Over the past year, Progressive Dairy has covered a variety of compelling topics and narratives, learning and sharing more about Canadian dairy operations and the broader industry. To celebrate some of these stories, here are the 15 articles that resonated most with readers between October 2022 and October 2023, plus a few new insights into some of these most-read articles of the year.

1. The risk of chronic hairy heel wart reservoirs and how to prevent them

Digital dermatitis (DD) affects most dairy cattle in the industry under compromised hygienic conditions with high stocking density. While preventative measures, such as early detection, prompt topical treatment, and properly designed and managed disinfecting footbaths are helpful, many DD lesions lead to the chronic hairy heel wart condition. However, this chronic condition can be averted with proper training to detect DD trends, as can leveraging the farm’s team of experts, like the hoof trimmer, herdsperson, nutritionist and veterinarian to customize prevention and control strategies.

Q: What is the single most important strategy dairy farmers can implement to prevent and control DD?

A: “Detect DD lesions early and systematically followed by prompt treatment and customized footbathing of all lactating cows and heifers pre-calving. Secondly, prevent chronic recurrent lesions based on trends in M-stages by customizing footbathing frequency and concentration of the disinfectant, in addition to avoiding caustic topical treatment agents.”

—Dörte Döpfer, professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison

2. Robots to rotary: Morey family expands Unique Valleystream

The Morey family of Rochester, Alberta, has been in their new barn for a year and has nothing but good things to share about their barn design, rotary parlour and new behaviour analysis system. Casey Morey shared her thoughts on how the herd has progressed since the April article was published.


Q: How are things going?

A: “We are extremely happy with how the cows have adjusted to the rotary and new freestall. We have made a few changes to our initial routine and are sure to make some more changes in the future to ensure that we are running in the most efficient way possible. We have seen a significant increase in production and cow health overall and are milking just shy of 400 cows now.”

Q: What are some highlights of the transition to the rotary as well as the new barn?

A: “We’ve seen increased production and cow health. We are milking at a speed of 300 cows per hour (10 minutes per revolution). The cows have adjusted well, and the higher lactation cows are calving in and outperforming all of our expectations.”

Q: After a year in the barn and in the new parlour, what is the best advice you’d give someone making the big change?

A: “Do as much research as you possibly can; we toured barns for nearly two years across Canada and in some U.S. states. Be sure to tour all types of barns during all seasons of the year, especially winter. Understand that no matter how much research you do, there will always be things that you wish you had done different[ly].

“One of the biggest things we can suggest is no matter what company you decide to go with, make sure it is a company that you can work well with and provides you with the quality of service that you expect. Your service provider is your best friend and can make a world of difference in helping ensure your equipment is running smoothly. We are so fortunate to have that best friend relationship with our service provider."

—Casey Morey, Unique Valleystream

3. Dairy wife designs durable farm workwear

Nicole Toebes used her experience from wearing work clothes to milk cows and applied it to design a more durable and innovative workwear line. She created high-quality workwear that better serves farmers by incorporating her own experiences and farmer concerns.

Q: What life and brand updates have you made in the past year?

A: “This past year, our lifelong dream of owning and operating our own dairy farm has come to fruition. We bought a beautiful ongoing dairy operation in Prince Edward Island. Currently we are in the process of renovating a warehouse to become the Mudeas on-farm retail store and shipping centre. We look forward to adding some more items to our current workwear lineup and continuing to serve farmers and ranchers with innovative, durable, Canadian-made workwear.”

—Nicole Toebes, Mudeas Workwear

4. A veterinarian’s unique vision provides encompassing reproduction services

As this article on DMV GenetiQ Services was going to print, Blondin Sires was solidifying a new chapter in its partnership with the DMV veterinarians. Progressive Dairy caught up with Dann Brady of Blondin Sires to discuss the exciting change.

Q: What is Blondin's role at DMV, and how did the decision come about to join forces?

