Avoiding a milk "slump"

If your herd has experienced a drop in milk production this fall, it may be beneficial to evaluate herd management strategies. That's according to Dr. Andy Fielding, senior dairy technical consultant with Purina Animal Nutrition. Fielding photo

Fielding says he often receives phone calls from dairy producers wondering what happened to their milk production as the fall and winter months approach. "Some herds may simply be dealing with a combination of fresh and stale cows, while others may be dealing with results of decisions made earlier in the year that are impacting milk production," says Fielding. "The challenge is to determine what the root cause is." Areas to evaluate include:

Assess days in milk
Be aware of the dichotomy of the herd - fresh versus stale cows. "If a herd is looking purely at average days in milk (DIM), they can be misled about what's happening within the herd," says Fielding.

Keeping tabs on DIM will allow you to make sure the nutritional needs of the herd are met. "If your herd feeds one ration, make sure it is dialed in for the majority. If your herd feeds multiple rations by stage of lactation, make sure the fresh cow ration was designed for this group of cows," says Fielding.

Gauge silage inventories
Ideally silage should ferment for at least 6 months. A shorter fermentation window, the less available the starch in the silage will be.

"Oftentimes herds do not have much carryover in silage inventory, some can only let the silage ferment for one month," says Fielding. "If you've had to incorporate new crop silage into the ration, it can have a significant impact on milk production if it's not managed properly."
cattle feeding photo

Watch body condition score
Cows should be going dry at a body condition score (BCS) of 3.0 to 3.5 and freshening at the same BCS. "You don't want to lose or gain weight during the dry period," says Fielding.

Evaluate body condition scores, to see if this is an area of improvement in your herd.

For more information, contact Dr. Andy Fielding at (770) 778-9639 or email: ASFielding@landolakes.com.

For additional information on dairy nutrition and management, sign-up to receive the monthly HERDSMART® E-Newsletter; a free online tool to improve operational efficiency by visiting: www.bit.ly/ManagementTips.

Return to Industry Buzz.