FIVE POINTS, Calif. — S&W Seed Company (Nasdaq CM: SANW), announces the commercial launch of its newly certified alfalfa variety, SW 8421S, the world’s only Group 8 dormancy salt tolerant alfalfa. Dormancy relates to the length of the growing season and this variety was developed for important hay-growing areas within California, Arizona and Latin America.

“Producing higher hay tonnage is the key to putting more money in the farmers’ pockets. SW 8421S helps farmers grow high quality hay with low quality ground or water, and is also superior for ground or water that doesn’t have salt. We expect it will sell well in the many geographical areas where Group 8 dormancy is the norm “ said CEO Mark Grewal.

With SW 8421S, farmers get high tonnage yields of quality alfalfa on both salty soils and non-salty soils in warm climates.  SW 8421S hay tonnage yields are competitive with non- salt tolerant alfalfa, but, unlike the competition, yields stay high when salty irrigation water is used.  In university tests at Parlier, California and Tucson, Arizona, SW 8421S grew 18% more hay than the benchmark CUF 101 variety. When compared to another benchmark variety, “Salado,” SW 8421S was one of the highest yielding salt tolerant alfalfas ever certified, of any dormancy, and yielded 32% more hay with non salty irrigation water.

S&W Seed Company, founded in 1980, is a leader in warm climate alfalfa seed varieties, including varieties that can thrive in poor, saline soils. The company’s claims to salt tolerance and high yield product leadership are verified by decades of university-sponsored trials. S&W owns a 40 acre alfalfa seed cleaning and processing facility. For more information, visit their website, or contact Betsy Shea, Shea-Campbell & Associates, 831-659-0436, or e-mail her at For dealer locations call 559 884-2535.

Dow AgroSciences to acquire Grand Valley Hybrid assets in Colorado

Dow AgroSciences announced it is acquiring the assets of Colorado-based Grand Valley Hybrids (GVH). The addition of GVH complements Dow AgroSciences’ Mycogen Seeds brand and its western silage business.

“Grand Valley’s strong presence in the silage market and brand recognition in the West will provide a significant opportunity to expand our silage business,” said Chris Garvey, Mycogen Seeds general manager. “Grand Valley’s combination of outstanding customer service and commitment to innovation and quality complements our strategy to build a world-class seeds business.”

Under the agreement, Dow AgroSciences will acquire the Grand Valley sales and marketing areas, as well as the administrative services. For the 2010-11 season, GVH will continue to operate under the Grand Valley brand, and customer service will remain at its existing location in Grand Junction. Grand Valley customers will gain access to Dow AgroSciences technologies.

Success Strategies: Back to the future

by John Ellsworth

Last time, my article focused on the need to be truthful with yourself and to make a decision about whether you are truly committed to being in the dairy industry long term. I must say, that was one of the most difficult articles I have ever written for publication. However, our industry is no longer designed for those who are “faint of heart.”

Decided to stay

Thus, assuming you have decided to stay in the dairy industry and are not reading this from the sidelines, you need a plan going forward. Every new client that we work with at Success Strategies, Inc. goes through a challenging set of questions to help them set objectives and determine where, specifically, they want to be in three years, five years and in the long term. I call this the Discovery Process™ because it assists producers to do some soul searching about where they want to take their business, and perhaps just as important, it forces them to outline what their strengths and weaknesses really are.

What factors do you have going for you in your business? What items are presently working against you? What can you do about them? What options are available to you to overcome weaknesses or challenges?

Optimism essential

As we complete this initial process, I believe that it is essential that we focus on being optimistic. Please note that I did not say to be naïve. Just be optimistic. The primary benefit I find from maintaining a sense of optimism is that it leads me to be more proactive in my decisions instead of being reactive. A sense of optimism will help to keep you moving forward. In 2003 (following 20 months of low milk prices), I gave each of my clients a placard entitled “The Light of Optimism” for Christmas as a potential source of encouragement. I am amazed at how many clients still have that gift in their offices.

