The Moos Room™

What is Brad up to in Morris, MN at the Dairy? Does he really do research or does he just eat grilled cheeses all day, every day? Listen to find out! Also, an update on Brad's trip to World Dairy Expo.

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What is The Moos Room™?

Hosted by members of the University of Minnesota Extension Beef and Dairy Teams, The Moos Room discusses relevant topics to help beef and dairy producers be more successful. The information is evidence-based and presented as an informal conversation between the hosts and guests.

Dr. Joe: Welcome to The Moos Room, everybody. Dr. Joe here, Bradley J. Heins, tenured professor is here as well, and Emily Krekelberg. The OG three is back together. It's been a while. We've got all sorts of things to update. Emily just had her birthday. That's awesome. Happy birthday, Emily. How do you feel about it?
Emily Krekelberg: I feel good. I have no problem saying it. I'm 33, and 3 is my favorite/lucky number. Two threes that's a good sign.
Dr. Joe: Good year. Going to be a good year.
Emily: I'm rolling.
Bradley Heins: That's crazy. I remember when I chaperoned a 4-H trip with you and you're like 16 years old. Man.
Dr. Joe: It's been a while.
Emily: Yes. Because I had my birthday on that trip, and I turned 17.
Bradley: Oh, yes.
Dr. Joe: Where was that trip to?
Bradley: Madison, Wisconsin.
Emily: Yes, for the National 4-H Dairy Conference. That is where Bradley broke my ankle. For those who have been here since the beginning.
Dr. Joe: Yes. That's an old story. That came up a long time ago.
Bradley: You were racing chairs in the hallway and you shouldn't have been.
Emily: Yes. Who was I encouraged to do that by?
Dr. Joe: The silence. Dead silence.
Emily: I guess I remember a different version of the story.
Dr. Joe: [laughs] All right. Speaking of that area of the world, Bradley, you were just at World Dairy Expo. How was that?
Bradley: It was good. It was fun being there, catching up with lots of people, seeing all kinds of new technologies. I saw an electric tractor. We're getting an electric tractor here at our research center. I was talking with some guys about electric tractors, so that was cool. Yes, there's lots of good dairy stuff there too. Saw lots of good dairy cows. Saw the favorite breed, the only breed.
Dr. Joe: The only breed.
Bradley: That's good.
Dr. Joe: Yes.
Bradley: I almost bought a heifer in the Jersey sale, but I resisted.
Dr. Joe: That's pretty good discipline there, Bradley.
Bradley: I resisted.
Dr. Joe: Strong will.
Bradley: It went for pretty decent money, but then I would've had to figure out how to get it and it was 12 hours away.
Dr. Joe: Yes, it's a long drive.
Emily: Our judging teams had a really good World Dairy Expo as well. Minnesota 4-H, the team from Goodhue County, took first in the 4-H Dairy Judging Contest, and the University of Minnesota Dairy Judging Team took first in the Collegiate Dairy Judging Contest. I know a lot of cows that were in the shoring from Minnesota did well. It was a good event for Minnesota all around.
Bradley: Right. One of my colleagues, Dr. Les Hansen, was the Guest of Honor at World Dairy Expo for the National Dairy Shrine. I went to that banquet. It was a nice banquet. It was good for him to be recognized.
Emily: There was a really nice picture from that banquet of all the Gopher Dairy Club alumni with Les. He is the longtime advisor of the Gopher Dairy Club since the club was started. That was a really nice picture to see. Yes, congratulations, Dr. Les Hansen, a well-deserved honor.
Dr. Joe: Awesome. I was by myself last week on the podcast, and I always mention that Bradley sits in the stands with his cocktail and his derby hat on.
Emily: [laughs] Yes.
Dr. Joe: I don't know if that's how it actually happens, but that's what I like to think about when I think about Brad at World Dairy Expo.
Bradley: Actually, I don't. I sit in the stands watching the Cow Show with a grilled cheese in both hands and a couple of chocolate milks. That's what it is.
Emily: The derby hat though. There has to be the derby hat, Bradley.
Bradley: Exactly.
Emily: That's an important part of this.
Bradley: That is the only thing I eat at World Dairy Expo, is the grilled cheese. There's nothing else. Nothing else. Nothing else I want.
Dr. Joe: [crosstalk] with that. I had that for dinner last night.
Emily: Shout out grilled cheese stand at World Dairy Expo.
