The Moos Room™

The OG3 go over some questions that were left over from Dr. Joe's time on paternity leave. On the docket - worker safety compliance, alfalfa and grass mixtures, and receiving protocols for a feedlot.

Show Notes

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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.

Joe Armstrong: Welcome to Moos Room, everybody. It's a big day. The OG3 are back together. I'm done with paternity leave, so I'm officially working again. It feels good to be back and see everybody. We're really, really hoping to get in person soon, which hasn't happened in way too long.
Emily: Not since, what, the first episode or two?
Joe: Yes.
Emily: It's been a while.
Bradley Hines: I saw Emily at the State Fair five months ago in person, so that's been too long.
Emily: We have seen each other more recently than that, though, Bradley.
Bradley: Oh, yes, we did like two weeks ago.
Emily: Yes. [laughs] We just saw each other, jeez.
Bradley: Oh, I guess it wasn't that memorable.
Emily: Wow.
Joe: Yes, that's sometimes how it works.
Emily: Or maybe you're just getting old.
Bradley: Yes, that could be it too.
Emily: How about that?
Bradley: Everything is so crazy, but we're here. We're all together. That's good.
Emily: Yes. I feel like it's been a while for the OG3.
Bradley: We're all doing well.
Joe: Yes, and everybody's doing good. Today, we're catching up because while I was on paternity leave, we had some questions come in and I just didn't get to them yet. We actually had quite a few, I answered most of them through email, but we picked three that we haven't really gotten to yet, and there's one for each of us, which is fun.
Emily: How convenient?
Joe: How convenient. Rule of three just happens to work.
Emily: It's a mailbag episode.
Joe: Yes, mailbag.
Emily: I'm just going to keep calling it that until you guys start saying it too.
Joe: We're sure we'll pick up on it if you keep going with it. Who wants to go first? That's the question.
Emily: I do.
Joe: All right, Emily wants to go first.
Emily: The surprise of no one. [chuckles]
Joe: To no one's surprised, Emily would like to go first. This one is going to remain anonymous because it's a touchy situation, but they need some advice when it comes to safety on the dairy. That's all I'm going to say, it's a dairy.
Emily: All right.
Joe: They have several employees and they're all really good. There's one employee that is a very good employee, works really, really hard, does just about everything right, but doesn't really buy into safety and rolls their eyes every time it comes up, especially if it's mentioned that they're doing something that is potentially unsafe. The question is, we're not going to get rid of this person because they're a very good employee, they're a very good worker, but what can they do about it? What are the next steps? How do you get that buy-in from someone who really has no interest in buying in, but is a good employee in every other way?
Emily: That's a good question and a great concern to bring up because my guess is there are other people listening right now going, "Yes, I'm in the same situation." I appreciate this listener for stepping up and asking this tough question. This one, like you said, Joe, it's especially hard because this is otherwise a really good employee. When you have an employee that maybe is not stellar, and then they're also being unsafe, it can be a little easier to decide to let them go, but in this situation, that can be hard. I think first and foremost, it's great that this farmer is noticing this and that they do want them to take safety seriously.
There's a multitude of reasons why that's important. I don't need to go through those now. I guess my advice for this particular situation, it goes back to something I talked to quite a bit, and that's about having a culture of farm safety. My guess is this farm is probably already has a pretty well-established culture around it because it sounds like other employees are doing things safely and that, but sometimes it sounds like confronting this person, just them has not been effective, and so maybe it's time to just do some safety trainings for everyone on the team.
It's not a punishment for the people who have been safe because everybody needs a refresher every now and again. I think that's something that you could do. Another little piece I would add to that, if you can bring in somebody who has a real-life story, I find that is so powerful. We do that in all of our youth farm safety programming. We always bring in an injured farmer, usually my dad, just to talk about what they went through and they usually emphasize like, "It was a day like any other and I did exactly what I always did." I think if you can find someone like that, whether it's someone who has been injured or witnessed an accident or even a first responder from your county, they've seen these things.
I find those stories can really help people snap back to attention on why safety is so important. I definitely think that using a team approach, just reinforcing that this is for everybody, this is important for everybody, which is why we're not singling out one person and doing this for everyone, I think that that's an approach to try. I know this is a tough situation, but I do hope things turn around with this employee because if they're good, you want to make sure they're going to stay around too and not be put on the bench due to injury.
Joe: That seems like a good way to go, and I like the team approach method just to make sure. Especially if you get everyone together and they see that everyone's bought in, it might help them catch up to the culture that's already in place if they see that everyone else is into it. I've had this experience before in the past, and one of the big things that helped was just taking the time to say, "Why do you do it this way? What's the reason?" If the reason is convenience, that's a different story, but if the reason is, well, they have a legitimate reason because of this, this, and this because of time or things like that or they don't feel like they have enough time.
