Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Do you push your cows to milk more?
I have been meaning to address this issue/question for the past few months. I can understand that people might think that dairy farmers "push" their cows to milk more, but the truth is that this assumption is a myth! The truth is simple...cows that are well cared for are good milkers.
W.D. Hoard said ."The best cow in the world could not do good work unless well cared for and rightly fed." Excellent point!
I can give you our own personal examples to help prove this point. When Jon and I started milking cows 5 years ago we purchased 2 herds of cows from 2 older dairy farmers that were doing a great job with their cows. One herd was producing about 23,500 per cow per lactation without rBST and the other was producing 24,500 with the use of rBST. We have always believed that we could manage our cows to milk well without the use of rBST, but I do know that there is a place in this industry for rBST-it's safe, it works to increase the appetite of cows thereby increasing milk production. rBST does not hurt cows nor does it push cows to milk more, just to eat more. This being said, we wanted to work hard to care for our cows and to see how well they could do without rBST.
During the first year we enjoyed about the same milk production from the cows. We tried our hardest to produce quality feed for our cows that year, but we made some critical mistakes along the way. We paid the price the second year of milking. We made haylage and corn silage that were too dry and mature, and as a result the cows were not able to produce as much milk as the year before. We were also learning quickly how to care for our sick cows, and how critical prevention was moreso than curing illness. At that time the cows were milking about 20,500 per cow per year. This was our low point, we had some serious rebuilding to get back to where the cows were when we started...and that was our goal. We knew where we had failed as caretakers of our cows, so we knew what to fix and how to fix it. Cow care and feed quality became our main goals.
During our third year of dairying we worked dilligently to make the best feed possible. We made some small mistakes, but nothing that reduced the quality of the haylage and corn silage that we made and stored. We worked harder on performing regular check ups every morning on all fresh cows (cows that just had calves) and those cows that were ill. Each day we go through a list of cows that need to be monitored, even if they aren't sick we want to make sure that they stay without illness. By doing this we slowly rebuilt our herd's milk production. That year we ended with an average of 24,900 per cow per day. By making these changes the cows were responding, not only in milk production but also in health. We were treating less cows for illness, we were selling less cows, and more cows were living well over 4 years of age. Our herd was starting to grow! Older cows were living longer and we were adding heifers that were calving in.
Our fourth year, we made a huge leap to 27,000! This was so joyful for us and VERY unexpected. We believed that the cows had peaked. But they had more to prove to us. As of last week on our most recent DHIA test, we had reached 29,300 pounds per cow per year!!!! I can't even explain how that happened! All I know, is that each year we work to fine tune even further our feed quality to give our cows the best nutrients and nutrition and we also work to fine tune our cow care, focusing on prevention of illness rather than treatment of illness....these have been key to our herd's success and everyday we are truly grateful for the efforts of these wonderful animals! We love our cows, they are amazing and continue to impress us everyday, not pushed to milk that much, but well cared for.
Milk production is the consequence of excellent cow care...and we can testify to that!