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Top 25 of 2019

Compiled by Progressive Dairy staff Published on 21 November 2019

Progressive Dairy is pleased to bring you the most popular articles, according to pageview metrics from Google Analytics, published between Oct. 1, 2018 and Oct. 1, 2019.

When possible, we reached out to the authors or sources featured for follow-up commentary.  

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1. A fresh take on ventilation design: The all-seasons hybrid barn
Published: Jan. 24, 2019 Extra enewsletter

Gordie Jones, DVM, worked with a northeast Wisconsin dairy family to develop what he calls an “all-seasons hybrid” barn that is both mechanically and naturally ventilated, depending on the temperature.

The all-seasons hybrid barn

Q. How is the all-seasons hybrid barn concept being received among dairy farmers?

“I have been overwhelmed by the attention this design got because it solved so many problems dairymen have. It solved heat stress, bunching, frozen manure … and it solved it with less operational costs than wind tunnels and cross vents. We don’t need the fans running below 70 degrees. Where this has taken us is all the way to Italy. We have one that just started last month in northern Italy. We have one being built in Finland and Sweden. One being built in Estonia and across the U.S. in Iowa and Idaho. A California dairyman was just looking at it, and we’re starting to convert some of the Florida dairymen from wind tunnels to the all-seasons hybrid.”

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—Gordie Jones, DVM, Central Sands Dairy LLC, and dairy consultant

PHOTO: All-season hybrid barn. Photo by Walt Cooley.

Read the article: A fresh take on ventilation design: The all-seasons hybrid barn

2. The man behind the matings: Darin Meyer, De-Su Holsteins
Published: Nov. 25, 2019 issue

Darin MeyerDarin Meyer is the one calling the shots at De-Su Holsteins, which has topped high-ranking Holstein bull lists since the beginning of the genomic era. Meyer says he isn’t afraid to take risks and he strives to breed the kind of cow that will thrive in a competitive commercial dairy setting.

PHOTO: Darin Meyer, De-Su Holsteins. Photo courtesy of ABS Global.

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Read the article: The man behind the matings: Darin Meyer, De-Su Holsteins

3. Cool stuff we saw at World Dairy Expo
Published: Oct. 11, 2018 Extra enewsletter

Acoustic pulse therapy

Cool stuff at the 2018 World Dairy Expo included a new way to test TMR samples, robotic batch milking, acoustic pulse therapy for mastitis treatment and a nearly indestructible calf bucket.

PHOTO: by Audrey Schmitz.

For recent cool stuff, visit Cool things we saw at 2019 World Dairy Expo

Read the article: Cool stuff we saw at World Dairy Expo 2018

4. Robotic batch milking: A new concept combining conventional barn design and automated milking
Published: Feb. 7, 2019 issue

Robotic batch milking integrates the housing and management of conventional milking with the benefits of automated milking. With this design, individual or box-style robotic milking units are positioned around a central holding area in a milking facility located adjacent to cattle housing. The article outlines how it works and can be adapted on an existing farm.

Robotic batch milking

Q. What dairy producer feedback have you received about this new concept for robotic milking barn design?

“We’re getting good feedback. They like the idea mainly because the concept eliminates a few of the problems associated with the voluntary milking systems, one being the need for fetching cows. What they are finding is farmers with more than 300 cows being milked with robotic systems need at least one guy to go get the cows that didn’t come by themselves to the box. With the batch milking system, that problem is eliminated because the person that is in charge of the system brings the complete group of cows to the robotic milking parlor.

“They also like the idea of not having to redesign or modify the existing freestall barn design to make it work with the voluntary robots. Our concept requires an additional building beside an existing freestall barn.

“Lastly, they like how we can be modular. We can have a system with the same diameter and radius of the holding pen and put one, two, three … up to 20 robots in the same circumference, and we don’t have to expand anything else. They can just add robots to the circle to expand milking capacity. With cows having access to all of the robots, it also isn’t as big of a problem when one robot is shut down for repairs.”

