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Can you imagine a milk production where the same number of calves comes every week and where the same number of dry cows are moved every week? And the young animals are divided into uniform group sizes. All the time there are the same number of milking cows and the production is stable!
It is not utopia, but can be done in larger herds by focusing on production management according to flow and pace. It provides far better utilization of your capacity in buildings and manpower while providing better efficiency.
Plan for a pace on a weekly basis
We are used to getting all numbers on a monthly basis and unfortunately almost all prints run with numbers per month. But it’s way too slow and gives too much variation! You need to plan after having the same number of animals in each group each week. “It is not possible to decide so precisely when the cows should calve”, you might object. That’s right, but in a herd of 500 cows, there are on average at least 10 calvings a week. 10-15% will calve sooner or later, but it will be the same every week if you just make sure to inseminate evenly over the weeks.
How to level the production
You can even out the inseminations by planning accordingly. You have lots of handles to turn:
- You can sell the excess heifers, so you get fewer heifer calves in the months when you have the most calves.
- You can use sexed semen so you have more heifers to choose from.
- You can use sexed semen precisely so you get more heifer calves in the months when you have few calvings.
- You can push the inseminations a little forwards or backwards in both heifers and cows, so that you level out all the time.
But these initiatives require that you have some figures on a weekly basis – and we do not currently have that in all management programs. Therefore, you have to do it yourself on Excel.
Do you have a passive or active strategy?
Når du bruger kønssorteret sæd eller kødkvægssæd efter en plan, der siger f.eks. alle kvier eller alle 1. kalvskøer, så er det en passiv strategi. Det er nemlig køerne, der ”bestemmer”, hvornår du bruger det ene eller det andet. Et andet eksempel på en passiv strategi er den her i en Holstein besætning: Konsekvent brug af kødkvægssæd af racen dansk blåkvæg til de dårligste køer kombineret med kønssorteret sæd til kvierne. Den er passiv, fordi ikke bliver taget et aktivt valg i forhold til produktionsplanlægning.
An active strategy is when you control production by choosing sex-sorted or beef cattle semen to fit into your production plan. You need to choose so that you can have the same number of calvings each week. Calvings per week becomes your so-called “pacemaker process”, ie it controls the number throughout the entire production.
What is a pacemaker process?
In a production with flow, there is a pacemaker process that sets the pace and the production rhythm. In my example, the number of calvings per week is the pacemaker process. It can also be other processes depending on where your bottlenecks in production are located.
- Once you have identified your pacemaker process, you can start planning the rhythm you want to run with in production. For example, it can be 12 calvings per. week, as in my example.
- Based on your normal replacement percentage, you can decide how many there should be heifers and how many there should be cows. If you have a 35% replacement rate, then you need to have 4 heifers and 8 cows every week to calve.
- You probably know the pregnancy rate and insemination rate in each group. Therefore, you can calculate how many inseminations you need to have each week to reach the goal. Remember to take into account if you have a poorer pregnancy rate in the cows during the summer period.
- The next step is then to choose the number of animals for insemination, so there is enough to inseminate on each week.
- If you have too many in a week, then you can choose semen from beef cattle – or choose to sell them.
- If you have too few in a week, look forward or back and see if you can push with someone. Maybe you have to push with some slaughter cows so that you at least keep the number of milking cows in that week with fewer calvings.
Flow and rhythm provide higher efficiency
As mentioned, it is not something that can be done with a snap, but within a year or two, it must be possible to do so with the good health and reproduction that most people have. In any case, there are great gains to be made – both in peace in everyday life, capacity utilization and not least efficiency.
Feel free to give me your comments below!