North Carolina Could Ban Labeling of Plant-based Drinks As Milk

After winning approval from the House committee on Wednesday, the 2018 North Carolina Farm Act could pose changes for companies labeling plant-based products as “milk.” The state may be the first in the country to require this new labeling law.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines milk as “the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” Companies that produce alternative dairy products, however, are still able to label products as “milk” under the current law.

Following countries like Canada and the majority of Europe, North Carolina is taking steps to ban the labeling of plant-based drinks as “milk,” a marketing tool confusing to consumers . However, some North Carolina House Finance Committee members are opposed to the state being the first to require this.

“Sometimes, it’s good to be in the lead,” Rep. John Szoka said, “but sometimes, if you get too far in front, you look around, and there’s nobody behind you.”

Agriculture Commissioner, Steve Troxler, disagreed.

“The move is needed to protect the dairy industry, as well as consumers who may not understand that soy milk doesn’t include any milk,” he said. “You ask people what’s in it, they say, ‘It’s almond-flavored milk.’ But no, it’s not.”

Troxler went on to say this would not pose a burden on the manufacturers of plant-based drinks as they are already banned from labeling their products as “milk” in Canada and across Europe.

North Carolina dairy farmers are on board with this new law , but it is still uncertain if their state will be the first to take action.

To bloom or not to bloom?

By Kassidy Buse

A common recommendation of agronomists is to let one alfalfa cutting reach bloom each year.

Ev Thomas, retired agronomist from the Miner Research Institute in Chazy, N.Y., says otherwise in The William H Miner Agricultural Research Institute Farm Report.

“For many years, I’ve said that in managing alfalfa for dairy cows, you should never see an alfalfa blossom, from seeding to plowdown,” says Thomas.

Thomas also notes there’s room for difference of opinion due to no research supporting either opinion.

But, if one cutting is to bloom, which cutting should it be?

The first cut of alfalfa-grass typically contains the most grass. Grass, even the late-maturing species, is close to heading when alfalfa is in the late bud stage.

The second cut is exposed to long, hot June days that result in highly lignified, fine stems. A Miner Institute trial found that the stem quality of bud-stage second-cut alfalfa was no better than full-bloom first-cut alfalfa.

The third cut can be influenced by prior harvest management. If it was a late second cutting, the third cut was growing during midsummer heat. This cut would also have highly lignified stems.

The fourth cut often takes a long time to bloom, if it makes it there. A killing frost might arrive first.

For any cutting, the more grass in the stand, the lower the forage quality if alfalfa is left to bloom.

“The objective of letting alfalfa bloom is to improve root reserves, and therefore extend stand life,” says Thomas. “We need to balance the impact of delayed harvest on plant health with the economics of feeding alfalfa of lower quality that is needed by today’s high-producing dairy cows,” Thomas adds.

How alfalfa and alfalfa-grass is managed depends on if the goal in mind is long stand life or high milk production potential.

Digital Dermatitis Isn’t Just a Dairy Herd Problem

Digital Dermatitis Isn’t Just a Dairy Herd Problem

Acute active digital dermatitis lesions can cause pain and lameness in cattle, which leads to declines in animal welfare and food production.
( Arturo Gomez Rivas, University of Wisconsin )

Digital dermatitis (DD), also known as hairy heel warts, was discovered in 1974 in Italy. The disease first popped up in US dairy herds in the 1980’s, and spread rapidly during the 1990’s as herds expanded. The co-mingling of multiple dairy herds into one barn or facility made a perfect scenario for DD to infect millions of cattle.

Digital dermatitis is an incurable disease. Once cattle are infected with DD, they have it for life. Digital dermatitis cannot be cured, only managed. Treponemes, a spiral-shaped bacteria, cause DD. Treponemes that cause DD enter the body of an animal through a break in the skin on the foot. Treponemes hate oxygen and thrive in pen environments with poor hygiene, wet floor surfaces, and overcrowding. When cattle are subjected to standing in mud or manure for prolonged amounts of time, softening of the skin occurs and allows treponemes to penetrate the skin.

