Between October 2022 and October 2023, we've explored numerous exciting subjects and stories, getting to know more about the innovations, challenges and triumphs of dairies nationwide and of the wider industry. Now, Progressive Dairy looks back at the 25 articles that best captured reader attention this year, bringing fresh insights to some of the year’s top-viewed articles.

1. Meet the influential people in dairy

For several years, Progressive Dairy editor Dave Natzke contemplated a feature identifying the “most influential” people in dairy. With his own career winding down, the time had come.

Joining in on the project, Progressive Dairy’s editorial team invited readers to identify the individuals who personally shaped, engaged, motivated and inspired others, creating a positive impact locally, regionally and/or nationally.

When we extended the invitation, it was not meant to create an “award” program. Rather, it was meant to provide an opportunity for readers to publicly recognize those who were important in their dairy lives and careers. We asked for not only a brief description of what those influencers did and/or continue to do, but also for personal reflections on the why that made them so influential.

Q: What was the response?

A: “Our readers recognized teachers, advisers, entrepreneurs, innovators, advocates, other producers and family members. From their narratives, it’s obvious that dairy’s influencers combine both knowledge and passion, with their impact calculated not in numbers but measured in the effect they have in the personal and professional lives of others. The feature evolved into one of the highlights of my career.”


Dave Natzke, Editor, Progressive Dairy

2. When is the best time to get a cow pregnant?

Advancements in dairy reproductive efficiency and milk production over the past decades have prompted further inquiry into the optimal timing for getting cows pregnant. When optimizing for maximal returns to the stall, and especially in mature cows (lactation 3 or greater), analysis suggests it's best to get them pregnant as early as possible.

The ideal timing of conception varies across herds for first- and second-lactation cows due to differences in lactation curves, and herd variations in key metrics suggest there is value in conducting customized analysis using data from individual herds rather than industry averages. While economic measures such as income over feed costs (IOFC) and net cash flow (NCF) have value for making various management decisions, a measure such as net present value (NPV) that accounts for the time value of money is a better metric for determining when to breed cows. Analyzing herd-specific data against this measure concluded the optimal time to get a cow pregnant maximizes returns to the stall the cow occupies, rather than the individual cow.

Although the ideal time to get a cow pregnant varies depending on specific herd characteristics and economic conditions, the results so far suggest that early conception may be the path to maximize milk per day of productive life and more importantly, profit.

3. America's largest manure digester supports producers' environmental goals

To reduce phosphorus runoff and improve farming practices, 11 Wisconsin dairies work in partnership to provide manure for America’s largest anaerobic digester – BC Organics, owned and operated by Dynamic Renewables. The Brown County plant has 16 digesters on site and the capability of processing 900,000 gallons of manure daily. In addition, more than 400,000 gallons of clean water will be created through state-of-the-art filtration technology.

Q: What benefits has the partnership provided your farm?

A: “The project continues to move forward, getting better and meeting expectations. We really started to see the rubber hit the road in September. The facility processes a large amount of manure and produces bedding, enough to keep up with demand for all participating farms, which is a big feat for the dairies to save on sand use and translates into dollars. There are a lot of hidden gems that are hard to quantify. This growing season, we were still ‘business as usual’ regarding manure management. The final phase of the project, the dewatering system, was in testing for many months and just went online. We hope next growing season we are able to really reap the rewards.”

Dan Wiese, Wiese Brothers Farms

4. Pregnancy rate or conception rate – which tool should you use?

Adrianne Trennepohl discusses which reproduction metric you should be measuring on your dairy. Depending on your priorities, pregnancy rate or conception rate could help you achieve different goals.

Q: What other fertility tools should a producer utilize when looking at reproduction management?

A: “Maximizing fertility performance results from the right genetics coupled with management and environmental impact, or to break it down to simple terms, performance equals genetics plus management. Once you define a clear genetic plan for reproduction goals, focusing on compliance and attention to details are key to achieve performance. Regular monitoring of thaw bath temps, sanitation of equipment and semen placement are required to achieve the genetic potential of higher fertility genetics. Protocol compliance is key. Ensuring you have the right hormone, cow, day, time, dose and syringe is foundational to the success of increased profitability through better fertility performance.”

Adrianne Trennepohl, ABS Global

5. The Ovsynch story: How a question changed the course of modern reproduction

Robert Pursley and Milo Wiltbank didn’t set out to change how dairies bred cows across the world, but that’s what they did when they discovered the method that would later become Ovsynch.

