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Top 25 of 2020

Progressive Dairy staff Published on 25 November 2020

Here’s a list of our top 25 most popular articles, according to pageview metrics from Google Analytics, published between Oct. 1, 2019 and Oct. 1, 2020.

When possible, we reached out to the authors or sources featured for follow-up commentary.

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1. The 10th Generation Dairyman: A dairy farmer and YouTube star
Published: May 28, 2020 newsletter

Eric Weaver is a Pennsylvania dairy farmer who can trace his farming roots back to the 1700s. He also has a very large YouTube audience with more than 260,000 subscribers. He shares straightforward commentary to daily activities on the farm. His most recent popular video, “Corn Silage Harvest Efficiency,” posted in September 2020, has more than 2 million views.

What are your goals or plans for both the YouTube channel and the farm in 2021?

“We have some exciting changes that may be happening in the next year, but everyone will have to tune into the YouTube Channel to see that progress!”

—Eric Weaver, Pennsylvania dairy farmer

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Search for “10th Generation Dairyman” on youtube to subscribe.

PHOTO: Eric, his wife, Emily, and their daughter pose in front of the milking parlor. Photo provided by Eric Weaver.

Read the article: The 10th Generation Dairyman: A dairy farmer and YouTube star 

2. 2020 milk price takes a hit in latest USDA outlook report
Published: March 12, 2020 newsletter

After starting the new year with the most optimistic milk price outlook since 2014, increasing milk production began to create clouds on price forecasts in early March. Then the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact began to emerge, disrupting milk markets and dairy supply chains. Milk price volatility continued throughout the year.

Whether milk price optimism and stability return in 2021 is anyone’s guess. COVID-19 continues to disrupt food service supply chains, while retail sales and government purchases for feeding programs add support to prices.

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—PD Editor Dave Natzke

Read the article: 2020 milk price takes a hit in latest USDA outlook report in latest USDA outlook report 

3. Six reasons your timed A.I. program is failing
Published: Jan. 23, 2020 newsletter

Wondering

In this article, Mandy Schmidt from ABS Global outlined key areas to examine in a timed breeding program, including timing of first insemination relative to days after calving, transition cow management, diet and its impact on body condition, heat stress, handling facilities and breeding day management.

Of the six areas mentioned in the article, which one do you most often see as the weakest link in an insemination program?

“The weakest link in a timed A.I. program is dependent on the herd. Each of the six areas will play a role in performance for every dairy. However, every operation will have unique vulnerabilities. For some regions, heat stress might be the most limiting factor during summer months. For older or overcrowded facilities, the ability to efficiently and correctly administer protocols may be causing compliance issues.

“However, regardless of breeding program, in-house or outside technician, operation size or local environment-related stressors, the transition program is key to reproductive success. A poor transition program can negatively impact reproduction in the current and future lactations. Every transition experience, from pre-fresh diet and maternity pen hygiene to stress-free fresh pens, will influence the amount of time a cow takes to recover from calving and be ready to breed back. Metabolic diseases, dystocia, diet and body condition at calving will all affect the ability of a cow to get pregnant easily when she enters the breeding pen.

“As you investigate areas of opportunity within your operation, consider working with a third-party consultant who is familiar with industry standards and benchmarking goals. Often, a fresh set of eyes can help identify gaps in cow care that might be overlooked during daily tasks.

“Having a reproductively sound herd is dependent on successful cow management. Beyond the science and technology used to operate a dairy in 2020, we need to also remember the basics of animal husbandry as a foundation for performance. Cows who are healthy, stress-free and comfortable are more likely to perform up to genetic potential and your expectations.”

—Mandy Schmidt, North American dairy genetic services specialist, ABS Global

llustration by Kristen Phillips.

Read the article: Six reasons your timed A.I. program is failing

4. Vir-Clar Farms takes control of costs with automated feed center
Published: Jan. 3, 2020 newsletter

stationary mixer

The state-of-the art feed center at Vir-Clar Farms in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, includes two 115,000-bushel grain bins for dry corn, a 25,000-bushel wet bin, 1,800-bushel-per-hour dryer and roller mill. To that, they have added a stationary mixer and automated feed kitchen for more control over the entire feeding system. With increased accuracy, consistency and efficiency, Grant Grinstead explained how they are minimizing shrink, capturing margin and capitalizing on economies of scale to feed the farm’s 2,000 cows.

