Matt Akins, Extension Dairy Heifer Management Specialist
Marshfield Agricultural Research Station
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Matt Akins talks about researching the feed efficiency of dairy heifers by looking at diet and genetics.
2:51 – Total Time
0:13 – Research to improve feeding dairy heifers
0:40 – What is a heifer
1:00 – Will research change how heifers are fed
1:20 – How will this research benefit farm businesses
1:44 – How far along is the research
1:53 – Where to find the research results
2:03 – Tour of Marshfield Research Station
2:41 – Lead out
Sevie Kenyon: Researching a better way to feed dairy heifers. We’re visiting today with Matt Akins, dairy scientist, Marshfield Agricultural Research Station, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Matt, your research is looking at improving feeding for dairy heifers; can you describe that a little bit for us?
Matt Akins: Sevie, we’re working on some heifer research looking at genetics, the diet and how that affects the feed efficiency of the animal. The genetics we’re looking at so that farmers can possibly identify animals that are more efficient. We’re also looking at different feed compositions; how the diet affects the feed efficiency of the heifers.
Sevie Kenyon: Matt, I’m going to ask you to back up a little bit here. Matt, can you tell us what a heifer is and why that’s so important?
Matt Akins: A heifer is cattle that have not yet calved or started lactating, so that’s between birth and typically 24 months of age. So these animals are not producing milk, they’re really not bringing income, so they’re really a cost to the dairy.
Sevie Kenyon: And Matt, your research is that going to change the way these heifers are managed or fed?
Matt Akins: So we hope to find that there’s some genetic component in the animal that causes heifers to be more efficient, they’re going to be eating less feed but having the same amount of gain; then also identify different feed components that will make them more efficient.
Sevie Kenyon: Matt, how might this research benefit the farm and be of value to that operation?
Matt Akins: By improving feed efficiency, the heifer will be producing less manure; also it may be eating less – that would cost less money. So you’d have less manure going on to the fields which is also better for the environment. So all in all it’s really a good thing for the producer – less manure, less feed, less cost.
Sevie Kenyon: Matt, how far into this research program are you?
Matt Akins: We got done with our first two studies in the summer of 2015 and we’re going to do two more studies in the summer of 2016.
Sevie Kenyon: Matt, how do dairy farmers get ahold of this new information?
Matt Akins: They can go to our website, there’s a UW-Extension heifer management website; search on Google dairy heifer management.
Sevie Kenyon: Matt, can you give us a little thumbnail tour of what the Marshfield Agricultural Research Station is?
Matt Akins: So the Marshfield Research Station is for the University of Wisconsin, it’s the herd’s custom heifer raiser in my mind because they come up there at about four months of age after being raised as a calf at Arlington Station and then they’re raised up until calving time; very typical custom heifer raiser in Wisconsin or anywhere in the country. There’s about 550 dairy heifers up there at any time. We have about 130 milking cows up there. About half of our heifers will calf up there and stay for their first lactation.
Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Matt Akins, dairy scientist, Marshfield Agricultural Research Station, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.