November 22, 2008 06:49 PM
Rick Lundquist

We've heard the word "change” a lot recently. It got our new president elected. The voters decided we needed change.

But if cows could vote, they definitely wouldn't be behind any kind of platform that proposed change. Cows like things consistent; they resist change and don't do well with any kind of change in routines or feeding unless it's gradual - so they don't notice it.

When it comes to feeding, it's actually the rumen microbes that resist change more than the cow herself. Sudden feed changes can make cows sick. But whether its changing silage bunkers or changing milking times due to daylight savings time, cows don't react well to change.  

If a health or production problem suddenly occurs on a dairy, my first question is "what changed”? Did the forage change? Did a feeding procedure change? Did an employee change?

Recently, one of my clients complained about a sudden increased incidence of retained placentas. Typically this dairy has very few fresh cow problems. We had not changed any of the rations. They had been working fine for a long time. We looked at all the transition procedures. We sampled all the forages as well as the commodities and mineral premixes.

No procedures had changed. Everything tested within specs… except the dry cow premix. As we augured the dry cow premix out of the bin, we noticed that it was partially pelleted and partially meal. There was extreme separation of the pellets and meal as it funneled down the bin; kind of like sand and marbles. Because of this, the dry cow mineral premix was not being delivered and mixed consistently.

We were using soyhulls as one of the carriers in this premix. We found out that the mill had received a load of pelleted soyhulls just prior to making this batch of premix rather than the loose soyhulls that were supposed to be used as the carrier. Since the premix was augured directly from the delivery truck into the bin, nobody noticed the change until the problems started occurring. The old batch of premix was discontinued and a new one made without the pellets. The RP's subsided. Case solved. Cows don't like change.

--Rick Lundquist is an independent nutrition and management consultant based in Duluth, Minn. You can contact him at

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