Dr. Temple Grandin: A One of a Kind Mind

She is an American professor of animal science at Colorado State University, a best-selling author, an autism activist, a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior and the inventor of the “hug box“, a device to calm those on the autism spectrum. In the 2010 Time 100 list of the one hundred most influential people in the world, named in the “Heroes” category, and she was the subject of the award-winning, biographical film, Temple Grandin.

When asked how autism helps her connect in a unique way to animals? She answered:

Autism helped me understand animals because I think in pictures. Since animals do not have language, their memories have to be sensory-based instead of word-based. In my early animal behavior work, I noticed that cattle often balked and refused to walk over shadows or pass a coat hung on a fence. In the 1970s, it was a new idea to look at things that cattle were seeing.

There is scientific evidence that animals think in pictures, and that this learning is very specific. When an animal is trained to tolerate one type of activity, it does not easily transfer to another similar activity. For example, habituating a horse to tolerate the sudden opening of an umbrella does not transfer to a flapping tarp. Animals often get specific fear memories that are associated with aversive events. A horse that had alcohol thrown in its eyes during a veterinary procedure became afraid of black cowboy hats. A white cowboy hat was safe and a black hat was scary. He was looking at a black cowboy hat when the alcohol was thrown.”

Dr. Grandin has been a pioneer in improving the handling and welfare of farm animals. Facilities that she has designed for handling livestock are used by many companies around the world, and she has been instrumental in implementing animal welfare auditing programs that are used by some of the biggest companies in the world including McDonalds, Wendy’s, and Whole Foods to name a few. She has appeared on numerous TV shows such as 20/20. Larry King Live, and Prime Time and written a number of books including Thinking in Pictures, Livestock Handling and Transport and The Autistic Brain. Her book Animals in Translation has been on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Dr. Grandin has received numerous awards including the Meritorious Achievement Award from the Livestock Conservation Institute, named a Distinguished Alumni at Franklin Pierce College and received an honorary doctorate from McGill University, University of Illinois, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duke University. She has also won prestigious industry awards including the Richard L. Knowlton Award from Meat Marketing and Technology Magazine and the Industry Advancement Award from the American Meat Institute and the Beef Top 40 industry leaders and the Lifetime Achievement Award from The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. In 2011, Temple was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. In 2015 she was given the Distinguished Service Award by the American Farm Bureau Federation and Meritorious Award from the OIE. HBO has premiered a movie about Temple’s early life and career with the livestock industry. The movie received seven Emmy awards, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award. In 2016, Temple was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2017 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. She was also made a fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2018. 

To find out more about Dr. Grandin’s work and advocacy, we encourage you to can visit her official autism website, and the other to learn more about livestock behavior and facility design. Dr. Grandin’s one of a kind brilliant mind has made her one of the most influential advocates of her time, and it is an honor to highlight her as one of the most inspirational women in our International Women’s Month feature.

How Temple Grandin Overcame Challenges with Autism to Achieve Greatness

Meet Shauna Curry: A Canadian CEO driven to address the global need for safe drinking water

Shauna Curry is the CEO of CAWST, a Canadian charity and licensed engineering firm that addresses the global need for safe drinking water and sanitation. CAWST teaches people how to get safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in their own homes, using simple, affordable technologies.

Shauna Curry, CEO of CAWST

Shauna has travelled to 14 different developing countries on a mission to help people achieve clean water in their communities. Shauna started at CAWST in 2004 as a Global WASH Advisor before becoming the head of CAWST’s global training and consulting services a year later.

Taking over as CEO in 2011, this incredible woman knows her stuff when it comes to water. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Bio-resource Engineering from the University of Saskatchewan.

We celebrate the work that Shauna and her team are doing, not only as part of our International Women’s Month campaign, but today especially on World Water Day!

Meet Jane Sherborne: A multi-generational farmer with a heart that has always been in dairy

Jane Sherborne is a generational dairy farmer whose farming roots go back at least six generations in both Northern Ireland and Germany.  She is so deeply rooted in dairy that some may even say that she has milk running through her veins. Jane’s passion for dairy farming started on her family’s dairy farm in Wisconsin, where she fondly remembers helping (or perhaps hindering) her dad with the daily farm chores. Jane’s family legacy is strong in Wisconsin where generations ago her great grandmother’s family were the original builders of octagonal barns that you still see today. Growing up Jane would dream of one day having her own family farm. Today she lives in New South Wales, Australia – the land of big skies, interesting animals, and sunburns – where her dream has come true.

