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.


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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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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