Cows are marked with tail chalk Jan. 7 at Emerald Spring Dairy near Plainview, Minnesota. Cows are put on a double ovsynch program with timed A.I.
PHOTO BY GRACE JEURISSEN
Cows are marked with tail chalk Jan. 7 at Emerald Spring Dairy near Plainview, Minnesota. Cows are put on a double ovsynch program with timed A.I. PHOTO BY GRACE JEURISSEN
PLAINVIEW, Minn. – Centering the farm around quality milk and cattle has been a focus for Emerald Spring Dairy since Maurie and Rita Young started dairy farming with 40 cows in a tiestall barn in 1984.
As the years have marched on so has the growth and progression of the Young family’s dairy farm.
“I continue being impressed with the advancements dairy has made,” Maurie said. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish with good nutrition and cow comfort.”
Emerald Spring Dairy and five other dairies were given platinum recognition as part of the 2022 Excellence in Dairy Cattle Reproduction Awards from the Dairy Cattle Reproductive Council.
The winners were recognized Nov. 16, 2022, in Middleton, Wisconsin.
This is the third year Emerald Spring Dairy has been recognized by the council.
“It was great to be nominated again,” Darrin Young said. “We put a lot of work into our breeding program.”
Darrin, a son of Maurie and Rita’s, joins his brothers Brandon and Ed and parents as they milk 1,300 cows and farm 2,000 acres on their farm near Plainview. The farm’s milk is marketed through Agropur in Le Sueur.    
The Youngs work closely with the team from Select Sires Inc. to choose matings, do heat detection and A.I. their cattle.
Brian Dick, an A.I. technician with Select Sires, visits Emerald Spring Dairy daily to perform reproductive services. He performs routine heat detection on cows and on Thursday of each week works with Darrin to complete the double ovsynch program with timed A.I.
Darrin works with Javier Prieto Martinez, the farm’s herdsman, to synchronize cows during the week to prepare for the weekly breeding routine. Cows are bred after a voluntary waiting period of around 80 days. Once cows are bred, they are marked with tail chalk and watched for natural heat before being pregnancy checked at 35 days.
“We can get quite a few cows bred in the first breeding,” Darrin said. “There are fewer cows to look for a second time around.”
Emerald Spring Dairy achieves a 42% pregnancy rate, 53% conception rate and keeps their cull rate around 33%. They breed the highest performing 30% of their herd with sexed Holstein semen and the other 70% with beef semen.
Kim DeFrang, of Select Sires, meets with Darrin quarterly to evaluate the breeding program and look through new bull proofs. From there, they decide what to change or keep in the program. Darrin likes to use bulls that are structurally sound, have a high combined fat and protein score, positive daughter pregnancy rate and improve somatic cell scores.
DeFrang also scores 2-year-olds and determines which cows are bred with Holstein and or beef semen.
Heifer care is outsourced to a grower in Nebraska. The grower is responsible for getting the heifers bred. Two months before calving, heifers are brought back to Emerald Spring Dairy.
There are many factors that affect reproduction, and when Darrin came back to the farm in 2008, one of his strengths was managing the cows and the employees.
“Darrin really contributed to fine tuning our farm protocols,” Rita said. “They were never bad, but he took it another step and focused on some of the smaller details.”
When Darrin returned, the Youngs were milking 500 cows on the original farm site and 500 cows on a neighboring site. Once they built a cross-ventilated addition on the neighboring farm, having all of the lactating cows on one site became easier.
Moving the cows to one site gave the family room to expand and have ample room for their dry cows.
“We have the dry cows on the original farm site now, and they do really well over here,” Darrin said. “I would say that having them in a separate facility has helped reproduction by making their transition back into the barn more comfortable.”
Comfort is one of the leading factors for the Youngs’ exceptional reproductive program. They utilize sand bedding in their free stalls, and pens are cleaned three times per day as each group is milked. A hoof trimmer is at the farm once a week.
On top of comfort is the Youngs’ nutrition program. Cows at Emerald Spring Dairy are fed rations based on their stage in lactation. Forage quality, as well as a proper genetic program, has helped the farm achieve a rolling herd average of 32,000 pounds.
Maurie is active in crop management and devotes time to managing forage harvest windows and achieving high-quality feed.
The Youngs credit their team of 20 employees as being critical to the success of the farm.
“We are really lucky to have such a great crew of people working with us,” Darrin said.