October 12, 2020 at 2:46 p.m.
Metogga Lake Dairy
New Prague, Minnesota
What is your current herd average, butterfat and protein? Our bulk tank average is 95 pounds per cow per day with 4.1% butterfat and 3.2% protein. Our current RHA is 30,330 pounds of milk, with 1,225 pounds of fat and 985 pounds of protein.
How many times a day do you milk? Our herd is milked twice a day.
Do you contract your milk? Has it been successful for you? We buy milk insurance that sets a price floor on a quarterly basis, and that has been successful for us. We haven’t contracted milk in several years, as in the past we haven’t had good luck with it.
Describe your housing and milking facility. We milk in a double-10 herringbone parlor that Ray and Bridget retrofitted into their tiestall barn in 1988. Our cows are housed in a sand-bedded freestall barn with curtain walls, fans and sprinklers.
What is your herd health program? Our veterinarian comes every Tuesday for pregnancy checks. We vaccinate heavily in the dry period and pre-fresh heifers. Some vaccines are given in the milking herd as well.
What does your dry cow and transition program consist of? First lactation heifers go dry one week earlier than second-plus lactation cows. We dry off every Friday; therefore, first lactation cows are dry just over 60 days, and second-plus lactation cows are dry just under 60 days. Our pre-fresh heifers are moved two months before they are due to the dry cow pen and go on the dry cow ration consisting of grass, straw, corn silage and mineral. Cows are moved to a bedded pack about four weeks before their due date. They stay in one of these four calving pens until they calve. It is important to us to not overcrowd our pre-fresh pens. Once they calve, we keep them in the hospital pen where they get the fresh cow ration for 21 days.
What is the composition of your ration? What has been one of your most recent changes that has been successful for you? Our milk cows are fed haylage, corn silage, sweet corn silage, ground dry corn, cotton seed and mineral mixes. About 1.5 years ago, we went away from feeding earlage and started feeding ground dry corn instead. We saw a big increase in cow health and increased milk fat when we made this switch.
What is your average SCC and how does that affect your production? Our bulk tank SCC is averaging 94,000 right now. Having a low SCC means healthier cows which increases production.
Through the years you have been farming, what change has created the biggest jump in your herd average? Three years ago, we built a transition barn which really helped. Providing a clean, comfortable, stress-minimized calving place for the cows has bumped up the health of fresh cows and gotten them off to a great start resulting in higher peaks and more milk throughout their lactation. Another huge improvement was when we started feeding our calves milk balancer in with pasteurized whole milk. Initially, we saw a big increase in calf health and growth. When these calves freshened in, their total production was soaring over previous first lactation heifers.
What role does genetics play in your production level, and what is your breeding program? We breed our lower end cattle to beef, and the rest are bred conventional. We have been playing around with this the past few years, but we average about 10%-15% beef cross calves.
What type of improvements would you like to make that would increase your rolling herd average even higher? The key is to never stop improving. Small improvements often go a long way; however, right now, we are implementing a game changing improvement. We are in the construction phase of adding seven Lely robots, so hopefully our production, health and individual herd management will continue to increase.
List three management strategies that have helped you attain your production and component level. It is important to manage cow comfort to keep animals healthy starting at birth and housing them in good environments throughout their life. Putting up high-quality forages and working closely with your nutritionist for a balanced ration is crucial. Also, getting cows pregnant and breeding for long-lasting cows with high productivity and detecting your high- and low-end value cows is a good idea.
Tell us about your farm. Our farm was started by our parents, Ray and Bridget, in 1973. They had 10 children, all of which are involved in agriculture today. Five of their children manage the farm today and are co-owners with their parents. Ray and Bridget started with a handful of cows in an old stanchion barn but evolved the farm to support the family. We milk 450 cows, raise our replacements and grow alfalfa, corn and soybean. We have taken many risks building the farm, but God has granted us the strength, wisdom and passion to succeed. Our family grew up working together and having fun while accomplishing the same goals. That is what family farming is all about.
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