John Lavey (left) talks with Pauly Paul May 2022 on Lavey Dairy Farm near Malone, Wisconsin. Paul, a dairy management consultant with Complete Management Consulting, began working with the Laveys six years ago to help find ways to increase income and reduce expenses. 
John Lavey (left) talks with Pauly Paul May 2022 on Lavey Dairy Farm near Malone, Wisconsin. Paul, a dairy management consultant with Complete Management Consulting, began working with the Laveys six years ago to help find ways to increase income and reduce expenses. PHOTO BY DAN HAGENOW VIDEO CREATION LLC

MALONE, Wis. – Six years ago, the Lavey family went from milking twice a day to milking four times a day. Doubling the number of milkings required no additional labor and ironically reduced the amount of time cows spent in the parlor. Increased efficiency resulted in higher milk production, earning a bigger return for a dairy that had been struggling.

“I was borrowing $10,000 to $20,000 almost every month to make payments,” said Matt Lavey, who farms with his sons, John, Tom and Joe.
To figure out where they could obtain more income and cut costs, the Laveys worked with Pauly Paul – a dairy management consultant with Complete Management Consulting. The Laveys leaned on Paul’s expertise to guide them to money-saving and money-making opportunities on their farm near Malone where they milk 600 cows and farm 900 acres.
“Milk production was not enough to sustain expenses, and we needed to find a way to get more milk out of here quick,” Paul said.
On April 25, Paul led a workshop, “What you need to know to cash flow,” which began with a tour of the Lavey Dairy Farm. The workshop was presented in partnership with Peggy Coffeen – Uplevel Dairy founder and podcast host.
“When we look at where we can make more money on the farm, it’s usually the parlor,” Paul said. “The parlor was the key to making more money at this farm. When you get more cows through the parlor and create more milk income, you’re able to do other things.”
Initially, the Laveys gained 10 pounds of milk per cow. Now, cows are milking 20 pounds more than when milked twice a day, jumping from 70 pounds per day to 90 pounds with a 4.5% butterfat and 3.1% protein. All groups go through the parlor four times a day.
“This is a young herd with a lot of first-lactation animals,” Paul said. “We’ll see production go up as animals get older.”
When the Laveys began working with Paul, labor issues and a high somatic cell count were primary problems that needed to be addressed.
“Employees were taking their time and dragged out the milking process a lot longer than they needed to,” Paul said. “They were holding up cows all day, and the parlor had a lot of idle time.”
Paul and the Laveys keyed in on good employees who bought into the changes. They provided additional training in the parlor that led to more consistent milking procedures. Employees picked up the pace and tightened up routines to get cows through the parlor two more times.
“We doubled animals through the parlor when going from twice-a-day milking to four times a day and didn’t hire any employees to do that,” John said. “We also added a couple hundred cows.”
Paul said this was a major advantage to the farm.
“That’s where you really reap the benefits – when you add more cows with the same amount of labor,” he said. “When looking at how to generate more income, the best thing to do was fill the parlor and keep it running around the clock.”
The Laveys are utilizing resources to the fullest, doing just over six turns per hour in their double-12 parlor that runs 20-21 hours per day. People in the parlor work a 10-hour day. They milk for five hours, take a break and then milk for another five hours. They spend 11 hours on the farm but are paid for a 12-hour shift. With the switch, the Laveys reduced the number of shifts from three to two.
Two employees milk while another employee pushes cows and beds. Several employees were moved from the milking crew and put into other areas, such as calf feeding. The Laveys’ herdsperson, who used to work in the parlor, is an instrumental part of the operation.
“He’s one of the gems,” Paul said. “We trained him in herd work, breeding, etc., as well as employee issues, and he flourished. He can do everything on the farm; he’s that good. He is really turning the dairy around.”
Reproduction numbers are solid with a pregnancy rate of 30%, and services per conception are around 2.1. Cow health is also thriving, with mastitis and fresh cow ailments at a minimum or non-existent. Milk quality improved as somatic cell count dropped to under 100,000. The cull rate also fell from nearly 40% to less than 25%.
“The lower cull rate has allowed the Laveys to decrease heifer numbers, which is a huge deal to help with cash flow,” Paul said.
Adding two more milkings did not add to the amount of time cows spend on their feet. Paul said cows are spending less time in the parlor and getting back to the pen quicker to eat, drink and lay down. Foot and leg health has not been compromised with additional trips to the parlor.
With the right people in the right positions, the farm is streamlined for success.
“The Laveys have really good employees, and they are treated well,” Paul said. “Turnover is low.”
Matt agreed.
“Employee attitude is excellent,” he said. “Our workers are neat, polite and friendly.”
Matt also stressed the importance of rewarding good employees.
“If you have someone who is good, pay them, even if it’s more than you think you should,” Matt said. “We never cap an employee’s wages; they can keep going up.”
Paul said milking four times a day is not for everyone. He and his team spend ample time in the parlor to determine the best individual fit for each farm – carefully examining cow numbers, stall numbers and labor dynamics. If a farm has a quota, Paul places more emphasis on expenses – looking at other areas of the farm where money can be saved.
Analyzing every expense on a dairy, the Laveys’ feed center was targeted by Paul as an area where expenses could be cut.
“The Laveys were buying a lot of purchased feed, commodities and supplements, and there were binders and additives in the feed that we were able to pull out,” Paul said.
They dropped the fillers and other unnecessary ingredients from the recipe. The result was a more precise ration void of expensive fluff. Switching to a feed software program also helped ensure accuracy in mixing feed and feeding cows. Cows are fed once a day – in the morning – and feed is pushed up three times during every milking. The Laveys also changed nutritionists – another move that proved beneficial.
“Joe is the feeder, and he’s doing an awesome job making sure all ingredients are put in the ration accurately,” Paul said. “Cows are also getting fed on time. All of those things added up, and we were able to start reducing extra things added to the feed. They removed the band-aids, and as a result, reduced feed expenses considerably.”
Paul said the Laveys also needed to look at how they were putting forages in the bunkers. They started lining bunkers, making sure minimal air entered the feed – a crucial move according to Paul.
“They line the back walls and side walls and do a good job of getting tires on,” Paul said. “The Laveys pack feed a lot better and have really good forage quality now.”
Making intelligent purchasing decisions also helps the Laveys do right by their farm, and Matt considers himself a conservative spender.
“I’m not a person who buys new things unless it’s something that doesn’t cost a lot,” he said. “For example, I wouldn’t buy a new tractor. A used tractor can have a lot of hours left in it.
I try to keep expenses down and be smart about what I buy.”
Matt is happy to be free from the anxiety caused by regular money borrowing.
“Today, I don’t have to borrow money, and I’m not stressed all the time,” he said.
Through strategic moves that bumped up income and pushed down expenses, Paul helped the Laveys reboot their operation, putting the farm on a profitable path. Instead of borrowing money, Lavey Dairy Farm is now able to sustain its cash flow.
The dairy is a long-term client of Complete Management Consulting and continues to use their operational management services, with one team member coming to the dairy weekly to do employee follow-ups and check on herd health, etc. They also provide monthly bookkeeping services.
“This is one of the dreams people think of when you’re running a farm,” Paul said. “Things run really smoothly here, and it can happen on every single dairy.”