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MS Dairy Herds Have Good News
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Dairy herds in Mississippi put up some good numbers in 1997, with dairy cows having the second highest increase in milk in the Southeast.
Mississippi dairy cows produced 587 pounds of milk more than last year, bringing the average to 13,489 pounds per cow. This was the greatest increase seen in milk production in any other state in the Southeast except North Carolina. At about $14.50 per hundredweight, the milk increase brought additional income of $85 per cow to dairy farmers, or $3.7 million for the state.
Dr. Reuben Moore, Extension dairy specialist at Mississippi State University, said the increased efficiency is due in large part to well-managed dairy herds.
"The difference between a successful producer and a non-successful producers is the successful producer manages the little things," Moore said.
While other factors may play a role in the increased milk production per cow, educational programs leading to improved management is a major cause. Moore said participation in the Dairy Herd Improvement Association has been part of this increase.
As of December 1997, Mississippi had 410 dairy herds. DHIA herds accounted for 37 percent of the cows, and 45 percent of milk production. These averaged 17,197 pounds of milk each, while the yearly average for all dairy cattle in the state was 13,489 pounds of milk.
"You don't change production overnight, and some of the programs dairy producers conduct today may not affect the outcome of the herd for a couple of years," Moore said.
DHIA is an organization in Mississippi owned by the participating producers. The DHIA system collects detailed information on each cow concerning the amount of milk given, feed intake, calving records and more. Samples of each cow's milk is analyzed for protein, butterfat and somatic cell count, an indication of udder problems.
This information is sent to a central dairy records processing center, and the data is given back to the farmer to use in making management decisions. Some dairy farmers use special programs, such as PC-Dart, on personal computers to analyze daily data and make immediate management changes to get the best results from individual cows.
Joe Armstrong, a partner in the family-owned Dixie Dairy Sales, has a 500-head milk cow herd in Vaiden. His dairy, which he operates with his sons Steve and Tim, saw the largest increase in milk production of any herd in the state, with his cows averaging more than 21,000 pounds of milk each, up 3,374 pounds from last year.
"The increase is primarily a lot of attention to details and using the technology that is available," Armstrong said. "We have increased forage quality and improved our genetics by our voluntary culling rate."
Dixie Dairy Sales has been in operation in Mississippi for 17 years, and in the DHIA program for 12 of these. Information on their dairy cattle is collected daily, and a DHIA supervisor gathers other information on monthly visits. The operation changes management practices based on the results of the DHIA report.
"DHIA is the most complete dairy record keeping program available, and with the data it collects, you have better tools to work with," Armstrong said. "A key factor is attention to a lot of detail and using the technology that is out there.
"A lot of this boils down to the question of are you going to be a dairyman or just milk cows," Armstrong said.