Stress and the Dairy Cow

Stress and the Dairy Cow

INTRODUCTION

A Google Search for the term “stress” will bring up a variety of articles. If these publications are true, a lot of people are feeling stressed, including: couples planning weddings, couples getting divorced, school teachers, retirees, poor people, wealthy people, employed and unemployed people, and many others! When it comes to people, stress is a hot topic and everyone is looking for ways to manage stress they experience. Even though articles on stress are commonplace, most, surprisingly, do not define stress. Scientists who study stress tell us it is “an organism’s response to a perceived threat” and they refer to the threat as a stressor. For example, if you hit your thumb with a hammer, the pain you feel is the stressor. The complex response to that pain (including elevated heart rate, swelling, and later, increased susceptibility to infections) is the stress. So if we want to manage the stress in our lives we need to consider both the stressor (the threat) and the stress (the body’s response to the stressor). The stress response is similar for humans and animals, including dairy cattle. Stressors can be physical (for example: a back injury in a farmer; high temperature-humidity index in dairy cows) or psychological (learning of a new, lower milk price by a farmer; moving to a new pen for a dairy cow).

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Pine Valley Farm

Pine Valley Farm

Family farms in Vermont come in all varieties and sizes, but there aren’t many that can boast the pedigree of the Pine Valley Farm in Shrewsbury.

Standing in the kitchen of her 1800s farmhouse, Julanne Smith Sharrow is proudly displaying a genealogical chart she’s ingeniously clipped to a coat hanger. The poster-sized paper is crowded with the neatly written record of several centuries of family history, including John (the Miller) Smith, who is recorded in 1640 as one of the earliest settlers of Rhode Island.

“It holds fifteen generations and it’s still not enough,” she says of the chart, turning the hanger to indicate where the back of a second page accommodates more ancestors. “This is what I’ve been working on for twenty years. I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it.”

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Perspectives Spring 2018 Issue Now Available!

Perspectives Spring 2018 Issue Now Available!

The Spring 2018 issue of Perspectives Magazine is now available, brought to you by Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition.

Our featured farm this issue is Pine Valley Farm in Shrewsbury, Vermont; a family farm that dates back seven generations. Be sure to check out our other great stories, including technical articles from leading experts in the field. Read the digital edition here or sign up to get future updates delivered straight to your inbox.
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New Conversations About Tile Drainage

New Conversations About Tile Drainage

The weather has always been a fickle, adversarial wild card for farmers, and as climate change makes extreme events more common and less predictable, the development of adaptive strategies has become ever more important. In the Northeast, recent years have seen an increase in flooding and persistent rain that leave fields saturated just as the planting season is getting underway.

Farmers with heavier soils and high clay content are particularly vulnerable to these adverse conditions. Many are turning to tile drainage as a solution for not only draining excess water from existing crop lands, but also for transforming previously unusable land into properly drained fields that are ready for planting.

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Perspectives Winter 2018 Issue Now Available!

Perspectives Winter 2018 Issue Now Available!

The Winter 2018 issue of Perspectives Magazine is now available, brought to you by Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition.

This issue, we visit Dunajski Dairy in Peabody, MA; a family-owned farm that has thrived for over a hundred years. As always, you will also find tips and technical articles from industry experts. Read the digital edition here or sign up to get future updates delivered straight to your inbox.
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Cow and Fetal Programming: The Functional Role of Methionine

Cow and Fetal Programming: The Functional Role of Methionine

It is understandable how proteins—or more specifically amino acids–impact milk production, since they make up a portion of the milk protein fraction. When the supply of amino acids is inadequate, we observe not only lower milk protein yield, but also milk fat yield and milk volume suffer. However, we are now learning that simply thinking of amino acids in terms of milk production is taking a fairly narrow view of these multifunctional nutrients. A wider lens takes into consideration the cow’s metabolic need for dietary amino acids beyond serving as building blocks for proteins. Functional amino acids are those amino acids that participate in and regulate key metabolic pathways to improve health, growth, development, and reproduction, in addition to lactation.
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Champlain Valley Water Coalition: What Local Farmers are Doing to Improve Vermont’s Waterways

Champlain Valley Water Coalition: What Local Farmers are Doing to Improve Vermont’s Waterways

At the top of a rise on the Monkton Road in Ferrisburgh, Vermont, the main facilities of Allandra Farm sit at the hub of a patchwork quilt of majestic fields and pastures. At the center of its activity is CEO, Alan Brisson, managing an operation that has grown over the years to roughly 900 Holsteins and 2,300 acres. He has a long history in the area and is in his 43rd year of farming, but on this late-summer day he’s not thinking much about the past.

