seal  Purdue News

February 18, 2004

Lower BST production urges changes in dairy management

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A planned 50 percent cut in the production of a product designed to increase a cow's milk output has dairy producers concerned. However, there are other ways to boost milk production, said Mike Schutz, a Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service dairy specialist.

Monsanto Co., makers of the bovine somatotropin protein Posilac (pronounced POS-a-lak), have sent letters to customers to inform them that sales of its product will be limited to existing customers and that the price per dose will increase by about 50 cents, Schutz said. Monsanto expects the product shortfall, which is due to problems at a supplier's manufacturing facility, to continue throughout 2004.

Bovine somatotropin (BST) is a protein naturally produced in the pituitary glands of cattle that helps adult cows produce milk. Monsanto is the only company with a BST product on the market, and Posilac injections can increase a cow's milk production by 8-10 pounds per day.

"Dairy producers who have used Posilac as a management tool are really going to have to look at where they've had the biggest benefits," Schutz said. "The first thing I would recommend before starting any new cows on Posilac is to be sure that there is enough to continue treatments of the cows that have already begun the program."

Schutz also suggested discontinuing use of BST in 2-year-old cows because those cows show less of a response to the treatment than older cattle. He also said removing cows in late lactation from the treatment program more quickly than normal will conserve additional Posilac for higher producing cows in mid-lactation.

"I think there are some other management strategies that one could think about rather than the use of Posilac," Schutz said. "Research has shown that increasing the frequency of milking can dramatically influence milk production."

Increasing milking of recently fresh cows from two times to four times a day or three times to six times a day can increase milk production. He said this increase in milking is easily accomplished by milking fresh cows at the beginning and end of each milking period.

"Research out of Illinois has shown that milking fresh cows four times a day for the first 30 days of lactation has roughly the same impact as milking cows three times a day for the whole lactation," he said. "This could certainly increase production by nearly the amount that can be accomplished with the BST injection right now."

The increased production can offset the feed, equipment and labor costs, and pay dividends in improved health of the fresh cows.

Another alternative is to manage daylight intervals in the barns. Schutz said providing 16 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness can increase milk production in the range of 8 percent to 10 percent.

Schutz said the reduction in Posilac production comes at a tough time for dairy farmers.

"The limit on the supply of Posilac seems to be coming at a time when feed prices are high," he said. "So it's a time for producers to weigh the benefits that they're getting against the additional feed costs involved in producing the extra milk from Posilac."

It's also important that dairy producers work closely with a nutritionist to make sure that protein isn't being overfed and that carbohydrates and digestible starch and fiber are at appropriate levels.

In the meantime, the announced cut of Posilac has boosted milk futures prices.

"The fortunate news for the dairy industry is that even though a production enhancing tool is being limited, it looks like it's happening at a time when milk prices are going to be reasonably high compared to the last five to 10 years," Schutz said.

Writer: Kay Hagen, (765) 494-6682,

Source: Mike Schutz, (765) 494-9478,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes,
Agriculture News Page

Related Web site:
Purdue Extension Dairy Page

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