Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Too Many Heifers - Too Many Lactating Cows - Too Much Cheese

The number of lactating cows is decreasing quickly to bring balance between supply and demand. The number of cows peaked in the second quarter of 2009 and has started a nose dive that will continue through most of 2010.

In the last three years, the availability of replacement heifers has increased nearly 6%, probably the result of sexed semen.

More available heifers is a blessing when herds are increasing in size, but when herds are decreasing, the old "ladies" have to go to make room for the young "ladies". The combined impact of the decrease in the number of lactating dairy cows and the increase in replacement heifers will have a sizable impact on the overall national cull rate.

This cull rate (both voluntary and involuntary) represents over half of the cows that are in their second and later lactating cycle. With this high cull rate, the quality of the remaining cows should improve which will probably increase milk per cow. It also means that low producing cows will probably last through only one lactation period.

Many of the parameters for improved dairy profitability are on positive trends. However, before real and lasting recovery can be achieved, three excesses must be corrected.

  • Too many heifers

  • Too many lactating cows

  • Too much cheese in inventory
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