Current Progressive Dairy digital edition


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


Dairy producers and dairy cattle breeding companies should breed for more profitable dairy cattle. Producers are limited in their breeding decisions by the genes or families in the populations available, and this is primarily under the control of breeding companies. Past selection for increased production and for improvement in several other traits (such as udder conformation) has been very successful.

However, the genetic antagonism between production traits and health and between production traits and reproduction have resulted in increased disease rates and reduced reproductive performance in U.S. dairy cattle. Some recent additions to our genetic evaluations (genetic evaluations in the U.S. are called predicted transmitting abilities or PTAs) will help breed more profitable, problem-free dairy cattle and will reduce or eliminate the downward trend in reproductive performance.

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It began just over 10 years ago as a way for local dairyman John Reitsma to deal with an excess of manure and nutrients his herd was producing. With its humble beginning in Jerome, Idaho, Magic Valley Compost has grown to become one of the largest composting companies in the nation. In 2004, the original company was bought out by a group of agriculture businessmen operating as Healthy Earth Enterprises, LLC. Its operations now work with sixteen dairies contributing to 39 compost yards throughout the Magic Valley in south-central Idaho.

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As a dairy producer, you are faced with a dilemma: feed price increases typically precede milk price increases. That means your profitability and margins on your milk are squeezed when feed prices go up. Eventually, the higher input costs typically translate into a higher milk price and your bottom line margins recover. However, in the short run, it is a painful experience.

As we look out into the decade or two ahead of us, I expect substantially increased market volatility, substantially higher feed prices and the risk of substantial feed shortages. Why do I expect this volatility, higher prices and potential shortages? Because we are already using our feed inputs at a record pace. World demand for feed grains has been growing rapidly. The ending stocks-to-usage ratio is very low, increasing the risk of price volatility.

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Editor’s note: The following benchmarks have been compiled using data reported by dairies enrolled in Alta’s AltaAdvantage program, a progeny testing program. More than 182,500 cows in 175 herds participate in the program nationwide.

The start of a long, profitable life for a cow is an easy, uneventful calving. Think of an easy, uneventful calving as the beginning of what I like to call the four-event cow. These cows have a calving, a breeding, a pregnancy check (where she is confirmed to the first breeding) and a dry off. No metabolic problems, no mastitis, no lameness, no hospital pen moves and only one breeding!

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The following article is the fourth in a series of articles summarizing the “Supervisory Skills for Managers” DVD collection produced by Jim Henion. The series provides helpful management hints for owners and managers working with employees on dairy operations.

Dr. Edward Deci of the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences at the University of Rochester tells us, “Motivation means you have energy to behave in a certain way and that you have a sense of direction for that behavior.”

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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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