Records and data are common place when operating a dairy. The dairy herd information association (DHIA) offers a means of providing both a holistic and current overview of what is happening with the cows. Based on our cash flow plans from several years it costs the dairy producer $25/cow/year for this service. That is a minor investment for the wealth of information the producer receives. There are two caveats, the information is only as good as the data provided and the owner/manager has to review the information to reap some benefit.
There are well over one thousand data points of information on the DHIA 202 herd summary sheet. The question then becomes what are the key bits of information that will help the producer better manage what is happening with the cows. The 202 sheet provides data on production, reproduction, milk quality, culling, transition cows and more based on various groupings such as lactation or days in milk. Producers and consultants using these records usually have their “go to” places when troubleshooting problems. There are a few worth noting that should not be overlooked.
There are several testing options available to producers. If it is done monthly it is a snapshot in time of what is happening. The first place on the report to check is the shipped-test day comparison. This provides the bulk tank weights on test day and as a yearly average. If there is more than a 5 percent deviation between the reported average daily bulk tank weights and the sum of test day weights that is a red flag. This could mean a lot of cows are being withheld from the tank because of treatments or there is a problem in the source of milk weights being reported. Interpretation of the production data could be flawed if the bulk tank and test day data do not match.
Depending on the reproductive protocols being followed on the farm there can sometimes be a mismatch between the days to first service that the producer says versus what actually shows up on the herd summary report. Checking this number for each lactation helps determine how compliant the herd is following protocol. The yearly reproductive summary provides a quick look at heat detection, conception and pregnancy rate over time. The birth summary is also helpful in determining if calf mortality is a problem.
The stage of lactation profile provides a wealth of information. This current information coupled with the production by lactation summary provides an evaluation if the herd had a past problem and is presently rebounding or if there is a problem happening now that is not yet reflected in the annual summary. Potential transition cow problems and issues with first lactation animals can be detected from this profile.
If producers are doing an accurate job of recording the reason why cows are culled then the summary of cows entering and leaving the herd can be very enlightening. However, caution should be used if a large number of animals are reported under injury/other or not reported. This may be a sign that the information being entered is suspect and should be interpreted accordingly.
The yearly production and mastitis summary is useful at seeing how animals are doing both in volume of milk produced but also the pounds of fat and protein. Comparing the somatic cell count summary with the milk cooperative’s results is useful. If there is a huge disconnect then that could explain why the bulk tank milk weights and test day weights do not match.
Utilizing the DHIA 202 sheet or herd summary report can give a quick overview how a herd is performing and where some potential bottlenecks may be. The key is making sure accurate data is being conveyed on test day and that time is set aside to review the report for possible herd performance problems.
Action plan for using DHIA’s 202 Herd Summary Sheet
Goal – Print off the Herd Summary Report for every farm team meeting and review the major performance areas.
- Step 1: Set benchmarks for performance areas of the herd – milk production, pounds of fat and protein, reproduction, milk quality, average age at first calving, culling and other areas deemed appropriate.
- Step 2: Review performance goals and address problems as they become apparent.
- Step 3: Follow up in future team meeting to confirm performance trends are moving in the right direction.
Monitoring must include an economic component to determine if a management strategy is working or not. For the lactating cows income over feed costs is a good way to check that feed costs are in line for the level of milk production. Starting with July 2014’s milk price, income over feed costs was calculated using average intake and production for the last six years from the Penn State dairy herd. The ration contained 63% forage consisting of corn silage, haylage and hay. The concentrate portion included corn grain, candy meal, sugar, canola meal, roasted soybeans, Optigen and a mineral vitamin mix. All market prices were used.
Also included are the feed costs for dry cows, springing heifers, pregnant heifers and growing heifers. The rations reflect what has been fed to these animal groups at the Penn State dairy herd. All market prices were used.
Income over feed cost using standardized rations and production data from the Penn State dairy herd.
Note: September’s Penn State milk price: $16.94/cwt; feed cost/cow: $5.22; average milk production: 80.0 lbs.
Feed cost/non-lactating animal/day.