Researchers from the University of Vermont and their collaborators are collecting (anonymized) information about how health insurance policies and programs affect farmers and their farming operation. If you’d like to increase their sample size and help contribute to the development of policy recommendations and training materials, the survey can be found here. Additional information about the survey, part of a project called Health Insurance, Rural Economic Development and Agriculture, can be found here.
Instruction and hands-on practice in artificial insemination in cattle will be offered in fall and winter. Classes will be held on campus at Oregon State University, with Shelby Filley and Adrienne Lulay as instructors. Indicate your interest in attending by filling out this form for the waiting list. (AI school is popular!) The exact dates are yet to be determined.
About 60 people took part in the clicker survey during the 2017 Oregon Dairy Farmers Association’s Annual Meeting (thank you!). If you’re curious about the results, read on. (Note that not every person answered every question. Also, the duller demographic results are not shown here.)
With regard to who was in the room and their primary roles on or off the farm, we have these results:
Here we have preferences for learning new information:
For those of you who are interested to see what your fellow ODFA members are interested in learning more about, here are the topics surveyed:
OSU Forage Management Series (Five parts)
Each part consists of an evening classroom presentation at the Oldfield Animal Teaching Facility on the OSU campus, followed by a morning field practical at a local outdoor location.
Class meets Wednesdays (6 – 8:30 pm) and Thursdays (10 – noon). Topics for each month are:
- April 19 & 20 – Farm and Forage Assessment
- May 24 & 25 – Harvest Management
- June 28 & 29 – Irrigation
- August 16 and 17 – Fertility
- September 20 and 21 – Renovation Techniques
Pre-registration and a $30 fee per part (or a discounted price of $120 for five) per ranch is required. Registration coming soon at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/linn/. If you do not have Internet access, stop by or call the Linn Co. (541-967-3871) or Benton Co. (541-766-6750) OSU Extension Offices for instructions.
Speakers will be Shelby Filley, David Hannaway, Serkan Ates, Gene Pirelli, and Troy Downing, plus other OSU faculty and local experts.
This series will focus on a “project ranch” that we work on together, including site visits and on-line document sharing and blog. The project ranch will be the Wilson Farm, the OSU sheep facility with sheep and cattle grazing the pastures. You can also work on your own ranch as a side project if desired. The objective of the series is to improve knowledge about managing forage on properties in the Willamette Valley.
We know that hornless cattle are safer for people, their herdmates, and themselves. Unfortunately, the combination of polledness and elite genes for other, more critical traits (like milk yield and productive life) don’t often appear in the same animals. We could spend several decades using polled sires to introgress the POLLED allele (allele = version of a gene) into the broader dairy population, but we would sacrifice gains in other traits, because along with the POLLED allele, the calves would get other stretches of less desirable DNA. (However, the nice thing about the POLLED allele is that it’s dominant, meaning that only one POLLED allele is required. At that same location on the other paired chromosome, there can be the horned allele, but we would still have a polled cow.)
You may have heard of gene editing, particularly with a system called CRISPRs. These CRISPR molecules can be introduced into target cells and are capable of recognizing a particular stretch of DNA and cutting at that location. If pieces of DNA containing the desired sequence for that location (e.g., the POLLED sequence) are made available to the cell at the same time, the cell’s DNA repair machinery will use that “new” DNA to repair the break in the chromosome. Voila! That repaired chromosome now contains the DNA sequence we want at that location, instead of the sequence that was originally there.
This type of gene editing has been successfully done in cattle embryos. In this case, the researchers used a more primitive version of CRISPRs called TALENs, but they do the same thing. In embryonic cells from horned cattle, the targeted section of DNA on chromosome 1 was replaced with the POLLED DNA sequence. In this proof-of-concept experiment, clones were created from these cells. And they grew no horns! The rest of the DNA in these animals remained the same as it was in the original genetic source, only the horned/polled location was altered. The two bulls produced (pictured above) will be used in breeding experiments to confirm that their offspring will also be polled.
This precise gene editing technique could be used to introduce polledness into elite dairy sires. In one generation, we could nearly eliminate the need to dehorn/disbud calves. That’s assuming there are no regulatory setbacks regarding the gene editing technology. (Ah, the potential sticking point.)
If you’d like some additional explanation accompanied by video of the polled bulls—currently residing at UC Davis—Science Friday has that here. The paper can be found here on page 479 (Carlson et al. 2016 Nature Biotechnology 34:479-481). I’ve glossed over some of the details, so if you’d like any additional explanation, please post a question via the “Leave a reply” link or email me.
Cattle, like people, can get vitamin D from food and from exposure to the sun. Specifically, vitamin D2 is acquired from plants, while vitamin D3 is synthesized by cells in sun-exposed skin. Vitamin D availability within the body is often measured as the concentration of 25(OH)D in the blood (serum). 25(OH)D is a product of metabolism of both vitamins D2 and D3. With summer sun exposure and no exogenous vitamin D, cows will have 40-100 ng/mL serum 25(OH)D. For cows without the opportunity to graze out on the range all summer, alfalfa hay can provide pretty significant amounts of vitamin D2, and even corn silage contains some. Additionally, vitamin-mineral supplement mixes usually contain vitamin D3, which is metabolized more efficiently than D2.
