Pfizer, DuPont Pioneer Offer Feed Insights at World Dairy Expo

ANALYSIS - At World Dairy Expo, companies were looking for ways to improve consumer confidence and help producers handle high feed costs, writes Sarah Mikesell, 5m senior editor.
calendar icon 6 October 2012
clock icon 5 minute read

Gary Neubauer, DVM and senior manager Dairy Veterinary Operations at Pfizer Animal Health, said Pfizer utilizes the Dairy Wellness Plan to look at the health of the cow, the health of the dairy and the health of the food being produced on the dairy. Correct use of Pfizer products is important to producing safe, quality products which can build consumer trust and confidence.

"We go onto a dairy and look at all the issues that the producer is dealing with and evaluate animal welfare, proper use of drugs and the economics of using drugs and vaccines," he said. "We work closely with the veterinarian, nutritionist, the AI company and re-evaluate what the dairy is doing to see if there is a better way to work that will be better for the cow, increase the profitability of the dairy and help send a message to consumers that as an industry, we are doing things right."

Gary Neubauer, DVM and senior manager Dairy Veterinary Operations at Pfizer Animal Health

Should Producers Switch to Cheaper Feed?

With concerns over high feed costs, Dr. Neubauer said dairy producers are considering switching over to cheaper feeds.

"A renowned nutritionist spoke at American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) and clearly said that looking at feed costs per hundredweight is not the best way to approach this challenge. Looking at income over feed costs is the best way to go about it," he said. "If we start changing our nutrition program and cut back on our regular routine, it could reduce milk production and that could be a disaster. As long as our milk prices stay high enough, we can probably handle some of these high feed costs."

He said one route to address high feed costs is looking at genomics.

"Using the technology that's available, dairy producers are doing a great job getting cows pregnant," he said. "Now, we often have the luxury of having too many pregnant heifers, but it goes against everything we know to get rid of a pregnant heifer. So we have to look at what it costs to produce that heifer?"

Regardless of whether heifers are raised on the dairy or through a heifer raiser, he said it's about $1800 to $2100.

"It's now time to consider heifer inventory control. If you have too many heifers, how are you going to decide which ones to get rid of?" Dr. Neubauer said. "First, based on some of the long-term productivity studies, any heifer that has had a severe case of pneumonia is a questionable animal to keep. Second, many people evaluate the PTA's (parent transmitting ability) and believe cows with higher PTAs would be the ones to hold on to. However, studies show the reliability of those tests is only about 20 per cent."

When considering genomics as an alternative means to identify top performers, producers usually say they can't afford a $40 to $45 test in this depressed economy. But Neubauer said genomics testing is an investment, not a cost.

"The genomics PTA is about 65 to 70 per cent reliable - three times more reliable than a PTA," he said. "If we can identify the bottom 15 per cent that are going to be duds as far as milk production, we can pick better animals, save all those feed costs and focus on higher producing animals. Genomics is an important tool for those producers who have an extra 15 to 20 per cent of available heifers and who are willing to cull those bottom per cent of animals."

DuPont Pioneer Says Watch Variability in Feed

Bill Mahanna, global nutritional sciences manager for Dupont Pioneer, said even though Pioneer is know as a corn and soybean company, his team focuses more on forages - corn silage, alfalfa, high moisture corn and silage innoculants, while working with dairy nutritionists and producers to provide information about forage genetics and management.

"What we are hearing at World Dairy Expo is that people are concerned about the variability in their forage and feed supply this year along with the lack of inventory," Mr. Mahanna said. "Dairymen are questioning how to manage variability and how to move to higher forage diets if they do have the inventory so they can save on expensive grain in the ration."

The drought this year certainly took its toll on the corn crop, he said, and some knew yields were going to be exceptionally low. So rather than have the crop go to maturity with only 60 bu/acre or so, farmers decided to take the whole plant and capture the value of the stover as a forage source.

"There's been a lot of press about high nitrates in the silage and the possibility of aflatoxin in grain, even in the kernals in the silage, but we really haven't heard of many cases," he said. "There is a lot of variability in the feed - you could have a field with 150 bu/acre corn and the next field has 40 bu/acre and it's all being blended into one silage pile."

Mahanna expects the variability will be quite high next year which will require more frequent forage testing and then adapting cows' diets appropriately.

"Having gone through this drought experience, I think we'll get smarter about how to feed cows higher forage diets because we've got the high grain prices we are trying to offset," he said. "I know there's a lot of interest in how the Europeans feed cattle. In France, they feed a lot of forage and very little grain. In Japan, it's a similar thing - high forage, low grain."

Highlights of the World Dairy Expo Cattle Show

On Saturday, October 6, World Dairy Expo wrapped up by crowning a new Supreme Champion and Reserve Champion.

RF Goldwyn Hailey, owned by Gen-Com Holstein Ltd. of Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Conseil, Quebec, captured the Supreme Champion title of the 2012 World Dairy Expo.

Arethusa Response Vivid-ET, owned by Arethusa Farm, of Litchfield, Conn., swept her competition for the title of Reserve Supreme Champion.

Siemers Goldwyn Goldie-ET, owned by Jordan and Whitney Ebert of Algoma, Wis., was named Supreme Champion of the Junior Show.

The 2012 World Dairy Expo features over 850 dairy tradeshow exhibitors, learning seminars, virtual farm tours and a world-class dairy cattle show.

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

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