Archive for December, 2010

Northeast Dairy Digest: Dec. 21, 2010


Hay and pasture conferences planned

A series of three Hay and Pasture Conferences will be held in mid-January in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Dates and locations include:

• Delmarva Hay & Pasture Mini-Conference, Jan. 17, 6-9 p.m., and Jan. 18, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington, Del;

• Southern Maryland Hay & Pasture Conference, Jan. 19, 8:45 a.m. – 3:40 p.m., Izaak Walton League Outdoor Education Center, Waldorf, Md;

Tri-State Hay & Pasture Conference, Jan. 20, 8:45 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Fire Hall, Salisbury, Pa.

Hay growers, dairy, livestock and horse owners, as well as those who work with these producers, are invited. Attention will also be given to new developments in grasses.

Dr. Darrell Emmick, retired state grazing lands management specialist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in New York, will be one of the featured speakers.

Taking grass to the next level – new developments and concepts will be the topic of Tim Fritz, forage agronomist/owner/manager, King’s AgriSeeds, Inc., Ronks, Pa.

For more information or to obtain the complete program agenda and registration materials, visit


Wisconsin dairy tour priority registration deadline near

Dec. 31 is the deadline for priority seating for the Penn State Dairy Alliance/Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania dairy tour to Wisconsin, set for April 4-7.

Tour stops will include:

•  Koepke Farms, Inc.

• Crave Brothers Dairy and Farmstead Cheese

•  Rosy-Lane Holsteins, LLC

•  Vir-Clar Farms

•  Rosendale Dairy

•   So Fine Bovines, LLC

•  Knigge Farms, LLC

Dinner speakers are Shelly Mayer, executive director, Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, and Laurie Fischer, executive director, Dairy Business Association of Wisconsin. Tours will also include the Urban Farm Community Food Center, a historic two-acre site that is the last remaining farm and greenhouse operation in Milwaukee, where individuals learn how to grow, market, and distribute their own food.

For additional tour information and registration information, visit

Penn State Dairy Alliance Friday Facilitator Forum webinar series

December’s Penn State Dairy Alliance Friday Facilitator Forum webinar series featured “Managing Information for the Team,” presented by Dr. Lisa Holden, associate professor, Penn State Department of Dairy and Animal Science. Recordings from past Friday Facilitator Forum sessions, as well as information about all upcoming sessions, can be found at

Pennsylvania Dairy Summit planned

The 2011 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit will be held Feb. 2-3, in Lancaster, Pa. For a brochure and registration information, visit For questions, email or call 877-326-5993.

December Dairy Digest available online

Penn State’s December 2010 Dairy Digest is now online at

In this issue:

Penn State study finds calf milk pasteurization effective, but variable

A study of calf milk pasteurization on six farms in central Pennsylvania

Are you part of the residue problem or solution?

Data regarding antibiotics in dairy products and meat has been monitored and of concern for many years, but recently government agencies, medical personnel, and consumers have place much more interest in this public health issue.

Revisiting transition cow problems and their impact

Field surveys show that more than 50% of cows will experience one or more metabolic or infectious disease process following calving.

Feed efficiency or maximum milk production?

Manure nutrients, a valuable commodity in the past, are becoming an unwanted pollutant. The primary concern is with nitrogen and phosphorus which, through run-off and leaching of manure-amended soils, find their ways into ground and surface water.

Time to change, Part 2

High milk quality is a product of management and not treatment.

Penn State Dairy Alliance announces spring program calendar

Host of educational programs for dairy producers, their employees and consultants coming this spring

For a pdf of this issue, go to

PMMB maintains over-order premium

The Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (PMMB) will maintain the current $2.15/cwt. over-order premium for Class I milk paid to Pennsylvania producers for the six-month period beginning Jan. 1, 2011. PMMB will also keep in place its current premium price add-on for fuel costs.

‘Mastering the Dairy Business’ conference calls set

Three “Mastering the Dairy Business” conference calls have been scheduled to provide insight into planning for 2011. The calls focus on dairy markets, business planning and Livestock Gross Margin insurance for Dairy. All calls will be held from 12-1:30 p.m. Dates and topics include:

Dec. 22: “What Markets Are Telling Us About Tomorrow,” with Phil Plourd and Bill Curley, Blimling & Associates

• Jan. 13: “Thinking Like a ‘Chief Financial Office’ on the Dairy,” with Dr. Michael Boehlje, Purdue University

• Jan. 27: “How the New LGM for Dairy Fits on Your Dairy,” with Gene Gantz, RMA, and Alan Zepp, CDE

Click here to view a flier about the calls.  Participation in the conference calls is free, but pre-registration is required. Call 717-346-0849 or e-mail to register.

New York

Dairy farmers to lead Farm Bureau

Two dairy farmers were reelected to lead the New York Farm Bureau during the organization’s annual meeting recently.

Dean Norton, a dairy farmer and agricultural consultant from Elba, N.Y., was re-elected as president. Norton’s family also manages a custom trucking operation for forage and commodity harvesting. Norton is a senior agriculture consultant for Freed, Maxick & Battaglia, in Batavia, N.Y.

Eric Ooms, a dairy farmer from Old Chatham, N.Y. was re-elected as vice president. He owns and operates a 425-cow dairy farm with his father and brothers.

USDA publishes Roundup Ready® Alfalfa EIS

West Salem, Wis. (Dec. 16, 2010) – USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that the long-awaited Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Roundup Ready® Alfalfa (RRA) has been published. An electronic copy of the document can be found at:

“Publication of the final EIS marks an important, critical step to bringing RRA back to the U.S. market and ensuring growers have access to this technology, which will lower their costs and increase their profitability,” said Mark McCaslin, President of Forage Genetics International, the world leader in value-added alfalfa genetics and co-developer of RRA.

