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0507 PD: Shape up your nutrition program in 10 minutes a day

Jim Linn and Jim Salfer Published on 09 May 2007

In 10 minutes a day, six days a week or one hour per week you can keep your nutrition program in shape and performing optimally. The following are key monitors to track and evaluate each week. If you follow these every week, changes or deviations are quick signals to you that something in your nutrition program or cow management has changed.


Day 1: Check dry matter (DM) of forages
Forage DM should remain relatively constant every week, if you did a good job at harvest. Use forage DM to monitor how well you did harvesting the forages. When forage DM varies more than 2 percent, adjust feeding amounts in the ration.

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Day 2: Plot milk production of herd
At least one day per week, plot milk production per cow for the herd on a graph where all employees can see it. The goal is to have a slightly inclining line. Any downward numbers require questioning why and finding an acceptable answer.

Day 3: Determine dry matter intake (DMI)
Calculate and plot the average DMI of the herd. The same as yesterday or last week is unacceptable! There should be a 1- to 2-pound deviation in DMI of the herd from week to week. The same amount every week could mean weighbacks are not being correctly accounted for.

Day 4: Get milk component analysis
Almost all milk plants have daily milk component information online. Check it once a week for changes. Fat percentage will be the most volatile and the best barometer of change. Anything over a 0.1 percent unit change needs investigating.

Day 5: Watch cud chewing
Take a 10-minute break and watch your cows. There is a wide range of chewing activity throughout the day. Are 35 to 50 percent of the cows lying down chewing? Are the cows that are chewing aggressively chewing at about 45 to 60 chews per bolus? If cows aren’t measuring up, check for ration sorting, then the particle sizes in the ration.

Day 6: Record calvings for the week and evaluate metabolic problems
At the end of each week, keep a score card on the number of cows that calved and the number of displaced abomasums (DAs), milk fevers, ketosis and retained placentas. Evaluate the percent of cows during the week with problems and not just the number. For example, three cows out of the 10 cows that calved this past week having a DA doesn’t seem as bad as the one out of three cows that calved the last two days. The problem is the same, it’s just our hectic daily life tends to minimize what happened last week and focuses us on the immediate.

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A simple, organized monitoring program done on a regular basis will keep you on top of your nutrition program and your nutrition program performing optimally. PD

—From 33rd Annual Midwest Dairy Expo Proceedings

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