cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, May 2008

By Liz Bawden, NODPA Rep and Newsletter Co-Editor

Added May 12, 2008. Pay price continued to be a leading topic on ODairy over the last month. Several producers cited that the root of the problem lies with the lack of an enforcable pasture rule, allowing cheaper milk from confinement dairies to flood the market. A few producers expressed concerns about consumers’ ability or willingness to pay more at the retail level. One farmer coined the slogan, “Parity Not Poverty!”. And others wondered that the squeeze on our bottom lines could be pushing more farms into seasonal production.

A farmer shared some observations about seeding oats for grazing. Forage oats seeded in the spring for summer grazing performed as expected, out-producing the grain-type oats. But when he seeded the grain-type oats in the summer for fall grazing, they out-produced the forage oats planted at the same time.

Another farmer questioned the list if they thought that testing purchased cows for BVD was a good idea. Others responded that it is a good idea to test, based on the potential havoc a persistently infected (shedding live virus) individual can cause. Johne’s testing was also recommended. Individual cow testing for BVD was described as an ear-notching procedure, where a lab applies a stain to test for the presence of the virus. There is also a bulk milk test to determine infection in the herd.

Grain prices are at parity prices these days, so they are a big target. But one farmer expressed that they are only a small part of the problem putting an economic squeeze on organic dairy farmers. The USDA Parity Price for conventional milk in January of 2008 was $43.80. The calculations used for these unbiased figures as based on economic indicators that don’t include organic grain prices.
Discussions and frustrations over PI counts came up again this month. Several strategies were discussed: the usual culprits of erratic PI counts included slow cooling of the milk, hot water not hot enough, cleanliness issues, milk handling after pick up on the farm. One farmer shared her success in keeping the counts down by using peroxyacetic acid as an acid rinse and sanitizer.

A farmer reported having a calf with her ears dry and curled up. Responses from the veterinarians on the list suggested that it may be a rare congenital defect known as “baldy calf syndrome”.

Another farmer asked when the best time is to band bull calves and de-horn. It was suggested that bull calves should be banded at 3 to 4 weeks old, de-horning at 2 weeks to 3 months. The veterinarian preferred disbudding by the burners over other methods.

A herdsman for a farm reported that several of the fresh cows were in poor health after calving, had difficult births, several retained their placentas. They reported the appearance of ringworm on some older bull calves. It was suggested to look at the minerals; get a good 2 to 1 mineral in place, supplement with Redmond salt and kelp. Selenium was suggested, so MU-Se shots would be in order. Lack of energy was also suggested, since immune systems of ketotic cows will be supressed. It was suggested to feed the best quality hay; supplement with molasses if needed. Injection of Vitamin A, D, and E was also suggested.

A farmer asked for feedback from those that have used fly parasites/predators in the past. Several farmers reported good reduction in flies using them.

The health benefits of apple cider vinegar have been discussed frequently on ODairy, but there was a brief discussion on how to make your own if you have a source of cider in the fall. A farmer shared her technique: she fills 6-gallon wine bottles with the apple juice, adds a bit of the “mother” (the stuff at the bottom of the cider vinegar bottle), covers it with cheesecloth so it can breathe, and puts it in a warm place to work for about 3 months. When you get to the bottom of the jar, save the mother for the next batch--one cubic inch of mother is sufficient to start a 6 gallon batch.