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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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Meeting fresh cow nutritional needs is critical to increased milk production and profitability. How cows are fed and cared for during the transition period – the three weeks before and three weeks after calving – sets the stage for milk production in the entire subsequent lactation.

If dairy managers can prevent a decrease in dry matter intake (DMI) and the onset of metabolic disorders (the issues that negatively impact cows during the transition period) the entire lactation falls into place, asserts Michael DeGroot, a dairy nutrition and management consultant near Fresno, California. Prevention of these issues translates into improved production and reproduction in the next lactation, he believes, adding real dollars to a dairy operation’s profit potential.

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The science surrounding protein and energy nutrition, no matter the livestock species, is a couple of generations ahead of mineral nutrition – particularly trace mineral nutrition. Yet finally there are signs that mineral nutrition science might one day catch up.

One sign of progress is industry and academic interests using ‘organic’ minerals in lieu of inorganic forms of zinc, manganese, copper and selenium. The initial focus is on reproductive issues and on enhancing immune response and milk quality – areas where trace mineral availability may be limiting. Another issue is environmental accumulation of minerals in manure spread on cropland.

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How do we compare to others? What can we do to improve? Are we making the right changes?
These are all questions the most progressive dairy managers ask regularly. Of course, most producers are basically doing the same thing (i.e., producing milk), but those that are the most profitable are doing some things better or differently. Benchmarking your dairy on key performance indicators (KPI) is a key ingredient to increasing profitability on your dairy.

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I recently interviewed Terry Feldmann, head of Maurer-Stutz’s agricultural engineering division, about the manure management landscape that dairy producers face today. Feldmann assists livestock producers planning, designing, siting and building new or expanded facilities in Illinois and surrounding states.

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Leon Weaver hopes new changes to his manure management system cut in half the time and management it currently takes to manage his dairy’s 40 million gallons of manure. Weaver, an owner of Bridgewater Dairy in Montpelier, Ohio, jokingly admits that if his new McLanahan sand separator system works using manure press effluent as wash water, he’ll use the extra time and money he’d otherwise spend managing manure to go fishing.

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Unlocking the full potential of manure as a resource and defining that resource so it is environmentally friendly: that’s the overall vision. Industrialized anaerobic digestion holds this kind of promise and extends the renewable energy-producing capabilities of rural America – beyond the limitations of corn and soybeans. But how do we get there?

California has already moved in this direction as environmental pressures on large dairies have created opportunities for producing biogas, converting it to biomethane and delivering pipeline-quality renewable natural gas.

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