The impact of dairy advisory teams on farm improvement in Pennsylvania dairies

Monday, July 21, 2014: 3:00 PM
2104B (Kansas City Convention Center)
Marianne H Buza , The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Lisa Holden , The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Robert C Goodling , The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Abstract Text: Dairy producers continuously seek ways to improve their farm, and many choose to form a dairy advisory team (DAT) to improve management. The objectives were: (1) to compare key measures before and after the team in order to determine if the use of a DAT was effective and (2) to compare a group of 20 herds with a DAT to Pennsylvania (PA) averages for key measures. Teams were formed between May 2008 and January 2013. The range for herd size was 42-694±139 cows. Herd size, milk yield, somatic cell score (SCS), peak milk yield, age at first calving (AFC), days in milk (DIM), pregnancy rate and cull and mortality rate were key measures analyzed. The changes in key measures, after using DAT for at least one year were analyzed using a paired t-test. After DAT use, herds had higher (P<0.01) herd sizes 187 vs 177 cows and higher (P=0.066) milk yields of 31.3 vs 32.1kg as well as lower (P=0.077) AFC of 24.9 vs 25.4 months and lower (P=0.054) percent of herd with SCS≥4 of 21.7 vs 23.9%.  The DAT herds’ January Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) test data were compared to Dairy Metric’s PA average for January 2014 using a one-sample t-test. Farms with DAT had significantly (P<0.05) higher milk yield of 33.9 vs 31.9kg and peak milk yield for lactation 1 with 36.1 vs 33.9kg .  There was no significant difference between the averages for DAT herds and PA herds for peak milk yield in older cows, but DAT herds had numerically higher peaks (44.3 vs 42.7kg and 47.4 vs 45.9kg for 2nd and 3rd lactation respectively) in older cows.  Herds with DAT had significantly (P<0.001) lower AFC of 24.4 vs 25.6 months and lower percentage of herd with SCS≥4 with 20.15 vs 26.6%.  There were no differences for pregnancy rate, DIM, or cull or mortality rate.   Use of DAT led to larger herd size, greater milk yield, lower AFC and better SCS. Herds with DAT had higher milk yield, lower AFC and better SCS compared to PA averages. Use of a DAT was beneficial to dairy farms. 

Keywords: dairy advisory team, dairy herd improvement,  dairy herd key measures