Publication of the EIS satisfies a 9th Circuit Court ruling that required the EIS be conducted, and enables the USDA to make a decision about deregulation of RRA. There is a minimum 30 day period required between publication of the EIS and a deregulation decision by the agency. No commercial activity is allowed until and unless the USDA issues a decision deregulating RRA.

USDA indicated it had considered three alternatives during the preparation of the final EIS. Maintaining RRA’s status as a regulated article has been ruled out. The USDA is now considering two options – “deregulation as one option, and the other deregulation accompanied by a combination of isolation distances and geographic restrictions on the production of GE alfalfa seed and, in some locations, hay.”

“When the USDA makes a decision about deregulation of RRA, Forage Genetics International will be ready to sell RRA seed to growers,” McCaslin said. “With the action of the USDA today, American farmers are one step closer to having the opportunity to benefit from the advantages RRA provides.” Those benefits include a more productive and profitable crop for growers, with RRA users self reporting a $110 per-acre advantage over conventional alfalfa. RRA also requires less use of crop protection products, providing both financial and environmental benefits.

“In these difficult economic times, America’s farmers need every advantage to provide a reliable, affordable food supply for the U.S. and people worldwide. We need all types of agriculture – organic, conventional and biotech options – to feed a growing global population, and Forage Genetics and the seed industry remain committed to stewardship programs that are designed to enable co-existence and grower choice,” McCaslin added.

Rabobank dairy outlook mixed for U.S.

Rabobank’s December Dairy Quarterly report indicates the coming months are likely to bring a significant shift in dairy market fundamentals. After almost two years of uninterrupted growth, exportable supply is expected to fall below previous-year levels in early 2011, as New Zealand supply contracts in the face of drought, more than offsetting strong growth in the Northern Hemisphere.

Although demand hit a “soft patch” in late 2010, sending mixed signals, China and Russia continued to lead the way in soaking up unusually large volumes from the world market. Assuming a reacceleration in the world economy, and strong ongoing purchases from the world market from China and Russia in particular, this is set to exert upward pressure on international dairy commodity prices.

Rabobank expects the rate of milk supply growth in the European Union to ease in early 2011, as rising feed costs start to impact production.

The U.S. outlook for the first quarter of 2011 looks rough, though. Milk production is already running ahead of domestic market needs, and stocks are heavy. The domestic market will likely improve in line with the economy, but slowly.

The export market will likely take more product from the U.S. in the first quarter of 2011, mitigating downward price pressure, with the potential for a global market shortfall in early 2011 offering some prospect for an export-led stabilization of local prices. But with the imperfect linkages between U.S. and world markets, a rising local surplus and further increases in feed costs, producer margins will likely deteriorate.

In New Zealand, most companies noted record-high spring flush processing volumes and production. However, dry summer conditions arrived early and swiftly, and fourth-quarter milk flows started to trail last season in most regions. Rabobank offers two scenarios for New Zealand: 1) summer remains dry (or rains arrive after mid-January), lactation is shortened and a scenario similar to 2008 unfolds, but impacting a wider production region and occurring much earlier; or 2) the prevailing La Niña weather pattern brings summer rain to the northern parts of the North Island and provides a reasonable finish to the season for those with sufficient supplementary feed to keep cows lactating in the interim.

Either way, a large chunk of production will have been compromised and could result in milk production down 5% to 15% in the second half of the season. Export volumes during the first quarter of 2011 are likely to reflect the lower milk production levels, and see a steeper seasonal decline than usual.

Among upside influences:

• Bullish fundamentals in the grains complex are already expected to bring a further rise in the price of grain-based feed through the first quarter of 2011, though any further market shocks would place additional pressure on margins — and production appetite — for users of grain-based feeds.

• Any evidence of tightening fundamentals in dairy may drive a rush from buyers to cover short-term needs, bringing potential for a short-term market squeeze.

• With the Southern Hemisphere season already gripped by adverse weather, the market will show heightened sensitivity to seasonal conditions in the U.S. and the EU as the season starts to build in early 2011―with any hiccups providing further price upside.

Among downside influences:

• Decent rains in New Zealand prior to Christmas may yet limit the significant downside potential for local supply in early 2011.

• U.S. supply growth may fail to slow in the first quarter of 2011, despite tightening margins, which would generate considerable additional exportable supply from the region.

• Strong buying from Russia and China in early 2011 remains central to a price upside in in the first quarter of 2011, and price expectations would be substantially downgraded if that demand fail to materialize.

Volatility, lengthy period of higher grain prices ahead

Several factors point to volatility, but higher grain prices are expected for an extended period as the new year begins, according to Darrel Good, University of Illinois economist.

Writing in his final weekly outlook for 2010, Good noted USDA made relatively few changes in the projections of U.S. and world crop supply and consumption in the December report.  Some had expected larger changes, particularly for U.S. corn, but there was no basis for that expectation.

For corn, USDA increased the projection of current marketing year U. S.  imports by 5 million bushels, to a total of 15 million, to reflect the record corn crop in Canada.  The projection of U.S. year ending stocks was increased by 5 million bushels, to a total of 832 million bushels.  That projection represents 6.2% of projected marketing year consumption.  For the rest of the world, the estimate of corn production was increased by 0.6% for the European Union, 4.3% for the Ukraine, 6.5% for Canada, and 5.0% for India.  Those increases were partially offset by a larger world consumption projection, resulting in a small increase in the projection of year ending stocks outside of the U.S., mostly in the European Union.

