cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussions, January 2018

January 2018. Some yearling steers were playing around with a round bale, and one ended up with a closed, teary eye. The farmer believed that the animal was poked in the eye with some hay. Suggestions for treatment included spraying the eye with either Dr. Paul’s or Crystal Creek’s Wound Spray and irrigating the eye with a 1:4 solution of Eyebright (Euphrasia) tincture in water.

There was a long discussion on how we may all be more resilient in these stressful times. One farmer suggested: The “biggest lesson conventional dairies have learned is growing your own feed. It's probably better to consider yourself a top notch forage farmer who uses dairy cows to get rid of your feed than a dairyman.” Another producer recommended participating in Cornell Extension's Dairy Farm Business Summary program (or similar program in your state) to help get a firm grip on where you are making or losing money. Another suggested that we need a new label (“Eco-Friendly Family Farms”) where family ownership of a limited size herd is a requirement; “Animal Welfare Approved” and “Regenerative Ag” certification were also suggested. Another producer advised making early culls in the herd, getting rid of favorite cows, inefficient cows, or open cows. And as for the cycles in the market, one farmer said, “The only way to escape it is to remove yourself from the commodity market by doing something else or making your milk not a commodity. That means differentiating it. That could be something like value-added direct marketing or by making your milk something special that a processor will pay more for. Components, quality, A2 beta-casein for fluid milk, kappa-casein for cheese, and grass-fed are what spring to my mind.” It was also suggested to look at how and why we raise young stock: “Are you putting lots of feed towards replacements because of poor longevity? Or are heifer sales a profit center? Replacements often cost more to raise than they're worth at market, maybe it makes sense to buy them all.” It was suggested to breed your top cows to top bulls using sexed semen, and breed the rest of the herd to a beef bull for more salable bull calves. And there was talk of diversification into other things that make sense for your farm: pastured poultry, freezer beef and pigs, and cash crops.

If you have ever used a refractometer to get a Brix reading on forages, you can also use this tool to get a reading on the quality of your milk. A Brix refractometer measures the amount of dissolved solids in a liquid. One farmer reported that colostrum should have a Brix of 22, and the milk should be 16, but is more often around 11 or 12.

A farmer had his Surge pulsation control box quit during milking and was looking for parts. Both Parts Department in CT and EZ Milking Equipment in PA were recommended as good sources for new and used parts.