When Godfrey Dairy owner Dave Clark got his start in the dairy business at 17 he had 40 cows. Now his Madison, GA dairy is milking 1,050 Holsteins. Herd manager Cuyler Johnson, who has worked with Clark for 22 years, attributes the dairy’s ongoing success to hard work, common sense, and the drive to continually improve.
A lifetime spent around cows has taught Johnson and Clark the impact of good nutrition on the bottom line. And there’s one thing they’ve come to accept as necessary to the ongoing success they’ve experienced: negative DCAD for close-up dry cows.
Nutritionist Barry Dye, of Elberton, GA, has been feeding SoyChlor in Godfrey Dairy’s close-up rations for more than a decade now. Dye was first drawn to SoyChlor because, in addition to being a palatable anionic supplement, it also contributed calcium and magnesium to the diet and did not contain the high levels of NPN found in other anionic supplements. He continued feeding SoyChlor because it worked, and it worked consistently.
“With SoyChlor we are able to keep cows eating and we can count on it to be dependable in titrating urine pHs the right way. It’s pretty nice to deal with a product that gives you the confidence it’s going to give the end result you’re looking for. That, and it’s palatable,” Dye said.
Dye and Johnson have developed a consistent routine for monitoring urine pHs, measuring 10% of the eligible cows once a week with a pH meter. They measure midstream at the same time each week and shoot for maintaining a pH of approximately 6.2. Dye’s top priority when feeding SoyChlor is to eliminate milk fevers. Secondarily, he is aiming to avoid all of the subclinical-hypocalcemia related issues. And the achievability of these goals is apparent in the success of Godfrey’s well-managed herd.
The most noticeable and dramatic effect while feeding SoyChlor was a significant reduction in milk fever. The dairy has also enjoyed a very low rate of displaced abomasum, retained placentas, and metritis. And over the last four years, they’ve gained 14-15 pounds of peak milk, while summit milk is up 10-12 pounds. Their cows are also able to get back into capacity to breed back well; their DHI pregnancy rate is at 28 percent, creeping closer to their goal of 30 percent.
“We attribute much of these successes to solid transitions. We judge how well we do as a whole by how well we’re doing in our pre-fresh and post-fresh pens,” Dye said.
Over the years, Godfrey has tried twice to do without SoyChlor and reduce input costs by moving away from a negative DCAD program. But each time clinical milk fevers resulted within a couple of weeks, and Dye and Johnson knew that meant other costly problems were on the way. “When you talk about transition cows and all the stress and diseases, if you’ve got problems why wouldn’t you try to do something about it,” Johnson said.
“Every time we stopped feeding a DCAD ration we just couldn’t make it work,” Johnson said. “I hear people say they can’t afford to implement a DCAD program, but I tell them you can’t afford not to. When you’re investing in your transition cows, you’re investing in your future milk.”