Friday, October 23, 2009

Named as one of the 'Top Ag "Tweeps"'

Unless you're living under a rock, you've probably heard about Twitter and other uses of the technology that is generally called 'microblogging.' There are a number of agricultural professionals who are active on Twitter.

Publishing on Twitter has developed its own language, often using shortened words borrowed from SMS text messaging. Two people who follow each others postings on Twitter are called "Tweeps." Tweep is a conjunction of the words Twitter and peep, or people.

Guess who just got listed as one of the "Top 11 Tweeps in the Ag Industry"? That's right, DairyScienceMark! In the Twitter world I tweet as DairyAdviser. Thanks to folks at BASF Plant Science who tweet as @NutriDense.

You can easily start following all 11 Tweeps through the @NutriDense facilitation in TweepML.

Lots of people use Twitter as a regular form of communication. You should check it out.

Hope that helps

DairyScienceMark (aka @DairyAdviser)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Taking a 'Sip' from the 'Internet Firehose' - Part 1

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information on the Internet. Many of us, however, need to stay on top of certain topics. There's an easy way to automatically search the Internet and let Google send you an e-mail whenever something new is published.

If you're overwhelmed with e-mail, then just follow the instructions to use 'News Reader' software to track any and all websites that publish new items using a 'News Feed.' That's what I do and I have dozens of websites that I track this way.

What follows is a 'recipe' that I've developed to help dairy farm advisers track news items on a topic of their choice. You'll have to adapt it for your use.

  1. Go to
  2. In the search box, type in the search terms you'd use for a Google search. For example, type in dairy farm carbon credits and then click on the "Search News" button.
  3. Look over the list of responses. If some or most of the 'hits' are what you're looking for, then go to step 4 below. If few are what interests you, then adjust the search terms until you like the list.
  4. When the list is acceptable, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click on the link "Create an email alert for dairy farm carbon credit" which is under the "Stay up to date on these results:"heading.
  5. In the next page, you'll go into the "Google Alerts" system, and you can adjust how you get sent the info. You can change the type of search from "News" to other items. You can change the frequency from daily to 'as it happens' or once per week. You then type in your e-mail address and click on the "Create Alert" button.
  6. You'll be sent an e-mail from Google asking that you confirm the alert. When you get the e-mail, you must click on the link to confirm that you want the search.
  7. You can create more alerts by clicking on the link to do so. You might want to create one alert that scans 'News' and a seperate alert that scans the 'Web' for the same search terms.
  8. You can sign up with Google for an account so that 'manage your alerts.' I do this through my account, which is free. Many people prefer the Gmail message handling features, and if I didn't need to use my mail account to highlight my professional association with the University of Maryland, I'd use Gmail exclusively. I currently use it for all my personal e-mail. If you'd like an invite into Gmail, I'd be glad to provide one, but it's not necessary.
  9. When managing your alerts, you can either receive the notices by e-mail (which I find clogs up my mailbox) or you can view them with 'newsreader' software. I use this approach, and you go into the manage your alerts screen and change the "Deliver To" option from e-mail to "Feed".
If you need more info on newsreaders and feeds, you'll have to let me know. That's going to be the topic of my next 'Sip from the Internet Firehose' blog post. I personally use 'Google Reader' to view my custom set of news feeds, but there are many systems that work well.

Hope this helps.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Note Updated Time!!!!!! Twitter at ADSA Discover Conf on Dairy Herd Analytics

If you're like me, you've heard a lot about Twitter lately and wondered what all the hubbub was about. Twitter is best thought of as a 'microblogging' approach to publishing on the Internet that is limited to 140 characters at a time.

As you know, I follow communication technologies and their use by/for dairy professionals, so I've checked out Twitter and pondered its use with dairy. One of the best uses I've seen is doing 'real-time' live 'microblogging', called tweets', from a conference.

With that in mind, you can follow me at the 17th ADSA Discover Conference that is focused on Dairy Herd Analytics. You can review the program at . I will be providing real-time information about the speakers and their key conclusions as the conference progresses. You can track my postings (tweets) at

There are opportunities for you to ask real-time questions of the speakers at the following dates/times. Please note that all times are US Eastern Daylight Time.

Tuesday, 25 August
9:00 AM
11:15 AM
2:15 PM
4:00 PM

Wednesday, 26 August
.9:00 AM
11:15 AM
2:30 PM
3:15 PM

Thursday, 27 August
9:00 AM
11:15 AM (Wrap UP)

You can ask questions for the speakers or make comments by using direct messages to me (@dairyadviser). To do that, you need to signup with for a free account and then 'follow' me. If you follow me, then you can send a direct message.

