Monday, August 2, 2010

HD Notebook has a new home

The Hoard's Dairyman website was recently redesigned, and the HD Notebook blog is now incorporated into the new site. Each weekday, a new entry appears on the Hoard's Dairyman homepage. If you missed a blog posting, don't worry–the new site has all 2010 posts.

So, starting today, bookmark to get your daily dose of HD Notebook.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A starving grad student’s BLT shock

Away at college, working on a master’s degree, many of my daughter’s calls and e-mails now include personal insights into the financial "joy" of being a grown-up.

“One day you’ll appreciate the starving grad student experience and how it made you tough,” I often say, trying not to laugh. She shared her newest revelation today; it was about meat prices of all things.

“So, what’s the deal with bacon?” she asked. “I’ve had an urge for BLTs lately, so I went to the market. It’s been a while, but most of the packages were double what I remember the last time! Has something happened in the pork industry to explain these prices?”

Ah, innocence.

“Yes honey, something has happened. Remember 2008-09? That’s right, that’s when corn prices went stupid. A lot of farmers went out of business and everyone else pretty much lost their rump. Less farmers means fewer little piggies are going to market these days. In fact, USDA announced in June that total U.S. meat inventories, other than poultry, were at their lowest levels in several years.

“On top of that, foreign demand for U.S. beef and pork is way up this year which is making the situation even worse. It all adds up to more demand than supply, and I think prices are going to stay high all year long.”

“Darn,” she answered. “I guess I’ll have to wait until I come home then.”

Isn’t a kid’s love for her parents beautiful – even if part of it is because of their bacon?

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Friday, July 23, 2010

June milk production up sharply

aking the nation as a whole, milk production was up 2.4 in June compared to a year earlier. In the top 23 states, milk output was up 2.7 percent. Milk production has been on the rise since February, but the size of June's jump was unexpected.
The growth is coming in higher milk production per cow. The average cow in the U.S. produced 3.7 percent more milk in June than a year ago. There were 108,000 (1.2 percent) fewer cows in the nation this June. But there were 40,000 more cows on U.S. dairy farms in June than there were in December. The U.S. dairy herd now has 9.122 million cows, the most since August 2009.

Industry observers are looking at several factors that could be contributing to the strength in per-cow milk production. The summer of 2009 was mild in the Upper Midwest, home to a lot of cows, and there could be some carryover effect. Also, many people cut back on vitamins, minerals, and other feed additives last year when they were losing money. They found out that the cows did not milk as well; nor were they as healthy or as easy to get bred so they put some of those ingredients back in the ration. Also, many problem cows were culled rather than doctored during the toughest times, and cull cow prices have been better recently. Those who started using sexed semen two or three years ago have more first-calf heifers freshening now so they can sell off more older cows. As a result, the U.S. dairy herd generally is more healthy and younger.

June milk production was up 3.5 percent in California. There was a 6.6 percent rise in milk per cow. Milk per cow jumped 4.7 percent in Wisconsin. With 5,000 more cows (+0.4 percent), Wisconsin milk output was up 5.1 percent in June. New York was up 0.2 percent. Idaho cow numbers were up 10,000 (1.8 percent), and milk production was up 3.5 percent. Michigan was a big gainer being up 4.7 percent with a big jump in milk per cow. Missouri experienced an 8 percent (9,000 head) drop in cow numbers and was down 5.4 percent in milk production.

Despite the milk production report last Monday, cheese prices on the Chicago Merc edged upward. On Tuesday, blocks added 2-1/4 cents a pound to move up to $1.60. Then blocks added another 1/4 cent yesterday.

Meanwhile, the average July through December Class III futures price went from $14.66 on Monday, before the announcement, to $14.63 on Tuesday to $14.64 yesterday. These are lower futures prices than any of us would like to see, but they did not react much to the June milk production report.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture dies unexpectedly

Wisconsin agriculture lost a dedicated leader and advocate on Wednesday, July 21, when Rod Nilsestuen, the state's ag secretary, passed away unexpectedly. Nilsestuen drowned in Lake Superior while in Marquette, Mich., during a vacation trip to volunteer with his church for Habitat for Humanity. Rod and his wife, Carol, lived in De Forest, Wis., where for the past 13 years they led interdenominational Habitat for Humanity teams and were active in a number of youth, church, and school programs.

During the past eight years as Wisconsin's Secretary of Ag, Nilsestuen was instrumental in working with other government leaders to have the Wisconsin legislature pass investment credits which led to major reinvestment in Wisconsin's dairy industry. The state's dairy farms are now producing the most milk in state history, and cheese plants are likewise producing the most cheese in recorded history.

Additionally, Nilsestuen was instrumental in working with and helping pass the Livestock Siting Legislation which gave the state's dairy farmers predictability when working with zoning officials and other government agencies. Long-term, his lasting legacy might be the unfolding story with the Working Lands Initiative which is protecting Wisconsin's best farmland for future generations.

