World Dairy Diary

National DHIA Announces Award Winners

Congratulations to Donald Shaw and Edward Fiez, both recognized by the National Dairy Herd Information Association’s (NDHIA) for the work they’ve done.

Donald Shaw, Southeast DHIA meter and training coordinator, received the Martin A. Wilson Memorial Award, which honors a person who has been dedicated to improving DHIA and employed in a DHIA management position for at least five years.

For nearly three decades, Shaw has served dairy producers and the DHI system, with roles as supervisor, state fieldman, field manager and relief supervisor and assistant. Early in his DHI career, Shaw was identified as an innovator. He was asked to help with the original field test of DART (direct access to records by telephone) and gained extensive experience with on-farm data entry. In 1981, he was the first DHI field technician to electronically transmit milk weights from a farm (Hilltop Dairy in Trenton, Florida, with more than 1,800 milk cows) to a dairy records processing center. As field manager, he led the effort where Florida became the first DHI affiliate to achieve 100% electronic input where all technicians used on-farm data entry for all DHI information.

John Clay of Dairy Records Management Systems (DRMS) supported Shaw for this award due to his tireless efforts to ensure the delivery of top-notch DHI services. “Don probably does some of his best work at Southeast technician conferences and at DRMS regional meetings. In these settings, Don calmly teaches his peers how to take advantage of technology to ensure collection of accurate information and how to deliver valuable test day reports.”

Edward Fiez, Caldwell, Idaho, received the DHIA Outstanding Service Award. A University of Idaho Extension dairy specialist from 1970-1999, Fiez continues to work closely with the Idaho DHIA program even though he’s retired.

He presented at the 2000 Idaho DHIA Supervisor Conference and assisted with the 2000 Idaho DHIA Sample Takers Conference. The National DHIA Outstanding Service Award honors a person who has dedicated service to improving DHIA and provided notable leadership to advancing DHIA.

From 1999-2006, Fiez continued to evaluate exams submitted by prospective supervisors following completion of the self-teaching packet that he developed. These workbooks, used by dairy cow and dairy goat supervisors, provide general information on record keeping systems, data reporting and DHI rules and regulations.

Fiez was instrumental in organizing Idaho DHIA and provided guidance through the critical transition to hired management. He offered key support to Idaho DHIA in meeting initial National DHIA Quality Certification standards by working effectively with the board of directors, supervisors, milk testing laboratories and dairy records processing centers.

GEA Group acquires DB Wilaard Holding BV‏

gea_logoGEA Group AG continues its expansion strategy towards becoming a total solutions provider in livestock farming through the acquisition of DB Wilaard Holding BV.

With its main brands “Royal De Boer” and “Brouwers”, the firm is a leading manufacturer of barn equipment in Europe. The company is headquartered in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, and in 2008 generated revenues of approximately EUR 40 million with a workforce of 160 employees. The acquisition includes Wilarus LLC, founded in 2004 as the sales and production facility for Russia and other CIS states. The acquisition is subject to the approval of the Russian antitrust authorities.

Since 1869, Royal De Boer Barn Equipment, the oldest subsidiary within the Wilaard Group, has expanded the horizons of animal housing, successfully setting benchmarks and modern standards. Together with Brouwers Equipment, founded in 1919, it has been playing a leading role in Dutch livestock farming for decades. GEA Farm Technologies will continue the well-known, high-quality, premium brands Royal De Boer and Brouwers, as they are dedicated to growing the barn equipment and manure-handling product lines globally out of the Wilaard Group headquarters and manufacturing facility Wilarus in Kolomna, Russia.

The GEA Group, headquartered in Bochum, Germany, is a globally successful technology group owning more than 250 companies in 50 countries, with an emphasis in the field of process engineering and equipment. GEA Group technologies are applied in the food, chemical and petrochemical industries, the energy sector, air treatment and shipbuilding, as well as the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. The GEA Group is one of the world’s market and technology leaders in 90 percent of its businesses.

GEA Farm Technologies, a division of the GEA Group, is a worldwide leader in milking, manure and housing equipment technology. GEA Farm Technologies is dedicated to saving producers time, labor and money through increased efficiency, management assistance information and leading-edge technology. GEA Farm Technologies provides a complete line of WestfaliaSurge, Houle and Norbco products to meet producers’ needs of all sizes and management styles.

Dairy Queen Survey Says Not Everyone is Eating Out Less

n116507701_32556166_2195 As a college kid, there is nothing my friends and I like to do better than take a homework break for a Dairy Queen run. It seems that a lot of people have the same idea, too. While sitting in the long drive-thru line, we debate our many ice cream choices. Should I get the strawberry dipped cone or the cookie dough blizzard? The Moolatte or the hot fudge sundae? So many great dairy options, and so little college spending money. Yet, despite this economy, it seems that people continue to dine at restaurants. (Side Note: My college friend would KILL me for posting this photo of her scarfing down ice cream. I’m in the background, covered up by her spoon. Ha!)

