Dec. 22 2011 08:23 AM

Sometimes, subtle changes can have a big impact on how your cows perform

Most of us have a warm comfortable home to go to when our days are done, an even greater blessing in winter. But, this holiday season, have we given our cows the gift of a comfortable environment? At Cornell Nutrition Conference and a variety of others, and most recently in the Miner Institute Farm Report Rick Grant, shared the most economically important relationship when it comes to cow comfort.

On farm, the environment explains over half the variation in milk production differences between farms, noted Grant. Even modest investments in cow comfort can pay huge dividends in cow health and performance. A growing body of research provides substantial information on the expected responses to specific environmental changes.

The most economically important relationships include:
  • stalls per cow – 1.7 pounds per cow per day per 0.1 increase in stall availability
  • feeding for refusals – 3.5 pounds per cow per day
  • feed push-ups – 8.7 pounds per cow per day
  • meeting the time budget requirement for rest boosts milk yields 5 to 8 pounds per day
  • whenever cows can get another hour of rest, expect another 2 to 3.5 pounds per cow per day
  • with heat stress abatement beginning at 68 THI, feed intake and milk yield are boosted an average of 10 pounds per cow per day
  • when co-mingling first-calf heifers and older cows, plan on a 10 percent milk loss in heifers; if pens are overcrowded the impact is even more severe
  • if stalls are more comfortable, milk yield can increase anywhere from 3 to 14 pounds per cow per day, with concurrent drops in turnover rate, SCC, and lameness
  • with a feeding environment that encourages dry matter intakes, intakes in Holsteins may rise a pound, which translates to an extra 2 pounds of milk
  • lameness is equated with a 2,000-pound-per-cow-per-year loss in production, as well as fertility reductions
  • when bunk space goes from 24 inches per cow to 12, the percent of cows pregnant by 150 days in milk drops from 70 to 35 percent
As we head into the new year, take the time to see if making cow comfort improvements in your facilities could help your cows and your milk check.