It Just Makes “Dairy $ense”

Don’t Skimp on Health Costs

Production Perspective

Regardless of high or low profit margins the investment in health care for calves, heifers and cows should not waver. Calves and heifers are the future of a dairy operation and the current cows are the ones generating the income.

When operations get strapped for cash flow the first thing owners do is look to cut corners. Reducing costs related to vet and medicine is not very prudent. Based on the summary of several hundred cash flow plans, the average cost per cow for vet and medicine is $108 with a range from $88 to $126/cow. There is no association with the herds having the lowest or highest breakeven cost of production. Health costs are not typically the key to a herd’s poor financial performance.

With the volume of cash flow plans that have been done by the Dairy Business Management Team, there are common questions that get asked. The first is usually how the vet and medicine expense compares to other herds. Many times the costs are well within the ranges that are typical. The question should be: is the focus on preventative or reactive health care? In the long run preventative care is going to result in healthier animals. When evaluating standard operating procedures for vaccination protocols sometimes it appears that our animals are walking pin cushions. However, protecting a young animal’s immune system against respiratory and digestive problems enables the animals to grow and perform to their genetic potential.

A critical time period for cows is the few weeks pre- and post-calving. Precision feeding and good management practices can go a long way to minimize transition cow problems. However, there can be outside forces that can affect how well a cow starts off her lactation. Implementing protocols to minimize ketosis, milk fever, displaced abomasum and others can more than pay for themselves in optimizing overall animal performance. If there is a high incidence of metabolic problems requiring many visits from the vet or prolonged treatment protocols, then it is time to evaluate potential causes and develop a preventative health plan.

Proper nutrition is critical for all stages of growth and performance. There is a lot of time and research devoted to the pre-weaned calf and getting her off to a healthy start. After calves are weaned the plain of nutrition can change dramatically and not for the better. Heifers should not have hay bellies and scruffy hair coats. They require good quality forage, ample protein intake and the proper level of energy. The goal is to have animals large enough to breed at 13 to 14 months of age. After a heifer is pregnant she also needs the stature and weight to meet her genetic potential for milk production when calving at 22—24 months of age.

Preventative health care and good nutrition are the staples to successful dairy operations. This means that animals are positioned to achieve their genetic potential. The dairy producer must maintain the necessary balance of income and expenses to achieve a cash surplus.

Action plan for evaluating health costs for calves, heifers and cows

Goal – Maintain standard operating procedures on vaccination protocols and record all treatments.
Step 1: Develop standard operating procedures on vaccinations and boosters for all animal groups on the farm.
Step 2: Utilize a record keeping program (i.e. Dairy Comp 305, PCDART, Excel spreadsheet) to track when animals get vaccinated.
Step 3: Develop a record keeping system for tracking all treatments on animals, including mastitis. Record the product used, duration of use, and if the animal has improved. Make note of any meat or milk withholding.
Step 4: Summarize treatment results monthly and discuss potential problems with the herd veterinarian.

Economic perspective

Monitoring must include an economic component to determine if a management strategy is working or not. For the lactating cows income over feed costs is a good way to check that feed costs are in line for the level of milk production. Starting with July’s milk price, income over feed costs was calculated using average intake and production for the last six years from the Penn State dairy herd. The ration contained 63% forage consisting of corn silage, haylage and hay. The concentrate portion included corn grain, candy meal, sugar, canola meal, roasted soybeans, Optigen and a mineral vitamin mix. All market prices were used.

by Virginia Ishler – Extension Dairy Team
USED WITH PERMISSION – Reprinted from April 2016
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences research and extension programs are funded in part by Pennsylvania counties, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement by Penn State Extension is implied.

Wow That Cow. The Incredible Recycling Machine.

On Sunday, April 22, the U.S. celebrated Earth Day. Established in 1970, Earth Day shines the spotlight on sustainability efforts to protect our natural resources. For cattlemen, environmental stewardship is an everyday affair.

In this month’s Quality Care Matters, we explore how Pennsylvania cattlemen and food processors work together to recycle high quality cattle feed by-products and simultaneously, reduce processing waste.

