Dairy Channel: I had to understand the title.

It was a sweltering week in Indianapolis, but in the convention center the prevailing temperature was more like an icebox.

The chill did help keep people awake through presentations such as “Feeding 2-hydroxy-4-(methylothio)-butanoic acid to transition dairy cows improves milk production but not hepatic lipid metabolism” or “The effect of supplemental feed at parturition in the rainy season on hair sheep ewe performance in the tropics.”

One of my criteria for selecting sessions to attend at the International Animal Agriculture and Food Science Conference was simple. I had to understand the title. That ruled out the first presentation.

A second criteria is that it had to have some possible bearing on dairy production… that nixed the second presentation.

Plenty to learn. At these meetings, researchers from universities and industry, extension types and graduate students from all over the world share their latest research and teaching developments. The research projects discussed are the beginnings of many new feeding, health care and management strategies that will emerge in the next few years.

Since this year’s conference was a joint meeting that included dairy, beef, sheep, swine, poultry and meat science types, participants could choose from more than 1,000 oral presentations. An additional 900 or so projects were presented as posters that could be viewed at set times.

Let’s look at just a few of the interesting ones:

* Headlocks and dry matter intake (DMI): In the last couple years there has been some work suggesting that DMI can be depressed if cows are using headlocks rather than feeding rails or other less restrictive systems.

Several researchers from Kansas State conducted a study using 216 Holsteins housed in two 108-stall, 2-row freestall barns. They found that DMI and milk production was no different for cows using headlocks or feeding rails. Cows were never locked into the freestalls for more than one hour at a time.

In the previous study, cows could be locked in for up to 4 hours at a time.

Heifers coming into the herds were familiar with headlocks before they freshened.

Presenter Mike Brouk did suggest that: 1) headlocks can be mismanaged; 2) headlock training may be needed in some herds; 3) slant or vertical bars without headlocks at the end of the feed line with headlocks can be helpful for the few cows who do not train to headlocks; (a nice way of saying that they are to stupid to figure it out!).

I would also add that these groups were obviously not overcrowded as we tend to do in some barns.

* Fan placement in 4-row barns: Is there an advantage to placing fans over both the feed line and freestalls, or will just the feed line do the trick?

In a nutshell, do them both. This study, also from Kansas State, used low-pressure sprinklers in the fans placed over the feed line. Misters ran 3 minutes on, 12 minutes off. Freestalls in the 4-row barns were head-to-head with the fans (no misters) placed over the center of the stalls.

Respiration rates were measured to evaluate heat stress. Rates were lower at night and in the morning when cows had fans over the stalls as well as the feed line. Afternoon rates were the same for both groups.

Lower respiration rates in the evening and morning suggest that heat stress did not last as long when additional fans were blowing over the stalls.

Milk production was 5.7 lbs higher per cow per day for the cows with both feed line and stall fans (85.6 lbs vs. 79.6 lbs.), compared to the cows with only fans and sprinklers over the feed line.

* Pocket Dairy: I must have been snoozing not to have heard of this one before. Pocket Dairy is a program that runs on a palm pilot and interfaces with the PC Dart dairy records program. A Palm Pilot is about 3.5″ x 5″ x 5/8 inch thick and will easily fit in a pocket.

Out in the barn you can pull up management lists or individual cow records. With a tap or two, the user can add information such as heats detected, breedings, calvings, group changes, treatments and other notes.

The unit has a small docking station that then allows you to transfer all the information you entered throughout the day back to the PC Dart program and updates all of the information on PC Dart and the Palm Pilot.

The system can also handle more than one Palm Pilot transferring information in and out of the system.

Just think, no more little scraps of paper stuffed into your pockets and then going through the wash! Write it down once on the Pilot and then transfer back to the computer. Just don’t drop it out in the alleyway…

* The presentation that got away: While it didn’t fit my two selection criteria, I would like to have gone to the session on “Effect of feeding different sources of supplemental fat on the performance of lactating buffaloes.”

From the title, I gather that buffaloes must be a significant source of milk in Pakistan where the work was done. My question: how do they convince a buffalo that she really wants to be milked?

(The author is the northeast Ohio district dairy specialist with OSU Extension. Send comments or questions in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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