Twitter’s @DFaber84 Finds the Funny in Lousy Milk Prices

@DFaber84 admits it’s hard to stay funny when facing financial challenges, but he says Twitter is how he escapes the worry. ( Farm Journal )

He’s a farmer, father and quickly becoming one of the funniest farmers on Twitter. Dwayne Faber’s Twitter following climbed to over 30,000 this year. It’s humor that helped him gain traction by followers, and it’s that daily dose of humor he hasn’t veered away from yet. The funny tweets continue to flow, despite the many challenges he’s battling as a dairy farmer in Washington State.

“Definitely milk prices, that topline revenue” said Faber, when asked about his biggest challenge. “That’s been the hardest part; milk prices just aren’t there.”

It’s not just the price he and other dairy farmers are getting for their milk that’s an obstacle. It’s also finding enough labor to do the work in a very labor-intensive business.

“Labor has always been an issue; that’s continuing to be an issue,” said Faber. “Living in the Pacific Northwest, anybody with a pulse can go to Seattle and make $25 an hour, and we’re having to compete with that.”

It’s those challenges that can mute anyone’s outlook. After several years of grueling prices, some farmers are becoming jaded, as financial burdens chip away at optimism in farming. Faber says he chose a different route, opting to use Twitter as the place he can escape, ultimately choosing humor over negativity.

“It’s tough, said Faber. “You do look for outlets, and for me Twitter is an outlet. It’s a way to separate a little bit.”

He’s hopeful milk prices will turn around in 2019. He said the optimistic piece today is dairy farmers already faced four straight years of low milk prices. He said at some point, the markets are going to flip, he’s just hoping the turnaround comes soon.

It’s that turnaround that some analysts project could happen in six months; a glimmer of hope Farm Journal’s MILK editor Mike Opperman has been following.

“I think if we pick up on the demand side – both globally and domestically – we’ll help take up some of that supply that’s out there,” said Opperman. “I think that demand starts to come around, and we’ll start to see milk prices start to jump.”

Here Comes Pneumonia Season

Veterinarian Carrie Bargren of River Valley Veterinary Clinic, Plain, Wis., said a calf that experiences pneumonia at less than 3 months of age will be affected well into her lactating career. Bargren shares a list of strategies on which she advises clients to prevent pneumonia in growing replacements. ( Farm Journal )

The calfhood disease with the longest-lasting impact on lifetime performance is – hands down – pneumonia, according to Carrie Bargren, practicing dairy veterinarian at River Valley Veterinary Clinic, Plain, Wis.

“A calf that has had pneumonia, even if she has recovered with treatment, will be 2.4 times more likely to have impaired growth in the first 6 months of life,” said Bargren. “She also will be 2.4 times more likely to die between the ages of 3 months and 2.5 years, and there is the same risk that she will calve 2 months later than her healthy herdmates.”

Bargren explained there are three categories of pneumonia in calves:

  • Aspiration – This form of pneumonia occurs when any solid material is inhaled and enters the lungs. The most common cause is improper use of esophageal feeders when administering colostrum. Aspiration also may occur during a difficult birth when a calf inhales some meconium (first manure) or amniotic fluid. A common source of aspiration in older calves is nipples with holes that are too large, which allow calves to consume milk too quickly.
  • Bacterial – The three primary organisms that cause bacterial pneumonia in calves are Pasteurella multocida, Mannheimia hemolytica, and Mycoplasma species. “Bacterial infections that occur in the first few days of life result from infection within the dam, aspiration or contaminated colostrum,” said Bargren. “As calves grow older, new infections typically are acquired from the environment or other sick calves.”
  • Viral – BRSV, IBR, PI3 and BVDV all can instigate pneumonia in calves. “A viral pneumonia then predisposes calves to acquiring bacterial pneumonia,” said Bargren.