According to Adam Zurin, Agri-Basics, Inc. beef nutritionist consultant, cattle feed by-products are the residual products from grain and food processing. Byproducts can include floor screenings, peelings, or expired products for human food production. “In Pennsylvania, the two most common by-product ingredients are potato waste and candy meal,” explains Zurin. As a “Snack Food Capitol,” Pennsylvania provides by-products that are high in fat/energy, starch, and salt. Zurin says the growing craft beer market has increased the amount of available brewers grains in the state too. As a by-product, brewers grains tend to be higher protein and an adequate energy source. While potato by-products typically are higher moisture, they supply more energy in comparison to most forages. “I will use potato products to lower the corn silage and corn amount in the ration,” Zurin shares.

Mark Moyer, Plant Engineer/Asst. Controller at Keystone Potato Products, LLC, remembers that his company recognized there was a market for potato processing by-products when they began planning their plant in 2004. “We have two production lines in our plant – the dehydration line and the fresh cut line,” Moyer explains. “The main by-product from the dehydration line is peel waste; it’s consistency is similar to a bowl of oatmeal. Our fresh cut line by-products are peel and pick out cut products.” Keystone Potato Products LLC recycles all of its potato waste – eight to 10 million pounds per year – to five beef producers. “Our beef producers transport the by-products using a dump trailer, hauling approximately 25,000 pounds per load,” Moyer says. “The processing by-products have good nutritional value, so it only makes sense to make it available for people who can use it. Our company has always been good environmental stewards.”

Darwin Nissley and Bernard Nissley, Nissley Bros., Mount Joy, Lancaster County, incorporate by-products, including potato waste, into rations for their 800-head feedlot. “We’ve been feeding by-products for 25 years and are currently feeding potato chips, candy meal and wet potato waste. Over the years, we’ve also fed bagel chips, cereal and pasta,” Nissley notes. And after 25 years, what by-product does Nissley think cattle prefer? “Their favorite by-products are whole potatoes and bagel chip bread sticks,” he says. We’ve been feeding by-products for 25 years…their favorite by-products are whole potatoes and bagel chip bread sticks. “ Darwin Nissley ” Bagel chip shipments occasionally include 12 – 14” bread loaves from the chips. “The feed mixer would break them to about 4” in length and they would roll out on top of the feed. The cattle loved them,” recalls Nissley.

“With by-products, you have to watch the fat and salt content,” Nissley says. “A balanced ration is critical as to not depress cattle feed intakes. We do not purchase a by-product without talking to our nutritionist first to see if it will work in our feeding program and decrease our cost of gain (COG).”

In addition to working with a nutritionist, Nissley also encourages producers to decide if the by-product’s “grief factor” is worth the time investment. “The wetter the by-product, the more grief you experience with transporting, handling and storing of the byproduct, adding to the total cost,” explains Nissley. When considering by-product economics, Zurin explains that in Pennsylvania, the positive basis of corn results in lower (COG) in comparison to the mid-west. By using by-products, producers can lower their COG and be more competitive with mid-west cattle feeders. Despite by-products’ benefits, corn remains king for maximum performance in the feedlot, Zurin notes. “Make sure the by-product is cost effective and will not inhibit cattle performance or feed conversion,” he shares. “Just because the ingredient is ‘cheap’, it does not mean it will always be the better alternative to corn.”

When analyzing if a by-product is an alternative feed source for your operation, Zurin makes the following recommendations.
• Test products at a certified forge lab to determine feed value
• Watch fat and salt nutrient levels in the finished ration
• Understand the volume of the byproduct supply to determine feeding rates
• Determine the shelf life of the product
• Plan for extra storage and transportation
Zurin, Moyer and Nissley all agree that feeding by-products is an effective way to provide nutrient-rich feed sources and reduce landfill space. “In my mind, it’s a win-win for everybody,” says Nissley.

