cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussions, May 2018

May 2018. A producer asked the group for recommended application rates for layer litter and mushroom mulch on pasture. One consultant felt that it is difficult to know how much to apply without a test, but he suggested 10 T/Ac would be a good starting point. Another farmer has used a lighter rate of 1.5 to 2 T/Ac of poultry litter on his hay ground after the first cut, then again after the first frosts in the fall. Recently, they found a source of mushroom mulch, and applied 8-11 T/Ac on fields that “needed a boost” with good results.

Looking to build a bedded pack barn for winter housing, this producer asked the group for suggestions in its design. A producer with experience in barn design offered the following: “In central New York, we typically see pole barns go up for $10-12 per sq ft. Concrete is usually $5-7 per sq ft for flat work. Curbs add cost.” He went on to advise that although fabric building companies will quote an installed price of $16-18/ sq ft, this does not include the foundation costs; so expect to add on around $5/sq ft. He noted that these costs will rise or fall depending on the building size and location, and the price of lumber has risen sharply in recent months. “Typically, a steel roof will last at least 30 years but a fabric cover will need to be replaced in 15 years. It might last longer but you need to keep it tight. The wind is your enemy.” As far as size per animal for a bedded pack, NRCS recommends 70 sq ft/hd, and he highly recommends a scrape alley. For barn design, “I would recommend a standard gable roof cantilevering out over an outside feed alley. When you start to exceed 50-60ft width, the trusses will start to get more expensive. Do not go any flatter than 4/12 pitch.”

A frustrated farmer was battling a high LPC count, and she listed off a laundry list of the gaskets, hoses, and valves she has replaced. She changed detergent and acid cleaners, replaced water heater thermostats and the pipeline air injector, and ran sanitizers through the vacuum line. She asked the farmers on the list what she may be missing as her count was still high. One farmer, who was experienced in troubleshooting quality issues, recommended replacing the milk pump seal and change to single-use paper towels. He suggested that the water may be contributing to the problem as it represents a sort of starter culture. So if possible, go to a gas water heater as it cooks the bottom of the tank unlike an electric water heater. Other producers suggested that a milkstone buildup was the most likely source of the bacterial residue. It was recommended that she use a longer and stronger acid rinse in hot water, and check for any milkstone deposits on the agitator and other easy to miss places in the tank. It was also suggested that she inspect the washer ball; it must be open and free of cracks or chips to function properly. The plastic ones need replacing if they have cracks. Another producer had a number of problems with water quality interacting with the chemicals. A high level of manganese in his farm’s water was reacting with chlorine, forming a scale which allowed a bio film to build up in the pipeline. He got help from De Laval to tailor cleaners to his water, ending up using stronger caustic cleaners and a peroxide sanitizer. And another farmer reminded us how vital it is to dump the wash cycle before the temperature drops too much.

Sometimes, calves need a little help to stay warm. One farmer asked what others use besides calf coats and heat lamps. One farmer successfully uses 5 to 15 gallon empty chemical containers filled with hot water with a few square bales to keep the calf close to the heat source. Another farmer suggested Premier’s “Prima” heat lamp as it is supposed to be safer than traditional heat lamps.