Science and History
Short Introduction to Science and History
The development of European agriculture is characterised by rationalisation of processes and intensification of production. For dairy farms this means producing milk more efficiently while milk prices decrease. The result is ever larger herds with increased milk production.
Increased milk production puts a significant strain on a dairy cow’s organism. High-yielding cows in particular are in the first weeks after calving unable to obtain the energy required for milk production from their feed, which negatively impacts on energy balance and thereby yield, health and fertility.
This means that the correct assessment of an animal’s metabolic status becomes an important factor, because stabilisation of the energy metabolism through feeding significantly contributes to preventing health disorders.
Body fat for energy storage has an important buffer function in stabilising fertility and health in particular during the early phase of lactation.
Yet intensive individual care to ensure sufficient ingestion of feed and energy is difficult to implement in today’s world of large herds and decreasing staff numbers manning the facilities.
Needed therefore are examination variables that can be monitored and implemented by way of simple and diagnostically conclusive processes that require as little staff as possible.
Familiar methods for assessing energy metabolism by way of determining body fat percentage under practical conditions are the more subjective body condition score (BCS) as well as measurement of back fat thickness for obtaining objective values.
Ideally taking body weight into account, this provides measurement series the evaluation of which by means of specially developed management programmes such as DSP HERDE enables inclusion of results from milk production checks, making them applicable to the targeted optimisation of feeding in the affected, freely selectable animal groups.
Properly applied and consequently conducted over the years, this offers a realistic opportunity for halting and reversing the current trend towards reduced fertility.
Summary of Results and Insights by Fa. Ahrhoff GmbH:
>> Optimal body condition in all stages of breeding and milk production means optimal lifetime productivity <<
- include young animals in measurement routine as early as possible
- consequently include animals in their dry period
- measure and weigh fresh cows daily
Condition assessment by way of visual BCS (body condition scoring) is carried out only on milking cows at irregular intervals. Also, BCS controls are frequently carried out only in the event of major fertility problems in the herd; dry cows, calves and young cattle are usually not monitored. Consequently, important influencing variables regarding lifetime productivity are lost without being used or not taken into account.
Objectives for improving lifetime productivity:
- Halve the current replacement rate of about 40%
- Reduce mortality rate of calves
- Fewer cows at same total productivity level
Optimal body condition results in:
- achieving good calving ease with fewer dead calves
- birth of vigorous breeding calves that double their birth weight by their 60th day of life (metabolic programming)
- fewer metabolic problems especially in the immediate pre- and postnatal period
- significant reduction of energy deficits at the onset of lactation and related issues such as foot problems, fertility disorders and mastitis
Focus areas and objectives:
- minimal variation of body condition also in high-yielding animals as a prerequisite for calving intervals of < 400 days
- 80-85 % of all cows pregnant on 150th day of lactation
- high lifetime productivity, i.e. > 35,000 kg of milk due to optimal fertility
by way of examination of
• body condition
• amount of feed intake
• milk check results including analysis of
- milk yield and contents
- ketosis (fat : protein ratio > 1.35 : 1)
- acidosis (fat : protein ratio < 1.05 : 1)
- liver function (urea; lactose)
- fertility (calving intervals)
• feed efficiency > 1 : 1.5
Outlook and Opportunities
- Use of back fat measurements in particular during the period of 40 days before to 60 days after the calving date improves the conditions for optimised fertility management.
- Only the electronic combination of back fat measurements with modern, computer-assisted management programmes provides the necessary data quickly and cost-effectively.
- Each day of reduced calving interval means between EUR 2.00 and EUR 2.50 extra yield per day for the farmer.
>> Optimised fertility management is the key to improving the longevity of dairy cows <<