Dairy Excel: New Year’s resolutions for dairy producers

What will our dairy farmers, herd managers, calf and heifer raisers, or extension agents choose for their New Year’s resolutions for 2002?

My personal resolution is to spend more time with my family. Will I do it? Answering that, the problem with New Year’s resolutions raises its ugly head. Commitments to actually do what you say you plan. Professionally, my goal is to spend more time in my counties and not travel to Wooster or Columbus as much. I’ll need some good luck for that.

Dairy managers may choose to plan New Year’s resolution topics in eight areas for 2002. The topics for improvement could include nutrition, milk quality and quality assurance, reproduction and genetics, replacements, housing, health, management, and nutrient management.

Nutrition and milk. Improvement in nutrition can include emphasis on the following: body condition scoring, having your feed analyzed, additives, buffers, use of cheaper by-products, higher quality forages, separate rations for dry cows, transition cows or replacements, and using ration balancing software to check the feed person.

Controlling mastitis leads the list for improving milk quality. Planning for control of both environmental and contagious mastitis, plus proper dry cow therapy, will keep the bacteria count down.

Maintaining milking equipment, using good cleaning and sanitizing methods along with recommended milking procedures is essential to great quality assurance.

Better genetics. Reproduction and genetics start with the artificial insemination concerns of proper heat detection and the possible use of an estrus synchronization program. Working to improve conception rates through learning more about reproductive management routines, plus learning to better trouble shoot infertility problems, will increase profit potential for the new year.

Raising replacement heifers improvements need to center on health, housing, management, nutrition, and breeding of the heifers. Body condition scoring, disease monitoring and control, growth rate, and a vaccination program evaluation can help improve health.

Using enterprise budgets and determining the economics of heifer raising could lead the dairyman to consider using a heifer raiser, or to decide the current heifer raiser is not doing the job needed. Continual monitoring and watching the economic bottom line is very important.

Review facilities. Housing review might mean barn renovation or feeding facility improvement. You may build more maternity and sick pens and make sure the two are not anywhere close to one another. Your free stall design maybe could use improvement.

Consideration might be given to ventilation improvement and adding a sprinkler or cooling system.

Review the electrical system and check for stray voltage. Put up those roof gutters you have so long ignored. Finally evaluating the milk cooling center and maybe considering a precooler, or even planning total renovation of the milking center.

Make a plan. First we can start with biosecurity improvements under health. Each farm needs a biosecurity plan, plus the commitment to follow the plan. The bovine diseases of foot warts, Johne’s, mastitis, plus foot and leg health can present many challenges to improving herd health.

Taking time to evaluate your vaccination program and observing your methods of pest and parasite control can also be beneficial. Furthermore we need to watch for teat lesions, and spend time on general reproductive health.

Management. What do we consider under management? All items listed above are management concerns, can there possibly be more? Starting with herd management, should we consider milking heifers before they freshen? How are our financial records?

How does our farm look when compared to Dairy Excel’s 15 Measures of Dairy Farm Competitiveness? Are we happy with our business and organizational structure? Do we have the farm family estate plan in place? Is our labor management planning working? Are we finding, hiring, and keeping good labor? Did you enjoy your last two-week vacation away from the farm?

Other concerns. The last resolution is to have a plan for nutrient management. Can we have a manure nutrient management plan in place by years end? Do we dispose of contaminated milk properly and are we meeting good water quality and stream management guidelines. Do we have our mortality plan in place, possibly using composting? Additional concerns might be the waste storage facility or waste handling system and having good odor control.

I hope checking off completion of your resolutions means a bigger milk check. Your final resolution should be to attend the Northeast Ohio Dairy Management Conference, March 21 at Raintree Country Club in Uniontown. Bring your list and we will discuss your progress.

(Send comments or questions in care of “Farm and Dairy,” P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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