Dairy Day details new standards, farm issues
Producers describe improvements made through federal programs
Dairy producers heard details on new government regulations on farms, how to deal with a labor shortage and making farm improvements using an incentives program during the 51st annual Monett Dairy Day, held Tuesday at the Monett National Guard Armory.
Dairy Day is a joint project by the Monett Chamber of Commerce and the University of Missouri Extension Service. Barry County dairy specialist Reagan Bluel served as the moderator and one of the speakers.
Bluel opened the program by reviewing some of the details in the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program, created by the National Milk Producers Federation in partnership with Dairy Management Inc. As an effort to ensure the success of the dairy industry, FARM has developed an Animal Care Version 4.0, setting up farm audits.
“Grade A dairy farms in Missouri typically market their milk through cooperatives which require Farm 4.0 compliance,” Bluel said. “These requirements focus around for major points: animal care, environmental stewardship, anabiotic stewardship and work force development. The National Milk Producers Federation drafted the FARM 4.0 requirements with assistance from American Association of Bovine Practitioners to ensure farm practices align with today’s consumer requests.”
Most co-ops nationwide endorse Farm 4.0, which ensures the majority of milk produced in the U.S. have uniform principles. Producers who fail to meet the standards will receive a conditional certification and must meet the terms of a Mandatory Corrective Action Plan or a Continuous Improvement Plan within 60 days.
Bluel provided handouts, including bio-security sheets, detailing how the program works.
Bluel said forms are available in an extensive library on nationaldairyfarm.com. She urged producers to start there for research and offered to make herself available to review protocols with local producers.
“Most of the requirements are exactly what dairy producers do every day anyway, they just simply are asking for a formal document stating those facts.” Bluel said. “As producers work through these complex forms, we encourage them to reach out to MU extension or their local co-op leader for assistance if needed.”
Joe Horner, MU agriculture economist, spoke about finding labor to work on the farm. With the lowest unemployment since wartime, Horner said, finding people with skills that used to be common in any rural county is now a scarcity.
“Farm labor is really tight,” Horner said. “Scarcity makes this a good time to sharpen your skills on farmland management.”
Horner handed out copies of a 43-page Missouri Farm Labor Guide, produced by the University of Missouri Extension Service. The document provided resources to help attract, retain, manage and integrate farm employees to help farmers “keep the good ones and terminate the bad ones legally.”
A panel of dairy producers from four different counties described their operations and how Farm Bill funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentives (EQUIP) program and others through the Natural Resources Conservation Service helped improve their facilities.
Producers talked about different programs they enrolled in which shared the cost of construction. Facilities constructed included a free stall barn, pack barn, feed floor and grazing system.
All cost-share facilities are constructed to create a more sustainable system, allowing for the controlled distribution of nutrients around the farm.
“When I hauled out my pack barn, I put it all on my corn field. Very little commercial fertilizer was needed,” said David Gunter, of Conway.
“When we moved the cows into the freestall barn, we gained 10 pounds of milk per cow per day,” said Virgil McDonald, a dairy producer in Stone County.
McDonald added his cows have maintained the production increase three years later. Additionally, reduced feed wastage helps cut feed cost, the highest cost of production for dairies.
Kenlee Calvin, of Mount Vernon, shared his experience with the implementation of many grazing practices. He specifically praised the heavy use lane, fencing, water line distribution and seeding programs.
All producers on the panel shared financials with the meeting attendees. The cost share covered 80-100 percent of all project expenses for all the panelists.
“These four producers represent only a few that I’ve worked with that have had a positive experience with cost share programs through the farm bill,” Bluel said. “Although the process can be cumbersome, you walk away having Created lasting facilities to ensure sustainable production in the future.”
Kary Crumpler, local hoof trimmer, concluded the program with a hands-on demonstration of how to address digital dermatitis, which commonly manifests itself in heal warts on cows. Crumpler said problems arise from a lack of circulation in the hooves, which tends to make them thin, not soft.
Crumpler had a table full of hooves from cows, showing various problems. A key to prevention comes from disrupting the bacteria, which will spread. Simple steps, such as rotating lanes at the drop-off to the concrete, can disrupt incubation.
He recommended having cows walk through a foot bath of formaldehyde of 6 to 8 percent, 6 inches deep and 10 feet long. For a good outcome, Crumpler advised washing fee before the bath. Cows with inflamed feet will resist the bath because the chemical smarts. He advised treating those cows for foot rot first. A fever in a cow will always show up in the feet first, he declared.
Using copper sulfate can also help prevent problems. Crumpler noted cows can get rocks imbedded in their hooves that also cause problems that a good hoof trimmer can sometimes remove. Early in his career, he said he found one cow with 13 rocks in a hoof.
Crumpler said in 18 years, he had never seen hoof problems due to feed. Many sources of nutrition are available. Problems usually develop in late summer, largely due to heat stress. He cautioned farmers to never use a grinder on hooves, which can cause permanent damage resulting in an animal having to be put down. He uses a hoof knife. He cautioned two weeks of swelling can cause permanent damage. Infection in the tendon or pedal bone can shorten lactation by two years.
Approximately 40 dairy producers attended the annual conference. The Monett Chamber provided lunch.