How to Improve Production and Reduce Methane Emissions

Cows are ruminant animals, just like sheep and goats.  Ruminant animals are unique because of their special digestive systems that can convert plant materials into nutritious food and fiber.  However, this ruminant system includes a fermentation process in the rumen that produces a powerful greenhouse gas – methane.  This methane gas is released through burping and breathing.  According to the EPA, it is said to contribute between 10 to 30 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions.  Methane is also 25 percent more potent than carbon dioxide. As a dairy farmer, it is your responsibility to make steps to protect the environment, as well as feed the world. Is there a way to improve milk production while also reducing methane emissions? Yes.  In fact, research in Canada determined it is possible to reduce methane emissions from cows by 20,000 tons annually.  That is the equivalent of taking 200,000 cars off the road. Plenty of research has gone into developing and assessing dairy cattle feed in order to increase milk production to meet the needs of a growing population while reducing methane emissions to be more eco-friendly.  By adopting methane abatement feeding systems, producers could actually save money by reducing cattle emissions and improving milk production. What can I feed my herd to maximize production and reduce emissions? How do they work? 1.      Ionophores – Research has found that ionophores improve dry matter intake efficiency by increasing the production of propionate, and reducing acetate and methane production.   2.      Fats – Research has found that every 1 percent increase in dietary fat concentration is accompanied by a 3.5 percent decrease in methane...

5 Key Methods for Preventing Cow Lameness

Lameness is a serious cow comfort issue that can have a large impact on herd performance. Lameness can cause a cow to have poor milking performance and can lead to culling of an animal. These are of great cost and concern for a producer. The best way to combat lameness is to prevent it. Most farmers have a foot trimming schedule and use proper foot bath management, but there are a few more ways to stop lameness before it happens. Stall Management An important factor to consider is stall management. There are several measurement guidelines for how large stalls should be but not all cows are the same size. In general, stalls should be wide enough and long enough for a cow to lay down without hanging over the edge or leaning against the divider. This will also help prevent any possible sores from rubbing. The bedding should be soft and thick to encourage laying time. A cow should spend 14 hours laying down per day. Sand bedding has been shown to increase laying time in comparison to mattresses.  Mattresses can also lead to rubbing, which can cause lesions that can eventually lead to lameness. Overstocking free stall pens also negatively impacts foot and leg health because it limits the ability for cows to freely lie down and stand up. Flooring Type Flooring is key to lameness prevention.  Traction should be provided to prevent slipping, which will reduce injuries that can lead to lameness. An important place to make sure you have proper flooring is in your parlor holding area since this is where cows spend a significant amount...

Summer Heat: How to Fine-Tune Your Dairy Management Practices

Cows can be compared to a fine-tuned athlete.  They require an enormous amount of energy and maintenance to stay at the highest level of production.  As more energy is consumed, milk production increases.  Furthermore, more heat is generated in this process.  This can be an adverse effect to high milk production in the hot, humid heat of summer. As athletes get ready for a race or competition, they spend hours preparing and practicing for the race or competition through a balanced diet, stretching, cardio, weight lifting, rest, and relaxation. Cows alike need to get ready for the heat of the summer to perform at the top.  They need a balanced ration to meet their nutritional needs, clean water, and cool and comfortable living conditions. If athletes do not properly prepare for their race or competition, there are risks associated, such as injury, fainting or dehydration.  Likewise, there are various health problems for bovines associated with heat stress including: hoof problems, rumen health disorders, and poor reproductive performance.  Heat stress can also reduce dry matter intake causing a decrease in milk and component production. There are four simple ways to fine-tune your management practices for top-performing cows in the summer: 1.      Balanced Diet       a.      Increase energy in the diet to increase milk production.  Increase grains and decrease forages in the diet.  Limit grain to no more than 55 to 60 percent of the dry matter. Too much dry matter in the ration can result in lower milk fat content, acidosis, feed refusal, laminitis and less feed efficiency.      b.      Increase dietary fat to increase energy content of...

Improving Aerobic Stability

Mold spores are floating around everywhere. Open a bag of bread, close it and then let it sit for 3 to 4 days. Mold will form only a few days after exposure to the air. Like bread, air is the worst enemy of silage. On the front end, air delays fermentation. During storage and feed out, the air stimulates the growth of yeast.   With the first crop of hay being cut or ready to be cut soon during this wet weather, you may consider chopping the hay and using it for silage.  It is important to remember proper techniques for storing silage so mold and yeast do not arise.  Mold and yeast pose a threat to hay in the field and during harvest, transport and storage.  If mold and yeast are fed to animals, they can have a serious effect on herd performance.  Mold and yeast can lead to suppressed immunity, feed refusal, hemorrhaging of the intestinal tract, ulcers, bloody scours, nutrient malabsorption, and reproductive issues. In order to prevent the development of mycotoxins and yeasts, there are several steps to take and keep in mind during harvest and the preparation and maintenance of silage in storage. Harvest of silage 1.      Harvest at proper moisture content. 2.      Chop uniformly at proper length. Storage of silage 1.      Fill bag rapidly. 2.      Pack silage sufficiently to exclude air and prevent the “Domino Effect” (see graphic). 3.      Use an effective fermentation aide and appropriate Pro-Store inoculant. 4.      Cover silage completely and well. Maintenance of Silage 1.      Remove a foot of silage daily from the feeding face. 2.      Feeding face of silo...

The Dairy Days of Summer

June is a special month for the dairy industry.  It is a time to celebrate all things dairy — from the hard working dairy farmers to the top-producing dairy cows, and the cutest of calves to the delicious and nutritious dairy products we enjoy every day.  The dairy days of summer are a very important time to connect the producer and consumer through industry events and festivals.  These interactive events and festivals focus on bringing consumers to the farm so they can look around and ask real farmers questions! There are several ways for you to get involved in the fun and celebrate the dairy industry! One of the first big events around the Dane County area and an event sponsored by ANC is this Saturday, June 7th.  Cows on the Concourse will be at the Capitol Square in Madison, WI from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  This is a fun, free and family-friendly event to kick off June Dairy Month.  Kids and adults alike will have the opportunity to meet cows and calves and ask questions to local Wisconsin farmers, including ANC’s very own Connie Eibergen, ANC Marketing Coordinator, and Sara Hendrickson, ANC Ration Analyst, who served as Cows on the Concourse committee members.  Top off your day with delicious dairy products –  grilled cheese, ice-cold milk, cream puffs, and ice cream! Another great event is the Dane County Breakfast on the Farm on June 14th.  This year, Dane County Breakfast on the Farm is being held at Zander Dairy Farm in Mount Horeb.  The event is $7 for adults and $4 for children.  Come on out to...