I hope you can use this opportunity of an excellent and stimulating conference program to explore the Twitter communication approach.

Hope that helps


Friday, July 24, 2009

Raw Milk Madness

Drinking raw milk is quite simply, madness. I know and understand that people want to drink raw milk instead of pasteurized milk. I also understand that dairy producers are responding to demand, especially those producers who are near larger metropolitan areas.

I do have a problem, however, with public agencies who are complicit with these activities. You can read more about what's happening in Idaho, as published in the Capital Press Ag Weekly.

"The Idaho State Department of Agriculture has started the process to update its rules governing the sale of raw milk, setting the first meeting for Aug. 10 in Boise. The agency proposes to update milk quality and sanitary requirements for raw milk for human consumption and provide clarity to existing rules for raw milk produced under a "cow-share" program."

This whole business of 'cow-share' is just a wink and nod to marketing raw milk. People feed this raw milk to children.

Lots of people jay walk. Lots of parents jay walk with their children. Should our state agencies help make it legal for parents to jay walk their children across a busy street?

Think about it.


rinking raw milk is quite simply, madness. I know and understand that people want to drink raw milk instead of pasteurized milk. I also understand that dairy producers are responding to demand, especially those producers who are near larger metropolitan areas.

Carbon Footprint

I'd heard and read a lot about carbon footprints, but never understood it very well until I heard a presentation by Jude Capper, now a new Ass't Professor at Washington State Univ. She summarized some work that she had done in conjunction with Dale Bauman and Euridice Castaneda-Gutierrezof Cornell Univ and Roger Cady, now of Elanco. The fundamental component of their work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2008, but they have expanded it and continued their analysis.

If you haven't heard Jude speak on the topic or are confused about carbon footprint and animal agriculture I suggest that you participate in the eXtension webinar hosted by the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center. Both Jude and Roger will be presenting. Just click on the "Live Webcast" link and then the "Connect Now" link. The webinar room will open about 15 mintues before the start.

The webinar will be at 2:30 PM EDT on 31 July 2009. Let your friends and neighbors know.

Hope that helps.


Disclaimer: Roger Cady and I are old friends. We started Dairy-L, the listserv-software-based virtual community together now 20 years ago. That doesn't mean that I don't chastise him when he needs it, ( :-) ) but he doesn't on this. It's good work.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The economics of dairy farming is getting serious

Today, I was searching dairy-related info on Twitter, and I found a link to the following:

"In the wake of another dairy producer suicide, the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQA) along with Kings County Ag Commissioner's office and Colorado State University will be offering a webinar on farmer stress, depression and suicide prevention for professionals allied with the dairy industry."

Milk prices are extremely low right now, and they've been low before. They were also at extreme highs not so long ago, and milk prices will rise again. How soon? I'm sorry, but I don't know that.

I do know that if dairy farmers are killing themselves, then things are really getting serious and it's not just a 'rough patch.' Mr. Robert Fetsch was the speaker during the suicide prevention webinar, and he has a website "The Human side of Agriculture: Managing Tough Times."

Dairy Herd Management Magazine had some articles related to the human costs of low milk prices in the May 2009 issue, so if you're a dairy farmer or if you know a dairy farmer, it's worth reviewing the signs of stress and depression, as listed in their article. This is just one of the resources available in their "Crisis Management Resource Center."

If you're a dairy farmer, then don't be afraid to reach out. If you know someone who's a dairy farmer, then reach out to them.

Hope that helps.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lots of interest in feeding economics

Mike Hutjens, Dave Fischer and Dick Walace from the U of Illinois presented a webinar concerning feeding economics last week. I put a copy of the presentation on my site, and today, I got an e-mail from slideshare saying the following:

"We've noticed that your slideshow on SlideShare has been getting a LOT of views in the last 24 hours. Great job ... you must be doing something right. ;-) #bestofslideshare"

We've had over 300 views of the presentation in a week. That's a lot for a fairly narrow topic, like dairy production. Guess the announcements on Dairy-L and AABP-L helped. Lots of interest in the topic.

The archive of the audio/visual combined presentation is at

The power of the interconnected web is really on display.

Hope that helps.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Organic milk producers dropped in Maine

A group of dairy producers in Maine who were selling organic milk to the H.P. Hood processor were dropped by that processor as reported in the Bangor Daily News.