According to a recent study by Dairy Queen, Almost half of U.S. adults are eating out about the same or more than they did a year ago. (Or rephrased, more than half of adults are eating out less often.)

This consumer survey report was released at The survey was taken by Harris Interactive and involved interviews with 2,852 adults age 18 or older. Forty-six percent said they are eating out the same or more, presumably leaving 54 percent who are eating out less or didn’t answer.

To read the entire report and see what people think about the dairy products at Dairy Queen, link to

Impact of Growing Conditions on Nutritional Value of Silage

Pioneer Hi-Bred Forage Forum PodcastGrowing conditions can vary from year to year and this variance can impact the nutritional value of the silage. In this edition of the Pioneer Forage Forum podcast, Pioneer livestock information manager Jim Smith explains the effects of solar radiation, moisture and heat at different stages of plant growth.

Jim Smith on the Impact of Growing Conditions on Nutritional Value of Silage (5:00 min MP3)

To see all archived Pioneer Forage Forum podcasts, click here.

AVMA Launches ‘Chew on This’ Podcast Series on Food Safety

chew on thisThe American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is pleased to announce a new podcast series called “Chew on This,” dedicated to examining issues related to food safety and protecting our nation’s food supply. I haven’t

“America’s veterinarians play key roles in food safety, and these podcasts offer us an opportunity to speak directly to consumers, many of whom may not be tuned in to the latest science and research surrounding the food we eat,” said Dr. James Cook, president of the AVMA. “We’re going to explore and investigate many of today’s burning topics surrounding food – where it comes from, how it gets to our tables and why it’s important to keep our food safe, abundant and affordable.”

“Chew on This” podcasts — to be delivered biweekly on the AVMA’s iTunes Channel and online at the AVMA’s food safety advocacy site – will explore a variety of food safety topics, such as cloned animals, organic foods, pasteurization, animal and product identification, and food importation.

Also available on the AVMA’s iTunes channel is “AVMA Animal Tracks,” a weekly podcast featuring veterinary experts on subjects such as pet health and safety tips, the threat of diseases that can spread from animals to humans and the surprising variety of roles veterinarians play in ensuring animal and human health.

The AVMA and its more than 76,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a wide variety of activities dedicated to advancing the science and art of animal, human and public health.

Dairy Foods are Best Source of Calcium

flavoredmilkA Purdue University study shows dairy foods have an advantage over calcium carbonate in promoting bone growth and strength.

Connie Weaver, distinguished professor and head of the food and nutrition department, found that the bones of rats fed nonfat dry milk were longer, wider, more dense and stronger than those of rats fed a diet with calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is the most common form of calcium used in calcium-fortified foods and supplements.

Weaver said the study, funded by the National Dairy Council, is the first direct comparison of bone properties between calcium from supplements and milk.

“A lot of companies say, ‘If you don’t drink milk, then take our calcium pills or calcium-fortified food,’” Weaver said. “There’s been no study designed properly to compare bone growth from supplements and milk or dairy to see if it has the same effect.”

Data from Purdue’s Camp Calcium, a research effort that studies how calcium and other nutrients affect bone growth, show that between the ages of 9 and 18 people require 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day for optimal bone growth. This is the equivalent of about 4 cups of milk or yogurt or the equivalent from cheese or other sources, Weaver said. After the age of 9, due mostly to peer pressure, the gap between the calcium youths need and actually get widens, she said.

The study involved 300 rats that were divided into two groups. For 10 weeks, the rats were given all the nutrients they require, but one group was given dairy and the other was given calcium carbonate as the source of calcium.

After 10 weeks, the bones of 50 rats from each group were measured for strength, density, length and weight.

“We found those measurements were up to 8 percent higher for those who had milk over calcium carbonate,” Weaver said.

The study also found a strong effect of having dairy as a calcium source followed by periods of inadequate calcium.

Over a second 10-week period, the remaining rats were fed as adults. Half of those were given adequate calcium as carbonate or milk. The other half were switched to half as much calcium as recommended, but were given calcium carbonate.

“This is comparable to humans who, during their early growth, drink a lot of milk to the age of 9 to 11, or maybe even adolescence, but then get only half as much milk calcium as they need after that,” Weaver said. “Some take calcium supplements, but few adults get adequate calcium.”

Weaver said the study showed the rats raised on dairy still had advantages over those who were given calcium carbonate even later when they were given half enough calcium as dairy or calcium carbonate.

“We found it was an advantage having milk or dairy while bones were growing over calcium carbonate, and it protects you later in life,” Weaver said.

She is not sure why dairy is better, but said further study is needed.

“I think this will spark some people to want to figure out what it is about milk that gives it an advantage,” she said.