A: “We are one of the major shareholders of DMV. The day-to-day running of the business is in the hands of Jonathan Lehouiller, and Blondin is involved more on the major parts of the business and, of course, filling the stalls with our Blondin bulls.

“We had been housing our bulls in the U.S., but then we decided to start our own Canadian distribution, which meant the need for faster turnaround time from semen being produced to having it in the tanks of the Canadian reps. Jonathan had approached us to visit his new facility and learn more about his production business. We were extremely impressed, and having the bulls only a few hours from home was a huge advantage. After doing business together for a few months, we decided to open discussions about buying shares in the business.”

Q: In general terms, what does the staff at DMV add to Blondin Sires?

“The team at DMV is really an extension of the Blondin Sires team. We work daily with them to have our bulls collected, having exports prepared and having shipments sent around Canada for our sales rep. We cannot do it without them; they are a key part of the Blondin Sires team.

“The partnership with DMV has been incredible. We have already expanded the barns to house additional bulls for collection. The business continues to grow, and we’re extremely excited for all the future holds.”

—Dann Brady, Blondin Sires

5. Summer tips to prevent winter hoof health issues

Warm weather provides the perfect environment for pathogen activity and hoof damage as heat stress may lead to a negative cycle of lameness and ultimately decreased productivity. To avoid lameness from heat stress when temperatures drop, dairy farmers should hone in on management and nutrition to maintain a tight feed schedule, reduce standing time, promote laying down when not at the feedbunk and ensure the facility supports ideal cow comfort conditions with proper stall design and availability, ventilation and lighting.

Q: How can dairy farmers work with their team to enact these management strategies that protect hoof health?

A: “Dairy farmers and herd managers can keep their team involved by training for lameness prevention across every function on the dairy from milking to maintenance to feeding, so each person can understand the obstacles that cause hoof issues. Everyone is responsible for cow wellbeing and can work together to make sure things like feeding schedules, feed push-ups, pen scraping and cow comfort are maintained. Teaching these red flags, along with locomotion scoring, to every team member will equip them to recognize an issue – like too much standing water or a slight head bob on an animal – before it becomes a costly intervention.

“To initiate and continue these conversations, partnering with an expert who works with your team and provides another set of eyes can help your dairy troubleshoot and avoid lameness obstacles. Armed with the correct resources, your team can enact the strategies that prevent lameness and keep your herd healthy and profitable.”

—Roger Olson, dairy account manager, Zinpro Corporation

6. High-pressure fogging vs. soaking

Choosing the right cooling system for a dairy farm will depend on various factors such as the climate in the region, the size of the farm and the cost of installation and maintenance. The high-pressure fogging system is ideal for use in hot and dry climates, while the low-pressure soaking system is better suited to humid climates. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and farmers should carefully consider their options before deciding.

Q: When is the best time of year for dairy producers to start thinking about high-pressure fogging, soaking and other heat abatement measures?

A: “The one struggle that I have when it comes to talking to dairy producers about cow cooling products is timing. The best time of the year to start conversations around cow cooling is the time of year when it's furthest from our minds – the middle of winter. Talking about heat stress in December and January doesn't have nearly the same impact as it does on a 30-degree day in August.

“The reason we need to start these conversations in the winter is that everything takes time, and if you want to implement a new cow cooling system, it can take several months to get the equipment, especially if your equipment supplier does not have everything in stock. When I get asked about fans or other cow cooling solutions in July and August, it is too late to get anything organized and set up to make a difference within that year.

“Now, don't get me wrong, there is never a wrong time to talk about cow cooling. It's never a bad thing to review your cow cooling practices and plan to make improvements.”

—Dan Veeneman, InBarn

7. Haanstras define success with brave decisions

At Honeywood Paradise Ltd. in Lakeside, Ontario, the Haanstras family strives for self-sufficiency when maintaining their top Holstein herd. Their feed kitchen and transition barn save them money, keep their operation neat and help reduce labour needs – all contributing to their top management scores.

