Keep Milk Components Strong
Virginia A Ishler
Maintaining strong levels of milk fat and milk protein are important to animal performance and for optimizing milk income. So far milk price is averaging well over $1.00/cwt higher compared to the same time last year. Based on the Class III milk price projections it appears this trend will continue into the fall.
If pounds of milk components can be maintained in excess of 5.5 pounds per cow on average, then theoretically milk price should get a boost, and herds can capitalize on enhanced milk income. The challenging time, especially for milk fat, is during the spring and summer months when temperature and humidity rise. It is never too early to start strategizing how to avoid a slump in milk components.
There are a couple of scenarios that can occur over the next few months that jeopardize milk fat and protein. The number one culprit is anything that compromises dry matter intake. Cows consume pounds, and reduced intake can impact the amount of fiber and energy the cow is receiving.
Another scenario that can depress milk fat is herds utilizing a lot of corn silage and high moisture grains. If starch levels in the ration are high and it is highly digestible, then this can result in subclinical acidosis. This situation can become worse when heat and humidity increase, which decreases dry matter intake and subsequent fiber intake.
Another wrinkle can be added fat either from oil seeds or bypass fats. Bypass fats, depending on the inclusion level, can decrease intake adding complexity to the problem.
The question asked every year at this time is: “How can milk fat depression be corrected?” The smarter question would be: “How can milk fat depression be avoided?”
There is no simple solution to avoiding problems with components, however, focused management and monitoring can go a long way to quickly resolve the issue.
Action plan for maintaining strong milk components.
Goal – Maintain milk components greater than 5.5 pounds through September.
Step 1: Review herd performance from previous year to determine when problems start occurring with either components or production.
Step 2: Working with the feeder and nutritionist, start the conversation on strategies that can be implemented to off-set depressions in components and/or production.
Step 3: Develop a schedule for monitoring body condition score and bulk tank information. Depending on what the data is showing, schedule routine meetings to review results and possible changes to reverse any negative results.
Step 4: Check fans and misters for proper operation. For pastured cattle have a back- up plan if the heat and humidity are keeping cows from grazing.