In addition to buying cows or improving reproductive efficiency, you also can increase herd size by cutting calf death losses.

For example, a 1,000-cow dairy that cuts its calf death rate from 8 percent (the national average according to NAHMS data) to 3 percent could double its growth rate, says Daryl Nydam, epidemiologist and extension veterinarian at CornellUniversity.

Using average reproductive performance, age at first calving, and herd turnover in both scenarios, this decrease in neonatal calf mortality could translate into a 400-cow increase instead of a 200-cow increase in herd size after five years. Nydam shared this information at Alltech’s CalfCollege held in California.