—Arturo Gallardo, Madero Dairy Systems

PHOTO: With robotic batch milking, a pen of cows is ushered to a holding area with individual automated milking systems positioned around the exterior. Courtesy of Madero Dairy Systems.

Read the article: Robotic batch milking: A new concept combining conventional barn design and automated milking

5. Leading the Way: 6 little details that make a big difference in dairy showmanship contests
Published: July 19, 2019 issue

The “Leading the Way” show etiquette column, authored by Katie Coyne of Mill Wheel Dairy Show Clinics, launched in 2018. Coyne’s content continues to be among our most well-read, with most of the traffic coming from Facebook. This specific article highlights the seemingly small details – like how to hold the halter and the exhibitor’s foot placement – that take a person from good to great both in the showmanship contest and outside the ring.

Fit the halter so the nose band is halfway between the eyes and the nostrils

Q. You’ve made it a personal mission to bring consistency and accuracy to the art of showmanship – for both exhibitors and judges. In the past year, what impact do you think your efforts have made on the cattle-showing world?

“There are two areas that the efforts of the past two years have had on how we show dairy cattle. When youth enter a show ring, they know what is expected of them as far as basics. First and foremost, make your heifer look as good as she can at all times. Second, know the rules of showmanship and, third, have fun. Judges also know what they should be looking for. They have had the opportunity to focus on the basics at the local level and can easily sort a large class at the top level knowing the guidelines and PDCA rules.

Perhaps the best measure of these two points has been the national contests held in the past two months. The top placing youth in the divisions at these national contests walked forward into the ring with a well-fitted halter, a neat lead strap and proper head carriage. They continued in the class with knowledge of how to set feet, how to enter a line efficiently and more. The judges of these contests in Harrisburg, Louisville and Madison were clearly looking for those showmen who knew these points. While we have made great strides, there are many more finer points of showing to teach and learn, and so our mission will continue.

“The second area that has surfaced in this effort is that we have been fortunate to connect with thousands of youth who have the potential to stay in agriculture because of the life skills they are learning by competing in showmanship. Learning to set goals, be a good sport, to work hard and to be respectful are all skills that are indirectly taught through showing cattle. As we create more opportunities to succeed in something as simple as a showmanship class at a local show, we help to shape a positive impact for a youth involved in agriculture who otherwise may not be.”

—Katie Coyne, Mill Wheel Dairy Show Clinics

PHOTO: Fit the halter so the nose band is halfway between the eyes and the nostrils. Courtesy photo

Read the article: Leading the Way: 6 little details that make a big difference in dairy showmanship contests

6. Voluntary waiting period adjustments can improve profitability
Published: Jan. 31, 2019 Extra enewsletter

Dr. Julio Giordano of Cornell University presented research during the 2018 Vita Plus Dairy Summit that suggests it’s beneficial to extend the voluntary waiting period (VWP), particularly with first-lactation cows. Extending the VWP from 60 to 88 days resulted in more cyclic cows before synchronization, along with less uterine disease and better body condition scores. In addition, for 2-year-old cows, the 88-day VWP yielded $68 more than the 60-day VWP, mainly because of greater replacement costs in subsequent lactations.

Q. Are you beginning to see some dairies adjust their reproductive management programs in response to this information?

“Unfortunately, I do not have formal data to back up my answer, so it is primarily based on my interactions with people and what I see farms doing. The response to the information has been very positive in general. Most people I presented this information to (quite a few across all of North America and other parts of the world) seemed to have liked and appreciated the research data and the approach of our experiments. Several farms expressed their interest in manipulating the duration of the VWP and do it particularly based on parity group, as our research demonstrated different effects based on parity (i.e., greatest benefit for first-lactation cows). I also know for a fact that some farms had adjusted their VWP because of our research and that several consultants have suggested that to some of their clients.”