Bargren advises her clients to take the following measures to prevent pneumonia in young calves:

  1. Vaccination – Dry cows can be vaccinated for virtually all of the viral pathogens that cause pneumonia, and the antibodies for them then can be transferred to calves via colostrum. In addition, she said, “a good intranasal vaccine at birth will stimulate the tissues in the airways to make antibodies and be ready to kill respiratory pathogens before they enter the body, providing additional protection for the calf for 4-6 weeks.” She suggests a booster of intranasal vaccine at weaning.
  2. Colostrum delivery – Colostrum is the only immune protection calves have for the first few weeks of life. Bargren recommends feeding 4 quarts within 6 hours after birth, and monitoring colostrum quality with a refractometer. Checking calves for total proteins (TP) to screen for Failure of Passive Transfer (FPT) of immunity is advised to monitor colostrum management.
  3. Housing – “Clean air and deep bedding are the most important factors in preventing disease through housing management,” said Bargren. “Proper ventilation systems in calf barns will bring in clean air and remove contaminated air.” She recommends at least 26 square feet of resting space for calves in hutches or individual pens, and at least 30 square feet per head in group pens. Regardless of type, she said shelter systems should protect calves from extreme heat, cold, wind chill, rain, dust and aerosolized pathogens, all of which can stress immunity.
  4. Nutrition – “Proper nutrition is required for healthy growth rates and to sustain immune function,” said Bargren. “Adjust volume to accommodate for cold temperatures.”

Bargren noted a routine screening program is necessary to detect pneumonia in young calves, especially because their early clinical signs usually are very subtle. “An ideal time to watch for respiratory disease is feeding time,” she suggested. “A newly sick calf will be slower to drink or too uncomfortable to lie down afterward.”

To improve respiratory disease detection and monitor treatment efficacy, Bargren recommends using the Calf Health Scorer app from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.

Tips for Feeding Water in the Winter

Feeding free-choice water to preweaned calves has been proven to improve rate of gain from birth to weaning by 33%, compared to calves receiving no water.

New York calf and heifer specialist Sam Leadley said part of this increase is due to an accompanying increase in calf starter grain consumed by calves with access to water. That increase in nutrients in turn, supports rumen development and immunity, allowing calves to more effectively grow and fight off disease.

With all these benefits, feeding water is somewhat of a “no-brainer.” But it becomes a little more challenging to put into practice in the winter months, when water pails quickly become Popsicle® molds, and emptying them after freezing is a tedious-if-not-impossible task.

Still, Leadley said, it’s important. “Calves have no less need for water in the winter compared to the warmer months, even though they might drink a little less,” he stated.

In addition, cold temperatures call for an adjustment in water temperature. Calves need to divert energy from growth to maintenance of core body temperature as the ambient temperature declines. For newborn calves, that threshold for environmental temperature is 60˚F; for month-old calves, it’s about 40˚F. “You don’t want to add to that burden by feeding cold water that their bodies must warm up internally,” Leadley advised. “So it makes sense to feed water close to their body temperature – about 102˚F.”

The consultant shares two practices he has seen farms use to effectively deliver water to calves in the winter:

  1. Feed close to predicted consumption – This approach ensures there are few “leftovers” to freeze in water pails. Leadley said the volume of water calves will drink has a fairly direct correlation to the amount of starter grain consumed, so younger calves need less water. “With a little trial and error, you can predict fairly precisely how much water each calf needs daily based on age,” he said.
  2. Develop a “feed and dump” routine – This approach delivers water in a finite timeframe, to which calves usually become quickly accustomed. “On some farms, they feed water, feed grain, and then return and dump any leftover water,” explained Leadley. “Others feed water before noon, take a lunch break, and then return to dump the water.” He said in either case, it is important to establish a routine and stick with it. With consistent implementation, calves learn to drink the water as soon as it is delivered and consume what they want before it is dumped. Also, be sure to dump water into a larger receptacle and dispose of it away from the calf site, to avoid hazardous ice build-up.

With either approach, a valuable side benefit is that fresh water is presented daily. Leadley cited research that showed calves with daily water changes, regardless of season, had a 5% weight-gain advantage compared to calves whose water was changed once a week; and 11% compared to calves with every-other-week changing.

Should Milk Be Fed While Calves are Scouring?

Different ways currently exist for feeding milk or milk replacer while feeding oral rehydration solution to scouring calves. ( Maureen Hanson )

Different ways currently exist for feeding milk or milk replacer while feeding oral rehydration solution to scouring calves. One way is to cut milk out completely and only feed oral rehydration solution for the entire treatment period. Another way is to only feed the oral rehydration solution for 2 days then feed half and half with milk the last day. And the third way is to feed the rehydration solution and milk as well in separate feedings.