“I wasn’t even born when Ovsynch was first introduced to the dairy scene. While I was working one day, I started wondering how Ovsynch came to be – the protocol has always fascinated me – and decided that if I was curious, maybe other people would be too. I learned a lot writing this article and am glad others enjoyed it.”

Matti McBride, Editor, Progressive Dairy

6. A new type of beef-on-dairy: Holstein x Akaushi

South Dakota producer Greg Moes found a niche market of beef-on-dairy – breeding his cows to Akaushi beef.

Progressive Dairy editor Dave Natzke met Greg at World Dairy Expo and passed his information on to me. I thought Dave had misspelled Angus when he handed me his note – I had no idea there was a Japanese beef breed called Akaushi. I was fascinated with the idea of mating a specialty breed like this to dairy cattle.”

Matti McBride, Editor, Progressive Dairy

7. 7 tips for designing the right calf barn

Calves are the future success of your herd, so creating a calf barn that is well-designed matters. Many of the same lactating cow barn design principles apply, and considerations like ventilation, space, layout and cleanliness can make all the difference to your group calf housing.

8. Designing concrete floors for dairy facilities to reduce lameness incidences

Providing a proper and secure walking surface for cows to use for a long time has been shown to aid in lameness prevention. To create quality concrete flooring, dairy producers should follow industry guidelines for sub-base preparation, concrete mix specifications, placing the concrete, finishing the concrete, grooving the concrete and curing the concrete.

Q: What is the most common mistake you see dairy farmers make when creating new quality concrete flooring?

A: “Paying attention to the quality and placement of the concrete floor and getting a good groove on the finish floor. There are so many variables that can affect the final outcome, and they all need to be paid attention to.”

David Kammel, Consultant, 4dBarn

A: “A concrete floor in a dairy facility is the most important long-term investment. If it fails, it is the most difficult to replace because of day-to-day operations. Doing the homework, using all available resources and overseeing the concrete being placed is crucial to protect the investment.”

Karl Burgi, Founder and Board Chairman, Save Cows Network Companies

9. Genetic tools have reversed cow fertility decline

Kristen Parker-Gaddis discusses how genetic advancements have reversed fertility decline in U.S. dairy cattle. Analyzing trends such as this one is beneficial to the industry as a whole.

Q: What other correlations between traits have you studied recently and what might they mean for the dairy industry?

A: “It is important to incorporate traits in our selection indices that balance production and function, ultimately leading to increased profitability. When introducing new traits, we consider the correlations with traits currently being used. For instance, before introducing Feed Saved, correlations were examined between production traits such as milk yield (near zero by definition), longevity traits (small, favorable correlation with livability), and reproductive traits (small, favorable correlation with daughter pregnancy rate).

"As we begin our research on enteric methane emissions, an important question to answer will be the relationship between methane emissions and feed efficiency. Looking ahead to introducing new traits such as milking speed, correlations with somatic cell score, mastitis and milk yield will be important to understand. Similarly, with our current work to define a hoof health trait(s), we will be carefully examining the correlations between new traits and those currently included in selection indices such as Lifetime Net Merit.”

Kristen Parker-Gaddis, Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding

10. Small-scale robotic dairy wins National Farm Toy Show

A small-scale farm display of Farnear Holsteins’ robotic milking freestall barn was named grand champion at the 45th annual National Farm Toy Show sponsored by Toy Farmer magazine. Doug Simon, one of the creators of the replica, described his process of building the small-scale robotic dairy farm.

Q: What have you been working on recently?

A: “As far as new updates to the diorama, I added another freestall barn and retrofitted the old tiestall barn to house robots now as well.”

Doug Simon

11. New balcony enhances visitor experience, safety on South Dakota dairy farm

Boadwine Farms in Baltic, South Dakota, added a balcony over the top of the maternity area in spring 2022 in preparation for their first big summer open house since the COVID-19 pandemic. The balcony was added to maximize visitor experience while minimizing the disturbance to cows and employees in their maternity barn.

Q: Tell us about your favorite farm tour you've hosted this year.

A: “My favorite tour this year was when I had a group of about 35 to 40 British people stop by who had been checking out dairies across the country. They had so many awesome questions and a great sense of humor. It was fun to see how much I had in common with dairy farmers from another continent. It really goes to show that we are all one big community."

