Cows Blind To Prices

October 14, 2009 07:00 PM

*Extended comments highlighted in blue.

Mark Rodgers
West Glover, Vt.
Since completing construction of the new parlor last year, we haven't spent money on anything nonessential.

The milking herd is housed in a 2001 freestall with thermostatically controlled curtains and 54" fans.

The 26 energy-efficient lights are on a photo cell and timer to provide a minimum of 20' candles everywhere 18 hours a day. Stall beds consist of rubber covers over a foam mattress that is bedded with kiln-dried sawdust twice daily. The floors are all covered with rubber mats; automatic hydraulic alley scrapers run eight times daily.

Each cow group has access to three 10' water troughs. The high group also has access to an automatic motorized cattle brush, and I wish we had three for each group. This is definitely the cows' favorite spot in the barn.

They remember the brush and, when they move back into the high group, it is not uncommon to see new arrivals spend their first 30 minutes at the brush. It is unfortunate that the brushes are priced so high that most people can't or won't purchase them.

The dry cattle are housed in two other freestall barns with sand stalls and no automatic scraper, so they are cleaned daily. Far-off dry cattle have access to pasture and both barns are naturally ventilated. These barns need better lighting and will get it in the future. We are expanding the stalls in the "old freestall” to allow our big dry cattle more room to lie down and lunge space to get up. The 1970-model freestall loops just were not adequate any longer.

New calving pens with sand floors have been added to improve cow comfort and provide maximum footing for any cow that may need it. New waterers will hopefully prevent the cows from slopping water and creating an iceberg in the winter.

The hoof trimmer still comes twice monthly to trim the long toes from the rubber floor. Lameness has improved over the past 12 months with the inclusion of the Nutra-Fix probiotic, the 20% reduction in grain (due to a more complete digestion caused by the probiotic), elimination of added protected fats and buffers in the ration and the replacement of these ingredients with home-grown forages.

The cows have been healthier and happier the past year—because they don't know what the price of milk is.

We had investigated a fly control system that would spray every cow as needed through our sort gate area, but economics did not allow that to happen this year. We resorted to the fly guy coming to spray the facilities every three or four weeks and installed automatic premise sprayers in the new parlor area. But the flies still were a nuisance this summer.

Rodger's August Prices  
Milk (3.86% bf, 3.12% prt): $12.50/cwt.
Cull cows: $80/cwt.
Springing heifers: $1,200/head
Alfalfa hay: $220-$240/ton
Cottonseed: $264/ton
Corn meal: $181/ton

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