Since building the dry-cow facility, he has seen his DA rate drop from 10 percent to 5 percent. At that rate, he is saving at least $8,500 a year:

  • 500-cow herd x .05 lower DA rate = 25 fewer DAs
  • 25 DAs x $340 per DA = $8,500

Surely, the dry-cow facility and other enlightened management steps implemented on the Hillsdale, Wis., farm in the past few years have paid dividends not only with respect to DAs, but the whole gamut of fresh-cow disorders.

Costs add up
The cost of fresh-cow health problems can add up rather quickly. 

Chuck Guard, professor of veterinary medicine at CornellUniversity, has estimated the cost of several common fresh-cow disorders. The following estimates are calculated on a cost per episode, or cost per occurrence basis:

  • Left displaced abomasum - $340.
  • Milk fever - $334.
  • Retained placenta - $285.
  • Ketosis - $145.

Of course, there are qualifiers with these numbers. To calculate the cost of each disorder, Guard factors in the effects of milk price, cull-cow price, replacement heifer cost and labor cost. These can vary over time. “All of the individual disease costs are constantly changing with market values,” Guard says.

Nevertheless, the relative rankings of the disorders — ketosis vs. milk fever, for instance — stay pretty much the same, regardless of market-price fluctuations, he adds.

A left displaced abomasum is one of the costliest disorders. An LDA can cause a 16-percent reduction in daily milk yield during the first 30 days in milk. If a cow averages 72 pounds of milk per day during those 30 days, she would normally give 2,160 pounds. But, with a 16-percent reduction from an LDA, that figure would be reduced by 346 pounds. Combined with surgery or treatment cost, it becomes very expensive indeed. 

Kusilek is quite perceptive in charting the improvement he is making in DA rate. It definitely factors into his overall financial success.

But, as the article on page 20 of this month’s issue points out, it’s also good to look beyond individual cows or individual metabolic disorders to gain an even bigger perspective of the fresh-cow population.