To learn more about feeding by-products to cattle, contact Courtney Cowden, PA Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Director at or 1-888-4BEEFPA.

by Adam Zurin, Agri-Basics, Inc. Nutritionist

Feeding Electrolytes: How much does a calf need?

If I were to pick the conversation I have most often with calf raisers, it would be about feeding electrolytes: how much and how often to feed oral electrolytes to scouring calves. Confusion often arises when trying to apply package instructions. Feeding directions are limited and typically describe a narrow set of applications. They often read like cookbook instructions which simply don’t – and can’t – describe all situations.

Instructions for feeding electrolytes may run counter to personal intentions. Some say to use the product in place of milk feedings, others say to feed in addition to normal milk feedings. Add to milk; don’t feed in milk. Feed two quarts twice a day, once a day, feed for three days — what if the calf still has diarrhea?

To begin with, it helps to have a good idea or a sense of what a scouring calf needs. A calf with diarrhea and no other visible signs of dehydration is about 4-5% dehydrated. This means a 100 pound calf needs about 4-5 pounds of water to get back to normal. 100 pound calf that is 4% dehydrated: 100 pounds x 0.04 = 4 pounds water loss 100 pound calf that is 5% dehydrated: 100 pounds x 0.05 = 5 pounds water loss (easy to calculate for a calf of any weight) Since a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds, a quart of water weighs 2 pounds. Therefore, our 100 pound calf needs 4-5 pounds of water, or about 2 quarts of electrolyte solution. This is the amount of electrolyte solution that would be administered each day to this calf until it improves.

Keep in mind that this calf became 4-5% dehydrated while it was drinking its regular milk/milk replacer feedings. This means the calf needs the 2 quarts of electrolyte solution in addition to the liquid nutrition it normally receives, not instead of. If the calf shows additional signs, such as sunken eyes, depression, tight skin (skin tents when pinched), or water-like diarrhea, it may be 7-8% dehydrated and in need of additional electrolyte feeding. The table on the next page summarizes daily electrolyte requirements for 100, 80 and 60 pound calves.

A calf with diarrhea and no signs of advanced dehydration requires treatment at the 5% dehydration level. Calves with water-like diarrhea or other clinical signs of advanced dehydration are likely losing water at a higher rate and would benefit more from treatment at the 8% dehydration level. Calves that are 10% dehydrated may not be good candidates for oral rehydration therapy, and usually require other methods of administering supportive fluids such as intravenous administration.

Note: Some organisms damage intestinal villi while other cause hypersecretion of water into the digestive tract. These situations can lead to decreased absorption of fluids. If, for example, only 70% of the electrolyte solution is absorbed, the other 30% will pass through the calf, increasing fecal water loss. This makes the diarrhea appear to be worsening even though treatment is effective. In these situations, the frequency of treatment should be increased. Based on the table, you treat calves with water-like diarrhea at the 8% dehydration level.

Also, keep an eye on the front end of calf. If the calf is alert, active and wanting to eat, you are on the right track. Balance what’s happening at this end of the calf with what you see at the other end.

Once you have a good idea of what the calf needs, you can administer oral electrolytes accordingly. Be sure to read the product label to understand what the product is and to understand how to mix the product and how the manufacturer intends/suggests that it should be used.

That won’t necessarily end all conflicts, but at least now you’ll be able to decide how to use the product or whether you should choose another one. If the label tells you to mix with water and feed in place of regular milk/milk replacer feedings or to add directly to the milk or milk replacer, you may choose to do that, but what are you going to do to correct the calf’s water loss? Correcting dehydration is what electrolyte therapy is all about.

by Rob Costello

Agri-Basics Annual Beef Producers Meeting

Agri-Basics held their annual beef producers meeting at the Lancaster County Farm and Home Center on August 3, 2017. The meeting was well attended with 145 producers participating in the meeting. The guest speaker was Dr. Francis Fluharty, Research Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at Ohio State University. Dr. Fluharty began his presentation with some basics in ruminant nutrition and then provided practical tips for feeding and managing feeder cattle. Below is a summary of those tips:

