Consistent lifetime management: the key to 100 tonne cows?

Why do some herds produce such a high percent of 100 tonne cows?

I read an article in Holstein International recently about Andrew Sanders’ farm on the Isle of Man which made me ask the above question. Andrew Sanders’ dairy farm is one of a number of other farms who are achieving this and, unsurprisingly, it is possible to find a number of similarities between the different farms that could perhaps give is a clue to their success.

Sandisfarne Herd
Sandisfarne Herd

The stand-out similarity between the herds is their management. The below criteria are fundamental in their success:

  • Transition has to be excellent (avoiding metabolic disorders)
  • Cow comfort
  • Clean Fresh Water
  • Stocking density at 70%
  • Calving at 23-24 months
  • Forage has to be Quality, Quality, Quality
  • Feeding hay
  • Feeding for rumen health

Something that all these farms have is consistency; this is the key. Consistently good quality food, consistently well formulated diets, consistent high feed intake, consistent attention to detail, consistent animal care and observation, and consistently high quality genetics.

The most important thing to keeping these cows healthy and vigorous is the challenge to keep them eating. There must always be a consistent diet on offer, particularly before and after calving there is no time for carelessness. It should be an essential procedure to measure temperature and rumen fill pre and post calving.

Sacrificing older cows for heifers does not happen. If you have a productive older cow why get rid of her? She is going to give more milk than a young heifer in her first lactation. The longer the cow stays in the herd the more money she will make you, so make the most of their potential.

Hoof care is critical. A good hoof trimmer can add years to a cow’s life. These farms all have the cows routinely feet trimmed, paying particular attention at drying off and ensuring she goes in to her transition period with good feet.

The type of cows on these farms are similarly moderate in size, with very good legs and feet, shallow udders with lots of strength. Overall balanced cows and not extreme – breeding for cows which are an excellent pure breed Holstein able to cope with a low input system. Treating every cow the same is important, even if a cow is worth more genetically, it should have to live with the rest of herd and not have special treatment. A dairy herd is a team effort and not simply looking after your star players.

Management traits which are seen as very important are Somatic Cell Counts (SCC), Fertility, lenegthened Lifespan / Productive life.

From my own perspective we must do everything possible to keep these cows in the herd as long as possible. Cows can last longer as we are breeding a much more resilient type of cow. For that reason trust the cow. If we can keep them longer, then unnecessary raising costs can be saved, which will have a significant effect on farm profitability. The cost of rearing a heifer calf from birth to first lactation rounds out at circa £1600; why spend so much money on the outlay of a young herd when looking after the more mature cows you already own who have more than paid their way is easier to maintain? Not to mention profitable!

I always think how amazing cows are so I shall hail a wonderful cow .

Ever-Green-View My Gold has set a new single lactation record of 35,218kgs in 365 days aged 4yrs & 3 months – something for us all to aspire towards.

Ever-Green-View My Gold
Ever-Green-View My Gold

Martin Hope
Dairy Specialist

Contact Martin or any other member of the Wynnstay Dairy Team here.

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