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June 2012 Archive for Dairy Talk

RSS By: Jim Dickrell, Dairy Today

Jim Dickrell is the editor of Dairy Today and is based in Monticello, Minn.

Feeding the World—with Dairy Technology

Jun 15, 2012

The food conversation is maturing, with more people realizing that technology is necessary to preserve the planet.

Last week’s conference, “Future of Food: Food Security in the 21st Century,” hosted by the left-leaning Washington Post, was significant in what it was not—a diatribe against technology- driven agriculture and commercial-scale dairy production.
 
At last year’s conference, England’s Prince Charles was the main event. The prince who might never be king is a huge, if not radical, proponent of organic food production. His mother’s herd of Guernseys, on the outskirts of London, is housed, bred and managed much like it was in Edwardian times a century ago. (I know--I’ve been there).
 
In contrast, the debate last Wednesday (if you can even call it a debate) leaned heavily toward reliance on commercial agriculture, calls for more research and development, and third-world countries doing what they can to increase productivity. “The reality is we need both. It’s not a question of organic or conventional, technology or no technology, big or small. It needs to be inclusive. We need organic and conventional, big and small producers,” says Chris Policinski, president of Land O’Lakes Cooperative. 
 
The conference was a tribute to the editors of Washington Post Live and Slate.com, who organized, hosted and moderated the event. The event was sponsored by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
 
More than 300 on-site participants and untold more at their computer screens nationwide watched the live-streamed event from the first-floor conference room of the Washington Post five blocks from the White House.
 
At issue: How to feed an expected 9 billion people by the year 2050 in a world that already struggles to feed the current 7 billion. “It’s really very simple. In the next 40 years, we will have to produce as much food in the world as we have in the last 8,000,” says Jason Clay, senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund.
 
Clay gave science and technology instant credibility. He realizes technology is and will be needed to feed today’s masses and the two billion more mouths planning to populate this earth by 2050. That’s the equivalent, he says, of trying to feed the equivalent of the population of nearly two more Chinas by 2050. And therein lies the crux of the matter.
 
“I think you can produce food in cities—vegetables, fruit, even livestock and fish—but not calories. You need land to grow corn and wheat and rice, and you have to be realistic about what the science is,” says Clay.
 
Driving all of this was the recognition that the world is already using most of its arable land, and will only be able to expand that land base by 10% without cutting down even more forests, jeopardizing global biodiversity and accelerating even faster climate change.
 
Credit for changing the tone of the conversation rightly must go to Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management, Inc., and the Innovation Center. Gallagher and other dairy leaders at DMI recognize that in order to bring rationality to the food debate, they must have credible third-party allies such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
 
Dairy must then back up its message with sound science and walk-the-talk, on-farm dairy practices. “We have to wrap dairy in with credible third parties to help us tell our story, and we have to build credibility that we’re doing things right on the farm,” says Gallagher.
 
The Washington Post Live conference is a sign that the food conversation is maturing, says Policinski. Non-governmental organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund are realizing that technology must be a big part of the solution to preserve the planet.
 
The Innovation Center is planning four more events yet this year (Denver, Burlington, Vt., Phoenix and Chicago) to reinforce the message of last week’s conference. Following that, DMI plans to take a breath and assess future priorities. “We need to match the key stories consumers are interested in with current dairy practices, and have the science to back up our message,” says Gallagher.
 
Last week’s Future of Food event was good news for the dairy industry. Like LOL’s Policinski says, it was a mature, adult conversation. Let’s hope it continues.
 
More information on the Future of Food Conference can be found here.
 

Life without Order(s)

Jun 15, 2012

While the dairy industry continues to ruminate over possible changes in the Federal Order system, a Cal Poly study gives food for thought.

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) has proposed eliminating minimum prices immediately and phasing out Class I differentials over the next five years as part of its farm bill/dairy reforms initiative.
 
While the idea was a non-starter with dairy cooperatives, the industry continues to ruminate over what changes are needed within the Federal Order system.
 
Chuck Nicholson, a Cal Poly dairy economist at San Luis Obispo, has done some preliminary “food for thought” analysis of what the elimination of differentials would have on milk prices, cumulative revenues (if milk prices go down, consumption goes up), exports and government expenditures.
 
He looked at two scenarios: The immediate elimination of differentials in July 2013, and a four-year phase out beginning in July 2013. He compared both to the current (baseline) program.
 
He also assumed the Federal Orders would maintain minimum pricing for each class of dairy products, with the “higher of” Class III and IV used to determine the Class I and II price within each Order. His findings:
 
• “Eliminating differentials reduces the All-Milk price, slightly increases price variation and lowers revenues.” His baseline All-Milk price comes in at $16.22/cwt. An immediate elimination would drop that price to $15.95 and a phase-out would drop the price to $16.13.
 
