Navigating your way through Feckvieh information

Fleckvieh experiences at your fingertips

Nothing is like being at a farm and seeing cows perform in the real world. You can see and touch. Also you can ask the farmer that you are visiting details about his/her operation. Every second year, a tour is set up in Europe to show farmers from USA, Canada and elsewhere how Fleckvieh cows perform in the various regions in Germany.  This gives a better idea how these can benefit your farm at home. How well do they  tolerate different climates, and feed stuffs. Also – why are there no sick pens? You will get a lot of answers to your burning questions.

 

If you are interested in reading the various annual editions of the magazine “Fleckvieh world”  – help yourself to the link below. You will see production data, testimonials, feed conversion studies, fertility data and much more.

 

http://rinder.fleckvieh.bayern/de/de/downloads/fleckvieh-world

How to reduce your dairy farm cull rate

solve the reasons for culling dairy cows

THE PRESSURES OF CULLING

Cull cows are a sore spot on anyone`s farm. They are an issue from several perspectives:  Whether you are culling on a involuntary basis or voluntary basis:

Below is some of what the cull cow encompasses:

  • Production loss – Financial impact
  • Transportation hazard – Veterinary intervention may be required – Animal welfare issue

IN VOLUNTARY CULLING:

Any cow that has the following conditions is beyond the point of return regarding any salvage value: Fracture of limb and/or spine, uterine prolapse, reportable disease – Rabies etc. , split , belly rupture, severe calving difficulty – blood loss, lightening strike, drowning, vaccine break etc.

These things can be called ” accidental or unfortunate” and they just simply happen on a farm. You can still ask yourself – could this have been prevented? In some cases – yes – but human control over these is really quite minimal.

Some of the above require humane euthanasia.

VOLUNTARY CULLING:

Here is the goal of voluntary culling: To manage your dairy cow herd so that you are in control of the population of cows you run. You are deciding what animals should stay and what ones should go to get culled on a regular basis with financial pressures (or liberties hopefully), production levels and animal welfare front and center.
What does your “ideal” cull cow look like:

  • She is no longer going to maintain let alone improve her production level.
  • She has a body condition so that there is salvage meat value for human consumption.
  • She is still a valuable slaughter cow and can be transported without harm or at least low risk for harm (compromised only in some way).
  • She is surplus high quality stock which you can sell to another dairyman.
  • She has worked on your farm as a positive contributor to your bulk milk tank for the average period you expect/need or longer and has replaced herself with offspring.

Sound good?

It does and everyone would agree with you even a non dairy farmer. It sure sounds like the right thing to do. It is however a challenge to do this right all the time;

What happens in the real world?

Cows deteriorate in body condition and their immune system is weakened slowly over time. A result of this, conditions that are present (low grade mastitis, subclinical ketosis, respiratory disease or lameness)  become worse.

For example: The animal ends up in the sick pen or special group of cows milked in the end. She is being treated. She is requiring extra attention from you and/or your personnel.

For example, the lactating cow that starts her lactation being stressed from a hard calving. She has a hard time getting up to feed, and as a result does not get enough energy and water into her which is to her detriment.

INFECTIOUS DISEASE ENTRY OR MANIFESTATION:

Two common ways of running into trouble:

FIRSTLY:  Something on your farm gains hold and does damage to your cattle forcing you into treatment, or culling.  The second way is new introduction by way of humans (veterinarians, neighbours, visitors etc.), service vehicles or livestock from other farms. It sounds logical, that less foreign animals coming in leads to less hazard. Remember – why are you bringing these in? Because your own replacement animals do not suffice. How do you retain more of your own replacement animals?

With a healthy cow that has the greatest possible productive longevity. The typical traditional dairy breeds advocate this – but with the downfall that muscle mass is a neglected part of the selection process in the sire program. Meet – dual purpose cattle – Fleckvieh. This breed and the sires promoted by www.betterdairycow.com have both milk volume and quality as well as muscling, substance and longevity because of this. They can weather the storm of tough times better because of glycogen reserve which acts to support them when stress/metabolic demand is high.

So – solid cattle with good “durability” will reduce cull rates which will reduce the need to bring animals in and this in turn will have an impact on health and reduce your need to treat or cull furthermore.

THE SECOND WAY:  Importation of disease by human traffic: A great way to cut this down is limiting access of people of course, but some folks are necessary. For example veterinarians:

They go from farm to farm with the same vehicle. Having a dedicated parking zone with mandatory use of plastic over boots and then having them enter the barn with the coveralls provided by the farm is a sensible way to reduce or eliminate this risk. The swine industry does this for example with the added need to shower in and out in many cases. It is not costly but can save you big time.

THE ACTUAL COW IN FRONT OF YOU:

You see your cows everyday. How can you tell which one is needing to get looked at in more detail and may need to get shipped. You may suffer from “barn yard blindness” and another person can spot trouble since you are not seeing it. Slow change with you seeing the animals daily goes unnoticed. This is very natural and we all fall prey to this when we see the animals daily.

