FCG and Old Mill Accountants look at dairy cost of production figures predominantly in the Wessex region, but we need to take a step further and study the physical data that is recorded and stored on farm, highlighting opportunities for improvement.
1. Somatic Cell Count (SCC)
Recent studies in the States show herds with high SCC have lower pregnancy rates and greater death
losses. The study also showed that, for every 100,000 cells per ml increase in bulk tank SCC, milk yield
declines 2.5 kg/hd/day.
Culturing high-SCC cows can help you understand what pathogen is causing the problem. You may
need to adjust your mastitis protocols accordingly. Perhaps you need to evaluate milking procedure,
milking parlour maintenance, water quality, feed hygiene, bedding and cow comfort.
2. Herd Dynamics
If your herd dynamics are off – such as a high percentage of 2-year-old cows (more than 40%) or high days in milk (DIM) greater than 180 – this can impact production. Second-lactation cows produce 15% more milk than first-lactation cows, and third-plus-lactation cows produce 10% more than second-lactation cows.
It is important to monitor individual milk performance. If cows have slow lactation starts, they have a hard time peaking like they should. This is directly related to the transition period. Looking at the data around transition – stocking density, health events and stillborn calves – can help you determine if it warrants a change in management, environment, or nutrition.
3. Replacement Costs
Do you have too many heifers in the pipeline? Could this cause you to cull older cows earlier than necessary? Over production of heifers can have a negative impact on cashflow. Rearing the right number of heifers is important, but rearing the right replacements is important too. Utilisation of genomics or parentage can identify the heifers with lower potential. Many semen suppliers have mating programs which can help you manage this. They can help to determine which animals should receive sexed, conventional or beef semen.
4. Death Loss
Most death losses occur during the first 60 days in milk. If death loss is too high in this time, evaluate transition and fresh cow programs. Other common reasons for death loss are injuries and digestive illnesses. Having consistent recording of the reason’s cows die on your farm allows you to quickly identify and reduce. A low death loss percentage indicates good animal husbandry skills, which is a very important component of generating higher net farm income. Consider whether you have the right team members in place and whether they are well-trained.
5. Pregnancy Rate
The most profitable herds had an average pregnancy rate of 27.4%. Factors such as voluntary waiting period, heat detection, timed A.I. compliance and technicians’ conception rates are key areas to look at and understand. A high pregnancy rate helps ensure your herd is in the optimal range for days in milk (DIM). For every 10-day reduction in DIM, average herd milk production will increase .75 to 1 kg per cow per day. Whole-herd feed efficiency will also increase with an increase in milk from forage.
Your farm’s data has no use if it sits unused in the computer, a spreadsheet or in a notebook. Monitor and organize your data in a way that makes it easy for you, your vet or consultant to frequently review and make informed management decisions accordingly.
For an independent review of your dairy herd performance, contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org or your local FCG Office.