Monday, March 9, 2015

The Results Are In!

We tested; we waited, and the results are here! So now what? How can we utilize the data reported from our very first DHI milk test? 

Since we already knew milk weights on test day, the item of immediate interest to me on the Sample Day and Lactation Report is Somatic Cell Count (SCC). SCC is composed primarily of leukocytes, or white blood cells, that are produced by the cow’s immune system to fight an inflammation in the mammary gland, or mastitis. Leukocytes increase as mammary system inflammation worsens, so a higher SCC indicates a higher level of bacterial infection. Because mastitis is tricky, it may be clinical (showing visible signs of infection) or subclinical (showing no visible signs of infection). Obviously the subclinical variety is what I am looking to the test to help me find for a couple of reasons. First, I want our cows to be healthy and comfortable. I can not treat what I can not see or do not know about. And then there are things called regulations and premiums. On the federal level, Grade A milk can not be sold with a SCC of over 750,000 cells/mL. While we are not in danger of that, it is always something dairy producers keep in the back of their mind. What we are excited about is most milk plants (including ours) will offer a premium for extremely low SCC levels as low SCC equals higher quality milk.

Of course, I am also interested in other data such as Fat and Protein percents on individual cows, days in milk (DIM) and reproduction status. All of these numbers, in combination with SCC, can assist in breeding and culling decisions in the future. In addition, I also look forward to the day, now that my Husband and In-laws know about it, that we can utilize breeding dates to conduct milk pregnancy tests

Woohoo - since it took me a while to publish this post, we tested again, and I convinced them to try the pregnancy tests on two of the cows we were wondering about. Two cows confirmed PG!! That was super simple, no extra work for us or the cows. You can bet we are doing that again. Look out AgSource, our 40 cows are going to set you right over the edge - you may have to hire another lab assistant for all of our samples! ;)

On the herd level, a Herd Summary report is generated and was also in the envelope. While the Milk Production section it is not too exciting on our current report with only one test date to plot on the charts and graphs, I look forward to seeing where we have been and where we are headed in terms of average test day milk, fat and protein, rolling herd average and peak milk trends. It is also interesting to see where we are as compared to the breed average. The back side is the Reproduction and Genetics section, along with the Inventory section. Data such as conception rates, service and pregnancy rates, DIM at first breeding and herd inventory is all available in easy to read, color-coded graphs.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what reports can be generated and data gleaned from the milk samples and reproductive data we supplied AgSource Cooperative Services. For a full listing of their DHI services, check out their website.

While our herd certainly has a way to go to get to my goals for it in terms of milk production and quality, we now have concrete numbers to base our decisions on. While it make take a little extra time milking on test day and scouring through the numbers, to me it is time well spent!

Author Brenda Brady is our Communications Specialist.  Brenda graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a degree in Agricultural Education.  She went on to teach high school agriculture for 13 years. Brenda grew up on a small Registered Holstein farm in central Wisconsin and now farms with her husband and in-laws.