“It’s not due to increased calcium absorption. It’s more about protecting against bones losing calcium, according to our results of calcium metabolism. Bones are in constant turnover, especially when they are growing. Youth need to have bone formation outweigh bone loss.”

Farm Aid Urging You to Take Action to Save Dairy Farmers

Farm AidWillie Nelson and his Farm Aid foundation is urging everyone to take action now to help dairy farmers by sending a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. According to the Farm Aid website: “America’s dairy farmers are rapidly disappearing, and we need your help to make sure they don’t lose everything they’ve ever worked for. Sign our letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and urge him to take bold action to help save our dairy farmers.” Click here to sign onto our letter urging Secretary Vilsack to take swift action to help dairy farmers today.

In the last few weeks, the dairy crisis in the U.S. has gotten even more desperate. Dairy farmers from California to Vermont are losing their farms and their livelihoods, struggling to survive while the bottom falls out of the industry. Things are so bad that we may immediately lose up to 20,000 of our nation’s dairy farmers and billions of dollars from our rural economies, which are already hurting.

But there’s something you can do to help right now to make sure we don’t lose one more dairy farmer: Send a message to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging him to take immediate action to save dairy farmers. He’s the one person who can help change the fate of thousands of hard working families — and he needs to hear from you.

The causes of the dairy crisis are complex — including foreign imports and price manipulation by dairy processors — but the immediate solution is simple. To keep dairy farmers from losing their farms from coast to coast, the price of milk paid to farmers must be altered to reflect the farmers’ cost of production. On average, our farmers are currently being paid less than half of what it costs them to produce milk — and Secretary Vilsack is the only person with the legal authority to set a fair price for farmers.

Setting a fair price for milk won’t fix all the problems that led to the current crisis — but it may be the only way to keep thousands of dairy farmers on their farms this year. Unless Secretary Vilsack takes immediate action, huge areas of the United States may be left without any local dairy farms at all.

Advocates for Agriculture Teaching Others

advocates for agricultureHave you heard of Troy and Stacy Hadrick yet? This couple, who are fifth-generation ranchers from Vale, S.D., have become respected and well-known advocates in the agriculture industry. In fact, the Hadricks formed “Advocates for Agriculture” in 2006 to help teach farm and ranch groups about the importance of telling agriculture’s positive stories ever since. Not only does this power ag couple run a website and blog, you can also find them on Facebook and Twitter. I commend them for all they are doing to tell agriculture’s story, and I encourage our dairy farmers to follow their blog, Facebook or Twitter updates – it may encourage you to take the first steps in telling YOUR story!

“No one is going to tell our story for us. We [people in agriculture] need to do it ourselves,” Troy says.

A lesson learned. The realization came from their botched experience with the media. In 2002, the Blair Ranch was featured as part of The New York Times “Power Steer” article authored by Michael Pollan. Pollan’s premise was to purchase an Angus calf from the Blair Ranch and follow it through the production chain to a feedlot and packing plant. Troy was Pollan’s primary source at the ranch.

Troy says he was excited about sharing the real story of raising cattle on a ranch through this nationally respected publication. But when the article was published, Pollan appeared to have his own agenda and depicted the cattle industry as abusive, inhumane and with no regard for the environment.

Troy says, “The most deflating thing was that we thought we had a great opportunity to tell positive things about the beef industry, and then it wasn’t presented at all how we expected.”

As a result of the article, the Blair family – and the Hadricks – lost a lot of faith in the media and received many negative phone calls from animal-rights people. But also during that time, in the back of their minds, were thoughts on turning that negative media experience into a positive one.

A fellow industry advocate and speaker, Trent Loos, also encouraged them not to hide from the experience, but to share with others how important it is to get the true information about agriculture to the public.

And to convey the positive message of agriculture, Troy and Stacy realized that real producers are the ones who must deliver the story – not a biased New York Times reporter.

Through their presentations, they emphasize that one person can make a difference. Stacy says informing and educating consumers is as simple as, “each of us talking to one person about our own story in agriculture.”

She adds, “Farmers and ranchers don’t have to become professional speakers. You can talk about the ag industry and what you do at the grocery store, the post office, your local school, or sitting next to someone on an airplane. It’s about making that connection with consumers – so they realize you raise the food they eat.”

Troy also emphasizes that real stories about agriculture are what matters. “We want people in ag to realize we all have a story worth telling. Other than our experience with the New York Times, what we do on our ranch isn’t any different than other ranchers.” He says the important message to convey is how ranchers care for their livestock and land – and ultimately produce the safest food in the world.

He continues, “It’s easy for people to throw stones at agriculture, but when you are a real person with a real story, people can’t argue with you about your story. We’ve learned you’re not going to change the mind of someone who wants to argue, but if you can get people to start questioning some of the misinformation so they go looking for the right information – that can make a difference.”

