Pathogen-based treatment, improving butterfat and protein content suggested at 2020 Central New York Dairy Day

by Michael Wren

COOPERSTOWN, NY – On March 10, dairy farmers gathered to learn the latest trends in the industry. The annual Central New York Dairy Day conference and trade show are sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension. This year’s conference showed that with current market increases in the price of butterfat and protein content there may be opportunities for farmers to boost revenue – and how pathogen-based treatment might lower your overall expenditure. David Balbian, dairy management specialist, introduced the speakers.

When treating for mastitis, many farms opt to go with a blanket treatment which involves treating each cow for mastitis whether they are affected or not. Dr. Rick Watters of Quality Milk Production Services suggested using a pathogen-based treatment system that only treats the cows affected by mastitis. This system involves taking milk samples to a lab and treating based on the results. It gives a numerical value to the severity of the mastitis on a per cow basis. This method has been shown to more accurately determine which cows need treatment and lowers the farm’s overall costs and losses of milk.

“I think any farm can do pathogen-based treatment,” said Watters. “It doesn’t matter if you have a cell count of 100 or 100,000.”

Watters noted, “Two-thirds of the antimicrobial usage on the dairy that comes from mastitis is because of dry cows.” A newer method of preventing this or treating it before it becomes an issue is called selective dry cow therapy, which treats only the cows that are highest risk in the herd. Selective dry cow therapy is a little more complex but is the next step in the process. It is important to have records of your herd to establish which cows are high or low risk.

Dr. Tom Overton gave a presentation on boosting butterfat while maintaining milk production levels. There are many factors that come into play when looking for higher butterfat content including genetics, seasonality and nutrition. Butterfat percentage drops in spring, is lowest in summer and starts to come back in autumn. “Just remember holding butterfat content through the spring should be counted as a win,” said Overton. Sizing of feed can also lead to better digestion and absorption of fats and oils, which will boost butterfat content.

Dr. Chuck Schwab, emeritus professor at the University of New Hampshire, gave a riveting lecture on boosting milk protein percentage in a herd. According to Schwab, “If you want more protein you don’t feed more protein to the cows. It just doesn’t work that way. You want to feed them better quality protein and that’s where amino acid balancing comes into play.”

Proper amino acid management can raise your milk protein by three points.

It has long been understood that better feed will improve milk yield as well as milk components. However, randomly choosing higher quality feeds or supplements without a proper balance of amino acids will not have as efficient an effect based on cost of feed. Keeping an eye on your milk components will be a good indicator of proper nutrition in your herd.

“There’s no better barometer on your farm for improving amino acid nutrition than watching milk protein content,” said Schwab.

Every farm has their current and preferred way of feeding and treating cows, but there is always room for improvement to increase milk production, milk components and lowering overall expenditures. Proper nutrition and supplementation can increase total production as well as milk components. Before implementing any new strategy, be sure to do your research and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask the experts.

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