Digital dermatitis lesions mainly occur on the back feet. Lesions can spread between the toes and sometimes appear on the front of the foot. Lesions are recognized by two different appearances. One type of lesion, hyperkeratotic, appears as a raised callous. Proliferative lesions appear to have long fibrous hairs. Active DD lesions may appear initially as a raw, red, oval ulcer on the back of the heel just above or at the coronary band. There are six stages of DD. Named after one of the researchers who discovered DD, (Mortellaro), “M” stages are categorized as M0 (no lesion, healthy foot), M1 beginning of a lesion, M2 active, M3 healing, M4 nonactive healed lesion, and M4.1 nonactive healed lesion with an active M2 on top of a healed lesion.

Beef herds are not immune to DD. While DD is present in beef cow/calf herds, feedlot cattle are especially susceptible. The key to controlling DD is to prevent outbreaks and spread of the disease. Once you find it, you are too late, your herd is infected. Cattle who are co-mingled with other groups of cattle, transition cattle, and animals under stress are at highest risk of contracting the disease. Untreated DD can cause lameness resulting in decreased rate of gain in feedlot animals, and reduced fertility and milk production in replacement cows. In addition, losses incurred through treatment costs, increased labor, and potential animal mortality are economically detrimental to the overall enterprise.

Digital dermatitis causing treponemes are spread through manure and mud. Keeping pens clean and dry as possible is a good start to prevent the spread of disease. Prompt treatment of active M2 lesions will reduce the spread of DD to other cattle and reduce the chance of the infected animal’s development of lameness. Treatment requires the lifting of the foot, cleaning of the lesion, and applying topical oxytetracyclin. Dr. Dörte Döpfer from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine recommends <2g of oxytetracyclin per treatment. M4 lesions are a reservoir for future outbreaks. Treponemes lie deep within the skin and can become active at any point. Running cattle through a footbath two to three times per week should keep the lesion in the chronic nonactive M4 stage. Depending on preference, a premix, formalin, or copper sulfate solution will serve as an antibacterial and hoof hardening solution. All footbath solutions have pros and cons, you can read more about footbath options at: https://fyi.uwex.edu/dairy/resources/animal-well-being-herd-health/

Early detection and treatment are important factors to controlling DD in the beef herd. Walking pens to detect DD is the first step of control. Utilizing an integrated management strategy of footbath use, hoof care, and footbath use will help control the spread of the disease. Not every animal exhibits the same symptoms and reacts the same to treatment, so utilizing a consistent control strategy is important. It is still unclear how much DD economically impacts the beef industry, but one thing is for certain, DD is here to stay.

Hutches and Heat Stress

Learn how to help preweaned calves in hutches remain healthy and on the grow in the summer months ahead, with tips from Penn State University Dairy Extension educators Jud Heinrichs and Colleen Jones. ( Maureen Hanson )

Calf hutches offer many advantages for raising preweaned dairy calves, but unfortunately they lack the climate-control features possible in larger barns. In the heat of summer, that can result in a greater likelihood of calves experiencing heat stress.

Penn State University Dairy Extension educators Jud Heinrichs and Colleen Jones say high temperatures, excessive humidity and the hot sun all can take a toll on calves. Other factors that come into play are air movement, moisture, hair coat, bedding source and rumination activity.

Calves under heat stress may have reduced feed intake, increased maintenance energy needs, and lower immunity. The result can be impaired growth, higher susceptibility to disease, and even death. Research shows that, like adult cows, calves experience more heat stress in periods with no night cooling.