"Hood ships Maine’s organic milk to New York to be processed and packaged and then returns it to Maine where it is sold as Stonyfield Farm Organic Milk. In the retail market, organic milk can easily cost twice as much as conventional milk and, for the farmer, this translated into premiums and bonuses that lured many conventional dairy farmers to switch to organic, which they believed would be more profitable for them."

People are missing the essential link in the " organic milk industry..." to the rate of growth. While the high costs of organic milk in the retail case is leading to a decline in consumption, the rate of growth was not really related to consumer interest in the product.

Instead, the rapid growth in the organic milk market was related to large processors (Hood, Organic Valley and Horizon, for example) paying grocery store chains for space in the retail dairy case. Those charges are called "slotting fees" and have become somewhat controversial.

"Exactly how sensitive is the food industry to the topic? Despite GAO's best efforts and promised confidentiality, it was unsuccessful in gaining industry cooperation needed to conduct the study." according to Food & Drink Weekly in 2000.

The 'perfect storm' from a natural cycle of a downturn in consumer spending when combined with the percieved, yet artificial, growth in organic dairy product sales may spell the end of the organic dairy industry as we've come to know it for the last few years. Dairy farm advisers should caution their clients about making this kind of very expensive switch.

Hope this helps


Sunday, February 15, 2009

A real effort to improve dairy farm profitability

The Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) program was approved for another two years of operation, and this was announced in a news release on the CWT website. This program is the one being pushed by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) as the key mechanism for controlling country-wide milk production.

"“America’s dairy farmers are looking to CWT to help them overcome the dire financial circumstances they are facing,” said Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of NMPF, which manages CWT. “I’m pleased that our members are willing to support a two-year commitment to the program, in order to give us the resources necessary now to make a positive impact on farmer income.”"

The newest version of the CWT Program will have two changes. Those changes were described in the press release.

"CWT’s members also approved two changes in program policy. First, all members whose bids are accepted in future herd retirement programs will agree and warrant to cease dairy production for one year. This warranty will apply to both the producer and his/her dairy facility.
The second change is that farmers who were successful participants in past CWT herd retirement rounds will be permitted to bid in the next herd retirement round that CWT conducts."

This program will take approximately one year to have the desired effect for a variety of reasons. While the CWT program works and more than pays for itself, at least from the viewpoint of the producer, this is not a quick fix.

I'm not sure that a 'quick fix' is available for this particular situation.

Hope that helps.


Friday, February 13, 2009

New Niche Market?

I know I sometimes have 'funny' dairy-related items on Fridays at the 'Coffeeshop.' I promise that the following is not a 'funny' item. It's a new niche market for a 'dairy product' in India.

The Food and Beverage News reports in that:

"...the cow protection department of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India's leading Hindu cultural group, has invented a new soft drink made of cow's urine and decided to promote its health-giving properties to a wider market in the country."

They also report that:

In several states, cow dung and urine are sold in regular dairy shops and products ranging from toothpaste, shampoo, soap, face powder and shaving lotion to balm, biscuits, incense sticks, phenyl, mosquito coils and distemper which are being made from cow urine and cow dung. "

They predict that:

"Once the tests show positive results, the department will work its packaging, preservation and marketing," Prakash added. The department claims that the product is an alternative for western cold-drinks and will sweep the Indian market"

The dairy industry is in dire economic straights, and many dairy producers have trouble getting rid of the 'products' that these Indian folks are going to sell or are selling. Is it time the dairy industry tries to 'think outside the box'?

Thinking outside the box isn't limited to the US.

Hope that helps.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Causes of the drop in milk prices paid to dairy producers

There has been a dramatic drop in milk prices paid to dairy producers during the last six months of 2009. A description of an interesting interaction between the global economic downturn and the strengthing of the US Dollar is a part of the issue, and that's the subject of a recent article in Dairy Herd Management.

"Prices normally soften after the holiday-buying season, explains Bob Cropp, professor emeritus and dairy economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but a decline of this magnitude comes as “a surprise to everybody.”The biggest driver behind the current low prices is demand, and “not because we’re flooded with milk,” Cropp adds."

"The economic downturn hurt demand both domestically and internationally. Up until the last few months of 2008, exports were strong, Cropp explains. But since the world economy has softened, exports also are down."

The US Dollar has strengthened against other world currencies, and the impact of that trend on overall exports was described in a recent Reuters article published in Forbes. Basically, this article described a number of different products that were affected by the downturn in exports, though cheese purchases was not included.

