Scroll through our previous posts for more information pertaining to all things dairy!

May 2016

A Discussion on Lame Cows: Part 1


All dairy producers must deal with some lame cows. With current milk prices, everyone should see the value in decreasing the number of lame cows on the farm. Not every lameness issue has a simple fix, but looking at the type of lesions that are most common on the farm can lead to possible solutions.

Different lesions have different causes. For example, white line disease, sole/toe ulcers, and thin soles are often caused by different types of trauma. Trauma for a dairy cow’s feet can include long standing times, rough walking surfaces, and excess pressure on the feet. Digital dermatitis and foot rot, on the other hand, are more often caused by poor hygiene or skin barrier flaws.  Conditions that have excess mud/manure create the perfect growing environment for the disease causing bacteria that develop inside the feet.

Talking with the hoof trimmer on the dairy is a great way to learn what types of lesions are the most prevalent. If he/she says that 70 percent of the treated cows are suffering from white line disease, take a look at what type of trauma the cows are putting on their feet. Is feed getting pushed up regularly? Are cows reaching for feed more than they should be? Is the crowd gate used to push cows into the parlor? If the answer to these questions is yes, increasing feed push up frequency, and using the crowd gate less aggressively could greatly decrease the pressure the girls are putting on their feet. White line disease is often caused by continuous, excess pressure on the feet. Decreasing the pressure we cause cows to put on their feet, could lead to a decrease in the frequency of lameness caused by white line disease.

If digital dermatitis is the main problem the trimmer has been fixing, it’s time to go over foot bath protocols. Is the solution being changed often enough? Is the foot bath long enough to get the hooves the exposure they need? A conversation with the hoof trimmer, or nutritionist, about the most up-to-date foot bath protocols could lead to changes that increase the effectiveness of the foot bath. Although the foot bath does not make the digital dermatitis go away, it helps control how bad the outbreaks of the disease are.

Without knowing how the hoof trimmer identifies different lesions or ulcers, it is impossible to know how to fix the problem because different lesions have different causes. Creating an identification plan is the first step to decreasing lame cattle on the farm.

-Cam Sorensen

Western Wisconsin Nutrition, Dairy Nutritionist

March 2016

On Farm Communication


We are all aware that things have changed on your dairy farm over the last number of years.  One of the biggest changes is in the area of communication.  It used to be that you had one or two employees or family members working on the farm. With the changes of having more, and often non-English speaking employees on the farm, I now hear how much more time and how difficult it is to communicate with your farm hands.


The Technology Barrier

All the new communication tools are great … but if we aren’t talking to someone directly, we are texting or reading emails.  Sometimes meanings are lost because we don’t see the body language or correctly identify the tone of the person we are communicating with.  This can result in misunderstandings and job performance issues.


The Language Barrier

In today’s agriculture a high percentage of our employees are non-English speaking.  If you are considering hiring new employees, it is very likely that a number of possible applicants will be Hispanic.  This brings an additional communication challenge to your farm.  I have found that with language differences it is even more important to be aware of the visual portion of communicating.  Body language and your expressions become very important to the employee who may be struggling to understand you.


Here at Ag Partners we are interested in helping you with all of the different issues that you face on your dairy farm.  Along with our dairy production and nutritional experience we visit a lot of producers that experience some of the same communication issues that you do on your farm.  I have had a number of years of experience in working with and training Hispanics on dairy farms.  If I can assist you with your on farm training program, please contact me or your current nutritionist and I’ll visit your farm.


-Ana Contreras

Ana is a member of the Ag Partners dairy nutrition team.  She is a graduate from the University of Minnesota where she earned her B.S. degree in Animal Science in 2009.  After graduating she worked in the genetic and reproduction area of the dairy industry and this along with her language skills brings great value to our team.

November 2015

Should we be feeding for higher milk production or higher components?

Component prices that make up the Class III milk price continue to show the dominance of the financial contribution, roughly 90%.  Milk protein historically contributes the highest value of Class III with butterfat in second place.

Spence 1Spence 2

Currently the value of butterfat is higher than the value of protein but that is likely temporary.  Regardless of the ranking, components account for the majority of the value of your mailbox price.

Too often the focus is on milk yield at the expense of components.  I still hear “fat test is too high, so push to get more milk”.  Is that strategy more profitable?

Let’s look at two options;

  1. 85 lbs at 3.5% fat and 3.0% protein
  2. 80 lbs at 3.9% fat and 3.2% protein

At today’s FMMO pricing, option 2 would have a $0.36 per cow per day GREATER income than option 1.

Another example; Going from 85 to 90 lbs, fat from 4.0 to 3.5, and protein stays the same.  This herd would LOSE $0.31/cow/day at current pricing.

We are in a class III market. When evaluating economic comparisons, look at energy corrected milk (ECM) that accounts for both milk yield and components instead of focusing solely on tank average.

-Spence Driver, MS, PAS

Ag Partners, Dairy Nutritionist


July 2015

Heat Stress and Your Farm: A Few Key Points

Every year, animals in Minnesota experience cold stress and heat stress.  Our team is continually learning more about impacts of these stress events, and recently listened to a talk by Dr. Tom Bailey of Elanco on the impacts of heat stress on dairy cows.  Our calf specialist also attended a calf camp (Vita Plus) and learned about heat stress impacts on calves.  Heat stress is a topic that could be expounded upon for days, but here are a few key factors to be aware of:

1)  Heat stress has lifelong impacts

Studies have shown that a cow heated stress in her dry period causes the neonatal calf to also be heat stressed, born earlier with a lower birth weight, and impacts that calf’s lifetime production of milk when she freshens.  Cooling during the dry period has significant impacts on future cows.


2)  Heat stress has lactation-long impacts

Heated stressed dry cows that calve earlier are typically less prepared internally in their mammary gland for production, and their milk yield is affected for the upcoming lactation.


3)  Heat stress is not only temperature dependent

Humidity and temperature together are how heat stress are determined. This chart shows how temperature and humidity affect cows vs. humans.  Additionally, humidity is highest at 6 AM, and although barns feel cooler because they are shaded, traditional freestall barns are still the same temperature inside as outside.


4)  Vital hydration for heat stress calves

Time and time again we hear how important water intake is for calves.  Above 78F, calves are heat stressed in still air.  Calves offered warm water (60-65F) will actually consume more water than calves offered cold water (Huuskonen et al).


5)  Heat stress affects you and your employees

One of the most forgotten parts about heat stress are the impacts o you and your employees!  Hard physical labor is needed to keep up with the demands of a dairy, but it is crucial to maintain an environment you and employees enjoy working in.  Extra fans in the parlor cool employees and cows alike, and providing cool water and opportunities to switch off jobs in the sun will keep moral going and jobs more enjoyable.


6)  Flies impact heat stress

Pesky flies (more than 4-5 flies per each cow leg) cause tail swishing, head throwing, stomping, and crowding together.  All these actions use energy and make the cow more warm – drawing energy away from milk production, reproduction, and her health.  For every fly you can eliminate early in the season, you reduce the population later in the year by 1000 flies!


There are many aspects to heat stress, and a few are touched on here.  Please contact your Ag Partners nutritionist to learn more about tailoring your farm to reduce heat stress on your cows and calves!

-Rebekah Mathews, M.S., PAS

Ag Partners Calf & Heifer Nutrition Specialist