Close up of a Holstein being milked© Tim Scrivener

Dairy farmers could minimise milk production losses by tracking the energy levels of cows throughout lactation, says the developers of a new tool.

By testing cow milk samples, Energy Balance – a service developed by the National Milk Records (NMR) and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) – provides an energy balance result for individual cows or groups of cows during lactation.

Results can be accessed through a dedicated page on the Herd Companion website.

See also: New service will allow dairy farmers to test cow’s energy

The service, which is based on the same fingerprinting technology used to test milk quality, allows the identification of cows that are suffering from a lack of energy – meaning action can be taken minimise milk production losses.

With poor energy balance a precursor for conditions such as ketosis – which can lead to metritis, infertility, lameness and mastitis – Energy Balance can also help farmers tackle disease and poor fertility, says NMR.

“We have been waiting a long time for the technology to be developed to provide us with information on the energy status of individual cows,” says Sam Kelly of Kelly Farm Consulting, Avon.

More timely

“The service allows us to be sure that herd has no problems with energy status at all stages of lactation, and is far more timely than the traditional methods of body condition scoring.

“We are now easily and remotely able to identify any cow with a potential issue and we’re looking forward to seeing how the tool performs over the winter feeding season,” says Mr Kelly.

NMR is offering dairy advisers a free trial of the Energy Balance tool, with nutritionists and vets particularly encouraged to use the service ahead of the winter feeding period.

“It could be of particular interest to autumn calvers and also to late season grazers where the nutrient quality of grass is often overestimated and can lead to cows being in negative energy,” says Vicky Hicks, product manager at NMR.