Calves need enough energy to maintain their weight as well as their immune system, especially when they are sick. Oral rehydration solutions cannot provide enough energy because they are limited in the amount of glucose that can be added in order to keep the osmolarity of the solution low. Therefore, feeding milk or milk replacer supplies more energy and protein, allowing calves to maintain weight.

One of the studies showing the benefit of milk feeding while treating with rehydration solution was conducted at the University of Illinois. Once scouring occurred, calves were placed onto 3 different treatments. Treatment 1 consisted of only rehydration solution fed for 2 days, after which milk was slowly incorporated back into the diet for 7 days. Treatment 2 consisted of a partial removal of milk during therapy, and treatment 3 was a full feeding of milk as well as rehydration solution for 7 days. Fecal scores did not differ between treatments and body weights were higher for the treatments that incorporated milk in some way, especially the treatment that fed a full allotment of milk for the entire treatment period.

Electrolytes Fig 2
Treatment 1 was oral rehydration solution (ORS) only, treatment 2 was ORS with low feeding of milk and treatment 3 is equal ORS and milk feedings. Adapted from Garthwaite et al., 1994, Journal of Dairy Science 77:835-843.

Should Antibiotics be Given?

If scouring becomes a regular occurrence a veterinarian should be consulted to determine the source and whether antibiotics are appropriate. Also, a few fecal samples should be taken and sent to a diagnostic lab to evaluate the cause of enteric infection. This may help establish a preventative program and save time and labor in treatment of scouring calves.

What Should the Oral Rehydration Solution Contain?

First, an important distinction needs to be made between oral rehydration solutions used for treatment of scouring calves and those used for electrolyte supplementation. The latter are used to supplement extra electrolytes to older, usually weaned calves or cattle during times of stress from transport, weather and other situations that can cause loss of fluids and electrolytes. It is easy to mistake one type for another; however, if the directions require small amounts of powder being mixed into gallons of water, this indicates that the solution is only supplemental and should not be used for treatment of scours in preweaned calves.

One of the most important components of oral rehydration solutions is water. Water is the essential ingredient to a rehydration solution.

Sodium should be included in the solution at 70 to 145 mmol/L. Sodium is tightly regulated by the body and although low amounts of sodium in the body can cause problems (from diarrhea, for example), high amounts can also cause problems. If the sodium offered is too high, calves will need to drink more water to dilute these amounts; this extra water may not be available in the pen or they may be too weak to reach it. Sodium should also be at an average ratio of one to one with glucose to be absorbed efficiently.

Another important ingredient is an energy source such as glucose (dextrose may also be listed but it is only a different name for glucose). Glucose is transported into the intestine on a one to one ratio with sodium and thus helps sodium absorption. However, no more than 200 mmol/L should be included because this may change the osmolarity of the solution. A solution with high osmolarity will draw water out of the intestine instead of into the intestine. When the amount of solutes is high on one side of a semi-permeable membrane, this causes water from the side with a low concentration to be drawn to dilute the contents of the side with a higher concentration. The same happens in the intestine. If the solution in the lumen of the small intestine is too high in solutes, water will come out of the body into the lumen to dilute the contents and end up being excreted instead of absorbed.

Glycine is a non-essential amino acid that is commonly added to oral rehydration solutions and has been shown to enhance absorption of glucose. To calculate the amount that should be included in the oral rehydration solution, the level of glycine should be added to the sodium level and the total should not exceed 145 mmol/L. The total of glycine and sodium should also equal a one to one ratio with glucose.

Alkalinizing agents are added to decrease metabolic acidosis and may also provide some energy. These are usually attached to sodium and include bicarbonate, citrate, lactate, acetate or propionate. One of the most common alkalinizing additions is bicarbonate, which should not be fed directly or within a few hours of whole milk. Bicarbonate and citrate inhibit the formation of the casein curd in the abomasum. If feeding an oral rehydration solution with bicarbonate or citrate, it should be fed about 4 hours after milk feeding. Acetate is the most easily metabolized. Alkalinizing agents should be included at 50 to 80 mmol/L.

