Dairy Pipeline: February 2003
Charles C. Stallings
Extension Dairy Scientist, Nutrition
The survey was conducted in 21 major dairy states including Virginia in order to study animal health in dairy operations. The percent of herds on DHI test was 44.8% accounting for 50.2% of cows. This is below the Virginia average of 57% of herds on test and greater than 60% of cows. Approximately 19% of herds had on-farm computer record keeping with Dairy Comp 305, PC DART, and DHI PLUS being the most common. The rolling herd average of all herds was 18,235 lbs. of milk per cow. Rolling herd average increased as herd size increased and herds greater than 500 cows averaged 21,902 lbs. Average days dry was 60.6 and age at first calving was 25.4 months. Overall 47% of operations were feeding a total mixed ration (TMR). This was 90.2% for herds over 500 cows but 36.6% for herds less than 100 cows. Higher producing herds were more likely to use a TMR and 65.7% of herds over 20,000 lbs. of milk per cow used this method of feeding. These results demonstrate the acceptance of the total mixed ration for supplying a consistent, high quality ration to lactating cows. Over 70% of operations used forage test results to balance rations. Eighty-eight percent of herds of greater than 500 cows tested feeds versus 66% for smaller herds. The good news is the majority of herds regardless of herd size recognized this practice as being important. Bovine somatotropin (BST) was used in 15.2% of operations representing 22.3% of cows. In herds over 500 cows over 50% were using BST versus 8.8% of herds under 100 cows. There tended to be more herds in the west using BST than in the midwest, northeast, or southeast and is mostly related to herds being larger in the west. Average days in milk before initial dose was administrated were 81 indicating producers were adhering to the products label. Pasture was not used for lactating cows in 52.4% of operations, but 32.5% used pasture and moved cows at least once a week and 15.1% used pasture but did not move cows frequently. Oral drenching at time of calving was done on 20.1% of operations. This drench is typically an energy source such as propylene glycol or calcium propionate and is used to reduce energy deficits and improve milk production in early lactation. These results reinforce the idea that there is more than one way to be profitable in the dairy business. Even the most established concepts such as forage testing and TMR feeding are not practiced on all operations. Every herd is unique with their own unique set of constraints.