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

Producers with significant production increase share insight

The Dairy Star staff had a chance to do a question and answer with seven DHIA herds across the state of Minnesota that had substantial herd average increases from 2011 to 2012. The seven farmers along with their thoughts to their herd increases are below.

What was your production increase from 2011 to 2012?
Albrechts: 25,360 to 29,267
Moldans: 26,220 to 28,193
Naatz Dairy: 24,550 to 26,998
Nosbush Dairy: 27,530 to 29,699
Sahrside Dairy: 26,620 to 29,271
Schulze Dairy: 23,691 to 27,207.
Thompson Dairy: 23,545 to 27,977

How many times a day do you milk?
Albrechts: We milk two times a day. I can't talk my wife into milking a third time.
Naatz Dairy: We milk three times a day at 3:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m..
Nosbush Dairy: Three times each day.
Sahrside Dairy: Three times a day.
Schulze Dairy: We milk three times a day at 4 a.m., noon and 8 p.m.
Thompson Dairy: Three times a day. We made the decision to go to three times a day in April of last year.

What type of facility do you have for your cows? What kind of bedding do you use?
Albrechts: I milk in a tiestall barn, with three box stalls. I bed with wheat straw and some shavings in the pens.
Moldans: Cows are housed in a deep bedded freestall barn and milked in a stanchion barn. Bedding for the freestalls is mainly chopped cornstalks but can vary depending on bedding available at any the time of year. Wheat straw or bean straw is used at times.
Naatz Dairy: We currently have two freestall barns for our cows that are bedded with sand.
Nosbush Dairy: Cows are housed in a cross ventilated, sand bedded freestall barn.
Sahrside Dairy: We have two six-row naturally ventilated barns and one cross ventilated barn and each barn houses roughly 400 cows. We bed with recycled sand and we milk in a double-16 Boumatic parlor.
Schulze Dairy: We recently built a tunnel ventilated freestall barn with sand bedding. It has gable belting inlayed in the cement by the feed bunks and major walking areas.
Thompson Dairy: We have freestalls for the milk cows and bedded pens for the dry cows and heifers. The cows are milked in a double-eight parallel parlor. The freestalls are bedded with sand, with new sand put in weekly. All stalls are raked and groomed three times a day. We mix fine chopped corn stalks and sawdust for all of the pens.

What do you attribute your herd average increase to?
Albrechts: I buy all my feed from Scott, Jackie and Neil Rickeman, and in the fall of 2011 they put a kernel processor on their chopper. I'm sure that helped a lot, along with going back on BST after stopping for a few years. Also, the Rickemans did a great job of putting up high quality haylage and corn silage this past year.
Moldans: I think the biggest influence on our herd average has been that we purchased a chopper that has a kernel processor on it. It really took off when we started feeding corn silage that was processed.
Naatz Dairy: Good nutritionist. As far as we are concerned we have the best. Getting cows bred, keeping cows comfortable, and being consistent.
Nosbush Dairy: In the past we sold a lot of heifers and dry cows as dairy replacements. With cull prices high relative to what we could sell dairy replacements for, this year we aggressively culled from the bottom of our herd. We also started using Posilac.
Sahrside Dairy: We have been more selective with culling and increased cow comfort with sprinklers and more fans.
Schulze Dairy: Our increase can be attributed to our recently built freestall barn and increased herd size. Our A.I. technician has developed an aggressive breeding program (Iversync, with Bruce Iverson). We have also converted to a three-times-a-day milking schedule. Cow comfort is a big factor. In our new barn, stalls are longer and wider to accommodate the bigger cows.
Thompson Dairy: Feed and feet. We have our own custom chopping business (Thompson Family Harvesting). We focus on getting the very highest quality forages that Mother Nature will allow us. We also harvest in a very short time frame to ensure a more consistent feed. We run foot baths on a set schedule three times a week, using copper sulfate. We try to trim hooves 2-3 times per year. We also regrooved the concrete in our oldest barn. In June, we remodeled a bedded pack barn into freestalls, with a separate pen for springers. This gave us the ability to separate the first lactation heifers into their own group.

What is your ration and have you made any recent changes that have increased production?
Albrechts: Our TMR ration consists of corn silage, haylage, dry shell corn, cottonseed, protein mix and Energy Booster plus Priority One. We sometimes mixed in dry baled hay to stretch the haylage inventory. We have been feeding this ration for a couple years. The dry cow ration of corn silage, chopped hay and straw plus a protein pellet has worked really well.
Moldans: The cows' ration has corn silage, dry hay, haylage and straw. There have been no significant changes to the ration other than silage with processed kernels.
Naatz Dairy: Our ration consists of corn silage, hay, corn gluten, liquid whey, and our custom mix. We have not made any significant changes in our ration.
Nosbush Dairy: Mature cows, high group on a dry matter basis: 21 pounds corn silage, 10 pounds haylage, nine pounds high moisture shell corn, 7.5 pounds soybean meal, six pounds of beet pulp, five pounds cottonseed, three pound Delactose Whey and one pound of a vitamin/mineral mix. In the past we have tried various protein sources and combinations. Now we are feeding solely soybean meal and have increased production with a simpler, less expensive ration.
Sahrside Dairy: Corn silage, haylage, alfalfa, cotton, corn gluten, dry corn and soybean meal. We utilize fresh sweet corn silage in season. We've tried different products to stretch our forage and have seen mixed results; it's tough to beat good corn silage and hay.
Schulze Dairy: We work closely and are constantly in contact with our nutritionist. We are continually making changes that might improve the production of our cows. This is our ration at this time: 52 pounds corn silage, 12 pounds haylage, 11 pounds of ground corn, nine pounds of protein mix, five pounds of whole cottonseed, five pounds of corn gluten pellet, 1.7 pounds of dry hay, 1.2 pounds of oat straw.
Thompson Dairy: Our ration consists of corn gluten, custom premix, TMR liquid, cottonseed, earlage, corn silage, and haylage. We added corn gluten back into the mix last fall to stretch our haylage. We focus on consistency, following all recommendations from our feed consultant. By separating our first lactation heifers, it gave us the ability to have their own ration with no competition at the bunk. We are also able to have all of our dry cows and springing heifers on the farm with their own ration.