Core is the Newest Stout Experience Honoree

JerseylogoCongratulations to Brady Core, Salvisa, Ky., for being selected as the 2009 recipient of the Fred Stout Experience Award, given by the American Jersey Cattle Association.

The award was created in 2000 in memory of Fred J. Stout Jr., Mt. Carmel, Ill., a lifelong Jersey breeder and member of the Jersey Marketing Service staff from 1978 to 1997. Stout was instrumental in the growth of the company’s marketing activities, and later added duties as a type evaluator and in customer field service for the American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA).

Stout believed that the best learning experiences happen in the everyday world. This award honors that conviction. It will provide partial support for Core’s upcoming internship with Jersey Marketing Service, which will include working on the crew for the 52nd National Heifer Sale, July 4, 2009 at the Empire Expo Center in Syracuse, N.Y.

Core was raised on his family’s farm, Keightley & Core Jersey Farm, and has been active in the daily management of the 60-cow and farming operation for the past nine years. He has been extensively involved in the marketing of genetics produced from the herd’s well-known show winners, most notably KJF Renaissance Lacy, shown by Brady to Grand Champion of The All American Junior Jersey Show in four consecutive years (1998 through 2001). In addition, Brady has worked as an independent fitter at shows and sales across the U.S.

As a member of the UK dairy judging team competing at the 2008 National Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest, Brady placed in the top 10 individuals in three breeds and was tenth high individual overall. As a member of Kentucky’s 4-H judging team, he was high individual at the 2004 Mid-South Fair in Memphis, Tenn.

Brady was also honored as Kentucky FFA State Star Farmer (2005), served as the Bluegrass Region FFA Vice President (2004-05), and was the state FFA Dairy Entrepreneurship winner in 2003.

Core is a senior at the University of Kentucky, majoring in agricultural communication with a public service and leadership option. He serves as vice president and planning/alumni relations chair for Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, and is a member of the UK Dairy Club. He expects to graduate in December 2009.

Previous recipients of the Fred Stout Experience Award are Tara Bohnert, Illinois (2003), Allison Waggoner, South Carolina (2004), Dan Bauer, Wisconsin (2005), Aaron Horst, Pennsylvania (2006), Jacob Pieper, Maryland (2007); and Katie Albaugh, Maryland (2008).

Borden Gives the Dairy Case a Fresh Look

borden milkElsie-the-cow is getting a bit of a makeover as Borden, Louisiana’s leading dairy, this week unveiled new packaging design and an exciting new ad campaign featuring one of Disney’s hottest stars, Selena Gomez.

Keeping the Borden brand current with families, the new label designs will be on all Borden milk containers in the dairy case later this month. New television and radio ads featuring the teen star of the “Wizards of Waverly Place” with Elsie-the-cow will spotlight the brand across the region.

“Borden has been the most-trusted, local dairy here for more than 150 years, and now we are bringing the brand and Elsie to the next generation of milk drinkers,” said Rick Beaman, president for Borden. “Our new labels will catch eyes in the dairy case and help shoppers find their favorite brand of great-tasting milk, while our new star Selena teams up with Elsie to remind parents that our local, farm-fresh milk is the best choice for their family.”

Borden is updating its packaging labels to spotlight its farm-fresh milk made locally. In addition to the new barn imagery, Elsie the cow remains prominent on the label. The new labels will be seen across all lines, including the Plus Line (Lite Line, High Protein and Kid Builder), in gallons, half-gallons, quarts and single serve sizes. The new labels will arrive in dairy cases this month.

Meanwhile, new television and radio ads starring Selena Gomez showcase Borden’s high-quality, farm-fresh taste, produced and sold locally throughout Texas and Louisiana. With the added star-power, the campaign will also bring back the famous tagline from recent years: “If It’s Borden, It’s Got to Be Good.” Look for Selena’s image alongside Elsie herself at special events around Texas and Louisiana in the coming months. Fans can get a sneak peak at the commercial complete with behind-the-scenes footage at

“I am a big fan of Borden’s Milk. I grew up with Elsie and I still think it’s the best-tasting milk today,” says Gomez. “I think it’s important to help moms and get the word out to kids that milk is a cool, fun drink that helps keep you fueled and ready for whatever you’re up to in your life.”

Dairy Producers Communicate Through Social Media

dairycheckoffDairy Management Inc.™ (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program, has launched a new program to help dairy producers communicate with the public about modern dairy farming practices. The new program, called myDairy, encourages dairy producers and industry leaders who are engaged in social media efforts to help tell the positive on-farm story of milk production through this growing medium, which includes blogs, social networking sites and positive dairy videos and photos.

The myDairy program has trained more than 350 dairy producers and industry representatives who are interested in online communications.

“The fact that most people are three to four generations removed from the farm means a big information gap exists today,” said David Pelzer, senior vice president of industry image and relations at DMI. “The U.S. dairy industry has a great story to tell — and social media gives us the means to tell it in a unique and engaging way to millions of consumers,” according to Pelzer.