Keep moving forward

Remember, the key is to keep making forward progress, even if it is in small increments. I get very concerned when people throw their hands up in frustration and give up. On the contrary, never let what you cannot do interfere with what you can. There is always something you can do. Instead of stating, “I can’t,” ask yourself if that is what you really want. If not, start thinking about what you can do. Maybe you could not cash flow in 2009, but you could do some other tasks. How about cutting some expenses to reduce your losses? How about building a margin in with Puts and Calls? With the recent introduction of the Livestock Gross Margin Program, this will become more possible than ever.

Not an impossible task

Additionally, the last 24 months has been a crucial time to keep your Loan-to-Value percentages on your herd loan and feed line within compliance. While I realize this has been difficult, it was not an impossible task. My clients verified that in 2009, but, once again, I feel it is part of having a plan on everything your do… As my good friend and motivational speaker Les Brown says, “Wherever you are in life, you made an appointment to be there.”

Think about what you want

To summarize, think about what you want for your business. Do you have a clearly defined plan for your operations?

Be honest with yourself, but think about the following points:

1.) Have you determined what you want to achieve?

2.) Are you optimistic about your odds of getting there?

3.) Are you taking all the necessary steps to reach your objectives?

4.) Don’t worry about always having the right answer. Sometimes, it is more important to ask the right questions such as: “Given the current state of my business, what can I do to change my outcome for the better? How can I improve my results?”

5.) Don’t forget to run the “What If” scenarios. These can be critical to your success.

6.) Finally, if you need help, get it. Talk to your CPA, your banker and others who have had similar challenges. If I can help you, please let me know. My contact information is listed below.

Start reviewing your available options today. There is no better time to start than the present moment. Think about it.


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

Western Pulse: October 2010

American Association of Bovine Practioners, Pfizer Animal Health name 29 scholarship winners

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Pfizer Animal Health and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) Foundation announced 29 veterinary medical students received essential financial support that will help secure the future of large-animal veterinarians in the United States.

“We’re excited to partner with Pfizer Animal Health again this year to make this scholarship available,” says M. Gatz Riddell Jr., DVM, executive vice president, AABP. “The first year of veterinary practice can be very difficult for many graduating students, and having financial help through this scholarship can make things a bit easier.”

The AABP Foundation/Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Scholarship is part of Pfizer Animal Health’s Commitment to Veterinarians, an initiative supporting veterinarians through training and education, research and development, and investment in the future of the veterinary profession. The scholarship is funded through a unique partnership with veterinarians, animal health suppliers and dealers, and is awarded to beef and dairy veterinary students to help offset the cost of veterinary school.

This year, the AABP Foundation and Pfizer Animal Health presented 29 students from across the nation with a $5,000 scholarship at the AABP Annual Meeting held in August in Albuquerque, N.M. Recipients’ costs of traveling to and staying at the AABP annual meeting also are included in the scholarship.

Funding for the scholarships is provided by the Pfizer Animal Health FFA/AABP support program. The program, which provides funding for local FFA chapters in addition to the AABP Foundation/Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Student scholarships, offered a 1% rebate on Pfizer Animal Health cattle products from Jan. 1 through March 31, 2010. Participating partners were able to direct funds to any local FFA chapter(s) or the AABP Foundation/Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Student Scholarship Program.

“We recognize the need to encourage and support students in pursuing large-animal veterinary medicine,” says Julian Garcia, marketing group director, Pfizer Animal Health. “We know how important large-animal veterinarians are to providing a safe and healthy food supply, and we are honored to partner with AABP to support these and other veterinary students interested in pursuing a career in large-animal veterinary medicine.”

