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Peruse practical information for the dairy producer on essential topics including management, A.I. and breeding, new technology, and feed and nutrition.

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A few years back, I was working on a big project. I needed to plant 120 acres of triticale for a dairyman. I got everything greased, lubed and fueled up the night before and thought I was all ready to go. The next morning I was up early and out in the field working. I noticed that I wasn’t sitting square in the seat, but I thought it was just me.

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If you’re in the dairy business, you’ve no doubt seen the grim results of an acute case of coliform mastitis. The fever; hot, painful udder swelling; grossly abnormal milk; lack of appetite; and shock-like symptoms are difficult to watch and even harder to forget. Often, severe cases like this lead to loss of a quarter, at best; and loss of the animal, at worst.

We tend to think of these sporadic cases as the only instances in which we deal with coliform mastitis. But, in fact, about half of all clinical cases are caused by noncontagious environmental organisms, including E. coli, Klebsiella and Enterobacter, which fall together under the umbrella of coliform or gram-negative mastitis.

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For many dairy farmers, 2009 was a difficult winter in many parts of the country. Snow in December, along with additional storms and extreme cold temperatures, left dairy farmers numerous obstacles to deal with. One of those obstacles is hoof care and lameness. All too often lameness is an underlying issue robbing dairy farmers of profits. It is estimated that every lame cow on a dairy farm costs between $300 and $400 due to lost production, decreased reproductive efficiency and cost of treatment.

Research by Dr. Nigel Cook at the University of Wisconsin – Madison showed that January, February and March are the months where lameness caused by infectious lesions is most prevalent (Figure 1). Dr. Cook tracked lameness in ten Wisconsin dairy herds for a 12-month period.

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1510pd_scholz_1There’s an old saying in horse racing circles. “No hoof, no horse.” It refers to the simple truth that even the fastest, strongest and most well-bred colt can’t run if he’s not sound.

Dairy cows aren’t runners or even particularly athletic, but the same phrase could easily be modified to “No foot, no cow” to describe the impact lameness has on dairy cattle performance. Although that wouldn’t be completely accurate because lameness can hobble bulls too, adding them to the list of “physically unable to perform” animals.

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A one-size-fits-all fly control plan for all dairies doesn’t exist. Each dairy has its own unique facilities and management, and each fly management program will have to be individually designed to meet the dairy’s specific needs. However, the one overall item that will generally result in the largest economic return for your investment is effective sanitation.

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