Riley Boadwine, Boadwine Farms

12. Are low-cost parlors the industry's best-kept secret?

For more than 20 years, the low-cost parlor design has been a staple for speed and efficiency when it comes to milking systems. As the design has been fine-tuned, it has put more emphasis on ergonomics and safety while milking cows, as two Iowa dairy producers can attest. Both J Schanbacher and Scott Weidemeier use the milking system design to help meet their dairy business goals without having a large financial investment in the parlor.

Q: How have you seen the adoption of this milking system design grow over the years?

A: “I have been averaging almost a call per week from somewhere in the country regarding how to build one, so interest continues. I also seriously believe it is the industry’s best-kept secret.”

Larry Tranel, Dairy Specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Creator of the TRANS Iowa Low-Cost Parlor

13. Building a winter-ready dairy in Alaska

Scott Plagerman, along with his wife and two sons, manages Alaska’s last remaining Grade A dairy farm about 100 miles outside of Fairbanks in Delta Junction. The Washington natives moved from Lynden, Washington, to Alaska in 2008 when they bought a hay farm and started building Alaska Range Dairy in 2020. This article describes why they moved to Alaska, their on-farm processing, how they are marketing their milk, the steps they take to prepare for the cold winter months, how they built their barn to withstand the extreme cold, and more.

Q: Since we talked last fall, what are some exciting things that have happened on your farm?

A: “In addition to the whole milk and chocolate milk we started with, we added a plain vanilla whole-milk, cream-top yogurt. As I mentioned in the article, we’ve had to create our own milk market here in Alaska. We just got our products into a big chain store – Walmart, which started with the Fairbanks store and then three weeks later, the Walmart in Wasilla. As we have a few more cows calve and a little more milk, we’ll probably start shipping products to the one in Anchorage, too.

"As more heifers calve in and our herd size grows, we also recently installed a second robot. Also on the horizon is likely another barn expansion next summer.

"Aside from these new additions, we had five or six dairy producers from around the country stop in this summer. They saw the article in Progressive Dairy and were curious. It’s good since we also learn from them about what’s going on and what new improvements are out there.”

Scott Plagerman, Alaska Range Dairy

14. Water is a major driver of milk quality

Water is an essential component in the cleaning of milking equipment, yet is often overlooked when it comes to factors affecting milk quality. To prevent or troubleshoot milk quality issues, dairy producers should consider several factors related to water: volume needed for the appropriate cleaning process, temperature during the first rinse and detergent cycles, presence of minerals and flow rate at time of cleaning.

Q: Of the factors dairy producers should consider, what is the most important one to prevent or troubleshoot milk quality issues?

A: “The most important factor dairy producers should consider for preventing or troubleshooting milk quality issues is to develop and surround themselves with a good milk quality team for their dairy. This team should include people who understand milking performance and the cleaning mechanics of their milking equipment. It’s also paramount to include someone from the dairy who is involved in the day-to-day operations of the milking center and the barn to ensure all systems are working properly.”

—Matt Gough, Dairy Advisor for DeLaval

15. Strategic growth brings long-term sustainability at Locust Hill Dairy in upstate New York

Locust Hill Dairy takes advantage of growth opportunities whenever they can. Tim and Renee Alford of upstate New York recall how Locust Hill Dairy LLC began 45 years ago with just 45 cows and 165 acres. Today, the LLC encompasses 5,000 cows and 3,000 heifers at four different locations on approximately 8,000 acres, and the ownership is divided among six partners.

Q: Has Locust Hill Dairy made any new strategic decisions or added on any opportunities in the past year?

A: “After two years of growth in two additional facilities, our current focus is finding the synergistic balance and maximizing each location's potential. We’ve found areas we can consolidate and areas where that isn’t what is best. As growth opportunities arise, we’ll continue to evaluate and understand what makes the best sense for our business.”

Renee Alford, Locust Hill Dairy LLC

16. Amino acid nutrition in lactating cows: Understanding and utilizing amino acid efficiency

Cows have metabolic flexibility to adapt to a wide range of amino acid supplies and combinations. The new National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) publication highlights this metabolic flexibility and provides additional tools that can be used to determine whether to increase or decrease supply of an individual amino acid. By understanding a cow’s metabolic flexibility, one can develop targeting amino acid feeding strategies.

