cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, October, 2011

Robust and practical discussions about the benefits of boron supplements in the soil; Normande genetics; treatments for pinkeye; and management of breeding bulls.

By Liz Bawden, NODPA Producer Representative and Newsletter Co-Editor

Added October 6, 2011. Last month, we were reminded to supplement our soils with boron when soil tests indicate a need. In a series of posts, farmers discussed boron applications on crop and pasture fields. One farmer felt the small yearly application (1/4 pound of actual boron) mixed with his starter fertilizer was a successful method of application, and he feels that the increase in boron helps small grains have larger heads and corn ears fill better. Most soils in the east and midwest have lower than optimal levels of boron. Another farmer reminded us that boron helps with the utilization of calcium. Some farmers raised the question of feeding it directly to livestock, since adequate levels are important for livestock health. But this is not an allowable feed additive for either the organic or conventional farmer. One farmer suggested that cattle probably assimilate the boron better in their feed instead of direct supplementation. As with all soil amendments, your certifier will require soil tests to determine that there is a need; and then, be careful that the sources are allowable.

There was some discussion on using Normande genetics to improve the size/carcass weight and cheese yields for farms where milk production is not the only goal. It was mentioned that the Normande crosses hold their weight better under no-grain management, and they tolerate being outwintered better. On the down side, some of the breeding bulls can throw large calves.

Treatments for pinkeye were discussed. One farmer has had good luck using Crystal Creek's Wound Spray, sprayed on twice a day. One farmer recommended adding 3 oz. of 7% iodine to 500 gallon water trough as both a treatment and as a prevention. Several farmers stressed the importance of feeding minerals, strong immume systems, and good pasture management in preventing the problems. Feeding kelp was mentioned by one farmer. On the topic of flies in general, another farmer suggested that organic soybean oil applied with an automotive paint sprayer was an economical way to kill horn flies on contact in the barn.

There was a long thread of discussion when a farmer asked how people manage their breeding bulls. Not surprisingly, there were a varity of opinions. Several farmers use bulls only on the heifers, then AI with the milking herd. Many more run bulls with the milking herd. All stress the importance of handling bulls safely; never trust them and never turn your back; establish a routine; and have barriers and escape routes. One farmer only lets the bull out with the herd at nights, and he is confined during the day. Other producers felt that a bull raised on its mother will have a better temperment, and several producers felt that bulls raised in groups with dry cows or older bulls learn some "manners" from the larger animals. Every farm has to assess the risks and benefits. One producer stated, "A bull can and will kill you!" and another said, "You can't get AI down to the window that a bull can. It's as simple as that."

The most recent posts expressed producers' worry over the escalating costs of grain, and the predictions of a shortened supply.