Farm Viability Dairy Teams: Advancing Agriculture

Since its inception, Farm Viability’s dairy program has supported 21 Topic Specific Teams that have worked with more than 270 of New York’s dairy farmers.  In this year’s RFP we encouraged proposals that would help farms adopt Selective Dry Cow Therapy and reduce their antimicrobial use.

In the summer of 2019 Farm Viability released a RFP for our Topic Specific Team, “TST” program This model asks educators to identify a common need among farmers in their region and develop a deep dive curriculum on the topic.  Where appropriate, the educational model includes both peer-to-peer discussion group learning and individual on farm consultations.

While we welcomed proposals on all topics, we expressed specific interest in receiving proposals that would help New York dairy farmers adopt Selective Dry Cow Therapy (SDCT). 

Since the 1970s it’s been a common practice on dairy farms to use “blanket” dry cow therapy; that is to administer antimicrobial drugs that prevent and treat costly mammary infections to all cows as they enter a dry off period.  Although the practice may have been warranted as it began, animal care and the milking process have become much more sophisticated over time with many dairies keeping detailed cow specific records. With NYFVI funding, Daryl Nydam DVM, PhD and his collaborative team harvested the power of that data to predict which cows do—and don’t—need treatment.

Using a farm’s data, the prototype software applies a predictive SCDT model that sorts the high-risk cows from their low-risk herd mates. The farm data is accessed from widely used industry herd management tool Dairy-Comp 305.

The new protocol is designed to maximize treatment of cows that exhibit clinical or subclinical mastitis and minimize unnecessary treatment of cows that will likely remain healthy throughout the dry period.

A herd using a SDCT protocol that has a somatic cell count of 200,000 or less and an adequate diet that maintains the immune system could expect to reduce antimicrobial use by 60% without adversely affecting production and clinical health outcomes. 

“We are confident in the research results from the collaborative Dairy Health/Cornell trials. That’s why I was excited to learn about the TST opportunity.  These funds are allowing us to help farms learn how to implement this new approach.  The practice is a win for everyone: It meets consumer’s needs, saves farmers some money and is the right thing to do.”

Mark Thomas, DVM
Dairy Health and Management

Three organizations submitted proposals to help the farms adopt this practice, and all were funded. By the end of 2020, more than 40,000 cows are projected to be managed with this protocol.  Nonprofit CADE will be working with 10 farms, Countryside Veterinary Clinic and Dairy Health and Management Services will each support 15 farms. 

Other 2019 TST projects include:

  • Dairy Product Development Education for Upstate New York Farms, SUNY Cobleskill
  • Improved Pasture Management: Leveraging Technology and Building Resiliency, NOFA-NY
  • Focus on Farm Management: Areas of Opportunity and Excellence in Calves, Transition Cows, and Cow Comfort, CCE Regional Teams
  • Improving the Management and Economics of Raising Dairy Replacements, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County