Transit Shrink Considerations: Normally consider 3% shrink for the first 100 miles and an additional 0.5 to 1% shrink for each additional 100 miles. The fatter an animal is, the less it shrinks because very little loss is from fat (tissue loss is potassium, water, and protein). Older animals shrink less than young animals because they are a higher percentage fat. Heifers shrink less than steers, and steers shrink less than bulls, again going from highest fat percentage to least. Reducing Shrink Loss: Avoid loading or moving cattle in bad weather, and load cattle so that most of the time in transit occurs at night. Use non-abusive handling practices. (NO electric prods). Have corral and loading chute in proper repair. Feed dry feeds prior to shipping (they keep water in the rumen longer). Alfalfa hay is recommended because it is high in potassium. Don’t over-crowd on the truck and NEVER give cattle salt prior to shipping. IMPORTANT: Provide electrolytes in the drinking water after arrival to re-supply potassium and sodium salts. Cattle may not want to eat after they arrive at the feedlot, but they are ALWAYS thirsty! This is the time to reestablish a proper sodium-potassium balance, and for cattle hauled more than 24 to 36 hours, including sorting in the pen prior to trucking, B-vitamins help, too.

Dietary Recommendations: Increased feed and nutrient intake leads to increased performance and decreased disease. An example receiving diet for feedlot steers would be to increase protein % (18 to 20% crude protein) until intake reaches 1.8 to 2.0% of body weight on a dry matter basis then 14 to 16% crude protein once intake reaches 2% of body weight on a dry matter basis. Receiving diets should contain at least 50% concentrate. However, with highly-processed grains, feeding more than 60% concentrate in receiving diets may increase morbidity. Protein concentration in the receiving diet must be sufficient to allow for reduced feed intake in the first two weeks following feedlot arrival of newly-weaned calves. Vitamin E added to receiving diets to supply > 400 IU/animal daily has been shown to be beneficial for increasing gain and decreasing BRD morbidity. Supplemental Zn, Cr, Se, and Cu can alter immune function of newly received feedlot calves, however research results have been variable. Corn does not necessarily need to be processed to result in high levels of starch digestibility, but smaller grains such as barley and wheat do need to be processed before feeding. Feeding roughage (forage) in feedlot diets help prevent digestive disorders by altering ruminal pH through increasing the rate of rumen contractions, which increases rumination resulting in increased saliva production and increased buffering capacity. Roughage particles should be relatively small (less than 4 cm) when highly-processed grain diets are fed or undigested grain will pass through the rumen. Maximize net energy for gain (NEg) intake by increasing the neutral detergent fiber (NDF) concentration in finishing diets which stimulates intake to a point where NEg intake is greater than if no additional fiber were fed, resulting in increased gain and efficiency of gain.

Methods to Aid in the Prevention of Acidosis: Increase the frequency of feeding and increase the percentage of roughage in the diet (higher NDF concentrations are better, because they can be fed at lower levels). Feed complementary grain sources to increase the time of ruminal digestion, so that less starch is available at any one time. Implement a gradual diet adaptation period ranging from 10 to 14 days. Utilize products that minimize the effect of lactic acid producing organisms. Feed cattle the same time every day and use a feed bunk management protocol.

Feed Bunk Management: In order to maximize animal performance and minimize digestive disorders it is imperative to keep animals eating a consistent amount of feed. Monitor the amount of feed remaining in the bunk and adjust intake accordingly. If there is no feed remaining in bunk – increase intake 5%. If scattered feed is present and most of bottom of bunk exposed – hold intake. If there is a thin uniform layer of feed across bottom of bunk, typically about 1 kernel deep – hold intake or reduce 5%. If 25-50% of previous feed remains – reduce intake 5 to 10%. Never increase feed for two consecutive days.

Agri-Basics would like to thank the sponsors of the meeting which included: Lallemand, Double S Liquid Feed Services, York Ag, Merck, Elanco and the Central VA Cattlemen’s Association.

Beef in the World, What’s Going On?