While dabbling in several careers throughout her life, Jane now plays an active role on her own dairy where she farms with her husband and three children. She also plays an integral role in the Australian dairy industry where she has held titles of Member, Director, and Chairman for various associations at one time or another. She says, “it has not always been easy, as a female, but that just makes me work harder, smarter and be more determined.” 

“It has not always been easy, as a female, but that just makes me work harder, smarter and be more determined.”

Jane Sherborne

She believes that dairy farmers are responsible for producing a product that meets market requirements while also controlling supply. This ensures not to devalue the industry, the animals, the people whose livelihoods depend on the industry, or the resources it takes to produce healthy and nutritious milk. Jane knows that having a long-term focus on sustainability supports prosperity for the entire industry.    

Jane and her family are committed to educating and promoting the dairy industry. For over a decade they have been involved in the Cows Create Careers project where they answer questions about careers in the dairy industry and share their overall passion for farming. Jane says, “they may not get a job in dairy, but they learn to respect and appreciate the liquid gold that we produce!” 

While dairy farming looks quite different for Jane today in Australia compared to what it looked like growing up 10,000 miles away in Wisconsin, a few things do remain constant. “It is truly a blessing to farm every day with my family, and it is a gift to see our hard work thrive in the health and happiness of our animals” she says. 

Pictured above: Jane Sherborne on her dairy farm in New South Wales, Australia

Meet Katie Sattazahn of Zahncroft Dairy: Dedicated to Maintaining the Legacy of the Family Farm

Throughout the month of March we will be celebrating the strong, resilient, and courageous women who inspire us everyday. We hope you will join the conversation by celebrating the women who inspire you too!

#WomenInspiringWomen #ChoosetoChallenge.

Meet Katie Sattazahn. Like so many women, dairy farming is in Katie’s blood. Katie grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania before going on to Pennsylvania State University to study animal science. Today, Katie and her husband’s family manage 280 cows and associated youngstock at Zahncroft Dairy, a multiple generation dairy farm outside of Reading, PA. 

Katie is extremely passionate about dairy farming and is dedicated to maintaining the legacy of the family farm. 

When asked why she does what she does, Katie replied: “People need nourishing food and dairy meets that criteria as a highly nutritious food. We have the ability to produce a nutritious product that is affordable to consumers.” Producing healthy, nutritious food brings great pride to Katie, and like every other dairy farmer we know, the health of her animals is of utmost importance to her.

Zahncroft Dairy takes part in an educational program with schools where classrooms adopt a cow. The class is alerted when the calf is born, and the students follow along with that cow’s development throughout the school year. At the end of the year the class gets to live chat with Katie. It is evident just how passionate Katie is about connecting young consumers to the farm, while and educating them about the importance of dairy farming. 

We are grateful for the work that Katie and her family do every day to produce nutritious and delicious food for our families, while simultaneously taking great care of the land and the animals in their trust.

Pictured above: Raechel, Doug, Katie and David, owners and operators of Zahncroft Dairy.

AN EARTH DAY EXCLUSIVE WITH THE GHG GURU: PART 2

I am thrilled to continue our 2 part series on greenhouse gas emissions, most notably methane, with none other than the @ghgguru himself, Dr. Frank Mitloehner. Did you miss Part 1? If so you’re going to want to start there first!

Animal science professor Frank Mitloehner reaches beyond academia to inform the public about animal agriculture’s influence on greenhouse gas emissions. (photo: UC Davis)

Dr. Mitloehner is a Professor and Air Quality Specialist in Cooperative Extension in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis. As we learned in Part 1 of this conversation, Dr. Mitloehner is an expert for agricultural air quality, livestock housing and husbandry and conducts research that is directly relevant to understanding and mitigating of air emissions from livestock operations. His research includes the implications of these emissions for the health and safety of farm workers and neighboring communities.

 

 

 

Jenkins: We saw an article that you shared about the EU considering meat tax to save the climate.  What’s your take on that idea?

