The Manager - July 2021

Troubleshooting the fresh cow pen

Robert Lynch and Margaret Quaassdorff

A smooth transition is necessary for successful lactation. Managers need to evaluate all components of their transition cow program to identify successes or where improvements are needed. A daily check of data can alert managers of an emerging problem. An evaluation of longer-term trends can help managers understand how well the transition program is working in general. To troubleshoot apparent problems in the fresh pen, start by looking at the cows, their housing, and the feedbunk.

Troubleshooting weaned heifers

Kathryn Barrett

Post weaned heifers are the foundation of the milking herd. Taking the time to troubleshoot heifer management pays the farm back in profitability. “How well you do in the heifer-rearing phase will pay you back later on. Really good milk producing cows start with the calves. The post weaning phase is where we tend to lose track of them. We can tend to lose ground. The hardest part is getting them weaned. If we have been successful up to that point, with just a little more management, we can get them through this next period,” said Rob Lynch, DVM, Cornell PRO-DAIRY, during an episode on approaches to evaluating a post weaned heifer management program in the PRO-DAIRY podcast series Troubleshooting Herd Health Issues on Your Dairy. (Episode 4:

Klebsiella mastitis - More than just another gram-negative

Paul Virkler

Klebsiella is becoming a more commonly isolated mastitis-causing organism on dairy farms across the Northeast. We have traditionally thought of the most common gram-negative organism isolated on dairies as E. coli, but over the last 20 years, that has changed on some farms. While there is always a range on each farm of how the mastitis presents, we hear from farms about two basic clinical presentations with Klebsiella. One is a very severe clinical mastitis with cows becoming systemically ill and with very poor recovery rates. The second is a less severe clinical mastitis but a number of these cows become chronically infected with an elevated somatic cell count (SCC).

Selective dry cow therapy: Antimicrobial steward ship can offer returns in appropriate herds

Amy Vasquez and Sam Rowe

A recent multi-site clinical trial by our group found that two selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) programs each used 55 percent less antibiotics at dry-off than blanket dry cow therapy (BDCT) without negatively affecting udder health in the next lactation. The first strategy involved use of microbiological culture to identify and treat any quarter-level infection at dry-off (“culture-guided SDCT”). The second used a computer-automated data-driven algorithm to select and treat only cows that were “high-risk” for infection at or after dry-off (“algorithm-guided SDCT”). Both strategies require necessary tools: an onsite laboratory with an incubator and consumables such as bacterial growth media, gloves, and inoculation swabs for culture-guided SDCT. Monthly individual-cow somatic cell counts and mastitis event data is necessary for algorithm-guided SDCT. Additionally, both strategies incur labor costs. Both require a small amount of time at dry-off to sort cows into those that will receive antimicrobial therapy and those that will not. Culture-based SDCT requires additional time prior to dry-off to sort cows and retrieve quarter-level milk samples, and to inoculate and read culture plates. The potential of SDCT to improve antimicrobial stewardship without negative cow or quarter-level impacts are certainly drivers for producers to select either of these strategies. Yet survey data in the U.S. indicates that most producers elect to use BDCT at dry-off. Could the extra labor costs or uncertainty around negative impacts create worry around the economic viability of the practice? Our group aimed to determine the net economic impact of these strategies at the herd level.

Benchmarking calf growth and performance on northern New York dairy herds

Casey Havekes and Lindsay Ferlito

The pre-weaning period is a vulnerable time for dairy calves and as a result, optimizing growth and health can be a challenge for dairy producers. Ensuring calves successfully transition through weaning, albeit important, can only tell us so much about a calf-raising program. It is equally important to quantify how calves are growing and performing to get the full picture of how successful a calf-raising program is. With that objective in mind, Cornell Cooperative Extension North Country Regional Ag Team (CCE NCRAT) recruited eight farms across the northern New York region to participate in a peer-to-peer discussion group focused on calf management. The discussion group was funded through the Dairy Advancement Program, which required us to meet on three separate occasions and to meet three specific milestone goals. Early on it was emphasized that the goal of the discussion group was not a competition, nor designed to rank the eight participating farms, but rather to encourage discussion, and for participants to learn from one another. The more specific objectives of the group were to: 1) measure transfer of passive immunity (TPI) among newborn calves, 2) calculate average daily gain (ADG) across the pre-weaning period, and 3) to determine the costs associated with each farm’s heifer-raising program. The group discussion consisted of eight calf managers/farm owners across northern New York, along with the two CCE NCRAT dairy specialists. Results from the first two objectives are described below. To ensure anonymity, participating herds were assigned a herd identification number ranging from one through eight; however, due to inconsistencies in data collection, Farm Eight is omitted from this report.

Raising heifer replacements - labor costs and labor efficiency

Lauren Augello

How much does it cost to raise a heifer from birth to first calving? The costs associated with raising heifers are often overlooked when analyzing expenses on dairy farms. In the summer of 2019, we collected data from 26 Northeast dairy farms. An analysis of this data revealed that the average total cost to raise a heifer from birth to weaning was $2,355, with an 80th percentile range of $1,953 to $2,824. As expected, feed was the largest cost associated with raising heifers, followed by labor. Labor was the expense with the greatest 80th percentile range and accounted for 13.2 percent of the total raising cost, on average.