A cow is readied for classification day at Courtney Farms. The Courtneys score all their cows and have a Very Good 87 herd average with 22 Excellent cows, including one EX95.
PHOTO SUBMITTED
A cow is readied for classification day at Courtney Farms. The Courtneys score all their cows and have a Very Good 87 herd average with 22 Excellent cows, including one EX95. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    CHOUTEAU, Okla. – In the midst of troubling economic times for the dairy industry, one young dairyman has not only executed his dream of owning a dairy farm, but is thriving amid the challenges and paving his way for a successful future in dairy.
    Logan Courtney, 22, is the owner of Courtney Farms, a 70-cow registered Jersey farm, along with his parents, Tim and Nora Courtney, who own commercial beef cattle and farm acreage in Mayes County near Chouteau, Okla.
    Logan, a sixth-generation farmer, said his family has been involved in the dairy industry on and off since the farm’s inception in 1875. While his parents did not milk cows, his interest in the dairy industry grew from involvement with 4-H showing dairy heifers.  
    “I really had a passion for dairy cows and pedigrees, especially the Jersey pedigrees are something I really enjoy,” Logan said. “The dairy was entirely my own initiative, and my parents were supportive of it. Mom says that I first said I wanted to milk cows when I was 2 years old, and it took a few years, but I finally got there.”
    Courtney Farms is family operated with Tim and Nora managing the beef cattle and crop land while Logan oversees all aspects of the dairy. Nora raises the dairy youngstock, and Logan helps his parents as needed. The family produces all the feed for their livestock, with the exception of commodities, and plant sorghum, wheat, soybean and oat.
    “Being family run simplifies things,” Logan said. “No one takes care of your animals and equipment like you do. We know how the cows are being treated because we are doing it ourselves and not depending on someone else to do it for us.”
    Logan launched his dairy April 4, 2017, when the first cows were milked in the farm’s Lely Astronaut A4 robotic milking system and became Oklahoma’s first robotic dairy farm.
    “A big draw for robots was eliminating that need for milk hands and allows us to … give the herd the opportunity to be more productive,” Logan said. “It was cheaper for us to put in a robot barn than a parlor setup. From a cost aspect, robots are becoming far more competitive financially against parlors.”
    The Jersey herd is visiting the robots three times a day with some of the higher producing cows choosing to be milked up to six times a day, Logan said. The herd carries a rolling herd average of 19,481 pounds of milk with a 5% butterfat and 3.7% protein test and a somatic cell count of 141,000.
    “We focus on high type and production,” said Logan, who supplies milk for Dairy Farmers of America Inc. “We have an 87-point herd average … with several cows excelling well enough to receive production recognition.”
    Courtney Farms uses in vitro fertilization and embryonic transfer to genetically enhance the herd, focusing on proven cow families.
    “We are kind of in our infancy stages and just starting to have our home bred females come into the herd,” Logan said. “Genetics are a huge thing for us. We focus on pedigrees and maintaining deep pedigrees using traditionally minded breeding plans using bulls from deep cow families, and we are seeing good results from that. We have a lot of Excellent cows in the herd with a 95-point cow leading the way.”
    The farm is situated in northeast Oklahoma, which experiences warm, humid conditions in the summer months and mild winters. The fall-calving herd rotationally grazes year-round and is given a TMR based on wheat baleage and sorghum silage near the robot barn. The herd’s water is also situated near the barn.
    “The cows can go nearly a mile away from the dairy, and they still come down [to eat and drink], so it works well,” Logan said.
    Logan said the climate poses an obstacle for the farm.
    “Cell count is a challenge for us,” he said. “The warm, humid weather is not ideal for maintaining a low cell count. Working hard to maintain a low cell count is more important in our area with cows being outside in hot climate throughout the warmer months.”
    Large shades are used to provide relief for the cows, and Logan said the natural heat tolerant aspect of the Jersey breed is a benefit to milking Jerseys.
    With a little more than two years behind him in the dairy industry, Logan said Courtney Farms is marketing semen from a home raised bull across the United States and hopes to market in Australia, Canada and Europe this fall. Courtney Farms has also sold embryos and show calves to fellow producers.
    “We have not sold a lot of live lot females because of how young of a herd we are,” Logan said. “We are still in that developing phase. In cattle breeding, if you are going to spend the money to keep pedigree stock and the time and effort in record keeping, you have to be selling the stuff for the genetics. You can’t just be breeding registered animals to make milk.”
    Logan also said they have had success in selling bull calves for use on Holstein heifers and beef heifers.
    “We have a really good market for our bull calves going for heifer bulls, which is a niche market and benefit of having pedigree stock to market those animals to that clientele,” he said.
    When asked what is next for the dairy farm, Logan identified the desire to double the herd size and install an additional robot in addition to growing the Courtney Farms brand as a seedstock farm Jersey enthusiasts recognize and frequent.
    “I love working with the cows,” Logan said. “I don’t think I’d be happy doing anything else. It’s something I truly enjoy.”