Dairy cattle: step by step to succeed in production!

Dairy Cattle

The creation of dairy cattle in Brazil has gained more and more prominence. After all, the activity is more modern, professional and, consequently, can be more profitable. However, this is a significant challenge since profit from production directly depends on adopting the right strategies to minimize costs while increasing productivity. 

In this article, we will present a step by step to raise dairy cattle, covering aspects ranging from the administrative part of the business to health and nutritional issues. Check out! 

Treat the property as a company.

First, a dairy farm and other economic activities should be seen as a company. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that producing large quantities of milk is not a certainty of profit. On the contrary, smaller herds can be very profitable, provided the correct management is adopted. The area’s market is quite uncertain and, therefore, one cannot neglect the financial monitoring indices.

These indicators help to identify where the financial resources are being used and also: 

  • Recognize times of the year that demand more money;
  • Plan short and long term investments;
  • Compare the planned objectives with those achieved;
  • Determine the operational cost of production.

It is also necessary to think that dairy cattle farming is only one of the links in an extensive and complex production chain. Within this market, we know that milk is influenced by several factors such as economic policies, seasonality of production, quantity demanded by the market, among others. 

Among the several factors that influence the price paid to the producer, we can highlight: 

  • Time of the year
  • Dairy consumer behavior;
  • Excess/scarcity of milk supply;
  • Economic policy.

These factors cannot be controlled. The producer must focus on what he can interfere with, how to calculate production costs very well, and identify possible points of waste. 

Get the animals right

Before choosing cows for milk production, you need to know their characteristics well and understand which one is the most appropriate on your property. Check out more information about each one! 

Dutch

The Dutch cow is one of the most traditional dairy breeds in the world. To produce between 6 and 10 thousand kg on average in 305 days of lactation, the Dutch were selected to develop animals with better feed conversion in the grazing system. 

However, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that these animals do not adapt well to hot climates and pastures of seasonal products, as occurs in Brazil. These are animals recommended for sophisticated systems of high production.  

Gir

Gir cows are part of the dairy Zebu breeds. It has its origin in India and, therefore, its main characteristic is rusticity and the ability to adapt to higher temperatures. They also present an excellent feed conversion even in pastures with the lowest nutritional value. 

The Gir breed has reproductive and productive longevity and is the most used Indian lineage in crossbreeding.

Girolando

One of the most popular in Brazil, the girolando breed, is the cross between the Dutch and Gir. The idea is to combine the Dutch breed’s high productivity with the rusticity and adaptability of Gir. 

Thus, the Girolando breed is characterized by good fertility, longevity, and sexual precocity combined with flexibility in different management types. Therefore, it has good reproductive efficiency and feeds conversion, which gives a very satisfactory economic performance. Due to these characteristics, it is ideal for newcomers. 

Jersey

Jersey is also a European breed; however, it is more rustic than the Dutch. Due to their high production, they are considered the second-best dairy breed and adapt more quickly to adversity and have greater tolerance to heat. 

As they are smaller, it allows the producer to have more animals per hectare, leading to a lower food cost. It is also the earliest breed among dairy farmers and may have the first calf between 15 and 18 months of age. 

Swiss Brown

This is one of the oldest breeds of dairy cattle originating in southeastern Switzerland. Even with this Nordic origin, it has good heat tolerance and good milk production. They also have high rates of longevity and fertility and efficiently transmitting their characteristics in crosses between strains.

Guzera

The Guzera breed is also an Indian breed, and it is recorded that it was the first Zebu breed domesticated by man. It is a highly adaptable animal and has a double ability: milk and meat. 

Thanks to its rusticity, it has a lower production cost and is very easy to gain weight, even with less investment. Therefore, it is suitable for beginners in dairy farming. 

Do proper nutritional management.

The dairy cattle must necessarily go through the animal’s nutritional needs. This represents one of the main factors linked to the animal’s productivity. 

From nutrition, it is possible to change the composition of milk and optimize production and increase reproductive efficiency. 

However, managing dairy cows is not an easy task. Therefore, the most efficient way is to understand each phase of the lactation cycle’s particularities and overcome the challenges of each one.

