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Extension > Agriculture > Dairy Extension > Calves and heifers > Carver County Dairy Expo continues tradition

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Carver County Dairy Expo continues tradition

Abby Neu

Despite heavy snowfall, over 100 dairy farmers navigated roads to attend the 2014 Carver County Dairy Expo. In its 22nd year, the Expo continues to be a day of practical education for Minnesota dairy farmers. Eighty-nine percent of last year's attendees indicated they made a change to their operation as a result of something they learned at last year's event.

Keynote speaker, Mike Hutjens, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois, delivered thought-provoking insights and the remaining speakers educated audiences on several other pertinent topics. A few of the sessions are summarized here. For copies of the complete Expo proceedings, contact Abby Neu at or (952) 466-5306.

"Mixer wagons and the people that operate them are the heart of any total mixed ration (TMR)", said Jeff Weyers, Global Technical Specialist from Vi-COR. Constant analysis of the mixer wagon and feeder should require the most attention in any operation but often receives the least. Look inside the wagon to understand the components and how they work. Evaluate how the wagon empties on a day-to-day basis. Safely take a second look inside while the TMR is mixing to identify any "dead spots". Pay attention to the process of mixing your ration, so that wet or low inclusion ingredients are properly added. Weyers stated that "staying ahead of the game in terms of feed management is critical to the success of a dairy."

Jeremy Schefers, DVM, PhD, University of Minnesota, reminded producers that you cannot determine the cause of calf diarrhea by looking at it. Young animals are disease sponges and amplifiers, and disease can be controlled by management. Vaccinating your dry cows helps build the antibodies that are delivered to the calf through colostrum. Calf diarrhea in bull calves dropped from 50% to 20% when colostrum and transition milk were added to their first meal. Schefers also listed and explained the top twelve reasons that using colostrum is helpful.

Continuing the theme of calf health, Kevin Janni, Extension Engineer, University of Minnesota, focused on calf barn ventilation. Stressing that ventilation is just a single element of raising calves, he focused on mechanical ventilation in a barn using automatic feeders. Janni explained the types of mechanical ventilation, their respective parts and equipment involved with each of them. Continual assessment of your ventilation system performance is important. Indicators that something is not working properly or as efficiently as it should include condensation, frost or a dripping roof, an ammonia smell, and observing your calves avoid lying down in certain areas of the pen.

Optimizing replacement costs is a real opportunity for many farms to increase their profit. Jim Salfer, Extension Educator, University of Minnesota, reported the average replacement cost for Minnesota dairy herds is $585 per cow per year, with the average cost to raise a replacement heifer at $1693. He had several take home messages including: optimize your herd cull rate, cull the right cows by minimizing broken cows, grow heifers fast on low cost diets, develop a breeding strategy that gets all heifers bred in a narrow timeframe, and strategically use new technologies to maximize profit and genetic gain.

Mike Hutjens challenged producers to think back forty years to how the industry stood. Dairy farms were diversified. Family was responsible for the labor and generational farming was the majority. Moving into the 1980's, farms became reliant on Extension programming for staying up to date with current research in nutrition and management. Fast-forward to 2013, dairy farmers have the need to present themselves to the consumer, no matter how big or small of an operation. More and more farms are relying on employees from outside the family. Cow longevity, crossbreeding, genomics and inbreeding are frequent topics. Moving into the future, Hutjens feels greenhouse gases and agriculture's carbon footprint are only in the beginning stages of conversation and regulation. In closing, he urged dairy managers to stay involved with numerous aspects of agriculture including politics, education and environmental concerns.

The turn-out of dairy farmers, despite the heavy snowfall, indicates Minnesota dairy farmers continue to strive to be their best. The Carver County Dairy Expo has been and will continue to be an opportunity for producers to learn from leading experts, and visit with agri-business professionals and their peers. Mark your calendars now, for President's Day 2015, to attend the 23rd Annual Carver County Dairy Expo.


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