The Dairy Herd Management article didn't mention the Dollar's strengthening impact on cheese and dairy products prices either, but it did describe the decrease in global demand for dairy products.

As the US Dollar strengthens and we buy fewer imports, buyers abroad will have less money to buy US agricultural products, and those exports are economically important to the country.

Hope that helps.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Clueless newspaper reporters

Sometimes newspaper reporters are so clueless. A recent example is in the Porterville Recorder that carried an article by Sabrina Ziegler. Porterville is in one of the California dairy ares, and the article was about a dairy producer growing a silage variety of corn. She then goes on to state:

"Dairy cows require protein, which is usually found in rolled corn that would need to be purchased from an outside source."

Even a reproductive physiologist like me knows that corn grain is rich in carbohydrates, not protein. The article describes how cows are typically fed alfalfa hay. California irrigated alfalfa has such high levels of protein that dairy producers in my area treat it as if it were a protein supplement.

While it's important to read and monitor news articles about the dairy industry, it's also important to read them carefully and interpret them according to what you know.

Hope that helps.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Fun posting for Friday

I'm going to try to post a link to something funny in the Dairy Farm Adviser's Coffeeshop on Friday's this year. You can watch the video of the 'tap dancing cow' hosted by Bore Me by clickin on the link.

Not sure how they got the video of the cow to do that, but I enjoyed it. Not sure who paid for the video, but it's got to be a dairy organization.

Hope that helps.


Dairy farms out of buisness: CWT announcement

The Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) Program has recently announced that 184 bids were accepted in the second round of acceptances in 2008, and those bids account for over 60,000 cows. This announcement and the regional distribution of the herds was profiled in a recent World Dairy Diary blog posting.

This program has announced that it will continue in 2009, which will likely be needed given the current economic conditions both broadly, but especially for the dairy industry.

Dairy producers in milk marketing cooperatives that belong to the umbrella organization, National Milk Producers Federation, contributed 10 cents US for every 100 lbs (22 kg) of raw milk sold to the milk marketing cooperative. These producers represent about 70% of the milk sold in the US.

Dr. Scott Brown of the Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri did an independent analysis of the impact of the CWT program. He found that the 10 cents per 100 pounds of milk invested in the program resulted in 75 cents US return in higher milk prices.

While the industry should feel positive about the CWT Program and its benefits, it should also be recognized that the dairy producers who represent 30% of the milk produced in the US also receive the benefit of the program, without having to contribute the 10 cents. Using US averages, that's about 20,000 herds that each get an extra $2,400 or so each year because of the work of the 70% of the industry.

Not fair is it? Guess not. I remember my father fretting over those kinds of decisions when he was a leader in his milk marketing cooperative. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Hope that helps.


Economy slowdown hurts dairy producers too

It's not news to any dairy adviser that prices paid to dairy producers has declined in the last few months. Andrew Martin wrote an article that was first published in the New York Times that describes the decline and discusses some causes and describes when a 'turn-around' in price might occur. This article has been picked up by other newspapers, including the Gainsville Sun
and the Florence, Alabama Times Daily.

The article discusses the rapid decline in milk price over the last several months, and it draws a parallel to the global economic decline. As Americans spent money on imported products, those dollars flowed overseas into economies. What did those people with more money do? They improved the quality of the food they ate and feed to their families. This helped create a dramatic increase in export of US dairy products.

Dairy producers don't reduce herd size when prices go down, however. The farmer has a large investment in getting a calf to become a lactating cow, and the farmer needs to recoup some of that investment.

"“People don’t want to panic,” said Brian W. Gould, an agricultural economist at the University of Wisconsin, adding that farmers were receiving $20 for 100 pounds of raw milk just a few months ago. The price is expected to drop to about $14 for 100 pounds of raw milk in coming months. “It is unclear as to whether this will be a short-term or long-term market correction. It all depends on how long it takes the U.S. economy to recover,” he said."

When will the world economy recover? I don't think anyone really knows. It does seem, however, that the export market for US dairy industry will be slow to return, because the economic development in overseas markets may be delayed.

"“In some of these countries where dairy hasn’t been a big part of their diet, this is where we are seeing people pull back,” said Deborah Perkins, managing director of the food and agribusiness research group at Rabobank International."

Dairy farmers tend to think local. These days, we all need to have a global perspective if we want to understand what's going in.

Hope that helps.