Milking cows are housed in a ventilated freestall barn and bedded with sand.
Milking cows are housed in a ventilated freestall barn and bedded with sand. PHOTO BY STACEY SMART

Tag Lane Farm
Kevin Griswold
Ixonia, Wis.
Jefferson County
1,720 cows milking, 180 dry cows

What is your current herd average, butterfat and protein? We average 81 pounds of milk per cow with 4.1 butterfat and 3.3 protein. Our rolling herd average is approximately 28,500 pounds of milk, 1,220 pounds of fat and 1,020 pounds of protein. The herd is not on official test.

How many times a day do you milk? If you do not milk 3X a day, have you tried it in the past? We milk three times per day. Cows are milked every nine hours with a hope that parlor efficiency will continue to improve, and we will get cows milked every eight hours.

Do you contract your milk? Has it been successful for you? We use a marketing advisor and usually follow their recommendations for milk marketing, feed purchases and fuel contracting as well.

Describe your housing and milking facility. Calves are started in hutches, and then move to a bedded pack barn after weaning. They are moved to free stalls by about 4 months of age. We have about 125 acres of pasture our bred heifers use seven months of the year. Milking cows are housed in a fan-ventilated freestall barn with sand bedding. Dry cows are housed in three-row freestall barns. Milking is done with a double-28 Germania herringbone parlor. The main dairy barn and parlor were doubled in size in 2018.

What is your herd health program? Animal health is managed by Rick Schultz who has been part of the management team for 10 years. We use our parlor’s Afi software including pedometers, milk meters as well as fat, protein and somatic cell count information. This helps us identify cows in heat and cows that might need additional attention. It has also been especially useful to identify fresh cows that are developing signs of ketosis.

What does your dry cow and transition program consist of? We have two groups of dry cows – far off and prefresh. We have two groups of fresh cows – 2-year-olds and multiparous cows kept in separate groups. This helps ease cows into full production.

What is the composition of your ration? What has been one of your most recent changes that has been successful for you? We feed a ration based on recommendations from our nutritionist. BMR corn silage and haylage is the basis for the forage. We grow a portion of the grain and purchase the remainder of grain, protein and mineral supplements. Given current weather conditions, we will be experimenting with other forage sources as well.

Through the years you have been farming, what change has created the biggest jump in your herd average? Focusing on animal comfort throughout their lives seems to provide the biggest rewards. Obviously a good feed ration and exceptional genetics will allow for more production potential. We see people with higher production than us, so we know we have room to do an even better job in all we do.

What role does genetics play in your production level, and what is your breeding program? We try to use the very best bulls available that will continue to improve production and the health and productivity of the herd. Our focus has been on Net Merit $ with extra emphasis on fat and protein production. Lately we have been slightly shifting to improving health and reproductive traits.

What type of improvements would you like to make that would increase your rolling herd average even higher? Our 2018 corn silage did not have as good of fermentation as we would have liked. We are hoping we can figure out what we can do to correct that in the future. We are also considering adding some additional staff to make sure the small detail stuff gets done on schedule.

What are the three most important factors that helped you attain your current herd average? Continuing to grow and empower our team of managers and employees to be successful and want the farm to be successful, aggressively looking at all aspects of the operation and asking if we can do it better, and finding out how other people do it better.

Tell us about your farm. Tag Lane Farm has three generations involved in the operation. My dad, Tom, is involved in the cropping operations. My wife, Chris, handles financials and record keeping. My son, Brad, returned to the farm two years ago upon his graduation from University of Wisconsin-Madison. He manages the parlor and is taking on additional employee management as well. In addition, we have 26 employees who assist in all aspects of crops, cows, youngstock and milk transport. In addition to Brad, Chris and I have three other children. Stacey is a registered nurse who has chosen to return to school at Marquette University to be a nurse anesthetist. Briana is a junior at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point studying family consumer sciences. Ryan is enlisted in the U.S. Army as a diesel mechanic. We crop 2,600 acres with 1,900 cows and 1,350 youngstock.