Under an ideal scenario, dairy cows should produce milk for 305 days of the year, be dry the remaining 60, and produce one calf at the end of the dry period. However, with high feed prices, we need to rethink the dryoff strategy. Although some cows are dried off 50 to 60 days prior to calving, what happens when a cow is not producing enough milk, feed prices are high, and is still 80 days away from calving?
While a cow is in production, the animal generates income to cover both its variable and fixed costs. As the cow’s milk production diminishes, there is a point in time where it might only pay for feed and later maybe even just a portion of it. Milk prices and the difference between the cost of lactating and dry cow diets determine when there’s a need to dry them off regardless of days to calving.
The figure shows overall feed efficiency falls the longer we keep cows that can be dried off in the lactating herd. This is the only compelling reason to dry the cow off based on feed efficiency, however, this should not be the only reason, if the barn is already overcrowded at a stocking capacity of 115% or more and/or there is a cow that can take its place in the herd.
If you are at 100% capacity in the freestalls and the cow is still more than two months away from calving, you are better off keeping it in the lactating pen. The cow might not be that efficient, but at least it is paying for its feed.
Continue reading this article published in Hoard’s Dairyman