As were milking cows tonight we discovered something exciting...we filled our bulk tank (the stainless steel tank we store our milk in) was filled to the TOP!!! In fact we spilled a little milk out the sides of the tank and on to the floor. We have a tank that holds about 1650 gallons of milk. Each of our 84 milking cows make over 10 gallons on milk each day!!!! We are VERY excited about this good news....as you can tell! Our milk flows into this tank and is cooled to about 38-40 degrees. We hold the milk for 2 days and then it is picked up by a tanker truck from our local creamery. Now, as a result we will need to have the tanker truck pick up our milk every day to ensure that we will not have to lose anymore milk to the floor. Needless to say it was a good night tonight. This increase in milk production can be attributed to a variety of things. The first thing is a change in haylage (chopped fermented alfalfa stored in a silage bag) and an increase in the number of fresh cows.
The change in feed has been awesome! The cows LOVE the new bag of haylage! We opened the bag that contains alfalfa cut last May 2008. It is our best feed and we were saving it for the best cows to calve this winter/spring. Our goal is to produce the BEST quality feed possible. Better feed means that we can feed a higher percentage of our total diet as forage. Right now we average about 62% of the cows' diet as forage. The remainder of the diet is concentrates (corn, soybean meal, vitamins, minerals, and other "goodies"). With a higher forage diet we also keep our costs down. We have to purchase less concentrates if we can feed better quality forages. The other advantage to feeding more forage is that we can also increase rumen and cow health. More forage helps to make rumen microbes happy! Forage helps stimulate cud chewing, which helps the cows make buffer in their saliva-helping their overall health.
The addition of more fresh (recently calved) cows has also increased our total milk pounds. We have calved in about 25 cows in the last 2.5 months. These cows are all producing the most milk that they will produce in their 305-365 day lactations. A cow typically peaks at about 60 days into their lactations....our cows average about 67 days in milk. That peak is the highest amount of milk that they will produce, then they will decline until they are dried off (vacation time) and calve in with their next calf. Many of our cows are between 1-60 days in milk. These cows perform well and make lots of milk if they are taken care of post-calving. We do our darnest to make sure that they are off to a great start after calving. Every day for 10-14 days post calving we take our cows temperatures. We watch them eat, making sure they eat. We also monitor their personalities...making sure they are "bright eyed and busy tailed" every day. Cows should be eager to eat when they get fresh feed, so we always check them at feeding time. Overall cow health has been awesome this spring!
Our milk production is the result of all of the cows' hard work. We do not "push" our cows or force them to milk. We respect dairymen who use rBST, but we do not. We have always felt that we can manage cows to milk better, but we do see a place for rBST in the industry. Our cows milk naturally...we provide them the BEST feed possible, the BEST care possible, and the BEST love possible and in return the cows pay us in the bulk tank!