Ruminant nutritionist in the Internet era

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Editor's note: This Practice Builder was provided by Milos Haas, ruminant nutritionist in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

The Internet allows us to communicate in a way we could not have imagined 15 years ago. It has changed how business is conducted, and helps to bring more efficiency if used properly.

Four years ago, I started to work with clients in European Union, and it was obvious from the beginning that I would not be able to visit these farmers as often I did my Canadian clients. It was necessary to develop a system of information flow from their farms to my office that would allow me to provide them with the same level of service as my Canadian clients received.

It was important to establish a standard operating procedure to collect data from the farms and input them into spreadsheets or programs. Training of responsible people was a very important part of this program.

Monitoring of dry matter of forages, dry matter intake, particle size of TMR, manure sampling, occurrence of ketosis, RP, hypocalcemia, utilizing of data loggers for hour-by-hour barn temperature and humidity measurements resulted in creation of a spreadsheet that is being sent to me weekly. All herds are on Dairy Comp 305 or the Afi Milk program that I monitor weekly from my office.

Forage-sampling procedure has been established, and responsible people are trained to collect samples. Metabolic profiling of lactating dairy cows is done regularly, and results are available to me within a few days.

I visit these European herds three times a year

These farms have made tremendous progress in the past four years. The highest-producing herd, which totals 1,300 cows, is at 26,500 pounds of milk, up from 19,300 pounds four years ago. Pregnancy rates are between 19 and 24 percent, and percentage of culled cows was under 30 percent last year.

The amount and quality of information I was receiving from farms in Europe turned out to be many times better than the farms I was seeing in Canada. As a result, I implemented this program in Ontario, as well.

So far, I can say it has saved significantly time and travel expense. Personally, I really like to spend time on the farm and observe. But, at the same time, I had to get more efficient in consulting.

Technologies for physiological monitoring of dairy cows have great potential to supplement our observational activities.

Many technologies and programs, such as daily milk yield recording, milk component monitoring, pedometers, automatic temperature recording devices, milk-conductivity indicators, estrus-detection monitors and daily body weight measurements, are already being utilized by farmers. New ones, such as rumination-monitoring devices, daily milk progesterone and BHBA monitoring, will provide a whole new set of information.

Facilitating the flow of information from farms is one way the nutritionist can add value to his business.

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