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K-State Research and Extension News

Milk Lines

Milk Lines is co-produced by the K-State College of Agriculture and the K-State Radio Network. Each week, K-State Research and Extension dairy specialist Mike Brouk provides the latest information for today's dairy producers.  Each segment is approximately 2-minutes in length.

Send comments, questions or requests for copies of past programs to ksrenews@ksu.edu.

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11-15-19MARKET CONCERNS FOR 2020– Dairy producers are experiencing higher milk prices. However, that is not likely to continue all the way through 2020. As a result, there are a number of things producers should be thinking about, such as regularly monitoring feed costs, efficient utilization of energy and protein within the herd, and getting transition cows off to a good start. ML 11-15
11-08-19DAIRY CATTLE HOOF HEALTH– Hoof trimming, which may have been put off for a variety of reasons, needs to get back on the schedule. As part of that process, producers should pay special attention to toe length, sole thickness, heel depth and claw and heel balance.ML 11-08
11-01-19FACE MANAGEMENT– Stored silages that are greater than 38% dry matter are more susceptible to secondary fermentation. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk (brook) says proper face management of the feed is important. This includes checking the forage daily for secondary heating and possibly using a mold inhibitor.ML 11-01
10-25-19FLUID MILK SALES IN THE U.S.– The sale of fluid milk marketed in the U.S. has been steadily declining since 2010. However, new data indicates there are a few bright spots. There has been a rebound in sales of whole milk and flavored whole milk but the dairy industry still needs to look to other products, such as cheese or other soft products to increase utilization of milk in the U.S.ML 10-25
10-18-19QUALITY OF 2019 FORAGES– Many of the silages harvested in 2019 are probably not adequate to support high levels of milk production. As a result, producers should test alfalfa hay for quality and talk to their nutritionist about ways to make this feed and other small grain silages better.ML 10-18
10-11-19MONITORING TEAT END HEALTH– As the weather turns colder, dairy producers are likely to see more chapping of the teat ends in the dairy herd.  Having properly adjusted milking equipment, pulsators that work correctly, using post-dip products, and protecting cows moving from the parlor to the housing area with windbreaks are ways to help improve teat end health in cold weather.ML 10-11
10-04-19INCREASED FIBER DIGESTIBILITY– Research shows a boost in fiber digestibility can improve passage rates and forage intake. The end result is more milk produced. Producers are encouraged to talk to their nutritionist about manipulating silage fiber digestibility for lactating cows.ML 10-04
09-27-19TRANSITION DIET OPTIONS– The transition period before and after calving is a critical time for cows – and the period where she is most susceptible to disease. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk looks at some recent research on diet options for transition or pre-fresh cows that provide better nutrition and increased protection.ML 09-27
09-20-19KERNEL PROCESSING CORN SILAGE– Kernel processing of corn silage is expected to be extremely important this year because of the maturity of the crop. As a result, dairy farmers should measure the kernels being processed and, if necessary, make adjustments to get adequate kernel processing. ML 09-20
09-13-19INTENSIVE LIQUID FEEDING– Research shows that increased liquid feeding during the early calf growth phase increases growth and improves the health of dairy calves. However, the amount of liquid feed calves need can vary and dry matter modifications need to be made near weaning.ML 09-13
09-06-19WHOLE PLANT MOISTURE– Ample, to in many instances, too much rain, is complicating the corn silage harvest. Whole plant moisture this year is higher than normal and will drop very slowly. As a result, producers wanting high quality silage for their dairy cows need to harvest at the right time.ML 09-06
08-30-19FEED COST DECISIONS– Volatility in the commodity markets over the next 12-18 months could create volatility in the cost of feed byproducts. As a result, producers are encouraged to work with a nutritionist to determine which byproducts to purchase. For example, buying corn gluten feed may not be necessary if producers have an ample supply of corn forages available.ML 08-30
08-23-19CONTROLLING FEED COSTS– Feed accounts for nearly half of the total cost of production for dairy producers. As a result, controlling feed costs over the next 12-18 months is going to be vital for the overall profitability of the operation. And, there are options and strategies to help producers control feed costs.ML 08-23 
08-16-19PRICING CORN SILAGE– Many dairy producers are starting to ask questions about how to price corn silage this year. Because pricing corn silage may be more difficult this year than in previous years, several factors need to be considered to calculate a fair price.ML 08-16
