Training Students to Multiply Extension Efforts in Troubleshooting and Evaluating Dairy Herd Performance

Lee H. Kilmer, Faculty, Animal Science Department


Troubleshooting and evaluating dairy herd performance is a major role for extension dairy specialists.  Each herd situation is different and identifying specific strengths and opportunities of an individual herd cannot be accomplished through traditional educational program efforts.  In depth, detailed, comprehensive evaluation and analysis of a dairy operation can only be accomplished through one-on-one, on-farm efforts.  Undergraduate students’ whose future plans are to be involved in dairy at the production level or in a supporting industry, such as a nutrition consultant or veterinarian, have the potential to serve as a resource to extend the efforts of extension specialists. However, most undergraduate students do not receive the appropriate training for this type of in-depth and detailed analysis.


Train students how to identify the strengths and weaknesses (opportunities) of a dairy operation and to provide dairy producers with specific research-based recommendations which should improve their herd’s performance, or profitability, or both.


During 2006 and 2007, 26 undergraduate students received training in evaluating and troubleshooting dairy herds.  They then applied these skills as they each worked with an individual dairy herd to identify the strengths and opportunities on that operation.  Finally, the students provided the herd owners with a detailed report in which they included specific recommendations designed to improve the operation.

Outcome Statement:   

Average production per cow in Iowa declined in 2006 and in 2007 compared to the previous year.  The 27 herds that the students worked with experienced an average decrease of 388 lb/cow/yr, whereas the Iowa average decreased 1453 lb/cow/yr.  This represents an additional $213/cow/yr in milk sales income (or $47,500/herd/yr) for the cooperating producers compared to the average of other herds in Iowa.  Thus, extension efforts to improve the profitability of Iowa dairy herds can be enhanced by undergraduate students, who will continue to utilize these skills as they work with additional dairy herd owners in pursuit of their careers in the dairy industry.


110 Dairy

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