We're finally back over the 200-cow threshold in our milking herd (202 this afternoon), and so the increasing number of cows we are milking has obviously led to an increase in total milk produced. We still have 30ish more expected to freshen over the next 6 weeks, but I expect we'll send a few lower-producing cows off to the stockyard and give an extended dry period to several others to keep from going much over the 220-mark.
Part of our milk increase has also come from a switch to higher quality corn silage in the cows' feed ration. Last year's big silage crop exceeded our storage capacity, so we had to "ground pile" everything that we couldn't pack into one of our three silage pit bunkers. It was the first of last year's crop we fed because we knew it simply wouldn't age as well as the other. We fed the last of it a few days ago and started feeding better preserved, higher quality silage out of one of the bunkers. The cows immediately responded with increased production. Not substantial, but noticeable. And both the silage quality and milk production should continue to improve as we get a little deeper into it.
The weather has been a big limiting factor on production this winter, but has improved somewhat of late. We don't have a free-stall or pack barn, so our cows are out in the open most of the day. Keeping them out of the mud and finding halfway dry places for them to rest has been a real challenge with all the rain we've had, but fewer rainy days over the last couple of weeks has made pasture management and cattle flow a little easier. That translates into improved cow comfort, which in turn results in more milk.
Dad and I ran our monthly production "test" this morning, recording milk weights and collecting samples from each cow that came through the parlor. The samples and records were sent off this afternoon, and by the end of the week we should get a breakdown of each cow's milk production (quantity and quality). We will use that information to help us make the culling and early dry-off decisions I mentioned earlier, as well as to identify which cows we want to breed for replacement dairy heifers and which ones will be bred with Angus semen.
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