Clients apprised of peak milk production

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Editor's note: This Practice Builder is from Robert Patton, dairy nutritionist from Mifflinburg, Pa.

Changes in peak milk production can signal problems in a herd.

In a small New York herd, the adult cows were peaking rather late — about 70 days in milk, on average.

The peak should be around 50 days. The longer peak, coupled with reduced milk yield, signaled that something was wrong.

It turned out that the problem was foot rot appearing in the dry period, caused by a leaky waterer with a mud hole around it, points out dairy nutritionist Robert Patton. The farmer cleaned up the mud and ran the dry cows through a foot bath twice a week, which solved the problem.

Patton has been tracking peak milk production in his client herds for 20 years. The clients really look forward to getting their monthly reports.

Most of his clients keep daily milk weights. So, Patton takes the weights and downloads them into an Excel file. This generates an x-y graph showing all of the animals in the first 100 days of milk. Using a quadratic function, he can calculate where the herd is peaking.

By comparing peaks on a month-to-month basis, Patton and help his clients spot trends and tell if there are underlying problems.

Patton says mature cows should peak at or around 50 days in milk. First-calf heifers should peak at 70 days. If there are significant deviations from that, there may be problems. For instance, cows that are peaking at 41 days in milk may not be getting enough protein or energy.

It also signals to clients whether total production will be going up or down in the coming months.

“It’s the old song and dance that peak milk determines total production for the year,” Patton says.

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