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What Cows Can Tell Us

October 11, 2012
 
 

DanSiemersDan Siemers
 

Newton, Wisc.

Dairying with 2,700 cows, Siemers Holsteins has been operating at the same site for more than 120 years. 


 **Extended comments highlighted in blue.

I have written in this column in past months on the benefits of sand bedding, and, while it is the gold standard, many producers also make deep-bedded compost, pack barns or other things work.

I think the key is to watch and study your cows and ask the right questions to see if you are doing your best on cow comfort and care.

In the dairy business, there are lots of numbers to look at: somatic cell counts, pounds of
milk or solids per cow per day, days open, etc. Sometimes it’s a good idea to put on your cowman’s hat and objectively look at what the cows are telling you. Body condition, hock scores and foot health are things that tell you where your herd is going, as opposed to where it is today.

Foot care is vital to a dairy’s success as well as to a cow’s comfort level. What can we really expect a limping cow to become other than a skinny cull cow? Hock scores are where the rubber meets the road as far as how well our bedding choice and management is working for the cow. Healthy hocks usually mean healthy cows.

Body condition is important for both production and reproduction, and takes on added significance with feed prices where they are. Usually if these areas are looking good, the herd is comfortable and well cared for.

Another area that we as producers should study is how and why cows become injured on our dairies. Are cows getting injured from improper parlor or freestall designs? Do the cows have good enough footing to express heats without slipping and getting injured? Are our personnel trained in how to move groups or individual cows?

Ventilation is also an important ingredient for cow comfort. For most of us, that means fans. Dirty, older or poorly maintained fans often put out half or less of expected cubic feet per minute (CFM). Fall is a good time to inspect fans and plan for maintenance or replacement. Don’t wait until spring to order fans or until they are shot to replace them.

Siemers' Most Recent Prices  
Milk (3.53% bf, 3.14% prt) $18.73/cwt.
Cull cows $55 to $84/cwt
Springing heifers $1,400 to $1,900/head
Alfalfa hay (milk cow) $250/ton
Cottonseed $340/ton
Ground corn $304/ton
Soybean meal 48% $600/ton
 

 

 

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