08-09-19TRACKING FORAGE QUALITY– Weather conditions experienced in Kansas during the spring and early summer may create forage quality concerns for dairy producers over the next 12-to-18 months. To keep milk production at a high level, producers are encouraged to track forage changes in the silo and work with their nutritionist.ML 08-09
08-02-19LOWER SOMATIC CELL COUNTS Data from the Federal Milk Marketing Order shows dairy producers in the Central Order have somatic cell counts well below the legal limit for milk being pooled on the order. However, the numbers show one area has some room for improvement.ML 08-02 
07-26-19CONTROLLING E. COLI MASTITIS– E. Coli and other coliform bacteria are found in high concentration in organic matter, such as bedding and manure. As the weather gets warmer, bacteria multiplies a lot quicker, posing a greater health risk for dairy cattle. However, steps can be taken to control E. coli mastitis. ML 07-26
07-19-19FEEDING CONSISTENCIES– There are two ways to look at feeding consistencies for dairy cattle. It could mean feeding them the same ration every day or the feeding the same nutrients every day. However, there is a significant difference between those two approaches.ML 07-19
07-12-19FLY CONTROL ON THE DAIRY– House flies and stable flies look similar and have some of the same feeding characteristics. However, stable flies are the biting flies and cause the most irritation for dairy cattle. While flies can’t be eliminated, steps can be taken to manage the fly population in and around confinement dairy buildings.ML 07-12
07-05-19DAIRY PROTECTION COVERAGE– The Dairy Margin Coverage Program, which replaces the old Dairy Margin Protection Program, includes extended coverage for dairy producers. Producers are encouraged to take a closer look at this new federal program to determine whether it’s a good option for their operation.ML 07-05 
06-28-19LOCKING IN CHEAPER FEEDS–  With the recent rise in corn and soybean prices, dairy producers should work closely over the next few months with those who help them with bidding and contracting feeds to see if there’s an opportunity to lock in cheaper feed prices. Producers also need to know where they stand with supplies on-hand and where they need to be in the next 12-16 months.ML 06-28
06-21-19CONTROL BODY TEMPERATURE– Studies show conception rates for dairy cattle fall dramatically when body temperature hits a certain point. Good reproductive performance hinges on keeping cows cool this summer. Producers are encouraged to check respiration rates to make sure the animals aren’t becoming stressed by the heat.ML 06-21 
06-14-19SUMMER HEAT ABATEMENT – Despite a relatively cool spring, summer heat will soon be kicking in. With that in mind, now is a good time for dairy producers to begin checking their heat abatement systems so cows will be cool this summer. In addition to inspecting and repairing feedline soaking systems, controllers and pipes, cooling fans should be cleaned and positioned to deliver air down to the cows.ML 06-14
06-07-19HIGHLIGHTING ANIMAL WELFARE– June is National Dairy Month. As visitors tour dairy facilities, it's important for operators to use this as an opportunity to not only show, but to explain, the steps taken to promote animal welfare on dairies. ML 06-07
05-31-19EXTENDING THE FORAGE SUPPLY– The uncertainty of the fall forage supply is forcing many dairy producers to consider alternative feed sources. There are three primary sources of feed available to Kansas dairy producers that could be used to extend limited forage availability in the fall.ML 05-31 
05-24-19CORN PLANTING FOR SILAGE– The wet spring is forcing many dairy farmers to delay planting corn for silage. The the maturity length for corn hybrids can impact the fall harvest. However, farmers have options for extending the forage growing season.ML 05-24
05-17-19COW CULLING TO CUT COSTS– Dairy producers looking to cut production costs and save some money in the coming months are encouraged to determine how many heifers they actually need to replace animals in the herd. There’s a formula for determining that number and several ways to cull the herd to that size.ML 05-17 
05-10-19DELAYED FORAGE CONCERNS– Many producers across Kansas are facing a delayed harvest of winter annuals for forages. As the fields continue to mature, the protein content of the plants will decrease significantly. As a result, producers are encouraged to take field samples and have a lab test for crude protein, NDF content and NDF digestibility. ML 05-10
05-03-19SMALL GRAIN SILAGE HARVEST– With some harvesting of small grain silages already underway in southwest Kansas, producers are reminded to pay attention to the moisture content of the silage, the cut length they use, packing density and how the grain is stored.ML 05-03
04-26-19ALFALFA INSECT CONTROL – Scouting alfalfa fields for insects on a regular basis will help minimize damage to the field. Hiring a professional to scout fields can save time and money.ML 04-26 
04-19-19MILK PRODUCTION TRENDS– The Central Milk Marketing administrator recently published some of the final numbers for milk production in 2018. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk looks at the numbers and trends and what it could mean for milk prices in 2019.ML 04-19 
