The Manager - November 2021

Why there is no such thing as colostrum quality

Vimal Selvaraj, Kasey Schalich, and Rob Lynch

Ultimately, we believe that that our results are exciting because they indicate producers do not need to measure colostrum Brix scores, or have to worry about having enough colostrum above a “cut-off” Brix score. We now know such cut offs are quite arbitrary. For the first meal we recommend just feeding four liters of colostrum. It is much better for neonatal calves than any replacement formula. Colostrum, irrespective of its Brix score, is still the finest choice for feeding calves.

Transition milk has a lot of immunoglobulins

Vimal Selvaraj, Kasey Schalich, and Rob Lynch

Antibodies in the dam’s colostrum, specifically immunoglobulins G and A, are the reason why newborn calves are able to immediately combat bacterial and viral pathogens in the environment. Based on early research, the predominant recommendation to improve calf survival rates and health has been to feed newborn calves first-milking colostrum to obtain maternal IgG.

Renewable energy options from biogas

Lauren Ray and Peter Wright

Anaerobic digestion (AD) of dairy manure and other organic material (e.g., food waste) produces biogas that can be used for renewable energy options. The options in use today include generating electricity and heat using a combined heat and power (CHP) system and producing renewable natural gas (RNG). Other systems have been proposed to work with AD or on their own; these include hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) to produce biocrude oil, pyrolysis to produce biochar, and pelletizing manure for combustion. CHP systems operating on biogas can use different prime movers, including the common reciprocating internal combustion engine, a gas turbine (e.g., microturbine), and a fuel cell. Each of these requires a level of raw biogas conditioning but can operate on the natural biogas composition of approximately 50 to 60 percent methane and 40 to 50 percent carbon dioxide that an AD produces. RNG requires more extensive biogas conditioning and compression to produce a product gas containing typically greater than 97 percent methane for use in compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles or in place of pipeline natural gas.

RNG development opportunitiesConsiderations before a contract

Jennifer Bockhahn, Lauren Ray, and Peter Wright

Working towards carbon neutral dairy farms is a notable goal. A significant and economically viable option for this is to consider the production of renewable natural gas (RNG) to offset farm methane emissions into a renewable fuel while bringing additional income to the farm. Carefully consider the relationship with the developer as both entities need to mutually benefit.

Employee compensation: Are you in the ballpark?

Richard Stup

Clearly, farm wages are well above regulatory minimum wage, even in high minimum wage states like New York. USDA’s Economic Research Service measures hourly farm wages (not benefits) twice per year. For 2020, they reported that farm wages were about 60 percent of the value of non-farm wages, up from about 50 percent in 1990. Non-farm wages, however, included both urban and rural employment. Farm wages were likely much more competitive in the rural communities where most farm jobs were found. Nevertheless, farm wages still lag behind nonfarm wages, and farm employers, especially in hot labor markets, must be conscious of the need to compete with other industries for employee talent.

Winter calf care

Lauren Augello

Keeping calves warm in winter is good for calves and good for the farm. Calves that are not cold stressed are healthier and more productive throughout their lives. If you think about the body condition of dairy calves, they don’t have a lot fat on them. They’re pretty lean with only two to four percent bodyfat. This means they don’t have much in the way of energy reserves to use if they get cold. As temperature decreases, basic maintenance requirements for the calf increase. Calves need more nutrients just to stay warm. Nutrients for growth and health are available only after the maintenance requirements are met. If there is an energy deficit, they have less energy for their immune system which then limits their ability to fight disease and simply grow. All in all, not a good scenario, but one that can be offset by management. Addressing changing nutrient requirements is crucial. The increase in nutrient requirements can sneak up on a farmer because young calves will feel the cold before we do. Calves less than three weeks of age need extra energy to keep warm when temperature is below 59°F.  That may not feel all that cold to us but it does to a calf. Calves older than three weeks need extra energy to keep warm when the temperature is below 42°F. Wind and wet conditions mean the calf must work even harder to stay warm, increasing the nutrient requirements further.