Since this article was written, how has your feeding program continued to evolve and improve with the new technology?

“We continue to be amazed at the accuracy and precision the automation of the feed system provides us. The flexibility of incorporating alternative ingredients to our feeding program has helped Vir-Clar lower feed costs and take advantage of opportunities.

—Grant Grinstead, partner in Vir-Clar Farms

PHOTO: Due to the efficiencies of automation, the stationary mixer automatically prepares six different rations and 16 batches of feed each day. Photo by Peggy Coffeen.

Read the article: Vir-Clar Farms takes control of costs with automated feed centerfeed center

5. Dairy co-ops object to DFA, Dean Foods purchase agreement motion
Published: March 12, 2020 newsletter

“After Dean Foods filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late 2019, Dean officials and Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) submitted court documents in early March 2020, designating DFA as the ‘stalking horse’ bidder and giving the dairy co-op the inside track on acquiring 44 of Dean’s 57 facilities. Numerous U.S. dairy cooperatives objected to the agreement, citing potential antitrust concerns. Ultimately, the bankruptcy judge approved the sale in early May 2020, the terms of which included a requirement for DFA to divest three of the former Dean plants.

“The story wasn’t completely closed. Food Lion and the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association filed an antitrust lawsuit in North Carolina, challenging DFA’s purchase of facilities in North Carolina and South Carolina.”

—PD Editor Dave Natzke

Read the article: Dairy co-ops object to DFA, Dean Foods purchase agreement motion

6. Cool things we saw at 2019 World Dairy Expo
Published: Oct. 10, 2020 newsletter

Audrey Schmitz

“Cool things” from the 2019 World Dairy Expo included:

  • GroPods from Groviv – Fully automated machines that can grow over 2 tons of cereal grasses per day with no dirt and less water

  • ‘Hats off to women in agriculture’ from Save Cows – The company created a purple color-themed display to honor women in agriculture, specifically highlighting the stories of five women who paved the way for females in the industry

  • SCiO’s Pocket Feed Analyzer – A pocket-sized scanner that uses near-infrared spectroscopy to analyze forage, TMR and grain samples.

  • Bud Guard from Provita – A spray-on, protective barrier for calves that have recently been dehorned or disbudded

  • Calf Café from AMS Galaxy USA – A prefabricated, fully assembled, recycled shipping container-turned- automated calf feeding station

  • Microsoft’s HoloLens glasses, paired with Nedap’s CowControl system – Once the glasses are made durable and farm-proof, the technology will be available for sale that would provide insights such as heat or fertility and health information on individual cows while a farmer walks pens in the barn.

Our team is looking forward to the 2021 World Dairy Expo, to be held Sept. 28 – Oct. 2, 2021. And in case you missed it, we worked with our advertisers this fall to showcase their products and services through a series of videos and a special insert. Check it out at Progressive Dairy Expo.

PHOTO: PD Editor Audrey Schmitz tries out the augmented reality technology that will one day be available from Nedap. Photo provided by Audrey Schmitz.

Read the article: Cool things we saw at 2019 World Dairy Expo

7. Fair Oaks Farms opens robotic milking facility, observation area
Published: Nov. 21, 2019 newsletter

A view from above lets visitors see a pen full of cows and how they enter and exit the robot. The barn is designed with a milk-first traffic flow to minimize the number of fetch cows.  Photo by Karen Lee.

Last year, Fair Oaks Farms added an 800-cow freestall barn with 12 milking robots to grow the herd while capitalizing on existing feed and manure infrastructure with minimal additional labor. The new barn includes a visitor area, so the public can see cows being milked and gain a better understanding for automation in the dairy industry.

PHOTO: A view from above lets visitors see a pen full of cows and how they enter and exit the robot. The barn is designed with a milk-first traffic flow to minimize the number of fetch cows. Photo by Karen Lee.