04-12-19ALFALFA CUTTING INTERVALS– Timing between alfalfa cuttings can impact yield, forage quality and number of cuttings. Kansas producers willing to cut alfalfa at 24 days instead of the traditional 28-30 days might see a lower yield but gain an additional cutting.ML 04-12
04-05-19COOLING SYSTEM EVALUATION– Spring is a good time for dairy producers to get ready for summer. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says clean fans and fully-functioning soaker lines will help keep animals cool this summer. He also recommends taking steps to keep dry and pre-fresh animals cool.ML 04-05
03-29-19PRE-FRESH ANIMAL DIETS– If dairy producers run low on forages or forage quality decreases this spring, they might have to adjust the diets of pre-fresh animals. Urine pH tests can provide producers valuable information regarding the nutritional health of the herd.ML 03-29
03-22-19CONSERVING CORN SILAGE– Now is a good time for dairy producers to take inventory of the silage they have on hand. In particular, there should be an adequate supply of corn silage to feed lactating cows until the next harvest. ML 03-22 
03-15-19COSTS OF ROBOTIC MILKING– The investment costs associated with transitioning from conventional milking to robotic milking can be considerable. As a result, dairy producers must consider the cost of the equipment and whether they can offset that cost through increased milk production.ML 03-15 
03-08-19PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE– It’s something no one really wants to think about, but having a plan in place to keep the dairy running smoothly in the event of an accident or death should be a priority. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk explains why this plan is important, especially for sole proprietors.ML 03-08
03-01-19AIR VENTILATION FOR CALVES– While it’s important to protect calves from harsh winter conditions, it’s also important to take steps to reduce the risk of respiratory issues caused by being confined in tight spaces. Providing clean bedding, a high plain of nutrition and fresh air will keep calves healthier this winter. ML 03-01
02-22-19ANIONIC SALTS FOR PRE-FRESH COWS– The goal of every dairy producer is to have healthy, productive cows that transition well into lactation. Transition cows, those that are two-to-three weeks pre-fresh, are separated off and fed a separate diet – one that typically includes anionic salts. Dairy producers are encouraged to conduct a urine pH test to confirm that the anionic salt diet is working. ML 02-22
02-15-19A LOWER SOMATIC CELL COUNT– According to data from the Central Federal Milk Marketing Order, producers are continuing to lower the somatic cell count of the milk delivered to processing plants. This reduction is helping both consumers and producers.ML 02-15 
02-08-19WINTER TEAT HEALTH– As the cold weather continues across Kansas, dairy producers are starting to see more teat damage in the herd. Producers can reduce the risk of damage by addressing some of the more common causes associated with winter teat damage.ML 02-08
02-01-19KSU DAIRY DAYS ARE HERE– The annual KSU Dairy Days are being held February 5th just outside Whiteside and again February 7th in Seneca. Some of the highlights include using robotics to milk cows, securing the Kansas milk supply and risk management strategies for 2019.ML 02-01 
01-25-19CENTRAL MILK MARKETING ORDER– The number of farms in the Central Milk Marketing Order, which includes Kansas, has steadily declined since 2001. While Kansas has fewer farms in the pool, today’s farms are larger and in 2018 accounted for a high percentage of the milk that was pooled in the Order.ML 01-25 
01-18-19INCREASING INCOME ON THE FARM– Because of market conditions, most dairy producers had limited cash flow in 2018. To try to turn that around, producers will have to continue to trim expenses and find new ways to increase the amount of milk they’re selling off the farm.ML 01-18
01-11-19CHALLENGES WITH 2018 CORN SILAGE– The drought across much of Kansas resulted in a 2018 corn silage crop that was low in starch and fiber digestibility. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk explains the problems this presents and steps dairy producers can take to improve the quality of their corn silage.ML 01-11
12-21-18POSITIVE SIGNS FOR GROWTH– There’s no question that this has been a challenging year for dairy producers. However, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says increased consumption of cheese and butter shows American consumers see dairy products as an important part of their diets – a positive sign for continued growth of the industry.ML 12-21
12-14-18NAVIGATING FORAGE ISSUES– As dairy producers begin using 2018 crops for forage, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says dry matter intake – which helps animals get to a higher level of milk production – is going to be off from previous years due to a lack of fiber digestibility and increased fiber in the forages. However, he says there are steps that can be taken to combat this problem.ML 12-14 