For soybeans, USDA increased the projection of current marketing year U.S. exports by 20 million bushels, to a total of 1.59 billion bushels.  The increase reflects the record pace of exports to date and the current large outstanding export sales of soybeans.  The projection of year ending stocks was reduced by 20 million bushels, to a total of 165 million, representing 4.9% of projected consumption.  For the rest of the world, estimated production was increased for Canada (10%) and the European Union (2.5%).  The total increase amounted to only 15 million bushels. The projection of world soybean consumption was increased by 58 million bushels and the projection of marketing year ending stocks was reduced by 47 million bushels, or 2.1%.  While these changes have very little price implication, the renewal of the biodiesel blenders’ tax credit would be very supportive of soybean oil demand.

For wheat, USDA reduced the projection of domestic consumption for food by 10 million bushels and raised the forecast of year-ending stocks by the same amount.  Changes for the rest of the world were a little more substantial.  Production estimates were increased for Pakistan (5.75%), Canada (4.4%), and Australia (6.25%).  The 55 million bushel increase for Australia was surprising given the recent extremely wet weather that has interrupted harvest.  The world production estimate was increased by 133 million bushels and the projection of year ending stocks was increased by 155 million bushels, or 2.4%.

While the December USDA reports did little to alter the fundamental picture of the crop markets, the January reports will provide much more information.  On Jan. 12, USDA will release the final estimates of the size of the 2010 U.S. crops.  With small projected year ending stocks of corn and soybeans, modest changes in the production estimates could have a large price impact.  The estimate of Dec. 1, 2010 grain stocks will also be released on Jan. 12.  That report provides the most information for the corn market since it allows a calculation of domestic use during the first quarter of the marketing year.  Based on weekly estimates of ethanol production, ethanol use of corn in the first quarter of the year was 16% larger than use of a year earlier.  The likely extension of the blenders’ tax credit for another year suggests continued robust demand for ethanol.  The calculated feed and residual use of corn will also be important since there was some confusion surrounding the September 1 stocks estimate and whether or not significant quantities of 2010 crop corn were fed in August.

An estimate of winter wheat seedings will also be released on Jan. 12.  That report will not only be important for the wheat market, but will have implications for the amount of acreage available for spring planted crops and the potential for double cropping of soybeans in 2011.  By mid-January, prospects for South American corn and soybean production and Australian wheat production will also be clearer.  Corn and soybeans in South America will be in the reproductive and grain filling stages.  Between now and then, the most interest will center on Argentina due to the significant shortfall in precipitation in important growing areas since mid-October.  Finally, the potential for Chinese corn imports may also be clearer in another month.

The rapid pace of U.S. and world consumption of corn, soybeans and wheat; prospects for relatively small year ending stocks; and unsettled weather partly influenced by the ongoing LaNina weather event seem to provide a very sound fundamental base for crop prices. Volatile, but generally high prices are expected to persist for an extended period.

Guest Column: Much ado about cheese

Cheese Reporter editor responds to NY Times

By Dick Groves

Dick Groves is publisher/editor of the Cheese Reporter, a weekly newspaper serving the dairy industry. He can be reached via e-mail:

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but in the case of a recent New York Times article about cheese, we’re not so sure. And as negative as that article was, some of the responses posted online were even worse.

In case you missed it, the Times published a lengthy front-page article about cheese, more specifically about how Dairy Management Inc. and USDA are promoting increased consumption of cheese at the same time USDA is telling people to cut back on their intake of saturated fat.

The article is less than flattering about cheese, to put it mildly. In addition to an anti-cheese tone, the article also contains at least a few pieces of misinformation or misleading information that has, judging by responses posted online, led to some pretty inaccurate conclusions by some uniformed observers.

For example, the article refers to Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) as a “marketing creation” of USDA. Actually, DMI was created by the National Dairy Board in March of 1994; the National Dairy Board, of course, is funded by a mandatory assessment on dairy farmers.

And the assessment that funds the NDB, and therefore DMI, wasn’t created by USDA, it was created by Congress. Specifically, the promotion and research program is conducted under the Dairy Production and Stabilization Act of 1983.

The Times article mentions that DMI received $5.3 million last year from USDA to promote dairy sales overseas (exports). We’re not sure what’s wrong with that, for several reasons, just a couple of which we’ll mention here.

First, the Obama administration has a stated goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years. U.S. dairy exports are on pace to top $3 billion this year, so it would seem like the government’s expenditure here is a pretty good deal and in line with the administration’s overall export goal.

Second, there is, without a doubt, growing global demand for dairy products. The federal government basically has two choices when it comes to that growing demand: help the U.S. dairy industry fill it, or let other countries ramp up their dairy production to fill it.

If USDA wants to help the U.S. dairy industry capture some of that market, that’s not such a bad thing. Indeed, we recall the infamous Flanigan report of 1973, which was requested by President Nixon and which recommended that the U.S. import some 25% of its manufactured dairy products by 1980.

The current approach, with the U.S. helping to supply growing global dairy markets, is far superior to the Flanigan report’s recommendation that the U.S. rely on the European Union and others to supply its manufactured dairy products.

The Times article points out that the majority of the milk people drink has fat removed to make the lowfat or nonfat milk “that Americans prefer.” Frankly, the only reasons Americans prefer these milks is, first, because the government has been telling them to prefer these milks for decades now; and second, because it’s getting more and more difficult for young consumers to find whole milk at all in schools.

