The study was conducted to evaluate how the "Cow Value" module of Dairy Comp 305 (Valley Agricultural Software, Tulare, CA) performed under commercial conditions. The "Cow Value" module, COWVAL, computes a farm-specific net present value relative to an average replacement heifer for each cow in the milking and dry herd, which allows a ranking of the cows on the farm compared with replacing her with a typical replacement heifer on that farm. The average replacement heifer is used as the baseline for comparison and has a COWVAL of $0. Retaining a cow with a negative COWVAL is projected to be less profitable than replacing that cow with a new heifer. The objectives of the study were to explore trends in COWVAL over and during multiple lactations for the same cows; to describe factors that influence changes in COWVAL from one monthly Dairy Herd Improvement test to the next; and to evaluate the behavior of COWVAL after it drops below a baseline of $0 during the lifetime of a cow. Monthly Dairy Comp 305 backup cow files from 2 Ontario dairy herds between December 1999 and December 2005 were used to generate COWVAL and list production, reproduction, and disease data for the milking cows. In total, 1,463 cows and 20,071 tests were analyzed. Within the first 60 d in milk (DIM), COWVAL was unstable and showed large fluctuations over a range of several thousand Canadian dollars (Can$). After 60 DIM COWVAL was relatively stable. The variability from month to month became less as the lactation progressed and the risk of a change in reproductive status decreased. The reproductive status of the cow influenced COWVAL: fresh, open, and pregnant cows had a greater COWVAL than cows declared "do not breed." As parity increased, there was a tendency toward lower COWVAL and smaller monthly changes in COWVAL. The COWVAL of 170 cows dropped below the baseline of $0 after 60 DIM. The COWVAL of 54% of those cows remained below $0, whereas 31.6% had a subsequent COWVAL >$500 (Can$). Farm management should not rely exclusively on COWVAL for culling decisions, particularly for cows that have not had at least 3 milk tests.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Steve Eicker for his help in the generation of the dataset and general support. We are grateful for the financial support of CanWest DHI (Guelph, On-tario, Canada) and the RBB Rinderproduktion [Groß Kreutz (Havel), Germany].
- Dairy cow