Fluid Milk Is Cool Again

The demand for fluid milk has been dropping for many years. Consumers have moved toward other beverages that can offer convenience, better flavor, certain health characteristics or any number of demands. With 34% of the milk produced in the U.S. ending up as fluid milk on grocery shelves, it’s important to identify ways to turn this category around.

A recent study by Rabobank suggests that those fluid milk products that can differentiate themselves from regular, commodity milk are turning the demand curve upward. During a recent conversation with Chip Flory on AgriTalk, Tom Bailey, senior dairy analyst with Rabobank, shed light on this new trend.

“Consumers have changed. A lot are looking for something new, exciting and different. They are looking to make an impression. When someone looks in their fridge, they want to make a statement,” Bailey said. “The milk brands haven’t adjusted along with consumers. Where we have seen differentiation we’ve seen some big wins. Brands that [offer a premium experience] are not only are getting margins back into their returns, but they are selling more. It shows that if brands are willing to innovate and reinvest, there are some low hanging fruit there.”

In addition to more premium products, whole milk continues to be the only conventional milk category that is growing.

“Anything skimmed is declining, and that’s what consumers have been buying,” Bailey said. “They like whole milk – it tastes better, has better mouth feel and is generally preferred. Nutritionally it’s good for you so people are coming back to it.”

While there are opportunities for dairies to take advantage of local market, it’s not without risk, Bailey warns. Setting up your own bottling plant, or working out an arrangement with a local bottler, takes a lot of investing and follow through in order to win. But, Bailey says, consumers like that “red barn effect” where consumers want to get back in touch with the farm and farming culture.

“Local milk is coming back around. People want milk that tastes good,” Bailey says. “When you’re able to control the supply chain a little bit more and have solids control you can have a product that not only speaks from the local standpoint from the taste standpoint too.”

Still, milk brands that offer some point of difference from conventional private label milks have been winning in the marketplace.

“Long term that could be great for commodity prices,” Bailey said. “Short term it will take investing and realignment with the consumer to get there.”

Open House for ag producers

We welcome agriculture producers to visit our Open House and learn how Cooperative Extension and the UDairy Creamery are partnering to offer seminars in Value- Added Dairy and Agriculture Products. (photo by TheAlexGuide, creative commons/flickr.com)

NEWARK, Del. — We welcome agriculture producers to visit our Open House and learn how Cooperative Extension and the UDairy Creamery are partnering to offer seminars in Value- Added Dairy and Agriculture Products.

Our first session will be held August 21, 2019 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Genaurdi Food Innovation Lab located at the UDCreamery located behind Townsend Hall in Newark.

To RSVP, please email mlit@udel.edu or call 302-831-1364

Future sessions include Food Safety Planning, Pasteurization, Marketing your Ag Product, Cheese Fermen- tation & more! While you visit, please take the opportunity to tell us your interests and needs by filling out our survey. Light refreshments and UDairy Creamery product samples available.

Please park behind Townsend Hall and enter through the rear entrance of Worrilow Hall. 529 S. College Ave. Newark, DE.

Silage Harvest Starts with Planning

August is the time to start planning and making arrangements for silage harvest. It’s also a good time to bring the team together and make a checklist of what needs to be done to ensure nothing gets missed, said Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator at The Ohio State University.

Starter checklist:

  • Speak to harvesting team or custom harvester
  • Check the chopper to ensure it’s in excellent working condition
  • Line up equipment, including hauling trucks or wagons and packing tractors
  • Make sure there are enough properly trained people on-hand to use equipment
  • Have pile covering materials ready for use

Monitor Moisture

“With corn silage harvest, you’ve got one shot to get it right and you’ll be using that silage for about a year, maybe longer,” he said. “It’s so important to get dry matter content right because if you don’t, you’re going to really struggle.”

Ideally, target 35% dry matter (DM) for all your silage, but the range is 32% to 38% DM. There are some issues if silage is harvested too wet or dry, but if you must err, Lewandowski recommends harvesting wetter rather than running too dry.

“Typically, corn silage dries down about ½ percentage point of moisture each day. Last year, we ran into a warm streak and were at ¾ percentage point a day, so it went from ‘not quite ready’ to ‘should have harvested yesterday’ very quickly,” he said. “So, you’ve got to monitor daily.”

Length of Cut

Length of cut is critical to fiber digestibility. While fine, small pieces make for easy packing and exclusion of oxygen, they don’t make effective fibers in the ration or the rumen.