Ten university students from the West were among those honored during festivities. They include: Shannon Crabtree and Samuel H. Nielsen, Washington State University; Austin Domek and Craig Pauly, Kansas State University; Heather Grimm and Dael Householder, Colorado State University; Lindsay Howk and Paul Schmitt, Texas A&M University; Michael Allan Miller, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine; and Taylor P. Ludwick, University of California, Davis.

Web makes mycotoxins a hot topic in 2010

LEXINGTON, Ky. – In the past 30 months, the first mycotoxin information website,, has gone online in six languages – English, Portuguese, Chinese, Spanish, Russian and Hungarian – and established itself as a reliable and educational source of information about mycotoxins. has also launched a new page featuring a Mycotoxin short course with video lectures addressing key challenges related to identifying and dealing with mycotoxins: regulations, sampling, the most simple and sophisticated ways of testing, and the difficulties that come with them.

A major focus on mycotoxins has taken place in 2010 in the face of the poor quality of the 2009 U.S. corn crop, which impacted not only the domestic market, but also countries that import American grain in Latin America.

Last December, Dr. Trevor Smith, University of Guelph, emphasized, “This fall has all the ingredients for a mess of molds and mycotoxins. A late harvest, wet weather and high moisture corn have all contributed to the recent reports of moldy corn across the Midwest.” There are currently indications that the 2010 wheat crop will be affected with fusarium mycotoxins due to weather patterns. also features an interactive series of videos where specialists from around the world show the different mycotoxins hotspots at the farm level. These videos are also available on the “KnowMycotoxins Videos” channel on

“Mycotoxins are now recognized as a genuine global threat to the feed industry. In the past two years, mycotoxin issues in the equine and pet industries have also been highlighted by the media. The decision to expand the features of reflects this reality,” said Jules Taylor-Pickard, Alltech’s global Mycosorb manager.

The website was first launched in English in July 2007. The website, developed in conjunction with Alltech, aims to educate the various market segments in the animal feed industry which are continuously challenged on how to overcome the repercussions of mycotoxins in animal feed.

For further information, please visit

Elanco donates to Livestock and Enviro Studies

TWIN FALLS, Idaho –  Elanco, an animal health company, gave the IDEAL Foundation $1 million toward the proposed National Center for Livestock and Environmental Studies (INCLES).

Accepting the gift from Rob Aukerman, president of Elanco USA was Idaho Governor. C.L. “Butch” Otter, University of Idaho president Duane Nellis, president and chief executive officer of National Milk Producers Federation, Jerry Kozak and president of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, Mike Roth.

The announcement gave further hope to regional, state and university officials that private donations could meet the $5 million mark needed to build the planned center sooner than later. Costs for the center are estimated at $17 million, with $5 million coming from the dairy industry.

The development of INCLES is a joint effort being led by the University of Idaho in partnership with USDA – Agricultural Research Service, College of Southern Idaho, the Idaho livestock industry and allied industry. The research facility will be located in the Magic Valley area of Idaho.

To date, the private sector has donated more than $1.7 million to the foundation toward the project. The IDEAL Foundation is a 501 (C) 3 non-profit organization that was developed by the Idaho Dairymen’s Association to secure funding for both the research facility and to fund environmental research.

BioTracking passes two millionth milestone

MOSCOW, Idaho – BioTracking, LLC announced a milestone in the history of BioPRYN blood-based pregnancy test. The two millionth cow to be tested for pregnancy using BioPRYN® was cow No. 1925 from Smith Dairy Farms, Inc., in Comer, Ga.

“The two millionth sample is a huge achievement for the BioPRYN test, BioTracking, and our affiliate labs, who also market the test throughout the U.S. and internationally,” said Doug Pals, BioTracking director of marketing. “We believe it’s a testament to the confidence and trust producers have in BioPRYN for its proven effectiveness and accuracy.”

