5/15/2017 3:44:00 PM Teamwork a key to high production at Clay View Dairy
Cows are milked three times a day in a double-18 parallel parlor. The current rolling herd average is 31,614 pounds of milk with 1,393 pounds of butterfat and 1,043 pounds of protein. PHTOO BY KRISTA KUZMA
This cow is one of Clay View Dairy’s high-testing genomic animals. High genomic animals are flushed to advance the herd while low-testing animals are marketed to other dairies. PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
Clay View Dairy LLP The milking operation is in Goodhue, Minn., and the heifer operation is in Dennison, Minn. Both locations are in Goodhue County.
Number of cows: 1,150
What is your current herd average, butterfat and protein? The herd is currently at 31,614 pounds of milk with 1,393 pounds of butterfat and 1,043 pounds of protein.
How many times a day do you milk? We milk three times a day and have been doing so since 1997.
Do you use BST? If yes, what is your protocol? We use BST on a 14-day interval. First lactation animals milking over 100 pounds do not receive it unless they are confirmed open after the first service. Second lactation and greater cows milking over 130 pounds do not receive it unless they are confirmed open after the first service.
Do you contract milk? Yes. Currently we rely on the quarterly data supplied to us by Rabo Bank. We use a mixture of options and futures depending on the market circumstances. Our goal is to always try to preserve market upside if possible. In the past, our operation was successful using the Livestock Gross Margin (LGM) program; however, we signed up for the Margin Protection Program (MPP) nearly two years ago and that was a mistake. By signing up for MPP, we were unable to use the LGM program.
Describe your housing and milking facility. We are a sanded-bedded dairy that has expanded from within since 1996. Before that, we were a 48-stall tiestall operation. Our cows are milked in a double-18 parallel parlor. Our most recent upgrades have been the purchase and installation of new electrical transformers with isolation devices for both the milking and heifer facilities.
What is the composition of your ration? Have there been any recent changes? Our diet philosophy hasn't changed for years. Our nutritionist, Ben Flueger, and primary veterinarian, Dr. David Atwell, have been the only people ration balancing here for over a decade. We were early adopters of that technology. Other than a post fresh diet, our rations are comprised of dry cow, transition and one group lactation diet. Our diet is a high corn silage diet with baleage and amino acid balancing.
Through the years you've been farming, what has created the biggest jump in your herd average? Improvements in genetics and sand bedding. We were early adopters of genomics and took advantage of the tools available to accelerate our herd's genetic potential. Many can argue the pros and cons of sand, but we have always understood that cows are more comfortable on sand. On a negative note, our herd production, health and profitability has been suppressed the last few years due to a stray current problem. We have implemented technologies such as, cross ventilation, modified tunnel ventilation, positive ventilation and added to our transition areas the last few years. However, there was a suppression in performance. We have not been reaching our genetic, milk production or profitability potential due to the stray current issues. We were recently able to come to an agreement with our power provider to fix their issues if we paid for it at both facilities.
What is your herd health program? Probably the most notable areas are: 1. Our philosophy of "We work for the cows." We work very hard to make sure this is the center of our culture. 2. Constant monitoring, training, evaluation and benchmarking. Dr. Jim Fountaine and Ben Flueger are two examples of trusted individuals who help us interpret data so we can make good decisions.
What does your dry cow and transition program consist of? We target 62 days dry, and we just recently added seven days to cows confirmed with twins. Transition diets start around 30 days before calving. We have two group calving pens: one for new heifers and one for cows in their second lactation or greater.
What role does genetics play in your production level and what is your breeding program? Genetics has played a huge part. Even though the stray current hasn't allowed us to express our full potential, our component values really show one part of the investment we have made in genetics. Some call our Holstein herd an oddity when they see our component levels, but it is something we have focused on for years. We have had a timed breeding program for many years. We are very rigid in shot timing and do not cherry pick animals for breeding. Being successful with reproduction has allowed us to grow from within over the years. Dr. Fountaine has always kept us informed of cutting edge work being done by reproduction researchers throughout the country. Consistency is the key. Our cows are pedigree-mated to the highest net merit bulls available. All animals are also genomic tested. We have our own ranking system and formula to choose the top ranking animals to flush. The bottom ranking animals are marketed to other dairy farmers.
What type of improvements would you like to make that would increase your RHA even higher? For us right now, it is about improving profitability. We can talk about RHA, but milk sold, feed conversion, cull rates, labor effectiveness and heifer raising performance/cost balance is where the rubber hits the road. We are working on two areas right now: The first is working every day to ensure the normalcy of our system since the electrical fixes took place. Our systems are sound. We just should keep monitoring, evaluating and improving. Ag Pathways LLC developed a stray current monitoring system, which constantly records data. With this system, we can measure off-farm current contributions to make sure the issue never affects us again to the extent it has. The second is a company we started. Ag Pathways LLC, is a labor resource company designed to source, improve leadership, create accountability, provide training and intelligent decision making on not only our farm, but to help other businesses in those same areas. "We work for the cows," but we are in the people business. Through our experience, our objective is to not only continuously improve our own operation, but to share and help other operations through our experiences and resources.
What would you say the three most important factors were that helped you attain our current RHA? The first is great partners and team members. We have been through a lot together, but we are all rooted in continuous improvement, while helping each other become better. We all have our roles and there is not one role that is more important than another. The second is cow comfort. The third is focusing on continued genetic improvement. The fourth is data and performance monitoring, which are the basis for evaluation, vision and goal setting. The fifth is implementing the best nutrition program we can.
Tell us about your farm. The Huseth family owns the farm, a fourth-generation family farm that takes pride in the fact that we have several families working together. "We work for the cows," because the cows provide us the opportunity to share in the betterment of each other's lives.