From the Dairy code of practice in Canada with additions.

Lameness

Lameness among dairy cows is widely recognized as one of the most serious (and costly)  issues affecting dairy cattle. Lameness results in decreased mobility, reduced Dry Matter Intake (DMI), decreased production, impaired reproduction, debilitated cows and early culling. Some causes of lameness are related to genetics and infectious disease but the majority of problems are related to nutrition and the environment that the cow lives in. Prompt recognition, diagnosis and early treatment minimize animal welfare concerns and allow the cow to produce to her potential. The majority of cases of lameness in dairy cows involve lesions of the claw.

Genetics and actual conformation of the cow and her claws, feet and legs are more critical in the author`s opinion since a substantial amount of lameness results from weak feet and legs – like the foundation of a house. If there is weakness, it is likely to collapse. The ideal cow is “built” with an ability to bear weight and support itself with strong muscles and connective tissue support. The actual attachment of tendons and the ability to hold muscle is dictated by the shape of the underlying skeleton. Dual purpose Fleckvieh cows are proportionate in height and body structure to make movement efficient and easily tolerated by its anatomy. Overly long legs and lack of muscle tissue has been seen to result in splits. A perfect example of how anatomy relates to problems is described in some detail below based on the skeleton of the cow.

PICTURE OF BOVINE SKELETON IN SECTIONS:

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The head and neck can be viewed as part of the cow.  The next section is the Forequarters and withers. After that you are looking and the center piece including the loin. Second last on the list is the rump and hind quarters. Lastly – the legs. All these are the building blocks of a good (or bad) cow and reflect on performance and longevity.

Desired characteristics for each part are briefly described below:

The head should have a feminine character with a wide muzzle suited for efficient feed uptake. Goggle eyes are beneficial when there is a lot of exposure to sunshine.

The forequarter should not have a shoulder that is too steep or straight. Shoulders should be firmly attached and there should be no “pinch” behind the shoulders. We want to see good chest depth and width.

In the center piece, we want to see a wedge shape with a lot of body capacity. The rump is best when there is a slight slope to it and the width of the pin bones is not dramatically less than that of the hook bones. The legs  should have hock angles of 130 to 145 degrees and be straight ( i.e. no cow hocked or bow legged rear limbs – knock kneed or bow legged in the front)

 

The Dairy code goes into environmental/ management factors:

  • high-grain rations causing rumen acidosis and laminitis
  • lack of effective fiber in the ration
  • standing on concrete, especially wet and rough
  • infrequent hoof trimming
  • uncomfortable, poorly designed stalls
  • physical hazards
  • contagious diseases such as digital dermatitis
  • unsanitary conditions
  • poor management of transition cows
  • unbalanced genetic selection (corkscrew claw) – this is a way bigger topic as described above.

Here are some useful tips surrounding lameness:

  1. Gait Scoring System for Dairy Cows

    Score Description Behavioural Criteria
    1

    Sound

    Smooth and fluid movement
    • Flat back when standing and walking
    • All legs bear weight equally
    • Joints flex freely
    • Head carriage remains steady as the animal moves
    2 Ability to move freely not diminished
    • Flat or mildly arched back when standing and walking
    • All legs bear weight equally
    • Joints slightly stiff
    • Head carriage remains steady
    3 Capable of locomotion but ability to move feely is compromised
    • Flat or mildly arched back when standing, but obviously arched when walking PAIN
    • Slight limp can be discerned in one limb DISCOMFORT
    • Joints show signs of stiffness but do not impede freedom of movement DISCOMFORT
    • Head carriage remains steady
    4 Ability to move freely is obviously diminished
    • Obvious arched back when standing and walking PAIN
    • Reluctant to bear weight on at least one limb but still uses that limb in locomotion PAIN
    • Strides are hesitant and deliberate and joints are stiff PAIN
    • Head bob slightly as animal moves in accordance with the sore hoof making contact with the ground PAIN
    5

    Severely
    Lame

    Ability to move is severely restricted

    Must be vigorously encouraged to
    stand and/or move

    • Extreme arched back when standing and walking SEVERE PAIN
    • Inability to bear weight on one or more limbs SEVERE PAIN
    • Obvious joint stiffness characterized by lack of joint flexion with very hesitant and deliberate strides SEVERE PAIN
    • One or more strides obviously shortened SEVERE PAIN
    • Head obviously bobs as sore hoof makes contact with the ground SEVERE PAIN

