This page is about common Dairy problems on farm that we help people with on a daily basis.
Low milk protein and butter fat composition
This is generally caused by one of 3 things:
- Lack of energy in the diet.
- Animal Health problem.
- Rumen upset.
Cows are amazing animals, what you put in, you get out!! Far more impressive animals than any racehorse.
If it is a lack of energy in the diet it is a simple solution, feed more energy. But do it cost effectively. If you are feeding a high protein diet and your cows are milking large volumes then they will need a lot of energy to keep high milk composition in a large volume of milk.
- Consider feeding a lower protein but high energy feed such as Dairy MaxGrass nut. This is high in energy (containing 30% Maize) also high in fibre and high feeding value materials such as Beetpulp and Barley. A lower overall protein feed can stimulate lower volume production of milk but if combined with High energy it will stimulate higher milk composition in this lower volume.
- Feed more grass. The amount of farmers who do not have enough grass to feed their cows is huge. Where you have 12 hour grazing blocks try giving the cows access to an additional 12 hours of grass and see if they eat it. The vast majority of farmers who have done this find that the cows will graze the 12 hours that they were allocated all along and also a lot of the next days allocation of grass if they can. They are not being given enough grass to fulfil their potential! There is a huge hole in their diet that is not being fed either with grass or concentrate. 2 to 4 kilos of concentrate is not going to make up for a huge fodder deficit!
- Feed more concentrate to fill the energy gap or a higher energy feed than you are currently using. Does your current feed have a top 5 list of ingredients such as Maize, Barley, Soya, Beetpulp, Soya Hulls, Distillers or Rapeseed? It is frightening when we do an energy budget with farmers who think they are feeding enough at for example 2 to 3 kilos per head per day only to find they are short feeding by another 3, 4 and 5 kilos per head per day for the milk composition they want to supply.
- Acidosis in grass is a major problem with milk composition. This is caused by too much rapidly fermenting materials in the diet of the cow over a short period of time. This causes the PH of her Rumen to drop and Acidosis occurs. When this happens the cow goes off her feed, has a lower energy intake, becomes stiff in her joints, slow-moving, her dung becomes loose and her milk composition goes down. This is very common every year when cows go out on grass initially in spring and when they go onto second rotation grass. Feeding a high fibre feed such as our Dairy MaxGrass nut with a buffering agent and active yeast will help to alleviate this problem.
- Talk to one of our Ruminant Advisory team.
Animal Health Problems
The most common problems causing milk composition problems are:
- Rumen Fluke
- Liver Fluke
- Lice and Ticks
- Lameness and hoof infections
All of these either are parasites that live on the cows energy and cause her to have a reduced feed intake due to lack of appetite. Its estimated that a cow with a bad case of lice is using at least one kilo of compound feed per day to combat this.
Lungworm, liver fluke and rumen fluke are becoming very prevalent in todays grass based dairy system. A case of fluke will cost you serious lack of performance in terms of milk composition and body weight loss. An annual Dosing programme for all types of fluke is vital for any dairy farmer. Keep in mind when you dose for rumen fluke for example that the dose will only kill the adult fluke, it cannot kill the eggs ready to hatch in the animal. You must dose again 3 to 4 weeks later after these eggs have hatched and before they plant eggs of their own. If you do not dose the second time you will be back to square one again in a few months.
- Have a dosing regime and stick to it rigidly. Talk to your best vet about when to dose and with what.
- Remember to dose a second time within 3 to 4 weeks when dosing for fluke to kill the younger fluke.
- You will never eradicate all parasites, all you can do is reduce them to a manageable level.
- Be very careful when buying in new stock. Quarantine them until they have gone through a dosing programme.
- Talk to one of our Ruminant Advisory team.
This is a common cause for loss in performance. The rumen is a 50 gallon stomach that is tasked with taking in very hard to digest forage such as grass and preparing this grass for digestion. It does this by mixing the grass with large amounts of liquid and saliva and allowing billions of “good” bugs in the rumen to start the process of breaking down the cellulose in grass and silage. These bugs like a stable environment with a constant temperature and a stable almost neutral acid or PH level. When we introduce rapidly fermentable feed into the rumen it causes the PH level in the Rumen to become more Acidic. This drop in PH can kill off some of the billions of bugs in the rumen and hence we get a Rumen upset.
We often see Rumen upsets in cows put out onto lush leafy grass as this is rapidly fermentable material and causes a drop in Rumen PH.
Feeding crimped barley and straights in my experience can cause a lot of problems. It is vital when feeding high cereal diets that animals get consistent feed, have a fibre source such as straw and access to lots of clean drinking water. In theory it can work fine but all too often this falls down at farm level and problems occur. A simple change such as a farmer going away on holidays and a relief worker feeding the wrong level can have serious if not terminal side effects.
When we formulate our feeds we take great care to balance rapidly fermentable energy sources such as Barley, with slower to digest energy sources such as Maize. We use good fibre sources such as Soya hulls and Beet pulp to again balance the feed at the point of digestion. We also include rumen buffering agent and yeast to further help minimise the chances of a Rumen upset.
Solutions to prevent Rumen upset
- Do not change the diet drastically. Any change in diet should be done over a course of weeks not days.
- If you are feeding straights be very careful as to the level you are feeding and frequency that you are feeding it.
- Always have access to clean drinking water, if you would not drink it then it is not clean.
- Always provide a fibre source such as straw to animals. In most cases those that need fibre will eat it.
Losing excessive body condition
A common complaint on farm is cows losing body condition.
Cows lose body condition through restricted diet or through an underlying animal health problem.
In my experience farmers have become excellent at judging body condition scores over the last ten years. The only problem is that when it happens in your own herd slowly over a few weeks it can be gone quite far before you really see a problem. It usually is a neighbour or visitor calling to the yard that starts a conversation on body condition loss.
You would expect that body condition loss to be a huge problem in the 8 weeks after calving. However over the last few years due to fodder shortages most people have seen the value of feeding reasonable amounts of feed such as Dairy Max18 and Dairy Maxgrass to cows after calving and the benefits it brings in terms of Milk Yield, Milk Composition, Increased health and easier breeding.
When I am on farm visits to help with a problem with body condition it is usually a combination of feed shortage and an underlying parasite problem, a health issue such as pneumonia or BVD or rumen upset problem due to feeding excessive amounts of crimped grain or wholecrop. Unfortunately these problems are becoming more and more evident as the years go by.
- Watch body condition loss on a weekly basis. Try to be impartial in your assessment.
- Be aware that you may have to increase balanced feed volumes in terms of grass or concentrate to manage body condition loss.
- If the cows do not respond to balanced feed level increases you need to look into health problems fast. What you put in, you get out. If you put extra energy into the cow she should give it back to you in terms of milk or body condition. If she is not responding to extra energy intake then 99 times out of 100 she has a health problem.
- Have a base level of body score you would like your cows to be at for different times of the year and stick to it. Be impartial when scoring the cows.
- Talk to one of our qualified Ruminant advisory team.
Recommended products to reduce body condition loss are: Dairy Max18 on silage and lower quality grass and Dairy MaxGrass on second rotation grass. Both of these products are high energy, high PDI feeds with a high level of Digestible fibre, High Maize content, Rumen buffer and active yeast added as standard. Feeding adequate levels of these feeds in conjunction with good fodder or grass will help keep body condition score and promote good quality milk volumes and composition. “What you put in you will get out”