Manage to improve profits
To manage your dairy’s profitability while enduring low milk prices, here are some areas I’ve been coaching customers to help them manage their herd for the best return:
- Cull earlier and smarter. The fastest way to improve cash flow is to identify and sell the unneeded, low-end calves based on genomic testing results, such as CLARIFIDE® or CLARIFIDE Plus. The cost to raise excess heifers far outweighs the cost of genomic testing. Identify the potential of heifers early on to improve cash flow opportunities that come from saving costs of raising unneeded heifers that have lower chances of being productive and profitable and selling young calves with low genetic merit.
- Manage somatic cell counts (SCC). Know the cost of high somatic cell counts. The implication of high first-test SCC are real and expensive. Cows with individual SCCs in excess of 200,000 cells/mL may indicate a subclinical mastitis infection. A recent study that examined the health and lactation records of 164,423 Holstein cows reported significant losses attributed to high first-test SCC, including 1,583 pounds of lost milk production, plus increased days open of 17 days and increased culling in the first 60 days in milk (DIM).1
- Evaluate vaccination programs. Closely examine your vaccination program to determine if you are vaccinating at the right time with the right product. Often, producers may double up on vaccinations, when administering one product would have been sufficient. This can quickly multiply costs.
- Handling and storing vaccines. A vaccine program is only as effective as your dairy’s storage and handling protocols. Ensure vaccine effectiveness by conducting a thorough vaccine audit monitored by your veterinarian.
- Manage silage areas and monitor rations. Feed costs represent up to 60% of milk production cost.2 To avoid unnecessary costs from feed waste and mold or mildew spoilage, your silage space should be clean and dry. A clean silage area saves and presents more nutritional rations for the cattle. In addition, monitor silage intake and the number of cows in each pen to ensure you’re not overfeeding and wasting feed.
What other ways are you cutting back on costs across your dairy? Tell us in the comments below.
1 Kirkpatrick MA, Olson JD. Somatic Cell Counts at First Test: More than a Number, in Proceedings. NMC Annu Meet 2015;53-56.
2 Howard WT, Wagner V, Larsen H. Managing Dairy Feed Inventory. http://learningstore.uwex.edu/assets/pdfs/a2945.pdf. Accessed September 7, 2016.