Herald JournalHerald Journal, Feb. 23, 2004

Dairy Expo features speakers who tell how to 'know the herd'

By Pat Garberick

Large numbers of dairy farmers from the region attended the Carver County Dairy Expo last Monday in Norwood, which featured several speakers.

This year, the Dairy Expo joined up with the 4-State Dairy Conference (Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois), providing the latest advancements and developments in the field, along with the usual local business and co-op trade show.

The expo is growing, with only 15 booths 12 years ago. This year there are 52, ranging from Arm & Hammer in Northfield to RAM buildings, Inc, in Winsted, and others who had to be turned away because of lack of space.

"We've expanded," explained Jan Albrecht, a member of the Carver County core team.

"The issues of milk quality and reproduction is the basis for these programs. We've all worked together tremendously to make it grow. The 4-State Dairy Conference has also helped us get the speakers of the quality we want," he said.

Like any industry, dairy farming is constantly changing, creating a need for a platform to discuss and spread the new knowledge as it arrives.

Today, cows are forced to have a calf every year. With a nine-month gestation period, this is a trick.

Paul M. Fricke, Ph.D. of the Department of Dairy Science in Madison, Wisc. discussed the use of breeding procedures for first postpartum artificial insemination, ultrasound for estrus detection, and resynchronizing cows for second and third insemination.

"There are 1.2 million lactating cows in Wisconsin," he said, "and there are 1.5 million deer. If cows would reproduce like deer, we'd have no problem."

He also presented a hypothesis in which the reduction of the steroid progesterone may be the reason fertility in lactating cows has been decreasing during the last 50 years.

Michael F. Hutjens of the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois spoke in regard to new feeding programs that can lengthen the productive life of the dairy cow.

He noted that, as with humans, nutrients and vitamins ( such as zinc, copper, and biotin ) play a strong role in keeping the cattle healthy, particularly in regard to foot/hoof disorders, the second most expensive problem that dairy cows experience.

"Feed efficiency and the profits of the dairy farmer are directly related," he stated. "The more pounds of milk produced per pounds of dry matter consumed, the more profits." Recent genetic manipulations may also increase the feed efficiency.

"The feeding process is what has changed the most over the years," Mark Buesgens, a retired dairy farmer from Young America said. "But it's the same hard work and commitment now as before."

Quality control, in the form of monitoring the herd and the people managing it, was the topic of Jeffery K. Reneau, a dairy extension specialist from the University of Minnesota's Department of Science in St. Paul.

Knowing how the herd is doing is not as easy as it would seem. Control charts used by the method of statistical process control (SPC), along with the Internet-based MilkLab, were highlighted as powerful and necessary ways to accurately "know the herd."

Reneau's intention is to move the dairy farm toward the "Ideal State," having knowledge of what is going on at every level, as opposed to the "State of Chaos," a natural phenomenon caused by lack of knowledge and neglect.

Until recently, the traditional view was heifers were mastitis-free.

Now we know that heifer mastitis can cause major economic losses in many herds, he said.

Leo Timms from the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University explained new methods on how to get a jump on this problem.

Again, monitoring is especially important, along with diagnosis. "Because mastitis is a bacterial infection, knowing your germs is of extreme importance," he said.

"A prevention strategy is much easier and more beneficial than treatment once the organism has gained ground," he added.

Minnesota was the first stop for the Seminar. Sheldon, Iowa will be the next, then on to Breese, Ill. and Arlington, Wisc.


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