These are not large drops, but when applied to all milk produced, cumulative producer revenues drop from $180.3 billion to $174.9 billion for immediate elimination to $177.5 billion for a phase-out. And this is on a national basis. Areas of the country with large Class I sales would be hit hardest, Nicholson notes.
 
• “Eliminating differentials has the potential to increase government expenditures under current programs due to lower average prices, especially during price troughs,” he says.
 
He projects government expenditures under current programs to total $1.51 billion between 2012 and 2018. An immediate phase out of differentials would trigger government expenditures of $3.31 billion and a phase out would cost $2.51 billion. Neither increase would make up for the loss in producer revenues from the elimination of the differentials.
 
• “Eliminating differentials decreases Class I prices, increases fluid milk sales and decreases fluid milk revenues (due to lowering price for an inelastic product),” says Nicholson.
 
The Class I price under the baseline would be $17.26/cwt. compared to $14.75 with an immediate elimination of Class I differentials and $15.68 for phase-out. Cumulative fluid revenues would fall from $76.1 billion to $70.3 with an immediate elimination of Class I differentials and $72.6 for phase-out.
 
• “Eliminating differentials increases Class III prices, decreases cheese sales and increase cheese revenues,” says Nicholson.
 
The Class III price would rise from a baseline of $13.96/cwt. to $14.38 with an immediate elimination of Class I differentials and $14.27 for phase-out. Cumulative cheese revenues would increase about $1 billion with immediate elimination and $750 million with a phase-out. Cheese exports would also be reduced due to higher prices, he says.
 
The bottom line, says Nicholson, is that Federal Orders still matter. “But the impact on producer revenue is smaller now, perhaps 1.5% to 3%, then it would have been in the past,” he says.
Without Federal Orders, fluid milk consumers would be the big winners. But people who love cheese and ice cream would pay more.
 
Nicholson’s entire presentation can be found here.

‘Bovine Warming’

Jun 01, 2012

It’s the beginning of summer and the living is easy. Unless, of course, you’re a cow.

High milk production plus even moderate temperatures (think 70°s) equal the beginning of heat stress. A presentation by Jim Spain at the Minnesota Dairy Health Conference a couple of weeks ago drove home the point.
Nutrition Forages at dairy 4 23 12 089   Copy
Spain is a dairy specialist at the University of Missouri. Environmental chambers at Mizzou allow dairy scientists to test heat stress quickly. Some bullet points:
 
• If you can do no other cooling, do so in the holding pen—and every time cows come through when the temperature-humidity index exceeds 73. That will ensure cows will be cooled at least twice daily (three times if you milk 3X). The holding pen is also where cows can experience the most heat stress each day as they crowd together and share their body heat.
 
• Leave freestall fans on overnight. Cows reach peak core body temperatures between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. “It takes four hours of fan cooling time to bring those temperatures down. So why do we turn fans off at night?” asks Spain.
 
• There’s a belief that if you place fans at the feedbunk, cows will stand at the bunk and eat more. Spain says cows will stand at the bunk longer under fans, especially if the freestalls don’t have fans. But research shows they won’t eat any more. All they’re doing is standing more, which only leads to more lameness.
 
• If you have to prioritize where you place fans—a choice between the feed line and freestall beds--place the fans over the beds. The reason: Cows spend—or should spend—more time resting in the freestalls than standing at the feedbunk.
 
• Position fans so that they blow air over the entire cow. If you simply place fans down the center of the freestalls in head-to-head rows, you’ll only cool the cows’ heads and lose the cooling effect on the cows’ bodies. The cow’s large body mass is where you need to direct cooling.
 
• Cool close-up cows because they are especially susceptible to heat stress. “The fetus produces substantial heat due to the very high metabolism rate associated with fetal tissue growth and development,” Spain says.
 
One of the best ways to cool close-up cows is to run them into the holding pen during down times. It often has the best fans on the farm, and if the pen isn’t crowded, can provide substantial relief for close-up cows.
 
At Missouri, researchers sprinkled close-up cows twice a day—7 a.m. and 7 p.m.--until their skins were wet. Then they ran fans for at least an hour. Milk production was 5 lb./day higher for the first six weeks after calving for these cooled cows. Other research has shown cooled close-up cows breed back sooner with fewer services per conception.

If you can’t soak cows or provide fans, try to at least provide shade for dry cows, says Spain.
 
• Finally, calves in hutches need shade cloth over the hutches. Research at Missouri shows temperatures in a hutch can be 10° higher on the inner surface of the hutch if it is not protected by shade. “Rectal temperatures and respiration rates of the calves in the shaded hutches was significantly lower,” he says.
 
Read more on cow cooling here and more on calf cooling here
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