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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Make It A Year To Remember

Dairy Pipeline: December 2007

Beverly Cox,
Extension Agent, Franklin County
(540) 483-5161;

Year’s end is typically when most people take a moment to reflect on the happenings of the past 12 months. Local and national news sources alike feature flashbacks of the most noteworthy news events, while friends and family congregate to celebrate the holidays and reminisce. Why not use this time to also reflect on your operation? The timing is ideal. For starters, the hustle and bustle of planting and harvesting crops has temporarily come to a halt. Most people are also reviewing yearly expenditures and making any last minute purchases for tax deductions. Admittedly it’s a busy time of year; however, while you’re in paperwork mode, why not spend a few extra minutes to reevaluate priorities?

What types of information might you examine? First, while you’re planning seed purchases for the upcoming year think about the sufficiency of forage acreages planted the previous year. If you made any herd expansions, make sure you plan your forage program accordingly. In all likelihood you are already doing this. Research data from corn plots in Virginia are also available highlighting not only yields, but calculated milk production based on silage analyses. Contact your local extension agent to obtain these data before placing your corn orders for next year. Think about your pest management program as well. How effective where the products you used this year? Are there other products available that may perform better?

On the cow side, this is a good time to review records for new trends. Time has a way of masking the severity of problems by slowly creating a new “normal”. For instance, somatic cell counts one month rise from 200,000 to 220,000. You’re not pleased with this, but it’s not a major crisis; there are other more pressing issues at the time so you let it go. The next month they climb a little more. Slowly you’re acclimated to higher SCC and over the course of several months your new average may become 300,000. Without reviewing your records over a longer period of time (for instance 12 months) these trends may be easy to overlook. Graphs are a great way to quickly depict what may be worrisome trends. On the other hand, they can also affirm areas where positive progress is being made. These graphs can indicate the success of changes implemented during the last year. Dairy Metrics, provided through DRMS, is a quick way to view some of these graphs and pinpoint management areas that warrant more attention. For the more competitive types, Dairy Metrics will also allow you to compare your farm to other individual farms or groups of farms. For instance, you could select to be compared to herds of the same size, herds with a rolling herd average over a certain limit, those with low days open, and the list goes on and on. Any farm on test with DHIA has access to this program. With a herdcode and rac number in hand these data can be easily accessed. On-farm milk recording systems such as AfiMilk or Dairy Plan also contain lots of data that can be useful if utilized. Your area dairy extension agents or dairy specialists are happy to provide assistance in finding and analyzing production records.

It’s important to know where you’ve been before planning the next step. As mundane as records analysis can be, it has a place in helping guide the future. Investing a little time now can give focus to your goals and accelerate progress.

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