Dr. Joe: There you go.
Bradley: Exactly.
Dr. Joe: You want to sponsor the show, get ahold of us. All right. What are we actually doing today? We haven't seen each other for a while, so just a little update, but today it's the Bradley Show. We're talking about what's going on at the WCROC and the dairy up there, all the different research. There's a lot going on and we haven't provided an update in quite a while.
Emily: I just want to note I'm a little hurt. It was just my birthday, and usually for our birthdays we get our own show, and we're doing a Bradley Show the first time we're together after my birthday, so stay tuned next week. Hopefully, it'll be the Emily Show.
Dr. Joe: Maybe. We'll see.
Emily: Ah.
Dr. Joe: [laughs] All right.
Emily: So mean.
Dr. Joe: Bradley, you just said that you're getting an electric tractor. It hasn't shown up yet, but it's on its way. What else is going on up there? What are the big things you're working on? What's taking up all your time up there?
Bradley: What is taking up all my time? It has been an interesting summer, I will say the least, on trying to get lots of research going and start with that. Probably the one that I've spent a lot of time on this summer is actually looking at methane emissions. That's the craze. All the dairy world right now is reducing methane emissions. I have acquired a green feed. This is a machine that is used to collect methane emissions. It also does CO2, oxygen, hydrogen from cows. They get a little treat, and then once they breathe out, it collects their methane emissions.
I have one and I have another on order. We're going to have two. We're going bonkers into collecting greenhouse gases from cows. Actually, with the project, we're feeding some red seaweed to try and reduce their methane emissions. Working with a couple of companies to see if it works in organic animals. Been feeding some red seaweed from Hawaii. It's been going well. We're taking blood samples and milk samples. I even learned how to pump a rumen to get some rumen fluid out for some analysis. I've never done that before in my life and it's been quite exciting.
It's technology and it takes a lot of time and effort to make all this stuff work and watch it all the time. I've spent a lot of time this summer worrying about it. It took us three weeks to train cows to get them to use the machine. I took one for the team. My interns took a few kicks to the leg for the team. [laughs] It was quite challenging. That's been fun starting that project. There's a lot of people doing methane emissions work, but we're doing it, we're unique from a pasture-based system. It's exciting.
Emily: I will say, I will give a plug for Bradley's Instagram early. That's UMN WCROC Dairy. He did post some photos up there about a month ago of the green feed in action. There's a little video. I think it's super cool. If you're curious of what that looks like, it actually appears to be powered by a solar panel. Bradley, we know you love your solar-
Bradley: That's right.
Emily: -there at the dairy. Check that out. See it in action. I think it's super cool and excited to learn more about what you learn from it.
Bradley: Yes, it is solar-powered. I like solar energy and do all that fun stuff.
Dr. Joe: With this red seaweed, you're expecting to get lower methane emissions.
Bradley: That's correct.
Dr. Joe: That's cool, but do you expect to get anything else, any other benefit from feeding the seaweed? Do we know yet? Do we have any expectations about that? Because I find it probably, if that's the only thing we get out of it, it may not be enough to convince a dairyman to actually use it.
Bradley: I agree. That's a good point, Joe. I won't tell you the results. I know what's going on. The hypothesis is that we'll see about a 40% reduction in methane emissions from cows. I think right now we're just at the stage where "Let's see what happens with methane emissions. Does it hurt milk production?" We're measuring all the milk production, fat, protein, you name it. That's probably the goal, is to do the first study to see if it works and it can be fed to cows.
I will tell you that when we first started feeding it, our cows did not like it. It is a big adjustment when you're feeding, even at a small level. We're feeding it at less than an ounce per day. It is not much.
Emily: I have a point of information question. I'm trying to visualize this. Is it just like a powdered seaweed? Is this a powder you get that you add into the TMR or whatever?
Bradley: Yes. You can make it into a powder and you just add it into the TMR, sprinkle it on top of grain, or whatever it might be. Economics. We might get there. I don't know what the cost is for production. I spoke about this at Minnesota Nutrition Conference. Somebody questioned whether it was sustainable to ship seaweed from Hawaii to Minnesota to reduce carbon footprint. Actually, a person that is involved a lot with dairy sustainability said transportation doesn't matter. It's such a small portion of it compared to the reduction in methane.