Looking from PA out into the world of exports most of us think, that doesn’t concern me or, I’m not big enough to be part of that. All answers are wrong. Exports are something for all farmers and ranchers alike, big or small, to watch and consider what the current marketplace is looking like for his or her beef product. It’s also a great tool to help understand pricing and possibly what the market place is doing at that time.

All major beef companies are involved in exporting beef products and some medium to smaller size operations as well. Currently USA ranks 4th in the world for beef exports with our leading market being Japan. As of July 2017, exports for the USA are increasing hand over fist. July beef exports totaled 104,488 metric tons (mt), up five percent year-overyear, while export value reached $623.7 million – up 18 percent from a year ago and the highest since December 2014.

For January through July, exports increased 11 percent in volume and 15 percent in value ($3.97 billion) compared to the first seven months of last year. Exports accounted for 13.2 percent of total U.S. beef production in July and 10.7 percent for muscle cuts only. These were the highest ratios of 2017, but down from 14.2 percent and 11 percent, respectively, last July. For January through July, beef exports accounted for 12.8 percent of total production and 10 percent for muscle cuts – roughly steady with last year(USMEF’s statistics web page).

So, looking at all that, currently exports are on the rise for the US. The US continues to fight for its spot and looking to grow more into the export market. New opportunities, like the China market and NAFTA negotiations, are in the works but not a lot of definitive details are being released as of right now.

— by Curtis McFadden us-beef-exports-stay-redhot-july

Why Antibiotics Fail

Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) continues to be the most common cause of feedlot death loss, despite improved vaccines and expensive long-acting antibiotics formulated specifically against the bugs commonly found in a diseased bovine lung. Beyond death loss due to severe pneumonia, the costs of treatment (antibiotics) and prevention (vaccines), loss of production, and reduced carcass value in chronic cases must also be considered to understand the full economic loss to the industry. In the face of these challenges, consumers are increasingly demanding reduced antimicrobial use in the production of wholesome beef. FDA has already limited the use of antibiotics in feed through the Veterinary Feed Directive and many cattle producers are concerned injectable antibiotics may be FDA’s next target. While antibiotic resistance does occur, it is not the only reason for treatment failure. Given the need to continue using antibiotics, it is important to review correct usage and why antibiotics may fail to save a calf.

BRD relies on the mixture of host susceptibility, pathogens (viral and bacterial) and the environment to cause disease. Mannheimia hemolytica (formerly known as Pasteurella hemolytica), the most common bacteria found in bovine pneumonia, is an opportunist that gets in the lungs when the calf’s defenses are down due to a respiratory virus and stress. Weaning, commingling, transportation, castration and dehorning, bad weather, overcrowding, and poor quality air are known to compromise a calf’s immune system. A persistently- infected (BVD-PI) calf in a pen results in continuous exposure of the pen mates to the BVD virus and a constant reduction in their white blood cells needed to fight sickness. Lightweight calves that are not eating and drinking are also at exceptionally high risk for disease and death.

It is easy to see why successful treatment of pneumonia is not simply a matter of grabbing a bottle of the latest and greatest antibiotic, drawing up a dart-full, shooting it in the sick calf and waiting for the magic bullet to take effect. Instead, full recovery is a joint effort between the calf’s immune system and the selected drug to stop the growth of bacteria and destruction of lung tissue. Antibiotics are designed to hold the bacteria “in check” and give the calf’s immune system time to gear up and effectively fight the disease. Treatment failure may be due to calf factors including overwhelming stress, infection with BVD, or nutrition-related factors such as trace mineral deficiencies or subacute ruminal acidosis. Sound nutrition and management, especially around weaning, will substantially increase the response to antibiotics. Calves vaccinated 2-3 weeks pre-weaning against respiratory viruses are known to respond faster and better to antibiotic therapy if needed. A good environment with plenty of shade, space, clean water and bunk space reduces stress. Identification and removal of PI calves is through a simple, inexpensive ear notch skin test. Trace mineral deficiencies can be addressed quickly through an injectable trace mineral while calves are transitioning to a trace mineral mix.

