The United States Department of Agriculture released its 2014 Dairy Study, conducted by the agency’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS).
NAHMS does these studies roughly every five years to track health and production parameters in the nation’s dairy herds. The first study was in done in 1996.
The 2014 study contains few surprises, but it does identify potential areas to improve management.
For example, the 2014 study found that colostrum feeding of new born calves is deficient on many dairies. Universities recommend that 1 gallon of colostrum be fed within an hour of birth. But the NAHMS study found the average time to first feeding of colostrum is 3.6 hours, and that a majority of herds still only feed two quarts at first feeding.
In addition, only half of the operations surveyed vaccinate pre-weaned calves, and only 74% vaccinate adult cows for any disease.
The 2014 study, roughly 250 pages in length, surveyed 1,261 dairy operations in the 17 states, located primarily in the northeast quadrant of the United States and California, Colorado, Idaho, Texas and Washington. The survey was conducted in 2013.
Of the herds surveyed, 59% were defined as ‘conventional,’ housing cows in confinement with no access to pasture. These herds averaged 21,862 lb. of milk/cow. Twenty seven percent of the surveyed herds housed cows in confinement but did some grazing, and averaged 17,862 lb. of milk per cow. Another 6.7% of herds were defined as grazing herds, relying primarily on pasture for feed, and averaged 14,513 lb. of milk/cow. Organic herds made up 7.4% of the surveyed herds, and averaged 14,748 lb. of milk/cow.
Just 9.7% of the herds reported using recombinant bovine somatotropin, but these were larger herds with 14.7% of cows in the study receiving rBST in their more recent lactation.
You can view the entire study here.