The LSU AgCenter’s dairy farm in Baton Rouge recently reached a milestone in Louisiana agriculture when it recorded the highest rolling herd average milk production ever in the state.
The rolling herd average reached 24,002 pounds of milk at the July measurement, according to Charles Hutchison, dairy specialist, who manages the farm. That’s nearly 2,800 gallons of milk per cow over a year’s time.
The rolling herd average is calculated as the average production per cow in the herd for the previous 12 months, the dairy specialist said. It’s “rolling,” because as each month’s results are added to the average, the same month from the previous year is dropped.
“This gives us the opportunity to measure our performance compared to the same month last year,” Hutchison said. “We can track changes over time and evaluate our management practices.”
This record-keeping is part of the LSU AgCenter’s participating in the Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA), which is a national dairy-producer cooperative that maintains a national dairy records program for participating dairy producers. Approximately 33 percent of the Louisiana dairy farms, which account for about 40 percent of the state’s dairy cows, are enrolled in the program, Hutchison said.
Hutchison said the LSU AgCenter’s 85-cow herd in Baton Rouge is maintained in what the dairy industry calls “confinement.” The animals are not put on pasture, but they are in open lots with access to large barns with individual stalls.
“Some people call it a cow motel,” Hutchison said with a smile.
The confinement operation is dictated by the limited space available in Baton Rouge. The other LSU AgCenter dairy farm is at the Southeast Research Station at Franklinton, which has more space, and cows are often put on pastures there.
“The confinement operation allows us to closely monitor nutrition and feed management,” Hutchison said. “And the freestall system allows us to group cows based on production and body condition.”
Data and research results gained from operating the LSU AgCenter dairy farms provide AgCenter experts with important information that is shared with Louisiana dairy producers to help them improve their productivity.
(This article was published in the summer 2007 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)