It’s a message you’ve heard time and time again, but if you want your cows to produce more milk, then your focus needs to zero-in on feed and forage quality and consistent management routines. And that point was driven home during a producer panel at the 4-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference in Dubuque, Iowa this week.
Never underestimate the value of consistency in everything you do on the dairy, said Dana Allen, dairy operations manager for Gar-Lin Dairy Farms, Inc., Eyota, Minn. “On-farm systems and routines should be developed first for the cow and second to ensure activities and procedures get done the same way every day of the week. For example, our feeders know it’s important to feed a consistent ration day-in and day-out. It’s all about training, training and more training.”
The dairy formulates several different rations for the 1,850-cow herd based on considerations like stage of lactation, amino acid balance, calories, dry matter intakes – corrected for feed refusals and more. Feed management software is used to track accurate feed delivery.
The dairy also focuses on forage quality, keeping factors like harvesting dry matter consistency, proper storage management and bunker face management top of mind. The dairy crops 3,100 acres which provide forages and the majority of corn for the farm.
As a result, the dairy has a rolling herd average above 31,000 pounds of milk and a feed efficiency around 1.5. “Consistency is the key,” said Allen.
The same attention to detail rewards Bethany Valley Holsteins, Comstock, Wis. Owner Ron Olson also emphasizes consistency and quality for this dairy’s 116 milking cows (220 total head), and has a rolling herd average of more than 34,000 and a feed efficiency above 1.5 to show for it.
Olson said two keys to success are a network of good people, both long-term employees and advisors.
Cows at Bethany Valley are fed four times a day which reduces the need to push-up feed. And, a consistent and accurately mixed ration is emphasized. Olson also balances the farm’s single-group ration on amino acids and feeds to a zero feed refusal goal. The dairy features an overabundance of waterers so that cows can get a drink without competing for space.
In addition, the dairy aims for calm, relaxed animal-handling. “The cows should be chewing their cud the whole time they’re in the parlor” said Olson.
Olson concluded that he tries to harvest forage at the optimum maturity. And, added that he strives to improve forage quality by investing in (and investigating) the interrelationship between soil health and plant health, and thus, better forage quality,