Most farmers are used to weighing beef cattle, pigs or finishing lambs to monitor growth rates and determine fitness for slaughter. But how many dairy farmers weigh the milking cows regularly through the year.
Most milk buyers now require farmers to monitor condition score (CS) of cows throughout the year which gives you a guide to weight change. Condition scoring however is subjective and one person’s CS 3 can be another’s 2.5. Weighing the same group of cows on a regular basis will give a much clearer guide as to how a cow is performing and whether she is losing or gaining weight. It is more accurate than condition scoring as it does not rely on human judgement. It is not however a replacement for condition scoring as it does not monitor how fat or lean a cow is. The two records should be used together. Weights can easily be monitored, and a graph produced to show the trends in weight change over a lactation. The condition score movement can also be plotted alongside.
So why go to the hassle of weighing cows? Knowing the weight of your cows accurately will help you ensure they are being fed sufficient dry matter. A cow’s dry matter intake is based on their body weight and is normally 3% of body weight. If the liveweight of a cow is underestimated by 50 kgs then she could be under fed by 1.5 kgs DM per day or 5 kgs of silage at 30%. This is worth around 3 litres of milk. Other benefits of weighing regularly include accurate dosing of medicines based on animal liveweight and the ability to ensure heifers continue to grow in their first lactation. Heifers normally calve in at 80% of mature body weight so will need to gain a further 120 kgs over the first 12 months of lactation. The movement in weight can also be used to make informed decisions about changes to diet to ensure the correct level of dry matter is being eaten.
To discuss this further please contact one of our nutritionists in the Sherborne office, Mark Yearsley at email@example.com or Andrew Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org, who can further advise you on how to get the best and most efficient performance from your milking cows, or contact your local FCG Office.