September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.


By Jim Bennett- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Every year or so our practice collects data from some of our free stall herds for a benchmarking project. We use free stall herds since they tend to be large, and thus we can get a fairly large number of animals into the data set without surveying a lot of herds. The data are collected from Dairy Comp 305 and put into a spreadsheet to compare individual herd performance and to establish ranges and averages. Benchmarking is somewhat controversial because on the one hand it really does not matter to an individual farm how other farms perform. To increase profitability each farm needs to remove their specific bottlenecks, even if their own performance in a particular area is well above average. On the other hand, benchmarking shows us what is possible, and thus may be helpful in establishing goals.
This year we had 19 herds in the data set; they ranged in size from 150 to 2,000 cows. The average (mean) size was around 600 cows. Seventy percent milked three times daily and 50 percent used Posilac. We examined around 100 indices in the areas of culling and inventory, reproduction, youngstock, milk quality, production, health and milk culture results. Today, I thought I would share some selected results. Be aware that the value you read in any benchmarking survey may vary from the same value for your farm because it may have been collected from a different data set or may have been calculated differently; thus you must use caution when comparing against your herd. Nevertheless, hopefully you can find something useful, or at least interesting in the results.
Cow herds grew by three percent, while youngstock herds grew by seven percent. Average culling (annual culls divided by average 12 month herd size) was 39.6 percent. Culling of the dairy herd has increased over the last few years, which probably explains lower growth in cow herd size compared to youngstock herd size. Average herd age is also younger, at 45 months, than in previous years, which is also likely due to increased culling. On average, the ratio of youngstock to cow inventories was 101 percent.
Stocking density (average number of lactating cows divided by free stall and bedded pack spaces) averaged 119 percent, with average inches of bunk space of 20.2. Stocking density and bunk space ranged from 70 percent to 162 percent and 14.6 inches to 34.15 inches, respectively. The average death rate (deaths divided by average herd size) was 5.5 percent. Twenty seven percent of culls were in the first 60 days of calving, and 10.8 percent of the herd was culled in the first 60 days of lactation.
Twinning average was six percent. Ten percent of the herd, on average, became pregnant (cows and young stock) per month. Pregnancy rate was 21.4 percent for all cows, 24.2 percent for lactation one and 20.2 percent for lactation two and up. Average days open was 116. Conception rate was 36 percent; service rate was 60.6 percent; and calving interval was 398 days.
DOA rates were 5.9 percent, 6.6 percent, and 5.5 percent for all cows, lactation one and lactation two and older cows, respectively. On average, 2.7 percent of calves died before 30 days of age, and 5.2 percent died up to calving. The young stock pregnancy rate was 23 percent with a conception rate average of 57 percent.
Herd linear score averaged 2.4; new clinical mastitis cases per month were 1.8 percent of herd size; total clinical cases were 3.9 percent. Percent new infections per month were 7.9, while percent chronic infections per month were 11.3. The average SCC (DHIA) was 230,900.
Herd average 305ME for lactation one, two and three cows was 25,844, 27,240, and 25,776 pounds, respectively. Average daily milk production per cow for the same groups was 75.4, 88.6, and 92.7 pounds, respectively.
Average rate (cases divided by number of calvings) of DA, retained placenta, and milk fever were 2.1 percent, 3.4 percent, and 1.7 percent, respectively.
On average, 32 percent of milk cultures yielded no growth; 1.9 percent were Staph. aureus; 2.6 percent were Prototheca; 7.1 percent were E. coli; 9 percent were Klebsiella, 16.5 percent were coagulase negative Staph. 24.3 percent were Streptococci and Enterococcus, and 6.5 percent were other pathogens.
Each year, I am amazed at how well farms do in many different areas. I am also surprised at some of the opportunities for improvement found on individual farms. Managing information means measuring, evaluating, making changes, and then measuring again. Benchmarking can help in that process.
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