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Kurtis Ambrosius of Ambrosius Dairy Farms LLC | Seymour, Wisconsin | Outagamie County | 112 cows

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How many times a day do you milk, and what is your current herd average, butterfat and protein? We milk 112 cows and have about 130 cows in total. The herd is almost completely Holstein — we are milking one Jersey right now. The herd average is right around 33,500 pounds of milk at 4.2% butterfat and 3.3% protein.

Describe your housing and milking facility. The cows are housed in tie stalls with Mayo Mattresses, and we bed every day with a bedding product from Alternative Animal Bedding. The cows go out for an hour and a half every morning. We milk with 12 units, with automatic takeoffs. Two people handle each milking. 

Who is part of your farm team, and what are their roles? Our farm team consists of me and my wife, Lisa, my parents, Jerry and Julie, one full-time employee and four part-time milkers, who are mostly high school kids.

What is your herd health program? We do a herd check, which is primarily for pregnancy checks, every four weeks. Newborns are vaccinated with Tri-Shield and Inforce 3. At four months, and then twice a year, we vaccinate with Bovi-Shield Gold FP 5 L5 HB. We have had a closed herd for the last eight years.

What does your dry cow and transition program consist of? We have an average dry period of about 50 days, and we dry treat, alternating Quartermaster and Tomorrow, every other lactation. Dry cows are housed in a freestall with access to outside and fed a negative D-CAD diet that consists of corn silage, straw, a mineral mix and protein. They come back into the barn about 10 days to two weeks before calving. First-calf heifers are brought in about three weeks before to get used to the stalls and the activity in the barn. Cows calve in the tie stalls — we have five stalls that are segregated up next to the milkhouse — and that is where we calve cows. That makes them easy to monitor, and it is an easy area to clean. We power wash it daily. They stay in those stalls until their milk is clean.

What is the composition of your ration, and how has that changed in recent years? We feed a total mixed ration that is corn-silage based, with haylage, ground corn and a protein mix. That has been an area we have changed in the last couple of years. We ran a high-corn-silage diet for about 15 years, and then a couple of years ago, I was looking to make a change because I was not happy with the incidences of ketosis and milk fever I was seeing. I switched nutritionists and ended up going with Amanda Williams at Barton Kiefer. That was the big change I was looking for and has been nothing but a great experience so far, changing to a high-fiber, easily digestible diet. That was where our production went to the next level while maintaining good components.

Tell us about the forages you plant and detail your harvest strategies. We make corn silage and haylage, and we do all the harvesting ourselves. We work with our agronomist to make the best decisions, based on growing degree days, but typically we go about every 28 days on our haylage. Our corn silage is non-brown midrib. We tried BMR, but decided it required management that did not work in our system. We generally make our corn silage at about 60% moisture as it is stored in tower silos. We follow with oats behind winter wheat to make heifer forage.

What is your average somatic cell count, and how does that affect your production? Our average SCC has been 70,000 for the past year. We cull with a high emphasis on SCC. We cull cows that get mastitis. We haven’t treated a cow for mastitis in 10 years. This practice has helped our herd average and herd health grow. We started using a different bedding and quit bovine somatotropin about 10 to 12 years ago, which we believe helped our SCC.

What change has created the biggest improvement in your herd average? Changing our feeding strategy has made an impact on our herd average. I have been thrilled with the increases that we have seen since changing.

What technology do you use to monitor your herd? We DHI test monthly, and I use PCDART to monitor the herd. I use the app Pocket Dairy on my phone to sort lists, helping me know what is happening with each cow.

What is your breeding program, and what role does genetics play in your production level? I try to take a balanced approach with everything on the farm. We’ve been mating our cows for about 15 years, and the people doing that know pretty well what I am looking for. The cows are mated by Select Sires, and the heifers are mated by CRI. We’ve worked on getting our components and production up. Now I would like to focus on breeding more moderate-sized cows. Our cows are uniform as a group. All of the cows are bred with conventional semen, mostly based on natural heats. We use an ovsynch protocol for cows that come up open or cystic on herd check. Because of their location on the farm, it is harder to catch heifers in natural heats, so they are bred mostly on CIDR sync programs. We use sexed semen on them on the first service and conventional semen after that. 

List three management strategies that have helped you attain your production and component level. The three management strategies that help us maintain our herd levels are feeding, genetics and the bedding material we use.

Tell us about your farm and your plans for the dairy in the next year. This next year will be a year just to try and maintain things. We have zero interest in expanding our herd size; instead, we will continue to try and do better at everything we do to continue growing our success. We are located close to a busy high-way, close to the edge of town and near the Austin Straubel Airport. I work to keep the farm tour-ready. Frequently people will stop in and ask to see the farm. I try to stop what I’m doing and show them around. That is an important part of sharing the truth about dairy products and dairy farms. 

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