Smith Dairy Farms is run by brothers Jeff and Stephen with their parents Jack and Geraldine Smith. Founded in 1990, the Smith’s milk 1,250 cows. Fresh cows are started on the pre-Ovsynch program at day 30 and blood is drawn 30 days post-breeding. Based on results of BioPRYN available at day 33 post-breeding, open cows are given Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and placed with the next group of cows for breeding. Cows are re-confirmed pregnant at 90-120 days and are palpated at dryoff.

“We started using BioPRYN in May of 2004, initially testing 307 cows,” said Jeff Smith. “And, just as they told us it would be, BioPRYN is easier, more convenient and more accurate than palpation. Because of the test’s effectiveness, we’re now testing about a 1,000 cows annually.”

The first BioPRYN-tested cattle blood sample was run on July 30, 2002. The two millionth sample from number 1925 was tested on May 12, 2010, and came just 21 months after the one millionth sample mark was achieved, Pals explained.

Milk’s strategy for health = The industry’s strategy for future

Milk Matters

By Joseph O’Donnell

It is well known that milk is nature’s most perfect food, but consider how it got there. What pressure was placed on milk to make it the very best survival strategy for all mammals? What made it such an efficient delivery vehicle for nutrition to neonates? With all that’s riding on milk, it must have some very sophisticated chemistry and physiology build into the system.

Science runs on data. The advent of the technology to map genomes means the secrets to the human and bovine genomes are being revealed and, with them, the secrets of milk’s ability to nourish and protect. A recent New York Times article (Breast Milk Sugars Give Infants a Protective Coat – Aug. 2, 2010) shows how milk sugars or oligosaccharides guide the proper microbial development in newborns to protect them from harmful bacteria.

Bovine milk research

The focus is initially on human milk because that’s where scientists needed to start in order to get maximum visibility and minimum resistance. As we expand the picture toward developing a commercial product – then we start talking bovine milk. That is the current target for a massive research program spearheaded by the Nutrition for Health Initiative at UC Davis.

The roles of previously obscure milk components like these milk sugars or oligosaccharides are being understood with very significant health implications and market implications. Biologically active components, originally discovered in human milk, are now being extracted from bovine milk. And this is just the start of a whole new era of milk marketing.

Learning the secrets

Between having the genomic science and new analytical science our researchers are ripping through milk to learn the secrets to its success as a survival strategy. What more perfect a model could you ask for? And we’re not alone. Scientists with no previous history of milk research see it the same way. They are asking for samples of milk components not because of a love affair with milk but because they want to be part of the discoveries being made through observing the physiological impact of milk components on all aspects of health, including immune response (the GI tract is the largest immunological organ in the body), weight management and disease resistance, just for starters.

Oligosaccharides do not mark the end of it. Nature did not waste anything in designing milk. These scientists are now investigating milk’s specialized lipids (fats) – not only the unusual phospholipids but also the glycolipids – fats with sugars attached.  It comes together as the analytical capability now available to identify and measure the oligosaccharides can also identify the sugars attached to the lipids of milk that lie behind additional health benefits. All components have multiple jobs and that very much includes the fats. And don’t forget the proteins. Yes, most of the milk proteins are glycoproteins. It is the glyco (sugar) units that give them specificity in binding to attachment sites in the GI tract. Bottom line is that the dairy industry is at the start of an unprecedented release of nutritional understanding.

Funding for this work has amplified as organizations as diverse as the Kauffman Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are actively supporting this research – an endorsement in itself as to the potential for human health. And for the dairy industry’s health, too. All this work will not only lead to a whole new category of value-added dairy products but our standard-bearer, good ole fluid milk contains all these components and will be appreciated for the nutrition powerhouse that it is.

Research focus moving

Finally, this business has gone global.  Whole sessions are popping up in the large scientific meetings to discuss and collaborate on projects. Research organizations around the world are moving their focus to this area. I recommend the websites: and and if you want to stay abreast of things. I will shamelessly plug as well. By the way, that New York Times column I mentioned above received the highest downloads of any story that day in the entire paper and it could not happen without the dairy industry.