    Source: University of British Columbia Animal Welfare Program

  2. Routinely observe cows for lameness and aim for prevalence of – make your self establish a frequency!
    • <10% for obvious or severe lameness  or,
    • <10% for sole ulcers and <15% for digital dermatitis
  3. Ensure alleyways are cleaned daily
  4. Ensure stalls are comfortable and that cows are lying in the stalls
  5. Minimize exposure to bare concrete floors
  6. Routinely trim the hooves on all cows as needed (e.g., twice per year)
  7. Balance the ration to prevent sub-clinical rumen acidosis
  8. Avoid feeding large amounts of concentrate in a single feeding
  9. Routinely use a foot bath and change routinely to maintain effectiveness (at least once daily). Check out www.thymox.com – Instead of  Copper sulfate, formaldehyde this alternative is based on thymol , an active plant in gradient of the plant thyme. Approved by health Canada info@thymox.com  or call (819)563-9298 form more information.
  10. Breed animals with stronger feet and legs like Fleckvieh
  11. Avoid prolonged waiting periods to get into the parlor for milking

HANDS ON WITH LAMENESS:

If any cow begins to look like lameness is developing, it is time to either make note of her and monitor her production levels, and body condition. Her body condition is a reflection of how much pain she is in and how much she does NOT want to eat. Ideally weighing her would be the most beneficial so she doesn’t get missed due to barn yard blindness. What do you want to know about her? When was her last trim? Is she undergoing any treatment? If you have to initiate treatment – before you do:

Go over the list above and categorize her:  As a 2 she is worth observing and risking antibiotic and other therapy.  As  a 3 or 4 – Has she gone downhill fast?  If yes she can still be shipped to slaughter without antibiotic residue. If no – increase monitoring her with treatment and hope for a good outcome.

Any animal at level 5 is a hazard to transport and needs to be put down for humane reasons.

First and foremost – a lameness combined with good body condition score stands a better chance than a deteriorating animal. They are not worth the risk you would take financially, labour input wise and animal welfare wise.

Mastitis

Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland caused by bacterial infection. Most bacteria enter the udder through the teat orifices.

Mastitis is a production, food quality, and safety issue. From an animal welfare perspective, it can be a local painful infection for the cow that can, depending on the type of infection and the resistance of the cow, also cause systemic illness resulting in fever, dehydration, depression and even death.

Mastitis is recognized as a clinical infection when flakes or clots are seen in a milk sample, the infected quarter is swollen and/or hot to the touch, the milk appears thin, discolored or watery and/or the cow has a rapid pulse and loss of appetite. More often however, mastitis is subclinical. This means that infection, tissue damage, milk damage, and production loss occurs without causing visible changes in the milk, the affected quarter or the cow. Somatic cell counts are used to monitor the prevalence of subclinical mastitis.

Genetic selection to reduce somatic cell counts has been seen very successfully using the Fleckvieh breed. A healthier cow with a stronger immune system is one component of this, but also selection for Fleckvieh cows that build on their lactation volumes through their second , third and forth lactations etc. maintain much lower somatic cell counts. The onset of lactation with high volumes and then a drop after a spike in production is very strenuous for the cow`s udder. Balancing this workload over the lactation with a flat lactation curve such as many Fleckvieh breeders throughout the world are seeing makes rational sense and keeps the somatic cell counts way down.

For the development of strategic prevention programs for particular herd mastitis, infections are classified as arising from either cow or environmental sources. Mastitis caused by infections whose sources are the cows themselves is called contagious mastitis. Contagious mastitis spreads from infected cow’s udders and teat skin to uninfected cows at milking time. Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus agalactiae are the most common bacterial causes of contagious mastitis.  These can be managed by teaching your milking staff proper technique and once learnt – keep it that way. Environmental mastitis occurs when bacteria from manure contaminating the cow’s environment enters the teat ends. Cows are at risk of environmental infections at all times during the day and year; hence new infections are not just associated with milking practices. Thirdly – playing into this is the healthy teat end anatomy with strong sphincter muscles to prevent bacterial entry. Genetic selection for proper test length, milk speed and  diameter play an important role here.

Mastitis prevention programs are developed for a herd using knowledge of the mastitis infections the herd is most at risk of, the milk quality objectives, the facility design, current management practices, concurrent diseases, environmental conditions, and labor availability. Prevention of new infections and elimination of existing infections are the main objectives of a mastitis prevention program.

Goals are developed by a producer in conjunction with their herd veterinarian, often in a stepwise fashion, to develop an approach to improvements in animal health and milk quality.

Overall goals to strive for are:

  • maintenance of a bulk tank milk SCC below 200,000 cells per ml
  • reduction in the occurrence of clinical mastitis to two or fewer clinical cases per 100 cows per month (<24% of cows affected per year)
  • eradication of Streptococcus agalactiae from the herd
  • maintenance of a low culling rate due to mastitis.

Mastitis infections can be prevented by reducing exposure of the teat ends to bacteria. Appropriate practices should be implemented depending on the source of the bacteria identified in herd culture programs.

How to reduce your dairy farm cull rate

RECOMMENDED BEST PRACTICES

  1. consult with the herd veterinarian to develop a mastitis diagnostic, monitoring and control program.