Read the article: Fair Oaks Farms opens robotic milking facility, observation arearobotic milking facility, observation area

8. Vogel Dairy demonstrates management is key with three bedding types
Published: Oct. 17, 2019 newsletter

Vogel Dairy

With three different bedding materials used throughout their dairy, Vogel Family Farms near Valders, Wisconsin, takes an open-minded, problem-solving approach to create the most comfortable environment for cows in each of their barns. Their trio of bedding options included chopped straw, sand and alternative bedding (a mixture of byproducts from recycled paper waste).

Since this article was written, have you changed any of your bedding management practices?

“Since the last article, we have made some changes to how we do things around Vogel Family Farms. Our line from the barn to the manure pit blocked twice with a few bad loads of sand. After that happened, we switched from sand to alternative-bedding deep beds in our old freestall barn. When we swapped, we weren’t sure how it was going to go, but we knew we had to get away from sand. Our cows didn’t show us any signs that the bedding affected them or their comfort. We bed four to five times a week and always clean the stalls off for a clean area for new bedding. We have been using alternative bedding in that barn for about a year.

Our somatic cell counts have stayed right on average, 60,000 to 90,000. With our consistent good-quality milk, Bel Gioioso has since started using our milk for ‘starter’ milk at the plant. It’s an honor for us to be qualified for that, especially considering we do 2X milking and no longer use sand bedding. We have also built a heifer barn for weaned calves up to 6 to 7 months to help with conserving bedding and labor. It’s designed so only one person has to bed it, and we can feed TMR to the older calves with the mixer. Before the heifer barn was built, we used Buck hutches and an old barn for these heifers. They worked for the time being, but moving forward is a must in this industry.”

—Amanda Linsmeier, dairy producer, Vogel Family Farms

PHOTO: Vogel Dairy near Valders, Wisconsin, is currently operated by two generations of the Vogel family. From left to right are Amanda Linsmeier, Marcus Vogel, Guy Vogel and Gabe Vogel. Photo by Peggy Coffeen.

Read the article: Vogel Dairy demonstrates management is key with three bedding types

9. How did your dairy co-op rank among top 100 U.S. cooperatives?
Published: Oct. 17, 2019 newsletter

Major U.S. dairy co-ops, 2017-18 business volume and rank among top 100 U.S. co-ops

An annual report issued each October from the National Cooperative Bank (NCB) ranks the 100 largest U.S. cooperatives. The basis for this report was 2018 revenue and assets. According to NCB figures, it was a mixed bag for dairy co-op revenues and a trying year for their members back on dairy farms. Of the top 100, 17 dairy cooperatives made the list. Business volume was down for 11 of those 17 co-ops – primarily due to lower dairy product prices – led by a $1.1 billion decline for DFA.

Turn to page 6 in the News section to see how your dairy co-op ranked in 2019.

Read the article: How did your dairy co-op rank among top 100 U.S. cooperatives?

10. When a $60 part becomes a $100K bill
Published: Nov. 7, 2019 newsletter

The air brake chamber on the offending truck looks innocuous enough but can be extremely dangerous

Earl Creech, Utah State University extension agronomist, provided readers with a cautionary tale and a reminder to be careful when making farm equipment repairs. While Creech was trying to fix an air brake chamber on a 10-wheel dump truck in May 2019, the chamber exploded, struck his chin at an angle and broke his jaw joint. What should have been a $60 part ended up costing him four surgeries, six weeks of his jaw wired shut and over $100,000 in medical bills … plus the $60 part to fix the dump truck.

PHOTO: The air brake chamber on the offending truck looks innocuous enough but can be extremely dangerous, even life-threatening, if you don’t know what you’re doing. Photo by Earl Creech.

Read the article: When a $60 part becomes a $100K bill

11. Modern calves need modern milk rations
Published: Nov. 17, 2019 newsletter

Calves bedded down

Today’s calves are not the same calves we had 50 years ago, and their diet shouldn’t be either. To maximize calf health and growth, farms should fortify, balance and enhance the calf ration to ensure it meets the calf’s needs.

What is the most important thing to remember when formulating a modern ration for your calves?

“Consistency – it is critical that once the ration is determined and the feeding rate is established, the calves be fed the same percent solids every day. Studies have shown that feeding inconsistent solids will negatively affect performance. It is also important that feeding times remain consistent day-to-day. Another area to emphasize consistency is the availability of clean, fresh water, especially on higher percent solids rations.

