Tips for improving milk production this summer
By Barry Steevens, University of Missouri-Columbia
- Healthy mammary gland. Strive for a bulk tank somatic cell count (SCC) below 250,000 scc/ml. Mastitis robs us of milk production. Data published by National Mastitis Council shows milk yield is decreased about 6% when the bulk tank SCC increases from 200,000 to 500,000 scc/ml. For a cow capable of producing 20,000 lb. milk, an increased SCC from 200,000 to 500,000 scc/ml would result in 1200 lb. less milk produced. Twelve hundred pounds milk at 16 cents/lb. equals $192. Also, assuming the bulk tank premium between 200,000 and 500,000 is $0.40/ cwt., therefore 200 cwt @ $0.40/cwt = $80/ cow. Quality milk can earn you an extra $272/cow this coming year.
What can I do?
- Review milking procedures. STRIP/DIP/ DRY/ATTACH OR DIP/STRIP/ DRY/ATTACH. Either procedure works. Make sure attachment is within 45-90 seconds after beginning of prep. Milking time and teat end stress is reduced with attending to timing of attachment. Pay close attention to post dip procedures especially if you spray. It is easy to miss the opposite side of the teat.
- Have the milking equipment checked. Suggested vacuum levels are: Low line, 12.5 inches Hg; Mid line, 13.5 inches Hg.; and High line, 15 inches Hg.
- Take care of the freestalls. Clean the back of the stall every time the cows are milked. Cows cannot lie in manure and not get mastitis! Add clean bedding frequently to the area where the teat touches. Contaminated bedding should not remain in the back of the stall more than 24 hours.
- Dry cow treatment. No exceptions! It works! Observe cows that may leak the second day after dry off. Talk with your veterinarian. A teat sealant may be helpful.
- Culture problem cows. You need to know which have staph aureus and milk them last or get them out of the herd.
- Heifers. Infection in the udder at calving will reduce milk yield by 6 lbs./cow/day for the entire lactation.
- Keep heifers out of ponds.
- Control flies, especially horn flies, which feed on the serum of scabby teat ends. Fly damage can occur at a very early age. Researchers suggest that scabs on the teat end are associated with mastitis at calving.
- Double the frequency of milking the first 21 days after calving.
Researchers suggest that doubling the frequency of milking (2X/4X or 3X/6X) the first three weeks after calving increases milk yield for the entire lactation. The theory is it helps recruit milk cells in early lactation. There needs to be at least two hours spaced between milkings. Appears you get the same response if you start on day one or day four of lactation. Dry matter intake is still critical.
- Extra water going to and coming from the holding pen.
Adding a water trough near the holding pen in the summer may help increase dry matter intake. Cows drink more in an attempt to cool. Cool cows will eat more. Farm observations suggest an additional two more pounds of milk/cow are possible with more available water.
Be mindful during summer heat stress, water intake may increase from 20 gallon/cow/day to 35 or 40 gallon/cow/day. Cows drink extra water attempting to cool.
- Summer cooling.
Fans above the freestalls and fans with sprinklers over the feeding area will gain 6 lb. more milk. Space 3 foot fans 24-30 feet about 7 feet above the cows (Just so they can't stick their tongue in the fan). Sprinklers located at the headlocks should wet the cows back. Suggest 3 minutes on, 12 minutes off. Hair coat should be soaked and then dried as the fans blow air across the backs of the cows. Include fans and sprinklers in the holding pen. Space 3 foot fans 6-8 feet apart and 24-30 feet of "throw" distance.