Stop the drop

Over the last few years I have had a theme for each winter.

DEMAND MORE from all your suppliers, vets, consultants etc. get them all to put more into your business and help you achieve better results. Before that was THE WINTER OF WASTE when I encouraged farmers to look at what they are wasting and reduce it. Feed, fertilizer, sprays etc. but also broken cows, wasted time, missed payments on cell counts and bactoscans and loads of other little bits of money that were being wasted.

My little hobby horse this year is STOP THE DROP. The whole nutritional industry seems to be obsessed with getting cows to give an extra litre or two of milk, indeed if you fed every single added value products available in the dairy farmer magazine that gave an extra litre of milk your cows should all average 72 litres a day!!

Getting cows to milk well and be healthy does not seem to be that much of a challenge. Getting them to stay there is. Most farmers at some point over the last three years have had their cows milking ‘well’, getting back in calf, with good milk quality. But most of them have not consistently stayed there. For lots of different reasons, cows alter in their performance. Farmers need to spend more time looking at what makes their cows drop as much as go up. If we as an industry can stop cows losing a litre then we don’t need to gain one.

Cows love consistency. Consistent high quality forage, consistent environment, consistent standards of care. I would challenge farmers to go out into the yard and find their best performing cow (on yield, reproduction, milk quality or whatever) and think about what is going to challenge that cow. Is she going to become lame? Are we going to miss her heat ? Is the silage going to alter from first to second cut? Is the maize going to run out? etc etc.

When we have established the hundreds of challenges that the cow could face, let’s see which ones we can alter or head off. Can we footbath more regularly? Could we buy some cheap wholecrop to make the maize go further? Is RMS a viable option for increased pregnancy rates? Cleaning water troughs and feeders, forage audits, picking up cows feet are all reasonably simple things but can save a litre here and a litre there.

Most of us can’t alter the world milk market so let’s concentrate on what we can do. If we look carefully at what things turn our top cow into an average cow we can hopefully turn our average herd into a top herd.

Mark Causey
Dairy Feed Specialist
T 07968 168449