I don't know. We'll see. We will see. We're going to feed it through the end of December into early January and then go from there. This is one of the projects we're working on. I have a whole bunch of other projects that we were working on with methane, looking at different breeds, because we have Holsteins and crossbreds. Actually, I'm working with Isaac Salfer in Saint Paul and we're going to take it to Saint Paul and measure it on Holstein cows in a tie-stall barn, comparing some genotypes there. We can get a lot of information out of this machine related to body maintenance based on the gases that cows are exhaling. We'll get a lot of good stuff going.
Emily: We'll have to stay tuned for the red seaweed recap episode.
Dr. Joe: Absolutely. We'll have to have one so we can figure out what other benefits in addition to methane reduction there are, if there are any. Because that's going to be key for the adoption.
Bradley: I agree.
Dr. Joe: We got methane projects galore with your new toy and having--
Emily: Brad's got gas.
Dr. Joe: Yes.
Bradley: Exactly.
Dr. Joe: New t-shirt idea.
Emily: I had to, sorry. [laughs]
Dr. Joe: Brad's got gas, writing it down for t-shirts.
Emily: [laughs] Yes. Perfect.
Dr. Joe: I know one project that we've talked about before, Bradley, and I don't honestly know if you updated this at the Minnesota Nutrition Conference as well. You're working with dairy cross beef animals. I think you're pretty excited because-- I've seen pictures and I'm pretty excited that there's Herefords entering this discussion. Tell us what's going on there.
Bradley: We've done some dairy-beef work for a number of years. I did a study. We first started with Limousin, I think in 2019. We started breeding some cows to Limousin during the pandemic. We did a study here, kept going, looking at Limousin cross calves and see what would happen. They do well. They grow well. Then there's been a lot of research out that has shown maybe Angus or maybe Simmental, there's not a lot out there. I have ventured off into that realm again.
We first used Limousin and then I switched to Angus and our herd. Then it was like, "I'm not convinced that any one breed is the best." We bred the dairy herd to Angus, Limousin, Simmental, Charolais, and Hereford. Right now there's 20 calves on the ground. We're just going to look at the bull calves, at the steer calves right now. The heifer calves, that's another study in itself. We're going to probably have 160 beef on dairy crossbreds born here and I just can't keep them all. Maybe at some point, I'll think about this heifer issue because there's a lot of heifers, and those go into the system as well and nobody really knows what to do with them because they're not like a steer calf.
Right now I have them on our auto feeder. We're getting all of the milk intake data. We are feeding them probably at a higher rate than what is industry standard. I've been told that by numerous people. We're feeding 10 liters. We're feeding more milk than what most people would think. It's exciting.
Dr. Joe: You're planning to take them all the way through harvest and get that data as well?
Bradley: That is the goal. That is the goal, is to take them through harvest and get the carcass data and do a taste panel, comparing these different breeds. There needs to be a lot more beef on dairy research. There's a few people that are doing it and everybody's doing it differently. That's the problem, is that it's all different and everybody uses different breeds. Most of it is on Angus, of course.
To go on a side tangent about breeds, I was at World Dairy Expo talking to some farmers, and they were from California. They've switched. They're using some stabilizer, which is a composite breed, going back to some of the red breeds. The actual red breeds. Red Limousin, not the black, because on the West Coast the black phenomenon, it's there but it's not like it is here in the Midwest, red coat color. Especially from a heat perspective, black cattle don't do as well in really high temperatures.
It's interesting talking to farmers about that and beef on dairy from other parts of the US and their take on different breeds and what can be used. Maybe at some point, I'll use different breeds, who knows? I have lots of people telling me, oh, we should be using Gelbvieh or Stabiliser or this, but I just don't know.
Dr. Joe: I don't think anyone really has enough data to know. Then it comes up to that conversation of, "Is it even about breed or are we matching genetics to individual bulls regardless of breed? Is that the better option?" I don't know. We don't know yet. We don't have time today to get down that rabbit hole.
Bradley: Maybe we'll have a whole episode on dairy-beef crossing one day.
Dr. Joe: Maybe. Once we know a little more.
Emily: Sounds thrilling. I do want to make an important point. Bradley, you brought up taking these calves all the way through to harvest and doing a tasting panel. I would like to volunteer to be a member of that panel. I believe I speak for Joe as well when I say that.
Dr. Joe: 100%.
Emily: Keep us in the loop when we're ready for that.
Bradley: We certainly will. We'll have a Moos Room steak fry one night and it'll be only Hereford steaks.
Dr. Joe: Perfect.