■  Dr. Joseph O’Donnell is executive director of the California Dairy Research Foundation. He can be reached at 530-753-0681.

Information on the California Dairy Research Foundation can be obtained from the organization’s web site at

Low cost strategies to help weather the next storm


By David Bekedam

“There may be no perfect solution for sustaining a milk price that ensures profitability for all producers. Some plans to lower supply are restrictive toward those producers who have the desire and the ability to grow defying the principles of capitalism.”

By now, many of you are interested in risk management and have been to 1 or 2 seminars only to have heard the same thing said 3 different ways.  Many of you feel like hedging would benefit your operation. You have friends that do it and your banker is urging you to do it, but you can’t bring yourself to take action. If you consider yourself fortunate to have made it through 2009, it may be time to take that first step.

Having the right information is critical in the decision making process. You’ve heard about basis and how it can have a drastic affect on the price you actually receive. You also know its imperative to know your true breakeven cost. The goal of risk management is to understand your margins and hedge yourself against falling prices and rising costs.

An important part of understanding your margin is budgeting. If you are not frequently updating your budget by now you are a little behind the eight ball. Your budget should include realistic future projections based on reasonable assumptions and accurate historical data. Don’t be afraid to use the trusted professionals you have at your disposal. Your CPA can help you set up the budget using historical and projected data. Utilize your nutritionist to understand how much it costs you to feed milk cows, dry cows and heifers based on current feed programs. Revisit those programs to decide whether you can lower your feed costs by using alternative feed sources or make adjustments to raise production. Talk to your veterinarian and breeder to identify holes in your heifer herd that will either require lowering milk projections or additional cash to fill the holes and maintain milk production.

Now that you have the information necessary to know your margin going forward, what can you do to protect yourself from falling prices? The most obvious way to protect yourself from lower prices while allowing you all the benefits of an upside move would be to buy puts, a sort of insurance against lower prices. However, puts can be expensive and if you are like many, most banks are less than willing to lend you the money to make these hedges.

One way to help reduce the costs of covering your downside risk by buying puts is to offset the cost of the put by selling a call. This is sometimes referred to as a “collar” or a “min-max” contract. By doing this, you are locking yourself into a range. For example, you buy a put contract at $14 for .30 cents per cwt. You may then sell a call contract at $16 for .20 cents per cwt. Your net cash outlay is .10 cents/cwt for this contract. You are now protected should the price move below $14 and would not be subject to margin calls until the CME price moved above $16.

Another option is to sell futures contracts.  This involves selling milk that you will produce in a later month at an agreed upon price.  In order to do this, you are required to open a margin account which requires a cash outlay, up front, to cover moves in the pricing of the month you contracted. If prices go higher than what you contracted, you will be subject to margin calls which can be expensive and require significant outlay of cash at any time until the contract is settled.

Another option available that takes the costly margin calls out of the equation is to contract milk through your creamery. Most creameries provide at least the basic hedging options to their producers. It’s common for most creameries to write a contract for a flat fee of .10 cents per cwt. The creamery will then cover any of the margin calls and settle the difference in the price contracted and cash price in the month the milk is sold. This provides a low cost, low risk option for a well informed producer to take advantage of. One disadvantage is that the creamery will not advise you on current and future markets or conditions that may affect the market.  Being able to gain inside insight from a broker with a floor presence at the CME may be an invaluable competitive advantage.

There may be no perfect solution for sustaining a milk price that ensures profitability for all producers. Some plans to lower supply are restrictive toward those producers who have the desire and the ability to grow defying the principles of capitalism. Government intervention will only lead to more regulation and less producer control. For those of us who are not holding our breath for the industry to come together to form a perfect solution to balance future supply and demand, hedging can help prevent you from having another 2009.


■  David Bekedam, CPA, senior manager – agribusiness, Frazer Frost, LLP, in Visalia, Calif. Contact him by e-mail at: or call, 559-732-4135 ext. 120.

