Penn State Dairy Cows
October was a very eventful month, both good and not so good. It kept me on my toes so that I was constantly monitoring cow performance and making ration adjustments to deal with forage quality and an unexpected commodity delivery. There was a major grouping change in the herd that occurred in September and we are observing a consistent improvement in somatic cell count. The one major management strategy that I am really missing this year is not having enough 2011 corn silage to get us by until the first of the year. I appreciate more than ever how that one strategy can save on a lot of headaches.
During the first week of October cows were averaging 83 pounds and everything was going smoothly. Then on October 10, we received an unexpected delivery of bakery product. However, it was not cookie meal, it was candy meal. The truck driver delivered it to us by mistake. It just so happened we were close to reordering so it did not seem suspicious to the full time employees that we got this delivery. It was not until the next day when the feeder was mixing that he "smelled" the difference and with closer examination noticed the M&Ms and other candy products. Luckily no research cows were getting this. To save the company from coming back and removing the candy meal I agreed to reformulate the diets with this product. The major difference was the candy being lower in starch and higher in sugar content compared to the cookie meal. My one concern was that we already feed liquid sugar so I wasn't sure how the cows might respond.
We implemented a new ration, making adjustments for the candy product, on the 12th. At the same time our 2011 corn silage source ran out so for a few days we were feeding all bagged corn silage, which was the early harvested material. On Monday the 15th when I checked on the cows, production dropped from 81 to 74 pounds. Monday was bST day when milk production would be the lowest, but our cows never drop seven pounds in a span of four days. My suspicion was the early corn silage not having the energy value that was reported on the forage analysis. We opened an upright silo of 2012 corn silage that day and the only change to the ration was incorporating it 50/50 with the bagged corn silage. The cows immediately jumped four pounds in milk. On paper the starch content of the ration was 24 percent. My feeling was that cows needed more energy. My next strategy was to reduce the haylage dry matter by five pounds and increase the upright corn silage by five pounds. This brought the starch level in the ration to 27 percent. On Monday the 29th cows averaged 83 pounds, which is bST day and would be our lowest milk production. By making some rather small ration adjustments, cows bounced back nine pounds in two weeks. The herd is now hopefully positioned to increase and/or maintain performance.
One of the unexpected positives that occurred in October was the herd's response to the candy product. We observed an immediate response in fat and protein percent that was very surprising. Monitoring our components through Land O'Lakes' website, our fat test averaged 3.57% before the candy product and 3.82% after. Our milk protein averaged 3.09% pre-candy and 3.19% post. The response was very consistent. I wanted to check that this was being maintained as cows were increasing in milk along with the higher ration starch content. So far the higher component levels are keeping pace with the increased milk production. This does bring up a quandary for us: do we switch from the cookie meal that we have been feeding for 10 years to this candy product? The one concern is the consistency of this product from load to load so I will need assurance from the company before committing to this change.
One of the areas we have been struggling with the last several months is the herd somatic cell count. Since April we have been holding around 240-250,000. After a lot of brainstorming with the management team and evaluation of mastitis incidence, it was determined that a lot of our problems were occurring with the fresh cows. Several years ago we developed a bedded pack area for the fresh cows, which basically eliminated fresh cow problems (ketosis, displaced abomasum). The benefits of this change were great, but the one area we struggled with was bedding sources and keeping the area clean, which was difficult when there were a lot of fresh cows at one time. The decision was made to take one of the existing pens and divide it into an area that would house just fresh animals. The cows would be in the free-stalls with sand bedding, but they would be segregated so they would not interact with other cows and they would still get their own ration. For September and October our somatic cell count has been holding around 184,000. So far this change appears to be working, but we still need to monitor to make sure it is a real affect. For the month of October the herd averaged 80.6 pounds with a 3.73 % fat, 3.16 % protein, 184,000 SCC and 9.0 mg/dl MUN.
|Month and Year|| No Risk Mgt Gross Milk Price/cwt||W/ Risk Mgt Gross Milk Price/cwt||Milk income/cow||Feed cost/cow||IOFC||Average milk lbs||Low Benchmark||High benchmark|