Published March 05, 2014

Herd Management
and Milk Quality

Healthy cows have a direct correlation to milk quality.

It can be a daunting task to look at an entire herd and then wonder which cows are healthy, which have mastitis, which are losing weight, which are producing milk, which should be dried off, those needing to be sorted for the upcoming vet visit, will the antibiotic treated cows be milked into the tank, which cows are on heat and the list just goes on.

A management system eliminates all of this and tells you exactly which cow’s need attention and for what reasons. Your time can now be focused on the necessary cows, representing a manageable size, and the necessary actions to be taken. More cows are being milked and efficiency becomes a reality, helping you keep your finger on the pulse of daily events.

The question is, “Can farmers milk without a management system?” I guess the answer is yes, but not for long or they are not maximising the operational out-put in relation to time, effort and input costs. In order to stay on top of your game you need to know what is going on. With the tight margins in dairy farming the only way to make maximum profit is to farm on a macro level. This can only be achieved using a good management system.
Dairy farmers need to manage the expensive inputs such as feed intake of the cows. Without individual feeding you are guaranteed to over and underfeed the cows and this is profit down the drain. The way forward is fractionated feeding, once again by only feeding what is necessary; you do not need to feed a high protein to all the cows in milk and each cows individual needs are not the same. Then there is genetic potential and why overfeed cows that will never give a return?

These days if you are not using conductivity then you are missing one of the greatest benefits of a management system. Afimilk has been using conductivity since the beginning of electronic milk metering. This is a vital tool to manage mastitis and good udder health resulting in the best milk quality possible. 

Conductivity is an early warning system which allows cows to be treated and still be milked without losing milk production and maintaining milk quality at the same time. During a recent visit to New Zealand I could not help but notice that most farms are using some form of automation to get live information on conductivity and then react to this information in real-time.

Another useful tool is Afilab. This monitors milk quality and even has the ability to separate good milk from bad milk or choose milk according to predetermined criteria. Afilab can also determine the ration to be fed to the cow fairly as all the information is live and not weeks old.
Harvesting quality milk can’t be done on history. Live information is vital and the farmer can react on the information and improve on the cow’s health and quality of milk produced.

Management systems have sort and weigh facilities and this is linked to feed programs enabling the farmer to have the computer program adjust feed as necessary without his intervention therefore adjusting the food all the time according to the condition of the cow. Afimilk do a feed to weight to body condition score. This is by far the best system that offers the greatest result and takes care of the cows, keeping them in tip top condition throughout their lactation and lets her calve down in the correct condition setting her up to produce more milk in her lactation. Healthy cows are happy cows that produce quality milk.

Over time, the milk processor is demanding a higher quality milk and often milk with a certain amount of solids, especially when it comes to making cheese.

Due to the fact that milk is collected from many farms and then pumped into a silo, with milk from other farms at the factory, there is a great risk of a bad batch of milk contaminating other good quality milk. This is why the milk buyers are very strict and apply penalties for bad quality milk.
There are no cons to using a management system. I firmly believe that any dairy needs to be worked at and requires effort to make it successful. It’s a matter of directing this effort in the right direction.

Written by Murray Versfeld, Waikato SA