At a quieter spot a few miles down the road, he’s spending some time with his prizewinning herd of 130 Brown Swiss; and he’s thinking about the future of Vermont’s dairy farms in an era of increased regulation. “For 30 years, there wasn’t that much coming out of Montpelier that was affecting us,” he says, “but in the last six or seven years there’s been a ton.”

Much of it centers around agriculture’s impact on Lake Champlain and other watersheds around the state, an issue many producers have been working to address for years; but for those grappling with known variables in everything from rainfall to milk prices, keeping up with the latest legislation and the state’s Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) is an added challenge to what already feels like a precarious way of life. In Brisson’s opinion, the stakes for farmers are high, and he’s direct in expressing his view of the risk.
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Perspectives Fall 2017 Issue Now Available!

Perspectives Fall 2017 Issue Now Available!

The Fall 2017 edition of Perspectives Magazine is here! As always, Perspectives is brought to you by Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition!

We take a look at the Champlain Valley Water Coalition—learn about what Vermont farmers are doing to improve the waterways. This issue is also jam packed with lots of excellent tips and technical articles from industry experts. Read the digital edition here or sign up to get future updates delivered straight to your inbox.
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All in a Day’s Work: Life Lessons from Pleasant Valley Farms’ Herdsmen Chris Lourie & Jeff Grennon

All in a Day’s Work: Life Lessons from Pleasant Valley Farms’ Herdsmen Chris Lourie & Jeff Grennon

“I start at 5 a.m.”

“I’m usually here at 5:30.”

Chris Lourie and Jeff Grennon are used to early mornings and the 12 to 14 hour workday. As herdsmen for Pleasant Valley Farms in Richford, Vermont, they’re responsible for the health of the dairy’s 3,000 cows. Forget sit-down lunch breaks. They eat while walking through the barns.

“I average between 11 ½ and 13 miles a day, walking,” Chris says. “And that’s just inside the barn.” He motions to a tracking app on his phone.

“25,000…35,000 steps,” Jeff adds. “I had a Fitbit in my pocket for awhile. Then I lost it. Just as well!” Both men laugh.

Sitting in a break room at the farm—so far north in Vermont you can see the Canadian border on the horizon—the herdsmen pause during their busy Saturday morning for an interview with Phoenix Feeds. Chris, in a ball cap and Carhartt vest, rocks back and forth in a chair. Jeff, in coveralls with his name in cursive on the pocket, drums a tabletop. The pair are fidgety—perhaps guiltily so. They’re not used to being off their feet.

When asked to talk about what they do on a daily basis, they visibly relax. At 54 years old—they’re the same age—both men have had long careers in the dairy industry, respectively. They’re experts in this subject.
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Feed Center: Design for Your Management Style

Feed Center: Design for Your Management Style

Layout and design of your feed center can save you more money, or cost you more money, depending on your operation. There are many different ways to build a feed center that will work for you. You have to decide what type best fits your management style. Maybe a fully automated system is best suited to your management capabilities to allow you to feed with minimal labor. Or, you may want to have a feed center that has little to no mechanization, other than a loader and a mixer. Another way may be to use a combination of the best features of both to maximize your feeding operation’s efficiency. Studies have shown that as tons of feed per labor hour increase, typically the cost per ton to deliver the feed decreases, which means the layout and design is critical to the overall efficiency of your dairy’s feeding operation by having the feedstuffs as close to the loading area as possible. Do your homework on feed center design and layout before you pour concrete and can’t change it. Go visit as many different feed centers as you can, and ask the operator’s thoughts on each type of feed center visited. You can take the best ideas from several and incorporate them into one that best suits your operation. To give you an idea of the possible designs, find generalized layouts for the three types below.

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