Q: Do you have any additional advice for amino acid nutrition following the new NASEM guidelines?

A: “Amino acid efficiency is the new frontier in amino acid nutrition. By understanding amino acid efficiency, we can improve our ability to estimate milk protein responses to feeding more or less of a given amino acid. This in turn will allow us to feed cows for improved income over feed cost and nitrogen efficiency.”

Logan Morris, Perdue Animal Nutrition

17. Feeding practices to cool hot cows

Preparing cows for heat stress with proper nutrition and feeding practices can improve their bodies' response and may help your herd be more successful this summer. Practical strategies exist for adjusting nutrition and feeding practices such as drinking water, feeding cows at night, organic acids, reformulating diets, additives and more.

Q: What do you think is the single most important concept when managing heat stress in dairy cows?

A: “The single most important nutritional strategy to manage heat stress is to always offer fresh, clean and abundant drinking water. Cows lose body heat through panting and sweating, which requires substantial amounts of water. Thus, water is one of the most important nutrients to control body temperature.”

Ricardo Rodrigues, Provimi

18. Minimizing the impact of heat stress and what it means for dry cows

When it comes to heat abatement, most dairy farmers are likely to focus on their lactating cows. At the 2023 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit, Dr. Geoffrey Dahl, from the University of Florida, shared why this may not actually be the best method. He spoke about which cows to cool, when to cool and why cooling dry cows could have a positive economic impact.

Q: Why do you think this piece resonated with readers?

A: “Dairy producers are always looking for ways they can optimize their herd management strategies to enhance cow comfort and profitability. This article really shows the true impact heat stress can have, specifically on dry cows, and the economic impact it can make on producers’ bottom lines.”

Emily Barge, Center for Dairy Excellence

19. Agrivoltaics and grazing dairy cattle under solar panels

Dairy farmers have long been reducing the environmental impact of dairy farming and responsibly managing their land, air and water resources. Using an agrivoltaics system in a pasture, which is the integration of solar photovoltaics and agriculture, could boost land efficiency by up to 75%. Potential on-site renewable electric generation could also supply some or the entire electric load, allowing dairy farms to approach net zero. Agrivoltaics is one way producers might be able to become less dependent on fossil fuels, lower production costs, increase land efficiency, improve forages and crops for use by dairy cattle, and increase milk production and health in dairy cows.

Q: What is the most common question you receive from dairy producers about solar photovoltaic panels and using an agrivoltaics system in the pasture?

A: “A common question producers ask is: ‘Will cows disturb or wreck the solar panels, and what can grow under the panels?’

"The answer is that cows grazing under solar panels does not disturb the solar panels. The first day, the cows sniffed the poles and panels, but after that, the cows left them alone. Our panels are 8 feet above the ground, and electrical wiring is high enough so the cows don’t disturb or chew the wires. They don’t rub on the panels, either. We have placed the solar inverters outside the fence, so the cows won’t wreck them. In a nutshell, the cows like to stand under the panels in the shade during the day out of the sunlight.

"The answer to the second part of that question is cool-season grasses and legumes grow best under the panels. We have found that orchardgrass, meadow fescue and red clover have the highest yield and fastest regrowth under the panels.”

Brad Heins, University of Minnesota

20. Make bad bugs die and good ones prosper

We know each cow has a microbiome made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and archaea that are involved in either supporting or limiting a myriad of body functions. With bacillus products, producers can feed cows to be more resilient as well as overcome health and stress challenges.

Q: We know bacillus can inhibit pathogen growth, improve rumen efficiency and support better immune health. How do these three factors overlap?

A: “External factors such as stress and poor feed hygiene can have a negative impact on immune health and rumen function. Even in the absence of pathogens in the feed, a weaker immune system creates a more favorable environment for pathogen levels to increase in the gastrointestinal tract. A deficiency in any one of these three areas could make a cow more susceptible to challenges in the remaining areas. With scientifically proven bacillus products, all three of these factors can be accounted for, creating a more resilient dairy cow.”

Jesse Thompson, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition

21. Notable changes to the NASEM dairy nutrient requirements software

The new NASEM report represents an update of the 2001 findings with major revisions for intake predictions, macro-nutrient digestion, macro-nutrient requirements for calves and heifers, and amino acid requirements for cows. This article focuses on several key changes to the 2021 model and thus the interface.

