Would your herd be more profitable with 5% fewer cows?

As herd sizes have increased there have been fewer opportunities to cull the bottom 5% of cows; these could be problem cows for mastitis, fertility or lameness, or just the lowest yielding cows.

The initial reaction to having fewer cows is that total milk sales will be reduced but fixed costs will remain the same; therefore, it is not a sensible strategy.  However, consider what the effect will be on the remaining 95% of cows.  They will have more feeding space and the cow housing buildings may have better air quality if there is a lower stocking rate.

The data below is from the SRUC By-Products Select group.  The average 305-day milk production is 10,544 kg/cow, ranging from 6,282 to 12,277 kg/cow.  First lactation heifer yields have to be increased by 15% to give a fair comparison with older cows.  (For more information about the dairy systems work, from which these numbers come, see the blog of 6th July 2015 'Dairy data: dairy systems research'.)

Culling the lowest yielding 5% of cows would reduce total milk produced by only 3% and the herd average would increase to 10,712 kg/cow.  The remaining 95% of cows would need to produce an extra 388 kg/cow of milk to bring the total milk production back to the original level.

On some farms where everything is working fine, reducing herd size is not a sensible option. However, on many farms this is worth considering, especially if it is relatively easy to identify the cows which should be culled.

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