Dairy productivity and health increasing

Dairy cow productivity, milk yield and quality is increasing, shows an analysis of 500 NMR recorded herds in the latest University of Reading annual Key Performance Indicator (KPI) report for the year ending August 2015.

The report compares 32 health, fertility and production parameters from a cross section of 500 black-and-white herds recorded with at least two years of full NMR records. Many herds remain in the sample year on year with 92% of herds included in both the 2014 and 2015 analyses.

Improved health and fertility parameters have contributed to an increased median 305-day milk yield for the year ending August 2015 of 7,905kg, an increase of 505kg since 2010. “The average yield achieved by 25% of herds is 8,813kg,” notes report author Dr James Hanks.

“Particularly important, in view of its impact on herd efficiency, is the improvement in lifetime daily yield with an increase in the median from 10.5kg/day in 2010 to 11.9kg/day in 2015. The current target, set by the top 25% of herds, is 13.9kg/day.”

Somatic cell count (SCC) parameters show similar positive trends. Dr Hanks draws particular attention to the reduction in the numbers of chronic high cell count cows – those with consecutive cell counts above 200,000/ml – maintained in the 500 NMR herd sample.

“The percentage of chronic cows kept in herds has decreased every year since the report was first published in 2010, he continues.  “This is very encouraging, as the chronic cows are the reservoir of infection and their number is strongly correlated to the herd cell count. The number of herds where chronic cows make up more than 15% of the cows milked has nearly halved from 41% of herds in 2010 to 21% of herds in 2015. This has to be the consequence of better herd health management.”

There has also been a reduction in calving interval. “The median level, or level achieved by half the herds, for cows served by 80 days after calving has increased from 46% in 2010 to 57% in 2015,” notes Dr Hanks. “While conception rate has remained almost unchanged, producers are serving cows earlier. Heat detection, measured by the percent of inter-service intervals that equate to one oestrus cycle, has also improved. This means that cows that do not hold to first service are getting more chances to conceive. As a result, the percentage of cows pregnant by 100 days has increased from 26% to 32% since 2010.

“This also explains much of the 14-day reduction in median calving interval, from 424 days to 410 days. One in four herds now achieves a calving interval of 396 days or less.” Culling rates have remained largely unchanged at 24% of cows/year.

“Improvements in lifetime daily yields are the result of better health, fertility and production across the herd. Producers and their advisers should be encouraged by these trends. The target, achieved by the top 25% for each parameter, provides realistic and achievable goals for the industry,” Dr Hanks concludes. “This information can be used to identify strengths and weaknesses and where improvements can be made to help improve efficiency in a cost-effective way.”

Data from the KPI report is used by producers, advisers and vets to benchmark individual herd performance for 32 parameters against that of the 500 study herds as part of NMR’s InterHerd+ dairy management program. 

Posted on February 29, 2016 and filed under Livestock, Animal Health.