Heinrichs and Jones offer the following research-based suggestions for managing hutches for heat abatement:

  1. Provide shade – Installing 80% shade cloth 3 to 4 feet above hutches has been shown to reduce air temperature inside hutches by 3 to 4˚F. Even situating hutches among shade trees can help.
  2. Allow calves to move around – Calves that are confined to hutches may be at greater risk of heat stress than those that are able to choose where they lie. Outdoor pens or tethers allow calves more freedom to select a comfortable spot.
  3. Face hutches east – In the summer, opening hutches to the east should maximize air movement and minimize solar heating. A spacing of 4 feet between hutches and 10 feet between rows is advised to allow air to circulate freely.
  4. Elevate hutches – Several research studies have proven advantages to elevating hutches in hot weather. One way to do this is to prop up the back of the hutch with concrete blocks. Advantages to elevating hutches include increased airflow; lower temperature inside the hutch; reduced calf respiratory rates; and lower airborne bacteria levels inside the hutch.
  5. Provide free-choice water – Delivering water to calves in hutches usually is a manual process, but an important one. Water aids in digestion and replaces body hydration that calves lose through sweating. If calves are scouring and no water is available, they are extremely vulnerable to heat stress.
  6.  Offer fresh starter grain – Warm, moist conditions in summer cause starter grain to spoil faster. Calves also will eat less grain during periods of heat stress. Offer grain in small quantities, replace it daily, and place a divider between the grain bucket and water bucket to keep starter fresh longer.

 

Spring Manure Applications

Carefully Approach Spring Manure Applications

Appropriate timing is an important part of efficient manure application.

At this time of year you may be looking at a full manure storage and desire to get an early jump on application for the coming growing season. Patience can pay off in the form of manure nutrient conservation. After all, the goal of manure application is to place valuable nutrients on the soil where they are needed and to keep them there. A large part of this equation is timing. The closer the nutrient is applied to actual crop need the better.

The goal of manure application is to place valuable nutrients on the soil where they are needed and to keep them there.

Application of nutrients during times of snow-cover, frozen soil, or saturated conditions increases risk of nutrient loss. Once a nutrient passes the field edge it is lost to the environment – and lost from crop uptake. A fraction of both nitrogen and phosphorus in manure will be present in soluble forms. If the liquid solution of manure can infiltrate the soil then soluble nutrients will infiltrate with the liquid to a location that is safe from overland runoff. The ammonium nitrogen fraction will also be safe from volatilization after it is beneath the soil surface. Frozen, snow-covered, and saturated soil conditions hinder infiltration. Spring rain events can carry both the soluble and solid portions of manure from the field.

If you must apply manure before conditions are ideal, you should go to fields specifically listed in your nutrient or manure management plan to receive manure during the current season. Some things that limit risk of manure nutrient loss include fields with shallow slopes, fields with a perennial crop such as hay, fields with a cover crop, fields with lots of crop residue, and fields that are more distant to water. You should prioritize the order of manure application according to risk and go to the least risky fields first.

Because infiltration can be limited at this time of year, extreme runoff events can occur. For instance, snow melt or rain on frozen or snow-covered ground can cause runoff to occur from lands that rarely lose water. For this reason, it is wise to skip subtle swales in these fields where water can gather and flow. Nutrients placed here certainly won’t stick around. These shallow depressions can be covered with manure later in the spring when risk is lower. Pay attention to the weather forecast, and avoid situations where you expect upcoming weather may undo the nutrient placement work you have done.

Caring for the Lactating Dairy Herd in Extreme Cold

Caring for the lactating dairy herd in extreme cold conditions also has its challenges. If not properly cared for producers may see a decline in performance including total milk production, increasing somatic cell counts due to mastitis, losses in reproductive efficiency and even decreased growth in young first calf heifers if the extreme cold continues for extended periods of time.