Fall time to evaluate crops

Evaluate the state of your alfalfa crop

What factors should a producer consider when they’re evaluating the state of their alfalfa crop?

Fall is the best time to assess whether want to keep that alfalfa crop for the following year. Look at the health of the stand and how it’s doing in the fall, and you’ll have a good idea of what will happen then for the following spring. You don’t know what’s going to happen with regards to winterkill and icing situations in the spring, and that’s always a consideration that could change things.

Look at your fertilizer recommendations, following university and fertilizer supplier’s recommendation’s for how much potash and potassium you have on your fields, based on your yield goals.

Look at how many plants, and even more important, how many of the stems are in a per-acre area, to make sure that you’ve got enough to give you a good crop the following year.

If it is time to rotate that crop out, killing it with herbicides will also take care of all the other weeds, making it easier to work that field up come spring.

If you’re going to keep their alfalfa crop for another year, what type of nutrients should be applied during the fall?

Have enough potassium and potash. That would be the first part. You can add that to the soil across the top of the existing alfalfa stand, and you can have a healthy crop the following year that can give you good yields.

The other thing is what the pH of the soil is. There are soluble limes that you can spray across the top that will trickle down and get into the upper layers of the soil that will do a little bit of good. But that’s a lot more expensive than doing it right when you establish the alfalfa field in the first place.

– By Leo Brown, Pioneer Livestock

Deal with mold in your corn crop

Probably the most proactive thing a grower can do is check the hybrid resistance ratings for various ear molds prevalent in his growing environment. In the Upper Midwest and around the Great Lakes, that would be the Gibberella ear mold. As we go further south, we’ll run into Fusarium ear mold issues, Diplodia. And then further south yet, the Aspergillus ear mold.

Weather dictates much of what the fate will be of the hybrid. However, if we know that we’re into one of these seasons where ear molds may be prevalent, it’s good to have harvest strategy options.

For the dairyman, there’s actually four different harvest opportunities:

• Harvest this crop earlier. If there’s going to be a mold problem, it starts to rear their ugly head about tasseling time, and the longer the crop sits in the field, the worse the molding may be on the corn ear. So, any time we can harvest earlier – as corn silage – it will be to the grower’s advantage.

• Taking high-moisture ear corn, which would be the next stage of maturity.

• The next stage would be as high-moisture grain.

• Finally, by harvesting a dry corn, which potentially would have the highest level of these molds and mycotoxins in the crop.

There’s other things that can be done if we know you’ve got a ear mold issue and is visibly present. When combining, set the combine concaves so you’re removing most of the fines, the cracks, much of the debris from the mold. During filling of grain bins, you can sieve the grain as it goes into the conveyer or the elevator. A lot of times that’s where a lot of this, these molds will settle out.

And of course, then making sure, if it’s going to be dry grain, to get that grain dried as fast as possible – under 15% moisture. Under 15% moisture in a grain bin, it’s not going to mold any further.

Why is it so important? How can mold impact the nutritional value of corn or the animal health in performance?

It impacts animal performance and health two different ways:

1) Molds have a musty smell, resulting in poor palatability, acceptance of the feedstuff and depressed intakes, which converts into lower milk production and poor feed efficiencies. Ear molds, especially when they’re really aggressive, rob the corn of its nutrient value, so corn grain may have a much lower test weight, and lower starch content. To make up for lost energy, you need to increase supplementation, which makes for a more expensive ration.

2) As cattle ingest these molds, we get mycotic disease events, like rumen upsets, infertility, reproductive abortions and other type of systemic molds problems. And, some of these molds are producing mycotoxins that can have immunal suppressive properties. It lowers immunity, increasing chances for diseases such as pneumonia or enteritis. A class of mycotoxin, zearalenone, is a well-known toxin that affects fertility.