The myDairy program helps the dairy checkoff mobilize dairy advocates across the nation to engage in social media networks and online communities to help protect the image of dairy farmers and the dairy industry. Building a strong, positive online presence for the dairy industry helps counter negative, uninformed attacks and maintains public confidence in dairy foods and the people who produce them. The program also provides a secure blog for dairy advocates to share their social media experiences.

“Not only does myDairy teach us how to use social media sites, but it also gives us key messages to use to make us more effective communicators,” said Will Gilmer, an Alabama dairy producer and creator of “The Dairyman’s Blog,” since 2007. “It’s important for producers to share our own unique perspective and experiences with modern dairy farming, and present a unified voice with the public.”

Producers interested in becoming online dairy advocates should e-mail: for more information.

Kansas Governor Vetos Milk Bill

To support Kansas dairy farmers and consumers, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has vetoed legislation concerning the labels on milk products. The bill, HB 2121, faced massive opposition from dairy, consumer, health, animal welfare and environmental organizations across the country; nearly 30 of which wrote a letter to Governor Sebelius, President Obama’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, urging her to veto HR 2121. The bill passed by the Kansas State Legislature would have required an additional disclaimer on labels for dairy products produced from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST), a genetically engineered, artificial hormone that induces cows to produce more milk.

The Governor’s office sent out a press release late this afternoon, explaining why she vetoed the bill:

“…the Bill before me…provides for changes in dairy labeling that could make it more difficult to provide consumers with clear information. The milk labeling provisions negatively impact a dairy producer’s ability to inform consumers that milk is from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBST).”

“Supporters of the bill claim it’s necessary to protect consumers from false or misleading information. Yet there has been overwhelming opposition by consumer groups, small dairy producers and retailers to this proposed legislation. Therefore, pursuant to Article 2, Section 14 of the Constitution of the State of Kansas, I veto HB 2121.”

“I applaud Governor Sebelius’ veto of HB 2121, which would have made it more difficult for dairy farmers who don’t use recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) to label their milk as such,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “Governor Sebelius clearly recognized that the bill’s provisions on dairy labeling would have made it harder for consumers to get the information they want about the dairy products they consume and would have hindered dairy farmer’s ability to tell consumers that their milk is from cows not treated with rbGH.”

“Governor Sebelius made the right decision for dairy producers, businesses, and citizens today,” said Heather Whitehead, True Food Network Director at the Center for Food Safety. “Consumers want more information about the foods we purchase and feed to our families, not less. HR 2121 would have taken Kansas in the wrong direction, and we applaud Governor Sebelius for protecting Kansas farmers and consumers.”

“There was overwhelming opposition by consumer groups, small dairy producers and retailers to this proposed legislation,” said Patty Lovera, Assistant Director at Food and Water Watch. “As she ascends to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Governor Sebelius has left a legacy of support for the public interest in Kansas with this veto.”

Cow Genome Debuts

Exiting news for dairymen and cattlemen! The genomes of man and dog have been joined in the scientific barnyard by the genome of the cow, an animal that walked beside them on the march to modern civilization.

A team of hundreds of scientists working in more than a dozen countries yesterday published the entire DNA message — the genome — of an 8-year-old female Hereford living at an experimental farm in Montana.

Hidden in her roughly 22,000 genes are hints of how natural selection sculpted the bovine body and personality over the past 60 million years, and how man greatly enhanced the job over the past 10,000.

As with other species, genes governing the immune system, the metabolism of nutrients and social interaction appear to be where much of the evolutionary action has occurred. The result is an animal that lives peacefully in herds and grows large on low-quality food, thanks to the billions of bacteria it carries around.

Selective breeding has exaggerated and spread some of those traits, producing hyper-passive Holsteins and muscle-bound Belgian Blues, and dozens of humpbacked breeds that combine characteristics of both.

“Are there signatures of the human hand in the cattle genome? The answer is plainly and clearly yes,” said Harris A. Lewin, head of the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of one of three papers on the cow genome appearing today in the journal Science.

Although sheep and goats were domesticated earlier, cattle are the most important herd animals in the world. There are about 800 distinct breeds, and together they contribute to the nutrition or income of about 6.6 billion people.

The cow is the first livestock animal whose genome has been sequenced, part of an effort to read and analyze the DNA of organisms that have scientific, medical or economic importance. In addition to dozens of microbes and several plants, those sequenced so far include the chimpanzee, mouse, rat, dog, chicken, mosquito, fruit fly, opossum and platypus.

Of a cow’s 22,000 genes, versions of at least 14,000 have counterparts in other mammals. Cows appear to have about 1,000 genes that they share with dogs and rodents but that are not found in people.

