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Peruse practical information for the dairy producer on essential topics including management, A.I. and breeding, new technology, and feed and nutrition.

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Earlier this year, I spent several hours with Rejean Houle, president of US Farm Systems, in Tulare, California. In addition to telling me about his system for separating manure solids for creating bedding, he answered a few questions I posed to him regarding manure management, bedding and nutrient disposal. Portions of my conversation with Rejean follow.

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Manure is an inevitable byproduct of the production of meat and milk destined for human consumption. Excessive excretion of manure and manure nutrients represents inefficiencies that increase feed costs, increase the environmental impact of dairy farming and increase costs associated with moving and storing manure. Profitability often can be enhanced when feeding and management practices are used that reduce manure production per unit of milk produced. Furthermore, good environmental stewardship will maintain the generally positive public image of dairy farming.

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Health problems in early lactation are costly and frustrating but, thankfully, mostly avoidable with proper close-up feeding programs. The time surrounding calving has a huge impact on a dairy’s profitability because of the health problems that can diminish productivity. Improving management and nutrition of transition cows is time well spent.

The transition period – three weeks before and three weeks after calving – is when the cow’s immune system is functionally suppressed, making her more vulnerable to illness. Numerous studies show that immunosuppression contributes to higher incidence of infectious disease and metabolic disorders.

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Salmonellosis is a disease of all animals caused by the genus Salmonellae and usually characterized by one or more of three major syndromes:

1) Septicemia (a blood infection)

2) Acute enteritis (infection and inflammation of the intestinal tract)

3) Chronic enteritis (a long-term infection and inflammation of the intestinal tract)

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In 10 minutes a day, six days a week or one hour per week you can keep your nutrition program in shape and performing optimally. The following are key monitors to track and evaluate each week. If you follow these every week, changes or deviations are quick signals to you that something in your nutrition program or cow management has changed.

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Water quality in the U.S. is threatened by contamination with nutrients, primarily nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Animal manure can be a valuable resource for farmers, providing nutrients, improving soil structure and increasing vegetative cover to reduce erosion potential. At the same time, application of manure nutrients in excess of crop requirements can result in environmental contamination.

Environmental concerns with P are primarily associated with pollution of surface water (streams, lakes, rivers). Excess P in water causes algae to grow rapidly, or to “bloom.” The decomposition of this algae consumes dissolved oxygen in the water and impairs the survival and productivity of fish, clams, crabs, oysters and other animal life. An algae bloom and subsequent decrease in dissolved oxygen may be caused by runoff of P when application to land is in excess of crop requirements.

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