Edited by Dr. Jud Heinrichs, Professor of Dairy and Animal Science, Dairy Digest features articles by Penn State's experts in dairy management, engineering, herd health, and related areas. Dairy Digest has been published by the Department of Dairy and Animal Science and Penn State Cooperative Extension since 1963.
Future milk prices are looking (somewhat) better, but it seems like since 2008 no one has felt completely secure in the stability of the dairy industry. Being more cautious can be a good thing, but letting the milk prices and low milk margins get you down is not healthy for you, your family, or your farm in the long run. There is plenty of advice on how to manage your margins and your herd. Now, it is time to talk about how to manage your stress.
When data is available, managers can look at mortality numbers, feed shrink (tons harvested or purchased compared to as fed), and inventories of supplies to determine what changes if any are needed to reduce these sometimes steady drains on profitability.
A typical discussion of farm safety may focus on equipment operation principles, the use of personal protective equipment, or safe animal handling, but there are other aspects of farm safety that we sometimes neglect to include in our discussions.
We have recently updated an article about trends in age at first calving using records obtained from DRMS for all first-lactation Holsteins in Pennsylvania during 2015.
Shredlage has been a hot topic in recent years, but studies have demonstrated it has the same overall dry matter and fiber digestibility as conventional silage.
In 2015, over half of the milk produced in the U.S. came from five states: California, Wisconsin, Idaho, New York, and Pennsylvania. These states have accounted for over 50% of U.S. milk production annually for the last decade. Despite annual production rankings, how do these states compare between themselves for annual milk per cow, milk price, feed cost, and more importantly income over feed cost (IOFC)?
The Penn State Extension Dairy Business Management Team summarizes Pennsylvania dairy cash flow plans annually to assess the factors that lead to farm profitability. In 2015, the 105 farms in the summary were divided by farm size to determine if there are any benefits to larger-scaled farms.
Structures that house cattle are vital to the success of a dairy business. It is essential these buildings are able to withstand weather events, have tolerable maintenance costs, and contain materials resistant to an interior environment that can be rather aggressive. Buildings need to provide a safe environment for employees and animals, remain in good condition for their functional life with minimal maintenance, and last (at least) the duration of the loan taken to construct them.
It is increasingly common for dairy managers to use tools that allow for pregnancy diagnosis earlier than the traditional 35 to 45 days after insemination. Diagnosing pregnancy early is beneficial for identifying open cows and allowing for reinsemination strategies that will help minimize days open and increase profitability, but losing confirmed pregnancies can be very frustrating.
An examination of 2015 cash flow and breakeven production costs for 107 Pennsylvania farms shows that breakeven ranged from less than $16/cwt to over $22/cwt. Not surprisingly, feed costs are a big contributor to differences between farms.
Women have always been an important part of the dairy industry, but at many universities today the number of women earning degrees in agricultural sciences is equal to or greater than the number of men. The number of women who are the principal operator of a farm is also growing.
Understanding differences between cultures can provide helpful insight for situations encountered everywhere in our increasingly global society, including common encounters on U.S. farms.
Penn State Extension Dairy Team has created an online farm margin monitoring tool to help farm managers track their milk margins more effectively and make more informed daily and long-term decisions.
Feeding forage to calves has been the subject of much debate over the years, in part because even though we know that fermentation of grain is essential for rumen development, sometimes in research and on farms calves fed hay have shown improved performance. If we focus on the rumen environment rather than the specific feeds we are providing, we can start to make sense of both the calf's requirements and ways we can meet her needs.
It's been said, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." The same can be true for the information highway, and with the maze of data available today it is easy to get lost. Here are a few key questions to help you focus on the road ahead.
Some of the latest, greatest timed artificial insemination (AI) protocols have become pretty complex, but not without valid reasons. Conception rates with timed AI now commonly exceed what can be expected with the use of traditional heat detection approaches. Ovsynch, one of the foundational timed AI protocols, can lead to reasonable pregnancy results, even without additional treatments. But a number of add-on treatments are standing the test of research and repetition.
Farm employees are relied upon to handle tasks so that the farm owners' time can be focused on management. If employees are to excel, they must know how to handle day-to-day situations. This requires proper training on the protocols and practices for their job. But how do managers accomplish this when a language barrier makes communication difficult? Penn State Extension can help bridge the gap with customized training.
Understanding the importance of physically effective fiber and knowing how to measure it accurately can be very helpful in managing high producing cows to avoid sub-acute ruminal acidosis and its negative impact on health and performance.
PCR can be a useful diagnostic aid when combined with other currently available tools and herd data. With advances in research and improvements in the interpretation of assay results, PCR and other molecular biology techniques are likely to gain a more prominent place in mastitis diagnostics in the future. Producers should weigh their options and expectations along with consideration of the means by which the results will be utilized when determining whether to opt for PCR as a diagnostic tool for mastitis on their farm.
Feed cost is one of the largest expenses on dairy farms. In addition to being a major cost, over feeding, under feeding or feeding an improperly balanced diet can impair cow health, decrease milk production, and result in negative environmental impacts. Regular dry matter (DM) testing of feeds and rebalancing the ration to compensate for DM changes ensures that dairy producers are feeding the ration formulated by their nutritionist. Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement by Penn State Extension or by the author is implied.