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

Sand bedding drives down SCC at Crystal View Farms

Cows rest in freestalls bedded with sand. Fresh sand is added to the stalls every Thursday, and it is not allowed lower than the curb of the stall. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA SHEEHAN
Cows rest in freestalls bedded with sand. Fresh sand is added to the stalls every Thursday, and it is not allowed lower than the curb of the stall. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA SHEEHAN

Crystal View Farms
Terry and Ellie Schwartz along with their children, Mandy, Kristina and Nathan
Fountain, Minn.
Fillmore County
363 cows

How much have you dropped your SCC the last few years? We have dropped 300,000 in the last few years.

Why is it important for you to lower your somatic cell count? We want to produce and sell quality milk.

What are three changes you've made that assisted you in achieving a lower SCC? The first is sand bedding. We started using sand bedding in January 2007 when we built the freestall barn and parlor. The second is milking three times a day with a proper prepping routine, and the third is identifying and treating mastitis cases right away.

Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to lower their SCC? Follow the three Cs - consistency, cleanliness and communication. It's important to keep cows on a consistent schedule and keep them as clean as possible. It's also very important to clearly communicate to the milking technicians what their tasks are and how they need to be done correctly. On our farm, if there are any problems of any kind our employees should get a hold of us to help solve the issue. Keeping an open line of communication can put all of us at ease,

What type of barn do you have and what kind of bedding do you use? We have a four-row freestall barn we built in 2007. The stalls are bedded with sand.

How do you groom your stalls and how often do you do it? All stalls are groomed three times a day. At each milking, the person bringing that group of cows up to be milked rakes out any dirty or wet areas in the stall. The manure is also scraped out of the alleyways with a skidloader and pushed to the manure storage pit as each row of cows is moved to the holding area. Fresh sand is bedded every Thursday. The sand is not allowed to be lower than the curb of the stall. This eliminates any pooling of urine and manure.

If a cow comes down with mastitis, how do your treat her? If the milking techs find any cow with mastitis, she is automatically put on oxytocin to make sure she is completely milked out. She is then marked so all milking technicians know that she needs oxytocin. After she is milked out, she is given a Today tube and rubbed down with Udder Comfort. Treated cows are marked with red duct tape on both rear legs, and her number is written down on the board so everyone knows she needs extra care and attention. With the cow's number written down, Mandy, who takes care of cow health, will take her temperature and examine her. If the cow needs further treatment, Mandy will then IV the cow as needed. If Mandy has any questions about a certain cow, she consults with Terry, and together they decide the best treatment for the cow.

What does your milking procedure consist of? Do you use a quarter milker or bucket? At what point do you use this tool? Cows' teats are cleaned off with a clean micro fiber towel that is only used once. The cow is then pre dipped and wiped off with another clean towel before each teat is stripped out three times. The milk is examined for any mastitis. Four cows are prepped at a time and milkers are attached within 60 seconds. After each cow is milked, she is checked to make sure each quarter is milked out. She is then dipped with a one percent iodine post dip. We use a bucket as soon as a cow is identified with mastitis.

At what point do you stop treating cows and ship them? Cows are shipped when multiple treatments haven't made any changes, and when she is drug-free. After we have a treated a cow three times, that's usually when we think about selling her.

What type of analysis do you use to monitor milk quality? We can access our files from our creamery online to check the daily somatic cell count for any spikes. We also get a weekly slip from the creamery with this same information. We also use DHIA papers to cull individual cows who constantly have a higher SCC than we would like.

How often do you check over your milking equipment? Milking equipment is checked daily for any holes or tears in any of the hoses. Inflations are changed every 20 days. We have Lang's Dairy from Decorah come in three times during the year to go through the whole system to make sure everything is working properly.

What does your milking equipment cleaning process consist of? The system sanitizes within a half hour before each milking, with two complete washes with the morning and evening milkings.

Where do you raise your heifers and what type of bedding do you use? All our heifers are raised at home. They start in the calf barn in individual pens on straw bedding. They are then moved to weaned pens with straw. After weaning, they are grouped in pens in the cattle shed and bedded with cornstalks. At breeding age, they are moved to an open lot that has dirt and cement. After being pronounced pregnant they are moved to pasture.

Tell us about your farm. Our farm is a first and second-generation family farm. We run 500 acres, growing corn and alfalfa. We raise all our own replacement heifers from birth to calving. Three of our four children are involved in the operation. Our oldest daughter, Nikki, lives in Iowa with her husband and daughter. They hope to move back to join the operation soon. Both Mandy and Kristina started working on the farm full-time when they graduated from high school. Terry is the all-around guy and can step in anywhere when needed. He does most of the feed mixing. Ellie and Kristina raise all the calves. Kristina also keeps on top of making sure all the maternity pens and heifer pens are bedded well. Ellie does all the financial records for the farm and takes are of all the cattle records. Mandy takes care of the animal health on the farm. We call her our on-the-farm veterinarian. She takes care of the cows and oversees the parlor. Nathan is a freshman at Fillmore Central High School and helps wherever he is needed. We all work together and we know how to do each other's work in case someone needs to attend to other things. We have four full-time employees and two part-time employees besides our family.
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