Thermoneutral Zone

Even though a majority of lactating cows are housed inside throughout the year there are still some important factors to remember. The thermoneutral zone is the environmental conditions where a cow does not expend extra energy to either cool or heat its body. In dairy cattle this range is between 40º to 68º F for a lactating dairy cow. If the ambient air temperature is on either side of this range, the animal will adjust its energy usage via thermoregulation. It will either warm or cool itself instead of putting the energy from the diet towards growth, reproduction, production and maintenance. Factors that can affect the upper and lower critical temperature, when combined are the base air temperature, wind, and humidity. Adequately managing the dairy herd through these swings in the thermoneutral zone will improve overall performance of the lactating dairy herd.

Water Sources

In extreme cold conditions we must first remember to provide an adequate amount of water on a daily basis. Adequate water consumption is critical to maintaining feed intake, milk production levels, reproductive efficiency and overall metabolic function. A lactating dairy cow on average consumes in excess of 15 gallons of fresh water per day. Water sources should be checked throughout the day in extreme cold to make sure they are not frozen and working properly. It is important to not let ice buildup happen near waterers which can cause injury due to slips and falls.

Facilities

Take a look at your facilities, do you have ripped curtains, holes in your wall, or doors that do not close adequately? Is it causing unnecessary drafts which may cause frost bite? Check your barn fans, if they are not functioning properly they are not circulating the air causing increased humidity in the barn, resulting in increased pneumonia risk and frost buildup. If cows are housed outside provide wind protection and adequate clean, dry, deep bedding. Keep in mind cattle with a good long hair coat are able to trap warm air in and around the hairs, allowing the body to stay warmer. Whereas a wet haircoat or a haircoat covered in manure will provide less protection from the cold letting the body heat out and cold air in.

Teat Dips

Continuing to teat dip is still a necessity and essential to minimize mastitis risk. You still want to use a teat dip that has an effective germicide while also providing a skin conditioning agent. Some practices that may help are dabbing the teat end with a clean towel once the post dip has been applied if the cow will be exposed to wind chills directly post milking. Do not dry the entire teat which essentially removes the dip. The other option is to just dip the teat end in extreme cold temperatures. Try to allow enough time for the teats to dry before exposure to colder temperatures outside the milking parlor or barn. Warming the teat dip helps reduce drying time. Keep in mind fresh cows with swollen udders are more susceptible to chapping.

Diet Adjustments

Even though dairy cattle are ruminants and producing their own heat as they digest feedstuffs it will still be necessary to make diet adjustments based upon the temperature, wind protection, overall body condition, milk production levels, along with the body growth and maintenance needs of the animal. Work with your nutritionist to adjust diet dry matter intakes and energy levels during extreme cold weather periods.

Other Considerations

Other considerations to keep in mind in the dairy barn is making sure that all smoke & fire detectors are in working order. Using caution and common sense if a portable space heater is needed. Do not place near flammable items such as paper towels or bedding, making sure they cannot be tipped over easily. Lastly, make sure your vaccines that are temperature sensitive are properly stored. Frozen vaccine inactivates the vaccine and they are now no good, costing you money while providing no benefit to the animal. The same can also be true for certain antibiotics.

What Makes a Cow Fertile?

Why do cows fail to get pregnant when you do everything right? Having a healthy cycling cow in heat, bred by an experienced technician is not enough to ensure a viable pregnancy. There are two crucial things that must occur prior to breeding for any real chance of producing an embryo that will survive to term.

High Progesterone

The first essential item for a lasting pregnancy is high progesterone. Not the progesterone needed to sustain the pregnancy once it has been created, but progesterone prior to fertilization. Numerous studies eshow for the developing oocyte to be able to fertilize and make an embryo that will survive to term, it must grow under high progesterone during its last days prior to ovulation.

The second critical factor to producing a viable pregnancy is to ovulate a follicle that is not too old and degenerate or too young and immature. To make an embryo that is the strongest and survives the best, we must breed a fresh, competent oocyte (the unfertilized egg, which is released from the follicle), and this is often a problem for lactating dairy cows. There are a high percentage of natural heats that ovulate aged dominant follicles. These cows often appear as strong heats, have great mucous and uterine tone, but the oocyte is aged. Most of these aged oocytes will fertilize, but they make small weak embryos that do not survive well.

