I don’t have to tell you that this has been a tough winter. You’ve lived it. You’ve cut corners and hunkered down. You are probably doing everything you can to cut costs and improve your bottom line. Maybe. 

Calling these rules might be a little strong to some, but honestly these are the things that will add up over time.

1.  Don’t give up milk!
Monitor cow response carefully and make changes.

Some monitoring guidelines (Unv. of IL):

  • An increase or decrease in MUN: 8-12  for TMR herds,  10-14 for topdress herds.
  • A change in management level milk by more than 2 pounds per head per day.
  • A  change in dry matter intake of more than 2 pounds per cow per day.
  • A shift in butterfat or protein % by 0.1 percentage points.

2.  Don’t waste feed!
Watch shrink, check mixers, mixing protocols and don’t spill additives.

This is loaded. If you mix small amounts in a mixer in the wrong order-they’re wasted and won’t get to the cows. If you spill additives when feeding-that 8 cents a cow feed cost just shot to 16 cents or more. If mixers are mixing improperly-no ration is successful. Shrink and feed waste are some of the biggest reasons for higher than expected feed costs.

3. Don’t miss peak milk!
Make sure the cows get off to a great start-or they will tank during lactation.

Watch metabolics-of course. Reducing ketosis, milk fever and retained placentas-clinicals or subclinicals is essential to get the cows to peak well. But so is reducing “fresh cow” mastitis by having a clean calving area, providing a good transition/fresh cow diet/work-up program and icreasing dry matter intake are key to peak milk as well.

4. Make sure it pays!
Every management or health practice, feed component or additive should be reviewed very closely for its return on investment.

This means more than just cutting out “expensive stuff”. Are you having a current issue on the farm-hairy warts, mastitis? Is there a more effective way to prevent it rather than treat?

5. Milk the right cows!
Review cow and heifer inventories.

Did a heifer have major health issues as a calf and isn’t out of a good cow? Her chances are pretty slim that she will be a profitable cow. Are you hanging onto some cows that should of left a long time ago? Are you switching cows to gain milk flow or is the pen seriously overcrowded? Some of these situations can be detrimental to profitable milk and are a problem for your bottom line.

6. Get the cows bred!
Your calving interval directly affects your bottom line.

Long voluntary waiting periods, trying avoid freshening in the winter, etc. can sometimes end in disaster if the cow doesn’t settle the first time-and high producers rarely do.  Stale late lactation cows and long dry periods are almost never profitable. Get them bred-that’s what is important.