The Times article points out Americans now eat an average of 33 pounds of cheese per year, nearly triple the 1970 rate, and quotes Dr. Neal D. Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine as follows: “If you want to look at why people are fat today, it’s pretty hard to identify a contributor more significant than this meteoric rise in cheese consumption.”

Okay, there are a couple of problems here. First, it’s worth noting that per capita cheese consumption exceeds 50 pounds annually (that’s about a pound of cheese per week) in France, but the French have one of the lowest rates of obesity among developed nations, so tying obesity directly to rising cheese consumption is ridiculous.

Second, PCRM and Neal Barnard are hardly objective nutrition analysts. The article refers to Barnard as president of “the physicians’ group,” but in fact PCRM’s own website says the “PCRM family includes physicians, healthcare professionals, veterinarians, and compassionate laypersons.”

More bluntly, the Center for Consumer Freedom (itself a coalition primarily of food companies and restaurants) calls PCRM “a fanatical animal rights group that seeks to remove eggs, milk, meat and seafood from the American diet.” Hardly an objective “physicians’ group.”

Beyond the article itself, some of the reaction to it has been misleading if not downright laughably incorrect.

For example, a number of observers have referred to DMI as a USDA agency or branch (one even referred to DMI as a “USDA-funded organization”), which as explained earlier is completely false.

The Times article implies the government’s dietary advice is always sound; for example, it notes that USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion “promotes healthy diets.”

But the government’s dietary advice is constantly changing, and some of its advice from the past has been changed pretty significantly (or at least should be). If you don’t think this is true, just talk to someone who has been involved in the egg business for a few decades.

Maybe the most disturbing thing about this whole debacle is how many observers are expressing shock and surprise that a government-created organization (DMI) would have the unmitigated gall to actually promote increased consumption of cheese. And at the same time the government is encouraging people to consume less fat.

But of course the dairy checkoff was created to do just what it is doing: promote increased consumption of cheese, and other dairy products. Oh, and the dairy checkoff was created in 1983, or three years after the first edition of the government’s Dietary Guidelines recommended the following: “Avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.”


Dick Groves is publisher/editor of the Cheese Reporter, a weekly newspaper serving the dairy industry. He can be reached via e-mail:

Active Listening: The Lifeblood of Great Communication


By Robert Milligan

At the conclusion of a recent workshop I conducted, many participants indicated their greatest insight came from a section on “active listening.”

To explore that topic, begin by thinking of a recent time when someone – an employee, colleague, partner, family member or friend – was not listening when you had something important to say. Describe your feelings in one word. In workshops, feelings such as frustrated, angry, ignored, unimportant and upset were common.

To avoid situations where we leave others with these feelings, we need to become better active or empathic listeners.

We tend to view listening as a passive activity. Active listening is a very proactive way to enhance communication with others. The listener takes  “active” responsibility for understanding both the content and feelings behind what is being said.  An underlying theme is for the listener to use active listening to help others solve their own problems.

Let’s look at an example. An employee approaches you and says: “The deadline to finish bedding the calves is not realistic.” The typical response would be to insist the deadline is realistic.

An active listening response, however, could be: “It sounds like you are concerned about whether you can meet the deadline.”

The advantage of this response is twofold. First, you show understanding for the employee’s position. Second, you and the employee can now talk about both the employee’s feelings and the practical issue of meeting the deadline.

Active listening opens the door for effective communication, reducing the likelihood of a confrontation, and increasing the probability of excellent performance.

The following contrasts our usual approach to listening and the active listening approach:

• Our usual listening: Listening to the other person in order to respond to what they are saying; often even to use what they are saying against them in an argument.

• Active listening: Listening carefully to truly understand what the other person is saying and how they are feeling about what they are saying.

An open communication climate is created through active listening. The listener better understands what a person means, and how the person feels about situations and problems. Active listening is a skill that communicates acceptance and increases interpersonal trust between employees and their supervisor, partner or friend.

This column often addresses the importance of fairness. The chance of an employee leaving a conversation perceiving they have been treated fairly is heightened by the use of active listening.

Think about all your communications. What percentage of the time would you categorize your listening level is:

1) paying little or no attention.

2) listening, but also thinking about other things.

3) listening, but also thinking about how you are going to respond to what is being said.

4) listening with nothing else in your mind, thinking about how to respond only after he/she has finished speaking.

We normally think of listening level 3 as good listening. The problem is that, not unlike level 2, we are multi-tasking, because we are also thinking about how to respond, distracting us from fully – actively – listening.

Active listening might suggest the last choice should be 100%. That is unrealistic and unnecessary. My challenge to you is to establish a realistic goal for the percentage of time you will make that choice – listen with nothing else in your mind. Now, work to meet your goal.

Many, perhaps most of us, do not fully listen to what is being said, nor do we ask follow-up questions to elicit greater understanding or additional information.  More often than not, when someone initiates a conversation, they have spent time thinking about the idea, the issue, the concern or the situation. Interjecting our off-the-cuff ideas and responses before they completely explain their thinking both loses the fruits of the time they spent, and diminishes the quality of the interpersonal relationship with that individual.

The following are two listening practices to help you become a better active listener:

1. Pause 1-2 seconds before replying. This practices has three advantages:

• It shows you are carefully listening

• You avoid or at least reduce the risk of interrupting

• You actually hear the other person better

2. Ask questions for clarification. I find these two to be especially helpful:

• “What do you mean?”

•“Tell me more?”

The 1-2 second pause is especially helpful on the telephone, where interrupting is an even greater danger. In addition to being rude, interrupting often renders the conversation ineffective.

