by Rachel Kenneke
During the past summer, our interns visited over 80 dairy farms throughout the United States. The average number of reported pushups done a day was 9.3. However, when time-lapse cameras were used to evaluate feed bunk management, an average of only 6.5 pushups were actually done. Even though feed pushups are a critical part of the feeding program, they can often be overlooked.
Have a communication system between the night shift and the feeder. It isn’t uncommon that the feeder arrives in the morning to find a pen out of feed. How does he know how much to increase feed? How long were they out of feed? Time-lapse cameras have shown that “pushups” were done late at night or early in the morning to licked clean feed bunks. Did that feed pusher relay the message to the feeder that they were out at 2 am already? It can be very beneficial to keep a white-board or note system that the feeder can check in the morning. Having an effective communication system is critical in delivering the right amount of feed each day.
Cows are out of feed at midnight. How will the feeder know?
Increase the frequency of pushups in the early morning hours before feeding. When there is less feed in the bunk, it is easier for the cows to spread and push out of reach. It is important that effective pushups are done throughout the early morning hours to keep feed in reach of the cows. Cows will sacrifice eating time for lying time, so it is also important that when she comes to the bunk for a meal she doesn’t have to work for it.
Pushup feed within two hours of fresh feed delivery. Although it may seem that a pushup is not necessary shortly after feeding, the cows tell us that it is. After the fresh feed is dropped, cows eat aggressively and quickly form a feed ridge that gets pushed out of their reach. This can limit the amount of feed that cows can eat in their first meal. If the pen is overcrowded, the second group that comes to the bunk does not have much feed in reach if a pushup is not done after feeding.
Don’t set your pushup schedule by exact clock times. As every farmer knows, everything doesn’t always go as planned. Things break down, multiple cows can calve during a shift, and milking can sometimes take longer than usual. If the pushup schedule is determined by clock times, they can often be missed. Rather, it is better to schedule them before or after certain events, such as after certain pens get back from the parlor or after an employee’s shift is complete.
Designate one or two people per shift to pushup feed. When the task is given to one or two employees, the job is often not forgotten. They also become an expert in the task over time. When feed is pushed in alternating directions, feed stays more distributed across the bunk and doesn’t end up on a large pile at one end of the bunk.