Oral rehydration solutions will also contain other electrolytes, especially potassium and chloride, as well as many minerals. Potassium and chloride are needed to maintain pH of the blood and for muscle contractions, especially in the heart. Although little research has concentrated on evaluating amounts of potassium and chloride needed to replenish electrolytes in scouring calves, the range of potassium found in most solutions is 20 to 30 mmol/L and chloride is 50 to 100 mmol/L.

Other additions can include gelling agents such as guar gum, pectin and others. These have not been shown to be largely beneficial nor detrimental. Oral rehydration solutions containing gelling agents reduce diarrhea within hours of feeding and may coat inflamed intestinal mucosa. Slowing down the passage rate of the rehydration solution also may allow the intestine to absorb more nutrients. However, this may also reduce the body’s ability to flush toxins out. More research is needed to determine the advantages and disadvantages of gelling agents.

Many rehydration solutions are also adding direct-fed microbials. These are bacteria that are meant to re-establish the correct ratios of gut microflora. Usually these probiotics consist of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species, both of which work against E. coli and are beneficial to the intestinal environment. There is no published research at this time evaluating direct-fed microbial effects in rehydration solutions. An oral rehydration solution should be chosen based on its ability to provide correct levels of electrolytes and to rehydrate rather than whether it contains microbials.

Simple Calf Respiratory Scoring System

Winter is approaching, and respiratory disease remains one of the leading causes of illness and death in preweaned dairy calves. ( University of California-Davis )

Respiratory disease is the cause of 22.5% of deaths in unweaned heifers and 46.5% in weaned heifers, according to the USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS). For the survivors, a respiratory event early in a heifer’s life could result in lifelong lung damage that curtails future health and profitability. Replacement heifers that experience early life pneumonia are more likely to have impaired growth; delayed age at first calving; increased probability of having a difficult delivery at first calving; and premature culling, when compared to their healthier herdmates.

University of California-Davis researcher Amy Young said early detection and treatment of sick animals is important regardless of cause. “Often there are multiple causes of respiratory disease, such as a combination of viral and bacterial infections, along with various management and environmental stressors,” said Young.

Among a group of animals, individuals may be observed with varying severity and stage of disease. Diagnostic tests can be expensive, so caretakers should be trained to consistently assess an animal’s health status. To do so, UC-Davis has developed a simple BRD scoring systems as a way to standardize diagnosis across a large number of animals.

The UC-Davis scoring system assesses six clinical signs. When present, a specific number of points are assigned for each sign. A total score of 5 or higher classifies an individual as a BRD case.

  • Cough = 2 points
  • Eye discharge = 2 points
  • Fever (> 39.2oC) = 2 points
  • Abnormal respiration = 2 points
  • Nasal discharge = 4 points
  • Ear droop or head tilt = 5 points

“One of the advantages of this system is that a rectal temperature is not needed for every calf,” said Young. “Rectal temperature only is needed if the total score for the visible signs is 4. A fever could then tip the score over the cutoff of 5.”

 

UC Davis Respiratory

Researchers have compared the UC-Davis scoring system to a similar – but more elaborate – system developed at the University of Wisconsin. Validation of the simplified scoring system was performed by scoring 500 hutch-raised calves in parallel on both the UC-Davis system and the Wisconsin system. The Wisconsin system uses five clinical signs scored by level of severity. The UC-Davis system scored slightly higher in sensitivity (72.3% vs. 70.8%), while the Wisconsin system was slightly more specific (93.1% vs. 89.9%).

“At the end of the day, the best scoring system for a particular farm is the one that will actually be used on a regular basis to determine which animals are sick,” said Young.  “A simplified system that is easy to implement allows for the identification of sick animals more efficiently, thereby allowing them to be treated in a timelier manner. This has positive implications not only for the individual calf, but overall for animal welfare improvement.”

A printable version of the UC-Davis scoring chart, in both English and Spanish, can be accessed here. The scoring system also is available as a free, downloadable app.