Q: Why do you think this piece piqued the interest of so many readers?

A: “The NASEM 2021 release was highly anticipated since the previous version debuted 20 years earlier. Most folks who regularly work with the software would be understandably invested in the biggest changes implemented, as those changes reflect what the NASEM 2021 committee believed to be the most significant advances in dairy cattle requirement models over the past 20 years.”

Jacquelyn Prestegaard, Texas A&M University

22. One of the most essential areas to keep your cows cool

A cow’s core body temperature can rise very quickly in the holding pen without a cooling strategy in place. Therefore, the cooling strategy for the parlor and holding pen must be more aggressive to compensate for these heat abatement challenges. Strategies for cooling cows in the holding pen, including design considerations, airflow and evaporative cooling, are discussed.

Q: What else should dairy producers know about heat abatement in the holding pen?

A: “As cool, ambient temperatures during the fall, winter and early spring arrive, we must not forget about heat production by cows in the holding pen just because it's cooler outside at the moment.

"Temperature control for the holding pen should be separate from the parlor. In most temperate climates, the heat from the compressors and other heat-producing elements is directed into the parlor area to help manage employee comfort as well as to help control humidity that can enhance mold production on parlor walls and ceilings. If air exchange and appropriate velocity aren’t addressed in the holding pen, we increase the likelihood of heat stressing cows during those times, especially if the recirculation fans are switched off and can’t respond to variable external conditions in the spring and fall periods.

"The importance of active air exchange here is also important to remove the heat, humidity and noxious gases that will accumulate if not actively dealt with.

"A sidebar comment regarding areas of the world where pasture grazing is prevalent: The importance of shade, air movement and soaking systems is often overlooked. Many times, dairy cows will stand for longer than the targeted one hour or less to be milked without those three elements provided. In many of these grazing parlors, the roofs are low and not insulated or [having] any recirculation fans provided. This makes for an unpleasant environment for both people and cows. I refer to the original article on parlor and holding pens with supporting information to these comments.”

Michael J. Wolf, VES-Artex

23. Next generation on California dairy looks to automate the future

California’s Bar-Mac Dairy is adopting automation to enhance workflow, efficiency and cow comfort. Currently, they have implemented a fly-spraying system, and their parallel parlor is fitted with a first-in-the-nation automated teat spray system to keep chemical use down and hopefully increase cow throughput in the parlor using the same number of workers. The teat spray wand system sprays teat dip for pre- and post-milking, ultimately improving cow health and cow comfort, while streamlining workflow and lessening the physical load of milking on parlor employees. The dairy is also investigating other automation opportunities like activity monitors and sorting gates.

Weighing key factors like cow health, the father-son team at Bar-Mac Dairy is pursuing ways automation can help them retain employees and attract a younger generation to dairy farming through technology adoption.

24. The new dairy NRC: New thoughts on dairy nutrition

This article touches on the more significant changes made since 2001 to the new Dairy National Research Council (NRC) and reviews the more significant changes to dry matter intake, amino acids, protein, energy, minerals and vitamins.

Q: Why is it critical to analyze feeds and forages going into actual rations in addition to the new NASEM changes?

A: “Feed and forage analysis has always been critical, so we know what we are working with. Forages, for instance, can vary significantly in protein and fiber component content even within a given field – purchased hay, especially from lesser-known suppliers, even more. Silages within a given pile can also vary a considerable amount in dry matter content from day to day. Finally, since so much of the typical dairy feeding program is byproduct based, a regular analysis of these ingredients is important since they also vary.”

Steve Blezinger, Reveille Livestock Concepts

25. Consistency and the 'mastitis triangle'

Factors that influence mastitis outbreaks are broken down in this article by Andy Johnson. Learn how cow, employee and machine can work together to eliminate a mastitis threat.

Q: How do you effectively communicate the concept of the ‘mastitis triangle’ to employees who don’t speak English as their first language?

A: “Over 90 percent of the dairies I consult for have employees that do not speak English. On most farms, there is a key person who speaks both English and their language. They are a key part of helping me teach them the concept. In some cases, the dairy will have a translator hired for the team meeting for my visit to teach my concept. As our industry evolves, having someone present to help translate is rarely an issue. If the dairy wants to have an employee meeting on their own, they will have the necessary people there to deliver my concept.”

Andy Johnson, Milk Quality and Cow Comfort Consultant