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  • ZISK

For Want of Nail

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

I’m not much of a poet….. but a recent experience had me thinking a lot about a poem I was introduced to in Junior High literature class. It goes like this:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost.

For want of a rider the message was lost.

For want of a message the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

I was working with a dairy that had a lot of “weird” things going on. It started with retained placentas and metritis. As many hard-working nutritionists would do, I sampled the feed ingredients more frequently. I started pulling urine pH’s in the close up pen…… they weren’t bad. If anything, they were a little low. Dry matter intakes were not good at all. We began to ramp up the energy in the dry cow and close up rations. June was starting to get really hot…..what factor was the heat playing in all of this?

Fast forward a couple of weeks and we began to see weight loss and cases of ketosis in the fresh pen. A small percentage of loose cows were showing up through all the pens. We began seeing random cases of hemorrhagic bowel, even had a case in the close up pen. WOW! I didn’t think I was this bad of a nutritionist, but who knows…. maybe age was having its effects on me.

Over a long and worrisome weekend it dawned on me that maybe something screwy was going on with the mixer. I’d seen this before, why didn’t I think of checking it earlier? Early Monday morning I drove to the dairy and jumped into the vertical mixer. I measured the distance from the plow blade and the auger leading edge to the mixer wall. I snapped a couple of pics and sent them to the sales rep. Conclusion: the plow blades were completely worn out and the leading edge needed to be built up. A vertical mixer works by pushing the feed up the auger in the middle of the mixer and letting it drop back down the sidewall. If the plow blade is badly worn, it isn’t close enough to the side wall to scrape away the bottom feed and you get a large dead spot on the side wall all around the mixer. Usually the longer fiber hangs up here no matter how long you run the mixer. Upon delivery some cows get a LOT more grain and some cows get a LOT more fiber. Hence the cases of random acidosis and hemorrhagic bowel. We repaired the mixer that day.

This experience has given me new insight into poetry:

For want of maintenance the plow blade was lost.

For want of a plow blade the mixer was lost.

For want of a mixer the feed was lost.

For want of feed the cows were lost.

For want of cows the milk was lost.

For want of milk the check was lost.

For want of a check the dairy was lost.

And all for the want of a $150 plow blade!

While my poetic style may not inspire you, I hope my story inspires you to build a routine maintenance program for a rather inexpensive piece of metal that has more to do with the cow health and production on your dairy than any other item…… the lowly plow blade.

Doc’s Ruminations

Insights from Dr. Kevin Hoogendoorn, DVM, Creator and Owner of the ZISK dairy app.




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