Dairy Farm Management

On day-to-day dairy farm management and consultation, Al Barkah focuses on the economic side of dairy farming by working with dairy farmers on general farm management and other farm management practices. Areas of management which are of prime focus for the dairy farmer, which includes the following:-

  • Nutritional management
  • Management according to age of animal
  • According to physiological stage of animal
  • According to the season (Hot and cold)
  • Health management
  • Production management  
  • Record keeping management
     

Nutritional Management:-

Dairy nutrition is essential to understand because the nutrient requirements of dairy cows at various stages of lactation are different. For fulfilling their requirements combination of various feed ingredients in a cost-effective manner is essential to run the successful dairy farm.  

Use feeding management strategies to improve feed dry matter intake (DMI) and milk production.

Feeding management tips are:-

  • Feed grain meals of less than 4 kg of grain per feeding
  • Feed grain in several small meals daily rather than two large ones, especially in hot weather
  • Feed protein supplement after or with the grain meal
  • Feed a forage meal 1 to 1 1/2 hours before a grain meal
  • Combine forages (Eg. haylage plus silage) or feed computerized formulated ration.
  • Have fresh feed available in bunks or mangers after milking time
  • Adapt feeding strategies to the eating behavior of your animals
  • Clean mangers and bunks daily especially in hot weather
  • Clean water bowls and troughs frequently
  • Provide at least 60 cm (2 feet) of bunk space per cow
  • Allow cows access to feed for at least 22 hours of the day
  • Healthy, contented cows eat more feed
  • Frequent foot trimming will improve cow mobility and intake.
  • Mineral licks and/or mineral supplements are an important part of the animal's diet.
  • Moldy feed or feed stored in the same area as pesticides and other contaminants can transfer dangerous toxins to the milk must avoid using it. Use high quality feed which have all necessary nutrients in proper proportion according to the requirement of animal.
  • Neutrional management directly effects the production of animal and ultimately your profit. There is a high need to manage the feed according to the animal’s body requirement because at different stage of the life animals require different nutrients in different proportions.
  • Dairy animals have high nutrition requirements compared to animals raised for meat.
  • Balancing a ration completely is the only way of designing a proper feeding program. 
  • Improper nutrition can lead to lower milk production or lower quality milk. Balanced ration formulation is the science which is handled by the nutrition specialists and veterinarian’s with the help of computerized ration formulation which you can only get by consulting the specialists.
  • Further information can be given on your demand.

 

  • Management according to age of animal :-
   
  • Health care of dairy cattle can be best described by age and state of the animal as set out in the following sections.
  • Newborn calf:

First three days:-

  • The newborn calf needs to be cleaned with dry a towel or clean and dry hay. This will stimulate respiration and blood circulation. 
  • Remove slime from the nose and mouth to assist breathing and holding up the rear legs of the calf, let the head hang down to release any water in the lungs, mouth or nose. 
  • If the navel is too long, cut it and leave two to three inches from the stalk then dip the navel in tincture of iodine to prevent local infection. This procedure is important for prevention of navel-ill (omphalitis) and helps the umbilicus heal quickly. 
  • Feed the calf with colostrum within one to two hours after birth. The optimum time for absorption of antibodies through calf’s small intestine is in the first six to eight hours. Colostrum should provide the calf with 10 to 15 per cent of its body weight. It is essential that the calf receives enough colostrum during the first 12 to 24 hours to prevent early infection. The colostrum is high in nutritive value; it contains antibodies IgG and IgM from the cow’s immune system which form passive resistance to many infections.
  • In general, removal of the calf from the dam should occur after calving to the isolate pen which should be dry and clean. Straw for bedding must be clean and dry and should be changed regularly. In some regions rearing crossbred dairy cattle, the owner leaves the calf to suck milk directly from the dam during the first three to four days before being separated from it.