To prevent contagious mastitis infections:

  1. dip each teat of all cows after every milking with an approved (DIN) teat dip
  2. ensure dip covers the area of the teat skin that had contact with the teat cup liner
  3. ensure infected cows are milked last or separately from uninfected cows
  4. implement a monitoring system using individual cow somatic cell counting and strategic milk culturing as recommended.

To prevent environmental mastitis infections:

  1. clean and dry teats before milking
  2. implement a bedding routine to keep stall beds clean and dry
  3. use adequate amounts of bedding to keep cows clean, dry, and comfortable
  4. add new, clean, dry bedding to stall backs frequently
  5. keep alleyways, crossovers and walkways free of manure and mud
  6. design stalls to give cows 12 hours of rest time
  7. use a stocking density of at least one stall per cow
  8. have all cows calve in a clean, dry maternity pen
  9. protect the teat orifices of dry cows during the dry period
  10. feed a ration that prevents stress on the immune system of fresh cows
  11. record clinical cases of mastitis and treatment as they occur
  12. assess clinical records of mastitis cases to detect herd-specific risk factors for environmental mastitis

To eliminate existing contagious and environmental infections (reducing prevalence):

  1. treat cows at the end of lactation with an approved intramammary dry cow preparation, as recommended by your herd veterinarian
  2. treat cows shown to have antibiotic susceptible infections during lactation, as recommended by your herd veterinarian
  3. cull cows with incurable cases of mastitis.

Transition cow – a hot spot in the lifecycle

The ‘transition phase’ begins three weeks prior to calving and ends three weeks after calving (54). The optimum management of the close-up dry cow is essential to ensure that the cow can achieve her potential in the next lactation. The main objective of the close-up period is to maintain and maximize Dry Matter Intake (DMI).

The transition phase is critical because cows must cope with a number of stressors including:

  • social regrouping
  • physical, hormonal, and physiological changes associated with calving and the onset of lactation
  • a sudden increase in nutritional requirements.

These stressors likely contribute to the occurrence of several transitional diseases including retained placentas, metritis, ketosis, fatty liver, displaced abomasums, and milk fever. Here is where the strength breed of Fleckvieh comes through. Lower metabolic stress due to muscle reserve ends up redesign the aforementioned conditions. Delivery of the newborn calf without complication is the norm in cattle; however, cows that have difficulties (dystocia) should be assisted by a competent person maintaining high standards of hygiene and using proper equipment.

A separate calving area allows for easier observation and management of cow and calf. Close monitoring of the cow that recently calved and ensuring that she eats and drinks is paramount regardless of breed.

Tips surrounding management of the transition cow

  1. monitor cows close to calving at regular intervals (e.g., every four hours)
  2. move close-up animals into the calving area prior to calving
  3. give appropriate assistance where an animal is found having difficulty giving birth
  4. dip calf navels in disinfectant as soon as possible after birth, and repeat daily until the umbilical cord is dry
  5. ensure proper use of calf pulling equipment
  6. provide food, water, and shelter from adverse weather for cows that are unable to stand as a consequence of difficult births or milk fever. Such cows should be placed on bedding or on soft ground.

Culling 101 in a nutshell:

You can make some black and white distinction between the bad and the salvageable cases:

THE BAD: Unfit animals for transportation even to slaughter  – require euthanasia or Veterinary treatment if feasible – can not be transported legally unless authorized by a veterinarian who deems a positive outcome if treatment is begun at the Veterinary Clinic

  • Fractures of limbs and/or spine – no commercial salvage value – if there is timely euthanasia and exsanguination, then on site meat salvage and consumption may be possible
  • Severe debilitating arthritis – severe lameness form other causes – no salvage value
  • Cancer, severe cancer eye Bovine leukosis – no salvage value
  • Emaciation of body condition score of 1.5 or less – no salvage value
  • Pneumonia that does not respond to treatment, may have fever – no salvage value
  • Rabies  – no salvage value
  • Large hernia – belly rupture – no salvage value
  • Uterine prolapse – no salvage value – may be able to save this cow but only 50/50 chance

 

These are an animal welfare concern, these animals may be in high levels of pain and the vast majority can be avoided by prudent selection and genetics to build strength. Strength with Fleckvieh comes with the cow that you cross breed with but also – with better longevity, your selection pressure is lower to keep border line cases. You can ship earlier without fear of loss!

Here is a simple calculation using Fleckvieh semen for cross breeding: Firstly, you get end up with one heifer calf for approx. every 4 inseminations at $25.00 each for example. You will market the bull calf if we expect a 50/50 split between the sexes for at least $100 more than a regular “dairy” calf. Now you are rearing your new crossbred heifer, and re inseminating her mother the same way. In a period of 4 years you will end up with ( assuming the commonly seen inter calving period on Fleckvieh farms and Fleckvieh cross farms of 12 to 13 months) 2 heifers. Your original cow is now duplicated herself. She is still on your farm so you cans see her lactation performances over the long haul and decided whether or not you like this in her daughters. You are now at the point of making genetic selection choices with no pressure and you can build your dream herd.