It's either re-emphasizing that you'd rather it took a little longer and they were safe. Or figuring out, "Well, if I changed this, this, and this, would you be willing to do it this way?" Oftentimes, that's all it takes is saying, "Why are you doing it this way? If I can help you fix what you perceive as the problem, can we do it this way instead so that it's actually safe?" If you feel like you have a good enough relationship, which it sounds like you do, maybe taking some time one-on-one to just say, "Why? Tell me the why behind it" because there might be a legit reason in their mind.
Emily: Yes, absolutely. I think it's really important to actively engage the employee too in being part of the solution, and sometimes it is that. Some adjustments may need to be made, but if it's going to create a safer system, then obviously, I'm all for it.
Joe: All right. Hopefully, that's helpful. Brad, we're going to go with you next because my question is going to take a while to explain and yours relates to the last episode. Last episode, if you didn't listen, please go back and listen, but if you have it, we talked about alfalfa fields, and then adding grass to that stand. This is a comment from Randy, and he says that they tried to put in Italian ryegrass and fescue in the past within an alfalfa field, and what they got was patches of both alfalfa and grass and they never got any consistent mixture.
Because they were harvesting it as baleage, they would get really inconsistent bales, it would be different from bale to bale to bale. They went back to straight alfalfa because they couldn't figure out how to use inconsistent bales or a different bale each day when they're trying to feed a consistent TMR. His last comment was, if you want to feed grass, then plant grass. If you want to feed alfalfa, plant alfalfa. That's just what he's experienced himself. Any thoughts, Brad?
Bradley: That's a good question and thanks for the comment. I think we appreciate all the comments that we get. It is an interesting subject and by no means does it work every time here for us to do that as well. I think with the alfalfa, sometimes alfalfa does really well and it depends on the spring weather. Alfalfa is very competitive and will outcompete grasses. Yes, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I do think there is some value in that and a lot of people like straight alfalfa. I'm one of them, actually, I love straight alfalfa. It's very good feed. It's high in protein, but I think adding some grass to the mixture might be beneficial.
I think in the last episode, we certainly talked about trying to maximize digestible fiber and that's what we're going to do. We're going to try it here at our research center to see if we can do that. I don't know what to expect and we might have the same issues where we get inconsistency. Yes, some bales are totally alfalfa, some are all grass, and it might be a bust here because of the comment that we had. I think it's a good one and I don't know the answer, of course, but I think that's why we're here, we're going to try it and see what happens, but I'm all for alfalfas, no doubt about it.
Joe: The patchiness, I think if you could get it to not be patchy, it'd be a no-brainer in my mind.
Bradley: Right, and I think that's where we started from is if you have some patchiness or winter kill in your alfalfa, you can go out and plant some grass there and it might help. It certainly depends on what the alfalfa stand looks like, but it's a good comment. Something for me as I'm going into this spring to think about in how to do that. Maybe we need to start over and just have alfalfa and a grass mixture, and who knows, maybe I'll develop something where I got alfalfa, 100% grass, and then try a mixture and see what happens. Maybe that's a good plan.
Joe: After you chop it, how are you putting it up, Brad? Or is it in a bunker? Is it in a bag?
Bradley: We chop everything and everything's going into a silage bag. We don't have any equipment here for bailage. I know a lot of farms use bailage, but ours is all chopped forage stored in a bag.
Joe: If you did have a patchy field and you chopped it and then you put it in a bag, you would see it different all along the whole length of the bag, right?
Bradley: Of course, yes, you're going to get some inconsistencies in the forage that you're feeding in a bag too because you might have a certain portion be grass and a certain portion be alfalfa and some be mixed. It could be a feeding nightmare depending on the quality of the grass and what the alfalfa is. There certainly could be differences in forage quality. That's where I get it's like you should have either alfalfa or you should have grass because you're probably going to get pretty consistent feed across that. That's a good point.
Joe: Yes, it makes sense. Thank you, Randy, again for that and hopefully, Brad can figure out a system where he can decide what the best way to go about this is.
Bradley: Yes, that's what I'm here for, trying to figure out stuff. That was from a farmer discussion that we had and some people were going to try it and I said, "Sure, I'll do it too."
Joe: Sounds good. All right, so let's move on to the question that's for me. This one is a little long, so stick with us through this one. This is a feed yard that called and asked me a question about receiving protocols basically. There's three different populations of cattle. They're all going to end up in the same pen. There's 30 cattle in the pen that have been in the yard for two weeks already. The owner of the feedlot, these are his calves, so they're pretty bulletproof. They've been there for two weeks, they're already bunk broke, they know what's going on. Not a huge issue there. Every year, this producer also gets 150 head that are going into the same pen that are from South Dakota and it's a bulletproof group.
Every year, they're perfect, they're already vaccinated, they're bunk broke, they're ready to go, single source, never has a problem with them. Just not worried about them, but this is something that I think in school, when we're in veterinary school, no one ever talks about this and you find out about it in the real world right away. There's a bunch of different ways where you can get multiple groups in a pen and one of them is filling up a pot. Like if you need to just fill up your load, you add sometimes at the end of that, fill it up with as fewer sources as possible, but sometimes you just have to fill the pot.