I find the “tell me more” phrase to be extremely effective when listening to someone who is quiet, has difficulty expressing their thoughts, or someone who is not certain whether I am interested in what they are saying.

The consequences of failing to allow others to fully express ideas, opinions and feelings and/or to not fully listen are often two-fold. First, the current conversation is not brought to successful conclusion. Second, you have communicated the message that you do not want to listen and even more significant future ideas, concerns and feelings may never be communicated.


Robert Milligan, senior consultant with Dairy Strategies LLC, can be reached via phone: 888-249-3244, ext. 255, e-mail:, or website:

PROMOTION: Dairy’s legacy

Evoke it to build public trust and grow sales

By Tom Gallagher

Change…it’s been a topic of numerous columns I’ve authored over the last few years. We have seen consumers change, including how they feel about the companies and industries providing the foods and beverages they purchase.

The 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual survey developed by Edelman Public Relations, measures changes in consumer trust and perceptions of credibility toward organizations and entire industries. It concluded that, while quality and performance remain a core component to consumer trust, an industry’s perceived performance as a good citizen and “steward of society” is now equally important.

This new paradigm offers challenges and opportunities to the dairy industry. Americans are increasingly disconnected from agriculture; the agricultural sector now employs less than 2% of the nation’s workforce. Also, we know anti-animal agriculture activists who are well-funded, well-organized – and increasingly focused on dairy – create an increasing threat to ongoing consumer trust in dairy sales.

To address this, we are going to become increasingly proactive in telling the dairy producer story. Producers and the dairy industry are in a better position than ever to assure trust in dairy, due to checkoff initiatives that offer increased strength: systems and science, commitment to community and multiple pathways to reach consumers.

Systems and science

Over the past several years, the dairy industry and dairy checkoff have formed several key systems to provide reassurance to consumers. For example, through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, a DMI-formed entity that allows the entire dairy industry’s “value chain” to work together to help grow sales, the industry recently completed a scientific study of dairy’s carbon footprint, setting the record straight on the U.S. dairy industry’s actual impact regarding greenhouse gas emissions. The Innovation Center also formed an industry task force to address food safety challenges and solutions in dairy processing and manufacturing plants.

Further, the National Milk Producers Federation has developed its Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) animal care and quality assurance program, which has the support of producers representing more than half of the nation’s milk supply.

Finally, dairy producers have a decades-long history of funding credible, third-party nutrition and product research showing the health and nutrition benefits of consuming dairy products.

Commitment to community

Dairy producers’ commitment to community starts with your long-standing legacy of stewardship for the land and water. Your commitment extends to the people you employ, and the other businesses you support in your community – from the feed and equipment you purchase, to financial services and on-farm management consulting you require to run your farm business. The public needs to know this.

Producers also reinforce their commitment through dedicated children’s health and wellness efforts to provide nutritious foods, including dairy, and physical activity in our nation’s schools through the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. Dairy producers are the driving force in forming a public-private partnership to help solve childhood obesity, the nation’s leading public health issue.

To support Fuel Up to Play 60, DMI has created a new foundation with the goal of raising $10 million annually to reward schools that provide for better nutrition – including kid-friendly foods like milk, cheese and yogurt – and physical activity. This effort is a critical part of reinforcing the reputation of dairy producers within their communities.

Pathways to build trust, loyalty

Through the dairy checkoff, producers have multiple paths to build trust and loyalty among consumers. One example is the Innovation Center’s Consumer Confidence Committee, which works to help the entire industry speak with one unified voice to food retailers, foodservice restaurants and others about key industry topics, such as health and wellness, animal care, food safety and environmental stewardship.

Another path is through dairy marketing partners that reach millions of consumers. They would like to help dairy producers tell their story. Through partnerships with companies such as McDonald’s® and Domino’s Pizza®, we can share dairy-friendly messaging through packaging, in-store promotions and other activities. This also holds true for Fuel Up to Play 60 partners who can communicate with consumers through Foundation efforts to demonstrate that dairy is part of the solution to combating childhood obesity.

Another critical path is the vast human resources of the dairy industry itself. Thousands of people employed by dairy promotion, co-ops, processors and manufacturers call on businesses, institutions and schools every day. There is a great opportunity to activate them to help share dairy’s story with the public.

When these strengths work together, they can create a tipping point to a new foundation of consumer trust, where positive voices can drown out the negative. The dairy industry will build this trust from its reputation embodied in America’s dairy producers, who:

• Feed the world

• Fight childhood obesity

• Address hunger and malnutrition

• Bring jobs to local communities

• Provide a path to energy independence

• Assure food security for America

• Care for the land and their animals

That’s the legacy of America’s dairy producers and the U.S. dairy industry. Now is the time to proactively tell this story to build a new foundation of consumer trust in dairy.


■  Tom Gallagher is chief executive officer of Dairy Management Inc.™. For more information,

Dairy-L: Winter calf facilities

Dairy-L, an electronic forum for dairy producers and advisors, recently featured a discussion on winter calf facilities, with producers sharing ways to balance calf health and worker comfort.

Q: We have successfully used calf huts for many years, but sometimes winter conditions are not so desirable for the calf feeder. I’m interested in experiences concerning calf barns (greenhouse, hoop fabric, pole construction with curtains, or whatever). We milk about 1,000 cows, and are considering sizing for more than one unit, so not all calves will be in one building.

Mike Malena, Holsteins Unlimited LLC

Leigh, Nebraska


A: In Wisconsin, we have two 60-calf greenhouses and 40 calf hutches. We’ve learned calves do best in the greenhouses in the summer, and better in the hutches in the winter. (In contrast, calf feeders do better in the greenhouses in the winter!)

