A Few Tactical Changes to Improve Your Bottom-Line

Normand St-Pierre 
Department of Animal Sciences

We all know that current milk prices are ... well... dismal. And there are no sign of much relief on that front anytime soon. But milk price is only one component of the net income equation. The number of cows being milked, their daily milk production and the costs incurred to produce that milk are all as important as milk price in the determination of net farm income. So, what are some of the things that you can do to improve your bottom line during these low milk price times?

1. If you are using BST, you should use it on a high proportion of the herd. Either BST is profitable for you, or else it is not. If it is, then use it to its fullest. You wouldn't milk only the front quarters on your best cows. Then don't do the same with technology.

2. Milk the same number of cows, but go to a 3X-milking schedule. Going 3X is a great cash flow enhancer because it doesn't require any additional fixed capital assets (buildings, machinery, equipment, etc...). It is however, a pain on the management!

3. Milk more cows 2X compared to milking fewer cows at 3X. Milking facilities are used more efficiently when a parlor is fully used on a 2X schedule.

4. Raise your replacement heifers so that they freshen by 23 months of age, weighing 1,250 lbs (after freshening), for less than $1,200.

5. Feed your lactating herd for less than $4.00/cwt of milk. Do a critical assessment of all the feed additives that you may be using. Review feed shrink during storage and feeding.

6. Make extensive use of soil and feed analyses for balancing crops and feeding programs. Check the moisture of you ensiled forage on a weekly basis.

7. Overcrowd pens according to animal performance. A four-row barn can support more overcrowding than a six-row barn. High groups can be stocked up to 110% of capacity (number of stalls). Low groups can tolerate up to 125% of capacity. Many factors affect the maximum pen capacity. So be careful with this one.

8. Use only one person in the parlor for as many hours as possible. Keep distraction out of the parlor. This includes the "cow pusher". We have made many measurements of cow throughput in Ohio parlors and the one rule that seems to be universal is that cow throughput drops when the cow pusher steps in the parlor "to help". Tell him to drink coffee if he has nothing else to do. Your parlor operation will improve the more coffee he drinks!

9. Mark December 4, 2000 on your calendar. This is when you should attend the second Ohio Dairy Conference and learn on more ways to improve your operation and its profitability.