—Julio Giordano, associate professor, Cornell University

Read the article: Voluntary waiting period adjustments can improve profitability

7. 4 keys to keeping calves warm
Published: Jan. 17, 2019 Extra enewsletter

Successfully raising calves during the winter means finding the right balance between mitigating cold stress for the calves and providing them with enough nutrition to keep them healthy and growing. Doing this successfully means making quality calf care a priority every single day, starting at birth.

The thermal image shows a relative scale of temperature through the different colors

Q. What is the most costly mistake producers make when raising calves in the winter?

“The most costly mistake in winter is not feeding for the calf’s requirements in the first couple of weeks of life. Calves need extra nutrients to meet their increased maintenance requirements in colder temperatures while also having enough left over to support a healthy immune system and the average daily gain that the farm is targeting for their calves. Feeding extra nutrients is very important for calves not consuming a significant amount of starter. There continues to be more and more information about the lasting impacts that those first hours and weeks have on that calf’s lifetime productivity. I think with nutrition, compared to environmental conditions, we have more control over what we can do for our calves to help them succeed in cold weather. In this way, we can ensure that the calf’s future productivity is not diminished by something we could have done in the preweaning period.”

—Sarah Morrison, research scientist, William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute

PHOTO: The thermal image shows a relative scale of temperature through the different colors, with the warmest being the darkest red and the coldest shown in blue. Photo by Sarah Morrison. 

Read the article: 4 keys to keeping calves warm

8. Leading the Way: How to super-charge your show heifer’s growth
Published: March 12, 2019 issue

Showmanship coach Katie Coyne teamed up with Tyler Reynolds of Reyncrest Farm in New York to provide the basics of feeding a show heifer, including a concentrate and protein top-dress as well as forages for depth of rib.

Tyler and Kelly Reynolds

PHOTO: Pictured here are Tyler and Kelly Reynolds. Photo provided by Katie Coyne.

Read the article: Leading the Way: How to super-charge your show heifer’s growth

9. 5 myths about feeding pasteurized waste milk
Published: Sept. 12, 2019 Extra enewsletter

While waste milk is a viable option for many dairies, it isn’t without its challenges or misconceptions. Understanding this and knowing how to properly manage calves on waste milk is key to success.

Pasteurized waste milk

Q. In the article, you mention one study found that 41% of on-farm pasteurizers failed to kill the necessary number of bacteria. How can farms ensure their pasteurizer is reducing the bacteria count to an appropriate level (or lower) and minimize bacteria growth post-pasteurization?

“Proper cleaning and sanitation, as well as ongoing monitoring, can help you manage bacteria levels and deliver a healthier product to your calves. Start by checking bacteria levels in milk at least weekly. Benchmarks for standard or aerobic plate counts are:

  • Less than 100,000 pre-pasteurization
  • Less than 20,000 post-pasteurization
  • Less than 30,000 at last calf fed

“To consistently meet these goals, monitor pasteurizer times and temperatures and include a weekly (or more frequent) check in your maintenance schedule. Properly clean and sanitize after every use with a detergent or concentration meant for cleaning pasteurization equipment.

“Bacteria growth can also be minimized by pasteurizing or storing milk at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below immediately after hygienic collection. The same goes for post-pasteurization – feed immediately or store at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Always make sure feeding and storage equipment is adequately cleaned and sanitized.”

—Tom Earleywine, director of nutritional services, Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Solutions

ILLUSTRATION: Illustration by Kristen Phillips.

Read the article: 5 myths about feeding pasteurized waste milk

10. Family at center of Benthem Brothers’ commitment to quality
Published: Feb. 7, 2019 Extra enewsletter

Like the stories of many Midwest dairy farm families, the Benthems’ history is one of steady growth and improvement. Focused on quality while adopting technology, the family is at the center of the circle with a vision of creating room in the business for future generations.

