K-State Research and Extension News
"Milk Lines" is co-produced by the K-State College of Agriculture and the K-State Radio Network. Each week, Mike Brouk provides the latest information for today's dairy producers.
Milk Lines
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Research indicates that about two-thirds of the infections seen in fresh animals in the dairy herd actually develop during the dry period. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk offers several tips dairy producers can follow to prevent new infections during the dry cow period.

As we move into spring, winter annuals are starting to develop out in the fields and alfalfa is starting to break dormancy. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says producers should be taking an inventory now of the stored forages they have available for the summer months. This week, he discusses several forage options and alternatives for producers who think they’ll need additional forage.

A dairy near Garden City – with approximately 6,400 cows and 7,000 replacement animals – has been named the 2014 Kansas Distinguished Dairy. According to K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk,  the dairy emphasizes taking care of its animals and its employees. The dairy has also been recognized for its conservation efforts and is involved in community activities, including starting a 4-H program for their employees’ children.

In looking at efficiency, dairy producers often consider the milk produced versus the amount of feed the cows consume. However, producers are trying to produce pounds of fat and pounds of protein – the nutrients that humans need. So, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says producers should consider implementing a method called energy corrected milk. He says this may be more accurate in determining the efficiency of the herd.

The national dairy industry set a record for total pounds of milk produced in 2013. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk looks at some of the national dairy numbers and talks about the improvement in the Kansas dairy industry – where total production was up 7.3% from 2012.

The extreme cold this winter forced many dairy producers to stop using foot baths. However, now that spring is nearly here, it’s time to resume this treatment program. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk explains the benefits of foot baths and why producers should consider using a longer, narrower foot bath.

This winter has been especially challenging for dairy producers and there are probably a lot of teat ends that have been damaged either by the cold weather or by milking equipment. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk encourages dairy producers to review their milking process and make changes to speed the milking time, reduce stress on the herd, improve cleanliness, and increase milk quality.

As dairy producers check their herds, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk recommends visiting with their veterinarian to discuss the overall health of the herd and identify any steps that can be taken to improve the future health of the herd.

In this week’s Milk Lines, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk reflects on the changes he’s seen in the dairy industry over the past 30 years to improve animal well-being. Some of the changes include improvements to facilities, nutrition programs, management practices and health programs. Brouk says these changes were not due to regulations, but rather to the commitment of dairymen to improve animal health.

The timing of the first milking after calving will have a dramatic impact on the immunoglobulin content of the colostrum. Research shows that delaying the first milking by six hours can cause a 17% reduction in the immunoglobulin content of the colostrum – and there’s a 28% reduction after 10 hours and a 33% reduction after 14 hours. To get the highest quality colostrum, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk, says fresh cows should be milked within two hours after calving.

To get the most accurate results, testing for passive immunity transfer in dairy calves should be performed between 24 and 48 hours. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk explains why it’s important to check a calves’ blood serum total protein during this relatively small window.

If you’ve noticed changes in the health of the dairy herd during the recent cold snaps, increasing the amount of milk replacers and whole milk can make a difference. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says the nutritional needs of the herd increase by about 10% in cold weather. As a result, making some adjustments to the nutritional program in cold weather will keep the herd healthier.

Kansas dairy producers are invited to attend one of two Dairy Days being held Thursday in Whiteside and Friday in Seneca. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk provides a preview of the upcoming Dairy Days – which feature several K-State Research and Extension specialists.

A study conducted in Wisconsin that looked at reproductive efficiency in dairy herds across the state includes several findings that Kansas dairy producers can implement to help improve reproductive performance in their own herds. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk discusses the findings that Kansas producers should consider implementing in their dairy herds.

Maintaining detailed records can help dairy producers identify some of the breeding problems within their herd. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says retained placentas or metritis can cause re-breeding issues that can negatively impact the overall dairy operation.

Tracking the pregnancy rate of heifers is vital for maintaining the efficiency of the dairy herd. If you’re going to have efficient dairy production on your farm, you need to make sure your heifer-rearing program is keeping pace with the rest of the dairy. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says that means evaluating the growth side of heifers and their reproductive performance.

For most Kansas dairies, this year’s corn silage contains more grain and a lot more moisture. However, the fat test may have slipped just a bit and it might be time to re-evaluate the carbohydrate portion of the diet you’re feeding your cows. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk also encourages dairy producers to check their inoculants. He discusses some of the benefits of adding inoculants to silage.

A dairy is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year operation. Larger dairies are typically able to offer their employees greater flexibility than smaller dairies. In an effort to keep younger employees on the farm, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says small dairies – those with 150 to 700 cows – could offer employees more flexibility by adding some automation to their operation.

Proper hoof care is an essential part of dairy herd health management.  However, many producers shy away from using foot baths during the winter. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk urges producers to continue those foot bath treatments as frequently as possible through the winter months.

The “people behind the product” is a promotional phrase that’s used by the dairy industry. For a successful dairy operation, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says it’s the people that make things happen. He discusses how Kansas dairy producers can build a team that can run the day-to-day operation, improve the overall performance of the dairy and plan for future growth.