You get random cattle pushed in in smaller groups and that can be a problem because of mixing different sources and different vaccine histories and all these other things. One of the other things that happens all the time is that if you own a feed yard in a small town or a small area, sometimes you buy your neighbor's cattle to help them out, and this is exactly what happened here. He needed a few more head to fill out his lot and his neighbor had cattle for sale, and instead of going somewhere else to find those cattle or trying to figure out how to do it from one source, you'd be a good neighbor and you buy your neighbor's cattle.
That's where we're at is we have a group that's already in the yard, they've been there for a while. They've got a group of bulletproof cattle that are coming in about a week and now we've got 20 from the neighbor that are going into this lot and they have one round of shots, they're castrated, but now the question is, what do you do with them? Because no one else needs shots and everyone else is pretty much set and ready to roll where these ones are not bunk broke yet, they've got all these other things going on with them and you're doing it as a good neighbor by buying these cattle. Does that make sense? You guys following along? If you guys are falling along, I'm hoping the listeners are still with us too.
Bradley: No, I got it.
Emily: I think I got it.
Joe: Okay. The question is, when do we work those 20 head that need one more round of shots and what do we give them and all that stuff? We're not going to get into what to give them because that's a whole big discussion, but when to work them is a big question because you've already got cattle that are in the yard, they've been there for a while, so there's no reason for them to go through the chute yet because they're not ready for an implant, they're not up on full feed. You've got these 150 coming from North Dakota that also need an implant, but they're going to want some time in the yard to get up and get rolling before they get that implant.
The question is, do you work the 20 head now or do you wait? In my mind, I'm trying to minimize the amount of times these cattle have to go through a chute and they're not ready for an implant coming in. If you know you're going to have to wait on everyone to give an implant, the answer is to wait on those 20 head as well. Give them time to get settled, get to know the bunk because they've never seen one before. They might not have seen whatever waterer style you have, they got to get used to that. They got to walk the fence a bunch of times to figure out their new environment.
They have to get used to the other cattle in the pen, which is going to change drastically. They've been in a group of 20 their whole life and all of a sudden they're going to be a part of a group of 200. There's all these things for them to figure out and if you stress them on top of all those things with vaccines, it's not going to be helpful. We're going to wait until implant time, which might be a month down the road to give them their next round of shots, their implants, and just catch them up with the rest of the group. There might still be problems just because you're combining three different groups of cattle, but that's where I'm sitting on this one is just wait. No reason to run them through the chute an extra time.
Bradley: I agree with Joe, which is, well, we don't agree on everything, but I'll agree with him here. I'll agree with the veterinarian here. Not wanting to move the cattle through the chute multiple times is an issue and it causes lots of other things, stress. You can induce a lot of different things by having to run them through multiple times. Unless there's an issue with those cattle, yes, I would wait, personally. I've run a lot of cattle through chutes, especially out here in Morris and it's challenging some days.
Emily: As someone who has also run cattle through chutes in Morris, I can agree with that.
Joe: One of the things that plays into this is the timing of when the big group is coming. Because the big group is coming in a week and those 20 head are going in now, so they've got a week in a pen that's meant for 200 cattle with only 50 head in that pen. You're putting them in a very low-stress environment where they have a lot of space and a lot of time and a lot of bunk space, a lot of water space to figure it out before the big group arrives. I don't see any reason to screw up that low stress by adding stress of the chute.
There's also things we can talk about with what we're going to give them that play into that decision as well because our modified lives, this would really be revac on our modified lives, not a booster. We're fairly certain that our clostridial vaccine was one that only needs to be given once. We have a little history and that lets me be a little more comfortable as well. There's a lot going on there, but those are the kind of questions that make me think and think about logistics and having to account for what's going on in the farmer's life with do I even have help to work them?
All those kind of things plays a lot into that as well, but in general, less trips to the chute is better for everyone; the cattle and the people like Brad pointed out. All right, those are our three questions for today.
Bradley: We love questions, so if you have any more questions for us and want to know stuff and want to talk about it on future episode, let us know and we will definitely answer all of our fan mail.
Emily: Yes, I would love to do another mailbag episode.
Joe: Absolutely. This is one of the best things about the podcast is when questions come into the email and we get to answer them and especially when we get to talk about it as three of us, it's a lot of fun.
Emily: I just want to point out one more thing. If you are planning on emailing or calling us, as you saw today, if you prefer to remain anonymous, we can do that. Maybe you've had a question or a comment or something you've wanted to share, but you want to keep yourself private and that's okay, we can do that. If you send it to the email, the only person who will know it was you is Joe. He is the one who checks the email and he is tight-lipped, so don't let that deter you. If you want to reach out, please do. If you are interested in doing that or you have other questions, comments, or scathing rebuttals, you can email The Moos Room at
Joe: That's T-H-E M-O-O-S R-O-O-M
Emily: You can also call and leave us a voicemail at 612-624-3610. Find us on the web at and on Twitter @UMNmoosroom. Bye
Joe: Bye
Bradley: Bye.
Emily: The mailbag is officially closed.
Joe: Closed