In general, the nutritional management of dairy cattle is divided into the following phases:

  • beginning of lactation; 
  • peak food consumption; 
  • half and end of lactation;
  • dry season;
  • transition and pre-delivery period.

That said, some factors are essential to the success of a dairy nutrition program. Below, see more details about each one. 

Prioritize forage production

Fodder represents one of the primary sources of bulk feeding for dairy cattle as it ensures fiber intake for animals. That is why it is necessary to ensure that the herd can access quality fodder throughout the year. 

One way to improve the forage supply is to invest in production to increase the return per hectare of forage and grain crops on your farm to maximize the quality and quantity of food grown.

Reduce food loss

The loss of food can generate severe losses for dairy cattle, so it is essential to develop strategies to minimize waste. The main points that can be controlled are: 

  • Handling and storage of food ingredients;
  • Mixing and supply process;
  • Management of the feeding trough;
  • Control of weather-related disturbances.

Also, some forms of food storage allow less losses, and these should be prioritized. Also, attention should be paid to the cleanliness and organization of the eating area.

Improve handling of feeding troughs

A good nutritional program can align the management of feeding troughs with the milking schedule. the Ideal is to provide fresh food when the cows go to the milking parlor and organize a filling of the troughs for 90 minutes after returning the cows.

Another important tip is to schedule additional supplies throughout the day to ensure that cows have access to food whenever they want. After all, each additional kilo of dry matter consumption is equal to two extra kilos of milk.

Beware of the transition period.

The transition period precedes delivery and demands a series of exceptional care with food and comfort. At this stage, you must formulate specific ratios for the period and maximize the comfort of the cows by providing adequate space to lie down and eat while minimizing movements in the corral. 

It is also essential to manage the feed trough by focusing only on good quality fodder in the right quantity. 

Cows in the period before calving must have more than 0.76 meters of space in the trough and a minimum of two sources of clean and freshwater available in each pen.

Implement daily monitoring of the cow, including examining body temperature, changes in activity, and feeding behavior changes.

Health management 

The health management of dairy cattle consists of a set of practices that deserve special attention from producers. In this sense, among the measures, we can highlight preventive actions about diseases (many of which are transmissible to men) such as vaccination and monitoring, cleaning and disinfection of animal facilities.

Crucial points for the health of the herd are: 

  • special care for newborns and calves;
  • management of pregnant cows;
  • effective control of ticks ;
  • vaccination up to date.

In milk production properties, there are significant losses due to errors or negligence with these handling. Among the various dairy cows, the most cited are usually reproductive problems, hoof, and mastitis. These are cited as the leading causes of involuntary disposal within the production system and can generate significant losses. 

Reproductive management and genetic improvement 

There is no doubt that cows’ reproductive management is an essential aspect of being successful in the production of dairy cattle. It is essential to implement systematic breeding programs to improve the efficiency of heat detection, improve the gestation rate at 21 days, minimize labor demand, and, finally, improve the herd’s overall reproductive performance.

Likewise, one must invest in genetic improvement since the animal’s low productivity may be linked to its lineages. 

Therefore, it is necessary to invest in reproductive biotechniques to accelerate the transmission of desirable characteristics to the descendants. In dairy cows, two criteria can be used:

  1. Probable production capacity: it allows the rural producer to forecast the animal’s production based on past lactations.
  2. The genetic value of production is estimated using the animal and relatives’ records.

There are two ways to make genetic improvement through biotechnologies or natural breeding. Undoubtedly, for the producer who wants to increase his milk production, biotechnologies are the best option. In this case, the animal is previously selected and proven superior, making the results faster. 

The techniques used for genetic improvement are:

  • Artificial insemination;
  • Fixed Time Artificial Insemination (IATF);
  • Embryo Transfer;
  • In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

You need to know what you’re doing.

Dairy farms require specialized care. That is why a production’s success depends on technical and practical knowledge of the best management strategies. The person responsible for the herd and his team needs to understand all stages of production and have a managerial view of the farm. 

A single wrong decision can take profit down the drain, and recovering may not be so easy, especially in the face of instability. 

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