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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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I recently chatted with Dr. Danelle Bickett-Weddle of the Center for Food Security and Public Health in Ames, Iowa. Bickett-Weddle helped develop a questionnaire for dairy producers to assess the biosecurity risks on their operations. Her current doctoral research is looking for correlations between risk management practices and production parameters. She hopes her current research will help dairy producers identify risk areas that, when improved, lead to increased profitability. The following is a portion of my interview with her.

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Nutritionist Jess Argyle of Jerome, Idaho, says despite higher prices for rolled corn and regionally imported ration components, dairy producers should push for more milk and higher components, being careful not to lose milk production while looking for good buys on commodities.

“Don’t short-change the cows. Push for production,” Argyle says. “I’ve never been able to cut out or cut back on feed and save money. We always lose more in production than what we can save in cutting back on feed.”

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Are your feed costs high? The most expensive feeds are those with high levels of protein (greater than 20 percent protein). Testing for MUN (milk urea nitrogen) in the milk can help you determine the correct level of protein in the feed.

There are other reasons for testing for MUN:

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For dairy producers wishing to improve their profitability, the first feed investment that needs to be made in improving milk production is dry matter intake (DMI) conversions, says Marvin Hoekema, president of Dairy Decisions Consulting, LLC, in Visalia, California. The reason is these conversions are 40 to 50 percent of a dairy operation’s budget, “meaning there is real money on the table.”

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The current trend in animal agricultural food production is to look at “process control” rather than “product control.” Process control can be defined as how the food is produced, whereas product control means how the product turns out. Consumers, in general, have great confidence in the quality of agricultural food products, but they are becoming more aware of agricultural production practices. This awareness has led to increased concern over how their food is produced. Dairy producers that have implemented written health protocols will be on the leading edge of assuring consumers their food is being produced in a manner in which they can abide.

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Milk fat depression (MFD) syndrome is a prevalent problem in many dairy herds feeding high-yielding dairy cows. A significant increase in understanding of MFD syndrome occurred in the last several years, and, clearly, different factors may be acting individually or together to result in a lower milk fat content. This article is focused on some of the possible dietary factors involved with MFD.

One of the first steps nutritionists evaluate when they face a MFD problem is the dietary effective neutral detergent fiber (efNDF). Penn State University developed a method to evaluate the dietary efNDF which is based on the particle size of the forages or the total mixed ration. A minimum dietary efNDF guideline of 22 percent is required to provide a healthy rumen environment and maximize a cow’s intake, milk yield and composition.

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