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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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Milk and other dairy products have long enjoyed a positive consumer image. Most producers take great pride in believing that they produce wholesome and nutritious foods for human consumption. Along with that image, however, comes the responsibility for ensuring that dairy food products are both wholesome and safe, through prevention and treatment of diseases that can adversely affect milk quality.

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Many dairy operations large and small continue to be plagued by a high incidence of metabolic disorders and infectious diseases around calving. Turbulent transitions increase health care expenses, decrease milk production, impair reproductive performance and result in premature culling or death. Farm profitability and animal well-being both suffer. Despite many years of research and field emphasis, practical management strategies to minimize health problems while still promoting high milk production have remained elusive.

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Traveling one afternoon with Ricardo Ehrenfeld Stolzenbach, a veterinarian and sales manager for Cooprinsem, a farmer cooperative in Puerto Varas, Chile, was most informative. Ricardo is in charge of the A.I. department in his area, supervising three technicians and three insemination routes, along with handling direct herd sales and matings. His company represents CRI, Accelerated and Holland Genetics in the area. The average semen price is 6,500 pesos per unit (U.S. $13.00). They average 1.6 services per conception; however, in some of the better herds it is as low as 1.3 services per conception. The average calving interval for well-managed herds is 13 months.

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If there is one thing that catches my daughters’ attention when we head to the fair, it is the rides. The constant commotion of screaming riders, flashing lights and the thrill of watching machines thrash back and forth, round and round, and up and down has them begging to go for a ride. One of their favorite rides is the mini roller coaster. They spend their time looking for Mom and Dad as they smile and wave from the vantage point of their steel cocoon.

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The milk-to-feed ratio continues to decline as producers see less money remain after feed has been purchased. In August 2008, the ratio fell to 1.89 compared to 3.19 only one year earlier. With the lowering milk price and sustained high feed costs, margins are expected to remain tight for the balance of the year.

Tight margins bring out the best and worst among dairy producers. Historically, dairy producers are adept at making adjustments and sacrifices to make ends meet, but sometimes those decisions save a dime only to cost a quarter. When tough decisions need to be made, it’s often best to work with an assessment team from outside the dairy.

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In recent years, unions have increasingly targeted dairies in their organizing efforts. As organized labor searches for ways to avert a decades-long decline in private industry union representation, unions have targeted industries that employ Hispanic workers, and have focused on industries that cannot be “off-shored,” including the hospitality, construction and janitorial industries. The dairy industry fits this profile, and more and more milk producers find themselves confronted by union-organizing campaigns.

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