The greenhouses are cool and comfortable in summer. The hutches keep the calves cozier in winter. The trick to winter success in the greenhouses is keeping the ridge open on top and roll-up sides open for ventilation, using calf coats to keep the calves warm, and plywood behind the wire pens to minimize draft. A gravel base with landscaping cloth on top helps drainage. We use shavings or straw for bedding, depending on time of the year.

The greenhouses are 30×120. We built two (up to 30 calves on each side) so that a couple of times/year each greenhouse is empty to break cycles. When we get the occasional calf in the greenhouse with respiratory problems, we put her out in a hutch.

Linda Hodorff

Second Look Holsteins LLC

Broken Bow Dairy LLC

A: We built a 24×40 cold frame greenhouse in 2000. It worked better after we got rid of the greenhouse blower with the two plastic layers, replacing it with one strong fabric. We find it works better for the summer and is much cooler. It is fine in winter, but I have had some scour problems due to the closeness of the calves to each other. We got rid of our hutches, but I wish I kept some of them. We raised a lot of good heifers in them over the years. I think it would be a great idea to put them in the calf barn.

Ron Ashmore

Lindsay, ON Canada

A: We have a 84×30 x10 (eaves) pole construction calf barn in central New York. It has a gravel floor and full-curtained sides which open from the top down. We use 4×8 wire cages. It has always worked pretty well, but we’ve learned a few things.

We started with a ridge vent, but wind blew in precipitation under certain conditions, so we capped it and installed a positive vent tube with thermostat. For us, shutting it off  below 18 degrees F works well. Calves need jackets once cold weather settles in. After they get 4-5 weeks old, we pull the jackets when we anticipate 2-3 days of nice weather. Always keep curtains cracked open at the top to let air escape. As with hutches, cold is no problem, drafts are.

Curtains need managing, especially in fall and spring and when windy downpours occur.

In hot weather, we have a large 4’ fan at floor level to move air when wind isn’t adequate, and often close curtains 80%-90% to create a tunnel ventilation effect and reduce sun on southside calves. The fan also seems to keep flies away.

We bed with sawdust, except the initial bed for new calves in winter, when we top a layer of sawdust with deep straw. As calves grow, we just top the straw with sawdust.

Our barn includes a small “utility room” with running water, sink, hot water and refrigerator. Very handy. We use a hose with a ball valve on the end on a reel to water calves. Don’t buy a cheap reel.

If you feed replacer, have a place where you can bring in a pallet full and store it. We didn’t, but that is a non-issue now as we have a pasteurizer. Our grain is brought in tubs and placed outside. If you get bags, have a way to get a pallet in.

I still feel hutches are good for calves and require less day-to-day management at times, but we had a site management problem and are of an age where working outdoors in wet and especially in cold weather is just too hard.

David Kross

Indian Camp Farm, Earlville, N.Y.

A: I think most of the alternatives, including greenhouse, hoop barn-type systems or pole barns are trying to get calf hut results for the calves in a sheltered building for the workers.

I priced out all the above many years ago and built a pole barn, because it was a much more permanent building at lower cost. It was the biggest building mistake I ever made. It was like a refrigerator for the calves. We quickly went back to calf huts and have stayed with them.

Why not just build a good tall windbreak, a good gravel base, and organize your huts in such a way that you can easily drive between to plow snow and otherwise service them? Put in some big yard lights and a couple water hydrants. Consider fencing in the whole area so when a calf escapes you still have it contained. That will allow you to continue your success with the calves and offer some protection from the weather to the workers.

Also, if you don’t have it, build a milk room, in the hut area. We have a two-car garage with a 600-gallon bulk tank for waste milk, a pasteurizer, a back-up milk replacer mixer, water heaters, heater, floor drain, double sink, work bench and shelves, and room to park a JD Gator and a Bobcat. It also has a cold storage room on back for calf starter and to hang up calf jackets. I would add a dishwasher and perhaps a bathroom with a washer and dryer in it.

The pole shed became a very unsuccessful dry cow barn, and is now a hay shed with the roof too low.

Bob Hennen

Silverstreak Dairies, LLC


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FACILITIES: Building Standards

If new dairy facilities are in your 2011 plans, a new web-based resource might help design facilities to optimize economics and production – while addressing growing consumer concerns over animal well-being.

By Dave Natzke

Dr. Nigel Cook (keft) and Dr. Ken Nordlund developed the Dairyland Initiative, an information center and building plan assessment program with animal well-being as the No. 1 goal.

Optimal dairy cow health and performance happen when she is given an optimal physical, nutritional and managerial environment in which to live and produce. The Dairyland Initiative, developed by Drs. Nigel Cook and Ken Nordlund, at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, combines dairy animal health, production and behavior research with years of field experience in housing design into an information center and building plan assessment program to help create that environment.

The comprehensive resource begins with building decision trees – called the “Wisconsin Blueprint” – utilizing up-to-date design standards (see below). It collects research-supported biological ideas and standards used to produce an economically viable and competitive dairy industry, with optimal animal well-being as the No. 1 goal.

“Consumers expect that the food they consume is safe and comes from animals that are well cared for,” said Cook. “Recent animal activism has shaken this confidence and animal well-being is sure to remain top of the list of concerns surrounding animal agriculture. From a decade of research we have identified deficiencies in the design of facilities for dairy cattle that we know we can fix and that is the goal of the initiative.”

Virtual tours

Each dairy has specific needs, desires and resources. From the comfort of their farm office, producers and their facilities’ design team can tour dairies that have already built facilities with animal comfort in mind. Nearly 20 virtual tours are featured on the site, covering facilities for transition cows, milking herds, nursing and growing calves and breeding-age heifers, as well as small freestall and remodeled barns.