Both follicle competency and adequate progesterone during its development are essential for maximizing fertility. It is the reason some dairies are attaining conception rates exceeding 60% using first-service synchronization programs such as the G6G or the Double Ovsynch. Interestingly, when you look at the last three injections in these two popular programs, it’s still the original Ovsynch program that finishes them.

Enhance Survival

The only difference in these programs is the shots that precede the Ovsynch. Those are meant to synchronize cows at around days five to eight of their cycle. At this time most lactating cows have a next follicular wave large enough to ovulate, and the first GnRH injection of the Ovsynch is meant to get rid of older, less fertile follicles/oocytes.

Starting cows around days five to eight of their cycle results in higher ovulation rates. By removing the dominant follicle and its hormones, we start a new follicular wave that will ovulate a fresh oocyte, making an embryo that has the best chance of surviving. Another benefit of starting cows in Ovsynch at that time is most cows will have an active corpus luteum (CL) producing enough progesterone to grow a fertile follicle/oocyte.

These first service programs attain amazing conception rates, but what about the cows that do not conceive? How do we resynchronize them if we fail to observe a standing heat or our conception rates are too low with natural heats?

In subsequent articles I will discuss the challenge in managing these cows reproductively and some strategies to apply to achieve higher conception rates.

Don’t Fall Behind with Coccidiosis

Among the “biggies” of pathogens that cause scours in both pre- and post-weaned calves is coccidia, a parasitic protozoa that sets up shop in the intestinal tract of cattle. Eggs are produced internally and pass into the environment via shedding in manure.

Shedding of coccidia “eggs” or oocysts by infected calves and heifers usually peaks about 3 weeks after initial exposure. In one study the peak numbers of oocysts shed per day by untreated infected calves was 50,000,000 on day 21! Older, immune animals continue to contaminate their environment at a much lower — but consistent — rate. These facts tell us that from the moment a calf is born, she is very likely to get some of these oocysts in her mouth.

Don’t fall behind – reduce exposure of newborn and older calves

Once a newborn calf stands up, she is in a perfect situation to begin getting coccidia eggs in her mouth. Licking the dam’s hair coat, searching for a teat to suck, and licking on anything in her environment, unfortunately, all are generous sources of coccidia eggs. Moving her to a cleaner space does work to cut exposure.

Among older calves, we should think about ways to reduce their shedding rates (that is, the rate that she passes coccidia eggs in her feces):

  • Create clean, well-bedded resting space for calves.
  • Optimize ventilation in the barn and calf or heifer pens.
  • Provide adequate feed space per animal.
  • Minimize weight and age variation between animals in the group.
  • Avoid feeding on the ground unless it is at a bunk.
  • Provide 12″ of linear water space per 10 animals.
  • Treat infected animals.
  • Maximize time between successive occupants of the same pen.

Managing infections – building immunity

On nearly all dairies, all animals will eventually be exposed to coccidia. Through natural exposure, they will build immunity that suppresses infection. If the exposure of young calves can be managed to maintain a low level of infection, they can build immunity without excessive damage to their gut and loss of normal growth.

So, what can we do if natural exposure rates are uncontrolled (and likely to be high)? Use one of the feed additives that act to control coccidia activity in the calf after exposure. The four additives approved for use in the United States include:

  • Deccox®-M [decoquinate] – available in milk replacer, or powder, mixed with milk to make suspension
  • Bovatec® [lasalocid] – available in milk replacer, liquid additive to mix with milk
  • Rumensin® [monensin] – added to dry feeds like calf starter grain
  • Corid® [amprolium] – liquid can be added to milk or milk replacer, or dry crumble

When used as prescribed, all of these additives limit the population of coccidia in the gut. Their effectiveness is shown in studies in which the shedding rates have been reduced about 96 to 98 percent.

