by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
Farmers from around New York State attended workshops presented by Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Pro-Dairy and Central NY Dairy/ Field Crops Team to obtain information on new technologies and studies aimed at improving dairy resiliency.
Reproduction programs, barn lighting technology, optimizing forage quality, cow comfort and factors affecting farm profitability were the primary topics discussed.
Presenters included Dairy Specialist David Balbian, Dairy Specialist Dr. Jerry Bertoldo, Dr. Roger G. Ellis of NYS Dept. of Ag and Markets, Dairy Environmental Systems Engineer Curt Gooch and CCE NWNY Dairy Team member Jackson Wright.
“Reproduction is a key management component of dairy profitability,” stated Dr. Bertoldo. “Despite the common belief that this is so, putting dollar values on what your particular program means to your success has been difficult to figure.”
Bertoldo said although timed insemination programs have become very popular and numerous, they have also caused the cost benefit analysis to become even more challenging.
He explained farmers are forced to make decisions on whether or not to breed cows that are on a synchronization program, but still show signs of heat outside the protocols of the program. Bertoldo referred to making a decision to breed these cows based on visual signs of heat instead of following the ‘timed breeding’ based on the synchronization program being used, as ‘cherry picking.’ Successful conception rates of 25 percent, 30 percent and 35 percent for those cows were reported. He stressed the importance for farms to keep good accurate records documenting their results when using this method and explained that if the conception rate was 25 percent, the farm would actually lose money by breeding those cows. Herds with 30 percent success broke even, and herds with a 35 percent success rate would profit.
Bertoldo referred attendees to the Daily Markov-Chain Model, a new computer based model available online that will help farmers determine the value of different breeding programs based on each herd’s individual circumstances and costs.
Choices concerning estrus synchronization have definite economic implications that are farm specific as to their profitability.
Dairy Specialist Dave Balbian said, “The only way you know what your chances are, is by actually breeding these ‘cherry picked’ cows over a period of time. By keeping good records of your results you will come up with your own conception rate for those breedings. Then you will be able to plug that info into this program to determine if it’s worth it economically to continue ‘cherry picking’ or if you should simply follow the synchronization program that you are using.”
Balbian says it may sound complicated and tedious, but for farms that really want to fine tune their program it is worth the effort.
“This computer model is available to use to help figure out the economics for specific farms,” said Balbian. “Hopefully some people will utilize that program for their own dairy farm business.”
The Daily Markov-Chain Model can be found on-line at http:dairymgt.info/tools.php#1. For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Balbian presented information on dairy modernization and discussed identifying and implementing progressive herd and crop management strategies that affect profitability.
“It’s critical for dairy managers to focus on maximizing the return from every cow and every acre,” said Balbian. “Set some goals and make sure you are focusing on meeting them!”
He advised tracking each cow, focusing on cow comfort, culling cows that are not meeting production goals and balancing for amino acids. Lowering your somatic cell count is another way to improve premiums.
Bertoldo stated dairy profitability is a complex subject. “Getting paid more for milk, paying less to make it or making more are top ways to get there,” he acknowledged. “Becoming better is often more rewarding than becoming bigger. Components — particularly protein — and milk quality can make a good deal of difference in mailbox price received. Tweaking the feed program may cost a bit more or the same, but if it increases production this is cheap ‘marginal’ milk. Culling cows not carrying their weight particularly if you are overcrowded makes dollar sense. Feeding calves and young heifers at higher rates is a delayed, but real payback with regard to future production potential. To make this happen, however, you need to know your numbers and be able to track changes. Monitoring needs measuring!”
Balbian pointed out that cutting feed to the herd, even in hard times, would only result in lower production. “How successful are we at managing our dairy cows?” he asked.
Other topics will be covered in an upcoming edition of Country Folks.
by Elizabeth A. Tomlin