The most recently evolved genes tend to be clustered in parts of the cow’s 31 chromosomes where stretches of DNA have been duplicated, copied and inserted upside down, or added to by invading viruses. Those events are usually catastrophic and often lead to the fatal breakage of chromosomes. Over evolutionary time, however, a few survive and provide the raw material for new genes — and new functions.

This clear relationship between chromosome instability and gene formation is giving scientists a new view of one way evolutionary change happens at the molecular level.

“Instead of having only a very slow and gradual change by mutation, you have the ability for much larger and dramatic changes because of these rearrangements,” Lewin said.

As a practical matter, having the genome is also going to make cattle breeding faster and cheaper.

Traits carried by bulls are important in determining how much milk a cow produces. Because bulls don’t make milk, however, a bull’s “performance profile” has to be sketched by observing the milk production of his daughters — a process that takes about six years and costs $25,000 to $50,000. Now, male calves can be tested at birth for milk-enhancing traits using gene-chip technology.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that makes sense both logistically and financially,” said Curt P. Van Tassell, a geneticist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s laboratory in Beltsville, who was one of the leaders of the project.

There are two types of cattle — taurine, which have no humps and predominate in Europe, Africa, the Americas and much of Asia; and indicine, which have humps and are in South Asia and East Africa. Both lineages descended from aurochs, a much larger and more aggressive species.

Indicine breeds have much greater genetic diversity than taurine breeds, evidence that they were developed from a larger number of “founder” animals.

Cows have a large number of genes devoted to big-gun, nonspecific defenses called “innate immunity,” probably reflecting the fact that the animals rely on a huge variety of bacteria and other organisms to digest the roughage they eat.

“They need an immune system that can deal with that large microbial population in close proximity all the time,” said Kim C. Worley, a geneticist at Baylor College of Medicine and one of the leaders of the project.

Both types of cattle show evidence of natural selection in genes that appear to be involved in making the animals — large, horned and potentially dangerous — docile. In some breeds, specific variants of behavior-related genes are “fixed,” or seen in essentially every animal. Curiously, some of those genes are in regions that in the human genome seem to be involved in autism, brain development and mental retardation.

DFA Issues Portion of Patronage Checks Early

DFA logoIn an ongoing effort to ease the stress these economically challenging times are causing for its members, Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. (DFA) is issuing a portion of members’ patronage-sourced earnings early.

Patronage is the Cooperative’s way of sharing the earnings of DFA with its members. Beginning this week, 12,312 members who marketed their milk through DFA in 2008 will receive a cash patronage payment equal to 3 cents per hundredweight. A total of $11.4 million is being paid to DFA members.

“It’s always been the commitment of the Board of Directors to share the earnings of the Cooperative with our members annually,” said Tom Camerlo, chairman of DFA’s Board of Directors. “This year, we felt it was important to deliver this check earlier in the year and in cash with the hope that we can provide some assistance in this tough time.”

A remaining allocation for 2008 patronage will be paid to members by September 15. The amount of patronage each year is based on the amount of milk each member markets through the Cooperative.

In addition, DFA has several other initiatives underway to assist members during this difficult time, including:

* The DFA Cares Hotline, a toll-free number that gives DFA members access to market information and answers to general questions and referrals to a Member Assistance Program, which offers professional advice and guidance on financial and legal matters and stress management.
* DFA staff is working closely with other industry groups and lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to urge Congress to enact government programs, like the Dairy Export Incentive Program, that could provide immediate relief to the nation’s dairy farmers. DFA’s Board of Directors are also making personal visits to their legislative representatives next month to talk about the situation facing dairy producers.
* DFA also offers several programs and services designed to help members manage their on-farm costs and their price volatility risk. Forward contracting services through Dairy Risk Management Services and bulk-buying programs are just two examples.

Dairyline Markets In Review

DairylineDairy Markets Week in Review

The block cheese price closed Friday at $1.18 per pound, up a penny on the week but 74 1/2-cents below a year ago. Barrel closed at $1.1075, down a quarter-cent on the week, and 77 1/4-cents below a year ago. Twenty nine cars of block traded hands on the week and 13 of barrel. The NASS U.S. average block price hit $1.2771, down 0.1 cent, while barrel averaged $1.2495, down 4.9 cents.

Butter strengthened, likely due to weather-inspired ice cream demand, closing Friday at $1.2225, up 2 cents on the week, but still 19 cents below a year ago. Twenty two cars were sold. NASS butter averaged $1.1737, up 1.6 cents.

Cash Grade A nonfat dry milk inched up a penny and a half, to 86 1/2 cents per pound. Fifteen cars traded hands on the week. Extra Grade remained at 85 cents, with no activity.

NASS nonfat dry milk averaged 81.95 cents, down 0.1 cent, and dry whey averaged 20.15 cents, up 0.8 cent.

Provided courtesy of Dairyline.