The virtual tours (see below for examples) provide interactive guides of new facilities, including floor plans, stall dimensions, photographs, key performance measures and streaming video.

Building a team

The Dairyland Initiative website gives all members of a dairy facility team – producer, consultant, lender and builder – an instant-access guide to planning new facilities, as well as troubleshooting problems in existing facilities.

Cook lists any number of design problems negatively impacting animal comfort, including poor stall cushion and comfort, poorly designed stall loops, mounting brackets in the way of lunge space, stalls that are too short or too narrow, low neck rails too close to the rear curb, narrow alleys, slippery or traumatic floors, congested crossovers, insufficient water trough or bunk space, poorly designed feed bunks, inadequate heat abatement and/or ventilation, poor drainage, and contaminated microenvironments in calf buildings due to poor air flow.

“Poor animal well-being is very costly,” Cook said, citing lameness incidence rates of  25%, as well as 30% of cows suffering periparturient disease; 40% cows suffering mastitis; and 25% calves suffering pneumonia and diarrhea.

“All these problems can be reduced with improved facility design and management,” he explained. “In addition, the vast majority of barn remodels and new facilities have been paid off in less than five years through improved health, productivity and well-being. We’ve yet to have someone come back and complain.”

The website offers engineering, construction, supplier and financing information, helping producers find professionals to complete building projects. Those engineers, contractors, suppliers and lenders listed on the site aren’t an indication of endorsement; but may help connect dairy producers and construction professionals, and help builders showcase buildings and materials in one place, with greater access to producers.

The site will also provide builders with access to the latest design standards, and allow them to compete on a level playing field for bids, because design standards will become more uniform.

Risk assessments

When the builder finishes the job and cows enter the new barn, the lender and dairy producer must live with the consequences. Poor facilities lead to poor results.

The Dairyland Initiative aims to prevent this situation – before any money is spent on a building – through the use of a risk assessment.

When a producer and his facilities’ team submit building plans and complete a questionnaire, program coordinators will perform a cow comfort risk assessment and highlight design areas which may be harmful to the well-being and productivity of cattle.

Risk assessments are performed for a fee of $150 (currently only for Wisconsin producers). The risk assessment questionnaire covers building plans, including: the barn floor plan; stall design plan; and farm site plan (include distances between buildings)

The producer, builder and lender are then alerted to design issues and improvements made before construction begins.

Other tools

Other web-based tools include:

• Transition Cow Pen Size Calculator. Estimate current and future housing needs for dry cows through post-fresh pens, based on herd size and management practices.

• Mattress to Sand Bedding Conversion Partial Budget Calculator. Compare sand and mattress-base stalls, using an individual herd’s production and health data.

• Heifer Facility Needs Calculator. Estimate heifer facility needs based on herd size and management practices.

• Positive Pressure Ventilation Fan & Tube Calculator. Determine minimal winter ventilation needs for various calf or heifer barn dimensions.

Updates planned

The Dairyland Initiative will be continually updated. Participating businesses will be invited to share in discussing and improving housing guidelines and standards through annual meetings and social media venues.

Lenders will have access to building guidelines and tools to improve partial budgeting. Program coordinators will update cost-benefit analyses for new building projects, following and monitoring facilities’ performance after construction.

Wisconsin dairy farmers have free access to the website by logging on with the first 6-digits of their dairy producer license number. Consulting professionals and farmers outside of Wisconsin may purchase a two-year web access subscription for $100.


■ For access to the Dairyland Initiative, visit

Dairy Facility Decision Trees

The No. 1 goal of Wisconsin Blueprint “decision trees”  is to optimize animal well-being in facilities construction – utilizing up-to-date, research-supported biological and design standards – while enhancing dairy economics viability.

Adult cow housing decision tree

More than 20 branches make up the decision-making tree for new adult cow facilities, including:

1. Manure handling

2. Transition cows

3. Group size

4. Bedded pack

5. Barn layout

6. Stall layout

7. Overstocking

8. Ventilation

9. Roof insulation

10. Alleyway dimensions

11. Floor grooving/rubber flooring

12. Water needs

13. Feed bunk

14. Heat abatement

15. Lighting systems

16. Stall surface

17. Mattress/sand freestall remodeling

18. Freestall dimensions

19. Brisket locators

20. Divider loops

21. Neck rails

22. Tiestall remodeling

23. Voluntary milking systems

Replacement animal housing decision tree

At least 10 branches make up the decision-making tree for replacement animal facilities, including:

1. Facility needs (animal numbers)

2. Nursing calf housing

3. Bedding

4. Calf pen design

5. Air hygiene

6. Ventilation

7. Groups

8. Bedded packs

9. Freestall dimensions

10. Design for management

Take Dairy Design Virtual Tours

Nearly 20 virtual tours are featured on the website, covering facilities for lactating and transition cows, nursing and growing calves and breeding-age heifers, as well as small freestall and remodeled barns. The tours provide interactive guides, including floor plans, stall dimensions, photographs, key performance measures and streaming video.