8. Seven considerations for converting a tiestall barn to a robotic milking system

Renovating an existing tiestall barn for a robotic milking system is a cost-effective way to introduce automation on any dairy farm. There are seven factors every dairy farmer should consider for a successful move toward automation through a tiestall retrofit. Those factors include evaluating the current barn’s structure, accounting for proper ventilation, converting tiestalls to freestalls, updating the manure system, motivating the cows to the robots, choosing a free-flow or guided-flow system, and making a temporary plan for milking.

Q: Of the farms that have adapted this concept to implement robotic milking, what has been the feedback on these seven factors?

A: “For farmers I’ve worked with, as they’ve adapted their tiestall barns to robotic facilities they’ve told me the construction phase has more to it than they anticipated. During construction, their lives and schedules are completely changed as they’re either milking cows at a different facility or adapted the barn into a flat barn parlour. At the same time, they’re also working with construction and robot installation crews to ensure those processes go smoothly. It can be a lot happening all at once, but after the work is done and cows are trained to the robot, they’re relieved and excited about having completed a major update and moved into new technology.”

—Richard Franta, solutions sales specialist, DeLaval

9. Dynamic leaders, coachable youth and team building all lead to a trip downtown

The leaders of Stormont County 4-H have had another busy year teaching youth and preparing for a trip to the TD 4-H Classic at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Progressive Dairy reached out to their busy leader Bobbi-Jo Uhr to see what the 4-H members had learned in 2023.

Q: What was one of your most unique 4-H dairy meetings this past year?

A: “While most of our meetings focus on showmanship, we were able to incorporate a farm tour hosted by one of our members. We were able to see the life cycle from birth to milking in a highly automated robot barn. We will try to include a visit as such in years going forward.”

Q: What were some of the highlights of the summer show season for your group?

A: “Members succeeding in conformation but especially showmanship at various local events. Most recently at the Eastern Ontario/Western Quebec 4-H Regional Championship show [where] we had first place in novice, junior and intermediate showmanship contests, with the intermediate showman winning overall Grand Showman!”

Q: What is your advice for county leaders and youth who are planning for a 2024 trip to the Classic?

A: “Set a goal and stay focused. Learn everything about your animal – including their faults. Find out best ways to make your project look their best while in the ring. Develop relationships with like-minded members. Positivity begets positivity.”

—Bobbi-Jo Uhr, Knonaudale Farms

10. More milk with longevity: Selecting for lactation persistency

Murilo Carvalho dives into a discussion surrounding longevity and milk production. He outlines how lactation persistency affects total production and how the ideal cow is persistent – generating higher income over costs.

Q: Health traits weigh heavily on longevity. In your opinion, what are the most important health traits to select for?

A: “This is a really good, though difficult question. Personally, I don't like to think there is one or a few most important health traits –they all have some relevance. I would look for balance across the board and not specifically emphasize any of them. In that regard, traits such as Herd Life (or Productive Life in the U.S.) and even the main national indexes (LPI, Pro$) do a good job when selecting for animals that last longer and, indirectly, are healthier. The heritability of health traits (e.g., mastitis, ketosis, metabolic diseases, retained placenta, etc.) is very low, under 4 percent; that means the phenotype is minimally affected by genetics. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on them, but placing too much emphasis will limit your gains on other traits such as production.”

—Murilo Carvalho, Boehringer Ingelheim

11. Increasing longevity, shortening calving interval and focusing on milk quality brought these herds to the top in 2022

Following the annual release of Lactanet’s list of Best Managed Dairy Herds, Progressive Dairy editors checked in with herds topping the list in each province, asking them to weigh in on the Herd Performance Index (HPI) management tool that most influenced their management practices in 2022. The article highlights these tools and strategies the featured dairies implemented to see results.