12-07-18CONDUCTING TEAM MEETINGS– Dairy farm owners and managers are essentially the head coaches of a team. As a result, they're encouraged to hold regular team meetings and to provide feedback on employee performance – and more importantly – receive input from employees on how to improve the operation of the farm.ML 12-07 
11-30-18FEEDING GRAIN TO CALVES– Calves are generally weaned at 8-10 weeks. However, several weeks before they are weaned, calves need to begin transitioning from milk to grain. As a result, it's a good idea for producers to review their grain feeding program to make sure calves are getting adequate consumption of grain prior to weaning.ML 11-30 
11-23-18SHOW YOUR APPRECIATION– With the holiday season underway, dairy owners and managers are encouraged to think about how they can show their appreciation for the hard work their employees perform throughout the year. They might also consider extending this appreciation to their families.ML 11-23
11-16-18HIRING A MARKETING ADVISOR– Making a profit – especially when margins are tight – often depends on taking advantage of opportunities to lock in milk and grain prices throughout the year. Dairy producers can make better, more informed decisions for their operations by hiring a marketing advisor. ML 11-16
11-09-18HOOF TRIMMING AND FOOT BATHS– Proper hoof trimming is essential for dairy cows. It prevents and controls foot problems and maximizes milk production. And, now is a good time for dairy producers to add hoof trimming to their “To-Do” list. ML 11-09
11-02-18TESTING FIBER DIGESTIBILITY– Dairy producers using 2018 corn silage are seeing mixed results in their milk production. This might be caused by a change in fiber digestibility of this year’s silage, something that can be determined by using a laboratory to evaluate corn silage for neutral detergent fiber digestibility. ML 11-02
10-26-18LAMENESS IN DAIRY HERDS– Locomotion scoring is an effective method for detecting early hoof disorders and monitoring the prevalence of lameness in dairy herds. Locomotion scoring also helps producers identify potential risk factors on the farm.ML 10-26
10-19-18LATE HARVESTED FORAGES– Frost in some parts of Kansas may result in higher dry matter for late harvested forages. However, steps can be taken to improve the quality of late harvested forages.ML 10-19 
10-12-18AVOIDING COLD STRESS IN CALVES– As we move into fall and early winter, dairy producers are encouraged to take the necessary steps to protect young calves against cold stress. This includes drying off their coat soon after birth, keeping them warm, providing good bedding and having a nutrition program in place.ML 10-12 
10-05-18USE OF FAT IN LACTATION DIETS– Research shows that feeding supplemental fat to dairy cows increases milk production over not feeding any supplemental fat. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says the increase can be more than five pounds.ML 10-05 
09-28-18CROSSBREEDING HEIFERS – To reduce costs and the size of their dairy herd, more producers are beginning to use a little beef semen in the lower end of their herd so that when those animals calve, they produce a marketable breed for the beef industry.ML 09-28
09-21-18PREGNANCY AND PROFITABILITY– Studies show a correlation between pregnancy rates on the dairy farm and overall profitability. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk says there are three main factors that have a large impact on the pregnancy rate in the dairy herd.ML 09-21
09-14-18LAST FALL ALFALFA HARVEST– The timing of the last harvest of alfalfa for the fall should be about five-to-six weeks before the first killing frost. This allows enough growing time to get reserves into the tap root to survive over winter. ML 09-14 
09-07-18NAVIGATING FINANCIAL CHALLENGES– The current state of the dairy industry is forcing producers to look at ways to put their farms in a better position to deal with the narrow margins expected over the next few months. In addition to looking at expenses, producers are encouraged to look at each animal in their herd and the overall size of the herd. ML 09-07
08-31-18OPTIONS FOR EMERGENCY FORAGE– With many of the acres taken as corn silage now open to be seeded as something else, producers might want to consider planting cover crops which can be used for grazing this fall or harvested in the spring as a forage crop.ML 08-31 
08-24-18REDUCING BACTERIA IN BUNKER SILOS– Reducing the amount of soil that is mixed in with the plant material being put in bunker silos and drive-over silage piles can reduce the risk of dairy cows becoming infected by a bacteria that is regularly found in soil. ML 08-24
08-17-18PROTECTING TEAT ENDS IN WINTER– One of the biggest challenges in winter weather for lactating dairy cows is teat health. The milking process can remove naturally occurring oils that help to prevent skin chapping, cracking and damage in cold weather. However, maintaining milking equipment and using a winterized post-dip will keep the skin’s condition healthy.ML 08-17
08-10-18TIPS FOR CHOPPING CORN SILAGE– Making sure the chop length is set correctly and checking it every few hours throughout the day, especially when switching fields, is one of the critical factors to consider when chopping corn silage. However, there are other factors producers should be mindful of.ML 08-10
