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Stocking density is not static

Pros and cons of increasing stocking density and the effects on production and marginal income.

Stocking density has been a common topic of conversation on dairies for many years. When tiestall barns were the norm in the dairy industry, we had “switch cows.” We had more cows than stalls, so we were required to “switch” cows from an outside or side pen to a tiestall to milk. Now with most cows living in freestall barns, we still experience a similar situation. Instead of measuring stocking density by the number of switch cows, we represent it as the percentage of cows compared to the number of stalls in a pen. If we have 120 cows in a pen with 100 stalls, this pen has a stocking density of 120%.

Overstocking is a term often used for any time the stocking density is over 100%. Across the industry, there are different philosophies and opinions to what is the most profitable stocking density. As with most things, the correct answer to the most profitable is “It depends.” More importantly, the correct answer changes over time.

Trent Dado

April 7, 2023



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