Preclinical use of the additives is recommended. Damage in the gut due to uncontrolled growth of coccidia will occur as early as 5 days after coccidia exposure. Thus, don’t wait until clinical symptoms are present to begin using the additive that you and your veterinarian believe is best for your situation.

What You Can’t Do With a VFD

For some time now, livestock producers and veterinarians have been gaining an understanding of the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) rules. These rules went into effect on January 1, 2017, and as the year progressed, livestock producers have been confronting what those rule changes mean for their own operations. Before January 1, feed-grade antibiotics such as chlortetracycline (CTC) for their animals could be purchased and used by livestock producers without any input from a veterinarian. Now, in order to use those medications, a VFD form from a veterinarian must be obtained.

Understanding the New Rules

As all parties have quickly discovered, the VFD process is more than just having a vet’s signature on a scrap of paper. Because there is no allowance for using feed-grade medications in an “off-label” manner, veterinarians completing the VFD’s have had to pay exquisite attention to every detail on the label, including the dose, duration of feeding, reasons (disease treatment vs. control) for feeding, and the diseases the medication could be used for.

For many cattle producers, the fall of 2017 has been the first time they’ve encountered this new way of doing business. Issues with pneumonia post-weaning, or following arrival of feeder cattle have always been challenges. In past years, uses of CTC in cattle feed have been subject to very little oversight, and some of those uses, although well-intended, were off-label. With the onset of the new rules, producers are having to square their previous treatment methods with what a VFD can – or can’t – allow them to do.

  • Refills
    A VFD can’t provide for refills, like a prescription one might get from a family doctor. This means a producer can’t use the same VFD form to come back and get another quantity of medicine if it’s determined to be needed later on.
  • Expiration Dates
    All VFD’s have expiration dates, and that’s a point of confusion as well. A VFD actually expires when the treatment is done (or the expiration date is reached – whatever comes first). Even though a VFD might not expire until February (authorizing a treatment any time until then), if a 5-day treatment is finished in November, the VFD is finished too.
  • Repeat Treatments
    A VFD can’t contain a statement authorizing a “retreatment as needed” or “repeat treatment in xx days.” An animal can’t show up on a VFD form more than once. If another round of treatment is necessary, a veterinarian will have to issue another VFD for the second treatment. That means that some groups of cattle might need 2 or 3 separate VFD’s written for them.
  • Animals Covered
    A VFD can’t be written for more animals than the veterinarian expects you’ll have on the farm. The veterinarian is responsible for indicating the number and location of the animals to be treated. This might get a little tricky for producers who buy several groups of feeder calves over time. Veterinarians might decide to only write the VFD for what is currently on the farm, or they could write it for the number eventually expected, if they are confident that number will be eventually procured.
  • Pneumonia 
    A VFD can’t be written to treat or control pneumonia when there isn’t any pneumonia in the cattle. In the past, it was not uncommon for treatment doses of CTC to be fed to cattle to “get ahead of” an outbreak, or to “clean up” the calves’ respiratory tract in anticipation of problems. When treatment doses are authorized by a VFD, this implies that active pneumonia is present in the group. It doesn’t mean producers have to wait until each and every calf is sick – but clearly, CTC labels don’t allow for using treatment doses in a group of completely healthy calves. This is the veterinarian’s call. If their clinical judgement tells them there’s pneumonia present in the group, they can write the VFD.

In Summary

It’s understandable that some livestock producers are feeling pinched by what a VFD can’t do. However, these new rules can do one very valuable thing: giving livestock producers an opportunity to interact with the one local professional who can best guide them through health-related decisions about their animals – their veterinarian. Since the VFD’s implementation, many of these interactions have resulted in more effective and efficient use of these tools and consideration of disease prevention methods that preclude the need for antibiotics. These conversations are definitely a positive by-product of these new regulations.