08-03-18PLANNING FOR WINTER BEDDING– Straw is the preferred winter bedding for dairy cows and calves. However, high prices and a potential shortage may force producers to consider other options. As a result, now is the time to look for ways to reduce the amount of bedding needed and to secure other alternatives. ML 08-03
07-27-18MONITORING MILK REPLACERS– Milk replacers provide a consistent delivery of nutrition to calves to promote growth and overall health. However, producers using accelerated growth programs for their calves should pay attention as the milk replacer is being mixed to ensure it is mixing well and that it is mixing the way it should. ML 07-27
07-20-18COMBATING HEAT STRESS– In addition to taking measures to protect livestock during the hot Kansas summer, employers need to take steps to protect their employees. And, there are a number of things that can be done to keep employees safe when working in the heat.ML 07-20 
07-13-18USING DROUGHT-STRICKEN CORN– Drought across many parts of Kansas will likely mean fewer acres of corn being harvested for corn silage. Producers are encouraged to determine the cost-effectiveness of using drought-stricken corn as corn silage and to explore alternative feeding sources for the next 12-to-18 months. ML 07-13
07-06-18HARVESTING CORN SILAGE– The severe drought in some areas of Kansas could mean less corn silage will be available for forage. As a result, producers are encouraged to assess where they stand on forage supplies for the next 12-to-18 months and to look for other feed options. ML 07-06
06-29-18REDUCE EXPOSURE TO BACTERIA– While somatic cell counts have been reduced over the last decade in dairy herds, summer offers some unique challenges. One of the biggest challenges is reducing the herd’s exposure to bacteria.ML 06-29
06-22-18FEEDING WATER TO CALVES – A 2014 survey found that dairy producers typically wait several days before offering calves water. However, there are benefits to providing calves water from the day they’re born. ML 06-22
06-15-18CHECKING RESPIRATION RATES– Kansas State University has done extensive research on how best to keep cows cool and comfortable during the heat of summer. Checking respiration rates is one of the most effective ways for dairy producers to monitor heat stress in the herd.ML 06-15
06-08-18EXTENDING FORAGE SUPPLIES– Now is a good time for dairy producers to take an inventory of forage supplies currently available on the farm and what will be needed over the next 12-to-16 months -- with the goal being to extend forage supplies.ML 06-08
06-01-18CHOOSING SILAGE INOCULANTS– Microbial inoculants can make silage fermentation more efficient, helping to preserve more nutrients and dry matter. However, there are several factors dairy producers should take into consideration when choosing an inoculant.  ML 06-01
05-25-18SUMMER MILK QUALITY CONCERNS– As daytime temperatures continue to climb, dairy producers may start to experience problems with their cooling systems. Inefficient cooling systems can increase overall bacteria count and impact milk quality. ML 05-25
05-18-18CELEBRATING DAIRY MONTH– June is Dairy Month. K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk (brook) says this is an opportunity for producers to tell their story and the story of the dairy industry. He offers several suggestions for interacting with consumers and demonstrating how they deliver a safe supply of dairy products to grocery stores across the country.ML 05-18 
05-11-18THE PROPER DRY MATTER CONTENT– As dairy producers begin the spring forage harvest of small grains and alfalfa, K-State dairy specialist Mike Brouk offers tips on achieving proper dry matter content – which would ideally be between 38 and 42 percent.ML 05-11 
05-04-18REDUCED BUTTERFAT LEVELS– Dairy producers can expect to see a decline in butterfat percentages in the spring and summer. Because butterfat commands a higher price in today’s market, this decline will impact an operation’s bottom line as well as the amount of milk cows give. ML 05-04
04-27-18SUMMER MILK FAT DEPRESSION– Milk fat percentage typically drops in the summer as dairy cows regulate their feed intake to combat heat stress. However, properly managing the herd’s diet can reduce summer milk fat loss.ML 04-27 
04-20-18ANALYZING HEIFER INVENTORY As dairy producers look to improve their bottom line, determining how many heifers will be needed to meet the replacement needs of the herd over the next 18 months is a good starting point. Producers with excess heifers might want to sell some. However, knowing which ones to sell first is vital.ML 04-20
04-13-18BE READY FOR SUMMER HEAT– Despite some warm days, summer heat is still weeks away. However, now is the perfect time for dairy producers to start checking their heat abatement systems. In addition to inspecting and repairing feed line soaking systems, controllers and pipes, cooling fans should be cleaned and then positioned to deliver air down to the cows.ML 04-13
04-06-18MARGINAL MILK PRODUCTION– As dairy producers continue to face tight margins, keeping cows in peak milk production can improve income over feed cost. To increase income, producers must make the most of marginal milk. This means focusing on several factors that can increase marginal milk production.ML 04-06