The system was developed by researchers at the University of California (UC) Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Animal Science and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Potentials for Plant and Other Toxicities in Cattle

While Johnsongrass is a good quality forage, it can be challenging to control in pastures where the perennial, warm-season grass is not desired. Prussic acid production under stress can pose a risk to livestock when grazing Johnsongrass, especially during prolonged droughts or after a frost.
( Dirk Philipp, University of Arkansas )

Fortunately, there has been plenty of rain this year. However, heading into late summer and fall are times of the year to watch out for plant toxicity in cattle.  In some cases, plants can become more toxic during drought and heat stress.  In addition, there is the increased potential for cattle to ingest toxic plants due to lack of other feedstuffs.  There may also be more access to toxic plants.  With droughts come increased weed infestation of pastures, hay and crop fields.   Penned cattle may also be in corrals or drawn to low lying areas that are still green, both of which are where toxic plants are likely to grow.  Differentiating “good” vs. “bad” plants is a learned behavior, so toxicity is more likely in young animals and animals moved to a new location.  A grazing management and supplemental feeding plan is essential to minimize problems.  Veterinarians and producers should be familiar with which plants can cause problems in their area, and try to avoid them.  The following discussion covers some of the plants and situations to watch for during drought situations.  There may be plants that grow some regions that are not covered.

Stressed plants more readily accumulate nitrates and prussic acid (cyanide).  Drought stress can cause both pasture forages and weeds to accumulate toxic amounts of nitrates.  Recently fertilized pastures are also at higher risk.  Plants that have accumulated nitrates remain toxic after baling or ensiling.  Test forages for nitrates to prevent poisoning.  Prussic acid accumulates most often in sorghums, sudans and Johnsongrasses, but these plants can accumulate nitrates also.  There is no test for prussic acid, but it dissipates when plants are baled or ensiled, so harvested forages are safe.  Cattle poisoned by nitrates or prussic acid are usually found dead, so prevention of these toxicities is critical.   Cattle with nitrate toxicity have methemoglobinemia (brown blood) and cattle with prussic acid toxicity have cyanohemoglobinemia (bright, cherry red blood).  Nitrate and prussic acid both interfere with oxygen carrying capacity in the blood, so pregnant cattle surviving these poisonings often abort.

Two of the most toxic plants found in croplands and pastures are coffeeweed and sickle pod.  Cattle will generally not graze the green plant unless other forages are scarce.  However, they will readily eat the seedpods that are dry after a frost.  The plant remains toxic when harvested in hay/balage/silage.   Coffeeweed and sicklepod are toxic to muscles and cause weakness, diarrhea, dark urine, and inability to rise.  There is no specific treatment or antidote, and once animals are down, they rarely recover.

Pigweed or carelessweed is very common in areas where cattle congregate.  Cattle will readily eat the young plants, but avoid the older plants unless forced to eat them.  A common pigweed poisoning is when cattle are penned where pigweed is the predominant plant and no alternative hay or feed is provided.  Red root pigweed is more toxic than spiny root pigweed, but is less common.  Pigweed can accumulate nitrates, so sudden death is the most common outcome.  It also contains oxalates, so renal failure can also occur.

Black nightshade is common in croplands, and like pigweed, in often in high traffic areas.   The green fruit is most toxic, so cattle should not have access to nightshade during this stage, and nightshade remains toxic in harvested forages.  Nightshade is toxic to the nervous and gastrointestinal systems, and causes weakness, depression, diarrhea, and muscle trembling among other signs.  Bullnettle and horsenettle are in the same plant family as nightshade.  They are also toxic, although less so, and are usually avoided by livestock unless other forages are not available.

Blue-green algae blooms in ponds can also occur in hot weather.  They are most common in ponds with high organic matter, such as ponds where cattle are allowed to wade, or where fertilizer runoff occurs.  The blue-green algae accumulates along pond edges, especially in windy conditions, and exposes cattle when they drink.  Both the live and dead algae are toxic.  The toxins can affect the neurologic system causing convulsions and death, sometimes right next to the source.  They can also affect the liver, causing a delayed syndrome of weight loss, and photosensitization (skin peeling in sparsely haired or white haired areas).

Perilla mint causes acute bovine pulmonary edema and emphysema (ABPE), usually in late summer.  It grows in most of the central and eastern United States and is common in partial shade in sparsely wooded areas, and around barns and corrals.   There is no treatment, so prevention is critical.

Cattle with access to wooded areas may eat bracken fern.  Cattle must eat roughly their body weight over time before toxicity occurs, but may do this in situations where other forage is not available. Braken fern toxicosis causes aplastic anemia.  Fever, anemia, hematuria, and secondary infections are some of the most common signs.