Feeding rates also need to be consistent, and if ‘ramp up’ of feeding rates are applied early in the feeding period and/or ‘ramp down’ of feeding rates near weaning occur, they should be done gradually. Another area of importance is to provide consistent fresh, high-quality starter grain throughout the milk feeding phase. Lastly, whether feeding whole milk or milk replacers, the source, mixing, collection and feeding equipment should all be consistently clean to avoid introducing large pathogen loads to calves during milk feeding, which can lead to disease.”

—Dave Cook, tech service manager, Milk Products LLC

PHOTO: Photo by Mike Dixon.

Read the article: Modern calves need modern milk rationsneed modern milk rations

12. 5 basics that build healthy calves
Published: Oct. 24, 2019 newsletter

Calves bedded down

Raising healthy calves means doing all the basic, little things right. That means farms should provide calves with a dry, draft-free home, good nutrition, a clean environment, a consistent schedule and supplements that promote good gut health.

What is the most commonly overlooked area of calf care, and why is it essential for raising healthy calves?

“The most commonly overlooked area of calf care is sanitation. People have a tough time keeping their cleaning protocols up and effective. Farmers should utilize technology such as an ATP meter – most farmers would have a vendor that would do this for them. I had someone who has been feeding calves for over 40 years tell me that as calf raisers, we feed 90 percent of our problems. We need to control bad pathogens where we can. The fewer ‘problems’ we feed to the calves, the better off they will be.

There are many options when it comes to how we clean, but I suggest a detergent with very hot water to break down fats and solids, then following it up with an acid rinse. Sometimes good, old-fashioned elbow grease is the only way to get things done. Also, setting up a regular schedule for a cleaning audit is always good. Make goals where you would like to see your bacteria and coliform numbers over the next six months. Also, with a cleaner environment, it should help on medication cost and better performance.”

—Jarred Kopkey, sales representative, MicroBasics

PHOTO: Photo by Mike Dixon.

Read the article: 5 basics that build healthy calves

13. Air and light considerations for compost-bedded pack barns
Published Jan. 30, 2020 newsletter

In the U.S., most compost-bedded pack barns use sawdust or wood shavings as a source of carbon to mix with manure to achieve the carbon-to-nitrogen (C-N) ratio needed for composting. Compost-bedded pack barns provide excellent cow comfort, allowing cows to lie down easily and rise without stall restrictions. However, to achieve the desired results, compost-bedded pack barns must be constructed to provide proper air and light distribution throughout the barn.

What are recommendations you have when it comes to selecting a source for bedding material?

“We have found a wide variety of wood byproducts can work well in compost-bedded pack barns. What seems to work best is kiln-dried material with a mix of sawdust and shavings. Moderate particle size works best overall. That being said, I have seen both very fine and very coarse materials working – and even green sawdust working reasonably well in warmer temperatures. Wood chips do not seem to work well. Success with alternative bedding materials has been limited.”

—Jeffrey Bewley, dairy housing and analytics specialist, Alltech

PHOTO: Photo provided by Jeffrey Bewley.

Read the article: Air and light considerations for compost-bedded pack barns

14. 5 habits of highly effective dairy farmers
Published: July 23, 2020 newsletter

Tracking data

Drawing on Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Lisa McCrea, a Canadian veterinarian, thought about her interactions with dairy producers and identified some of the best habits she sees in those who are the most productive in their operations.

What is one thing that really sets the most successful dairy producers apart?

“Progressive dairy producers are very attuned to their business and do many things very well; however, the one thing that sets the top dairy producers apart is that they embrace a team approach. The most successful dairy producers have gathered a group of like-minded advisers to work collaboratively to help the farm reach their goals.

When a dairy producer is able to assemble a veterinarian, nutritionist, genetic adviser, hoof trimmer and financial controller that all want to work together and communicate regularly, the operation almost takes on a life of its own. The other key to the team approach is that the most successful dairy producers understand their own weaknesses and put together a group of employees that excel in those areas. Using the proximity principle, the top dairy producers surround themselves with advisers and employees that share a common vision and passion to drive the business in the same direction toward an end goal.”

—Dr. Lisa McCrea, veterinarian, Agwest Veterinary Group Ltd.

PHOTO: Photo by Mike Dixon.

