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October 2013 Archive for Dairy Today Expo Extra

RSS By: Catherine Merlo, Dairy Today

Dairy Today's Catherine Merlo brings you the latest from the World Dairy Expo.

Prize Money, Pride and a Pat on the Back for Forage Superbowl Winners

Oct 05, 2013

Ohio dairy producer Lambert VanderMade, one of Dairy Today’s four 2013 Dollars & Sense contributors, made a good showing in the 30th annual World Forage Analysis Superbowl at this year’s World Dairy Expo. He won third place – and $250 -- in the Standard Dairy Corn Silage (non-BMR) category, one of the highest-entry categories in this year’s national competition.

But VanderMade can’t be as happy as producers Doug and Sandy Kerfeld of Fuchs Kerfeld Dairy in Albany, Minn., who took the Superbowl’s overall Grand Champion honors for their haylage entry. The Kerfelds were awarded $3,000 by that category’s sponsor, NutriSave Forage Management System. Judges were impressed with the Kerfeld sample’s strong Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) component (298) and its high Milk Performance index (3,957 lb.).

This year’s Superbowl competition received 321 samples from 22 states, Doug Harland of Dairyland Laboratories told me Friday. Among the seven forage categories, the corn silage categories for both BMR and non-BMR received the highest number of entries.

Forage Superbowl and Harland 10 4 13
Doug Harland of Dairyland Laboratories shows the Grand Champion haylage sample (lower right) from Fuchs Kerfeld Dairy.

"Some of the top forages in the country are here," said Harland, pointing to the clear plastic containers of pungent, dark-green samples. Ten winners from each category are displayed in the Arena Building during Expo.

Harland manages the World Forage Analysis Superbowl. Each year, he gathers the entries, analyzes them at his company’s DePere, Wis., lab, and then brings in three judges from the University of Wisconsin to select the winners. They determine winning entries using a ratio of 60% forage analysis, 30% visual evaluation, and 10% milk performance. The judges evaluate things like dry matter content, crude protein, NDF levels, chop length, kernel processing, color and smell. As Harland points out, often just a narrow spread separates the top entries in each category.

The dairy corn-silage BMR category drew the most participants, with 121 entries, Harland said. Its Grand Champion winner was Holmes Acres of New Woodstock, N.Y. Judges found that entry’s strengths in its digestibility (68.21) and its Milk Performance (3,782 lb.) Holmes Acres received $1,500 from category sponsor Blue River Hybrids.

The Grand Champion First-Time Entrant cash award of $1,500 went to Ed Byers Dairy, of Enon Valley, Pa., for its entry in the dairy corn-silage BMR category, which it won. Kuhn North America sponsored that category and its prize money. Gregg Troyer, of Dalton, Ohio, was named Grand Champion in the Dairy Haylage category, sponsored by Ag-Bag. Doody Farm, of Tully, N.Y., took the Grand Champion award in the standard (non-BMR) corn silage category.

Producer sniffs forage 10 4 13
Dairy producer Gary Reese of Simpsonville, Ky., judges one of the winning samples by its smell Friday at World Dairy Expo.

Each category’s Grand Champion wins $1,500. Second-place winners receive $500, third place gets $250, and fourth place collects $100. In all, more than $22,000 in cash prizes was awarded to top-finishing producers. The winners were announced Oct. 2 at the World Forage Analysis Superbowl Awards Luncheon, sponsored by Mycogen Seeds, at World Dairy Expo. Click here for the list of winners and sponsors. 

"We’re always pushing for more participation in Forage Superbowl," Harland said. "It’s a big competition for showing the worth of good quality forage."

From his dairy barn in northwest Ohio, VanderMade was pleased but realistic with his third-place win. "Winning is nice," he told me by phone on Friday, "but feeding the silage in the bunk is more important."

Coming to a Dairy near You: Robotic Milking for Large Dairy Herds

Oct 03, 2013

There’s plenty of interest in Robotic Milking Systems from large-herd dairies this week at World Dairy Expo. Five of the biggest equipment milking companies are here featuring RMS displays. Do they see a future for RMS in large herds?

There’s plenty of interest in Robotic Milking Systems (RMS) from large-herd dairies this week at World Dairy Expo. Five of the biggest equipment milking companies – AMS-Galaxy USA, BouMatic, DeLaval, GEA Technologies and Lely -– are here in Madison featuring RMS displays.

DeLaval robotics
DeLaval’s Mark Fletcher with one of the company's robotic milkers this week at Expo.