Image result for Fleckvieh Dual purose cow

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE:

Check out this website for more pictures and very practical guidelines form the Alberta beef code. How to reduce your dairy farm cull rate.

The cost of Subclinical Ketosis to dairy farms

img_1766

Note the muscled appearance of a Fleckvieh cow`s rump, more glycogen reserve, more strength and resistance to Ketosis

Several costly issues can arise when subclinical ketosis lingers in your herd.

Firstly the fresh cow needs to get rebred and this condition can delay rebreeding.

Secondly, early lactation culls and death losses are attributable to this. Why wait to get the cow on the milk line and then lose her productive period to this preventable condition?

Thirdly – of course milk production loss and veterinary costs.

This article explains in more detail the interest a dairy farm should have in monitoring subclinical ketosis. There are strategies you can use to have a surveillance in place.

MONITORING THE FRESH COW

So lets go to the fresh cow: She is subjected to her lactation which places a lot of drain on her system. As a consequence, animals drop into negative energy balance and mobilize body reserves including muscle protein and glycogen for milk production, direct oxidation, and hepatic gluconeogenesis. In part – muscle breakdown in early lactation provides substrates for milk production.

When a cow has more muscle tissue it offers up this as an extra aid in supplying the udder with enough nutrients to make milk. The Fleckvieh breed offers this advantage especially when crossbreeding with more traditional strictly dairy type cows. These types of cows are bred with udder capacity only in mind and less so other traits such as feet and leg strength for example. On top  of all this:  The cow needs at least twice the amount of energy compared to pre calving. She needs to constantly eat and have access to water. She has to be comfortable and have space. You need to be on these girls to make sure they eat and drink. How?

Here is an idea you may like:

Place a large visible timer clock on your fresh cow pen and and ensure that someone checks on the cows every 45 minutes. If the checks are missed, the negative consequence of a sick cow will result. One of our dairy farms that we work with has put a system in place where the pay of all employees gets docked if this is not done.

What kind of sick cow? Well let`s see: displaced abomasum, metritis, fatty liver – all this leads to decreased milk production and vet costs, treatment and medical costs and time as well as culling or even death loss. Very costly – I quote here from The Canadian Vet Journal that indicates a financial loss of $289 USD per case of subclinical ketosis.

EARLY LACTATION CULLS AND DEATH LOSS

This occurs when cases are not identified in time and treated accordingly. A small fraction of animals with subclinical ketosis go on to die. This relates to their pre-existing condition in the dry period – the most critical period in the dairy farm.

The Fleckvieh breed offers greater resilience to this condition because a larger energy reserve is present and can be mobilised from skeletal muscle as glycogen, therefore the “beefy” appearance of the medium frame sized cross bred or pure breed Fleckvieh pays dividends right here.

MILK PRODUCTION LOSS/ REPRODUCTIVE LOSS – DELAY IN REBREEDING

About one quarter of the collective cost of losses from this condition manifest as reduced milk production. Same goes for delayed conception. That can add up fast to one half of the above mentioned $289 USD per case.

How To Detect Subclinical Ketosis

So you need to implement cow monitoring in the early lactation (in the first week of lactation). This can be done in batches of fresh cows – a chute near your pen, walk them through and take a drop of blood and run a test to detect ketone bodies which are a manifestation of the onset of this condition. The best test in fact is a blood test ( milk or urine test are not as precise). There are hand held devices available to use ( e.g. Abbott Freestyle Neo ). When cows begin to develop Ketosis, a chemical called beta hydroxybutyric acid ( BHB) becomes present in the blood stream. This is your indicator that treatment should be initiated.

FATTY LIVER  AND SUBCLINICAL KETOSIS – excerpt from “www.thecattlesite.com

Fatty liver syndrome is the accumulation of fat within the cow’s liver. Fatty liver occurs as a result of the cow breaking down too much fat for the liver to process properly. Fat mobilization occurs as a result of negative energy balance of early lactation.  The broken down fat is then converted back to fat in the liver to prevent the animals from becoming toxic. Thus the liver becomes fat when the cow is losing condition, the more loss in condition the more fat in the liver.

If a cow has next to no skeletal muscle mass, then she needs to count on her fat reserves even more than a well muscled cow such as a Fleckvieh.

Fatty liver can develop within 24 hours of an animal going off feed. This is typically around calving time.  Once it is deposited in the liver, the concentration of fat in the liver does not fall until the cow gets into positive energy balance, which can be over ten weeks after calving, particularly if the fatty liver is severe. Fat cows (Body Condition Score greater than 3.5) are much more prone to fatty liver.

They are basically predisposed to this condition due to excessive condition at the wrong time.

img_1765

Note the lack of muscling on the rump of this cow.
She gets run down real fast.

