Complete Program = Success

February 5, 2010 05:14 AM

Brad and Mark Crandall
Battle Creek, Mich.

On our dairy, we have chosen to incrementally improve our facilities, and we try to address our most serious problems first. This approach has allowed us to remain profitable without taking on a huge herd expansion.

Over the last two years, we finally upgraded our dry cow facility by renovating an old barn. This improvement has enabled us to properly manage our herd all the way through the lactation and the dry and transition periods. The main improvements have been in overall cow comfort and labor efficiency.

Our improved facilities allow us to keep dry cows in 48" to 52" freestalls until two to three weeks precalving and to reduce crowding in the prefresh bedded pack. We also make sure prefresh cows have at least 3' of bunk space and make cleanliness in the calving barn a top priority.

After calving, healthy fresh cows go directly into the high group, where they are milked 3X. Cows with any postcalving issues are housed on a clean bedded pack with a sand base and closely monitored until they are strong enough to join the herd. Cows in this pen are normally milked 2X. We strive to minimize group movements for all cows in all stages of lactation.

One management change we have made in the past year is that we no longer attempt to freshen in fat cows or cows with extremely long dry periods. These cows, in our experience, rarely transition into another profitable lactation.

By completing the loop of cow management, we have seen some very nice improvements in reproductive performance. Our pregnancy rate has improved from around 20% to above 25%. Our average days in milk is typically below 170.

Our breeding program consists of Presynch and Ovsynch 56 protocols. We do breed off standing heats when observed and have a voluntary waiting period of 60 to 70 days in milk.

We ultrasound cows at 28 days bred and have also implemented, with the help and advice of our veterinarian, the ultrasounding of cows right before the timed Ovsynch breeding. We are able to determine if the cow responded to the program and, as a result, avoid wasting time breeding a cow that has no chance of settling. Normally, 10% to 20% of cows in a breeding group will be skipped and set up for resynchronization.

Harsh weather is the other variable that can adversely affect cow health and breeding efficiency. The last couple of years, we have put in additional fans and sprinklers for summer heat and have taken steps to keep all barns warmer in winter.

Crandalls' January Prices  
Milk (3.6% bf, 3.1% prt): $16.80cwt.
Cull cows: $45/cwt.
Springing heifers: $1,200/head
Alfalfa: $140/ton
Cottonseed: $250/ton (spot)
Corn:  $160/ton (spot)


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