Although the majority of the world’s 10,000 RMS are located in Europe, where herd sizes are small, the systems are becoming more common in the U.S., according to Marcia Endres of the University of Minnesota. Endres spoke Thursday at an Expo Educational Seminar about a study she and co-investigator Jim Salfer are conducting on how RMS perform in U.S. dairy conditions and management styles. Their findings will be released next spring. Steady RMS growth is taking place in the Upper Midwest, especially in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Endres said.

For now, each RMS unit is designed to milk 60 cows. But is there a place for RMS in large herds with 1,000 cows or more?

"Absolutely," DeLaval’s Mark Fletcher told me. He’s been talking to several large-herd dairy producers this week at World Dairy Expo. They’re intrigued with RMS’ potential for labor savings and its technological ability to drill down to individual cow information. Larger-herd producers are looking at ways to bring in RMS, whether through retrofitting their existing facilities or constructing new ones. Fletcher knows of one Pennsylvania dairy that’s milking 1,100 of its 2,200 cows using 20 RMS systems.

Likewise, GEA Technologies’ Greg Larson has had numerous large-herd producers stop by his exhibit this week. "They’re looking at transitioning to RMS due to labor and immigration law changes and family farm transitions," Larson said. They’re also interested in milking cows at a high rate – up to 4x daily --something that RMS makes possible. Some are looking at milking just their fresh and late-lactation cows in their regular milking facilities and then using RMS for their cows that are 21-200 days in milk.

Stronger profit margins in the Midwest may be driving the greater RMS interest there than shown by Western dairies. "Midwest dairies have seen gains and are reinvesting back into their dairies," said Larson.

All agree that RMS opportunities for large herds will grow as the technology increases.

"We’re very optimistic about robotic technology growing into the large-herd concept," said Rick Rugg, Lely’s Midwest regional manager. Lely counts 15,000 RMS globally and 1,500 in North America. "We’re striving hard to help make RMS economically justifiable for large-herd dairies."

What Dairy Economist Mark Stephenson Will Reveal

Oct 02, 2013

For being a Wisconsin-based dairy economist, Dr. Mark Stephenson has spent an inordinate amount of time this year looking outside of "America’s Dairyland."

One outward focus and a high priority for Stephenson for at least five months was California’s dairy industry. Last November, California’s three major cooperatives commissioned Stephenson and fellow dairy economist Chuck Nicholson of Penn State University to conduct a comprehensive modeling study of a California Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO). The goal was to study and assess what could be expected by replacing California’s state milk marketing order with a federal counterpart.

The study took more than five months. In June, Stephenson and Nicholson delivered the final report, totaling 140 pages, to key players at California Dairies Inc. (CDI), Land O’Lakes and Dairy Farmers of America. The three co-ops market about 80% of California’s milk production.

I talked with Stephenson Wednesday at World Dairy Expo, hoping to learn more about the study. But due to confidentiality agreements, he couldn’t divulge much about the findings.

"The co-ops are going to be releasing information in the not-too-distant future," Stephenson, who is director of Dairy Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, told me.

I already know that the findings "indicate that a properly written federal milk marketing order for California would provide a regulatory structure that would potentially result in higher farm gate prices, which would benefit California dairy farm families," according to a news release CDI sent out in June

And I’m aware that the three co-ops are holding members-only meetings to discuss the study and the potential of a FMMO in California.

What Stephenson did tell me is what areas he analyzed for the study. He looked at "mock pools" to understand how an FFMO might look if one were in place in California. He explored what sort of incomes would be generated, who would have participated and how any income would be distributed across the state. He looked at a "dynamic model" of what an FMMO would mean for the state’s milk production. A federal order is likely "to change the path of prices" in California, Stephenson said.

Of course, that’s exactly what the state’s producers want. They expect higher milk prices with a federal order. But higher prices are likely to mean more milk, so Stephenson studied the supply outlook as well as the demand component.

"The modeling took a lot of time, effort and care," he said. "The dairy industry isn’t simple. There are a lot of dynamics in California."

The federal order possibility is a big topic in California. If a consensus to adopt an FMMO is achieved, implementing it would still be almost two years away.

In the meantime, there is more – much more – that’s occupying Stephenson’s time, and he was a little more forthcoming on two of those topics: the farm bill and the outlook for dairy prices.

