To obtain maximum comfort, cows at Horsens Homestead Farms rest on sand beds. 
To obtain maximum comfort, cows at Horsens Homestead Farms rest on sand beds. PHOTO BY STACEY SMART
Jeff, Connie and Ryan Horsens
Horsens Homestead Farms LLC
Cecil, Wisconsin
Shawano County
1,300 cows

What is your current herd average, butterfat and protein? 33,041 pounds of milk, 3.9% butterfat and 3.15% protein.

How many times a day do you milk? If you do not milk 3X a day, have you tried it in the past? If you do milk 3X, how long have you done it? We have milked three times per day since 1996.

Do you contract your milk? Has it been successful for you? We use Dairy Revenue Protection on 90% of our milk. It has been successful for us because it gives us a sense of security that all of our costs are covered with extra money to spare.

Describe your housing and milking facility. We have two types of barns. We have two natural-ventilation barns that are sand-bedded. The dry cows are housed here as well as part of our milking herd. The cows in this barn are milked in a double-8 parallel parlor. We also have an 18-row cross-ventilated barn that is sand-bedded. The cows in this barn are milked by 12 Lely robots set up in an L formation.

What is your herd health program? Our herd health program consists of weekly pregnancy checks with our veterinarian. Our vaccination program we follow is according to the recommendations of our veterinarian.

What does your dry cow and transition program consist of? The length of the dry period is 54 days. Dry cows are housed in a natural ventilation barn with sand beds. They are fed a low energy straw-based ration. For calving, we use the just-in-time calving method. We have two maternity pens where they calve. We have a post-fresh cow pen where cows stay for 9-12 days before being placed in with the regular herd.

What is the composition of your ration? What has been one of your most recent changes that has been successful for you? Our ration consists of BMR corn silage, low legume haylage, soybean meal, minerals, canola, cotton seed, fat, whey and steamed flake corn. Our most recent change is adding whey which has been an economical source of energy.

Through the years you have been farming, what change has created the biggest jump in your herd average? Good cow comfort and a low cull rate allows us to milk a more mature herd which has helped our herd average in the past. Milking three times a day has also been beneficial. We’ve also seen an increase by using BMR corn silage that has been run through a kernel processing unit and low legume alfalfa. Striving to put up high-quality forages and using elite genetics throughout the years have also boosted our herd average.

What role does genetics play in your production level, and what is your breeding program? Our breeding program consists of a first service double ovsynch program with no cherry picking. When it comes to genetics, we are focused on functional type and high milk bulls.

What type of improvements would you like to make that would increase your rolling herd average even higher? With our recent expansion in January of this year, our herd consists of 68% first-lactation heifers. We are looking forward to them calving in for their second, third and beyond lactations to increase our rolling herd average. We would also like to tunnel ventilate our natural ventilation barns to reduce summer crowding.

List three management strategies that have helped you attain your production and component level. Breeding cows back in a timely manner. Putting up quality forages. Consistency with daily routines and protocols. Also, our employees are vital to our success. They are a great group of people who love working with animals. We have been blessed with such a wonderful team of people.

Tell us about your farm. Our farm was homesteaded in 1879 by James and Sophie Horsens who had arrived from Denmark. The following Horsens have owned/operated the farm: George and Alma, Marshall and Edith, and Jeff and Connie who with our son, Ryan, operate it today. Ryan is the fifth generation to own/operate the farm. In 1996, we went from a stanchion barn milking 60 cows to a double-8 parallel parlor with a sand-bedded natural ventilation freestall barn milking 150 cows. By 2012, an additional sand-bedded natural ventilation freestall barn had been added with the herd growing to 500 cows. In the spring of 2019, after two years of researching and touring both within the United States and several other countries, we decided to expand our herd again by building an 18-row cross-ventilated barn to accommodate Ryan’s return to the farm. We decided this type of barn was best for achieving our goals. We also decided on 12 Lely A-5 robots to milk our cows. We placed those in an L formation, which we believe will help us reach our goal of 6,500 pounds of milk per robot per day. We have been in the new setup since January and could not be happier with our decision. Cows never missed a beat and are currently milking 3 pounds more per cow in the robot than in the parlor.