Midwest Dairy Elects Leadership

2009-04-22-corpboardofficersMidwest Dairy Association, which manages the dairy checkoff for nine Midwest states, has re-elected a North Dakota dairy producer as its chairman. Jerry Messer, Richardton, N.D., was elected to the post during the group’s annual meeting, held in conjunction with a national dairy checkoff forum in Scottsdale, Ariz. Allen Merrill, Parker, S.D., was re-elected first vice chairman. Bill Siebenborn, Trenton, Mo., was re-elected second vice chairman. Two Minnesota dairy producers, Kay Henninger of Carlton and Jeff Fasching of Winsted, were re-elected as secretary and treasurer, respectively.

“In this challenging economic environment, it’s more important than ever that we have effective dairy promotion in place,” said Messer. “We need both short-term market activity and long-term growth of dairy sales and demand, and that’s exactly what the checkoff is focused on.”

Messer, Merrill and Siebenborn also represent Midwest Dairy Association on the board of United Dairy Industry Association, the national umbrella organization for the state and regional promotion groups. Dan Grunhovd, Gary, Minn., Pam Bolin, Clarksville, Iowa, and Norbert Schmidt, Readlyn, Iowa, also serve on the national board representing the Midwest group. They were elected to those positions last fall.

Humboldt Creamery Files for Bankruptcy Protection

humboldt_creameryHumboldt Creamery has filed for bankruptcy protection just two months after former CEO Rich Ghilarducci scandalized the company by revealing its finances weren’t as sweet as they seemed.

The bankruptcy will make it possible for the creamery to keep operating, but it could also tear it from the hands of its member farmers. The company’s $50 million to $100 million debt, combined with the inaccurate financials, prompted the Tuesday morning Chapter 11 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Rosa.

Humboldt Creamery is looking to get loans to allow it to run through the busy summer months producing ice cream — while looking to sell or reorganize the business. The company’s members say they are working on a plan to buy the company, but they may not be the only prospective buyers.

The creamery is also asking the court for permission to pay farmers a chunk of money to keep them afloat, even though its debt to them was generated prior to the bankruptcy filing. If the creamery can’t pay, its attorneys argue, it would have to cease operations immediately and begin liquidating assets.

Interim CEO Len Mayer said that the creamery association’s board met and approved the decision to file for bankruptcy Friday after the company was unable to reach a deal with its bank, CoBank. The bank needed additional security, Mayer said.

The best outcome is for Humboldt Creamery to emerge from bankruptcy still owned in part by its approximately 50 farming members, who currently own 75 percent, Mayer said. Longtime board member Dennis Leonardi said the creamery’s members are optimistic they can do just that.

”The optimism comes in trying to put together a company that can buy us back out of bankruptcy,” Leonardi said. “That’s putting together financing as a cooperative and basically putting together a company that works — the company that we thought we had.”

The remaining 25 percent of the company is held by Dairy Farmers of America. Should it not be possible for the creamery’s current members to buy it back, Mayer said the hope is that a reputable dairy company is able to take the reins of the company.

In an emergency filing Tuesday, the company said it needs $3 million in financing to carry it through summer, when ice cream production doubles to 250,000 to 270,000 gallons a week. Some $1.75 million is needed immediately, its attorneys argued, to pay farmers for milk produced in the past 20 days.

Without that quick payment, farms could go under, the creamery wrote, and the business could not be sold as a going concern, which would devastate customers, suppliers, truckers and others.

In a declaration supporting the financing, Leonardi said that he’s owed $238,000 — $70,000 of which is for milk delivered this month. Without payment for the milk, the creamery’s farmers face default to lenders, bankruptcy and liquidation, he said, especially since costs tend to rise at this time of year.

”We are small family farmers that have been tending the land and dairying for generations. We don’t have massive reserves to weather this massive economic storm and there is no bailout or stimulus money, just sweat equity lost,” Leonardi said in the filing.

Humboldt Creamery’s top four creditors are owed $3.6 million, claims which will have to be handled as part of the bankruptcy process. Ghilarducci, the creamery’s fifth largest creditor, is owed $370,000 — an amount which is understandably disputed.

A Humboldt Creamery report alleging that Ghilarducci manipulated financial data has been forwarded to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI, Mayer said previously, adding that the agencies are now looking into the matter.

Rumiano Cheese, headquartered out of Willows, is the second largest creditor and is owed nearly $1.2 million. Owner Baird Rumiano said he doubts he’ll recover much from the bankruptcy process. Rumiano said he’ll keep buying milk from the creamery, but he won’t let it rack up any more debt. Rumiano said he was astounded by the sudden change of fortune for the company.

Generally, claims before bankruptcy are treated by the court as separate from those arising after the filing. Ongoing payments are made, but so-called pre-petition claims are paid at the end of the process.

