Editor's note: The following case study was handled by Jeff Weyers, dairy nutritionist from Stephenville, Texas. He writes about his experiences here.
There's a dairy that I visit early in the morning, just after daylight. Therefore, I am there early enough to see how the cows react to the first feeding, but not early enough to read the bunks.
I started noticing very aggressive lock-ups, with only a few cows in each pen not getting up to visit the bunks. I immediately thought the cows were being short-fed, running out of feed very early in the morning. I proceeded to ask the herdsman, feeder, and owner about how much feed was left over in the morning. Of course, the feeder said there was plenty — and since he started feeding very early before anyone else arrived, who’s to say different? He would then demonstrate the amount left in each bunk and would show me the pile of push-out feed from the previous day.
I also calculated intakes according to how many loads per pen were fed, and intake just wasn't where I thought it should be. I then questioned the feeder and herdsman about how many times per night that feed was pushed up to the cows. I was assured that after every pen was brought into the barn, the cow pusher also pushed feed. I left that day making a ration change to try to promote intake.
After talking with the herdsman every other day until my next visit, I had no luck raising intakes. Again, on my next visit, I arrived at the dairy very early and they still had very aggressive lock-ups.
With all the same questions, I decided that I better have a look at this dairy during the night shift. Later that night, about midnight, I visited the dairy and low and behold… the feed was not being pushed to the cows! After observing the dairy for a couple of hours, there was never any feed pushed to the cows. I went and found a shovel on the dairy and began to shovel feed closer to the curb. Cows that were lying down were getting up and quickly coming to the feed bunk! My suspicion was correct that they were not pushing feed at all during the night shift and cows were short-fed. So, of course, there was the right amount of feed left over in the morning, like the feeder told me. After contacting the dairymen the next morning, I informed him of this problem and he immediately fixed it.
Intakes increased substantially and milk followed.
As a nutritionist, we can't be on the dairy 24/7. We see a snapshot every other week, so we must rely on the information given to us by the trusted individuals that are responsible for implementing our ideas and philosophies.