“If you’re not using a kernel processor, the theoretical length of cut should be set at ¼ inch to ½ inch,” he explained. “But if you are using a kernel processor, it helps to increase the availability of starch, so we cut a little bit longer at ¾ inch. Those who are shredding the whole plant length-wise can cut bigger pieces – up to 1 inch.”


There are two types of inoculants to consider:

  1. Lactic acid – if in past years you’ve struggled to get a good fermentation, use a lactic acid bacteria at the point of chopping. It helps produce more acetic acid and drops the pH.
  2. Lactobacillus buchneri – If you’ve had problems in the past with feed out and spoilage, then consider adding a L. buchneri inoculant. It helps to increase the stability of silage. It also boosts your acetic acid, which works on spoilage organisms to like yeast and mold, especially as you open the face up.

“There are a lot of good inoculants on the market. Do your research,” he advised. “Also, make sure you use enough and be cognizant that these are living organisms. Don’t use chlorinated water and watch the water temperature.”

Excluding Oxygen

“Oxygen and air are the enemy of silage,” he said. “Packing helps us to exclude it, but a lot of producers have a hard time measuring it. The goal is to have a density 42 to 45 pounds per ft3 of silage as its delivered to the bunker silo. On a DM basis, that’s a density of 14 to 16 pounds per ft3.”

To get there requires having enough weight to pack and packing in a timely manner. A few tips:

  • For every ton of silage, you need 800 pounds of weight for packing. If delivering silage at 50 tons per hour, multiply that times 800, and it tells you 40,000 pounds of packing or 20 tons of tractors (or packing equipment) are needed for packing
  • Never put down more than a 6-inch to 8-inch layer
  • Pack that well
  • Apply another 6-inch to 8-inch layer

The goal is to harvest quickly. Once you’re done, it’s critical to cover the silo as soon as possible to keep oxygen out and protect it from the elements.

“In recent years, research on a two-step covering product where they have the oxygen barrier sealing and a regular piece of plastic over the top has shown to help with fermenting high-quality silage,” Lewandowski said. “Research has shown that putting plastic on the inside wall of your bunker silo can help to increase the quality of that silage as well.”

Once covered, seal it either using bags with weights or cut tires that are touching one another. If you’re bagging silage, make sure it’s packed tightly but consider leaving the end open for a day to release some of the air and gas, then seal it up tight, he noted.

Safety Tips

  • Big equipment visibility is often very limited, so always keep children away from the area.
  • Plan a pre-harvest meeting with silage crew and farm employees, especially those not directly involved in the silage process to share what’s going to be happening to minimize their risk.
  • Don’t pack silage above walls.

Open House for Ag Producers at UDairy Creamery

Explore the Genaurdi Food Innovation Lab and UDairy Creamery production facilities.

We welcome you to visit our Open House and learn how Cooperative Extension and the UDairy Creamery are partnering to offer seminars in value-added dairy and agriculture products. Some future sessions include food safety planning, pasteurization, marketing your ag product, cheese fermentation and more! While you visit, please take the opportunity to tell us your interests and needs by filling out our survey.

Light refreshments and UDairy Creamery product samples available.

Please park behind Townsend Hall and enter through the rear entrance of Worrilow Hall. 529 S. College Ave. Newark, Del.
To RSVP, please email mlit@udel.edu or call 302-831-1364

We welcome you to visit our Open House and learn how Cooperative Extension and the UDairy Creamery are partnering to offer seminars in value-added dairy and agriculture products. Some future sessions include food safety planning, pasteurization, marketing your ag product, cheese fermentation and more! While you visit, please take the opportunity to tell us your interests and needs by filling out our survey.

Light refreshments and UDairy Creamery product samples available.

Please park behind Townsend Hall and enter through the rear entrance of Worrilow Hall. 529 S. College Ave. Newark, Del.
To RSVP, please email mlit@udel.edu or call 302-831-1364

Keep Your Calf Kitchen Clean with these 5 Tips

Nobody wants to eat off of a dirty plate or have their food prepared in a nasty kitchen. The same goes for calves! Here are five tips to help keep your calf kitchen clean and tidy:

1. A Triple Threat – Using the combination of a detergent, disinfectant and sanitizer is a great way to minimize bacterial growth in the calf kitchen. Try keeping all three close to the sink.

Detergents are used to break up organic deposits such as the fat and protein found in both milk and milk replacer, according to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Once a surface is cleaned with a detergent, a disinfectant is used to kill microorganism. Using detergents and disinfectants is an effective combination to reduce the bacterial load and prevent formation of biofilm. A sanitizer helps reduce the number of microorganisms on a surface but is not as effective as a disinfectant.