As summer moves into fall, the potential for acorn toxicosis increases.  Cattle have to eat large amounts usually to become sick, but those that are in poor body condition and hungry are more likely to do so.  Clinical signs include constipation or dark, foul-smelling diarrhea, dark nasal discharge, depression, weakness and weight loss.

The lack of summer forages and the need for supplemental feeding during a drought can increase the likelihood of feeding “accidents” and toxicities.  Producers may be tempted to feed cattle pruning’s of ornamental plants, many of which are highly toxic.  Grain overload is also a potential problem if access to concentrate feeds are not controlled.  Salt toxicity can occur if hungry cattle are allowed free access to high salt containing “hotmixes”.  Even though these are meant to limit intake, initial intake can be high enough to cause toxicity in starved or salt deprived cattle.  Feeding byproduct feeds, candy, bread, screenings, etc. may also be more common, all of which have the potential to cause problems.  Producers may also be tempted to feed moldy hay or feed, which can lead to toxicity problems.

With careful planning, plant toxicities can be avoided. If you have questions on toxic plants and how to identify/avoid them, please contact your local veterinarian or Extension agent. If you have further questions please feel free to contact me at, lstrick5@utk.edu, or 865-974-3538.

Moisture the Critical Component to Good Silage

One of the most important steps to make good silage is to cut it at the proper moisture level. The optimum moisture range for cutting corn and making silage is between 60-70% moisture (30-40% dry matter). Given the genetics of today’s corn varieties, utilization of the old relationship between the milk line and plant moisture content may not always be accurate.

An easy, quick and relatively inexpensive method to determine the actual moisture content of the whole corn plant is using a microwave oven. One additional advantage is that it takes typically less than 20 minutes to run the test.

So what equipment will you need to facilitate the moisture test?

  • Microwave, with a turntable (preferably). Your wife or significant other will appreciate you NOT using the kitchen microwave or doing this in the house kitchen, as it does produce an unpleasant odor. It is thus recommend to have a microwave in the shop or barn to run the moisture test.
  • Scale, one that weighs in grams is best.
  • Container, something that is microwave safe such as paper plate, paper boat, or a glass or plastic dish.
  • Water – 8 oz glass to protect the microwave oven
  • Paper & Pencil to record weights
  • Calculator

Next you need to collect a sample. Collect at random 10-20 plants throughout the field. You will need to chop these plants and this can be done by either shredding them in a brush chopper/branch shredder or by running them through your chopper. Please keep in mind that this can be a very dangerous process and care should be taken when doing this. The other option is to chop test areas in your field. Then take random grab samples from the green chopped silage. You should have about 2 gallons worth of product to mix and collect your test sample from. Once you have collected a representative sample you can start the process to run the moisture test.

Follow these steps to determine the moisture content of your corn silage or forage. Please note that this method can also be used to determine moisture content in any other forage.

Microwave Moisture Testing of Forages

  1. Take your gram scale and weigh the container you will use to hold the sample. This weight is known as Value A.
  2. Mix your sample and place about 100 grams in the container. Collect the total weight of the container and wet sample, record the weight as Value B.
  3. Put an 8oz. glass of water in the corner of the oven.
  4. Put the container with the sample in the microwave oven. Using a medium to high heat setting start drying the sample, starting with approximately 3-4 minutes if you suspect the sample is above 35% moisture.
  5. Remove the container and sample, weigh them, and record the weight. It should weigh less than the Value B that you initially recorded.
  6. Gently stir the sample and place back in the microwave.
  7. Reheat the sample again for another 30 seconds. Remove, reweight, and record the weight. You should continue this process, recording the weight every time. (You will need to be careful not to char or burn the sample. If you do, then either start over or take the previous recorded weight prior to charring the sample. You do not want your sample to be charred, so a hint is to go in time increments of less than 30 seconds once you feel your sample is getting close to dry.)
  8. Once you have two continuous weights that are equal, the sample is considered dry. Record this final weight as Value C.