Read the article: 5 habits of highly effective dairy farmers effective dairy farmers

15. 6 basic needs of dairy cows and the simple signs they are not being met
Published: Jan. 9, 2020 newsletter

Basic needs of dairy cows

The basic needs of air, light, space, food, water and rest are necessary to establish good health in a dairy cow. While these needs may seem easy to meet, it can be easy to overlook the obvious or rely on technology and data instead of simply spending some time observing cow behavior in the barn. When not going to the milking parlor, a happy cow likes to eat, drink, rest and take time to walk around and socialize. If she is not doing any of these four things but rather is just standing and waiting passively, she could be telling us something is wrong.

What are some key qualities employees must have to be in tune to cows’ needs?

“There are three main qualities managers need to stimulate in dairy employees to provide the cows’ basic needs:

  • The first one is ‘observing,’ which means deeply seeing something and not just looking at something. We should stimulate our crew to differentiate situations that seem to be as we wanted or situations that we need to solve because there are cows under potential risk. They should ask themselves: What do I see?

For instance, there are many cows that suddenly started to have hock lesions that were not there some days ago. Stimulate them to deeply see anything unusual to develop the observational sense.

  • The second one is ‘understanding,’ by answering this question: How does this come about? Following the example above, they should think: ‘What are these cows hitting or rubbing against? Have the stalls been shallower recently? Is it something else?’ We should stimulate our employees to try to understand their observations. It’s a good idea setting up a time once a week to discuss observations and, at the same time, gaining their loyalty and satisfaction to be part of important decisions.

  • The third one is ‘acting,’ by answering: What does this mean? After observing and understanding, it’s time to take an action. Even if there are many topics around, we need to fix the most important ones first. If the understanding is that the beds are too shallow, we should increase the amount of material used to make it more comfortable and prevent hock lesions.

This critical behavior of ‘observing, understanding and acting’ is essential to be developed among employees to make your cows sound and happier.”

—Anibal Ballarotti, technical service consultant, ABS Global

ILLUSTRATION: Illustration by Corey Lewis.

Read the article: 6 basic needs of dairy cows and the simple signs they are not being met

16. 3 factors to consider before dropping to 2X-milking
Published: April 14, 2020 newsletter

Last spring, many dairies were forced to reduce the pounds of milk shipped to their co-op or milk company by as much as 20%. Cutting back from 3X- to 2X-milking may be a strategy for some dairies looking to reduce milk production. However, Pauly Paul of Complete Management Consulting cautions producers to evaluate a few key factors before making that move. He urged producers to consider milk (hundredweights) per stall and labor needs of milking two versus three times per day, along with dropping only certain groups such as late-lactation cows to 2X milking.

What were some of the successful strategies you saw implemented to reduce milk volume on farms? How relevant are these management practices in today’s environment?

“When milk plants were looking to reduce production by 20 percent, we saw some reduce cow numbers. For example, those that were overstocked by 25 to 30 percent, reduced that in some of their pens. However, in some cases, this had a reverse effect on milk production, as the remaining cows actually performed better. Some of these dairies gained milk production and became more efficient milking a few less cows, and they also ended up reducing feed costs and a lot of their other day-to-day expenses.

“I also saw people cut some pens back to 2X milking, which reduced day-to-day expenses with vet and feed costs. When they did that, I challenged some of them that if they do add cow numbers back on or go back to milking those pens 3X, they keep those expenses at bay. Most of those farms have kept those groups at 2X. I asked some to milk better pens more often, so some dairies are milking their best pens four times a day and late-lactation pens twice per day. This allows us to make the best use of the parlor and look at increasing hundredweight per stall. This whole situation has made some people get better.”

— Pauly Paul, Complete Management Consulting

PHOTO: Cutting back from 3X- to 2X-milking may be a strategy for some dairies looking to reduce milk production. Photo by Walt Cooley.

Read the article: 3 factors to consider before dropping to 2X-milking

17. Making the transition to pair-housed calves: Two heads are better than one
Published: June 4, 2020 newsletter

Pair-housed calves

Research suggests that pair-housed calves have improved feed intake and weight gain in addition to being more cognitively and socially developed. Pair housing calves does not increase disease risk, but calves do need to be properly managed to limit competition and cross-sucking.