The cost of Subclinical Ketosis to dairy farms can be greatly reduced with consistent monitoring and a simple blood test. Prevent delayed rebreeding, early lactation culls and milk production loss.

Good Cow Comfort Makes Milk

How cow comfort and milk production relate

How cow comfort and milk production relate

As you can see, cow comfort is very high in this case. When this cow lives in the barn, she faces a series of challenges such as concrete floors, other cows, air that is too hot or too cold or blowing too much, noise levels, people movement, machinery, milking parlour exposure, handling and breeding just to name a few. There are so many resources that can be reviewed and used on your farm.

University studies – research council, government or industry guidelines, private companies that promote products and supplies that are needed.

This blog article attempts to be a no nonsense aid for the reader.

 

University research:

Cow comfort

Cows that are comfortable will have less stress, eat more, have less health problems, and be injured less. Good cow comfort makes milk. Cows should be eating, drinking, milking, or laying down. If stall comfort is a problem, cows stand more. This could increase laminitis. Cows should get up in stalls as they would out on a pasture and with the same comfort. Bedding is needed to facilitate cow movement and maintain cleanliness. Cows should eat comfortably. Overcrowding and slippery floors cause slug feeding. Cows need to be psychologically comfortable and unstressed.

It doesn’t matter how great the ration looks to the nutritionist, if cows aren’t comfortable, you might as well throw all of that computer paper away! Cows that are comfortable will be less stressed, they will eat more, they will have less health problems, and they will be less likely to be injured. The bottomline is that cow comfort makes milk. You don’t have to hire an expensive consultant to improve cow comfort on a farm. Just take some time to look at cows. They will tell you a lot if you are willing to look.

Stall Comfort:

Cows should primarily be doing four things: milking, eating, drinking, and laying down. If 10-15% of the cows on a farm are standing at 2 hours after feeding, there may be a cow comfort problem. Cows need to be using the stalls, not standing in the alley or halfway into the stalls. Are the cows crampy with swollen joints? This could be a ration problem but it also could be a stall comfort problem. When cows aren’t laying down enough, they have poor blood circulation in the feet. This causes laminitis. I remember being on a farm once that had a 15-inch (38 cm) high stall curb rather than the recommended 10-inch (25 cm) high stall curb. The cows didn’t use the stalls and most had laminitis even though the ration was balanced properly.

There are many different stall designs. Many will work properly. Although measurements for large breeds are provided in this paper, it is most important to observe the cows’ reactions to stalls. Don’t just get out the tape measure. Watch cows get up and down in the stalls. Cows should get up the same way in a stall as they would outside on pasture. Cows need to bob their heads down and forward so that they can shift their weight from their back legs in order to get up. In a stall, cows can either bob forward or to the side. It is normally recommended that cows have at least 18 inches (47 cm) of head space and 66 inches (168 cm) of space for their body. On top of that, lunge space must be provided (at least 1 foot (30 cm)). Therefore, if a cow must lunge forward, the stall should be 8 feet (245 cm) long unless cows are able to lunge forward into the space beyond the stall, such as into an opposite cow stall, alley, or outside of the barn. A stall 7 feet (215 cm) in total length must allow the cow to lunge sideways as she gets up. Bending the bottom of the stall loop out of the cow’s way (either higher or lower) will allow cows to lunge sideways.

Don’t forget the brisket board on the stall floor. Brisket boards should be 66 inches (168 cm) from the stall curb and 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) high with a 60o angle. They help to keep the cow from crowding to the front of the stall, help to brace the cow as she gets up, and help to keep the stall cleaner.

The neck rail should be 66 inches (168 cm) from the stall curb and 44-46 inches (112-117 cm) above the stall bed. Its purpose is make cows back up as they stand so that their manure goes in the alley rather than in the stall bed. It also helps to prevent cows from backing into stalls. Unfortunately, sometimes neck rails are installed too low. If cows hit too hard on the neck rail, they will be less apt to use the stall. Look for signs of excessive rubbing on cows’ necks.

Check out www.promatinc.com for excellent information on cow beds and more!

Bedding:

Look over the cows’ bodies. Are there any “strawberry lesions” on their hocks from abrasion? This may be a stall design problem or maybe the stalls just need more bedding. Many people think that if they put in mattresses, they don’t need bedding. The experts would tell you that you still need at least a ½-inch (1.25 cm) of bedding to facilitate movement in the stall. Does the stall provide sufficient cushion? Concrete beds often don’t provide enough condition without a lot of bedding. Many consultants consider sand to be the best bedding source because it conforms to the cow’s body, reducing pressure points and increasing weight distribution. Sand provides good footing for greater stability for the cow. Sand also minimizes bacteria growth.

Cleanliness:

Cleanliness is an important part of stall design. How clean are the cows? If they are dirty, it may be because cows are lying in the alleys or because the stalls are dirty. Many consultants do the “wet knee test”. If your knee is wet after you kneel in the stall for 10 seconds, the stalls are too wet. This can be due to lack of bedding as well as poor stall design.

