Coronavirus – how to improve the profitability of milk production?
The situation on the milk market as in many other agriculture industries is uncertain. Increasing skimmed milk powder and butter stocks in dairies warehouses doesn’t instill optimism for the future. In normal condition an excess milk production is exported; currently hampered and expensive transport causes that goods are left in countries and negatively affect the economic prosperity of milk market. Moreover, there are concerns due to milk prices for farmers will be reduced. Farmers will be forced to improve the profitability of milk production to break even. The effective herd management using dairy cows monitoring system is one of the ways to achieve that.
Farmers’ problems are accumulating
Nowadays dairy farms don’t keep a few animals; there are dozens or several hundred cows. Reduction in milk production will be very hard. In estimate expenses it is worth to find budget cuts to improve the profitability of milk production. The market situation will force to some changes, for example it will arise problems with seasonal workers who help cattle breeders with a daily basis. Who knows, how long coronavirus pandemic will last. Farmers will have to work with incomplete staff, because of quarantine period or illness of workers. Furthermore, this season could be the third in a row of agricultural drought, so farmers will use difference fodders and stability or constancy of daily diet will be disturbed. Dairy cows achieve high milk production results, but at the same time they are very sensitive to environmental conditions, changes in nutrition or welfare disorders. Cows require an individual approach and precise observation, but how to do it in limited personnel staff?
Dairy cattle occupational diseases
The high producing dairy cows are exposed on many harmful factors (slurry, disinfectants, humidity/moisture, microbes, high temperature). Cows have predisposition to diseases, which can be called dairy cows occupational diseases. These, in particular, include: mastitis, acidosis, ketosis, lameness, parturient hypocalcaemia/milk fever, left displacement of the abomasum. All of them cause economic losses, in particular if diseases have subclinical form.
Costs of treating diseases and milk production losses
The mastitis occurs in every cowshed. The cost of treating the clinical form of the disease is from 100 to 350 euros / cow per year, while the subclinical form of the disease is 110 euros / cow per year. Rumen acidosis causes losses, sometimes even greater than mastitis. The costs are estimated at 400-500 euro / cow per year. One of the most dangerous metabolic diseases is ketosis, which also costs a lot to the breeder’s pocket, on average 289 euros / cow per year. Lameness can be caused by – a sole ulcer, the cost of treatment of is 195 euros, or digital dermatitis up to 120 euros and foot rot average 110 euros /per cow. Parturient hypocalcaemia/milk fever is also a considerable cost, even 272 euros, and it is often just the beginning of the other diseases mentioned above. The record breaks left displacement of the abomasum, which cost of treatment is estimated at 390–630 euros/per case. Why do we properly point out these costs? Because we can significantly reduce them or avoid them at all!
How to prevent disease?
The answer is simple – carefully observing the herd. All of the diseases listed above are manifested by a decreased appetite, i.e. a decrease in feed intake and ruminating, prolonged lying down, less activity than usual, and increased body temperature. This information is obtained by monitoring the herd 24 hours a day using a herd management system. It will not detect a specific disease entity, because you always need a visit to the breeder and veterinarian in the barn. Monitoring the behavior of the cow will detect the characteristic symptoms of diseases up to 3 days earlier than the human eye will notice clinical symptoms and then it is often too late for treatment.
Effective insemination and healthy calf
Age of first pregnant of heifers 12-14 months, first calving at 22-23 months, maximum inter-pregnancy period up to 90 days, inter-calving period not exceeding 365 days and one calf a year – for a breeder … a perfect cow. However, is it feasible in herds of high-yielding cows, where the smallest mistake costs another liters of poured out milk? Problems with the reproduction of cows are another factor that directly affects the financial efficiency of farms. High-yielding dairy cows manifest heat less quickly and heifers appear notoriously silent, which we omit. We often spend two or three times more money on successful insemination (semen portions, veterinarian visits, oestrus synchronization), simply because it is difficult to determine the perfect moment of insemination on our own. Estimation of the cost of open days (inter-pregnancy period) is difficult as milk loss, lack of calf, additional veterinary interventions (hormones, preparations) and costs of culling cows due to infertility should be taken into account. It is assumed that the cost of maintaining cows with an inter-pregnancy period of over 120 days is three times higher than for those with an inter-pregnancy period of 30 to 60 days.
Detection of the heat that enables a dairy cow monitoring system can improve all breeding results, reducing expenses.
The situation on the milk market due to the outbreak of the coronavirus is uncertain and breeders must be especially careful and look after themselves and their loved ones. This is the time when we should limit visits of the veterinarian and bystanders on the farm, become independent of additional employees in the barn (who may be missed). Thanks to the cow behavior monitoring system, we can reduce nutritional disorders, expenses incurred for metabolic diseases, but also reproduction costs, thanks to effective heat detection and constant observation of calving time. In the situation where milk prices are reduced by dairies, breeders analyzing the costs incurred on the farm can find a solution by which they will minimize the expenses and thus increase profitability of the production.