Lastly you will need to calculate the percent moisture using the following formula:

  • Value A = weight of container
  • Value B = weight of container + initial wet sample weight
  • Value C = weight of container + dry sample weight

%Moisture = B - C divided by B - A times 100

Producers need to remember that if the silage is too wet there is a risk of butyric acid forming and nutrients being lost due to seepage. Silage that is over 70% moisture should not be harvested and should stand in the field for a few more days. On the other hand if it is too dry it will not ferment or pack adequately resulting in mold development. You may then need to add water to get an adequate pack and fermentation process. Therefore, having an accurate determination of what your corn silage moisture is running is critical in putting up good silage in a timely manner.

Flavored Milk is Back in Session for Pennsylvania Schools

As kids make their way back to the classroom, flavored milks are making their way back to the lunchroom. ( iStock )

As kids make their way back to the classroom, flavored milks are making their way back to the lunchroom.

 

Due to federal regulation last year, schools in Pennsylvania previously had to sign a waiver in order to serve flavored milk during breakfast and lunch, according to abc27News.This year, the waiver has been lifted and school districts are encouraged to take advantage of it.

“There are few foods or beverages that can offer the substantial nutritional benefits of milk,” said Michael Smith, the Executive Deputy Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in a news interview. “It’s also important, again, from an economic perspective. Dairy by far is the largest contributor to our agriculture economy.”

 

In 2011, Los Angeles school districts banned flavored milk in cafeterias because of their sugar content. The district also reported that kids were not consuming the milk and were discarding approximately 600 tons of half-full cartons away.

 

Five years later, L.A. schools lifted the ban as an attempt to encourage school children to drink more milk.

 

Introduced in 2017, the School Milk Nutrition Act has allowed schools to offer low-fat and fat-free milk, including flavored milk with no more than 150 calories per 8-ounce serving, to participants in the federal school lunch and breakfast programs.

 

“Milk is the number-one source of nine essential vitamins and minerals in children’s diets, and when its consumption drops, the overall nutritional intake of America’s kids is jeopardized,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.

 

With more milk options available for Pennsylvania school children, could we see a rise in dairy consumption in schools?

 

Limit-Feeding Dairy Heifers

On-farm antibiotic discussions with your veterinarian should revolve around how much antibiotic use is needed, and how much is force of habit, says Kansas State Veterinarian Mike Apley.

The concept of limit-feeding or precision feeding dairy heifers has been studied for the last decade primarily at Penn state and the University of Wisconsin.  The goal of this research was to decrease costs while providing for adequate growth and performance after the heifer calves.

A few concepts regarding limit feeding and raising heifers are:

  1. Heifers are either the first or second largest cost on the dairy.
  2. Feed is the largest cost in raising heifers.
  3. Labor would be the second greatest cost in heifer raising.

An idea taken from the beef and other meat industries is the concept of feed efficiency.  In other words, how much feed per unit gain.  But differing from the meat industry is that we target growth at 1.8 to 2 pounds of gain per day over the post-weaned phase.   Precision feeding allows the farmer to precisely balance the heifer’s diet with little wasted feed and a reduction in cost.  There are no novel or different feed ingredients needed to make this work.  However, there are some hard and fast methods that must be adhered to, to make this work on your farm.

How do you do this?

Birth to weaning- no changes from what is presently done on the farm.

Penn State recommends the following regarding nutrition and management.

Nutrition

General: No free choice forages or concentrates are fed.  The diet must be followed specifically (Precision Feeding)

Dry matter intake (on a dry matter basis):

  • Pre-puberty 2.15% body weight/day
  • Post-puberty 1.65% body weight/ day

Crude protein:

  • Pre-puberty 14-15%
  • Post-puberty 13-14%

No RUP sources are needed here, this can be done with conventional ingredients.

Energy

The requirements are based on heifer size, growth rate, and environment the heifer is raised in.

Limit-feeding diets have a fixed energy requirement that meets an average daily gain of 1.75 to 2.0 pounds per day.  This is equivalent to 130 kcal of metabolizable energy per pound of metabolic body weight (BW0.75).  Work with your nutritionist or contact a UNH dairy specialist to help you with this if needed.

Fiber

Based on the fact that the heifers are limit fed, using poor quality forage (heifer hay) probably will not work here.  Data suggests that NDF values as low as 19% can work in this situation, but typical NDF values range from 23 to 31% over the growth period.

