September 4, 2008

What are the implications of getting cow Condition Scoring wrong?

The modern New Zealand dairy cow is a very efficient machine for turning pasture into milksolids, but she won’t do this if she’s allowed to get skinny. The genetics of the modern cow drive her to keep on milking at the expense of her body condition. There are some serious implications listed below in order of occurrence if you let this happen. You head down “Disaster Avenue” which is the polite term for your destination! So learn to condition score cows honestly and accurately.

Dairy Cow Disaster Avenue
  • You milk too long into autumn so cows become emaciated.
  • Cows enter winter far too thin so they don’t appreciate the cold and wet.
  • Their condition is not replaced by spring so they calve too thin.
  • Farmers run out of both time and feed to replace lost condition.
  • Cows “switch off” and just maintain themselves before calving and don’t improve.
  • The risks and costs of health problems increase as calving approaches.
  • Peak lactation and total production is reduced.
  • Calving at CS4 instead of CS5 will cost you 175 litres of milk and 10-15kg MS.
  • Return to oestrus is delayed. Every missed cycle delays calving by 3 weeks, and lost income.
  • There are more vet costs to investigate problem cows.
  • Calving at CS 4 instead of CS 5 will delay oestrus by 7-10 days. 8 days x 1.5kg MS/day is another 12kg MS lost.
  • One CS less at calving will also increase the number of non-cycling cows at the start of mating by 14-17%,
  • More intra-vaginal devices (IVDs) are needed in spring. These have big animal welfare implications and consumer resistance to the idea of using them.
  • Calving spread is increased so more “inductions” (abortions) are needed next spring with big animal welfare implications and consumer resistance
  • Cows often don’t hold to first service stimulated by IVDs so expensive semen is wasted.
  • Staff hate working with skinny cows, get stressed and job satisfaction declines rapidly.
  • Staff quit for a better job. Replacing them is very expensive.
  • You could get an urgent phone call from the Bank to explain surprise budget changes which were not budgeted for. Bankers hate surprises.
  • But you can expect some extra perks from your vet clinic for being such a good client over the past year!

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