Dairy ITV program is historic event
By Carol Stender
Date Modified: 03/29/2012 10:08 AM
FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — It was a first for University of Minnesota dairy workshops: Five locations — Fergus Falls, Jordan, Long Prairie, Pipestone and St. Cloud — were linked through Interactive Television or ITV to the Virtual Dairy Day.
Farmers at each location heard the latest in U of M dairy research and asked questions and received immediate answers from presenters.
The event was a win-win for farmers and presenters.
More virtual workshops could occur in the future, said regional Extension educator Jim Salfer.
Whether it was the pictures detailing microscopic examinations of teat end lesions, hyperkeratosis and teat-end lesions in dairy cows or diagrams of ventilating pre-weaned calf facilities, the pictures and speakers' voices were clear.
Jeremy Schefers focused on teat end lesions. Minnesota's weather and cold conditions pose a problem for dry cows housed outdoors. The cows can get frostbite on teat ends.
"It is important for you to know that frostbitten cows is the tip of the iceberg," he said.
The longer a cow is milked, the more likely she is to have lesions.
Trauma to the teat end can come from mechanical dry milking, poor prep and milking when the cow isn't ready to let down her milk.
Problems can come from pulsator malfunction. Shefers said the vacuum should be checked.
Kevin Janni with the U of M's Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, highlighted research he and Salfer have done on ventilation and pre-weaned calf barns.
Ventilation in calf barns is critical, he said. Studies from the USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System survey reported a 7.9 percent pre-weaning mortality rate for heifers at 48 hours of age. The morbidity rate for scours was 23 percent and for pneumonia, 12.4 percent. In addition to treatment costs, calves with disease incidence early in life have reduced milk yield and longevity.
Pre-weaned calves need a clean and dry place, Janni said. The bedding should allow nesting in cold weather and minimize exposure to manure and wetness. The barn should also have plenty of fresh draft-free air to minimize exposure to ammonia and airborne pathogens. It should remove moisture in cold weather and cool in hot weather. Don't scrimp on air flow rates, he added.
Calf management and care is going to be better if most tasks are convenient for caregivers, he said. It's important to have the right equipment and facilities. Well-planned calf facilities make it easier for caregivers to observe, feed, water, bed, remove manure, provide health care, clean and sanitize feeders, hutches and pens and keep accurate records.
Traditional calf raising facilities include hutches, individual pens in cold housing and individual stalls in warm housing. Group pens in cold housing is becoming more common with automated calf feeders, he said.
Some are using combinations like individual pens in warm rooms followed by automated feeders in group pens in cold housing. All the facilities need adequate ventilation for the calves.
There is no single, ideal design or system, he said.
Ventilating systems for pre-weaned calves need to provide plenty of fresh air exchange, he said.
Salfer discussed creating an economically sustainable dairy business.
Milk price and input cost volatility has increased dramatically for dairy farmers over the past decade, he said. One essential component for long term economic sustainability of all dairy businesses is that they must be profitable.
Dairy businesses should consider maximizing the rate of return on assets; maximize net return per unit, whether that may be per cow or hundredweight; generate adequate profit for family living and capital replacement; and develop a strategy to survive profit volatility.
Having adequate working capital or access to working capital will allow the business to better survive periods of low profits and will allow the business to be more nimble.
Owners should evaluate profitability regularly, he said. Producers should strategically invest in assets that provide the greatest return and develop a skilled workforce while closely managing costs.
Noah Litherland, U of M animal scientist, focused on improving forage digestibility. With higher increased concentrate costs and an increased focus on forage, the question is how to get better performance with higher forage diets.
He discussed the rate at which cows eat. Not only is there variability in forage, there is variability in cows and how they digest the forage, Litherland said.
Agronomic factors that will affect fiber digestiblity include the plant species, varieties within the species, stage of maturity at harvest, climate and an interaction of them all.
Lignin inhibits digestion of forages, he said. Harvesting can also affect digestibility.
Shredlage is a new concept. The process strips the corn plant so the particles are larger. Shredlage offers more effective fiber.
Research on shredlage has shown that cows have increased days in milk and milk yield at 100 days in milk.
He offered several practical applications for increasing forage digestibility including feeding a well-balanced TMR; moderating the rate of passage; exploring rumen fermentation modifiers; maintaining rumen fiber mat stability by avoiding empty feed bunk syndrome; and improving cow comfort by enhancing resting and rumination time.
Ricardo Chebel focused on technology use to improve reproductive efficiency.
It's important to pay attention to transition cow health and nutrition, he said. When the cow calves, the cow has been eating less dry matter intake so she doesn't have much energy. The low energy balance and suppressed immunity make at cow at risk for mastitis. All of the things that happen around calving will have an impact on fertility, pregnancy, loss and abortions.