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Get the Basics Right Before Fine-Tuning Your Dairy's Rations

January 24, 2014

Even the best rations can be undermined by management issues and unknown or unaccounted-for herd dynamics.

Elliot Block RGBBy Dr. Elliot Block, Research Fellow, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition

Nutrition tweaks and adjustments are a necessary part of good ration management, and the right decisions made at the right time can pay big dividends. However, it’s not unusual for field assessments to find that for these ration tweaks to be effective, any underlying herd challenges must be identified and resolved first or the ration adjustment can be an expensive exercise in futility.

Even the best rations can be undermined by management issues and unknown or unaccounted-for herd dynamics.

The first step
First and foremost, a herd monitoring system must be in place to accurately and consistently identify key data—like individual health incidents, milk and component production, and reproductive events—as well as incidence trends. This system must track realistic numbers and offer more information than just total milk shipped.

Take the time to define which data to collect and how the information will be entered into your management software. Producers, their management team and key consultants must be confident that 10 cases of ketosis are 10 accurate cases, and not one cow entered into the system 10 times or 10 different ways before using that data to make any management changes.

If necessary, revisit herd protocols and provide employee training on protocol compliance to ensure policies are being followed and information is recorded appropriately.

Monitor parameters

Once proper monitoring is in place, producers and their team can then address performance bottlenecks holding the herd back and focus on solutions that aid in success.

Use the data gained through accurate monitoring to assess herd performance. Key metrics to evaluate include:

• Milk production parameters like production per cow per day, milk component production and milk production trends.

• Reproduction parameters like 21-day pregnancy rate, conception rate and days to first insemination.

• Herd health incidents and total incidence for transition diseases like metritis, ketosis and milk fever.

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