2. Rinse, Soak, Wash, Repeat! – Cleaning calf and heifer feeding equipment is a vital part of every dairy. Without proper cleaning and sanitation of feeding equipment, disease and illness can quickly spread between calves. Here is the best way to wash the dishes:

Rinse using warm water, about 90 degrees F, to flush away dirt and milk residues off both the inside and outside of feeding equipment. Do not use hot water to rinse.

Soak the calf feeding equipment for 20-30 minutes in a mixture of hot water greater than 130 degrees F and 1% chlorinated alkaline clean in place detergent.

Wash the inside and outside of the feeding equipment with a brush. You can also wash bottles and buckets in an industrial dishwasher. Manually wash bottle nipples with a brush.

Rinse the inside and outside of calf feeding equipment again with warm water that contains 50 ppm of chlorine dioxide.

Allow the equipment to drain and dry before using again. Avoid stacking upside down on a concrete floor or on boards, as this can inhibit proper drying and drainage.

Keep Clutter at Bay – Nobody likes a disorganized work space, especially in the kitchen! Take some time to set up labeled storage bins for various calf care items such as gloves, ear tags and syringes. Pro-tip: Clear bins allow for easy visibility.

Installing rack shelving is also a good way to keep pails and bottles off the counter while also providing adequate airflow to assist with drying.

4. Dehumidify – Have you ever noticed how damp it can sometimes feel in the calf room? Using all of that water to keep equipment clean can cause humidity levels within the calf kitchen to rise. A warm, humid climate creates the perfect condition for mold and mildew to grow. Definitely not something we want to prepare our calves milk in! To minimize the chances of this, try investing in a small dehumidifier to help keep conditions dry.

5. Keep a Cleaning Schedule – Just like the restrooms at the gas station, your calf kitchen should have a cleaning schedule taped to the back of your door. Setting aside a regular time to give your milk mixing station a deep clean is a great practice to keep things tidy and calves healthy. Work to put together an easy cleaning routine that can be completed on a regular basis, then hang this calendar up where it will be easy to see.

Check Your Corn Chopper Now

Now is the time to do corn chopper maintenance, before the crush of harvest. ( Farm Journal, Inc. )

Now is the time to do corn chopper maintenance, giving you time to order new parts if needed.

“To ensure the entire chopper is in good condition, replace nicked knives and the shear bar if the edges are smooth,” Michelle Jones, with the University of Kentucky. “If the rollers are showing signs of wear, replace them.”

Rollers typically have a life span of about 60,000 tons of corn silage, she says. “Irregular wear of the roller teeth can prevent the narrowing of the roller gap, resulting in insufficient damage to the kernel which can lead to reduced starch digestibility for the cow.”

The ideal roller gap is 1 to 2 millimeters, and a quick way to check proper gapping is to use a dime. A dime is 1.2 mm thick. “Place the dime between the rollers and if excessive space is found, the tighten the roller gap,” she says.

Once in the field, you can check if processing is correct by scooping a sample of silage into a 32-ounce cup, explains Donna Amaral-Phillips, a dairy nutritionist with the University of Kentucky. Spread the sample on the ground and count the number of whole or half kernels. If you have less than two whole or half kernels per cup, processing is ideal. Two to four whole or half kernels per sample suggests processing is adequate, but more than 5 whole or half kernels means adjustments to the roller should be done.

To ensure the samples are representative, take sample from three different loads. At a bare minimum, take three samples at the end of each day.

“If the results of kernel processing are not monitored during harvest, starch digestibility may be reduced,” says Amaral-Phillips. “Once the silage is chopped and stored, fixing mistakes made during harvest is difficult.”

You can read more about chopper maintenance and adjustments here.

Prevent Pasture Damage During Wet Weather

It might seem odd to be thinking about preventing damage to pastures from  wet weather in mid- to late summer, but heavy, persistent rains across some portions of the country in July are posing potential problems.

In the worst case scenario, cattle can be moved to a sacrifice area and fed stored feeds until pasture soil returns to acceptable conditions, says David Hartman, a livestock Extension educator with Pennsylvania State University. “The area should eventually be repaired with tillage if necessary and then reseeded to either an annual or perennial mixture, depending on your goals,” he says.

The other key is to move cattle more frequently during wet weather. Some farmers prefer grouping cattle into a high stocking density area to contain damage to a small area. Others prefer to spread cattle out over a larger area. “Regardless of [your] management decision, moving cattle more frequently than usual helps to avoid or reduce the concentration of damage,” says Hartman.

