by Terry Kuhn

Last month I turned 65 and I realized that I had been working with dairy cow nutrition for 43 years. I started right after I graduated from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls in 1975. Like everyone else that gets close to retirement, I look back and wonder where the time went and then I marvel at all the changes that have taken place and how far we have come in the dairy industry. In 1975, I was a feed salesman. Now I am a dairy nutrition and production specialist. I hope my dad is proud of me. I grew up on a 40 cow dairy and I can still remember the day that that our cows averaged over 50 lbs of milk a day in the bulk tank. That was a lot of milk back then. We always did, and still do look at how many pounds of milk per day, but the new number is becoming combined with pounds of fat and protein. Which would you prefer… 100 pounds of milk with a 3.5% fat and 3.0% protein which is 6.5 pounds combined fat and protein or 90 pounds of milk with a 4.0% fat and 3.35% protein which is 6.62 pounds combined fat and protein?

In my early days as a feed salesman, we balanced dairy rations, or as we say today dairy diets, for protein and fiber which was ADF fiber. NDF fiber came later as did bypass protein, or as we say now, rumen undegradable protein. Bypass protein rations didn’t always work so we had to change the name. Now we also have metabolizable protein (MP) which is the total amount of amino acid absorbed in the small intestine. The main sources of amino acid to the intestine are rumen undegradale protein (RUP), microbial crude protein (MCP) and to a small extent, endogenous crude protein (ECP). This is quite a change from crude protein only. Fiber has gone from ADF fiber to NDF, then NDFD 24, NDFD 30, or NDFD 48, you chose which one, but never mind , we now have uNDF 240 and NDF Kd. I hope I can keep up over the next few years before I retire. I could talk about the changes in fat and what we have learned, but that would take a lot of technical jargon so I think I will leave that up to my younger coworkers.

I do remember the good old days, when as a feed salesman, I would try to convince dairyman that our Bag Buster 36 would get them more milk than the other feed company’s Milk Squrit 38 that they were top dressing at the time. Some of you old timers like me can probably remember when there were several feed companies that sold their brand of dairy concentrates and one or two could be used on every dairy.

Yes we have come a long way over the past 40 plus years and have seen a lot of changes. Now we have to understand cow behavior, density stocking, particle length in TMR’s (which has become a moving target), foot health, and we also need to become advocates for the dairy industry and educate consumers. I could go on and on about all the changes but I do know one thing and that is the dairy industry has been kind to me over the years as I have had the opportunity to work with many people who have become my friends. I actually now have the privilege of working with the grandson of one of the first dairyman I began working with back in the 70’s. I wonder what’s next.