Emily: I'm excited to see what happens with those calves as well. I like that you just decided to go with a lot of different breeds. I have seen the pictures, the calves are adorable. I have a soft spot for the Charolais crosses personally.
Bradley: The little Charolais crosses are really adorable. They are.
Emily: They make cute dairy crosses.
Bradley: Some have come out red. Otherwise, if they're crossed with a black animal, they come out with this grayish color. It's neat. It's something totally different.
Dr. Joe: Mousy.
Bradley: Yes. We'll see. That's why I'm doing it. I'm just doing this on my own because I think we need the answers.
Dr. Joe: Yes. That sounds great. It's a great way to get the ball rolling because you've just got to do it and then the interest will show up. If you build it, they will come kind of thing.
Bradley: That's right.
Dr. Joe: All right. That's not it. There's always more going on.
Bradley: Oh, yes. We're doing agrivoltaics, so grazing cattle under solar panels. We're looking at non-antibiotic mastitis treatments. I got new grant money for Emily to actually look at parasites in organic dairy animals, looking at the genetics of it. There's going to be a lot going on here within the next few years. It's exciting to see where all this is going to take us.
Dr. Joe: I love the parasites in organic animals, especially when we're talking about grazing in dairy. Depending on your rotation, you can even make the whole problem worse if they come around at the wrong time back to the original pasture. There's all sorts of things to consider, especially when you don't have a whole lot of options for treatment. Now, fortunately, we do have options for parasites on the organic side, as long as it's documented that they have an issue. It becomes a little different. The discussion of just proactively treating isn't really something that you get to do on the dairy side. You're stuck in this more of a rescue treatment mentality.
Bradley: If anybody wants to be a grad student or anybody knows any good grad students, we're looking for somebody to work on a parasite project in genetics.
Dr. Joe: I'm done with school. I am absolutely done, no more. It'll have to be Emily if it's one of the two of us.
Emily: I was waiting for that. Bradley's been trying to talk me into being his grad student for about a decade now.
Bradley: Right. It's a lot of sampling. A lot of samples from cows and heifers and you name it.
Dr. Joe: At least the samples are easy to collect.
Bradley: They are easy to collect. It's not a laborious project.
Dr. Joe: Nothing like rumen samples. Pumping rumen is awful and I hate it. Not so bad in cows, in calves it's terrible. Just everything is smaller and it's easier to put things in the wrong pipe. That esophagus is a little more fragile and you can tear it. It's tough in calves. That's a lot. I think we've covered a lot of what's going on up there. There's more. There's always more. It's cool to know we've got at least the green feeds up there. I agree with Emily, it's really cool to see what those look like and how they work.
If you're interested, check out Bradley's Instagram to see that. I'm sure there'll be more content as they use it more and more and as it comes down to campus here. Then there's going to be more updates because as Bradley gets more grant money-
Emily: Grant money, grant money, grant money.
Dr. Joe: -he will have more projects and more students working constantly.
Emily: We'll probably have to do a full episode about the electric tractor when it arrives.
Dr. Joe: 100%.
Bradley: Oh, yes.
Dr. Joe: We'll get some of that on YouTube as well because we need to see it in action and hear it because it's going to be quiet.
Emily: Hear it, yes.
Bradley: We were promised April 1st it'll be here.
Dr. Joe: April 1.
Emily: Coming this spring.
Dr. Joe: It can go into the solar panels too, right?
Bradley: Yes, and it's autonomous.
Dr. Joe: It's autonomous. It's like an onion here or an ogre.
Bradley: Exactly.
Dr. Joe: It's just layers and layers of stuff.
Emily: This might be a two-parter episode about this thing.
Dr. Joe: Thank you, Bradley, for giving us the update. We really appreciate it. I think it's important for everyone to know that Bradley isn't just sitting around eating grilled cheeses every day. He's got a lot going on and a lot of projects that are happening, and they matter to the real world, or at least, we're trying to make them matter to the real world. Wrap us up, Em.
Emily: If you have questions, comments, or scathing rebuttals about today's episode, you can email those to You can also call and leave us a voicemail at 612-624-3610. You can find us on the web at, on Twitter at UMNmoosroom and at UMNFarmSafety. Another plug for Bradley's Instagram, you can find that at UMN WCROC Dairy. Crushed it.
Dr. Joe: Bye
Bradley: Bye
Emily: Bye.
[00:21:34] [END OF AUDIO]