"All scenarios are possible with the farm bill, but looking at Washington, D.C. right now, the farm bill is increasingly being moved down several notches," Stephenson said. "The only vector for getting it done is for it to be attached to another major piece of legislation, such as the budget or increasing the debt limit.

"If we do get an extension for the farm bill," he added, "I wouldn’t be the least surprised if it was pushed to a two-year extension to put us past the next election."

Regarding milk prices, Stephenson noted that producer margins are quite strong now, and he expects them to stay that way for the next two months. But he’s not so bullish about next year. He believes U.S. dairies will increase milk production as feed prices drop and export demand beckons.

"2014 is going to show milk prices reflecting the supply of milk, not just in this country but also in Oceania, which is having a more normal year," Stephenson said. "But our access to world markets is still good because demand in Asia and particularly China is unusually strong."

Whether that means milk prices will stay at $18 per cwt. or soar to $22 or drop to $14, Stephenson wouldn’t say. As you may have guessed, he’s pretty good at that.

What Corn Silage Decision Will You Make This Year?

Oct 01, 2013

With its potential for more milk and an impressive return on investment, BMR corn merits a closer look.

One of the most important yearly decisions you’ll make as a dairy producer is deciding which corn hybrid you’ll plant. Will it be a dual-purpose variety? A silage or TMF type? A Brown Midrib (BMR) variety? How do you choose?

There are plenty of options and a place for them all, but if your goal is higher milk production, BMR is the way to go, Mycogen Seeds agronomist Jon Erickson told me today at World Dairy Expo.

"BMR corn produces a higher quality feed that allows the high-producing cow to eat more in a day, and that makes more milk," Erickson said.


IMAG0151
Mycogen agronomist Jon Erickson (left) and Wisconsin dairy producer Tom Crave discuss BMR corn at World Dairy Expo on Tuesday.

How much more milk? Erickson says results from 16 universities and third-party trials show an average of 4.8 pounds more milk production per cow per day, while dairy producers have reported 5 lb. to 11 lb. improvements. An added BMR benefit is feed-cost savings, since the hybrid allows you to decrease the amount of grain – as much as 3 lb. per cow per day -- in your TMR.

BMR corn is not a genetically modified organism (GMO) but the result of a naturally occurring gene mutation. It features less lignin in the cornstalk, which results in higher fiber digestibility. That, in turn, leads to greater dry matter intake and more milk.

According to university field trials, BMR yields continue to improve. But, I'm told, so do conventional corn hybrids, which still out-yield BMR types.

"Today’s BMR agronomics are great," said Erickson. "The plants stand well and don’t lodge. They even look like corn, unlike the early days."

Wisconsin dairy producer Tom Crave walked by just about then. We flagged him down and asked his opinion on BMR corn silage. The Crave family dairy has been planting BMR for more than 15 years. The operation milks 1,500 cows near Waterloo, Wis.

"We depend on producing a lot of milk," Crave said. "We’re not looking to produce a cash crop. We need the best quality feed. From the first year we planted BMR, we saw a noticeable difference of 5 lb. per cow per day."

The Craves put in significant effort to produce their BMR corn silage crop. "We don’t skip any steps," Crave said. "We put in the extra effort for quality and yield." They were "pleasantly surprised" during last year’s drought to see that their BMR crop produced 7 tons of dry matter. This year, Crave expects his BMR fields to produce between 8 and 9 tons.

"Your corn silage decision impacts two years," Crave said, from the time you buy the seed, plant it, grow the crop and feed it to your herd.

Mycogen has developed a Return on Investment calculator to help you choose your corn silage variety. You can find it here

Erickson walked me through a quick, simple calculation: If you’re milking 100 cows per day, get an extra 5 lb. per cow per day, and factor in a milk price of $17 per cwt., you have the potential to earn $20,000 over and above your seed costs. With so many dairies now milking 1,000 cows or more, the net return can soar to close to $300,000. Erickson says BMR can yield a potential return on investment of up to 10:1.

When deciding whether to plant BMR corn, remember that the hybrid must be segregated from other corn silages, so they don’t mix, which would dilute the benefits of BMR. "You also have to be willing to chop a longer length at harvest," says Erickson. "Instead of ¾", you’ll need to go up to a 1" to 1-¼"."

If you’re thinking this fall about which corn silage you’ll plant next spring, BMR might be worth a closer look. "It’s important to make the right decision now," Erickson said. "It can make a big financial impact."

Read "Bring on the BMR" from the May 2013 issue of Dairy Today. 

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