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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

What is DME?

Dairy Pipeline: October 2008

John Currin, Extension Dairy Veterinarian
(540) 231-5838;

DME stands for Dry Matter Efficiency. If you have read Dr. Mike Hutjens’ articles in Hoard’s Dairyman, you’ll know he has been writing about DME for several years. DME is calculated by taking the pounds of milk produced per cow per day and dividing it by the pounds of dry matter intake per cow per day (see table 1 for recommendations). To make a more accurate determination of DME fat corrected or energy corrected milk should be used instead of actual pounds of milk produced per day1. With feed costs on many farms at over $6.00 per cow per day DME has become one of the vital measures to ensure the economic health of the dairy farm. DME is positively correlated with increased milk production negatively correlated with increases in days in milk (DIM) (Britt et al 2003). Reproduction is an important component of maintaining low DIM. This is particularly true for herds that used to be on rBST. The use of rBST decreased the importance of getting cows bred in a timely manner since supplemented cows had a greater persistency of milk production.

Table 1

As temperatures cool off this fall and the work tempo slows a bit it is important to make sure that emphasis is placed on the dairy farm reproductive program. Inseminating cows in a timely manner is the key to improving reproductive performance on your dairy farm. This time of year most dairy farms have lots of cows approaching or just past the Voluntary Waiting Period (VWP). All cows on a dairy should have been inseminated by the time they reach 100 DIM. There are two ways to ensure that this happens. Heat detection can be improved on the dairy farm or one of the synchronization protocols that involve timed artificial insemination (TAI) can be utilized. Many farms use a combination of these two programs. You can do this by watching for heats and enrolling any cows that have not been inseminated by 85-90 DIM in a TAI synchronization protocol. Timely re-insemination of cows found open at herd check is also key to ensuring that your herd does not suffer from semen deficiency. Timely re-insemination of cows can be accomplished by improving heat detection or re-enrolling cows found open in a timed artificial insemination protocol.

Remember your nutritionist can play a role in improving your DME but you and your veterinarian play key roles as well by ensuring that you have good forage quality and a successful reproductive program in place.

1 Energy-corrected milk formula: (12.82*fat (lb))+(7.13*protein(lb))+(0.323*milk (lb))

3.5% fat-corrected milk formula: (0.4255*milk (lb))+[16.425*((fat%/100)*milk(lb))]

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