 

  • Feeding with whole milk is expensive so milk replacer is used for routine feeding, which is twice a day. Bucket feeding is commonly used it should be cleaned well between uses to avoid digestive disorders due to poor hygiene. 
  • Train the calf to take concentrate and roughage at about one week of age. Solid food stimulates rumen development. In the pen, clean water must be available at all times.
  • Calves are numbered using an ear-tag or tattoo. Removal of extra-teats could be done in the first weeks. 
  • Common health problems during this period are omphalitis (navel-ill), diarrhea (scours), respiratory infection (pneumonia) and arthritis. One month of age to weaning (3–4 months) 
  • Calves should be dehorned at one to two months of age. 
  • All female calves should be vaccinated against brucellosis (S19) at three to eight months of age. 
  • Weaning should take place at about three to four months of age or when the calf is able to eat roughage and concentrate of more than one kilogram per day or at calf body weight between 80 to 90 kg (depending on the breed). 
  • De-worm the calf against internal parasites such as roundworm, tapeworm and flukes. Also, eliminate external parasites such as ticks by spraying. 
  • In this period problems to be aware of, are parasites, bloat and arthritis.

 

  • Calves 4–12 months of age:-
  • Vaccinate against FMD (foot-and-mouth disease), hemorrhagic septicemia and/or anthrax every six months.
  • De-worm against internal parasites such as roundworm, tapeworm and flukes, also eliminate external parasites such as ticks, by spraying.
  • In this period problems to be aware of include parasites, tick fever, pneumonia, diarrhea, bloat and arthritis.

 

  • According to physiological stage of animal:

Heifers 12–18 months of age (estrus and pregnancy):-

  • Record the growth rate for which should not be less than 270 kg in crossbred or 300 kg in pure-bred cattle at first service.
  • Take blood for brucellosis and test it.
  • Vaccinate against FMD (foot-and-mouth disease) and hemorrhagic septicemia every six months.
  • De-worming should be carried out every six months.
  • Heat detection should be carried out to determine the right time for artificial insemination and use of selected semen in accordance with the breeding plan of the region or farms.
  • Heifers requiring repeated insemination (more than three times) need to be checked by a veterinarian.
  • Heifers over 18 months old and/or weighing more than 270 kg which have not shown signs of estrus need to be checked by a veterinarian.
  • Pregnancy diagnosis should be done on each animal at 45 to 60 days after the last insemination.
  • Common health problems that occur during this age are tick fever, and other infectious diseases and parasites.
  • Pregnant heifers – prepartum (24–36 months)
  • Feed with good quality roughage and give concentrate as a supplement to pregnant heifers in poor condition.
  • Mineral supplement can be used for pregnant heifers to prevent metabolic diseases such as

milk fever.

  • Vaccinate against FMD, hemorrhagic septicemia and other diseases as a vaccination program in the dairy region.
  • De-worming for external and internal parasites should be carried out routinely. Signs that the cow is approaching parturition are that it becomes uneasy and separates from the herd. Signs of calving include enlargement of the udder and belly, and discharge from the vulva.
  • In this period, one must be alert for heifers mastitis (mastitis before calving) and abortion.
  • At parturition:-
  • The owner needs to prepare the calving area which should be clean, dry, quiet and isolated to keep the prepartum cow close for the owner to notice and provide help if the cow shows signs of difficulty during the birth.
  • Signs of calving include enlargement of the vulva, distention of the teats and udder, loss of ligaments at the side of the tail-head, and restlessness. Other indicators are a marked increase in the amount of mucous, cervical seal liquefication and increasing frequency of abdominal and uterine contractions.
  • If delivery is determined to take longer than 24 hours and the allantoic sac has not protruded, the cow will require assistance from a veterinarian.
  • If there has been no expulsion of the fetus or any contractions for more than two hours after the rupture of the allantois sac, veterinary assistance will be required.
  • During this period, there is the possibility of milk fever, uterine prolapse, or downer cow occurring.
  • After calving: seven days postpartum
  • Natural expulsion of the fetal membrane should occur three to eight hours after calving or within 12 hours. If the fetal membrane is retained over 12 hours, the cow will require assistance from a veterinarian.
  • Milk colostrum and feed to calf as soon as possible (within six hours).
  • Remove the fetal membrane from the calving area or pen floor, clean the pen and the rearing area of the dam to reduce risk of infection by flies.
  • Feed the cow with good quality and quantity of food which is palatable because in this period the cow has less appetite and may remain stressed from delivery.
  • During this period, there is the possibility of retained placenta, metritis, milk fever, uterine prolapse and mastitis.

 

  • Be aware of weight loss after parturition which is a sign of insufficient energy in the diet.
  • Try to group cows for feeding and management according to their milk production.
  • One month after parturition check the reproductive tract for uterine involution, metritis and ovarian functions.
  • The cow should show signs of estrus within 60 days postpartum; cows requiring more than three inseminations need to be checked by a veterinarian.
  • During this period, there are risks from mastitis, metritis, abomassal displacement, acidosis and ketosis.

