Editor’s note: The following case was handled by Fernando Vazquez while he was an independent dairy nutritionist in the Southwest. He now serves as a dairy nutritionist consultant for Standard Dairy Consultants in the I-29 corridor.

The owners of a 2,500-cow dairy in the Southwest were frustrated over low milk production.

The herd average was only about 68 pounds. On top of that, the butterfat percentage was low and many of the fresh cows were experiencing health problems.

So, they called in a new nutritionist, Fernando Vazquez. 

On his first visit, Vazquez found a number of problems:

  • Four months had passed since the last forage analysis. It was done by the previous nutritionist, who was now gone, and not having a current analysis meant that no one had a good idea what was being fed at that point.  
  • The cows were eating less than what the ration called for.
  • There were some questions whether the ration on paper was the one actually being delivered. Vazquez said he discovered some clerical errors, suggesting that several people along the way were not getting the right ration to the cows.   

Vazquez ordered a new forage analysis done every two weeks. He formulated the rations on actual intake data and worked with the feeders to ensure accurate feed delivery. He also set up a fresh-cow ration (versus having a single milk-cow ration), which matched vitamins and minerals for the close-up and fresh cows to the forages being fed.

Milk production started to rise. Within a year, the herd average went from about 68 pounds to 75 pounds ― and, after another two years, it had risen to 85 pounds. In three to five weeks, butterfat went from 3.2 to 3.3 percent to 3.5 to 3.55 percent. And the incidence rate of ketosis and retained placenta ― the two main fresh-cow health problems ― improved by a significant margin.  

Basically, it boiled down to better management.

Prior to Vazquez coming on board, the dairy had gone to a fairly expensive ration, with many additives and specialty feeds, in an attempt to get milk back up. 

Instead of adding more bells and whistles, Vazquez’ approach was for the farm to get back to basics.