–By Bill Seglar, Pioneer nutritionist

Kuhn Vertical Twin-Auger Mixers

Kuhn Knight-brand VT 180 and 1100 Vertical Maxx® mixers are vertical, twin-auger mixers with a patented, 2-speed, split planetary drive that helps ensure reliable service and long life.

Kuhn Knight-brand VT 180 and 1100 Vertical Maxx® mixers are vertical, twin-auger mixers with a patented, 2-speed, split planetary drive that helps ensure reliable service and long life. An efficient mixing chamber, with straighter sides and steeper baffles, allows for greater feed movement with less horsepower required. The redesigned tub results in a lower loading height and decreased tread width by tucking the tires under the unit shell. Eight different door-configuration options offer flexibility to fit a variety of feeding situations. The VT series mixers are available with a single- or tandem-axle trailer, as well as a truck-mount option, and come in capacities of 800-1100 cubic feet. For complete machine specifications and additional details, visit

BioPRYNQK ‘Quick’ pregnancy test

BioTracking, LLC announces its new, accelerated results blood pregnancy test for cattle, BioPRYNQK, with same-day test results. As with the original BioPRYN test, drawn blood samples are sent to BioTracking’s laboratory or any of BioPRYN’s affiliate labs for processing. If a producer wishes to have same-day results, they can now choose the BioPRYNQK option, though at a slight, higher cost.  Both BioPRYNQK and traditional BioPRYN testing results will be provided by telephone, e-mail or fax.

Based in Moscow, Idaho, BioTracking, LLC provides diagnostic tools to help improve livestock health and production. BioTracking has more than 20 affiliated laboratories. For additional information, call 208-882-9736.

‘Americanization’ curtails Hispanic dairy consumption

Processors, marketers urged to be innovative

A new Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy study warns dairy product consumption among Hispanic consumers declines as they become more assimilated in American culture. A white paper, “Understanding the Dairy Opportunity Among Hispanic Consumers,” analyzes the growing Hispanic market and reveals strategies to more effectively meet the needs of this population and expand dairy sales.

The paper segments Hispanic consumers by level of acculturation – or the process of assimilating into a new culture –  which is a strong indicator of consumption patterns. It examines dairy preferences, perceptions and consumption among foreign-born less acculturated immigrants, foreign-born more acculturated immigrants and U.S.-born Hispanic residents.

“Hispanic consumers in the U.S. are a highly diverse group with different beliefs, customs, experiences and behaviors,” said Lynn Stachura, vice president of strategic insight with Dairy Management Inc.™ “These cultural differences make it even more important for marketers to understand this audience and develop messaging and programming to meet their unique needs.”

The white paper states milk consumption decreases as the acculturation process progresses. In fact, the less acculturated group consumes almost 50% more milk, cheese and yogurt than the most acculturated segment of Hispanic consumers. This gap could result in the loss of 700 million lbs. of fluid milk sales for this segment by 2030.

Additionally, there is a vast difference in dairy preferences between the less acculturated and more acculturated consumers. Whole milk penetration is almost 14% higher among foreign-born Hispanics, compared with the U.S.-born segment, while drinkable yogurt penetration is almost double, and Hispanic cheese penetration is nearly four times higher.

“By appealing to the unique traditions of the less acculturated group, while recognizing that new habits get layered on, the dairy industry will be better able to maintain dairy consumption and help curb the drop-off,” Stachura said.

The white paper also pinpoints specific recommendations to help meet the challenge of creating demand by addressing the traditional needs of these consumers, including messaging, positioning, new product and packaging innovation, and distribution strategies.

“Our research shows that the unique nutrient package found in dairy products is extremely important to Hispanics,” Stachura said. “With the right products and messages, as well as increased distribution where Hispanics shop most, the dairy industry has an opportunity to grow incremental sales.”

