What Level of Milk Production Is Best For Drying Off Or Culling A Dairy Cow?
Dairy Pipeline: July 2008
Extension Dairy Veterinarian
(540) 231-5838; firstname.lastname@example.org
With all the increases in feed cost, it is time to reevaluate the proper level of milk production at which to dry off or sell a cull cow. The two most important factors to consider when making this decision are feed costs and milk price. Other contributing factors are forage availability and overcrowding. If you are short on forage then it may be more beneficial to dry off or sell cows earlier than the breakeven milk production to avoid running out of feed. If the dairy is overcrowded, the extra cows may affect the milk production of the entire herd and thus they should leave the lactating string earlier than their breakeven point. The easiest way to determine if overcrowding is an issue on your farm is to dry off and/or sell 5-10% of your cows at about the same time. Then, observe what happens to the bulk tank milk weights. If the bulk tank weights stay about the same or even increases a little you will know that overcrowding was affecting milk production. Table 1 shows the breakeven milk production levels to dry a cow off for several different levels of milk and feed prices.
Table 2 shows the breakeven level of milk
production to cull a cow. Several assumptions
have been made to model the breakeven
point. The first assumption is that a cow at
this level of milk production will eat approximately
85% of the herd average dry matter
intake. The second assumption is that feed
costs make up 90% of the variable cost of milk
production for these cows. As mentioned before,
it also assumes no overcrowding. It is
important to note that even with the same input
data there is a different breakeven level of
milk production for drying off versus culling—
the difference is due to the fact that you still
must feed dry cows.
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