Treatment failure due to human errors may include poor timing, use of the wrong drug, improper dose or route of administration, mishandling issues or failure to recognize treatment response. Timing is crucial; if calves are treated early in the course of disease, almost any antibiotic will work. Conversely, if calves are treated late in the course of the disease, nothing will work. In addition to timing, dosage is crucial because antibiotics work by different mechanisms.

The “MIC” is the “minimum inhibitory concentration” or the minimum level of the drug needed to fight bacteria.

Figure 1 graphically displays the difference between antibiotics that are considered “time dependent” (effectiveness depends on exposure to the drug for a certain length of time) versus “concentration dependent”(bacteria must be exposed to a high concentration of the drug). If label directions are not followed and only a partial dose is administered or perhaps a second dose is required but not given, the drug is unlikely to work effectively because it cannot reach the necessary minimum target concentration. Selection of the best antibiotic class or “family” is an equally important success factor. Figure 2 is an illustration of the mechanisms antibiotic classes use against bacterial cells. Beta-lactams (penicillin, Excede®, Naxcel®, Excenel®) cripple production of the bacterial cell wall that protects the cell from the external environment. Aminoglycosides (gentamicin) and Tetracyclines (LA-300®, Biomycin®, and many others) interfere with protein synthesis by grabbing on to the machinery in the ribosome needed to build proteins. Macrolides (Draxxin®, Micotil®, Zactran®, Zuprevo®, Tylan®) and Chloramphenicol derivatives (Nuflor®) also interfere with protein synthesis although at a different location on the ribosome. The Fluoroquinolones (Baytril®, Advocin®) block genetic replication by interfering with DNA and RNA synthesis. Why is this information important? If a calf requires retreatment, selection of an antibiotic from a different class will attack the bacteria through a different route and often enhance treatment response. Another good example is treatment for Mycoplasma bovis , a bacteria frequently found in chronic pneumonia cases. It has no cell wall so treatment with a Beta-lactam (such as penicillin or Excede®) will prove absolutely useless. A veterinarian is well-trained in antibiotic selection and is the best source of information when choosing therapy. Another issue that may affect success is mishandling the product; an antibiotic that gets too hot or is allowed to freeze will inactivate the drug in most cases. Sometimes treatment failure is not a “failure” but rather an inability to recognize recovery. A calf that is eating, drinking and looks better after treatment but still has a slight fever often just needs time to fully recover since fever is one of the last clinical signs to disappear.

Figure 2: Drawing of a bacterium illustrating the wats different “classes” of antibiotics fight against them. By Kendrick Johnson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Strategic and correct use of antibiotics will continue to be of importance for the cattle industry from this point forward. Careful attention to timing of treatment, drug selection, dose, and handling of the product will reduce the human factors that contribute to antibiotic failure. Calf factors including overwhelming stress, infection with BVD, environmental or nutrition-related disorders must also be addressed in order for the calf’s immune system to work with the antibiotic to stop disease in its tracks.

Fall Calf Workshop- November 15th, 2016

19faca75-7139-4688-84c5-95cbf520243d-110-imp-1Join us for the Agri-Basics, Inc. Fall Calf Workshop! 2017 is quickly approaching and so is the new Veterinary Feed Directive. Learn how to raise a better calf from the beginning so we can help reduce the use of feed grade antibiotics. Topics will include a discussion and presentation of why the Veterinary Feed Directive was put into effect, a hands-on activity on how cleanliness and proper management with the cow can lead to a healthier calf in the maternity pen and a hands-on pulling demonstration. A refresher course in calf pulling will also dive into taking a step back and looking at our pulling protocol. Are we too pushy when it comes to pulling? And how does that effect the calf? All of these topics will highlight management techniques and protocols on how we can try to prevent disease before it strikes. This event will be held on November 15th, 2016 from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM and proudly held at an Agri-Basics, Inc. customer farm, of Ezra and Janice Horst, Quarryville, PA. Lunch will be provided.

