Progress Takes Planning “Success in any area of life takes planning and raising cattle is no exception.”

Published on Wed, 03/21/2018 - 11:36am

 Progress Takes Planning
 “Success in any area of life takes planning and raising cattle is no exception.”

 By Aly McClure

  In any area of life, your success depends on foresight and planning, raising cattle is no different. You have to go through and not only have goals but a feasible action plan to attain them. Managing a herd of dairy cattle requires yearly and lifetime actions covering everything from health to property maintenance - they all affect your animals.
To start with your best foot forward calf health is a crucial cornerstone in your herds future. Every animal starts as a calf. Talking with facility manager, T.J. McClure – of Circle Heifer Development in Garden City, KS – “Good heifer health begins with good calf health. When a calf is doctored more than two times before six months of age that calf should be culled from the herd. Beyond that point the animal is very likely to be sickly it’s entire life and cost you more money in the long run than if you take care of the problem in the front end. Your investment, time and financial, should be on the animals that have the best chance of success.” Setting up and following a vaccination protocol including parameters like McClure mentioned gives you a baseline scale to evaluate animals on and make effective decisions for the future of your herd.
Along the lines of animal health comes nutrition, they walk hand in hand with each other. A healthy cow is a properly fed cow, an easier to breed cow, and a better-transitioning cow from wet to dry. As is well known that a cow can experience a shortage of nutrients during the beginning of a lactation cycle, it is very important to keep high quality and well-balanced feed ration in front of her to keep her producing the best quality of milk possible.

As any dairyman can tell you, you can learn a lot from an animal’s manure, which is a direct reflection of the feed they are consuming. Are they receiving the proper nutrients? Are they drinking enough water? Is there to much grain and not enough forage? Just by paying attention to the excrements of a dairy animal you can make adjustments that will positively affect your entire herd and catch sickness before it becomes detrimental. An unbalanced diet can cause an increased risk of lower milk production and unsustainable weight loss.
A breeding program protocol is an excellent way not only to keep spending in check but also keep your herd in a rotation that keeps your milk production steady throughout the year. Each dairy will have different goals and ideas of what their program needs to look like but the end goal is milk production, and in order to produce milk you have to first produce a calf. In many instances it can make sense for a dairy to outsource their heifer development but, they will still need to oversee cow rebreeding.
Using Artificial Insemination with timed heat cycles rather than bull breeding offers many benefits including, consistent and accurate breeding’s, lower disease risk, and less danger on your facility. A.I. can also be easier to manage as you have more control over the process. But the control also brings with it a greater need for organization and timed accuracy.
Facility maintenance is just as important to the health of your heard as vaccinations and a nutrition program. A clean, well-ventilated barn or pen will keep animals dry, healthy and producing quality milk. Whether you are using barns with free stalls or large outdoor pens, your number one goal would be for the cows to remain dry and warm, or cool depending on the season. You cannot disinfect filth, so make sure that your parlor and pens are being regularly cleaned and disinfected. Applying a layer of disinfectant won’t do anything if the base is filthy.
By creating systems and protocols throughout your entire process, you are developing efficiency that will pay you dividends in your milk production. Efficiency is a multifaceted word that can mean both quicker work and money saved. I think we can all use a little more of both of those.
As you go into this spring and summer season make it your goal to find at least one area you can improve on and use this as your cornerstone to continually build upon your operation for a successful future and visible progress.