Vitamins and minerals  

There are no data indicating any changes required while limit feeding heifers

Concentrate sources

In this diet, a higher portion of the diet will be made of concentrate allowing the producer more flexibility in meeting nutrient requirements.  It is important to meet the minimum NDF values, most of this will be from forage and help prevent any laminitis from happening.  It is also suggested to limit the amount of alfalfa hay as this combination of a higher grain and alfalfa can result in frothy bloat.

Management

  1. Heifers must be weighed often to ensure that heifers are gaining within the target gains of 1.75 to 2.0 pounds/day.  For ease of weighing, anytime a heifer is handled, she should be weighed either via electronic scale or taped.  Recent data indicates that dairy heifer weigh tapes are accurate.  It is recommended that heifers be weighed monthly at the same time of day.  These results will allow you to adjust the diets as the heifers grow.
  2.   Make sure all heifers can eat at the same time, no overcrowding because heifers will consume all their feed within an hour, headlocks work best to allow the heifers to eat without competing with a boss heifer.  ALL heifers have to eat at one time.
  3. Feed only once a day at the same time.
  4. Grouping heifers should have a range of body weights less than 200 pounds within a pen after 4 months of age (2-4 month age variation at the most within a pen).
  5. No straw or shavings as bedding- they will eat it.
  6. Expect a lot of vocalization at the start, they will settle down eventually.
  7. When heifers are approaching freshening (two months prior to calving), you can add them to the high forage dry cow pen.  Their rumens will adjust.

Experience at UNH

We have been limit feeding post-weaned heifers for a few years now.  What we see is adequate growth, no feed wastage, and no negative effects on performance or breeding.  Routinely, our age at first calving is 22 months.  If you are interested in limit feeding don’t hesitate to contact me or work with your nutritionist.  You should see adequate growth, lower feed costs and lower labor costs.

Corn Silage Maturing Fast

Corn plants can lose more than two points of moisture on hot, windy days. ( Farm Journal, Inc. )

With plenty of moisture and lots of sunshine in much of the upper Midwest, corn silage is rapidly maturing.

Now is the time to aggressively monitor crop maturity and plant dry matter, says John Goeser, animal nutrition, research and innovation director for Rock River Laboratory in Watertown, Wis. Although ideal dry matter will vary with silage storage type, the general guideline is to shoot for 35% dry matter (65% moisture.

“The opportunity for failure, or for challenges to arise, is far greater when we aim for dryer and more mature thresholds,” says Goeser. “[Corn silage] will be harder to pack at those dryer levels. If we experience a dry spell with 80° F days and wind for a week, corn can go from drying out a point a day to losing several points of dry matter per day.”

That can lead to a “fluffier” crop with kernels harder to process, he says. “Realizing that chopping can take some time, it’s best to begin harvest just before you reach the dry-matter target,” he says. “Continue chopping beyond the target and realize an average dry matter this is right around the ideal level.”

Goeser also recommends:

Consider high cutting. “Many areas experienced plenty of heat and moisture early in the growing season this year, so I’m forecasting fiber digestibility and stover characteristics to be more ‘woody’ this years,” says Goeser. “These characteristics can be varied with cutting height.”

He recommends a simple on-farm experiment when kernels reach the half-milk line. Cut three or four stalks at normal height, another set of stalks at 12 to 14” and a third set at 18 to 20”. Chop these stalks and then submit the samples for neutral detergent fiber digestibility analysis. The results should tell you which cutting height will provide optimal feed.

Utilize kernel processing scores (KPS) throughout harvest. “It’s one thing to have your equipment ready for the season, but changes happen in equipment and crop status which affects KPS,” he says. So monitor KPS daily or every couple of days.

“Understand that the KPS benchmark is lower for unfermented, fresh chop whole plant corn relative to what it will be six months into fermentation,” he says. The fresh chopped corn KPS goal is 60 to 65, while fermented corn silage should be 75 or better, he says.

Use free app to monitor crop conditions in your area. Rock River Lab is providing a free, crowd-sourced phone app called InField Updates that reports dry matter, NDF and starch statistics on a map. This data can be used to track crop progress in your area. Download the FeedScan app and click on “InField Updates” to try out this tool.