Dr. Mitloehner:

This is an idea of a minority at the moment and I think that Covid-19 will change everything. This virus is going to change us in such profound ways that we don’t even comprehend at this point.

People are going to the supermarket and for the first time in their lives they are seeing a supply chain problem. All of the sudden the things that we have always been able to buy simply aren’t there.

I think people will come to the realization that it’s not just the health sector that is really critical to a nation’s sustainability but that it is particularly the food sector. I think if we play it right and agriculture really toots it’s horn about it’s role in providing the food that we all need during this current crisis, I think there could be a change in the appreciation people have for agriculture and in particular animal agriculture.

When you go to the supermarket these days, you will see that it’s the beef, dairy, eggs, etc. that they are flying off the shelves! Then go take a look at how well the plant-based alternatives are doing… they are not flying off the shelves.

I hope that we begin to question how society treats animal agriculture overall. How much more regulations are people willing to put up with? Are the financial margins high enough for people to maintain in business? When we are tossing large amounts of milk, and there are high prices for meat in the super market yet the farmers are getting paid very little, when there is a strong demand but for some reason the revenue that is generated does not get back to the people who are producing the food…. that is a major problem. Farmers do not get paid for the work they do. They are not getting appropriate compensation.

I am very interested to see how all of this plays out, and whether or not this pandemic will actually change people’s perception of what’s really important in life.

Jenkins: Speaking of the pandemic, with industry and work commuting drastically reduced around the world, we have started to hear stories of how this may positively impact the planet. Do you think we will see a positive climate effect?

Dr. Mitloehner:

The impact that we are seeing is a short-term impact. We are seeing a reduction in emissions in different parts of the world that have been the most hard hit such as northern Italy and parts of China. As a result of the lock down, we are burning less fossil fuels and as a result we have fewer criteria pollutants such as NOx (Nitrogen oxides) SOx (sulfur oxides) volatile organic compounds such as carbon monoxide and so on…  all of the gases that develop when you burn fossil fuels.

Once the lock downs are lifted, people will go right back to their former habits. They will return to their former work schedules and travel schedules and the reductions that we have seen will all be gone. Likely people will even overcompensate for being stuck at home.

Jenkins: If you wanted to clear up one important misconception about cows and emissions what would it be? 

When a cow produces methane, that methane stays in the atmosphere for about 10 years. It is then destroyed by a process called hydroxyl oxidation. That’s a process that we’ve known about for a long time but it has never really entered the public discussion.

Hydroxyl oxidation destroys methane in about 10 years when it is converted back into CO2 again. So if methane has a lifespan of 10 years and CO2 has a lifespan of 1000 years, why would that be a good thing that methane is converted back into CO2 again?

The reason why the biogenic carbon cycle is a good thing, is because you are not adding new additional carbon to the atmosphere. What is happening is that you are actually recycling carbon. The carbon that becomes methane when the animal belches or when it comes out in her manure, that carbon that is in the methane originated in atmospheric CO2 and that’s what it will become again will become again once it is oxidized from animal methane.

This means that if you keep your livestock numbers constant, you are not adding any new additional carbon to the atmosphere and hence you are not adding any new additional warming. That is the part that is least understood by people who are critical of animal agriculture.

Biogenic methane is not new methane. It is not new carbon to the atmosphere, and hence it does not cause additional warming. This will take people, and the climate critics of animal agriculture, a little while to understand.

Jenkins: How can we help get this message out to the consumer? 

This is a major challenge because it is a technical issue that is not easily explained or understood. I have colleagues at the University of Oxford in England, and colleagues in New Zealand among other places, who are proposing the use of a new way of accounting for methane from livestock: it’s called GWP*.

GWP* is a way of accurately describing the warming impacts of methane. If this were to gain traction, the world discussion around methane would change in a dramatic way. I think that it is very likely that this discussion will change because the way that it’s currently held is simply not accurate.

Imagine going to your bank and saying: “From now on, I will only talk about my income, I will no longer talk about my expense.” That is what we are doing with methane currently!

Right now we are only looking at one side of the budget: the sources of methane. We are leaving out sinks of methane even though they are almost balancing each other out, and that makes absolutely no sense. The sink processes are super strong and they must be accounted for. If they are not accounted for then the questions is why they are not being accounted for.

