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How will cows recover from avian influenza?

As I have visited dairy producers in the aftermath of the recent onset of avian influenza, a new concern has been noted. For most, if not all dairy producers, this episode is a new experience with many unknowns along the way. It should be noted that there were and are many varied management responses to the unprecedented milk loss on an individual cow basis. No matter if it is in daily milk weights or a monthly milk test, the marked drop and subsequent recovery in production is astonishing.

We dairy folks are “curve” thinkers. Many dairy metrics are nicely displayed in a curve to tell a good story about how the dairy is doing. Most notably is the traditional milk per cow graph we call the lactation curve. As we graphed average energy-corrected milk per cow for our clients weekly, it was dramatic to see the curves turn down when the herd became infected. Now, with much of this in our rearview mirror, we have seen the curve recover and hopefully return to previous levels.

This is mostly viewed on a per cow basis, but another curve that one could look at might be the total pounds shipped. We may see a similar drop but depending on how the dairy decided to respond to individual cow milk declines, it may not have returned to previous levels. This brings me to my potential concern. Is there a feeding strategy that best fits the needs of cows that dropped in milk and have now recovered?

Steve Martin

May 23, 2024



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