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Feeding Practices

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Erik BotermanHerbert BucholtzDept. of Animal ScienceFeeding, nutrition, and herd management practices all have a great impact on milk production, herd health, and farm profitability. In April, 2004, DHI data indicated that 35 dairy herds in Michigan had rolling herd averages (RHA) greaters than 29,000 pounds of milk. We conducted an on-farm survey with 18 of the 35 herds from late May to early July 2004 to identify feeding, nutrition, and herd management practices used in those herds. The objective of the survey was to help explain how those herds achieved their high DHI milk pro-duction. The results of the survey indicate that many of these herds’ owners and herdspersons made feeding and other herd management details a priority. Survey MethodsEighteen Michigan Holstein dairy herds with a RHA greater than 29,000 pounds of milk for the April 2004 DHI test date were selected randomly as survey participants. Feed, nutrition, and herd management practices were examined based on yearly RHA for milk production and herd size. The selected herds were assigned to four categories based on herd size: fewer than 250 cows, 250 to 500 cows, 500 to 1000 cows, and greater than 1000 cows.From late May to early July 2004, we visited all seleted herds. The herd owner or herdsperson assisted in completion of the survey form and data were validated. In addition, during the visit we had the opportunity to observe specific or unique feeding and herd management practices employed by these herds, and to record comments from the herd owners and herdspersons as to why they had implemented certain herd management practices. Permission was obtained from the herd owners to access and use their DHI herd records. The survey herds’ DHI RHA for their July 2004 test date, averaged 29,989 pounds of milk with a range of 28,551 to 33,419. The nutritionists for the herds provided diet printouts for lactating and dry cow groups. The printouts were used to determine feedstuffs used in diets and the nutrient composition of diets. All herds were fed a totally mixed ration (TMR). DHI Herd InformationA number of questions pertaining to herd size, percentage of cows in milk, milking frequency, age, and other general herd information were asked. Results were compiled and compared with the mean values for all 648 Michigan herds Feeding Practices Survey of High Producing Herds in Michiganhttp://www.mdr.msu.eduMichigan Dairy ReviewPermission to reprint or translate and reprint from Michigan Dairy Review is granted provided that the intended meaning is not changed and that explicit credit is given to the authors and publication source. If the original article is adapted, paraphrased, or changed in any other way please send facsimile (517-432-0147) of the new version to the Managing Publisher for verification of meaning and approval. As a courtesy, please send a copy of the reprinted article to the Managing Publisher (Dr. David Beede, Michigan State University, Department of Animal Science, 2265K Anthony Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824-1225). Product and service names are used only for the sake of clarity and in no way imply endorsement over similar products or services which may be just as effective. MSU is an Affirmative-Action Equal-Opportunity Institution. MSU Extension programs and materials are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status or family status.First published April, 2007 in the Michigan Dairy ReviewDepartment of Animal ScienceMichigan State University2265L Anthony HallEast Lansing, MI 48824517.353.4570 p.517.432.0147 [email protected] 1. Number of lactating cows per free stall.Group Average Min MaxPost-fresh 1.02 0.67 1.25High-producing 1.14 0.94 1.47Mid-lactation 1.18 1.08 1.47Low-producing 1.10 0.73 1.361st lactation 1.16 1.05 1.44Ta-ble 2. Feed bunk space for lactating cows, ft/cow.Group Average Min MaxPost-fresh 3.12 1 2.66High-producing 1.67 1 2.69Mid-lactation 1.79 1.36 2.08enrolled in DHI. The RHA and peak milk, as expected, were the most no-table differences between the 18-survey herds compared with the averages for all DHI herds in Michigan. Of the 18 herds surveyed, 15 herds milked three times daily and three milked two times per day. Other DHI herd management items such as days in milk and milk fat percentage certainly contribute to the 18 herds’ high production but no single DHI measure alone was greatly different when compared to all the DHI herds in Michigan. DHI annual herd turnover for the 18-survey herds was also similar to the average for all DHI herds in Michigan and suggests that the surveyed herds’ high milk production was not the result of a higher cow turnover. General Herd Management InformationThe number of cow groups varied between herds with the larger herds having more groups. This was expected. The criteria used to determine the assignment of cows to groups also varied, with reproductive status being the main criteria for assigning cows to groups. The average number of lactating cows per freestall for all herds was 1.12 cows per stall (Table 1). However, the maximum stocking density for lactating cows was 1.47 cows per freestall and this occurred mainly in the larger herds with newer facilities. The stocking density “over-loading” by some of the herds was an interesting observation and greater than reported by Shaver and Kaiser (1).The average feed bunk space for lactating cows was 1.72ft per cow for all groups on the day the herd was visited (Table 2). Feed bunk headlocks for the lactating cows were used in five herds and not used in thirteen herds. Among the herds with greater than 500 cows only one herd used feed bunk headlocks. Feeding Management InformationThe number of feedings per day to the lactating cow groups varied between one and six times per day which is similar to that reported by Shaver and Kaiser (1). This was influenced by facility layout, feed bunk capacity and herd size. One herd had feeding six times per day due to elevated feed bunks with limited feed holding capacity. Herd size, group, mixer capacity, labor availability and feeding logistics influ-enced the number of feedings per day on individual herds. The average number of feed push-ups per day was 5.8, ranged from 2 to 12 times and was not influenced by herd size.


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