He also urges farmers to maintain heavy sod conditions to withstand grazing pressure. Keeping stands thick might involve over-seeding, soil testing and maintaining adequate fertility and avoiding overgrazing, he says.

Using no-till seed establishment is generally recommended. “Cattle traffic during wet weather will be much less damaging on land that has been planted no-till versus with tillage,” Hartman says.

“Finally, good grazing management should always include leaving a considerable amount of residual forage when moving cattle to the next paddock,” he says. “Overgrazed pastures not only recover more slowly from grazing during droughty conditions, they also sustain more damage from grazing in wet conditions.”

Five Ways To Help Cows Beat The Summer Heat

Run sprinklers about one minute—just enough to wet the cows. Shut off for five to 20 minutes to allow cows to dry and cool. ( Rob Leach )

As summer temperatures rise, beef and dairy animals benefit from heat abatement, says Joe Zulovich, a University of Missouri Extension specialist in livestock housing systems.

Lactating cows face the most risk from heat, says Zulovich. Dry cows and pre-weaned calves also fare better with heat abatement systems in place.

Heat abatement systems can be economically beneficial for some operations in hot, humid climates like Missouri, he says.

Zulovich suggests five ways to make cows cooler and more productive:

1. Water.

The best heat abatement available is an ample supply of fresh, clean drinking water, Zulovich says. The hotter it is, the more water cows need. Lactating cows consume 3-8 pounds of water per pound of dry matter intake. Larger dairy animals need about 2 feet of drinking space per animal. When temperatures soar, there should be enough space for 25% of the herd to drink at the same time. Water should be no more than 800 feet from the animals’ resting area.

2. Shade.

Protect animals from direct sunlight by providing buildings or roof systems. If these are not available, suspend shade cloth over holding pens, especially ones holding lactating cows. Also put shade cloth over feeding areas to keep feed fresh and prevent it from drying. Cows eat more and perform better if their feeding area is shaded. Pre-weaned calves rest better when their hutches have shade.

3. Ventilation.

Ventilation exchanges air inside a building with outside air. The temperature inside shouldn’t be more than 2-3 degrees higher than the outside temperature, Zulovich says. Air movement and direct evaporative cooling depend on good ventilation.

4. Air movement.

Get that air “moo-ving” for cool cows. Moving air helps move heat from the animal to the environment. Air should be moving at least 100 feet per minute over the animal’s body for the best effect. Stirring fans—propeller fans or low-speed horizontal ceiling fans—move the air inside buildings. In pasture-based systems, wind and shade can keep the herd cool.

5. Direct evaporative cooling.

Every pound of water evaporated from a cow’s skin surface dissipates about 1,000 BTUs of heat. Sprinklers create large droplets needed to reach the cow’s hair coat and wet the skin surface. Air movement and good ventilation help to evaporate the water from the skin. Sprinklers with a 360-degree circular pattern work well in holding pens. Sprinklers with a 180-degree semicircular pattern work well next to and along feed bunks. Run sprinklers about one minute—just enough to wet the cows. Shut off for five to 20 minutes to allow cows to dry and cool.

Lactating cows need direct evaporative cooling when the other four strategies above do not reduce heat stress. Direct evaporative cooling is desirable for dry cows and replacement heifers within two months of calving. Some pasture systems with irrigation systems let cows get wet under running irrigation sprinklers for direct evaporative cooling.

“Typically, indirect evaporative cooling is not effective for dairy operations in Missouri and other humid climates,” Zulovich said.

It’s two, two, two feeds in one

By Mike Rankin

Our understanding of corn silage has come a long way in the past 20 years. That’s probably a good thing because it has emerged as a dominant feed source in most dairy and many feedlot beef rations. What is being achieved with corn silage these days is entirely different than what your grandfather was able to accomplish . . . or even comprehend.

To draw from the old Certs breath mint commercials, corn silage is two, two, two feeds in one. Some argue it’s a grain, others a forage. In fact, the grain and forage portion of corn silage are nearly equally distributed on a dry matter basis.

From a nutritional standpoint, we’re essentially interested in corn silage as a source of starch (energy) and fiber, along with their respective digestibilities. Agronomically, yield is always a consideration, especially if land base is a limiting factor.

When trying to maximize the utilization of one component, there is often, but not always, a trade-off with the other component. Of course, trade-offs in the forage and feed industries are nothing new.

It’s a war on kernels

“If you don’t break kernels, it’s very unlikely you will be able to utilize the starch,” Luiz Ferranetto, a dairy nutritionist with the University of Florida, recently said at the Four-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference in Dubuque, Iowa.

