Is Your Herd Positioned for Profit?

John M. Smith, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Community Development Agent, The Ohio State University Extension 
Auglaize County

Is Your Herd Positioned for Profit? 
John M. Smith 
OSU Extension, Auglaize County 
Agriculture & NRCD

With the current price of milk, dairymen must take a serious look at their operations. A total effort must be made to reduce costs and improve profits. Herds that produce profit usually have many things in common:

1. Good Forages  Forage quality must be consistent and high quality. It is very expensive to upgrade poor forages with other feeds.

2. Clean, Fresh Water Water is the cheapest most important nutrient and the one most often ignored. Big, high producing cows will drink up to 50 gallons per day in the summer. A good place to have a water tank is in the parlor return alley. Many cows will drink heavily returning from the parlor. Cows will drink more warm water (70oF) than they will cold water (55oF). If they won't or can't drink water, they can't make milk. At times it helps to add water to rations. Many herds do add up to 5 pounds of water per cow to the total mixed ration and find that the cows eat the feed better. However, try to keep the ration consistent at about 50% moisture.

3. Low Somatic Cell Count and Good Milking Techniques  High SCCs indicate hidden production losses and could be due to many causes: poor milking habits; milking equipment not working properly; free stalls that need cleaned, repaired, bedded or not designed properly; untreated mastitis, etc.

4. Good Genetics  The genetics of a herd can make a 25% difference in production. AI all heifers and cows.

5. Good Heat Detection  Without it you cannot have a successful breeding program.

6. Maintain and Use Accurate Records  Records of production, financial, herd health, breeding and feeding. Without the use of good records, a herd manager is lost.

7. Know How Much You Are Feeding and Where It Is Going  Errors of up to 25% are common on some farms. This is not only expensive, but can be very wasteful. A mixer with a scale can be one of your best management tools. Many farms have a 10-15% feed wastage at the feed bunk due to improper design or repair of the feed bunk.

8. Have a Sound Dry Cow Program  This part of the lactation/gestation is extremely important to the next lactation. If a cow does not calve properly, due to a poor dry cow program, she will not milk well or breed back easily. This is one area that is too often ignored.

9. Cull Unprofitable Cows  If a cow is not making you money, you can't afford to keep her.