June 14, 2021 at 3:25 p.m.
Luckwaldt Agriculture Inc.
Describe your facilities and list your breeding management team. We milk in a double-20 parallel parlor. Two-thirds of the cows live in a crossventilated barn, and one-third live in a naturally-ventilated barn. Our herdsmen are Patrick Kuselik and Derek Fenner; Tom Mahoney is our technician from Select Sires; and Dr. Veronica Schommer is our vet. Dr. Marv Johnson has done a lot of embryo transfer work for us also.
What is your reproduction program? Do you use a synchronization program? How do you get animals pregnant? We use double ovsync/double Lutalyse with some visual heat detection. Our vet uses ultrasound to examine the corpus luteum to determine where a cow is at in her cycle.
Describe your breeding philosophy. We place our emphasis on health.
What guidelines do you follow to reach the goals for your breeding program? I believe the cow today is different than what we had six to eight years ago. We rarely culled pregnant cows, and now we do with some regularity. Our hospital pen used to be full (20 cows) all the time. We had to make the pen smaller a couple years ago because we now have less than five in the pen. Obviously, that is good business but probably a bigger animal welfare issue going forward.
What are the top traits you look for in breeding your dairy herd and how has this changed since you started farming? We probably emphasize Dairy Wellness Profit Index more than the industry. Again, avoiding health events is good for business and animal welfare. The biggest genetic change in my lifetime is that we have so many more health traits we can select for.
What are certain traits you try to avoid? We avoid -1 on legs side view; monitor teat length and placement; avoid negative daughter pregrancy rate bulls; and place a lot of emphasis on productive life.
Describe the ideal cow for your herd. A 10-year-old cow that nobody remembers because she never caused problems and has produced a lot of high-quality milk.
What role does genetics have in reaching the goals of your farm? As commercial producers, our genetic program used to be just to use good bulls. A higher pregnancy rate and genomics have changed all that. Genetic improvement basics, such as generation interval and selection intensity, have all been taken to a much higher level in the last eight years. Genomics has also allowed us to monitor our progress much better.
What percentage of your herd is bred to sexed, conventional and beef semen? Our milking cows are probably bred 70% beef. Heifers and high-genomic cows are bred to high-index sexed semen or conventional Holstein. We have also gotten a fair number of high-index embryos from local producers that we have incorporated into our herd.
What is your conception rate? How does this differ with different types of semen? It seems to stay around 60% for everything. The most fertile cattle get sexed semen, and other cattle get conventional.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned through your breeding program? Semen selection is when you make your genetic improvement. Genetic audits have shown us the consequences of those selections. Genetic improvement opportunities are more available than ever before. You better accurately identify the traits that will be economically important to you in the future and aggressively incorporate those traits in your herd if you hope to continue milking cows in the future.
What is the age of your heifers at first service? 410 days.
How does your heifer inventory affect your breeding program? We monitor it closely. Our heifers are at a grower in Kansas. Raising replacements is a real cost for us, so we don’t like to raise too many extras or low genetic merit animals.
Tell us about our farm. My wife Mary pays the bills. In addition to my two herdsmen, I have Bob Donahoe, who is my operations manager, and Hispanics round out my milk harvest staff. We have sand-bedded free stalls and a sand separation system. We crop about 2,200 acres, mostly alfalfa, BMR corn silage and some grain corn. All our crop harvests and most of our manure pumping is handled by custom operators. We raise replacement calves to 5 months of age which are then sent to southwest Kansas until 45 days prefreshening.