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

Quality forages, cow comfort propel Kieffers' milk production

An employee milks cows in the double-8 parallel parlor at River City Dairy during one of the three daily milking shifts. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA SHEEHAN
An employee milks cows in the double-8 parallel parlor at River City Dairy during one of the three daily milking shifts. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA SHEEHAN

River City Dairy
Wayne and Bernie Kieffer with their sons, Kevin and Tim
Hastings, Minn.
Dakota County
260 cows

What is your current herd average, butterfat and protein? Our rolling herd average is 30,484 pounds of milk with 1,150 pounds of fat and 956 pounds of protein.
How many times a day do you milk? If you don't milk 3x a day, have you tried it in the past? We have been milking three times a day for 13 years. Shortly after we built our freestall barn and parlor, we started the new schedule because the cows were leaking during the day.
Do you use BST? If so, what is your protocol? Yes, we use BST. Most cows are started on BST between 56 and 70 days in milk. We take them off BST one month before dryoff. If a cow is giving over 150 pounds of milk at 60 days in milk, we will usually wait to give her BST. This usually only applies to a few cows.
Do you contract your milk? Has it been successful for you? We have never contracted milk.
Describe your housing and milking facility. Cows are milked in a double-8 parallel parlor we built in 2000. At that same time, we built a six-row sand bedded freestall barn with 105 stalls in the high group pen and 99 stalls in the low group pen. In 2008 we added a bedded pack pen (bedded with cornstalks) with headlocks. This has been nice for fresh, sick and lame cows.
What is the composition of your ration? What has been one of your most recent changes that has been successful for you? The ration has corn silage, haylage, dry hay, cottonseed, dry corn that is run through a hammer mill and a protein mix. About 40 percent of the ration is corn silage while 25 percent of the ration is haylage. Last spring, we planted a variety of corn that has a thinner hull and therefore has more starch content. When we started feeding it in October, milk went up about four pounds per cow per day. We've already run out of it, so we plan to plant more this year. Last year, we planted 60 acres and this year will plant 130 acres. This new variety of corn has been the best change in our ration.
Through the years you've been farming, what change has created the biggest jump in your herd average? The biggest jump in our herd average was when we went from two-times-a-day milking to a schedule with three milking shifts. Within that same week of making the switch, production went up by 10 pounds per cow per day. Now we milk at 4 a.m., noon and 7:30 p.m.
What is your herd health program? We start vaccinating animals at birth with Calf Guard followed by Inforce 3. At two months of age when they are weaned and arrive at our heifer grower, they are given Onset-5 and Ultrabac 7. At three months, they receive Vista and Ultrabac 7, and then Titanium 5 + L5. At pregnancy confirmation and again at six months pregnant, they are given Virashield 6 + L5HB. When they return from the calf grower about six weeks before calving, the animals receive J-5 and Guardian, and then receive it again two weeks before calving. At dryoff they receive Guardian and Virashield 6 + L5. Cows are given J-5 three weeks before calving, at 60 days in milk and again at six months pregnant.
What does your dry cow and transition program consist of? Cows are dried off at 60 days before calving, and given a dry-cow treatment of Orbenin and Orbeseal. Dry cows are housed in sand bedded freestalls and have access to pasture in the summer. Three weeks prior to calving, they are moved to a bedded pack. Dry cows and close up cows are fed two different rations. Dry cows receive a ration that is mainly corn silage, grass hay and a little haylage. The close up cow ration has anionic salts and no haylage. Fresh cows are housed and milked in a different barn for the first few days so their health can be monitored and their milk can be pasteurized and used to feed the calves. Once they are deemed healthy, the cows are moved to the freestall barn or pack pen.
What role does genetics play in your production level and what is your breeding program? We have always selected bulls that are plus in production and type. We also try to focus on bulls with high health traits including productive life and daughter pregnancy rate. Currently, we are participating in the University of Minnesota's crossbreeding trial. We started with 150 Holsteins bred to Holsteins and 100 Holsteins bred to Montbeliarde or Swedish Red. Their offspring are bred to Montbeliarde or Swedish Red to complete the three-way cross. We are just starting to milk our three-way crosses now. We have at least three more years in the trial. We are able to choose the bulls, but there are a few stipulations. The Holsteins must be in the 90th percentile. With the other breeds, we go with the recommendation of our A.I. company. Three years ago, we also installed the Select Detect activity monitoring system. Our pregnancy rate increased from about 17 percent to 24 percent. It has saved us time, labor, shots and has also shortened lactation length. The first year, we dropped nearly 100 services. The cows are now bred 100 percent from the activity monitor. Between five to 20 days in milk, we put the activity monitor collar on the cows. At 27 to 41 days in milk, all cows are given Estrumate. By 55 to 73 days, the cows are bred if they are in heat. If they are not bred by 74 to 87 days in milk, we will give them an Estrumate shot. If they are not bred from the second shot, they will continue into ovsynch. If cows are open when we pregnancy check, they are given Estrumate or GNRH depending on if a CL is present or not. We pregnancy check every two weeks using ultrasound. Cows are checked three times: the first time between 28 and 41 days, again between 59 and 72 days when we check the sex of the calf and at 180 days before the cows goes off BST.
What would you say are the three most important factors that helped you attain your current herd average? The first most important factor is feeding high quality forages. We do this by cutting forages at the right time and correct moisture level. We harvest our own forages and store everything in bunkers. When we gather the feed for mixing, we use a facer to take if off the bunker. The second important factor is cow comfort. Sand bedding is key to cow comfort along with having the right stall size. Our stalls are 46 inches, but we recently took out the brisket board in one half of our barn to make them more comfortable with more lunging space. We plan to take out the rest of the brisket boards this summer. Our crossbred cows are smaller so they fit in our stalls a little better. During the summer, we also keep cows comfortable with fans and sprinklers. The third important factor that has helped with production has been getting cows bred back. Our activity monitoring system has been crucial for this aspect. The timing is important so now we know when we should be breeding them. Before, we would see them in heat, then have to guess if we were breeding them at the right time.
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