Eating Behavior:

Cow comfort problems other than stalls usually show up in the cow’s eating behavior. High-producing dairy cows need to eat a large amount and they need to eat about 12 times per day. They want fresh feed. They want to be comfortable while they eat. They want to be able to eat when they want to eat. There needs to be a minimum of 18 inches (46 cm) of bunk space per cow, better yet 24 inches (61 cm) per cow.

Overcrowding and slippery floors are two causes of “slug feeding”. Slug feeding is when cows eat fewer, larger meals per day rather than many small ones. It can cause acidosis and reduce intakes. Fresh cows and heifers are timid and will be hurt the most if they are overcrowded. Furthermore, fresh cows that haven’t had a balanced prefresh diet will suffer even more from overcrowding. These cows will start off feeling poorly, will not be aggressive at the bunk, will take off body condition rapidly and will get more ketotic.

Concrete floors need to be grooved to ensure good cow footing. Grooves are normally ½ inch (12 mm) deep and ½-3/4 (12-19 mm) inch wide and spaced 3.5 inches (9 cm) apart.

Disposition:

Cows also need to be “psychologically comfortable”. Every good cow person knows that calm, happy cows give more milk. When I go into a freestall and all the cows run the other way and I am covered with manure, that tells me that somebody, some activity or something may be giving the cows a hard time.

Holding Area Time:

In a holding area a cow is generally not eating or laying down so we want to minimize that time as much as is practically possible. Try to keep it less than 2 hours per day.

Ventilation:

Air movement is important to reduce barn humidity and heat. Condensation, cobwebs, the smell of ammonia, coughing cows, and cows breathing with their mouths open are all signs of poor ventilation.

Water:

Remember that milk is 87% water so cows need to drink a lot of it. Researchers estimate that a cow needs to consume one-half gallon (1.9 liters) of water for every pound (0.45 kg) of milk produced. That includes drinking water as well as ration water. Clean water needs to be very available. One recommendation is to have a water tank that is at least three feet long and two feet wide (91 cm by 61 cm) for every 20 cows in a group. Water tanks need to be easily accessible, at least 50 feet (15 meters) of the feedbunk.

References:

Bickert, W.G. 1999. Building and remodeling freestall housing for cow comfort. Proceedings of the Western Canada Dairy Symposium.

Grant, R. and J. Keown. Managing dairy cattle for cow comfort and maximum intake. University of Nebraska – Lincoln, NebGuide.

Reid, D.A. Cow Comfort – The key to dairy profitability.

Related Links:

Managing Dairy Cattle for Cow Comfort and Maximum Intake
Rick Grant and Jeff Keown, University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Dairy Cow Foot and Leg Problems on New Concrete
David Kammel, University of Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

Helderberg – Bayern Genetik Sire

Helderberg is a younger proven sire of Bayern Genetik. His winning progeny was shown and the animal show in Miesbach in Bavaria. His blood line has the bull Hippo in it who was an all time favorite and there are many daughters of his milking. The bull has good length in body and type characteristics. His traits are listed below.

Genomic breeding values

gTMI Milk Index Beef Index
120 (88%) 120 (91%) 103 (94%)

Milk Production

Milk kg Fat % Fat kg Protein % Protein kg
7024 4.17 293 3.44 241
800 0,02 34 -0,03 25

Beef Production

Net Gain Dressing Percentage Carcass conf. score
112 94 94

Fitness

Fitness 103 (78%)
Productive Life 113 (67%)
Milking Speed 104 (89%)
Cell Count 90 (87%)
Persistence 88 (92%)
Fertility 2 p 109 (63%) m
Calving Ease 77 (95%) p 108 (80%) m
Stillbirth 84 (87%) p 94 (73%) m

Type traits

B M F U UC
125 (90%) 105 (83%) 114 (75%) 121 (84%) 100 (85%)

Helderberg Profile

Milk yield, Top type traits, Attention: calving ease

Information on parents

Sire – Hades, 605399 Dam – Kasandra, 09.40820684
TMI: 123 MI: 124 (92%) BI: 98 (%)
B: 112 M: 92 F: 101 U: 129 UC: 105
TMI: 133 MI: 124 (0,53%)
2/305 10422 3,72 3,60 12126 Milking-Speed: 92 (0,51%)
1 / 359 (0) B: 9 M:7 F: 8 U: 8

helderbe fleckvieh sire

Rhesus – Bayern Genetik Sire

Rhesus is a son of “Roundup”, a sire who again produced a great number of daughters. Production of milk is not the top trait, but feet and legs, good conformation and all around strength are his primary points. He is an all around sire with ability to add substance to cross breeding. He stems from a “Waterberg” daughter on the maternal side. For more detail, watch this video, and see more on Rhesus Pedigree below.

