Start with Comfort

February 2, 2009 06:00 PM

*Extended comments highlighted in blue.

Randy & Jennifer Gross
Elkton, S.D.
Keeping cows healthy and ready to breed drives everything at Prairie Gold Dairy. We rely on a team of herdsmen, a veterinarian, nutritionists and feeding and breeding personnel to keep cows and heifers calving in with minimal disturbances and ready to hit the ground running after calving.

Cow health begins with cow comfort. We believe our sand-bedded free-stalls provide a comfortable and clean environment for our cows to reach their potential. A detailed vaccination program, along with regular bulk tank cultures, is also critical to overall herd health and minimizes the risk of a disease-related "train wreck.”

We utilize independent nutritionists to develop our rations, observe cow body condition, manure quality and appearance, cud chewing, TMR quality and herd record analysis. With our nutritionists and vet, we monitor a number of performance trends on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. These include: stocking density, milk production, DMI, feed efficiency, pregnancy rate, percentage of lactating cows pregnant, number of new mastitis cases per week, number sold/died less than 60 DIM, start-up milk, peak milk and cull rate. We try to prevent problems as much as possible, as opposed to dealing with a situation later on.

All heat detection is done off of tail chalk. We also utilize a Presynch/Ovsynch program (and will breed off of the second prostaglandin shot) to help maintain a pregnancy rate of 20%-plus. Pregnancy checks are done weekly at 32 days post-insemination. Cows are rechecked at 160-180 days carried calf. Cows not confirmed pregnant by 150 DIM are moved to a pen where CIDRs and double inseminations are made use of.

Preventing lameness is essential to herd health as well, because lame cows don't breed and can't milk. Therefore, we use a footbath five times a week in addition to trimming all cows at dryoff. A year ago, we started trimming all cows at approximately 145 DIM and have seen a measurable reduction in cows that are trimmed because they are lame. We also have rubber flooring in all travel lanes as well as the holding pen and cow deck in the parlor, which contributes to good hoof health.

All cows that go to our hospital parlor for mastitis have milk cultures taken. This way, we are hopefully more efficient in our treatments and also screen for any contagious or exotic mastitis pathogens. We also sample all cows at dryoff for Johne's so as to segregate/discard colostrum from positive cows.

Our herdsmen do an excellent job of finding and dealing with ill or "off” cows, many times before they show up on a list. This quick recognition and response go a long way toward keeping a low cull rate and keeping cows around for several lactations.

Grosses' December Prices  
Milk (3.74% bf, 3.03% prt): $17.63/cwt.
Cull cows: $36/cwt.
Springing heifers: $1,800/head
Alfalfa: $180/ton
Cottonseed: $304/ton
Ground corn: $133/ton

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