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Highlights of the 2016 Western Canadian Dairy Seminar

Marcia Endres

I had the opportunity to attend and present at the 2016 Western Canadian Dairy Seminar in Red Deer, Alberta in March 2016. This was the fourth time I’ve attended this event, and I always come home impressed by the excellent program and great audience. There were 897 registrants this year and at least half of the attendees were dairy producers. Attendees are engaged and ask excellent questions; lots of networking and discussions take place during breaks and meals and at the end of the day. In this article I highlight a few of the topics included on the program this year.

Many presentations focused on the transition cow. We have improved transition cow management and nutrition in recent years, but it is still the most critical time in the life of a dairy cow. Various topics related to nutrition were discussed:

In the area of precision dairy farming, Ben Smink, Lely, gave the attendees a list of 7 steps of a management circle to optimize the use of robotic milking systems: vision, design, goal, observe, analyze, adjust, and evaluate. Then go back to step 3 and continuously improve. Require advisors to provide a scenario rather than just single step advice. With Lely systems, free cow traffic resulted in 2.2 pounds more milk per cow per day than guided traffic. Pens with more than one robot produced 130 pounds more milk per robot per day than pens with just one robot.

My message to the attendees about being successful with automated calf feeders was to have excellent colostrum management, maintain small group sizes, design pens with good ventilation and no drafts, feed at least 8 liters of high quality milk daily (as peak amount), provide clean and comfortable bedding, clean and calibrate automated feeder regularly, clean/replace nipples and hoses regularly (daily and every other day, respectively) and overall keys to success: clean, clean, clean.

On the topic of digital dermatitis, Dorte Dopfer, University of Wisconsin, indicated that chronic digital dermatitis is for life. Cows will cycle between stages of the disease. We need to recognize early and treat promptly! The first sign of success is to observe less proliferative digital dermatitis. Karin Orsei, University of Calgary, reiterated the need for ideal footbath design (longer than 10 feet, so cows can immerse each hoof more than once) to help us reduce lameness caused by infectious diseases such as digital dermatitis.

Other topics were also covered during the event. Proceedings will be available online sometime in the near future at

March 2016

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