Ryan Benthem shared the eight-decade story of Benthem Brothers Inc. of McBain, Michigan, in a virtual tour during the 2018 World Dairy Expo. Starting with 30 cows in the 1940s, the dairy has grown to include several family members and upward of 2,000 cows.

The Benthems began milking in the rotary parlor

One highlight of the virtual tour was a description of the family’s decision to build a Waikato Milking Systems 60-stall rotary parlor, at the time just the third Waikato Milking Systems Centrus Composite rotary parlor installed in the U.S. While optimizing labor – the rotary can be operated by just two people –technology adds to the system’s management capabilities.

Q: It’s been more than a year since you were featured in a World Dairy Expo virtual tour. What’s new with the farm and family?

Since 2015 we have been busy with all the growing pains associated with doubling the size of your herd and building new facilities, and farming a larger land base. In the past year, we have been able to streamline things and enjoy the new normal. We are very happy that things turned out better than expected when planning the expansion. We are excited that my younger brother Kyle got engaged to his fiance Brooke! We welcome her to the family, and are looking forward to their wedding in August 2020.

PHOTO: The Benthems began milking in the rotary parlor – at the time just the third Waikato Milking Systems Centrus Composite rotary parlor installed in the U.S. – in November 2016. Photo courtesy of Waikato Milking Systems.

Read the article: Family at center of Benthem Brothers’ commitment to quality

11. How two dairy herds cut down their heifer inventories
Published: Feb. 21, 2019 Extra enewsletter

Jim Leick of Night Hawk Dairy in Stratford, Wisconsin, and Matt Ziegler of Ziegler Dairy Farms in Middleton, Wisconsin, spoke on strategies for controlling heifer inventories at the 2019 Leading Dairy Producers Conference. Leick says his farm set a goal of 25 heifer calves per month, based on a 25 percent milking herd cull rate.

The top 25% (based on genomics and milk production) of the milking herd is bred to Holstein and the rest to Limousin semen. Of the heifers, 90% are bred to sexed semen and the bottom 10% are bred to Angus. Ziegler set a goal of keeping the monthly heifer inventory at 70 calves per month, and they now sell unneeded heifer calves, based on their dam and sire production criteria.

Jim Leick sets a heifer inventory goal of 25 calves per month

Q. What further changes have you made to your heifer inventory management program?

“In the past year, we have tweaked our breeding program slightly. We have increased the number of first-lactation animals eligible to receive sexed semen to about 60%. Very little conventional semen is used on the milking herd, mostly beef semen, which has greatly increased our calf sale income. Ninety percent of the virgin heifers receive sexed semen.

“Therefore, we are able raise about 25 heifer calves per month for future herd replacements. Our genetic progress continues a nice upward trend and, along with healthy animals, has continued to increase our herd’s productive life.

“The one area of my calf-raising program I am attempting to improve is the ventilation in my naturally ventilated 3- to 6-month-old post-weaned calf barn. Presently, I have two positive-pressure tubes running the length of the barn and am looking into adding some ventilation fans. We have had many high-moisture days here in Wisconsin this year, which has increased the rate of respiratory disease in this barn.”

—Jim Leick, partner, Night Hawk Dairy

PHOTO: Jim Leick sets a heifer inventory goal of 25 calves per month in order to meet replacement needs for Night Hawk Dairy's 1,000-cow herd. Photo courtesy of Purina Animal Nutrition.

Read the article: How two dairy herds cut down their heifer inventories

12. Big data, big opportunities: How artificial intelligence is transforming dairy farming
Published: Aug. 1, 2019 Extra enewsletter

Big data, machine learning, systems integration and analytics were among the topics PD Editor Peggy Coffeen detailed from the Data Analytics: Current Research and On-Farm Applications meeting. The event was hosted at Pond Hill Dairy Research and Development Farm in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, in May.

Animal health dataWhile artificial intelligence technologies are rapidly developing and progressing in animal agriculture, the data specific to dairies is typically privatized and not easily shared or linked to other uses. If that were to change, dairy technology researchers say it would change the way dairy farms operate.

