Cows Get Report Cards?


‘Tis the season… No I don’t mean Thanksgiving or Christmas… I mean ’tis the season for finals, presentations and the ever important parent-teacher conferences. If you’re a parent or a student you may be experiencing some anxiety. Did my child do well? Does he/she participate in class? Does he/she make friends easily? Or… Did I study enough to pass? Did my interpretation of the 1909 New England Fruit Bat Famine meet my professors expectations? I hope you all had the right answers and wonderful meeting with the people shaping your child’s mind. As a kid I always participated in class, but struggled with concentration and focus. EVERY. YEAR. SAME. REPORT. But enough about me…. (Yes, I do have ADD)

Lilly likes a closeup!

Believe it or not our dairy cows also get report cards. If you’re the kind of person that has test anxiety you had better hope to never come back to earth as a dairy cow! Milk gets tested a lot. Everyday when the milk truck picks up the milk they take a sample from the bulk tank where all the milk from our cows is stored. The sample is tested for Antibiotics and other RX Drugs, Butter Fat (BF) and Protein (P) Content and Somatic Cell Count (SCC). This information plus the amount of milk shipped each day is directly tied into what each farmer gets paid for their milk. Farmers get paid the most for high fat, high protein, low SCC milk. If the tests show antibiotics the farmer not only gets nothing for their milk they may owe their cooperative money for the rest of the milk on the truck that is unusable. Another #foodthanks I am thankful that all dairy farms and cows provide safe and nutritious milk!

These are sample vials for each cow. I have no idea how they can keep all the numbers straight! A big thank you goes to @WifeofaDairyMan for letting me use this photo off of her blog about milk testing out in California.

So if a farmer gets paid more money for high BF & P and low SCC the farmer needs to be able to figure out how individual cows stack up to the other cows in the “class”. About once a month a representative from AgSource (AKA DHIA), comes to our farm and tests each and every cow’s milk. The tests that the DHIA representatives run are similar to the tests that our milk cooperative runs everyday when they pick up our milk. However instead of the big picture that we get from our milk cooperative the information DHIA gives us breaks it down into how each cow is doing. Each month, for each cow, we find out how many pounds of milk she is giving, how much BF and P her milk has and what the SCC of her milk is. It also lists how many days it has been since she last calved (DIM), if she is pregnant or not and lots of other info. Farmers use this overload of information to help manage their herd. Each number gives hints into what is going on with the cow. High SCC? She may need to be treated for mastitis. Sudden drop in the amount of milk produced? She may need to have the vet check her over for problems. A cow with lower BF and P levels may be bred to a cow with higher milk components so that hopefully her daughters will have stronger genetic ability in those areas.

With all of that important information you can imagine that I have been waiting for my heifers report cards to come. Our DHIA milk tester came Thursday night  and report cards came in the mail today.

Lots of numbers but they are all important!

This is how our girls stack up against their Holstein herd mates.


TEST DAY HERD AVERAGE– 92 DIM, 74lbs, 4.07 BF, 3.26P

The herd is about 95% Holstein, other than our cows their is only one other non-Holstein. Currently there are 92 cows being milked. 

GINGER– 26DIM, 56lbs, 4.5BF, 3.4P, 39SCC

Ginger is our only full Jersey cow. She has a nice low SCC, exactly what I like to see! 

SMIDGE– 26DIM, 72lbs, 5.4BF, 3.3P, 200SCC

Smidge is a Holstein Jersey cross and the smallest of all of our cows. Very happy with the amount of milk she is giving.

KISS– 21DIM, 59lbs, 5.2BF, 3.1P, 656SCC

This is a total surprise! Kiss is an Angus Jersey cross, I was pretty worried about her performance. Hopefully she keeps it up.

BUGS– 13DIM, 56lbs, 6.5BF, 3.2P, 191SCC

She is a Holstein Jersey cross milking well but her favorite pastime is kicking the milker off and trying to kick whoever is milking her.

LILLY– 11DIM, 61lbs, 5.2BF, 3.4P, 759SCC

Lilly is a Jersey Red Holstein cross out of Tbone. She milks well but doesn’t have a very nice udder. Time will tell with her.

NORMA-261DIM, 33lbs, 5.9BF, 4.4P, 207SCC

Norma The Best Cow Ever may finally be pregnant. Norma lost a pregnancy early on then had bad mastitis and a hot stretch to contend with. All these things meant that we have been pretty worried about her getting pregnant again. So far she has not shown a heat since her last breeding and hopefully this means she is pregnant. We should be able to check her at the end of the month.


Now as you can see our cows are below average in the amount of milk that they produce. However they blow away the competition in BF and P, an important part of our milk production. They are also smaller than Holsteins and eat less feed so the smaller amount of milk is offset by the smaller feed bill and higher components. All in all I am pretty happy with how our girls are doing. I would like to see the SCC go down, I like to see an SCC under 200. It will be interesting to see how these levels change next month when the girls have been milking a little longer and are more into their groove.

I know this is a lot of information but if you have a question please ask! I love to answer questions about farming!

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7 Comments on Cows Get Report Cards?

  1. Steph
    November 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm (8 years ago)

    Sounds like your cows are doing really well Carrie. Congrats on receiving some nice report cards! 🙂

  2. Deb
    November 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm (8 years ago)

    I had no idea, Carrie! Thanks for the milk AND the milk grading lesson!

    • DairyCarrie
      November 24, 2011 at 7:10 pm (8 years ago)

      Glad I was able to share some information with you! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Bogman_bass
    January 14, 2013 at 6:41 pm (7 years ago)

    Having milked an angus cross before, expect her to milk well in early lactation but she will peak early and trail off early, on the plus side she should be fertile, easy calved, hold her condition well and trow a decent bull calf

  4. Erin Kappelman
    February 7, 2015 at 3:48 pm (5 years ago)

    Thanks for the AgSource shoutout! 🙂 Isn’t it crazy how far technology has come in recent years. Now, along with testing for fat, protein, and SCC, we can do pregnancy test, Johne’s tests, and bacteria cultures, all from one (or two) samples!