A cow is a cow. She will always be a cow. She will never crow like a rooster, oink like a pig, or waddle like a duck. She moos, eats hay and other feeds, and gives milk.
A cow’s needs have changed very little in the last 8,000 years. What has changed is our perception of what a cow is and what we think she needs.
I am tired of some companies telling producers that they need to feed their product because it will yield some crazy amount of milk. It sounds great . . . the only catch is that it will cost you your firstborn and left thumb. Does their product work? It might. But have you ever asked yourself if you really need it?
Stop “buying” your milk! Things are hard enough the way it is. Why should you spend more money on a product if you can manage your way out of it? I will be the first to admit that we had high rates of ketosis, metritis, mastitis, displaced abomasums, milk fever, dead on arrival calves, and down cows that we thought were due to ingested foreign objects or heart problems.
Believe me when I tell you that there is a feed additive guaranteed to help you with each and every one of those issues, but that is not always the way to go. Go back to the basics of who she is and what she needs. The issue may be you and not her.
In our situation, we were able to manage the majority of the issues we faced with simple, money-saving changes. For example, the ketosis problem was due to an overly rich diet and too many pen moves. I kicked myself when we figured it out! How could it be so simple? Something that was costing us thousands of dollars a week nearly disappeared.
The basic needs of a cow have not changed. Genetically, her capabilities have advanced, but her basic needs are the same and we need to remember that. It is easy to get caught up in new technology and pay for the promise of more milk. Just remember, if you adopt a new technology, whether feed or machine, don’t forget the cow’s basic needs.
Please, before you implement a new technology to fix a problem, ask yourself: “Why is this problem here?” and “What can I do to fix it?”
Tyler Ribeiro is a fourth-generation dairy farmer born and raised in California. He is currently partners with his father at Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare where they proudly ship their milk to Land O’Lakes. Tyler is actively involved in the dairy industry, holding leadership roles in various organizations locally and across the United States.