PHOTO: Dr. Joao Dorea at the University of Wisconsin – Madison uses computer vision systems to collect images and integrate that with RFID information and other animal health data points. Image courtesy of University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Read the article: Big data, big opportunities: How artificial intelligence is transforming dairy farming 

13. Cool stuff we saw at World Ag Expo 2019
Published: Feb. 21, 2019 Extra enewsletter

From the 2019 World Ag Expo, PD Editor Walt Cooley highlighted the front-view camera on New Holland’s new T8 Series tractor; GEA’s new continuous, individual quarter SCC monitor; CowManager’s Find My Cow locator, which receives signals from the company’s activity monitor eartags to help users find cows in need of attention more quickly; DeLaval’s OptiDuo automated feed push-up robot that remixes feed with a slow-moving auger as it pushes feed closer to cows; Hatfield Manufacturing Inc.’s Bedding Buster that breaks up packed manure solids, compost or sand in freestall beds; and the “Trump Burger” as sold at one of the concession stands.

Monitor

Watch for coverage of the 2020 show in February.

Read the article: Cool things we saw at 2019 World Dairy Expo

14. Investing in longevity: Ohio dairy builds second facility for mature cows
Published: Oct. 25, 2018 Extra enewsletter

The VanderMade family in Ohio chose to invest in older cows with the addition of a second farm, named FreshMade Dairy, in 2014, just two miles down the road from their current farm. They now milk 2,100 cows, of which 1,500 are at VanderMade and 600 are at the FreshMade location. Cows are moved to FreshMade Dairy when they are 4 years old. They experience twice the square footage for stalls, bunk and water space compared to their other facility.

Lambert VanderMade’s parents relocated the family dairy from the Netherlands to Ohio to support their family’s dream of dairy farming.

Q. You had mentioned a cross-ventilated robotics barn that was expected to be completed in March 2019. How is that project going?

“We started milking in the robots on April 2, 2019. The learning curve for the cows to get comfortable with the robot was very short. But the learning curve for people managing the robot is much longer, especially in the first year. Working and managing the robot barn requires more highly trained labor and some adjustment time to master new protocols. We have seen a slight reduction in labor hours but no effect on labor costs.

“The biggest benefit we’ve seen since installing the robots is better cow comfort and more resting time for the cows. If we could do it over, the one piece of advice I’d give is to make sure all parties involved are on the same page from the start and understand the goals and mission.”

—Lambert VanderMade, owner, VanderMade Dairy and FreshMade Dairy

PHOTO: Lambert VanderMade’s parents relocated the family dairy from the Netherlands to Ohio to support their family’s dream of dairy farming. Now, Lambert and his wife, Tina, are raising the next generation on the farm. Pictured in the back, left to right: Tina, Lambert, Corrie and Bert. Pictured in the front, left to right: Landric and Boden. Photo courtesy of Purina Animal Nutrition.

Read the article: Investing in longevity: Ohio dairy builds second facility for mature cows

15. Trio of Topp brothers to tap World Dairy Expo champions
Published: Sept. 26, 2019 Extra enewsletter

World Dairy Expo is often a family affair, with multiple generations or branches of a family exhibiting together. But it’s not often you hear about relatives judging together. Brothers Eric, Keith and Phillip Topp are the exception. At the 2019 World Dairy Expo, Keith served as the official judge in the Milking Shorthorn ring, while Phillip officiated in the Ayrshire ring. In 2016, Eric served as the official judge of the Milking Shorthorn breed, while Phillip was the associate in the Jersey breed.

Mary and Eric Topp are pictured with their children

Q. What were each of your highlights from the 2019 World Dairy Expo?

“World Dairy Expo this year was filled with many powerful memories. Watching Keith and Phillip judge on the colored shavings, watching Eric receive medals with every animal he exhibited, seeing three granddaughters show and each receive a medallion, and spending time with friends from near and far were a few memories that stuck out to me.”

