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New Insights Into the People Side of Milk Quality


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From attitudes and perspectives to the relationship between employer and employee, Susan Schexnayder discusses new insights into the roles people can play in milk quality. For the full presentation, see our YouTube video at

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New Insights Into the People Side of Milk Quality

  1. 1. SUSAN SCHEXNAYDER SCHEXNAYDER@UTK.EDU PRESENTED FOR DAIREXNET This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2013-68004-20424. New Insight Into the People Side of Milk Quality
  2. 2. Significant changes in the dairy industry in the last two decades. Somatic cell counts (SCC), a key marker of mastitis, remain higher in the Southeast US than elsewhere. • 27% of milk samples from SE states had SCC >400K; 2% were > 750K • States ranged from 18% to 46% SCC >400K -50 0 50 100 150 200 Total milk Milk per cow Output per farm %change SE US Change from 1995 to 2010 27.9 24.4 21.8 37.3 49.7 50.3 51.7 50.1 20.5 22.9 24.6 12.0 1.8 2.4 1.9 0.6 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% SE 2014 SE 2013 SE 2012 US 2012 SCC in SE and US <200K 200-399K 400-749K >750K Production of Quality Milk in the U.S. and Southeast U.S.
  3. 3. Decades old 10-part Mastitis Management Program as well as slides and videos on Dollars and Sense of Mastitis Control Extension specialists, programs, and numerous fact sheets Extension information online Yet… Bulk tank SCC > than desired on certain operations. What We Know Doesn’t Always Match What We Do
  4. 4. Demand for higher quality milk in the U.S. and internationally Decline in the SE U.S. dairy industry and its sustainability What factors — social, cultural, economic, institutional, business, etc. — contribute to adoption and successful execution of management practices to produce quality milk by minimizing mastitis and bulk tank SCC? A Focus on People, While Addressing the Production of Quality Milk
  5. 5. We let dairy producers answer the question • Small group discussion and surveys of owners & managers-primary decision makers (PDMs)- of dairy farms • Capture info about • Attitudes, motivations, influences • Perceptions about mastitis, controlling mastitis, and info/guidance available • Farm operation info, including bulk tank SCC • Assured data represented farms in states surveyed • Regressed monthly average bulk tank SCC on • Farm and farmer characteristics • Farmer attitudinal variables Answering the “Why” Question – What Factors Explain Differences?
  6. 6. Coefficient Standard error BTSCC Behaviors - BTSCC one year ago (30% of cell count) 0.30* 0.16 - Producer takes action when BTSCC <300,000 -57,012** 27,930 Farm Structure Characteristics - Sole proprietorship or partnership -15,258***, -11,018* 5,346; 6,647 - Has operations not related to dairy 11,366* 6,119 - In parlor during the milking -14,382** 6,179 Operator Characteristics - Decision maker and employees speak same language 11,646* 6,293 - Will be operating as dairy farm in 5 years -12,933*** 4,829 Farmers’ Attitudes and Perceptions - Responsible for mastitis on my farm† -19,167*** 6,661 - General concern about mastitis control† 17,706* 10,301 - Worried about financial consequences of mastitis 10,548* 5,871 State Indicators - North Carolina, Virginia (with SE US as reference case) -52,251*; -23,323** 13,071; 10,577 Information Sources - Veterinarian -26,110** 12,615 - Extension -9,047* 5,231 These Factors Explain 65% of Variance in BTSCC
  7. 7. • Previous year’s BTSCC is a solid predictor of current BTSCC • High performing and low performing farms tend to stay that way • Early intervenors see results • BTSCC difference is 66,236 cell/ml between those who take BTSCC corrective action below 300,000 and those who wait till BTSCC surpasses 300,000 Picture source: BTSCC Behaviors & Current Year BTSCC
  8. 8. Do these factors indicate greater focus on dairy operation yields lower SCC? - Sole proprietorship or partnership (- 15,000; -11,000) + Non-dairy operations (+11,000) - Owner/manager in parlor during milking (-14,000) Counter argument: Off-farm income not associated in this study with higher BTSCC, although older study* found otherwise * Kumbhaker et al. 1991 Farm Structure Characteristics Associated with BTSCC
  9. 9. + Owner/manager and employees speak the same language (+12,000) • Consistent with a study in Northeast that found English speaking dairy employees to be associated with higher BTSCC† Ratio of effectiveness to practicality of management measures, comparing primary decision makers and employees who share a first language to those whose languages differ Mastitis and SCC management measure Different languages Same language Training employees in mastitis management .961 .957 Delegating mastitis treatment responsibility to employees 1.02 .992 Evaluating employees on BTSCC .979 .991 A score < 1 indicates the management measures is assessed to be more practical/cost efficient than effective. Does this finding relate to farm owner/manager assessments of effectiveness of employee-based management techniques? †Schewe et al., 2015 Operator Characteristics Associated with BTSCC
  10. 10. - Farms whose PDM anticipates operating as dairy farm 5 years out have BTSCC -13,000 30 40 50 60 70 Not Continuing Possibly/Probably Continuing Lbs milk per cow per day 0 100,000 200,000 300,000 400,000 500,000 Not Continuing Possibly/Probably Continuing Level of SCC that causes you to take action 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 Not Continuing Possibly/Probably Continuing # cows (lactating + dry)p < .0005 p = .006 p = .006 Operator Characteristics Associated with BTSCC
  11. 11. The Difference Is… - Responsible for mastitis on my farm‡ “I know what procedures to use in the parlor to decrease my BTSCC” “I can afford to do what is necessary” “Mastitis is a significant concern to the dairy industry in the SE US” -19,167*** + General concern about mastitis control‡ “Mastitis causes are difficult to manage” “Mastitis seems to persist despite my efforts to control it.” 17,706* + Worried about financial consequences of mastitis 10,548* ‡Factor scores derived by principle component analysis; rotated factor loading of an absolute value of >0.40 is relevant to the factor Farmers’ Attitudes and Perceptions Associated with BTSCC
  12. 12. 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Meanscore(1-5scale) Usedsource?(percentage) % used Reliability (mean) Easy to act upon (mean) 1 = not at all 5 = very [reliable/ easy to act upon] - Veterinarian -26,110** - Extension -9,047* Information Sources Associated with BTSCC, and PDMs’ Rate of Use & Assessment of Each Source
  13. 13. With the SE US as a reference case - North Carolina -52,251* - Virginia -23,323** • Are states a proxy for climate and weather? Counter argument: Kentucky shares same latitude • Other state-based factors? Industry, university and stakeholder programs to sustain the industry Availability, density of dairy veterinarians States Associated with BTSCC
  14. 14. Leverage this information to help farmers more effectively and efficiently manage mastitis Helps extension agents, veterinarians, other “intermediaries” better understand how farmers think, feel, and work Helps farmers “see” themselves relative to their peers How can this information help individual dairy producers and the dairy industry?