We have understood hydroxyl oxidation for a long time so why would we not account for that?

If we are truly concerned about warming, if we truly want to reduce our warming by 1½ degrees centigrade, if that is our true intent, then what is it that we need to quantify? What we need to quantify is the true warming impacts of methane sector and you cannot get those impacts by the units that are currently being used.

Picture this: The CO2 that is emitted by a power plant will stay in the atmosphere for 1000 years. If you start to increase this CO2 or decrease this CO2, all of the CO2 that you have already put out will remain in the atmosphere for a very long time. Now, if you reduce methane, that is a very different story. What we need to do with methane is not just look at how much methane is in the air right now, but we need to look at the rate of change for methane.

If we were to compare the methane production from the California dairy sector  between the years 2000, 2010, and 2020, and we saw an increase, that would be a big problem. If the numbers were constant, the rate of change would be zero. Now, if our current methane emissions were lower today than what they were in 2010, that would mean that we have actually managed to pull out carbon from the atmosphere. That would mean that we have initiated a cooling process.

GWP* is the process by which we can assign an actual warming number to methane, and this can help us prove that animal agriculture could have a significant solution potential to climate problems… and that’s the direction that things are going.

Thank you Dr. Mitloehner for sharing your time and wisdom to help us better understand where we need to focus our attention for cleaner air and a healthy climate as it relates to animal agriculture while recognizing the important role animals plays in nourishing our world.

Be sure to follow @ghgguru and @UCDavisCLEAR on Twitter, and check out the GHG Guru’s blog!

AN EARTH DAY EXCLUSIVE WITH THE GHG GURU: PART 1

Here at the LWR Innovation Center, we know a lot about manure. In fact, we consider ourselves to be manure experts! But we aren’t experts on greenhouse gases and we’re on a mission to really understand the role that cows play when it comes to emissions.

We’ve all heard that animal agriculture creates greenhouse gas emissions. Have you also heard that cows that they can be part of a climate solution? With so many different messages, I decided to reach out to a real expert to help us understand the relationship between cows, carbon, and the climate… and what better timing than to do it on Earth Day!

This year the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The theme for 2020 is climate action and I am excited to share the exciting ways that animal agriculture can positively impact the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.

Animal science professor Frank Mitloehner reaches beyond academia to inform the public about animal agriculture’s influence on greenhouse gas emissions. (photo: UC Davis)

Dr. Frank Mitloehner, aka @ghgguru on Twitter, is a Professor and Air Quality Specialist in Cooperative Extension in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis. He is an expert for agricultural air quality, livestock housing and husbandry and conducts research that is directly relevant to understanding and mitigating of air emissions from livestock operations. His research includes the implications of these emissions for the health and safety of farm workers and neighboring communities. Dr. Mitloehner is also director of the new CLEAR Center at UC Davis, which is focused on research and science communication.

He shared some of his wisdom with me last week, and it’s my pleasure to share that insight with you here.

Jenkins: First, I can help but want to understand why cows, in particular have been targeted in such a negative way?

Dr. Mitloehner:

Animal agriculture has been targeted by different groups for a long time. They are trying to use the climate argument to get consumers to disassociate from animal sourced foods. Most of the real, legitimate concern is around methane, and in particular ruminant livestock methane that is more potent than other greenhouse gases. They want to convince us that by simply consuming less animal sourced foods, that we can make large changes to the climate.

Jenkins: What factors should be included in the greenhouse gases that are attributed to livestock production?

Dr. Mitloehner:

When it comes to greenhouse gases from animal agriculture the most important one is methane. The second is nitrous oxide which not as well known to people but it is actually much more potent than methane. Nitrous oxide is emitted when you fertilize fields with both chemical and manure fertilizers.

But let’s talk about methane because that is the point of contention. Methane is 28 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. There is no question that methane is a potent greenhouse gas. In addition to its potency, there are other important differences between methane on the one side and nitrous oxide and CO2 on the other side. Mainly and most importantly, CO2 and nitrous oxide are long lived climate pollutants with a lifespan of hundreds to a thousand years. Once a molecule of CO2 or Nitrous Oxide enters the air, they stay there pretty much forever.

Methane, on the other hand, only has a lifespan of only 10 years. Methane is produced, but it is also destroyed, and here is where most people fall short when accounting for methane: they only account for the production of this gas, but not for the destruction of this gas, and when you do this beef and dairy look really bad because when you only look at the one side of the accounting sheet and not the other side then you get the wrong picture.

Critics of animal agriculture fall short in a drastic way. What they should do is look at the real warming potential of methane, and not just how much methane is emitted and can be expressed as CO2 equivalent.

By simply using a factor of 28 to calculate the CO2 equivalent of methane some have assumed that methane is 28 times worse than CO2 but in fact that has zero relevance to the actual warming impact of methane. The warming impacts are not being expressed by the current unit that is being used.

 

Imagine this: Worldwide, there are 560 terragrams of methane produced. That is a high number, and people take that number and say “see how bad it is?!” but…. While it is a high number, the part of the story that isn’t being told is that while it’s produced at a rate of 560 terragrams it is destroyed at a rate of 550 terragrams. The global net methane is not 560 but in fact it is only 10.

 

Atmospheric chemists have known this for a long time but they haven’t been a part of the methane conversation. If they were, it would really be a game changer. By only using the production numbers, we have seen public policy effected in a very negative and non-scientific way. Methane is important but it is currently not being characterized appropriated.

Jenkins:  So what would happen if we could reduce methane?

Dr. Mitloehner:

If you keep methane constant by having constant cattle numbers without making any changes to manure management practices, or to reduce enteric emissions, the methane emitted by your cows will stay stagnant – constant – and will not add any additional new methane to the atmosphere because as those cattle emit methane, the same amount is being destroyed in the atmosphere. However, if you increase methane by adding new cows, then you drastically increase warming impact and we want to prevent that by all means.

Now, if you reduce methane from US animal agriculture by 10 to 20 percent you are actually pulling carbon out of the atmosphere, which leads to a net cooling effect, which results in global cooling which can counteract fossil fuel related warming impacts.

So by using a technology that reduces methane, that reduction correlates to a net cooling impact and that to me is so exciting and should be so exciting to companies such as yours.

 

Jenkins: Are there any methane solutions that you are particularly excited about?

Dr. Mitloehner:               

Methane is produced in anaerobic conditions… whether that’s the ruminant of the cow or in the manure lagoon on the dairy. In those environments you have a drastic increase of methanogens that produce methane gas. If you want to reduce that, there are different technologies that are under development from an enteric methane perspective, there is a drug called 3NOP that has been very well researched and is a good successful candidate for enteric methane reductions.

From a manure methane reduction perspective, anaerobic digesters certainly have a major role to play – now whether that always makes economic sense is a different question. In California we have reduced methane from manure by 25 percent over the last two years largely through the use of anaerobic digesters which is something the dairy industry should be very proud of.

There are also alternative manure management practices that are being supported financially here in California by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Both anaerobic digesters and alternative manure management practices (including the LWR System) have received half a billion dollars of public funds over the last two years in California.  People are quantifying the impacts of these technology and the public sector is supporting them.

Jenkins: How important is manure treatment in the greenhouse gas equation? 

Dr. Mitloehner:               

There is no doubt hat the short-lived climate pollutants such as methane have the most immediate impact on climate. It is because they are short lived that when you reduce them, you will see an immediate impact on climate.

It would be a wonderful thing if we could all stop emitting CO2, but the fact remains that the CO2 we have been emitting will still be in the atmosphere in 1000 years. Now if you reduce methane, that reduction will impact the climate immediately. and that’s why it’s such a big deal!

Jenkins: What do you say to people who say we should just go meatless?

Dr. Mitloehner:               

I say that if someone feels better about eating a plant based diet than that’s their decision. Will it have a major impact on methane? The answer to that is no.

The demand for animal sourced foods is strong and it’s not being reduced at all through plant-based alternatives. The meat demand in the United States and Canada has been increasing while at the same time the demand for plant-based alternatives has also been increasing so we do not see that one is replacing the other.

Even if 10 or 20 percent of consumers switch over to a plant-based diet, that would have a minimal impact on our climate.

If all 320 million Americans stopped consuming all animal sourced foods, if everyone became vegan, the carbon footprint of the United States would be reduced by only 2.6 percent! If we all were to go meatless on Mondays, our carbon footprint would be reduced by 0.3 percent. (Nutritional and greenhouse gas impacts of removing animals from US agriculture)

Stay tuned for part 2 of our conversation where Dr. Mitloehner will fill us in on one of the the biggest misconceptions about methane, and what the future has in store! In the meantime, be sure to follow @ghgguru on Twitter, and check out the GHG Guru’s blog

SHOO FLY!

When the Flies Show Up, Your Bottom Line Can Take a Serious Hit!

…and so can herd health, animal comfort, productivity and your comfort, too!

Cow Fly.png

Summer is officially here which means it’s time to tackle the serious business of fly control. Flies can be a real challenge for livestock farmers and can cost the dairy and hog industries hundreds of millions of dollars in lost production each year.

Not only are they annoying to both the workers and the animals, flies really do have a significant effect on production efficiencies. Instead of resting and making milk, cows can easily expend their extra energy trying to fend off these pesky nuisances! Flies in the barn can decrease milk production, and increase medication costs, veterinary visits, and the threat of disease spreading… not to mention reduced farm worker productivity and the increased chance of having cranky neighbors.

A fly problem in your barns can wreak havoc on your herd. You’ll find the cows trying to get rid of the flies by shaking, rubbing and switching their tails which can raise both their heart and respiratory rates, and can also increase their body temperature causing heat stress. You might also find them grouping together, which can worsen their heat stress.

Hog Flies

And then there’s the bites…

Fly bites can result in major economic losses to pig farmers. Irritation from biting flies can cause skin lesions or allergic reactions causing some pigs to be skinned at the abattoir. A skin from a finisher pig can weigh 17kg and the financial penalty can be as much as $34 per pig, as well as additional downgrades depending on the abattoir.

Back in the dairy barn, the nutrients that would normally go into milk production are diverted to replace blood loss from biting. There is also a risk of transmitting diseases such as mastitis, bacterial scours, and pink eye throughout the herd.

Research has been done on the actual production losses that relate directly to stable flies and it’s estimated that a dairy can lose:

  • 306 lbs of milk per cow
  • 13 lbs of body weight from preweaned calves
  • 57 lbs of body weight from stocker cattle

When you add all of this up you get a grand estimated total of $360 million in lost production across the industry.

Fly cycle

All flies pass through four life stages: egg, larva (maggot), pupa, and adult. During its life cycle, which is about 30 days, a house fly female can lay up to 1000 eggs. These eggs are deposited on moist manure or any decaying organic matter. The eggs hatch in 10 to12 hours and the maggots move into the wet manure. Fly maggots mature in 4 to 5 days under warm moist conditions. Pupation occurs in the drier parts of manure, with the adult flies emerging in 3 to 5 days. Under ideal conditions, a fly can complete its life cycle in 9 to 14 days.

So what’s the best way to deal with this pesky problem?

Flies love dirty, moist conditions and their favorite breeding ground is decaying organic matter and manure. It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that when it comes to fly control, the best remedy is prevention, and the answer lies in a clean barn!

Flies deposit eggs in the top few inches of moist manure which means that minimizing the amount of moist manure surface area available to the fly is an excellent fly reduction strategy. The LWR System creates a dry solid from manure liquids to greatly reduce fly attraction areas.

It also helps keep your dairy clean and dry and gives producers the ability to sell segregated manure fertilizer promptly rather than stockpiling it.

Instead of dealing with the problem after it’s already a problem, you can solve it before it becomes a problem by treating your manure year round. With empty lagoons and clean lanes you also will lower their re-productivity and stop the flies before they start.

A barn with the LWR System is a barn without a manure problem, and a barn without manure problem is a barn without a fly problem!

 

CLEAN WATER AND COW COMFORT… THE KEY TO DAIRY PROFITABILITY

How cow comfort improves your bottom line by increasing productivity and improving animal health and welfare. 

Every dairy, no matter the size, is always looking for ways to maximize milk production.  The one irrefutable factor that will maximize production every single time is cow comfort. This is true regardless of the management or nutritional program employed on any dairy of any size in any state. To maximize milk production cows need to be comfortable, and to maximize comfort, cows need to be clean.