PHOTO: Pair housing provides direct social contact with a peer. Photo provided by Joao Costa et al.

Read the article: Making the transition to pair-housed calves: Two heads are better than one

18. Producer price differentials and why they may be negative
Published: Feb. 25, 2020 print issue

November 2019 and 2018 Federal order class prices and average PPD

Supply chain disruptions created milk marketing disorder within the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) system. Plummeting milk prices were followed by government purchases of cheese for federal feeding programs, sharply increasing the FMMO Class III milk price. Among Progressive Dairy’s articles on this topic, Calvin Covington, a retired dairy co-op executive, explained what happened next: widespread depooling of Class III milk and extreme negative producer price differentials (PPDs) in FMMOs utilizing multiple component pricing formulas.

Those issues, with peak impacts on dairy farmer milk checks in June and July, eased somewhat in August and September. However, another round of government cheese purchases again created a Class I-Class III milk price inversion, providing incentives for depooling and negative PPDs to return in the final quarter of 2020. The uproar has prompted a call for the USDA to hold hearings to consider FMMO reforms, possibly in early 2021.

Read the article: Producer price differentials and why they may be negative

19. 4 ‘ideals’ to promote rumen development at weaning
Published: Feb. 6, 2020 newsletter

Starter intake should naturally increase leading up to the weaning process.

When it comes to weaning calves, rumen development is key to success. Calves need to be the right age, be able to transition gradually, have balanced nutrition and have access to a nutrient-dense, palatable starter.

What is something that is often overlooked but is essential for early rumen development?

“Rumen development is a complicated process, and there are many essential factors that are sometimes easy to overlook. Offering free-choice water as soon as possible is key to early rumen development. Water intake drives dry feed intake, so making sure fresh, good-quality starter and clean, good-quality water are available no later than 3 days [old] encourages calves to begin consuming dry feed sooner.

Just a handful of starter begins the rumen development process. Good-quality water should be tested for mineral and bacteria content and is ideally provided at body temperature, multiple times per day, year-round. When feeding milk replacer, make sure it has the proper balance between protein and fat to provide proper nutrition for calf growth and encourage starter intake, especially as calves approach weaning. And finally, make sure to begin providing forage once intakes have reached 8 to 10 pounds of starter; too early can delay rumen development and performance, and too late can have negative consequences for rumen health.”

—Olivia Schroeder, senior research scientist, Purina Animal Nutrition

PHOTO: Starter intake should naturally increase leading up to the weaning process. Photo courtesy of Purina Animal Nutrition.

Read the article: 4 ‘ideals’ to promote rumen development at weaning

20. Female dairy vets: ‘Brains are more important than brawn’
Published: Dec. 5, 2019 newsletter

Meggan Hain

This article featured Dr. Kristen Edwards of Tavistock Veterinary Services in Tavistock, Ontario, and Dr. Meggan Hain, the managing veterinarian and animal care specialist for CROPP Cooperative (Organic Valley). The women shared their experiences with gender bias as well as the advantages to being a female veterinarian.

We asked the author, Karena Elliott, a follow-up question:

Why do you think this piece resonated with readers?

“Female veterinarians are a common sight on dairies large and small across America. These practitioners work hard to provide cow care and help dairy farmers make wise financial decisions.

“The article may have resonated with readers because many of them know a female veterinarian and have likely witnessed the changing demographics firsthand. And they recognize these professionals will be more and more likely to walk on to their farm in the future.

“Whether responding to an emergency call for a difficult delivery or providing routine calf care, female vets are working hard to earn respect. I hope the article may help support this transition and the terrific veterinarians I know.”

—Karena Elliott, international freelance writer based in Texas

PHOTO: As part of her extensive experience, Meggan Hain worked at University of Pennsylvania’s Marshak Dairy. Photo provided by Meggan Hain.

Read the article: Female dairy vets: ‘Brains are more important than brawn’

21. 4 things dairies need to do to stay in business
Published: Jan. 2, 2020 newsletter

4 things dairies need

In this article, dairy management consultant Pauly Paul shared four tips for dairies that strive to be in the top tier of producers and, ultimately, to stay in business for the long term. He recommended dairies “swallow their pride” by asking for help, keep their “belts tight” when cash flows increase, “rip off the Band-Aids” of unnecessary programs and ingredients that are more of a crutch than necessity and bring their “A game” to be an operation that milk plants and cooperatives seek out.