Most people in the dairy industry are aware that walking activity can be measured and correlated with estrus detection in dairy cattle. Cows that are in estrus walk more each day and therefore take more steps. This is how heat is detected in many dairy cows. In addition, cows in estrus also tend to decreases their feed intake, decreasing the amount of time she spends ruminating. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk explains how monitoring walking activity and rumination activity can help detect about 95% of the animals that are in estrus.

K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says U.S. dairy producers are gearing up for the production of whole milk powder – a dry dairy product that’s in high demand in the world market. Whole milk powder production is expected to more than triple in the U.S. in the next year and most of that will be exported. As we see our milk supply increasing in Kansas, Brouk says this is great news for dairy producers across the United States.

As the days get shorter and the temperatures turn colder, it’s time to start thinking about proper teat dip management for cold weather. To help maintain good teat end condition, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk suggests dairy producers check their milking systems to make sure they’re operating correctly, change lines on a regular interval, follow their milk management plan, guard against overmilking and switch to winter teat dips before the really cold weather sets in.

During the fast pace of fall harvest, other aspects of dairy management may not receive adequate attention. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says one of those could be the somatic cell count in a dairy’s milk production. That’s why he urges dairy producers to have their bulk tanks tested – and to keep testing them routinely throughout the winter.

A recent conference at Kansas State University focused on the future of the Kansas dairy industry. Kansas mirrors the national trends for dairy operations: milk production per cow is up, total milk production is up and the number of dairy operations is down. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says production per cow is important to the overall future success of Kansas dairy operations.

Numerous dairy producers employ an accelerated growth program for dairy calves, which can be a practical management step, according to K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk.  However, he cautions that such a program can occasionally lead to an outbreak of what’s called nutritional calf scours.  This week, Brouk talks about how this can happen, and what producers can do to avoid it.

A recent study looked at factors that might determine profitability on dairy farms. The five-year study included 150 herds and about 200,000 cows.  K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk discusses the study and what Kansas dairy producers can take from this study to improve their dairy operations.

One key to keeping somatic cell counts from rising too high in milk production is maintaining good cow udder condition. In the late fall and winter, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says that means running a good post-dip program.

Today’s dairy producers are in a difficult economic situation and it looks like 2014 could be equally difficult. Over the past 13 years, 52% of the revenue on the dairy farm is from milk protein and 38% is from butterfat. With the price of milk protein substantially higher than fat, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk suggests producers talk to their nutritionist to see if there are ways to increase the protein content of the milk from their cows.

As labor costs continue to rise and workers are more difficult to find, industry typically turns to machines or robots to handle the workload. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says that trend is starting to take hold on some dairy farms. He discusses some of the ways dairy operators can incorporate automation and technology to increase production and cut costs.

As summer fades into fall, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk urges dairy producers to carefully evaluate their records and the cows that are still open in the herd. He thinks producers will find cows that are 200 days in milk and still open. Brouk offers several strategies to determine whether it’s better to keep these animals or to sell them.

Air quality is a critical factor in the success of young calves and it becomes particularly important as those calves are moved from being individually housed and fed to group housed and fed. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk discusses how dairy producers can improve air quality for calves in a confined environment.

In an effort to improve the performance of calves, many dairy farms are switching to pasteurizing colostrum. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says there are several things dairy farmers should keep in mind as they collect colostrum: the cleanliness of the pasteurization unit, what is the quality of the colostrum and properly storing the colostrum to reduce the growth of bacteria.

Activity monitoring of the dairy herd is typically used to determine when cows are ready to breed. However, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says activity monitoring is more than just about reproduction. While spikes in the number of steps cows take each day indicates they may be ready to breed, this same system can be used to detect low activity which might indicate a health concern before symptoms actually appear.

The drought the past few years has put a spotlight on the need to conserve water. As producers look for ways to conserve water, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says they should be examining overflows on stock tanks to make sure they’re working properly and checking for small leaks in hoses. He says fixing those two problems could save dairy producers hundreds, thousands and even millions of gallons of water over the course of a year.

As corn silage harvest progresses, producers are encouraged to pay close attention to whole plant moisture. Recent rains and cooler temperatures across much of Kansas has added to the grain yield of the crop, but has also slowed maturity. As a result, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says producers should be monitoring whole plant moisture closely and chopping some stalks to check the dry matter.

Total Mixed Ration – or TMR – is a practice of weighing and blending all feedstuffs into a complete ration to provide adequate nourishment for dairy cows. Consistency of the TMR is important for a cow’s diet. A TMR study found that only about 30% of the mix was consistent. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk discusses why there is so much inconsistency in the Total Mixed Ration.

The 48th annual Kansas Junior Dairy Show is being held in mid-August in Salina. The event is open to all 4-H, FFA and Junior Breed Association members. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says the Kansas Junior Dairy Show is a great event for young people interested in dairy. He provides a rundown of the activities taking place at this year’s event.

Calves with adequate passive transfer of immunity – the antibodies contained in colostrum – are less likely to develop septicemia than calves not able to ingest adequate colostrum in a timely manner. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk discusses the signs of septicemia and steps producers can take to reduce the risk of septicemia in calves.

In many areas of Kansas, corn silage has already tassled and will soon be ready for harvest. Depending on the weather conditions, corn silage is usually ready for harvest about four weeks after tassling. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says the goal is to harvest corn silage with a whole plant moisture of 65-68 percent or a dry matter of 32-35 percent.