We have four milking groups in our herd, plus the "TLC" or hospital group, housed in our freestall barn. The teams are grouped in the following manner:
Group 1 is made up of fresh first-calf heifers. I think of them as the young players that finally made it to the big league. They need a little extra coaching and training. We follow their stats closely through 65 days to see if we want to keep them, market them to another dairy, or go ahead and cull them if we are overstocked in the barn.
Group 2 is comprised of mature fresh cows. We track their stats closely to be sure their production increases daily while maintaining good body condition.
Group 3 includes the mid-lactation mature cows. By the time cows enter this group, they have usually peaked in production and are confirmed pregnant or soon should be confirmed. Like a team of seasoned players, they don't need a lot of coaching at this stage of their career. They know what to do and do it well.
Group 4 is filled with the late-lactation cows from all age groups. When cows enter this pen, they are getting close to being dried off or culled (cut from the team) when production drops to nonprofitable levels.
The TLC or Hospital Pen houses recently fresh cows and any treated cows. We assess these cows throughout the day and night to get them on the playing field as soon as possible. Like any good athletic program, we want our players hydrated and eating correctly to perform at their best. We use electrolytes, probiotics and supportive hydration when necessary to minimize any setbacks they may have.
Trying to keep the best athletes on our roster, and maintaining them at maximum performance, takes careful study of a lot of statistical data. We collect and review individual cow stats by using DelPro and PCdart. We feel the ability to gather and review daily milk weights and cow activity monitor data is crucial to putting our best team on the playing field every day.
Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. Their "Daddy and Daughter Dairy Together" column will appear every other Thursday on HD Notebook. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.