There was a day when the prevailing line of thinking was to simply crack the kernel during harvest and the cow would do the rest. Hopefully, nobody is still in that camp.

These days, the ability to make great corn silage has morphed into a war on corn kernels where “obliteration” is the battle cry. Of course, technological advancements in kernel processors have made that happen along with the ability to measure kernel processing scores (KPS).

It’s become really simple from a goal standpoint: If you don’t do a good job of kernel processing, starch (corn kernels) will merely take up space in the manure spreader.

Let’s conclude this brief starch discussion with one more rock-solid axiom of starch digestibility brought forth by Ferraretto: “As time of fermentation progresses, starch digestibility improves.” There is also about a 5 to 10 percentage unit gain in KPS.

Ferraretto noted that the current research suggests to not even feed corn silage until it has fermented 90 to 120 days in storage. He also mentioned that the development of new hybrids may shorten this recommendation in the future.

One final note on starch digestibility: Poor kernel processing at harvest cannot be compensated for by greater storage time. If it’s bad going in, it will be bad coming out. In other words, you have one shot to get it right.

Fiber manipulation

As with starch, research is also bringing to light new ways of improving fiber digestion in corn silage. Unlike conventional forage crops, corn for silage must be harvested based on whole-plant moisture. Harvest timing is not really an option to change fiber digestibility.

There are, however, two primary methods to improve fiber digestibility. One is hybrid selection with the most obvious (and maybe only) example being the selection of brown midrib (BMR) hybrids, which have significantly higher fiber digestibility than conventional hybrids.

This is where we come to the trade-offs. Brown midrib hybrids will typically have lower dry matter yields than the top tier of conventional hybrids. Further, many BMR hybrids will be lower in starch content and digestibility than conventional hybrids. Newer BMRs with a floury endosperm have been developed to help overcome this issue.

Another method to impact fiber digestibility is manipulating cutting height; this is a practice that is receiving more research attention and use in the field. The concept is simple — leave more lignin in the field.

Ferraretto and his graduate students recently completed a meta-analysis of cutting height research studies and developed simulation equations to predict the impact of high-cut corn on silage yield and quality.

In one of these simulations that was compared to an actual field study with good agreement, cutting corn at 24 inches versus 6 inches improved neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD) by 3 percentage units, lowered NDF by 4 percentage units, and raised starch by 4 percentage units. At the same time, yield was lowered by about 10 percent, the same as might be expected by planting a BMR hybrid.

Ferraretto noted that perhaps the combination of greater plant densities and cutting height might lead to improved quality without compromising yields. Stay tuned. More research is on the way.

We’ve come a long way in improving corn silage. The savvy corn silage producer has learned that the benefits of new hybrid and machine engineering technologies can only be realized if silage production and storage strategies are top notch. Only in such situations can the combined milk-producing ability of both starch and fiber be fully exploited.


9 Steps to Using an Internal Teat Sealant

The use of an internal teat sealant is an important part of a dry cow therapy program. It’s equally as important to ensure the product is properly inserted and removed for optimal protection. The following nine-step program was developed by Zoetis for use with Orbeseal, an internal teat sealant, based on the research and development that went into this product.


Step 1: Clean and dry teats. If teats are not clean, carefully wash and dry them prior to disinfection.

Step 2: Using an alcohol pad, clean the end of the teat to remove any contaminated skin, dirt or manure. Repeat until the pad remains clean.

Step 3: Disinfect the far teats before the near teats to avoid accidental contamination of previously disinfected teats.

Step 4: Insert the Orbeseal syringe nozzle into the teat canal. Grasp the base of the teat near the udder attachment with two fingers pressed firmly together and slowly inject all contents. Use one complete syringe per quarter. Do not massage as the product must remain in the teat canal to be effective.

Step 5: Insert the product into the nearest teats first to minimize contamination of teats that have not been treated.

Step 6: After inserting the product, mark the cow so other employees can tell she has been dried off. Then dip each teat with a quality teat dip.


As important as it is to properly apply the product, it is equally as important to properly remove the product when the cow freshens. Here are the removal steps.

Step 1: Grab the top of the teat where it meets the udder and work all the way down to the teat end. Don’t grab the middle of the teat, squeeze and work down. This will only clear the bottom half of the teat. Strip the entire quarter by starting at the top and working all the way down.

Step 2: Strip aggressively—10 to 12 times per quarter—for the first four days post-freshening. This helps ensure you’re removing the plug and all Orbeseal particles. Do not remove the product by action of the milking machine.

Step 3: Milk into a bucket for the first three to four days post-freshening. This will help to remove any remaining product particles.