Prior to joining state government, Nilsestuen was president and CEO of the former Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives which is a statewide association for more than 700 rural and urban cooperatives. In 1985, he led the creation of the Wisconsin Development Council, a first of its kind entity dedicated to providing technical assistance for cooperative growth. This led to the formation of the Rural Cooperative Development Task Force, a nationwide advocacy effort which Rod served as founding chairman. In the end, the Task Force spearheaded the creation of the Cooperative Grants program at USDA, the first major new federal reinvestment in co-op development in over two decades.

Nilsestuen also was instrumental in the creation of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and served as its initial general manager during its first six months of operation. He helped organize the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board and the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

So simple, but not easy

The job of the milker to keep teats clean and dry to prevent infection is a daily battle on every farm; yet the task is simple in thought. Today at the Hoard’s Dairyman Farm, a Hispanic milker training was held to relay that message in a way attendees could understand thoroughly. The event was organized by Vita Plus. Veterinarian Doug Braun of Pfizer shared with the group the basics of how and where milk is produced, the causes of mastitis, as well as proper procedures. Braun spoke in duo with a translator from Vi-Cor who relayed his entire message in Spanish.
Keeping teats clean was repeated over and over to the event’s attendees. “It is so simple, but it isn’t easy,” Braun said. Using a white rubbing alcohol swab at the bottom of teats, Braun explained how easily dirt can accumulate on teats and get into the udder. “Bacteria isn’t a runner, isn’t a walker, but it is a great swimmer,” he said regarding the ideal environment inside the udder for bacteria to grow and flourish once it has entered the teat. He also shared the importance of preparation to milking speed. “Just placing the milker on without prepping the teats can slow down milking by as much as 25 percent,” said Braun.

The highlight of the meeting for many was likely the dissection of two udders. Braun sliced teats lengthwise to illustrate the size and thickness of teats and the streak canal. He also demonstrated how dry cow tubes should be administered. One common misconception that Braun shared with the group was the depth at which dry cow tubes should be inserted. While most tubes come with a roughly 1.5-inch end, it is only necessary to insert the tip of the tube roughly .25 inche into the teat to dispense the treatment.After cutting the teat completely off, attendees could view just how many large blood vessels are directed towards the teat end. Then cutting into the udder tissue itself, we could see where milk-producing alveoli cells are found (see photo).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Canadian dairy producers set a world record

Dairy Farmers of Canada, partnering with Canadian processors from across the country, announced it officially set a new world record. On July 8, 2010, they broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest smoothie at the Bust-a-Record Dairy Day celebration held in Toronto, Canada.

The 264-gallon smoothie was made from all Canadian ingredients. It consisted of 145.5 gallons of 100 percent Canadian milk, 660 pounds of frozen blueberries, 39 gallons of vanilla yogurt, and 9.2 gallons of honey. The mixture was blended in a 317-gallon stainless steel bolt tank by a team of leading Canadian dairy producers.

President of Dairy Farmers of Canada, Jacques Laforge, noted, “Setting a new Guinness World Record with the All-Canadian Blueberry Smoothie is a wonderful way to celebrate our Canadian dairy producers and the purity, high quality, and great taste of dairy products made from 100 percent Canadian milk.”

Booster Juice in London, Ontario, with a 179-gallon smoothie, held the previous record. The Dairy Farmers of Canada bested this by approximately 90 gallons.

For more information and the All-Canadian Blueberry Smoothie recipe, visit

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reading the latest CWT tea leaves

Now that the dust is settling a week after results of the 10th and most recent Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) Herd Retirement were announced, let’s look at what they might say about dairy producers and the state of dairying.

Of 209 bids submitted, 194 were accepted. They accounted for 34,442 cows and 653.9 million pounds of milk production per year, which is equal to about one-third of the total output in Illinois.

One thing that sticks out is the relatively low participation rate. One hundred and ninety-four herds is the fewest in all but three previous retirement rounds. This may be due as much to the $3.75 per hundredweight maximum bid limit imposed, as to the return to modest profitability that most dairies are enjoying in 2010.

Along with the low participation rate were commensurately low removal totals for both cows and milk production. Only the CWT removals held in early 2008 and in 2003 were smaller.

Sifting through the tea leaves reveals that cows taken in the latest herd retirement were mediocre for milk production. In 2009, average production for all cows in the U.S. was 20,576 pounds. By comparison, average production for all cows accepted into CWT round 10 averaged just 18,986 pounds.

One possibility is that herds submitted were not highly efficient, or were unable to maintain production during the financial meltdown in 2009. They were, however, of roughly average size at 178 head. Average U.S. herd size in 2009 was 170.

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