Reducing Milk Production without Culling?

As dairy producers are asked to reduce milk production due to Covid 19 and the spring flush, culling cows could be seen as taking the easy route shorter term. This will have longer term lower production implications for the herd and cause a bigger drop in cow prices short term. Considering a combination of the following three tactics, dairy farmers could reduce up to 14% of their milk production without culling cows.

Reduce Milking Frequency. Consider dropping a group of lower yielding cows on to once per milking using the following criteria:

• Analyse your average seven-day herd production, then decide a cut off yield.
• Days in milk – cows over 200 days for example
• Days pregnant – 120 days for example

You may be surprised that 25% of your herd could fit into this bracket which potentially could drop their production by 20%.

Dry Cows Off Earlier. One option to reduce your farm’s total milk production is to dry off cows three to four months from calving. How much milk production is reduced will depend on the number of cows dried off and their current level of production. However, doing this has its own risks. Calving in cows that added body condition during a prolonged dry period is a higher possibility. It is important to feed these dry cows a low energy diet to avoid weight gain and maintain a body condition score of 3.

Feed Milk to Calves Longer. Switching to whole milk from a milk replacer will absorb some production, but have you also considered feeding calves for 8 to 12 weeks? This will not have a detrimental effect on calves long term. Feeding fresh calved cow’s milk to calves up to 5 days post calving can have several benefits too. That early milk still contains antibodies but also higher levels of nutrition, enhancing calf health. Beware of Johnes risk of transmission to calves feeding whole milk, depending on your herd status.

For more information on controlling milk production, contact Mark at markyearsley@fcgagric.com or your local FCG office.

Posted in Business Management, Dairy & Forage, Sherborne.