Comfort, cleanliness and consistency

February 5, 2010 05:10 AM

Zach Myers
Jonesville, N.C.

Reproductive success depends on cow health. Maximizing herd health and reproduction are paramount for the success of Myers Dairy, Inc. We use a variety of management strategies in keeping our cows healthy and ready to breed.

Last year was stressful for dairy producers across the country. This was evident in the many popular press articles I read on stress management and how to detect and avoid depression. Stress is equally detrimental to our dairy cows. If I can minimize the amount of stress a cow has to manage, she will be healthier, happier and less susceptible to disease. The healthier my cows are, the more easy it is for them to conceive.

Successful reproduction starts during the dry period. We feed a balanced ration to our dry cows to maintain body condition but make it nutrient-dense enough to support proper fetal development. Proper nutrient intake minimizes metabolic problems during the transition period. We all have witnessed the problems that occur when cows lose or gain too much weight during their dry periods.

We also strive to keep our dry cow facility as clean as possible to keep the cows more comfortable. The smoother a cow can transition from a nonlactating cow to a lactating cow, the healthier she will be and the sooner she will be able to conceive.

Proper nutrition and cow comfort after calving is just as important to keeping a cow healthy. The quicker I can get a fresh cow out of a negative energy balance, the quicker I can get her to conceive. We bed stalls with sand once a week and groom the stalls at each milking to keep them clean and dry. We also scrape each time we milk to keep the alleys as clean as possible.

In the summer we use fans, a sprinkler system and shade cloths to keep cows cooler, more able to conceive and less likely to have early embryonic death upon conception. We also have fans and a sprinkler system in the holding area of our parlor so that when cows are grouped closely together they hopefully remain cool.

After parturition, we have a 70-day voluntary waiting period before we breed cows for the first time. We use a Presynch/Ovsynch/Resynch program and also breed cows on standing heats. I diagnose pregnancies weekly at 32 days with an ultrasound.

Open cows are entered into our Resynch program and are rebred in 10 days. I ultrasound each pregnant cow again at 55 days carried calf to make sure she is still pregnant, and then will verify her pregnancy again at 185 days carried calf.

Cows are habitual animals. The more consistent we are with their milking schedule and care, the happier and healthier they will be. The quicker we get cows pregnant, the quicker we can get them to calve again and get back to peak milk production.

With our reproductive management strategies, we are maintaining a 25% rolling pregnancy rate and about a 13-month calving interval.

Myers' December Prices  
Milk (3.5 bf, 3.0% prt): $17.43cwt.
Cull cows: $82/cwt. (carcass weight at packing plant)
$52/cwt. (live weight at stock sale)
Springing heifers: $1,500/head (top grade)
Alfalfa: n/a
Cottonseed: n/a
Ground corn:  $185/ton
 Soybean meal:  $380/ton


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