On World Milk Day, what better way to celebrate than raising a glass of milk to toast dairy farmers? At Dairy One, we are in the business of helping dairy farmers with producing this versatile and nutritious product. In fact, our labs work to provide several important milk analyses. Our customers use the results of these tests to manage many aspects of their dairy operations including milk quality and cow health.
One of the basic tests that Dairy One can run on a milk sample is an analysis of the components that make up the milk. These include butterfat, protein, lactose, casein, and fatty acids. Farmers need to know about components because it affects the overall quality of their milk.
Breeding, feeding and other management practices are reflected in milk component values so by monitoring components, farms can monitor the overall success of their herd. Working with Dairy One’s DHI Field Technicians and Milk Laboratory, dairy farmers can review the component makeup of their milk which can impact future management decisions.
Milk Urea Nitrogen (MUN)
A specific milk component that dairy farmers look at is Milk Urea Nitrogen (MUN). This is a key indicator of how effectively a cow is using the protein in her diet. The recommended range for MUN is 8-14 milligrams per deciliter. If a cow has a higher reading than that, it can mean that there is too much protein in the feed diet, there might be an imbalance between the protein and energy, or the cow is not using their feed as effectively as possible. As with other milk component testing, these results can reflect problems in the barn such as pen overcrowding, feed shortages, or a need to change the ration recipe.
To produce milk, a cow must have a calf. Usually, a cow will give birth to a calf once a year. There are many ways to determine whether a cow is pregnant. However, a simple, non-invasive way is through a milk sample! The Dairy One Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory can use a submitted milk sample to perform a pregnancy test to see if a cow is pregnant or not. This type of milk test detects Pregnancy Associated Glycoproteins (PAGs), which are only present in a pregnant cow.
Milk analysis can also be used to alert the farm to diseases in the herd. One such disease is Johne’s, which is a contagious and usually fatal infection that affects the small intestines of cows and other ruminants. Much like a pregnancy test, a test for Johne’s looks for the presence of a specific thing. In this instance, the test detects the presence of antibodies associated with the disease. Antibodies are produced by a cow as an immune response to the presence of the disease. Catching this disease early on can help with treating the cow with Johne’s and prevent it from spreading to other cows.
A type of mastitis, Mycoplasma bovis, is contagious and non-treatable for cows. It can quickly spread through a milking parlor, so it’s something that dairy farmers want to catch early. Once again, through a milk sample, Dairy One’s Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory, in partnership with Acumen Detection, can test for this disease. The test looks for the specific DNA signature of this disease in a milk sample. Once that is flagged, dairy farmers can move that cow into the sick pen to remove her from the regular milking rotation thus reducing the chance of the disease spreading to the rest of the herd.
An individual cow milk sample can yield lots of valuable information for a dairy farmer. Dairy One can collect milk samples on farms through our DHI Field Technicians. However, you can also submit a sample directly to Milk Laboratory or Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory. If you are interested in any of these services, please email [email protected] or call 607.252.7575.