In the 1950’s, the standardized lactation length was set at 305 days when average herd size was six cows and average milk production was 5,314lbs. We’ve come a long way to the current situation of average milk production of over 22,000 lbs and an average herd size of 223 cows in 2016.
Where in the 1950’s producers had an intimate understanding of their cows, today we hardly know them at the individual level. This lack of familiarity with individual cows leads to managing cows on the basis of averages, assuming that what is good for the average cow is good for the individual cow.
Unfortunately, there is no average cow.
Electronic monitoring allows us to become familiar with individual cows. Knowing if a cow is cycling and her production levels gives the insight to optimize breeding decisions, utilize reproductive technologies more efficiently, improve cow wellbeing and become more profitable.
Let’s take a look at cow 3346 in a Midwestern herd to illustrate this concept:
Cow 3346 appeared on the dairy’s “Anestrus Cow” report dated April 26th, 2017:
She is a third lactation cow, at 60 DIM her daily production is 160 lbs and had three health events in the current lactation.
Would getting her pregnant serve our goal of a maximizing lactation profitability, her wellbeing and her next lactation?
In this case, the herd manager chose to wait.
Fast forward to today. Cow 3346 is pregnant at 241 DIM. She conceived from her second breeding at 123 DIM. She only showed her first heat at 73 DIM while producing about 150 lbs that day.
Yesterday cow 3346 made 94.6 lbs and has a lactation yield of over 31,000 lbs with a little over three months to go. Her projected daily production level at dry-off is 65 lbs.
Knowledge is power! In this case, data allowed us to deviate from the accepted procedure to work with a cow rather than against her. The outcome is positive for both the cow and the producer.
Are you giving your best cows a chance?
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