To receive a copy of the white paper “Understanding the Dairy Opportunity Among Hispanic Consumers,” visit or e-mail

Inoculants in ensiled forages impact feed ration quality

By Kevin Lager

Texas A&M University

Ensiled forages provide excellent feed and are a staple in dairy cow rations. It is essential to properly harvest and store the forages, since rations will be impacted by the quality of silage for the duration of their feed out.

One way to promote improved ensiling and feed out is through inoculants.  Silage inoculants are commonly used at forage harvest to enhance the ensiling process or to improve stability of the forage at feed out.

Depends on quality

There are five types of fermentation that occur during ensiling depending upon the quality of the forage entering the bunker or bag: homolactic, heterolactic (glucose), heterolactic (fructose), yeast and Clostridia. Homolactic fermentation utilizes glucose from the forage, resulting in one end product: lactic acid. This differs from heterolactic fermentation, which results in multiple end-products from the fermentation of sugars from the forage including: lactic acid, ethanol and carbon dioxide from glucose fermentation and lactic acid, acetic acid, mannitol and carbon dioxide in fructose fermentation. Yeast and Clostridia are the least desirable types of fermentation since lactic acid is not an end-product. The silage produced has a higher pH and greater chance of continued fermentation.

The preferred end-product

Lactic acid is the preferred end-product. It decreases the pH of the silage and prevents further fermentation of the carbohydrates and breakdown of protein in the forage, which results in lower quality silage at feed out.

The type of fermentation that has taken place may be evaluated by a simple smell test. Properly ensiled forage, through homolactic fermentation, has little to no smell; whereas heterolactic fermentation has a slight vinegar smell due to the production of acetic acid. Forages that have undergone fermentation by yeast have an alcohol smell and Clostridial fermentation produces a rancid butter or baby vomit smell.

Proper fermentation

Silages fermented properly, with sufficient levels of lactic acid, remain stable for many months. However, when feed out begins, exposure of surfaces to oxygen restarts the fermentation process. Most inoculants utilize bacteria that produce lactic acid to ensure sufficient drop in pH once fermentation is complete to preserve the forage. The forage must also be covered to exclude oxygen from the bunker or bag. This ensures that proper fermentation occurs and a stable feed product is produced.

Research has shown that combining heterolactic and homolactic fermentation provides a balance of quickly lowering silage pH through the homolactic bacteria and increasing forage stability at feed out through inclusion of heterolactic bacteria.

For positive results…

While inoculants may provide benefits to prevent forage storage loss, the following points must be heeded to provide the greatest opportunity for positive results:

• Check that the inoculant is labeled for use with the forage being ensiled.

• Mix with cool water, as warmer water temperatures may decrease inoculant efficacy.

• Test water quality for potential negative impacts on inoculant efficacy (ex:chlorinated water kills bacteria).

• Ask salesperson to provide independent research results demonstrating that the product works.

• Apply at a rate of at least 100,000 cfu/g of wet forage for lactic acid bacteria.

• Apply at chopper for greater surface area contact and better dispersion in the silage.

• Remember, inoculants are an aid, not a replacement for good management.

No sub for good management

Although inoculants provide benefits such as improved fermentation and greater stability at feed out, there is no substitute for good management. Harvest silage at the proper moisture level and maturity, insure sufficient compaction at storage and exclude oxygen during storage. With proper management, an inoculant provides insurance in case an unexpected event occurs. While inoculants may be beneficial in less than optimal silage preservation conditions, they cannot guarantee a perfect and complete fix.

Make sure you are selective

Be selective in deciding whether inoculants fit into each individual management scheme.

Choose which inoculant is the best option, because the most expensive may not be the most effective. On the other hand, the least expensive option may not provide sufficient bacteria to properly assist with fermentation.  Work with a nutritionist to determine the need for an inoculant or type of inoculant that best fits the demands. Improving the overall management of silage pays dividends by reducing feed loss and improving quality, which may then be quantified by improvements in cow health and production.

For further information on silage inoculants and other topics, visit our website at: