UF UNIVERSITY of
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS)
Department of Animal Sciences
Quarterly Newsletter Vol. 7 No. 3 Summer 2007
A SHIFT IN MILK MARKETING:
IS THERE A LESSON WE CAN LEARN?
Roger P. Natzke
Recently the Board of Directors of SMI made a
landmark decision when it decided to essentially go
rBST free. Why? Is there a health issue? Is milk from
cows treated with rBST inferior to that from non-treated
cows? Is it more profitable to produce milk in the
absence of hormone treatment?
The answer to each of these somewhat rhetorical
questions is a resounding NO!!! Yet this group of dairy
industry leaders took this bold step. Why? Because the
customer wants it that way! No scientific evidence, just
the clear mandate the customer demands it.
More than a decade ago, as research on rBST was just
beginning, it took some rather ingenious methods to
insure a market for the milk from cows on rBST trials-
for fear that some activists would break the story and
upset the consumers. Once the hormone was approved
for use by the FDA and the milk was in the general
supply and being accepted by our customers, we
breathed a sigh of relief and assumed the battle was over.
WRONG! The introduction of organic milk, the
consumer shift to "natural" and "health foods"
resurfaced the issue. The result: the SMI Board elected
to accept what appeared to be the only option available:
give the customer what they want even though it means
reducing the profitability of milk production in Florida.
Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we have
another similar issue lurking out there ready to rear its
ugly head: the issue of the legal limit for SCC. The
current law states that milk with more than 750,000
SCC/ml is not to be sold or shipped across state borders.
The Interstate Milk shippers, which set the standards for
milk, have regularly had a proposal, endorsed by the
National Mastitis Council, before them to lower the level
from the current 750,000 cells/ml to 400,000 cells/ml.
The compelling argument for it is that our competition in
the international market has adopted the lower threshold.
Many in the scientific community, yours truly
included, have argued that since there is no health
significance involved, the standard should remain the
same. There is plenty of scientific evidence to support
that stand. Yet we recognize that somatic cells can be
called pus cells. That term doesn't ring well with
consumers. We also know that the milk business is a
competitive one and when competition gets tough, don't
expect that competitors who can supply milk with fewer
cells to refrain from making the consumers aware of the
differences. If you think this suggestion is "off the wall",
I refer you to a recent Editorial in Dairy Today. It would
be very easy to convince consumers that they really want
the milk with fewer cells for their children.
Are we going to learn from our recent rBST lesson?
When the mandate came to the Cooperative to begin
supplying milk only from cows that do not receive rBST,
it was a relatively easy process to stop giving injections
and be in compliance. (Yes, I recognize that stopping
"cold turkey" will have a negative effect on some cows.)
Complying with a lowered cell count standard will be
much more difficult. Herds that are producing milk at or
near the legal limit will need months and possibly even a
year to get into compliance. It simply can't be done over
night. While producing milk with fewer cells is difficult
and especially challenging in the South. But it can be
done. We have producers in this state that consistently
produce milk with a cell count as low as we hear
reported "up north".
However, experience tells us that change never occurs
without an incentive. In this case, because there is no
source of funds to provide a financial incentive, the
Cooperative may need to facilitate change by initiating
and enforcing a more rigorous milk quality program. It
will take a concerted effort on each farm, but through
time the financial rewards will come. There is plenty of
scientific evidence to show that cows with lower SCCs
produce more milk. Thus with improved "milk quality"
producers will be rewarded with increased milk
production and with the knowledge that they will not be
broadsided with the next consumer demand.
Are we willing to learn from our recent experience
and take a proactive role or are we going to sit back and
hope it never happens?
Roger P. Natzke is a Professor Emeritus in the
UF/IFAS Department ofAnimal Sciences
NEW LIVESTOCK (DAIRY) AGENT
Hello to both new and old Florida friends dairy
producers, 4-Hers and their leaders and parents, my
IFAS co-workers, and other dairy industry folks. I feel a
bit like a boomerang that got lost in space a few years
before returning back to Florida to resume UF dairy
extension work. I have landed further north this time
(from 1993 to 2000, I was in Hillsborough County). My
new office is in Live Oak at the Suwannee County
Extension Office (phone: 386-362-2771, email
email@example.com). My primary territory will be Suwannee,
Lafayette, Gilchrist, Levy, Dixie, and Madison Counties.
I am in the process of assembling an advisory
committee for programming direction (any volunteers?).
Dr. Dan Webb tells me this area is over-due for PCDart
enhancement training, so we will get that scheduled
soon. I will be inviting Dave Bray to come visit some
herds soon too, so if you have mastitis, cooling, stray
voltage, or other facility problems, please give me a call
and we will be sure to visit your dairy.
Several dairies in this area are already on the Dairy
Business Analysis Program and some of you will be
getting preliminary reports back from Russ Giesy soon.
Russ tells me data is still being collected for 2006,
however. So, if you have never been on the program
and would like to start, or just have not found the "round
to it" to get last year's data submitted, please give me a
call and I would be glad to come help you get the needed
data on the submittal forms. It is work to get all the data
collected, but most states have nothing even vaguely
comparable as far as information in return, without
hiring a private accountant for big bucks. I would urge
you to take advantage of this program, designed to help
analyze where your enterprise financial strengths and
weaknesses might be.
I am really glad to be back in Florida. I am looking
forward to visiting with old friends and meeting new in
northern Florida and around the state. Please give me a
call if I can be of service to any of you.
Mary E. Sowerby, Extension Agent III Multi-county.
1302 11th Street, Live Oak, FL 32060. Email:
meso(@ufl.edu, Tel: 386-362-2771; Fax: 386-364-1698
IT'S MYCOPLASMA SEASON AGAIN
David R. Bray
Every year about this time our bulk tanks show positive
for Mycoplasma. This year it's in our bulk tank for the
first time in a couple of years. Twenty years ago this
would have induced a rush of fear and panic here. Now
it is common place for Mycoplasma to appear and
disappear in most herds in Florida every summer.
Mycoplasma is often treated as a secret disease and the
answers are held only in C.I.A files. It is called a highly
contagious disease that only can be controlled in the
milking parlor, with extreme sanitation and numerous
milk samples taken to identify this organism and the
positive cows should be immediately culled to eradicate
the disease from your dairy. These thoughts often
originate with people who own microbiology labs.
Mycoplasma life style. Is Mycoplasma a contagious
organism like strep ag which only lives in the udder, and
when the infected udders leave, the organism leaves?
No, Mycoplasma lives in various places in the animal,
the udder and the respiratory tract, and seems to move
from the respiratory tract to the udder by the lymphatic
system and or blood, cow quarter to quarter infection
probably is a within cow event, not from the outside
milk contamination during milking. We have cultured m.
bovis in calving pastures, cow lots, calf lots, and sand
free stall beds. Mycoplasma sheds its organisms at some
times and not at other, so it is here and gone for no
reason. As you all know by now, Mycoplasma is
untreatable since they have no cell walls and antibiotics
For these reasons I can't agree with those who think
killing cows without clinical mastitis that test positive for
Mycoplasma will eradicate the disease from the
premises. My thoughts are not necessarily shared by
everybody, but I'm in the education business and my job
is to make you think. I will give you my thoughts and
you can decide for yourselves. Always consult your
veterinarian when you make radical practice changes.
History. Mycoplasma has been around since the 1970s
and only in a few states with large herds, because those
few states were the only states that tested for the
organism because it took specialized media and it takes
7 days to grow on a plate as compared to 48 hours for
most pathogens. The first big herds that had outbreaks
treated every cow in the herd with antibiotics to cure and
or prevent the disease. Unfortunately, they spread
Mycoplasma through the bulk antibiotic mix and
infected the whole herd. Not knowing this at the time,
they concluded that this spreads during the milking
process, especially since clinical mastitis starts in one
quarter and spreads to multiple quarters in the cows.
Back flushers were invented to stop the spread from cow
to cow. There is no research to prove that back flushers
do stop the spread. In fact, some research shows that the
spread of Mycoplasma from one quarter to another is
done internally through the lymphatic system or blood
Popular control methods. Culture and cull methods:
Cow killing is a popular way to try and control
Mycoplasma. In Florida, most samples are taken by a
bunch of milkers with dirty gloves, 5000 sample bottles
and 20 alcohol pads squirting milk everywhere and
contamination everything in sight. These samples are
sent to the lab. A bunch of cows are positive and you
kill them even though most were negative. You can
often find one positive cow in a 6000 gallon tank of
milk. Think what a bunch of fingers on a milk covered
glove will do for spreading Mycoplasma to other
samples bottle lids. If you wish to kill cows, at least
resample the positive cows with a supervisor with clean
gloves sanitized between each cow.
Culture and segregation method: positive non-clinical
cows can be put into a separate herd and milked last.
This is fine if you have room for a separate herd and it
has clean bedding, shade, fans, cooling and the cows can
be fed the correct ration. Research has shown that if you
post dip and segregate, you can slow down the spread of
mastitis from cow to cow. If you separate and do a poor
job of post dipping, you still have the spread.
If positive cows have been kept in the herd they were
in, many of those cows will stay non clinical or become
negative. You can dry treat them like a normal cow and
a good chance she will calve free of Mycoplasma. Cows
shed the organism; some don't, so go by clinical signs.
Calves. My thoughts are that Mycoplasma's biggest
losses to the dairy farmer are from respiratory problems
(cows and calves). The calves will have respiratory
problems, get over it and will drop dead if she calves
with her second calf in the summer.
The second problem in calves is tilt ear infections on
head droop. Most don't recover from this and must be
put down. Bad joints are also a problem. The best way
to slow down the spread to calves is to use a real
pasteurizer, not some tub over the top of a turkey fryer.
Pasteurize for one minute at 158 F or two minutes at
148 F and it should be adequate.
Sources ofMycoplasma outside of the animal:
1. Mud or dirt in calving lots or pastures, regular
pastures or lots and dirty free stalls. In Florida
Mycoplasma lives in the soil and stalls all year long.
2. Calf feeding equipment and calf pens.
3. Bottles of antibiotics- never use a syringe, needle
etc. on more than one animal or use i,,wi/,,i but a
commercial tube for intra mammary infusion.
Mycoplasma is also air borne, it's a respiratory
disease and you can contaminate the bottle top,
syringe, hands and spread it to every animal you
treat with that bottle. Remember that to culture
Mycoplasma you add antibiotics to the plate to kill
off the pathogens so the slow growing Mycoplasma
will grow on the plate.
Sources ofMycoplasma inside the animal:
1. Nose, lungs and respiratory tract of the animals, also
the udders of your own animals.
2. Purchased animals, calves, or fresh heifers, sharing a
water tank or milking parlor at the country fair or
picking up a respiratory problem at the county fair or
at the neighbors fence.
How can you handle an udder Mycoplasma outbreak
and how do you identify these positive animals?
1. Most mastitis outbreaks follow a respiratory out
breaks three weeks before the mastitis problem. If
you are going to separate animals with Mycoplasma,
I would get every respiratory animal away from the
rest of the herd until they stop blowing mucus
2. You can sample these respiratory cows before or
once they become clinical. If they don't become non
clinical, cull them. Many will become non clinical
and stop shedding. Some will shed and won't
become clinical and some will do nothing.
If dairymen would cull every clinical mastitis cow that
does not clear after treating for a week, or has clinical
mastitis in more than one quarter and drop in milk
production, he would cull his Mycoplasma problem
cows, his Staphylococcus cow, and his Streptococcus
Uberis cows and not spend a cent on sampling. Any
cow that has four treatment episodes in a lactation
should be culled; she is rotten and not economically
productive. No matter what the organism is, in Florida
where we have no bonus plan for somatic cell count this
is an economically way to do this.
Mycoplasma control. Mycoplasma never leaves a
dairy; it lives there like the cows. It will be eradicated
when the dairy is a parking lot.
1. Keep fresh dirt in calving and maternity pens and
2. Keep stalls clean, clean out the back of sand from
free stalls at least once a year; this will also reduce
3. Mow careless weeds, leaking milk, cut teat ends and
million fly's going from teat end to teat end does not
4. Pasteurize calf milk or feed milk replacer.
5. No bottle antibiotics mixes.
6. Keep milking machines in good repair.
7. Cull chronic clinical cows.
8. Segregate respiratory cows.
9. Or follow the normal way and culture and
depopulate the herd, everybody has their own
comfort level to risk. You need to follow yours.
BIOENERGY 2007 FARM TO FUEL SUMMIT
Ann C. Wilkie
In 2006, the Florida Farm to Fuel Initiative was
statutorily created to enhance the market for and
promote the production and distribution of renewable
energy from Florida-grown crops, agricultural wastes
and residues, and other biomass, and to enhance the
value of agricultural
products and expand
agribusiness in the State.
The Florida Department
of Agriculture and
hosted a "Farm to Fuel
Summit" in Orlando, on ..
August 30 through J 2 18-4 207* st8L P n"rgoda
September 1, 2006, '.-. ,,
which attracted nearly
The 2007 Farm to Fuel Summit will be held July
18-20 at the Marriott Renaissance Vinoy Resort, in St.
Petersburg. The 2007 Summit will be a great
opportunity for industry leaders to further discuss
Florida's energy future and join in shaping the future of
biofuels and renewable energy in the State of Florida.
This high-profile event will feature speakers and
panelists representing international, national and state
perspectives on issues of research, production and
distribution of biofuels, including biodiesel, bioethanol
and biogas. Governor Charlie Crist has been confirmed
as a keynote speaker and will be in attendance to outline
his vision for Florida's Energy future. For the 2007
Summit agenda and registration information visit
For questions or issues about bioenergy, contact: Dr.
Ann C. Wilkie at acwilkie(@ufl.edu or (352) 392-8699.
Ann Wilkie is in the Department of Soil and Water
PASSING OF DR. BARNEY HARRIS
Dr. Barney Harris of Gainesville, Professor Emeritus of
the University of Florida Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, died May 7, 2007, after losing a
long battle with cancer. Dr. Harris was born December
20, 1931, in Prescott, Arkansas. He received his BS
degree from Oklahoma State University, his Masters
degree from LSU and his Ph.D. from Oklahoma State
University. He taught two years at Southern Arkansas
University in Magnolia, Arkansas and served two years
in the Army stationed at San Diego, California. He
moved to Gainesville in 1963, accepting a position at the
University of Florida as Extension Dairy Nutritionist at
IFAS. He was a member of numerous professional honor
societies and received many prestigious awards before
retiring in 1994. After retirement, he became a private
consultant with several companies and continued to
work with Florida's dairy industry. In lieu of flowers,
contributions in Dr. Harris' name may be made to: the
American Cancer Society, 2121 SW 16th St.,
Gainesville, FL 32608 and/or the Building Fund of
Westside Baptist Church, 10000 Newberry Road,
Gainesville, FL 32606.
2007 DAIRY BUSINESS CONFERENCE:
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10
The annual Florida Dairy Business Conference is being
planned for Monday September 10, 2007. Location is
again the Marion County Extension Office. This is the
day before the monthly SMI Board meeting in Ocala, so
dairy producers can more easily attend both meetings
with one trip away from the farm.
Greg Bethard has agreed to present ideas on cow
management and profitability from his unique
perspective as a consultant to large dairies, both across
the US and worldwide. Greg was on the agenda 4 years
ago and was one of the most popular DBC speakers in
Dieter Krieg, editor of Farmshine, has agreed to speak
on social issues of the day related to dairy production.
He continues the trend of inviting agricultural
communications folks to our conferences. Farmshine is
a weekly magazine that covers farmers and
agribusinesses primarily in the Northeast. Check out
their website at http://www.farmshine.net.
Russ Giesy will speak about the potential impact of
proposed environmental regulations on the sustainability
of dairy farms in Florida.
Mary Sowerby, the newly rehired livestock/dairy
agent in North Florida, will preside. Other speakers and
topics are forthcoming. For more information, contact
Russ Giesy, firstname.lastname@example.org, (352) 793-2728.
2007 FLORIDA DAIRY PRODUCTION
CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS AVAILABLE
Albert De Vries
The 44th annual Florida Dairy Production Conference
was held May 1, 2007, in Gainesville, FL. In attendance
were over one hundred dairy producers, allied industry
representatives, UF students, staff, and faculty and
others. Like the previous year, the 2007 conference was
well received. We estimated that the owners or
managers of nearly half of the dairy cows in the state
were present. A copy of the 2007 proceedings is now
available on the UF/IFAS Florida Dairy Extension
website at http://dairy.ifas.ufl.edu/dpc. The website
contains the complete proceedings from 1990 to 2007.
Dr. JOSE SANTOS HIRED AS ASSOCIATE
PROFESSOR OF DAIRY NUTRITION
Word just came that Dr. Jose Santos has accepted the
faculty position in Dairy Nutrition Research/Extension
(the "Mary Beth Hall position"). Dr. Santos is currently
associate professor at the University of California-Davis
School of Veterinary Medicine. He is based at the
school's Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research
Center in Tulare, CA. Dr. Santos is noted for his applied
and basic research on nutritional management to enhance
health, reproduction and lactation performance of dairy
cattle. Dr. Santos obtained his DVM degree from Sao
Paulo State University in Botucatu, Brazil in 1992. He
received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in ruminant
nutrition from the Department of Animal Sciences at the
University of Arizona in 1995 and 1997 respectively.
Starting date may depend on the recent faculty hiring
freeze announced by the president of the University of
Dairy Update is published quarterly by the Department of Animal Sciences, University of Florida, as an educational and informational service. Please address any
questions or comments to Albert De Vries, Editor, Dairy Update, PO Box 110910, Gainesville, FL 32611-0910. Phone: (352) 392-5594. E-mail: devries(iufl.edu.
Past issues are posted on the UF/IFAS Florida Dairy Extension website at http://dairv.ifas.ufl.edu. This issue was published on July 5, 2007.