 

  • Dry period:-
  • Check for pregnancy diagnosis once again before allowing the cow to dry off.
  • Drying-off should allow at least two months before the coming parturition to let the cow rest and prepare to calve. Prevention of mastitis during the dry period and after calving is important.
  • Maintaining the routine vaccination program.
  • Treat for internal and external parasites.
  • Hoof trimming can be done during this period.
  • Maintaining good feed management during the dry period.

 

  • Replacement heifers:-
  • Firstly, the health record of the purchased animals needs to be correct. Information on vaccinations and health problems as well as breeding certificates and individual cards from former owners are valuable. Quarantine may be necessary before new animals can enter a farm. Shipping animals creates stress, so cattle should be handled as gently as possible when loading or unloading. Shipment should be done in the shortest possible period of time and during the coolest part of the day. If there is any doubt about the health of the cattle their temperature should be taken before loading. It is more economical to treat feverish animals and delay shipment than to risk stress-induced illness or even death.

 

  • Culling:-
  • Smallholders like to retain all cows, even those with low milk production or which never conceive. Good herd management requires the culling of unproductive animals from the herd and replacement with improved stock. Unwillingness of some smallholders to cull according to good practice may be related to sentiment and distraction by other agricultural enterprises which limit attention to the production levels of individual cows. Serious dairy farmers will follow the practices of culling.

 

  •  According to the season (Hot and cold) :-
  • Comfortable cows exhibit minimal stress, consume more feed and produce more milk.
  • Winter can be a rough time for the milking herd. There can be freezing rain, snow, wind chill, very cold temperatures, warm ups, then cold temperatures again. All of these conditions can take a toll on the dairy cow and milk production.
  • However, dairy cows will do quite well in cold temperatures if they are dry, protected from wind, and properly fed and watered. 
  • Controlling heat stress is important to animal well-being in the hot days.
  •  Stress is continually imposed upon dairy cows to produce more and more milk. To maximize yield, it is imperative to keep cows as comfortable as possible and maintain feed intake for conversion into milk.
  • Heat stress negatively affects cow comfort, dry matter intake and subsequently milk yield thus, management strategies must be applied to counter hot/humid environmental conditions that can lead to mastitis and reduced milk quality.
  • Control is based on provision of fresh, cool, clean drinking water, and increased energy density of rations and use of feed additives, as well as the use of cooling mechanisms including shade, fans, sprinklers, tunnel ventilation, commercial coolers, cooling ponds, exit lane sprinklers and center pivots
  • Unfortunately, most cooling systems result in excess water in the cow’s environment, which, along with warm temperatures, provides ideal conditions for the growth of mastitis-causing bacteria. It must be handled by your management.
  • Thus, the cows surroundings must be kept as clean and dry as possible to reduce microbial growth. Additionally, the recommended premilking udder prep and milking time hygiene must be followed precisely to avoid new infections with environmental mammary gland pathogens.
  • Bulk tank monitoring is critical during times of heat stress to ensure that mastitis control practices are indeed working and that maximum milk quality is maintained. Finally, heat stress control practices should also be applied to replacement heifers, as these animals constitute the future milking herd and their well-being must be considered in an overall herd health program.     

 

  • Health management:-
  • Vaccination
  • Deworming
  • Metabolic and deficiency disease control.
  • Control of  ectoparasites
  • Mastitis control
  • Provide comfort to animal then animal shows good health and production.

     
  • Production management :-
  • The production of your farm is directly linked with your feeding management and strategy of feeding to your animal.
  • The feeding requirement of animal depends on the physiological stage of the animal.
  • So, for getting optimum production from your animal you must have understanding of physiological stage and requirement of nutrients at that particular stage of the animal.
  • Unfortunately most of the farmers have no idea about this type of management and face huge production losses just because of their unawareness.

 

  •  Record keeping management

Without record keeping successful dairy farming is not possible. Different types of records which should be kept at dairy farm are:

  • Record of Animal Strength with their age, Sex, Date of Birth, Date of purchase etc. 
  • Breeding Record
  • Production Record
  • Calf  Record
  • Feeding Record
  • Health Record
  • Mortality Record
  • Sale Record
  • Expenditures and Profit Record
  • Manpower Record

For successful record keeping, there should be some software or registers for different records