If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Angela Breneman at 484-252-1607 or email with your name and number attending. We’ll see you at the workshop!

by Angela Breneman, Calf Specialist

Agri-Basics, Inc. Dairy Meeting 2016

Please join use on December 8th, 2016 for the annual Agri-Baiscs, Inc. Dairy Producer’s Meeting. This year’s event will be held at Yoder’s Restaurant on Route 23 in New Holland, PA. We will start off the day with Dr. Charlie Gardner and hearing how we can “Stay Positive in Time of Tight Margins.” This presentation will be focused around how forages count in both good and bad times, but can make or break you during periods of financial challenge. It is important to make crops a priority no matter what the market looks like ahead. If you practice this, you will be in a much better seat when low markets with tight margins arrive.

Have you heard of the Veterinary Feed Directive? Are you wondering what it is and how it will affect you? More importantly, why is this happening? Our next speaker, Dr. Andrew Holloway from Elanco will speak on “What Does V.F.D. Mean to Me?” This topic will discuss the upcoming Veterinary Feed Directive and why is it being put into effect. He will also discuss what this means to the producer and the nutritionist and how protocols will be handled. Both speaker’s will leave plenty of time for questions on both topics.

The meeting will begin with registration at 8:30 AM. Following with a welcome at 9:30 AM and the beginning of presentations at 9:45 AM. Please see your Agri-Basics, Inc. nutritionist or call into the Agri-Basics, Inc. office at 717-361-9266 for a flyer and registration slip. We ask that all RSVPs be returned by December 1st, 2016. We hope you all have a great fall and we’ll see you at the winter producer meeting!

Challenging 2016 Corn Silage

img_0741This year has been a challenging growing season depending upon your geographical location with weather conditions. The drought has affected many areas with very low yields and stressed corn this past summer. In Central PA, there was a substantial amount of corn silage harvested with little to no grain. Not only will there be a variation in dry matters, but also available starch content and digestibility within this years corn silage. Testing for dry matter and adjusting for it will have to be done often in order to maintain a consistent ration regardless of the kind of structure it is stored in. Another major component of why we feed corn silage is the starch level. With the wide variety of corn hybrids in conjunction with the weather, it will contribute majorly to the variation of starch levels within the corn silage. Another concern that cannot be neglected is molds and mycotoxins. Typically drought stressed corn is very susceptible to the growth of mycotoxins. Issues such as these can affect not only production, but breeding and health of the cows. So in short, Always “READ” the cow. Her body condition, production, components and behavior tell us much more than we as humans sometimes realize.

by Russ Kline, P.A.S. Agri-Basics, Inc Nutritionist

What is NDFD?

Many of us have seen over the past year or two a new measurement for fiber digestibility on our forage samples. NDFD is NDF digestibility with an hourly rate added to it. What is it? What does it measure? What does it mean for my ration?
NDFD is an incremented measurement of NDF fiber digested in the rumen. Efficiency and rate of digestion are both measured in this calculation.

The portion of your forage sample that is NDF is immersed in buffered rumen fluid to try to replicate the rumen environment. Then, the digestibility is measured at 30 hours, 120 hours and again at 240 hours. This gives us 3 pools of digestion rates.
That which is in less than 30 hours is rapidly turned into energy mostly in the form of rumen microbial protein. The slower pool that falls between 30 and 120 hours is only slightly digested. That which is in the 240 hour pool is basically not digested at all.

So, in using these three points of measurement we can determine the rate of digestion, and just as importantly, the rate of passage through the cow. The slow pool and the undigested portion are the indicators of gut fill and that is what limits total dry matter intake. So, the more NDF we have that falls in the greater than 30 hour digestibility measurement the less our cows can physically eat.
Corn silage NDFD rates can vary quite a bit on genetic differences between varieties. When choosing corn silage hybrids it is important to look closely at NDFD. Alfalfa genetics do not vary as much as do corn silage hybrids, so that makes timing and stage of maturity far more critical. Seed companies are slowly beginning to look at this in alfalfa genetics. Small grain silages and grasses also have a huge variation on NDFD mostly relating to maturity at harvest.

by Wilson Eberly, Agri-Basics, Inc. Nutritionist