What have been the most important factors in you obtaining a good herd average?
Albrechts: Since I started hauling TMR from Rickemans 10 or 12 years ago it has climbed about 8,000 pounds. Also, I have bred for type more than index, which helps keep cows around longer where they can finally handle making  30,000 to 40,000-pound milk records. Our SCC  has been averaging less then 100,000 for a few years, so that helps not having to cull many for that reason. Breeding problems is the No. 1 reason for culling at our farm. Having big stalls and using a lot of bedding certainly is a key for cow comfort and production.
Moldans: Factors that helped with herd average are quality feed, breeding and good quality of care for the animals.
Naatz Dairy: First and foremost is the nutrition. We have an awesome nutritionist that really knows what he's doing. Putting up your feed the best you can, and buying the best quality you can. Second, cow comfort is huge. If the girls aren't happy, no one is happy. Third, don't overlook all the small details. Everything goes hand in hand. From cleaning the water tanks to making sure all your equipment is running good. We have a great team of people that we work with from our nutritionist, veterinarian, to our employee's. It's a team effort!
Nosbush Dairy: Dry cow management. Our dry cows are housed in sand freestalls which results in clean, comfortable cows. We have very little problems with fresh cow mastitis. We found a dry cow diet that works for us and have changed it very little in over 10 years.
Cow housing. Cross ventilation results in better cow comfort: control of ventilation in winter, no flies in summer. Sand bedding makes for happy cows.
Pregnancy rate. Our pregnancy rate always runs in the 22 to 25 percent range. This results in less extended lactations (higher pounds per milking cow), less long dry periods, a larger percentage of cows in milk, and the ability to cull more or sell dairy replacements.
Genetics. We use a multi-trait selection index when choosing sires. It includes traits that have economic significance (fat pounds, protein pounds, somatic cell score, daughter pregnancy rate, calving ability). We are very biased against big cows.
Rations. We strive for consistent, cost effective rations based on home grown forages and grains. We feed very little in the way of additives - no foo-foo dust, no magic add packs, etc. The purchased ingredients in our rations change little over time and are used because they historically have performed well for us.
Sahrside Dairy: Paying attention to details in every area of our dairy. We try to put up good forage and keep cows cool and comfortable.
Schulze Dairy: We believe there are a few key factors in our obtaining a good herd average. First, we use a synchronized breeding program using top genetics in the industry, maintaining focus on longevity and milk production. Secondly, we work closely with our nutritionist to maximize our feed value, enhancing our production. Lastly we strive for time management. We keep our cows comfortable through routine. We also have good employees who have helped make our cows comfortable and more profitable.
Thompson Dairy: There are probably a dozen factors in obtaining and maintaining a high herd average. Some of the most important being quality forages. Without them, you will always be trying to supplement them with something else. It comes down to quality cows with good feet and legs, longevity and quality people to work with, from your agronomist to your vet. A lot of the credit has to go to my son. I have someone to work with that shares my passion. We are always challenging ourselves to do better.

What advice do you have for any producer trying to increase their herd average?
Albrechts: Feeding the best quality feed you can. Keeping your dry cow days down is definitely a must. Currently our average dry days is 51. Feeding this high priced feed to open dry cows doesn't work very well, especially at the current cull cow prices. Cow comfort is a must. Breed for good uddered cows with some size that will last for many lactations.
Moldans: I have always thought that if you take care of your animals they will take care of you, and attention to details can go a long way.
Naatz Dairy: With today's inputs being so high, you need to cull cows that are not making you money. Listen to people when they give advice. In the end it's your decision, but you have to be willing to change with the times. Find a good nutritionist, and feed your cows well. Keep them comfortable, stay consistent, get them bred back in a timely manner, and stay on all the small details. We love to hear what we are doing right from people, but more importantly, we love to hear what we can improve on. We think all producers need to have outside eyes looking in. We have a great team of people we work with, but our nutritionist especially helps us keep a to-do list. Anything from adding a building to simple little things.  We figure out what will benefit us the most and move those things to the top of the list. Of course, sometimes those things might not always be affordable to do right away, but then look at what option B could be to get you by until it does work in your cash flow.
Nosbush Dairy: The goal needs to be increasing profitability not just increasing herd average. If one adds expensive feed ingredients and ration costs increase $1 per cow while milk shipped only increases $.50 per cow, you have achieved higher production but have gone backwards. Consistently improving one's weakest areas (such as cow comfort, dry cow management, milking procedures, pregnancy rate or ration control) will increase production and profitability over time.
Sahrside Dairy: Cow comfort and good forages along with a lot of attention to details in every area of your dairy. Identify your biggest problem and correct that, then move on to the next one.
Schulze Dairy: Communicate with resources; speak to local dairy farmers, attend seminars and further education about dairying techniques and enhanced sires, and maintain good communication with your dairy management team; your veterinarian, AI, nutritionist, banker and employees.
Thompson Dairy: First, focus on the very finest, high quality forages and getting them up fast. Second, work on keeping cows as comfortable as possible with focusing on hoof health. Third, set a high goal, and work on it until you achieve it. Once you get there, set a new goal.[[In-content Ad]]


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