cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, December, 2010

Robust and practical discussions about new tax form requirements, heel wart and foot rot treatments, keeping cows milking after the death of a calf, calf-bloating solution, calculating grazing season lengths, how Pasture Policy is affecting small farms with less land base for pasture, palatable weeds, high-density grazing, treated lumber in farm buildings, and more.

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

Added December 2, 2010.

Many farmers were concerned this month with the new tax law changes for 2012 that would make it mandatory for farmers (and any other small business person) to issue an IRS form 1099 for every non-payroll expenditure greater than $600. Faced with burdening small businesses with overwhelming amounts of paperwork, several Congressmen are attempting to scale back the rule.

A farmer asked the group if HoofMate is effective for heel warts and foot rot. Most certifiers allow this product; but since it is not OMRI listed anymore, it is best to check to be sure. A veterinarian mentioned that after scrubbing off the outer layer of the wart, almost anything will work. He has had great success with a mixture of Betadine and sugar (he suggests 20cc Betadine to 1/2 cup sugar). Some certifiers have decided that Betadine is not allowed, and one farmer pointed out that there are two formulations of Betadine: one is a surgical scrub that has detergent additives in it, and the other does not. Be sure your certifier has reviewed the right one. Another veterinarian suggested the use of honey to dress a hoof; and a few producers said the honey had worked well for them. Several farmers vented a bit and hoped for the day that certifiers will be all on the same page, and allow the same products. It is especially confusing to “pull the plug” on a product that has been allowed for years.

After her cow had aborted a dead calf a month before her due date, a producer asked if there was anything she could do to bring her into milk. A number of producers encouraged her just to keep milking her -- it can take her a couple of weeks to come into milk. The consensus was that some of these cows will milk well, others not so well. For some cows, it will just be a matter of getting them bred back as soon as possible, knowing that you’ll have to write off this lactation. A vet suggested the homeopathic remedy Lac canimum and herbal Fenugreek. He also suggested an herbal product from Mammal Mama in Colorado that encourages milk production. It was suggested to use warm hands and warm compresses as well.

A 4-week old Jersey calf was found on its side bloating. After walking her around, the bloat diminished, but she was dehydrated and had a small amount of yellow diarrhea. It was recommended that the calf receive at least 4 feedings per day, alternating milk (with added probiotic) with electrolytes. Feed from a bottle if she will suck, or carefully with a stomach tube. Do not freely drench; it leads to aspiration pneumonia.

There was a long discussion around the new Pasture Rule as most of us have received new paperwork over the summer for our organic inspections. Many of the questions centered on how to calculate the length of the grazing season. Some producers were under the false impression that if you graze for the minimum of 120 days, that’s good enough. We heard from a variety of sources that the grazing season is defined as that period of time when there is pasture available for grazing in a region. The length of that season will vary geographically. It was recommended that producers use supportive data to determine the length of their grazing season, usomg NRCS, county extension, university figures, and personal data. The length of your farm’s grazing season may also reflect the farm’s microclimate and management style.

There was a good discussion on how the Pasture Policy is affecting farms with a smaller land base for pasture. It was suggested that these farms had the following options:

  • Reduce the size of the herd to the carrying capacity of the existing pastures.
  • Purchase/rent additional pasture land to bring the carrying capacity up to the needs of the herd.
  • Employ management practices that increase the carrying capacity of the pasture land - maximizing pasture yields through the use of soil and crop nutrients, weed control, the use of annual crops, irrigation, etc.
  • Convert existing cropland into pasture to increase the carrying capacity.

Several farmers chimed in that once they started to “do the math”, they found that the 30% DMI figure was pretty easy to reach for nearly everyone who already pastures their cows.

A survey from the University of Vermont about weeds started a lively discussion. Since cows eat a great variety of plant species in the pasture, it becomes difficult to label a great many plants as “weeds”. One veterinarian listed a variety of weeds that are very palatable, especially when young. Another listed a group of herbaceous plants preferred by her sheep. Another contributor listed weeds that were medicinal species, or species that gathered and then concentrated certain minerals from the soil. It was suggested that cows need a wide variety (one producer said we should aim for 40 to 100) of plant species in the pasture to properly meet the cow’s nutritional needs.

A producer shared his experience in trying some high-density grazing this summer. At their peak time in the spring, the stocking rate was 250 to 300 cows/Acre with 5 to 7 moves per day. During this time, this no-grain, spring seasonal, once-a-day milking herd achieved a 42lb/day average. There were pitfalls in the system as the season progressed, and he made changes both to shorten the recovery time and lower the animal density and # of moves per day. After the first season of high-density grazing, this producer clearly sees the biological benefits, but the pasture recovery did not proceed as expected, and he felt that it entails a great risk to the family business until we know how to achieve higher levels of animal performance under this system.

A farmer wanted information on a piece of equipment to inject molasses into round hay bales to increase the energy. Another producer responded that Haymaster Systems makes a bale spear on a 3-pt hitch with a pump attached to inject diluted molasses into a round bale.

There was a question from a producer about using treated lumber in a machinery building. Naturally, most of the responses suggested he contact his certifier. Others pointed to the fact that the arsenic in the CCA-treated wood leaches into soil or water, and there are other treatment alternatives that are becoming more available --- some treated wood is ACQ-treated (Alkaline Copper Quat), a paint-on preservative called Lifetime Wood Treatment was suggested, and a website called the Healthy Building Network lists many other alternatives.

To increase pasture yields, a producer asked about irrigation equipment. One farmer/veterinarian highly recommended the K-Line system. Another farmer recommended the Keyline system.