Molasses mayhem

Editor's note: The following case study was provided by Mike DeGroot and Jordan Van Grouw, of DeGroot Dairy Consulting in Visalia, Calif.

One of the dairies that Mike DeGroot and Jordan Van Grouw work with started having problems with its fresh pen. They had worked with this particular dairy for several years and all the sudden fresh cows started calving in with metritis, displaced abomasums and several other problems. At this particular dairy, the heifers and cows were combined in the close-up and fresh-pen.

When the dairy started having these issues, DeGroot and Van Grouw checked every possible thing that could be causing the problem, but could find nothing that had changed in terms of management or facilities. The grain mix hadn't changed, cow comfort was good, and there was no overcrowding. Nothing was throwing up red flags, says DeGroot.

Then, DeGroot and Van Grouw noticed one day that the fresh heifers were really going after the molasses lick. This seemed odd to the pair, so they did some digging.

It turns out that the company that supplied the molasses lick to this dairy had made a switch in the product formulation and did not tell the dairy.

The close-up pen was supposed to be receiving a molasses lick that had a very low DCAD level and the fresh-cow pen was supposed to be receiving a molasses lick that had a very high DCAD level.

As a result of the change in formulation by the company, both the close-up pen and fresh-pen were receiving the close-up formulation.

DeGroot believes dry matter intake in the heifers was lower because the heifers were eating so much of the molasses. This was compounded by the fact that the heifers in the fresh-cow pen were more timid to the dominant multiparous cows.

After the issue was resolved, fresh-cow culls were cut in half from one month to the next.

"This was a good lesson for us," notes DeGroot. "Keep your eyes open. Even if you don't think things have changed, they may have."