Herd Health Kept Simple

February 2, 2009 06:00 PM

*Extended comments highlighted in blue.

Louie Kazemier
Rickreall, Ore.
As I sit down to write this article, milk futures are $9.92 for February and $10.18 for March. Wow, there's not much "future” in those prices! During these tough times and low milk prices, it's easy to forget about some herd health basics.

Our health and breeding strategy boils down to four areas. We try to keep it simple: 1) cow comfort and bacteria-free bedding; 2) hoof trimming; 3) parlor maintenance and man-agement; and 4) nutrition. If one area is "off,” we have problems.

To get cows pregnant, we use a modified Ovsynch program. But it's useless if our cows are crippled or they don't have a comfortable bed to lie in. We've tried all sorts of "sync” programs; they all work. Choose one that works for your dairy, but do not overlook the obvious: bedding, feet and nutrition.

For mastitis, the same is true. If our milking barn has broken automatics, gates don't work or the milkers are angry about something, we get more mastitis cases. When conditions are right in the parlor and good bedding awaits cows when they return from the parlor, we get very little mastitis.

We trim our cows three times during their lactation: 100 days fresh, 200 days fresh if needed, and at dryoff. If one comes up lame, we trim and treat it as soon as we can. I hire out the entire hoof-trimming duties. We could probably do it a little cheaper ourselves, but sometimes I feel it's better to have a professional do the job.

Kazemier's December Prices  
Milk (3.5% bf, 3.01% prt): $13.06/cwt. (gross)
Cull cows: $44/cwt.
Springing heifers: N/A
Top-quality alfalfa (contracted) $260/ton
Flaked corn (2009 contracted) $280/ton

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