Your Advisors should be Friends!

Farms are complex organizations made up of multiple systems. Highly successful farms integrate these systems so they work in unison to promote profitability. However, it can be easy for these systems to become disconnected and even compete with each other. One example of this is the interaction between nutrition and agronomy. The goal of the nutritionist is to formulate a diet based on highly digestible forages and thus optimize milk production. The goal of the agronomist is to maximize yields of the forages grown on the available land base. While these goals are not mutually exclusive, in some cases the cropping strategy that meets the agronomic goals may not align with the nutrition goals. On the other hand, when the nutritionist and agronomist work together, a strategy that aims at growing high yielding, highly digestible feeds can be implemented. When key advisors work together the outcome can exceed all expectations. For example, I work with a farm where the agronomist recommended spraying corn with a fungicide that would improve yield. I knew that on this particular farm, the fungicide could potentially improve plant digestibility and address a problem we had the year prior with smut on the corn. With reservation, the farmer agreed to apply the fungicide to part of his corn crop. The corn sprayed with the fungicide had higher yields, was more digestible, and didn’t have smut. In fact, this was the best corn on the farm! The keys to having a great relationship between advisors include: Effective and Consistent Communication Understanding the farm’s current situation and processes Identified and agreed upon shortest staves Establish goals that...

Please make sure your safety belt is fastened at this time!

At the beginning of every flight there is the well-rehearsed airline safety speech, which includes a reference to safety belts. Since I am able to type this post, it can be assumed that I routinely follow this instruction. As what can only be described as a “nervous flyer,” I have pondered the real necessity of strapping myself in. Each time I fly, given that I represent 0.12% of the plane’s total weight, and how the laws of physics play out in the event of a crash,  I come to the same conclusion that this flimsy piece of strapping is what will make the life or death difference should this big machine fall out of the sky. When feeding the dairy animals on your farm, there are feed products that work more like safety belts too. As with the airline seatbelts, feeding these products is about risk avoidance more than accelerated performance. According to BusinessDictionary.com, risk avoidance is a technique of risk management that involves (1) taking steps to remove a hazard, (2) engaging in alternate activity, or (3) otherwise end a specific exposure. If a product manages one of these steps, it is good; if a product addresses all of these, it is remarkable! At Agri-Nutrition Consulting LLC, we have created just such a product, Calf Power Shield, a supplement for young calves. Calf Power Shield contains valuable, natural and specialized egg proteins that are needed for calves to maintain a healthy start and strengthen their immune system, while promoting gut development. Calf Power Shield is the safety belt that supports the calf in case of intestinal disturbances, and...

Is Colostrum the Key to Lifetime Profitability?

The importance of feeding colostrum to promote immunity in newborn calves is well understood.    Calves are born agammaglobulinemic, meaning they are born without a functioning immune system.    Feeding colostrum supplies IgG to the newborn calf, thus providing passive immunity until her immune system is developed to the point where it is active and she can produce IgG .       However, IgG is not the only compound that is found abundantly in colostrum.  Insulin, IGF-1, relaxin, a variety of growth factors, and hormones are present in colostrum in high concentrations.   Milk contains very low levels of these compounds.   Colostrum may have an epigenetic impact on calves.   Epigenetic factors are external factors such as diet and environment that impact the expression of genes in an animal that influence the development of tissues and resistance to disease.    In other words, consuming the right compounds at the right time can have a long term impact on the growth, development, and disease resistance of a calf. There is evidence that the high concentration of biologically active compounds in colostrum can impact the long term performance of calves.   For example, a study conducted at Virginia Tech showed that calves fed maternal colostrum had greater feed efficiency than calves fed a colostrum replacer that was derived from serum.   The serum-derived replacer and maternal colostrum contained high levels of IgG and calves fed either treatment had similar IgG status.    However, the calves fed maternal colostrum were much more efficient at converting feed to growth.   This indicates that the bioactive compounds present in maternal colostrum may play a significant role in the calf’s...

Dealing with Corn Silage Smut

Corn silage smut can be a concern for some farmers.  Learn more here about the fungus named Ustilago maydis.    Background information  Ustilago maydis can infect the stalk and ear of corn plants causing a condition often referred to as “smut.” This condition is often observed as grayish black galls on the ear of corn. The presence of galls on the ear reduces grain yield.   When the galls are less than 2 inches the reduction in grain yield is about 9%.   However when the galls are over 3 inches the reduction in grain yield can exceed 40%. There is little concern about mycotoxins being produced by smut.  In some cultures, smut is an edible delicacy for human consumption.  Impact on nutrient content of corn silage Since smut decreases grain yield, the chemical analysis of silage infected with corn is higher in fiber and lower in starch than “clean” corn silage.  An NIR forage analysis will show this result. Corn smut may alter the fermentation characteristics of corn silage. Some research has shown that corn silage infected with smut has a lower level of acetic acid than normal corn silage. (This is a strong case for treating it with Pro-Store WSB.) Research with sheep has shown that smut reduces the digestibility of dry matter, organic matter, NDF, ADF, and Crude protein. The lower digestibilities of these nutrients should be considered when formulating rations with smut infected corn silage.  Impact on animals Palatability studies with sheep show that corn silage containing smut does not reduce dry matter intake and may actually increase dry matter intake. However, the digestibility of several nutrients is lower,...

Fresh Cow Diseases can Kill Your Checkbook

Fresh cows are at a high risk for disease.   In fact, 50% of fresh cows will experience at least one disease in the first 30 days of lactation.   Common diseases experienced by fresh cows include dystocia, milk fever, retained placenta, metritis, ketosis, displaced abomasum, fatty liver, and lameness.    These diseases lead to an increased risk of culling.   In fact, 25% of all cows culled leave the herd in the first 60 days of lactation.   Incidence and Economic Impact of Common Fresh Cow Diseases Disease Typical Incidence Goal Cost/incidence $ % of calvings Milk Fever 0 to 23% <5 275 to 500 Retained Placentas 1 to 22% <8 315 to 590 Metritis 2 to 37% <15 300 to 400 Subclinical Ketosis 1 to 40% <40 200 to 500 Clinical Ketosis 1 to 18 % <3 250 to 500 Displaced Abomasum 0.5 to 6% <5 494 to 600 Mastitis 2 to 37% <5 285 to 350 Lameness 1 to 30% <5 300 to 400   Monitoring fresh cow diseases and designing a program to reduce the incidence of disease in fresh cows can lead to a healthy and more productive herd.   Developing a comprehensive dry cow and fresh cow program can reduce the incidence of these diseases on your farm and increase your bottom line.   Contact your ANC Consultant today to get started!   Learn about Cow Refresher, ANC’s drinkable drench for fresh cows, giving them the metabolic boost they need!  ...