Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.
Managing a Dairy Cow can be Challenging
The term "management" is used a lot in connection with agriculture. It refers to the way a farmer looks after his crops, animals, finances and future planning. The good farmer keeps a high standard of management and looks after his farm well. Management is a combination of knowledge (knowing the right thing to do) and attention to detail (being able to see in good time when something is wrong and being able to put it right).
Good dairy management takes time to learn; but it can make all the difference between success and failure of a dairy farm.
Management is very important with all cattle but it is most important with dairy cattle. All dairy cows are selected for milk production and have the genetic potential to produce well. In other words, they are capable of producing high yields and ought to be doing so. Whether they milk well or badly will depend on their management by the farmer. The heritability of milk production is 20% which is low. This means that 80% of the milk yield of the cow depends on how she is fed, milked and generally looked after by the farmer.
Management can be divided into two areas, concerning:
- The general health of the cows
- The production of the cows
Some of the Things that Affect the Health of a Cow
Dairy cattle should be free of ticks and this can be achieved by regular dipping. If your farm is located in an area where ticks are an issue, you will need to undertake scheduled tick treatments as part of your management procedures. Dipping can be carried out in a plunge dip or a spray race. The latter is much better for high yielding dairy cows as they are less likely to damage themselves, particularly on their udders. Ears and tails should be inspected for ticks and dressed by hand, if necessary, with tick grease or a hand spray. Ticks cause many diseases and cause great discomfort to cattle. Both disease and discomfort result in reduced milk yields.
While not undertaken by all farmers, it can be a good practice with dairy cows, using a stiff brush and a curry comb, maybe once a fortnight. It keeps the animals looking clean but, perhaps more importantly; it allows the herdsman to inspect the cows closely while he is brushing them. He can see and remove any ticks which the animals have picked up since the last dipping. He can also see small wounds or abscesses in the animal and dress these with disinfectant or healing oil. Grooming accustoms young cows to handling and builds up trust between milker and cow. There is also good evidence to suggest that grooming promotes better milk yields.
Dairy cattle are normally kept in yards or grazed in paddocks during the summer. They are well fed and not allowed to graze in wet areas where they would pick up liver flukes. Dairy cattle should have plentiful supplies of clean water available to them at all times. Because of their grazing regime, dairy cattle should not pick up many worms or flukes so they do not need to be dosed very often. A drenching for worms at the beginning of the rains can be carried out. Milking cows should not be drenched for liver fluke unless absolutely necessary as the medicine affects the milk and prevents it from being sold for at least three days. In general, dairy cattle should only be drenched against specific illnesses such as scouring, bloat or ketosis.
Depending on the area, some routine injections are given to dairy cattle. Young stock are injected against Contagious Abortion, Black-leg, Ephemeral fever and Leptospirosis while cows and bulls should be vaccinated against the venereal disease, Vibriosis. Normally, animals are injected against such diseases as Rabies, Anthrax, and Foot and Mouth only if cases have been reported in the area.
The aim of the farmer with a dairy herd should be to see that his cows produce a calf each year giving a Calving Index of 365 days (The Calving Index is the time in days between the cows “calving down” and producing the next calf). This is not easy to achieve and good farmers are happy with a Calving Index of below 390 days. If a Calving Index for a herd (i.e. the average of all the calving of all the cows in the herd) is over 400 days, the herd has an infertility problem and the cows are not conceiving properly. They are spending too much time as dry cows during which time no milk is produced.
The ideal is for a cow to calve down, milk for ten months, have a dry period of two months and then calve down again. Cows normally come on heat every 21 days after calving and then every 21 days after that until they conceive
If you are interested in learning more about how to run a successful dairy cattle farm.
If you are interested in improving your knowledge of dairy cattle management and care.
If you want to improve your job prospects and career prospects in dairy cattle management.
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