September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Considering management changes after rough winter

Konicheks eyeing a multipurpose building
This narrow valley is where Doug and Susie Konichek milk 38 cows in a managed grazing system. The Konicheks are thinking about putting up a multipurpose building behind the barn and holding area.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY RON JOHNSON
This narrow valley is where Doug and Susie Konichek milk 38 cows in a managed grazing system. The Konicheks are thinking about putting up a multipurpose building behind the barn and holding area.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY RON JOHNSON

By By Ron Johnson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

STEUBEN, Wis. - Wisconsin's toughest winter in 35 years has some dairy farmers thinking about how they can fine tune their cattle management. Among them are Doug and Susie Konichek of Steuben, Wis.
"We've tried out-wintering. But we ran into some frozen teats last winter. It'd be real nice to handle the cows a different way," said Doug Konichek, during a pasture walk on June 3 at his farm.
The Konicheks and their children - Ryan, Eric and Jena - milk 38 Jersey-Holstein crosses on their managed grazing. Their small farm is tucked into a narrow valley that has flood-prone Pine Creek flowing through it.
The family began dairying late in 2010. Doug Konichek works full-time at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in nearby Boscobel. Susie works part-time at a medical center in Fennimore.
A field across the township road from the house and barn is where the Konicheks' cows spent this past winter. To provide a windbreak, the Konicheks built a horseshoe-shaped berm out of snow.
Overall, it worked well, Konichek said. But there were a couple of problems. One was a few frozen teats. The other was a bit of udder edema.
Konichek blamed the edema partly on having some cows calve late in the year, close to Christmas. To try to solve that problem, the Konicheks are thinking about building a shelter or barn that cows could calve in during rainy or cold conditions. It might also be used for feeding and hay storage.
As for udder edema, graziers offered various bits of advice. Minnesota grazier and Crawford County Extension Agriculture Agent Vance Haugen said udder edema can be related to genetics. Not only that, but certain breeds and certain lines of cattle can be more susceptible. The disorder, he said, is related to the metabolic changes cows undergo in making the transition from being dry to freshening.
Konichek said his Jerseys seem to be more susceptible. That statement led to a discussion about the role of salt in creating edema.
Haugen advised not letting the cows consume too much salt when they're dry. Trace mineral salt blocks are probably a better option than letting the cows have free-choice salt, he said. And, some farmers make sure salt is an ingredient in the grain part of the ration.
Most of the dozen or so graziers at the pasture walk seemed to agree that it's a good idea to restrict the amount of salt heifers get. One dairyman said he feeds his dry cows a mineral mix that has salt in it. Four to eight weeks before his heifers freshen, he switches them to that mineral mix and takes the rest of their salt away.
As for frozen teats, Haugen warned against making cows walk through udder-deep snow to get to the barn for milking. Instead, he suggested using a tractor to break a trail through the snow.
Another suggestion was to use a teat dip containing glycerin, or to add glycerin to the dip, when the mercury dips below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature is above 30, use an iodine teat dip with no glycerin in it.
Haugen told the group that his son, Olaf, milked through the winter, instead of drying all the cows off. Those cows spend winters outside, but they have plenty of bedding.
The Extension agent spoke highly of the farm's bedding processor, saying, "It shoots 60 feet. So when you go out to bed, you just make a half-moon turn and you're bedded."
The Konicheks were urged to consider cutting calving off earlier in the autumn, rather than extending it into December. Don't move calving up into the heat of August, they were advised, but cut it off to no later than mid-October.
"If you can cut calving off there, you're going to take care of a lot of your problems without having housing - or less-aggressive housing," Haugen said.

How about a building?
The Konicheks also wanted input on putting up some type of multipurpose building. It could be a hoop barn or maybe a pole building. The couple has room for such a structure behind their milking barn, where it could tuck up in a U-shaped opening near the base of a wooded ridge.
If the cows wintered in or near the new building, they would not have to traverse a rocky lane that goes under the town road. Space is a bit tight behind the existing barn, but visiting graziers thought the location could be made to work. Building across the road is not an option, Konichek said, because the water table lies just 18 inches below the soil surface.
One idea was to opt for a building that's open on one side and locate it to catch the south and east sunshine. The Konicheks seemed to like the idea of including a concrete area that can double as a cattle lane and feeding area.
"Drive-by feeding is the Cadillac," Haugen said. "But remember that you're basically going to need two feet per head," so all 40 cows can eat at the same time.
A neighboring dairyman emphasized the value of concrete. He said, "Building a concrete pad is the best thing I ever did. It might be expensive, but 30 years later it's still there."
If the building project starts to become too expensive, it can always be done incrementally, over a period of a few years, the Konicheks were reminded. Haugen suggested they make a list of all the things that "frosted your tater patch" and try to remedy them when they build.
Another bit of advice was to visit other farms to see what has been done. And, be sure to ask the farmers what things they would have done differently.
"Do it right," Haugen urged. "But make sure that's, indeed, what you want to have done."[[In-content Ad]]


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