Cow Comfort.jpg

Dairy producers are committed to cow comfort however many are still building completely new facility that are based around a type of manure system that does not allow for maximized cow comfort, thus leaving both milk production and money on the table.

Manure management is so closely connected to animal comfort that some dairy producers are now designing their barns to include a manure treatment system that will increase cow comfort. They know that manure treatment is the next great advantage!

Several studies have found that dirty animals are risk factors for compromised health and production issues, such as mastitis, high SCC in milk, and lameness. In fact, environmental sanitation based on the amount of manure on the cow and in her environment is a predictor of the occurrence of coliform mastitis, and in  four separate study herds, the lowest incidence of mastitis occurred in the herd with “the cleanest cows and the most satisfactory beds.”

This all comes together in The Cow Comfort Link to Milk Quality where Dr. Cook proves that the cleaner the cows and the lower the bacterial count of the bedding, the fewer problems you will have! Mastitis is the most frequent and costly disease of dairy cattle, and production losses due to subclinical mastitis on dairy farms in the United States have been estimated to exceed $1 billion dollars annually.

Dr Cook.jpg

Not only does cow comfort dramatically increases when cows are housed in a clean and dry environment but there is also a known association between cow cleanliness and milk quality as measured by somatic cell count.

FACT: Clean barns prevent bacterial growth, and it’s that bacterial growth that contributes to high somatic cell count and mastitis. If cows have manure on their feet when they move back to the freestalls after milking, that manure gets rubbed onto the teats and the floor of the udder area. This is a primary reason why some herds that appear to have relatively clean cows have significant levels of environmental mastitis. Dirty herds with cleanliness problems will have lower milk yields and higher SCC when compared with clean herds.

Dairy producers are committed to keeping barns and alleyways as clean as possible, and the best possible way to keep barns clean is by implementing manure treatment technology that will return clean water back to the barns.

bedding.jpg

Clean and dry bedding is another key to cow comfort. When a barn is clean and dry, the cows will be more comfortable. When a cow lays down on clean, comfortable bedding, her blood flow increases and therefore so does her milk production.

Research shows that that a standing cow circulates 25% less blood flow through her udder than a lying cow. When hours of rest and production were compared it was found that each hour increase in resting time resulted in a gain of 1.7 kg (3.7 lb) of milk production (Bach, 2008).

Increased lying time also has a potential benefit for fetal growth. Significantly more blood flowed to the gravid uterine horn when cows were lying relative to when they were standing during several stages throughout the gestation period (Nishida et al., 2004).

Cows are also influenced by the cleanliness of the surfaces and bedding in their motivation to lie down.  They prefer clean, dry and soft surfaces for rest. This cleanliness aspect can also impact the time needed to lie down as it takes longer for cows to lie down when surfaces are covered by manure and can tend to be slippery (Popescu et al, 2013)

Studies have also shown a significant link between the lying duration and the percentage of cows with dirty upper legs/flank and udders (Devries et al., 2012, Popescu etc al, 2013).

Now we just wish we could increase our own productivity while we’re laying down!

When it comes to the type of bedding cows prefer, sand is preferable for many reasons. It is resistant to bacterial growth and with a lower level of pathogens, sand has become increasingly popular. However if not stored and handled properly, sand can become contaminated. Using clean water to flush and wash sand increases drying time and creates a cleaner, more comfortable environment.

Profitable farmers are those who are continually seeking out bottlenecks that interfere with their goals. The manure bottleneck is one that is preventing a farm the ability to grow, affecting cow comfort, and ultimately costing farms money.

The LWR System keeps bedding and barns as clean and comfy as possible, which encourages laying down and keeping cows as clean as possible when they do lay down.

The implication is clear: Clean cows are comfortable cows,  comfortable cows are profitable cows, and cows and manure simply do not belong together!

Cows and Manure.jpg

Tune in next week as we examine the link between employee comfort and your bottom line: How clean water increases productivity, reduces turnover, and improves safety on the farm!

Always Be Innovating

Hey guys, Jenkins here.

Did you know that at LWR we’re committed to constant research and product development? We also live by my personal motto: Always be innovating!