In the past nine months, how has COVID-19 re-defined the things dairies need to do to stay in business?

“COVID-19 made people adapt to change. We’ve been presented with major challenges – dumping milk, prices hitting rock bottom. At that time, many dairies were looking at potential bankruptcies. Now, it has almost done a 180. In talking to these same farms, I’ve told them, ‘Now that you’ve got government funds, use them wisely, but also figure out how to survive without them. When we’re looking at cash flows, we need to pull those numbers out and learn how to live without them. The next time the government may not be there to bail us out.’

“It’s the top-tier farms that will be the ones figuring out how to survive without that money. The bottom-tier farms are going to spend immediately on something foolish and not set themselves up for the following year with lower milk price.

“I also advised these guys to keep off the Band-Aids. If you are still struggling, make sure to ask for help. Pride is a hard thing to swallow; it’s tough for people to pick up the phone and find the help they need.”

—Pauly Paul, Complete Management Consulting

ILLUSTRATIONS: llustrations by Corey Lewis.

Read the article: 4 things dairies need to do to stay in business

22. Feeding heifers from weaning to breeding: It’s all about consistency
Published: Nov. 7, 2019 print issue

Heifers at the feed bunk

Raising heifers is a costly investment. To set heifer up for success, farms should focus on a weaning program that minimizes the post-weaning growth slump and work with their nutritionist to ensure the calves a diet that is appropriate for their age group and the farm’s growth goals.

PHOTO: Photo by Mike Dixon.

Read the article: Feeding heifers from weaning to breeding: It’s all about consistency

23. Cocktails for the win: Creative ways to stretch your dairy forages
Published: March 19, 2020 newsletter

Cows at the bunk

At the 2020 Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference, dairy producer and forage consultant Daniel Olson of Lena, Wisconsin, was joined by dairy producer David Johnson of the Western Upper Peninsula to discuss stretching feed with creative forage solutions. Following Olson’s advice, Johnson decided to grow and found success with a cocktail of BMR sorghum-sudan, three different types of clovers and ryegrass.

Have you changed or added any goals to your cropping plan in regards to your cocktail mix?

“After a year of evaluating the cocktail mix, we will be making some changes to the program. We will be seeding all of the wet, low acreage to a grass mix that includes six different grasses. The sorghum doesn’t do well in real wet soil, so we are going to change things up this next year. On the wetter ground that we have, alfalfa varieties don’t do well. It’s hard to get corn and sorghum in some of these fields, so we are going to seed it to grass like they do in Europe. The cows do wonderful on that kind of forage diet.”

—David Johnson, Michigan dairy farmer

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Read the article: Cocktails for the win: Creative ways to stretch your dairy forages

24. COVID-19 resources

Shortly after the realization the coronavirus pandemic would have a big impact on dairy farmers, Progressive Dairy launched a COVID-19 Resources webpage in early March 2020. The online resource, updated almost weekly throughout the year, continues to summarize information related to government assistance programs, links to helpful articles and other websites, news regarding meeting and conference cancellations and rescheduling, and links to resources for mental health, employee management and more.

Progressive Dairy will continue to update the COVID-19 Resources webpage as the effects of the pandemic stretch into 2021.

Read the article: COVID-19 resources

25. Dumping milk? Consider these recommendations
Published: April 2, 2020 newsletter

Milk truck

Market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic stretched the processing and marketing capacity of many dairy co-ops and private companies in spring of 2020. Many of those companies were forced to restrict milk intakes and required some dairy farmers to cut back marketings and scramble to dispose of excess milk.

Many states implemented emergency measures to allow for on-farm milk disposal, while other agencies and specialists created advisories to help farmers meet nutrient management plans through land spreading and dumping milk in manure pits. Increased feeding of raw milk to calves and even mixing milk into dairy cow rations helped relieve some of the pressure. In the end, efforts to reduce milk volumes were highly effective, and milk dumping was of relatively short duration. end mark

PHOTO: Staff photo

Read the article: Dumping milk? Consider these recommendations

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