Winning with data
A dairy functions much like a sports team – it’s made up of many specialized players working together towards a common goal. Your veterinarian, nutritionist, breeder, banker and all other team members have to be aligned. Protocol changes, big management decisions, weather events, and more all function as individual plays that affect the outcome of the game—the profitability of your dairy.
Sometimes, though, when a team is underperforming and the cows’ stats are down with a high somatic cell count or less milk in the tank, we might see disruption on the team as everyone looks to find the weakest link. At this point the dairy, just like a coaching staff, can benefit from reviewing the game footage to examine the problem from every angle, determining what happened and when things went wrong.
Fortunately, we don’t need to wait until the game or season is over to make adjustments. With AgSource and VAS, dairies have the option for instant replay when we capture data through thorough event recording, DHI testing and the integration of information from connected technology.
Let’s take a look at peak milk, for example. Maybe it’s time to dig into our peaks because we’re unhappy with our milk output per cow at the bulk tank. With good data capture it’s easy to review our records to determine whether we lost a few pounds of peak in a specific lactation group, or across the board. From there, we need to determine our next play. It can be tempting to try to make a quick and easy fix, like increasing energy to the postfresh cows. However, we can increase our odds of winning by watching the tape and making the right call.
Our first angle might be to consider the impact of udder health and somatic cell. Has there been a change in fresh cow new infections or dry cures? An infected udder is like a player benched for injury—they’re on the team, but they can’t contribute at full strength. If a large portion of the herd is calving in with a high somatic cell count it’s likely to affect overall peak milk values—and a nutrition change isn’t likely to fix the issue.
Maybe udder health looks great—it’s time to try another angle. What have our ketosis levels looked like lately? Thankfully we have our KetoMonitor results to see if there has been a change. We can pair this metabolic data with inventory information to see if we have had a change in stocking density. Reproductive data from the last year can shed some light on body condition scores; did a breeding hiccup contribute to longer days in milk and some cows becoming overconditioned?
Upon further review of the numbers we might determine that the best move is to make a nutritional change. This full review of the numbers gives us greater confidence moving forward, and the whole team knows which numbers to watch ensuring we made the right decision.
When a team is down at halftime, it’s rarely due to a single player. Similarly, underperformance on the dairy usually traces back to the way small issues interact with each other and compound to create a bigger problem. It benefits every team member to use all of the data available after testday to perform a play-by-play review of each change that has occurred. Create gameplans that consider all the data at your disposal for winning results.