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Recent Odairy Discussions, March, 2018

March 2018. A springing heifer was experiencing serious edema in her hind legs, making it hard for her to get up and move around. It was suggested that the farmer give her instant coffee as a diuretic. Make sure that it is regular caffeinated coffee, since it is the caffeine that she needs. Put it in 3 or 4 capsules and give twice a day. It was also suggested to get the heifer up and moving around as much as is possible. Aspirin given 3 to 4 times daily would help reduce the swelling and make her feel better. Flunixin was also suggested. Homeopathic Apis (10 pellets, three times a day), dried Dandelion leaf (2Tbsp twice a day),and acupuncture were recommended.

There was a long thread of discussion lamenting the national oversupply of organic milk, and the resulting loss of income and financial stress for organic dairy producers, some farmers feel that the price has fallen below their cost of production. And it was pointed out that the oversupply is in skim milk, as consumers are buying more butter and whole milk. One producer suggested that powdered organic milk is a great source of supplemental methionine for organic chicken producers. Some producers talked about increasing diversification, while other producers noted that already diversified farms with good customer bases have seen a decline in demand as organic foods become more available, and therefore more convenient, in supermarkets.

With consumers looking for more butterfat and protein, some farmers took a look at ways to re-position themselves to better supply that need: they talked of moving from the classic Holstein to breeds that have higher components, once a day milking to raise component percentage, breeding for A2A2, grassfed options, raw and un-homogenized direct sales.

A cow was exhibiting unusual symptoms – “when she walks, her front feet move normally, but she quickly shuffles her hind feet. It's like she's walking on pins and needles. “ That night, the cow was down flat, throwing her head back. When she was propped up, she would eat grain and hay. The following morning, she was back on her side and seemed to be paralyzed from the neck down. The farmer had the cow euthanized and sent brain tissue for testing. Vets on the list seemed to agree that it sounded like meningeal worm – a parasite carried by deer, and transmitted to grazing ruminants when larva are present in accidentally ingested slugs and snails on pasture. Then the parasites make their way from the digestive tract to the brain.

Planning to go to once-a-day (OAD) milking, a farmer asked if others had difficulties with the change. He felt his herd was a good candidate for OAD milking as he feeds a low amount of grain and does not push for production. As you might expect, some experiences were positive, others not. One farmer experienced a 30% drop in both feed consumption and milk production, and he felt that you should expect to see a rise in SCC. Another farmer had no problems milking OAD with Dexter and Kerry cows. Another farmer milks happily OAD without significant “leaking” by nursing calves on the cows; two other farmers switch from twice a day to OAD milking in a seasonal herd after all the cows are in mid-lactation. And yet on another farm, after a year on OAD, the farmer switched back to twice a day because “even with no grain, fresh cows got too engorged, and we just had too much trouble with high counts and mastitis”. And another farmer went back to twice a day milking when he took on an apprentice, so needed more income, but could not expand the herd size; he had milked OAD for 2 years, feeding about 6 lbs of grain a day. There was a ”little bit of SCC issues in the beginning but not bad. Biggest issue for me was loss of production. 30% is about right. By myself I loved OAD. It's a total game changer lifestyle wise, i.e., it allows one to have a life. Haha. I was also amazed at how exhausting physically and to some extent mentally going back twice a day was to me after being away from it for 2 years. I wonder now in writing this if the cows feel the same way?”