Production Pointers: CSI (Cow-Side Investigations)

CSI (Cow-Side Investigations)

August 4, 2009

What milk components can tell you about your herd

Your milk check not only provides a lot of information about your herd’s production, components and quality counts, but also gives you insight to monitor health and nutrition.


Healthy butterfat levels can be achieved with the right balance of forages and concentrates in the diet. When rumen bugs break down forage, they produce volatile fatty acids (VFAs). One VFA, butyrate, is used to synthesize half of the fat destined for the udder, which means high-quality forages can dictate butterfat levels.

• Low butterfat (<3.0%)

Rations high in energy from grain concentrates often cause low butterfat levels. These feeds bypass the rumen quickly and provide minimal nutrients for the rumen microbes. Adding forage to the ration can slow feeds from quickly passing through the rumen and allow for proper and complete breakdown by rumen bugs to boost VFA levels.

• Very high butterfat (>4.0%)

High butterfat levels are often seen shortly after freshening, which can be a sign of ketosis. While this is common in early lactation, monitor this group closely to ensure milk fat levels decline to normal level—between 3.5% and 4.0%—and production levels increase. This shows cows are using energy from the diet, rather than fat reserves, to meet production levels.


The right balance of ration protein and energy is needed to ensure optimal milk protein levels. A fully functioning rumen with a thriving microbial population can provide the essential amino acids and energy needed for enhanced protein production.

• Low milk protein (<2.8%)

Rumen bugs convert dietary protein to bacterial protein, which is the primary source of essential amino acids for the cow. Once converted, these amino acids can be used by the mammary gland to produce milk protein. Energy is needed to complete this process and without the proper levels of energy, amino acids are used as the energy source. This can reduce the supply of amino acids for milk protein synthesis.

In some cases, supplemental amino acids are needed to complement those produced by the cow.

Butterfat: Protein Ratio

In a healthy cow butterfat levels should always be higher than milk protein. If this ratio is inverted, meaning the percentage of milk protein is greater than that of butterfat, the most common cause is rumen acidosis.

The next time you get your milk check, evaluate butterfat and protein levels to ensure your herd is performing optimally and receiving nutrients needed to meet production potential. Work with your nutritionist to maintain and boost component levels, ensuring rumen health is optimized to allow you to reap the greatest component benefits.

Source: Dr. Elliot Block, Senior Manager of Technology, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition. Visit

Cow health: where milking, environment and cow comfort meet

During summer we often see small problems exacerbated, becoming much larger challenges. The milk quality trifecta – milking procedures, environment and cow comfort – plays a critical role in maintaining cow health and production throughout the summertime heat and all year long. Three critical areas to monitor include:

1) Manage your evaporative cooling. It’s critical to evaluate the combination of water from sprinklers and air from fans to eliminate excess water that will eventually reach the udder. This can be done by monitoring proper droplet size for the sprinkler, having a timer in place on your sprinklers, and providing enough properly placed fans for effective evaporative cooling.

2) Compromised udder health. Lowered dry matter intakes, less time lying down and more moisture in the cow’s environment all add together to reduce the cow’s ability to fight disease. Because the cow’s immune system is compromised, additional cases of mastitis may occur. By providing the proper comfort and a clean, dry environment, you can help cows fight bacteria by removing it from the environment and boosting immune response.

3) Remove the outside environment. Inside the parlor we’re focused on removing the environment from contact with teats to optimize milk quality and minimize the rate of new infections. To achieve this, focus on drying teat ends and keeping liner heads clean.

Source: Keith Engel is Sales Consultant – Hygiene & Supplies, with GEA Farm Technologies/WestfaliaSurge. Contact him via e-mail: To read the full article, visit

Elsewhere on

Industry News

Pfizer Animal Health launches ‘Externship Program’ for veterinary students, schools. The company works with veterinary schools to place first- and second-year students with beef and dairy cattle practitioners for four weeks. Pfizer Animal Health provides a stipend, as well as identifies veterinary clinics willing to mentor students. For universities that already have a veterinary externship program in place, Pfizer Animal Health provides matching funds. To read the full article, visit

New Products

Udder Tech introduces waterproof milking sleeve with thumb cover. This sleeve features an extra piece of material that extends the length of the sleeve over the hand and hooks around the thumb to anchor and stabilize the sleeve.  No more wet wrists or debris getting down inside the sleeve!  The Waterproof Milking Sleeve with Thumb Cover works best when worn with a glove on the hand also. Like all Udder Tech  milking sleeves, this sleeve features elastic and Velcro at the top of the sleeve to offer a perfect fit around the upper arm as well. For more information, visit