Friday, June 15, 2018

Five Myths on Sun Safety

Skin cancer affects more than one million people every year. It is a big deal, especially to farmers who have no choice, but to spend a majority of their time outside. I have a husband with red hair and incredibly fair, freckly skin, so sun safety is something I think about often. I just wish I could get him to think about it half as much as I do! Here are five of the most common myths I have heard him try to get past me.



Myth #1 - Skin cancer comes from the big burns.
Research has shown that skin cancer, in fact, comes from cumulative sun exposure. Sun safety measures should be practiced each and every time you are exposed to the sun.

Myth #2 - Applying sunscreen will protect me all day.
While a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 is recommended, it only means you are protected from a reaction to the sun's effects 15 times longer than without the sunscreen. Make sure you are reapplying as directed on the bottle, and if you are sweating, check to see if the type you have is water-proof.

Myth #3 - My baseball cap is all the sun protection I need.
Unfortunately a baseball cap doesn't do a good job of shading vulnerable areas on the ears, temples, face and neck. Wide-brimmed hats are a better option when talking about sun safety.

Myth #4 - All sunglasses are created equal.
When you buy your glasses look for the tiny peel off label on one of the lenses. It should tell you the UV rating of the glasses. Look for a rating of 100.

Myth #5 - I only have to worry about sun protection on sunny days.
I live in Wisconsin. I can tell you some of my worst sun burns came on days I wasn't thinking about sun at all, like on a cloudy, snowy January day. Granted I usually only ended up with sunburn on my face, and maybe the backs of my hands depending on if the outside temperature allowed me to take off my gloves. Sun protection should be a consideration each and every day, cloudy or sunny.

What tips or tricks do you have for protecting yourself or those you love from the harmful effects of the sun? I would love to add them to my constant nagging reminders for my husband!

Source: Iowa State Extension, Remember Sun Safety in the Field

Friday, June 8, 2018

No Secrets to Excellence in Genetics and Reproduction

GENEX recently named their 2017 Excellence in Genetics & Reproduction award winners. In interviews with the award recipients, we learned there really are no secrets to this type of success. The two reasons behind this? The first is a huge combination of factors are at play when it comes to reproductive excellence. The second is because farmers are so willing to share what they are doing to help others. Read on to learn more about this year's winners!
Soon after the parlor was built in 2000, owners Tim and Penny Holmes were struggling with a 15‑20% pregnancy rate. Knowing they could do better, they brought in experts to improve their game, and they hit it out of the park!

Today, Tim and Penny, along with their son Travis, milk 400 cows in a double-8 parallel parlor. Their herd provides a daily average of 94 pounds of milk per cow with 4.0% Fat and 3.1% Protein, milking three times per day. If those numbers and a 107,000 somatic cell count don’t get your attention, then their impressive 40% cow pregnancy rate and 60% first service cow conception rate should.

The Holmesville Dairy team, consisting of the owners, herdsman, milking crew, veterinarian, nutritionist, A.I. company and business consultant have been together for over 10 years. Tim attributes most of their reproductive success to team longevity. “It is a team effort that makes the difference,” explains Tim. Each player on the team plays an important part in the farm’s reproductive success. “It is the
consistency that is key.”

When asked what makes the reproduction program at Maple Ridge Dairy successful, herdsman
Michael Martin jokes, “We don’t want to give away all our secrets!”

All kidding aside, Dan Preuss, a GENEX Reproductive Program Senior Technician (also known as Breeder Man Dan) who has bred cows at the dairy for 11 years, explains that it comes down to good cow management. “The people, the compliance … it all leads to a really strong repro program here.”

“We stick to the protocols,” adds herdsperson Jami Schultze. “Compliance is very important to us. We try to get as close to 100% compliance as possible.”

For 2017, the dairy averaged a 39% pregnancy rate on cows with 87% pregnant by 150 days in milk. This was achieved while the top 25% of first lactation cows received a first service to GenChoice™ sexed semen and the bottom 40% of cows were bred with beef semen.

Plymouth Dairy, owned by the Feuerhelm family, was founded in 1999 with the first cows milked in August 2000. Over the years, the dairy has expanded to about 3,500 head. The growth, expansion and strong reproduction program are all the result of teamwork.

There are a lot of moving parts to make a dairy operation function well. Plymouth Dairy promotes a constructive culture of teamwork, creating one of the best teams of owners, managers, herdsmen, veterinarians, nutritionists, technicians and consultants. Each member of the team has a role and responsibility and is encouraged to share new ideas for the betterment of the dairy. GENEX has
played a part on the team for nearly 18 years, bringing value in the form of genetics, service and expertise.

The dairy recorded a 12-month average 36% pregnancy rate for 2017 and boasted a 78% heat detection rate as well. They also recently increased sexed semen use in lactating cows and have seen tremendous results. On average, 87% of cows were pregnant by 150 Days in Milk which was aided by a first service conception of 52%, all while averaging 87 pounds of milk per day.

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If asked how the team at Mar-Bec Dairy has made the operation better for cows, he’ll say they learned from others. They learned about and implemented tunnel ventilation, added more fans, switched mattresses, made stalls wider and longer, and applied preventive measures like liming/bedding every other day.

If asked how the team planned the calf care facility built in 2013, he’ll say they gained ideas from visiting other dairies. Those ideas, coupled with excellent calf care, have contributed to a low calf death loss rate; annually, they lose less than one‑third of 1% of calves.

In short, education is valued. Both Marty and his son Jonathon, a partner in the LLC, received their
educations at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Now, Marty is in his sixth year serving on the board of directors for the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, whose mission is “to share ideas, solutions, resources and experiences that help dairy producers succeed.”

With generations of focus on female fertility and longevity, the dairy achieved a 42% average pregnancy rate on heifers for the year along with a 61% first service conception rate and 62% sexed
semen conception rate.

A-OK Farms owner, Mark Breunig and Herdsman David Muder continuously look for ways to improve their 450-cow dairy. A change was recently made in the type of sand used for bedding, and last year a separator was installed to reclaim that sand. The near future calls for tunnel ventilation to be added to the barns.

The team’s constant search for improvement areas have led to a 46% heifer pregnancy rate and 57%
first service conception rate. All heifers are genomically tested which allows the team to cull the ones
with the lowest genetic merit. They then sort the remaining top 75% to be bred to sexed semen for two services before conventional semen is used. The bottom 25% receive conventional semen.

In addition to a great crew of 13 on-farm employees, quarterly team meetings are held with the nutritionist, veterinarian and GENEX Account Manager to focus on ways the farm can improve. Each team member plays a valuable role in the farm’s success. “If we are missing a link, it just won’t work,” explains Mark. One of the ideas that recently came from a team meeting was just-in-time calving and the A-OK team likes the results. “Things here are always evolving, and that is how we like it,” Mark adds.

To learn more about what these farms are doing to increase their reproductive rates, turn to page 22 of our Horizons.