Animal Rights Extremist on Most Wanted List

art_sandiego_fbi In case you hadn’t heard, an animal rights activist was recently placed on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted Terrorists’ list. This made the news earlier this week, and I thought I would pass it on. According to CNN Reports, they believe this terrorist is hiding out in Costa Rica. This is a scary case, and I will keep posting updates as they occur. (Photo art provided by CNN).

The FBI announced Tuesday the addition of Daniel Andreas San Diego to the list, hoping a burst of international publicity associated with the move will help investigators find him after six years on the run.

San Diego, 31, may appear to be out of place on a terrorist list with familiar names like al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Adam Yahiye Gadahn. The “strict vegan,” according to the FBI, is charged with bombing two corporate offices in California in 2003. The blasts caused extensive property damage but no deaths.

Authorities allege San Diego bombed facilities in Emeryville and Pleasanton, California, because he believed the Chiron and Shaklee Corporations had ties to animal-testing labs.

Pa. Introduces Path to Organic Program

Pennsylvania producers working to transition their conventional operations to certified organic farms may be eligible for help offsetting the costs of making the change, said Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff today.

The Path to Organic Program provides grants to farmers switching to certified organic production practices. The application deadline is July 31.

“The Path to Organic grants are a significant investment in agriculture, our state’s number one industry,” said Wolff. “When producers determine that a change is necessary to promote their products to particular markets or to implement particular management practices, the process can sometimes be long and the required investments can be daunting. Through programs like the Path to Organic, we can help producers make the transition and remain profitable into the future.”

The program also evaluates organic production practices as tools in improving soil health, protecting water quality, and gathering atmospheric carbon on a pilot basis outside of the traditional research environment. “Maintaining good soil health and high water quality is essential to keeping agriculture viable in Pennsylvania, and exploring the potential benefits of organic and other production practices is an important step in understanding how to achieve this goal,” said Wolff.

The Path to Organic program offers funding to eligible for-profit enterprises that produce farm commodities, including agricultural, horticultural, aquaculture, vegetable, fruit and floricultural products; livestock and meats; poultry and eggs; dairy products; nuts; mushrooms; honey products; and forest products.

Grant payments will not exceed $7,500 in a single calendar year or $30,000 in a four-year period and will reimburse participants for costs directly related to organic transition, including building, machinery and equipment, and operational costs.

Two New Dairy Foods Win Awards

upstate farmsA new milk product that tastes just like chocolate chip ice cream and a pomegranate blueberry cream cheese dip are the most innovative new dairy products, according to a recent competition judged by dairy professionals. The Most Innovative Dairy Products contest, sponsored by TIC Gums, recognized the latest creative milk or dairy beverages and cultured dairy products. The awards were presented at the International Dairy Foods Association’s 2009 Milk and Cultured Dairy Symposium, which took place March 31-April 2, 2009 in Kansas City, Mo.

Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc.
‘s creative take on a classic — mint chocolate chip ice cream — earned the company IDFA’s Most Innovative Milk or Dairy Beverage Award for its Intense Mint Chip Milk. Schreiber Foods, Inc. won the award for Most Innovative Cultured Dairy Product for its American Heritage Pomegranate Blueberry Dip.

“When the opportunity arose to sponsor the Most Innovative Milk and Cultured Dairy contest, we jumped at the chance to support cutting-edge dairy manufacturers,” said Tim Carter, sales manager at TIC Gums. TIC Gums supplies a complete line of gums and gum systems to the U.S. food industry. “Our dairy innovations have continued into 2009 and so did our interest in supporting dairy innovators and the contest.”

The 2009 Milk and Cultured Dairy Symposium explores cutting-edge innovations in the use of ingredients, processing technology, analytical methods, packaging and product development for milk and dairy beverages and for cultured products, such as yogurt, sour creams, buttermilk and cottage cheese.

“Winning the Most Innovative Dairy Beverage award is a great accomplishment for us – it means a lot to be recognized by our peers, who are all dairy experts with more refined palates than most consumers,” said Eva Balazs, product manager at Upstate Niagara Cooperative. “Intense Mint Chip Milk joined our other milkshake-like flavors, such as chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, matching the bold, indulgent taste of the popular mint chip ice cream.”

“Schreiber Foods is fortunate to have such talented market, development and research teams working on behalf of our customers,” says Deborah Van Dyk, vice president of industry and regulatory affairs for Schreiber Foods. “While we take considerable pride in being recognized by our dairy industry peers for outstanding innovation, we take even more pride in being responsive to evolving consumer tastes and preferences that deliver strong sales for our retail customers.”

IDFA would like to thank TIC Gums and Cintas Corporation, the symposium’s premier sponsor, as well as the exhibitors for recognizing the importance of the symposium to the industry. The exhibiting companies were Bienca S.A., California Custom Fruits and Flavors, DairyChem, Danisco USA Inc., Delkor, GTC Nutrition, Integrated Packaging Machinery, RealWorld Communications Inc. and SunOpta, Inc.

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