 

Rhesus Breeding Values

g Total merit index Milk index Beef index
117  (87%) 112  (90%) 109  (89%)

 

Crossbreeding for Milk Production

No. Dau Milk kg Fat % Fat kg Protein % Protein kg
53 6910 4.23 292 3.53 244
  357 0,05 19 0,05 16

 

Crossbreeding for Beef Production

Net gain 108 (94%)
Dressing percentage 110 (77%)
Carcass conf. score 102 (92%)

 

Rhesus Sire – Bavarian Fleckvieh Genetics

  • Detailed Pictures
  • Details about Bloodline
  • Type Traits
  • DNA – profile
  • Official Pedigree

Main genetic characteristics – Allroundsire, Feet & Legs, Udder. Learn more about Fitness, Type traits, Further characteristics and pedigree of Rhesus at the Bayern-Genetik website.

Making headway with Milking Fleckvieh registry in North America

Making headway with Milking Fleckvieh registry in North America

IMG_1318Many farms want to register Fleckvieh cattle and track performance while doing dairy crossbreeding. There are publications out there that demonstrate the viability of Fleckvieh use and their use in dairy production. Nothing beats having your own system though. Recently, the Composite Dairy cattle registry has made a place for milking Fleckvieh. Read on to see current developments:

An endorsement by the Dairy Crossbred Blog (www.dairyxbred.com):

The Composite Dairy cattle registry has nice potential with this Registry for information gathering purposes on crossbred animals. Already, efforts have succeeded in getting the Milking Fleckvieh its own breed code (FL). CDCB has changed its databases to reflect this addition and currently efforts are being made for DHI processing centers to modify their databases. 57 Fleckvieh bulls have been added to the NAAB cross referencing program and soon CDCR will have a list for all of us with Fleckvieh sired animals to correct sire information on them.

Please see following below the home page content discussing the Fleckvieh cow as a milking dairy animal and its advantages to farmers at  dairycattleregistry.com:

Milking Fleckvieh

The Fleckvieh breed dates back to the early 19th century. From 1900 onward the breeding work was entirely characterized by pure breeding.
The herd-book in Southern Germany was closed and Fleckvieh continued to develop as an independent breed with triple purpose as the breeding aim: medium-framed cattle with a balanced emphasis on muscling, milk production and high work performance.

The Simmentaler/Fleckvieh breed is one of Europe’s oldest breeds and, with its total population numbering over 42 Million , it is the second largest breed in the world. The Milking Fleckvieh are a proponent of that population, with the highest quantity of Milking Fleckvieh concentrated in portions of Germany, Austria, Italy, France and the Czech Republic. They were developed in the highland regions of Germany and Austria. They are a very popular breed for this part of the world, because of their adaptability to these harsher climatic conditions. They were developed to be highly productive on a mostly grass based diets and yet produce higher amounts of fat and protein for cheese making. In addition they had to be durable, hardy and be easy handling to work within a small family farm. They also needed excellent feet and legs to handle the mountainous regions they were asked to graze.

The Milking Fleckvieh cow in milk production shows a strong forehand and maintains sufficient muscling on back and hind legs to keep stability and health even during peak lactation. The body proportions are harmonious both when standing still and in motion. Milking Fleckvieh cattle are well characterized by their sound feet and legs.

Crossbreeding with Dairy cattle Breeds – different types of cows

Fleckvieh can particularly score as breeding partner in regions and countries with a high proportion of dedicated dairy breeds. Many dairy producers are fighting health problems in their herds and have recognized that, given falling returns from milk, a supplementary income is required to keep their operations profitable.

The experience gathered over several years from operations with rotational or upgrading crossbreeding programs have resulted in advantages due in particular to:

  • Improved Fertility
  • Higher Fat and Protein percentages in the milk
  • Reduced Mastitis and Somatic Cell Counts
  • More hardiness and stronger cows are easy keepers
  • Increase longevity in the offspring
  • Possess good udder quality
  • Excellent milking persistence during lactation
  • Higher percent ratios of components for cheese production
  • Lower veterinary costs that other breeds
  • Improved fattening traits of calves
  • Cull cows have higher carcass values than other breeds
  • Perfect cross with Holstein in a 3-way composite

Milking Fleckvieh Strengths

Milking Fleckvieh cows are healthy, hardy and very adaptable to different geographical and climatic conditions. Easy calving, good fertility and a long productive life are, besides the high performance potential for milk and beef, the basis for efficient production. Very good conformation of udders and feet and legs together with the medium body size of animals is ideal with respect to longevity and feed efficiency. No other breed combines both milk and beef traits in such a strong way as the Milking Fleckvieh:

  • Strong  dairy qualities
  • Good Milkability
  • Strong Feet and Legs
  • Healthy udders with low somatic cell count
  • Strong and Functional Type

The idea of having one calf per year, a short inter calving period of 12 months and return to pregnancy, the lower somatic cell counts, better health and sellable male calves (steers can become feedlot animals) and better longevity make this breed a good choice