Technology helps combat udder health and milk quality issues
Innovative dairy technology continues to have a profound impact on dairy herd management.
By Ben Smink
New dairy technology makes it possible for producers to gather herd information like never before. For many, the challenge is no longer finding data, but learning how to use the information in practice. From nutrition and feed management to animal comfort and herd health, modern advancements are not only improving the lives of the cow, but the producer, too.
Technology is no longer the future of dairy; it is an integral part of today’s dairy. Rotating cow brushes increase comfort levels; automatic feed pushers provide constant feed; and automatic calf feeders feed calves as often as needed for a healthy growth. These advancements make it easier for both producers and cows to do their jobs, and do them well.
One advancement with growing acceptance includes robotic or automated milking systems (AMS), allowing more producers to increase profitability, milk quality, lifestyle and flexibility. Additionally, the technology provides a way to not only combat challenges, but also prevent them.
Seasonal changes create different challenges, making it increasingly important to gather information efficiently, and react quickly. For example, summer is always a more challenging time for mastitis, because of the higher temperatures. Many producers will face udder health and milk quality issues as we head into the hot summer months.
But, modern sensor technology and software solutions provide producers the opportunity to gain a better and timelier understanding on how to maintain udder health and milk quality.
Udder health and milk quality
Today’s technology ensures the supply of first-class milk. Milk can be continuously monitored per quarter, providing producers vital information on mastitis based on the combination of quarter milk yield, duration, color, temperature and conductivity.
Pennsylvania dairy producer Tedd Hoch said the technology helped his herd’s udder health by providing access to instant data, 24/7. Half of his barn is retrofitted with a Lely Astronaut robotic milking system and Time for Cows (T4C) program. The system organizes real-time information on a computer dashboard, providing a quick overview of herd performance and identifying attention cows.
The robotic herd somatic cell count (SCC) is approximately 250,000 cells/ml. The other half of his herd, milked in a parlor, has an SCC of 400,000 cells/ml, although both herds are housed in the same barn.
For Minnesota dairy producer Alan Meyer, the technology serves as an indispensable tool for herd health management. Meyer saw his herd’s SCC going from 500,000 cells/ml cell count to 250,000 cells/ml in a matter of days when they moved into a sand bedded barn. After introducing the Lely robots, the SCC went down quickly to 118,000 cells/ml.
Prevention is better than cure. Early detection of health issues prevents culling by identifying issues before they become too severe to manage, and therefore results in constant production, fertility and longevity.
This summer, stay on top of the udder health of your herd; give some extra attention to the bedding, ventilation and cleanliness of the cows, udders and milk system. But also use the right tools for early udder health detection.
• Ben Smink provides farm management support for Lely. Contact him via phone 608-698-7416 or e-mail BSmink@lely.com.