12. Beyond the stall: How partial outdoor access affects gait and hoof health of movement-restricted cows

While many Canadian dairy farms still rely on facilities that restrict animal movement without providing pasture access, concerns over this practice from an animal welfare perspective are gaining traction. To address this, one study investigated the effect of providing one hour of daily outdoor access on gait and hoof health in non-clinically lame Holstein cows. The results illustrate that one hour of daily outdoor access may result in gait enhancement without negatively affecting hoof health.

Q: The study used advanced gait analysis technologies. What are the results of these methods and what do they mean to improving understanding of the mechanisms behind the observed changes in the study?

A: “One important objective of using innovative measures and technologies such as kinematics, pressure data and thermography in our research is to observe detailed and subclinical or fine effects. The objective of our research on biomechanics is not to detect when a cow is lame (even if part of our work is to automatize lameness classification), but rather using measures and technologies to detect changes prior to the animal becoming clinically lame. When an animal is lame, we know that we double her risk of being culled; therefore, it’s important to intervene before that. Also, in order to enhance the adoption of new practices, understanding how such practice enhances cow’s movement, cow gait, and leg and hoof health is paramount. The objective of providing outdoor access in the case of our research is not to cure lame cows but rather [to] enhance the opportunity of movement in confined animals.”

—Elsa Vasseur, associate professor at McGill University and Chairholder of the NSERC/Novalait/Dairy Farmers of Canada/Valacta Industrial Research Chair in the Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle

13. Kozak Holsteins Ltd. makes a name for itself across North America

This central Alberta dairy applies careful consideration to their feeding program throughout each life stage of their cows. This optimization, along with their willingness to price nearly every animal on the farm, has helped bring international recognition to the impressive Kozak prefix.

14. Werry family builds a positive farm image while developing top genetics

Not only is the Werry farm a welcome sight to anyone driving by, but their barns also house some of the hottest genetics in the showring today. To learn more about this farm’s genetic success, Progressive Dairy asked John Werry about their first-ever World Dairy Expo Junior Best Three entry that recently placed fourth in a highly competitive class.

Q: How did you prepare for this new entry and result in such a competitive class?

A: “The Junior Best Three was exciting, and our first time exhibiting one at World Dairy Expo. It had been a plan in the back of our minds since last fall at the Royal in 2022. We knew we had a dynamite September calf at home in the hutches. She ended up consigned this summer to the East Coast Style Summer Sale in P.E.I. She sold to the Butlers of Illinois and placed fifth Fall calf at WDE – Loa-De-Mede Master Bell.

“At the 2022 Royal, our spring calf, Loa-De-Mede Lambda Dixie, won her class. We sold her to Winright, and Eddie and Mandy Bue, so we knew she would go to WDE where she placed fifth in the spring yearling class.

“Our Best Three plan continued to unfold, as we hoped we would have a great winter yearling that we would keep ownership on to qualify for the class at WDE. Loa-De-Mede Barolo Joan was eighth winter calf at the 2022 Royal, won the Ontario Summer Show as a Winter Yearling, and placed eleventh at WDE.

“Our long-term plan had become a reality. The new owners of our heifers had taken superb care of them, and we were able to make our dream a reality. One of the best parts was that our family – myself, my wife, Heather, and my cousin Scott – were all on the halters during the class with our good friend Joel Phoenix setting feet.”

—John Werry, Loa-De-Mede Farms

15. Skill building and teamwork highlight YBS trip goals

Held annually in Belgium, the Young Breeders School challenges youth from across Europe and other continents to learn advanced skills with dairy cattle. The contest, which began in 1999, is a place where youth who are passionate about dairy gather for five days to learn about selection, nutrition, fitting and showmanship. 

As the summer came to an end, six representatives from Canada, sponsored by Semex and Holstein Canada, joined 152 youth from all over the world.

Felix Lemire from Quebec was named Champion showman and placed third overall. Following close behind was Sarah Dean from Ontario, who was Honourable Mention Champion showman and came in fourth overall. Kolton Crack, placed seventh and was named the MVP overall fitter, Ethan Neinhaus placed eighth and Emma Finch placed twelfth. Grace Hughes, also placed well.