November 13, 2021 at 7:20 p.m.
“I guess I just know my cows,” Dicke said. “If they come in acting kicky or something, I know there is something going on.”
Dicke, his wife Lisa, and three boys, Caleb, 15, Carter, 12, and Logan, 8, milk 100 cows and run 120 acres of corn and hay on their farm, DickeDoo Dairy, in Goodhue. The herd’s yearly average is 73 pounds for milk, 4.1% for butterfat, 3.3% for protein and under 100,000 for SCC.
Before moving to the current farm, Dicke worked for his neighbor, Larry Lexvold.
“I started paying more attention when I worked for Larry about 15 years ago, and he always had a good somatic cell count,” Dicke said. “I didn’t know much about it when I was younger.”
Today, Dicke, who has farmed at his current location for 11 years, sells to Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery where he gets a SCC premium.
“It pays for the extra work it takes to keep (SCC) down,” Dicke said.
Dicke said this year’s SCC average is closer to 120,000 rather than the traditional yearly average.
“I had a rough summer,” Dicke said. “I started at 110,000 when I first started milking, and I’ve gotten it down as low as 72,000. I’ve been progressively going down, and this year it went up for some reason. And, I can’t pinpoint it yet.”
Dicke believes the increase in SCC is because of the cows spending more time on pasture.
“I usually get more rain during the summer, so they stay in the barn a lot more and I can keep my SCC down,” Dicke said. “This year, it was dry all summer, and they didn’t have a day off out in the pasture so that might be the reason.”
Dicke milks in a double-9 parlor and houses his cows in a freestall barn with sand and lime bedding.
“I had mattresses when I started, and they were kind of worn out. So, I just cut the cement out and switched to sand for comfort,” Dicke said.
Dicke said his biggest preventative measure for avoiding an elevated SCC is clean and well-bedded stalls.
“I’m always cleaning the stalls, every morning when I get the cows up, after I’m done milking and at night twice,” Dicke said. “I try to keep the stalls as clean as possible.”
Dicke uses a sand leveler twice a week in the winter in addition to bedding every four days. During the summer, the cows are on pasture.
“I added chisel plow teeth (to the sand leveler) to dig up bacteria and that helps a lot,” Dicke said.
Dicke beds the heifers with cornstalk bedding until they are pregnant. Then, the heifers go to his father-in-law’s until they are one month from calving.
To detect animals with a higher SCC, Dicke goes by sight and feel. He is in the barn twice a day, almost every day, and is confident in knowing how his cows act when they are feeling well or ill.
Dicke treats sick cows with mastitis tubes and Uddermint and feeds the waste milk to calves.
“I have a calf pasteurizer so it doesn’t bother me if some cows won’t adhere to the medicine,” Dicke said. “I just keep quarter milking because we need that to feed the calves so it’s not like we’re dumping it.”
About 5%-10% of Dicke’s cows are on a quarter milker or bucket.
Dicke uses fiber cloth towels, iodine pre- and post-dip, silicone inflations and a winter dip.
“I pre-dip, pre-wipe, put the milkers on and then post-dip afterward,” Dicke said. “I don’t know if there is a better (dip) out there or not as I’ve just used (iodine).”
When Dicke cannot find a high SCC cow, he uses Dairy Herd Improvement Association records as his base point.
“As soon as those papers come back, I’m out there checking the high cows,” Dicke said.
Dicke culls open, hard breeder and low production cows.
“Some of them I get pregnant with mastitis or a bad quarter and keep them until the next year, some clean up and some don’t,” Dicke said. “If I didn’t feed the milk, I would get rid of them faster, but because I need the milk for feed, I hold on to them longer than some people.”
On the Dickes’ farm, inflations are changed every six months, the vacuum pump is flushed every three months, and pulsation is checked once a year and serviced only if there is a problem.
For cleaning the parlor, milkers and pipeline, Dicke uses a detergent and acid.
“I put all the milkers in hard plastic trays now, not those rubber cups, and they get washed with detergent and acid,” Dicke said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever used sanitizer. I guess if the bacteria stays down, I don’t have to.”
For future improvements, Dicke would like to get his help to clean teats a little better all in an effort to continually improve the herd’s milk quality.
“If you are getting the premium for a low SCC, it’s sometimes worth the hassle to find (the problem) and get rid of it,” Dicke said.