It really is true that our team never stops innovating. We are passionate about what we do and driven to offer livestock farmers state of the art manure treatment technology that is cost effective, efficient, and user-friendly!

We have come a long way since our first system was first launched in 2011. Over the past 7 years we have learned a ton about manure. Our team has spent countless hours running the equipment, analyzing the data (courtesy of me, of course!) and listening to feedback from the producers who are actually using the system. By combining all the complaints, kudos and recommendations we have been able to exponentially improve almost every aspect of the LWR System. We’ve taken some stuff out, made a lot of things better and have even found ways to give farmers more control over their nutrients than they’ve ever had before. In fact, we’ve made so many improvements that we needed to give the LWR System a brand-new name!

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you the LWR2 (pronounced LWRsquared)!

LWR2

The upgrades to this next generation system include:

  • Drier solids
  • Greater control
  • Reduced capital costs
  • 20% smaller footprint
  • Reduced cleaning cycles
  • Fully automated for reduced labor cost
  • Improved membrane technology to reduce fouling
  • Lower cost of consumables than ever before!

I’m sure you’re thinking that with all of these advancements we’ve had to raise the price. But guess what? We didn’t! And we’re even offering 15% off during World Dairy Expo!

If you happen to be at the show this week, be sure to come by and say hi so I can tell you all about it!

~Jenkins

Manure Happens… Then What Happens Next?

manure happens

To most people, manure is somewhat of a stinky subject, but to me it’s a tantalizing topic! I strongly believe that as we become more and more focused on eliminating waste, soon manure-talk will be just as common as the recap of last night’s ball game.

Farmers have always been the best when it comes to repurposing waste, but now more than ever the way manure is being transformed is nothing short of amazing.  Not to mention, seriously eco-friendly!

Manure is being used for:

  • crop growth
  • gardening
  • carbon source
  • power
  • and of course, water reuse!

You may be wondering how this excessive resource could have so many practical functions…  well let me tell you about a few of the marvelous inventions that support a catch phrase that I am personally very passionate about: “Don’t waste perfectly good waste!”.

It’s no secret that manure is an excellent fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other important micro-nutrients. It adds organic matter to the soil which contributes not only to increased crop yields, but to higher quality food. But what if we could take that fertilizer one step further…cowpots

Introducing CowPots! These are essentially bio pots that are actually composed of cow manure! They are 100% biodegradable, natural, sustainable, and recycled and they completely eliminate the need for plastic. I don’t know about you, but when I think of a garden, I want to smell flowers not manure… and that’s the best part! CowPots have no odor and I guarantee that if I didn’t tell you what they were made of, you’d never even know!

Another awesome innovation that is combating environmental issues is called “Charcrete”, or biochar which is used as a carbon source. Biochar is made from manure and obtained after thermal treatment of the waste through pyrolysis. It can be used as an additive for concrete elements at a ratio of up to 80% and can even be used as a substitute for sand – reducing the weight of a material by a factor of five! By directly using it as a compost supplement, the natural carbon cycle is preserved. The U.S. cement industry accounts for approximately 1.5% of U.S. CO2 emissions, so this technology could make a significant impact on our planet.

biocharr

Now, when we consider the future of our planet, we always talk about our sources of energy and how are we going to sustain power while still being good to the Earth. That’s where methane energy, or biogas (which is a mixture of methane, carbon dioxide, water and hydrogen sulfide) comes in! It’s is made by the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter (manure) and can be compressed or transformed into thermal, electrical and mechanical energy.  So, it’s totally possible to power your vehicle AND provide electricity to your home with “manure-fuel”!  Don’t believe me!? Check this out!

mth

Talk about the future of what’s left behind!

Last, but certainly not least, my personal favorite way to repurpose manure is to turn it into clean drinking water!  And the best part? The LWR System is compatible with every technology I mentioned above so it’s possible to have Cowpots, electricity, and make biochar and fertilizer while also recycling clean water!

If you ask me, manure may very well be the answer to a lot of the world’s crises – especially since it is so versatile across different industries. Who knows what we will come up with next…

Well, I gotta run! All of this manure talk is giving me ideas- off to the Innovation Center!

~Jenkins