In a study published last year (full citation below), the investigators compared various management practices with 25(OH)D levels across several herds. Levels of vitamin D in the cows and heifers looked pretty good: all herds had 25(OH)D averages above 30 ng/mL, which is considered the minimum for vitamin D sufficiency. However, the herd that was supplementing at only 20,000 IU/day (rather than the 30,000-50,000 IU/day of the others) did have 22% of their cows below that sufficiency threshold.
The situation for calves in this study wasn’t quite so rosy. Now, newborn calf levels of serum 25(OH)D are typically much lower than in older animals—in this study they averaged 15 ng/mL. In the six herds examined, 25% of newborn calves had serum 25(OH)D concentrations below 10 ng/mL. If left uncorrected, these calves in particular could suffer impaired health. If we look at the figure below, we see distinct differences across farms as the calves age. (We’re looking exclusively at the pre-alfalfa-eating stage here.) Spring/summer sun exposure or supplemental vitamin D in the diet would seem to make a significant difference in a calf’s vitamin D level.
Given that vitamin D is associated with growth, development, and immune function, this nutrient is required starting with a calf’s first days. Most milk replacers contain adequate vitamin D. If raising calves on milk, one should provide supplemental vitamin D3 at a rate of 6000-10,000 IU/kg of dry matter. Additionally, giving calves a 50,000-100,000 IU bolus of vitamin D3 at birth may also be helpful.
(Before initiating a new treatment or nutrition regimen, you should consult your veterinarian/nutritionist.)
The OSU Dairy Club’s biannual Beaver Classic Sale is Saturday, February 4. The silent auction and dinner start at 5:30 pm with the sale to follow at 7 pm. Proceeds from the events will go to support the Dairy Club activities and its future industry leaders.
The sale catalog can be found here.
Location: Oldfield Animal Facility – 35th Street and SW Campus Way in Corvallis.
Questions: Contact Mitch Evers at email@example.com or call (503) 758-6695.
Being prepared for subfreezing weather is key to getting farm chores done safely and effectively. (In addition to getting to the farm!) While this short article was written for South Dakota’s harsh winters, the author’s point about newer employees who may never have lived and worked through cold weather is useful for us, too. The article includes a link to a Spanish/English brochure about winter preparedness.
Dystocia (difficulty calving) is hard on a cow, especially when the calf (or calves, blasted twins!) has to be pulled. That trauma to the reproductive tract can cause pain and inflammation that can last for several days. As we know, cows that don’t feel good often don’t spend as much time at the feed bunk, and cows that eat less than they should, make less milk than they could. When we humans feel achy, we often take an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, like ibuprofen). Maybe we should do the same for our cows around calving?
In a study just published in the January 2017 Journal of Dairy Science, the investigators gave flunixin meglumine (Banamine®) immediately precalving and then again 18-36 hours later. As it turned out, that was a bad idea! The precalving dose was discontinued after the first week of the study (72 animals) because the treated group had 26% stillbirths vs. 5% in the control group. For the rest of the study (~1200 animals) the treatment group only received doses of flunixin at ~1 hour and ~24 hours post calving. The results: through 14 days in milk, cows treated with flunixin produced significantly less milk (3.5 lbs./day) than the untreated cows. Additionally, flunixin-treated cows had an increased likelihood of retained placenta. Bottom line: it is inadvisable to give periparturient cows flunixin meglumine (Banamine®).
So are there other NSAIDs that could help out cows after calving?
A few years ago, the same research group looked at meloxicam as a pain reliever for cows that had needed assistance calving. Animals in the treatment group received a single injection of meloxicam approximately 24 hours after calving. They found that meloxicam-treated cows had the same dry matter intake and milk production as their untreated herdmates. The treated cows did spend a little more time at the feed bunk, which may indicate that the NSAID was reducing pain.
The post-calving use of ketoprofen was explored in a study published in 2009. Each cow received a dose of ketoprofen as soon as possible after calving and then a second 24 hours later. Treated cows tended to have fewer cases of retained placenta than control cows, but the difference was quite small. Ketoprofen treatment did not result in a difference in early-lactation milk yield or subsequent fertility. So like meloxicam, ketoprofen doesn’t seem harmful (unlike flunixin), but it’s probably not particularly helpful either.
Something simpler than an NSAID?
Interestingly, an older study (1997) found that ingestion of amniotic fluid at calving seemed to have a pain-dampening effect. That study was prompted by similar findings in rats. Allowing a cow to lick her baby clean may have benefits beyond a dry and stimulated calf.
Future investigations into pain relief for calving, especially dystocia, will hopefully give us more effective options for getting our cows feeling better quickly.
(Before initiating a new treatment regimen, be sure to consult your veterinarian and observe any drug use restrictions.)