December 27, 2021 at 3:54 p.m.

A dairy’s best interests in mind

MDI helps Redalen’s farm change, cultivate relationships
Mike Redalen explains the robots on his farm Dec. 13 near Fountain, Minnesota. Redalen milks 200 cows. PHOTO BY KATE RECHTZIGEL
Mike Redalen explains the robots on his farm Dec. 13 near Fountain, Minnesota. Redalen milks 200 cows. PHOTO BY KATE RECHTZIGEL

By Kate Rechtzigel- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

FOUNTAIN, Minn. – Every three months Mike Redalen and his right-hand man, Paul Lacey, attend meetings at a local restaurant to better their farm. The meetings are put on by the Minnesota Dairy Initiative.
“MDI is really good networking for me because I get to hear what’s going on at other farms, too,” Redalen said. “It seems like Paul and I just don’t get away enough to talk to other farmers, so the team kind of brings in ideas from other farms.”
Redalen milks 200 cows with his parents, Don and Penny, on their farm in Fillmore County near Fountain. Redalen has two full-time employees: Lacey; a calf manager, Amy Means; and one part-time employee and a high school student who help milk, feed calves and do various barn chores. Redalen’s son, Lucas, 12, and Lacey’s sons Beau, 12, and Cole, 10, also help with grooming stalls, scraping manure, fetching and milking cows on the farm when they are able. The farm also runs 600 acres which includes feed for the herd, and cash crop corn and soybeans.
Redalen and his family became involved with MDI when their robot barn was being built in 2013.
“It was recommended, or almost mandated by my lender, that it would be a good thing to do because prior to this barn we milked in a 99-cow tiestall barn,” said Redalen, who now milks with three DeLaval robots. “The first role of the MDI team was to help plan the move into the barn and the change from milking 100 cows in a tiestall barn to up to 200 or more cows in this barn.”
The team answered questions about how that would change the farm’s feeding routine – forage, haylage, silage storage – and how the daily, weekly or monthly schedules would change.
After the barn transition was complete, Redalen and his family took a hiatus from MDI. While they worked with an industry field representative to oversee the meetings and then tried running the meetings on their own, the Redalens eventually returned to the statewide program.
In 2019, the family re-enrolled, and have been pleased with the collaboration to better the farm business ever since.
The current team consists of Lacey, Redalen’s nutritionist, veterinarian, a field representative from his creamery, a member from the milking equipment dealership, a representative from his breeding company and another farmer, Corey Mulhurn, who milks 800 cows and does custom harvest work for the farm.
“One thing that’s good for us with robots, especially eight years ago, is that no matter who is working for me, (they have) never been a robot expert. It’s good to connect those people with someone from the milking equipment dealership for questions and troubleshooting,” Redalen said. “The meetings cultivate a relationship between them so they don’t always have to go through me if there’s a question.”
With each meeting, the team addresses concerns or goals Redalen would like to achieve. Recently, they re-evaluated the floor of the new barn and looked for solutions to the wear it was showing.
“At our last meeting, the most important issue with the barn was that our alleys had gotten really slippery after being in for eight years,” Redalen said. “So, I used the team as a sounding board and, by good luck, my vet was able to connect me with a company who regrooved the barn. It turned out really well.”
Another good idea that came out of Redalen’s team meetings was improving the farm’s breeding strategy. Through discussion, Redalen decided to switch to double ovsynch for the herd’s reproduction protocol.
“That’s only been a positive thing,” Redalen said. “Over time that’s greatly improved our reproduction.”
However, not all ideas that come out of Redalen’s MDI team meetings have been a success.
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing either,” Redalen said. “We were having a lot of mastitis, and using expensive sawdust bedding which wasn’t helping. My nutritionist at the time had suggested not using any bedding, which we tried and it was just awful.”
So, after having three cases of mastitis in a row, Redalen decided using no bedding was even worse than using expensive bedding.
“What I took from that was, I don’t want to go back to paying a large amount on bedding which wasn’t working very well,” Redalen said. “So, on a short turnaround, we found a new bedding source that was way cheaper and with the improvements finally getting done on our milking system, it was like overnight the mastitis just stopped.”
The farmer said he never would have made the change in bedding management without going through the process of trial and error.
Among all the program offers, Redalen is thankful it brings all the people he does business with together.
“It brings a team approach to solving problems and keeping everything going around here,” Redalen said.
For those already enrolled or looking to create a team within MDI, Redalen had advice. He encouraged farmers to keep their team on task with the farm’s goals, get more peers on the team and, as a farm, take as much out of the program as possible.
“Without MDI, we would be stuck doing a lot of things the same way and change would come a lot slower here,” Redalen said. “Get people to offer advice, take criticism and look out for the benefit of the farm.”


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