Local dairy producers gather for annual conference
Experts weigh in on procedures, risk management
Local dairy producers gathered for the 49th annual Dairy Conference Thursday morning at the National Guard Armory to learn of the latest updates in herd management and what information can be gathered from meticulous record-keeping.
Jim Fisher, nutritionist for Midwest Ag Services in Seneca, Kan., spoke of dry cow rations and when to supplement their feed for best herd maintenance and productivity.
He also spoke of cow comfort, advising dairy operators to ensure their herds had adequate room to lay down comfortably, to keep deeply bedded stalls clean and to keep the animals cool with fans and water misting systems.
"Your main objective is to get the cow to lay down," Fisher said. "Every hour a cow lays down results in three extra pounds of milk."
Fans and sprinkler systems also impact milk production, and increase conception and pregnancy rates.
Fisher also recommended animals in a dry stage be fed optimal rations, which include vitamins and minerals.
"Cows are building their reserves in that dry stage," he said. "Adequate body energy and nutrient reserves are required for production during early lactation.
"How you treat your cow is how it will treat you," he said.
Dr. Scott Poock, Missouri Extension state veterinarian out of Columbia, discussed making the most of the information gained from the Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA), which helps producers maintain detailed records on each animal in the herd.
Poock said he manages a herd with the PC Dart software, which offers multiple methods of tracking herd health and production.
The program can individually track cattle testing high in somatic cell counts, and its response to treatment.
"That information tells the producer decide which ones to treat and which ones to cull," Poock said.
The software also presents comparative information that includes the producer's current month, previous month and annual statistics against regional and national numbers to give a benchmark as to how his operation is running.
"Finding problem cows is the key to DHIA testing," he said. "We use a hot sheet to identify high SCC cows and they are either culled or cultured. Depending on those results they are treated or culled."
Dr. Stacey Hamilton discussed the cost analysis of feeding raw milk to calves during the spring flush, when milk is plentiful.
He urged producers to evaluate their calving patterns and the actual cost of milk versus the cost of milk replacer for the three month window calves need feeding.
In addition, Hamilton urged producers to pasteurize the milk they feed calves to reduce the number of microbes or pathogens they consume, which results in fewer sick days and lowered costs for health care.
Joel Horner, an MU economist, discussed how contracting for feed when prices were low, and contracting milk sales when prices were high would result in more consistent budgeting for the year.
He also recommended that producers create a spreadsheet to totaling their current assets and liabilities to determine their working capital, and to know their monthly cash flow projections.
Horner advised producers to consider risk management insurance customized to meet their individual operation's needs.
For more information on these programs, visit www.extension2.missouri.edu or call the local county extension office.
The Dairy Conference was sponsored by the Monett Chamber of Commerce and the University of Missouri Extension Service.