It's a Matter of Inches and Seconds
Posted: February 24, 2012
In Super Bowl XLVI a few Sundays back the New York Giants were pinned deep in their own end of the field of the 12 yard line, down by 2 points. With only 3:46 left in the game, Eli Manning through a 38–yard pass to Mario Manningham. Manningham caught the ball on the tips of his fingers and managed to stay in bounds by less than an inch. From there the Giants marched down the field to score the go ahead touchdown and win the Super Bowl. Did that single play win the Super Bowl for the Giants? Maybe not, but it seems to have been what tipped the scales, at least on that drive, in their favor.
Why do I bring this up? Is it just to rub salt in the wounds of Patriots fans? No, it’s an illustration of the fact that many times the difference between success and failure is a matter of inches and seconds! Profitability of your dairy is no different. In these times of tight margins the attention to details — the inches and seconds — is as important if not more important than ever.
The difference between comfortable high-producing cows and just average-producing cows is often just a few inches of space here and there. It is simply just attention to the details. Details like correctly sized stalls, good floors, one more feed push-up, cleaning stalls, limited time in the holding area, extra water, a little more bedding, etc. When we look at parlor performance we often start to talk about a few seconds here and a few seconds there being the difference between a proper milking technique and a bad procedure. Fifteen seconds per cow when milking 100 cows is 25 minutes of milking time!
How do your cows rise and recline when using the stalls you provide? Or maybe a better question is how do they use the stalls differently than they act on pasture? Often we become conditioned to our farm and the abnormal becomes the normal. Also you need to look beyond the stall. Look at the feed bunk, flooring, holding area, watering system, etc. We also need to look at all the cows on the farm. What happens to dry cows and pre-fresh animals can have a huge impact on their performance throughout their entire lactation. Just think how adding 5 pounds to the peak of a lactation could affect her total production for that lactation.
Attention to detail is needed throughout the dairy. Take a look at your feeding system. What’s the difference between the amount of feed you buy and the amount of feed your cows eat? In other words what is your “shrink”? While shrink can and does come from a host of sources, one you can control is how much is being overfed. When the ration calls for 500 pounds of soybean meal and you put in 550 pounds because that is what was in the skid steer bucket, that is 10% overfeeding or shrink. Do that two times a day for two weeks and 1,400 pounds of feed is gone.
With warmer weather only a few short months away — yes May is not far away —now may be the time to service summer cooling fans. A dirty fan uses the same amount of energy as a clean fan, but may produce only 60% of the air flow. Take a look at the belts, pulleys, and guards. Do they need adjusted or replaced? A little preventive maintenance now may save a lot of milk and money later this summer. In short, when we try for high production on the dairy it really is a matter of inches and seconds!
-By John T. Tyson, P.E., regional agricultural engineer, Penn State Extension