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You don’t know the half of it

Progressive Dairyman Editor Walt Cooley Published on 11 June 2015

In the production of your regular issues of Progressive Dairyman, many stories remain untold. Some are funny; others are occasionally inspiring. I last wrote about one of these in September when describing a unique plane ride I had on a business trip.

This issue contains one of those articles with a special backstory. From its genesis to its now publication, the entire process of creating the article was educational for me. Perhaps it will be for you too.

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Click here to read this article.

As with most articles, the story began about eight months prior to this issue. Editor Jenna Hurty had just returned from visiting several farms in Wisconsin last fall. The purpose of her visits were to write a few feature articles and take some stock photography.

Back at the office, she handed over the photo card from her digital camera to one of our graphic designers. He proceeded to process and tag the photos for future use. A few days later, Jenna and I got this email from him with an attached photo of a calf. The photo read: “Why is this calf missing a piece (notch) of its ear?”

I didn’t respond immediately, thinking that those copied could just as easily reply as I could. But the email sat without reply for some time. When I suggested it was an ear notch for either BVD testing or genomic evaluation, several in the office questioned if ear notching was a practice still in use.

That led to a poll question, the collection of your comments on the phone and analysis of the results. (See the previously mentioned article for more details.)

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When I told the background of how this poll question came about to Jim Evermann during my interview with him for this issue’s article, he chuckled and commended us for latching on to it. I realized then it might be just the angle needed to hook producers’ interest in BVD screening.

Most of those I interviewed were “surprised” nearly a quarter of our readers had never heard of the practice or were “disappointed” more didn’t know it could be used to test for persistently infected (PI) BVD calves.

By featuring this topic so prominently in this issue, I hope a few more of you are informed about the practice and its potential uses for active monitoring of BVD prevalence in your own herds.

BVD PIs are one of those “boogeyman” issues. The symptoms of having one could be masked by poor herd health in other areas. So if you’ve had herd health challenges you can’t trace back to anything else, you might want to consider or re-implement a BVD screening protocol. And if you’re raising heifers off-site, you’ll want to confirm that your provider is screening youngstock to limit the exposure of your cattle to BVD.

Of course, BVD testing is just one of several uses for ear notching calves. Others are detailed in the article.

Most interesting to me was learning that the shape of an ear notch can be considered a way to brand cattle. While that’s probably not as interesting to dairy producers, I Googled images of cattle ear notches and found some unique shapes from around the world.

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With the conclusion of this poll, we start another in this issue. Vote online or send us your vote via email or the post office. Even if you don’t reach out to us, we may call you and ask anyway. Regardless, it’s bound to generate some kind of new story, the background of which you may not ever know. PD

Walt Cooley
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