Longevity key to profitable dairy cows

When are dairy cows in the black? In financial terms, cows typically hit profitability in their second lactation, but too many cows don’t make it to the break-even point, says University of Calgary graduate student Jesse Schuster.

Last week at the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar (WCDS) at Red Deer, Alberta, Schuster shared findings from a study of CanWest DHI records that indicate up to 50 percent of cows are culled before they hit the break-even point. The study tracked 1,182 cow records from two dairy herds over 10 years.

Based on the research, Schuster found that average loss for culling a heifer before lactation was $1,207. The loss increased to $1,820 for cows culled in the first lactation. Culling a cow in the second lactation resulted in a $667 loss, on average. It took cows until their third lactation to turn a profit of $532, and profitability accumulated from this point with increased longevity. Schuster’s research, which was presented as part of WCDS’s student research presentation competition, indicates cows that reach their seventh lactation can turn profits of better than $15,000 per animal.

In this interview, Schuster notes that culling heifers before first calf has a tremendous impact on profitability. Many producers don’t actually include culled heifers in their profitability calculations, but Schuster says it’s critically important to include rearing and young stock data in both longevity and economic calculations to get a true picture of cow profitability.

Jessie Schuster tells Bernard Tobin why longevity is so important for dairy cows:

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