Ripp’s Dairy Valley

Transition Cow Barn – Ripp’s Dairy Valley

• 800 cows

• Pre-fresh pen with weekly additions

• Sand stalls, 50” wide, 10’ long in a 2-row H/T layout

• 30” headlocks

• 3 calving pens

• Just-in-time calving

• 3-row far-off dry cow pen

SunBurst Dairy

Adult Cow Barn – SunBurst Dairy

• New lactating cow barn addition

• 6-row barn with 4 x 3-row pens of 85 stalls each

• Stalls 10’ long against the side-wall and 17’

head-to-head platform, all 50 inches wide

• 14’ feed alley and 14’ crossovers

• Pack Mat stall base with 2” of sand bedding

• Artex Y2K divider loops, with a concrete brisket slope

Split Rail Acres

Small Freestall Barn – Split Rail Acres

• Built to improve adult cow housing and
expansion from tie stall and dry lot housing

• One-sided barn, three-row pen

• Concrete brisket slope and deep sand bedding

• Drive-by feeding with an 8-foot cantilever covering

• Additional feed space provided outside

Kellercrest Registered Holsteins

Nursing Calves – Kellercrest Registered Holsteins

• Nursing calf barn with 52 individual pens

• Individual pens become small group
post-weaning pens by removing solid dividers

• Concrete floor with a cut-out, rock-base
drainage area within each calf pen

• Solid PVC sided pens with open wire
backs and gated fronts

• Positive pressure ventilation tubes

Majestic View Dairies

Remodeled Barn – Majestic View Dairies

• 3-row pen, lactating cow barns remodeled from
mattress stalls to deep sand bedding

• 18-inch lunge space addition built on to the sidewalls

• Head-to-head stall platforms extended 1’ into
feed alley for mature cows

• 4×4-inch treated lumber bedding retainer
anchored to existing stall platforms

• Single beam-mounted freestall divider loops: 50” o.c.
for mature cows; 48” o.c. for first lactation cows

CSI-Dairy: The Lameness Mystery

A Cow-Side Investigation Into The Lameness Mystery

Numerous ‘culprits’ exist on dairy farms, robbing herd performance and injuring the dairy’s bottom line. Identifying and arresting the offender isn’t always easy, and often requires a full investigation, gathering and analyzing evidence on the farm and in the lab. It’s cold right now, but you still might be puzzled over last summer’s mystery: lameness.

By Dr. Jeff DeFrain

My cell phone rang early one hot and humid summer morning. On the other end of the line was “Jim”, whose dirt lot facility I’d visited several times. It had been more than two years since we’d implemented a claw health (hoof trimming) record-keeping protocol to help Jim’s team measure the effectiveness of their lameness prevention and management practices.

Dr. Jeff DeFrain is a research nutritionist at Zinpro Corporation. Contact him via phone: 800-445-6145) or e-mail:

“We’ve recently experienced a significant spike in lameness incidence, and production levels have dropped,” Jim explained. “We need your help to determine what is causing the lameness and identify what needs to be done to get the herd back on track.”

The investigation

Before visiting Jim’s dairy, I asked him to provide herd claw health records for the past 12 months. These records contain invaluable information during a lameness investigation, including: date of treatment, event type (trim vs. lame), cow ID, primary lesion type (white line, sole ulcer, digital dermatitis, etc.) and treatment details (wraps, blocks, etc.).

After reviewing the information, answers to three key lameness questions were revealed:

1) Is the nature of the lameness infectious or non-infectious?

By comparing the sum of all infectious events (digital dermatitis and foot rot) vs. the sum of all non-infectious events (sole ulcer, white line lesion and toe ulcer), records revealed Jim’s dairy was plagued primarily by non-infectious lesions (mainly sole ulcers; some white line lesions).

2) What are the monthly trends?

By adding up the total claw lesion events on a monthly basis, the records provided insights into a seasonal factor (heat stress) that appeared to be impacting lameness. The spike in lameness incidence during July-October mirrored the spike in Temperature-Humidity Index (THI) during the same time period (see Figure 1).

The spike in lameness incidence during July-October mirrored the spike in Temperature-Humidity Index (THI) during the same time period

3) What is the ratio of sole ulcers to white line lesions over time?

In general, the ratio of sole ulcers to white line lesions is 1.5-2.1 in most herds (Cook, 2006). This ratio can double in summer, especially in herds with minimal heat abatement. A high incidence of sole ulcers is usually associated with standing/lying time.

With these findings, I headed out to Jim’s dairy to continue the investigation. The high incidence of non-infectious sole ulcers, combined with findings from the monthly trend analysis, allowed me to narrow the focus of the on-site visit to evaluate three key areas in order to find answers to additional questions.

• Dry lot facility design. Is there adequate space available (on a per cow basis) to ensure sufficient resting, shade and feeding space is achieved?

• Heat abatement. Do the cows have an ample supply of available drinking water? Is there sufficient use of fans, soakers, misters and shade throughout the facility?

• Time budget. How much time is available to the cows for lying down? Daily lying time is an important factor that can predispose cattle to lameness.

All signs point to heat abatement

Results from the on-site visit confirmed what the claw health records had initially indicated: The cows were experiencing a high incidence of sole ulcers due to lack of heat abatement. The full investigation revealed the need – and also likely a profitable return – to invest in additional shade structures to increase lying time and decrease the degree of sole ulcers experienced during peak summer heat stress.

Evaluating the results

The next summer, I visited Jim’s dairy to find out how his herd was handling the heat. “Heat stress has not been as much of a problem this year since we added the new shade structures,” he said. “We’ve been able to avoid the significant fluctuations in production levels and our claw health records show the incidence of sole ulcers is way down.”


Dr. Jeff DeFrain is a research nutritionist at Zinpro Corporation. Contact him via phone: 800-445-6145) or e-mail:

Each month, DairyBusiness Communications will check the case files of lead dairy ‘investigators’ to uncover another ‘CSI-Dairy’ mystery. Episodes will be archived at