—Mary Lou Topp, mother of the Topp brothers

“The entire week was awesome. It was so neat, I can’t put it into words. I was so honored to even be nominated to judge. The whole week was unforgettable.”

—Philip Topp

“My most memorable experience was getting to actually watch the shows this year and see how much the colored breeds get better each year that I go to the show. All the compliments that I received on judging the Milking Shorthorn show were great too.”

—Keith Topp

“My favorite memory this year would be watching my daughter Madelyn lead in the championship drive of the Brown Swiss show.”

—Eric Topp

PHOTO: Mary and Eric Topp are pictured with their children, Madelyn, Mackenzie and Grant, at the North American International Livestock Exposition. Photo courtesy of the Topp family. 

Read the article: Trio of Topp brothers to tap World Dairy Expo champions

16. How much does it really cost to raise a heifer?
Published: May 16, 2019 Extra enewsletter

Iowa State University is helping dairy producers determine the answer to this burning question with updated estimates of heifer-raising costs for 2019 in the form of two helpful charts that break down heifer cost per day by weight and feed costs, along with an itemized budget.

ISU extension Dairy team heifers costs per day 2019

Q. What are some key ways labor and management costs related to heifer raising can be reduced?

“The biggest way I see for costs to be reduced and health and milk production increased is twofold:

1. Make sure the heifers are doubling their birth weight in the first 56 days of life. If not, calves are not developing cells in that timeframe that they will never get the chance to again, and they will increase milk production in first lactation. If wanting to cut costs, do not shortchange them in this timeframe.

2. Practice management intensive grazing (MIG). Get the yearling and bred heifers into a grazing program, as research shows health benefits and increased milk production in first lactation, and it reduces costs of raising them significantly.”

—Larry Tranel, dairy field specialist, Iowa State University

Read the article: How much does it really cost to raise a heifer?

17. Former dairyman converts barn for raising steers
Published: Jan. 10, 2019 Extra enewsletter

After a nearly 27-year absence from the dairy industry, Jack Koronkiewicz of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, penciled out and researched renovating his 100-stanchion, 32-by-200-foot barn to begin a beef enterprise. The first finished steers were sold in May of 2017. Steers arrive at the farm weighing 300 pounds and leave weighing 1,400 pounds in 12 months.

Structures intended for dairy cattle like Jack Koronkiewicz's barn in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, can be renovated to house beef

Q. What’s at the top of your list for a goal in 2020?

“For the most part, things are working well. I am happy with the pens, the barns, ventilation, our cattle source and the canary grass or cornstalks we use for bedding. The one thing I would like to improve is the average daily gain, which runs at 2.7 pounds per day from purchase through sell. I want to push that to 3 to 3.2 pounds per day. That will improve my bottom line, help me reduce debt and give me better options for a generational transition.”

—Jack Koronkiewicz

PHOTO: Structures intended for dairy cattle like Jack Koronkiewicz's barn in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, can be renovated to house beef, providing a return for existing buildings that have a useful life. Photo by Jack Koronkiewicz.

Read the article: Former dairyman converts barn for raising steers

18. Son-Bow Farms cuts cost of production with ‘new way’ of manure handling
Published: Nov. 25, 2018 issue

At Son-Bow Farms near Spring Valley, Wisconsin, the sand-laden manure from 1,400 cows passes through a sand separation and reclamation building before undergoing the two-phase NuWay process that further partitions it down. The result is a unique trio of co-products: a high-phosphorus liquid fertilizer, a low-phosphorus liquid fertilizer and the equivalent of distilled water. Dairyman Jay Richardson anticipated last year the system would save at least $1.50 per hundredweight in the cost of production.

he NuWay process includes two phases

Q. How have the operations and outcomes with your system developed in the past year?

“Our successes:

  • We received our permit to discharge clean water from the Wisconsin DNR on March 8, 2019.

  • The sand system has continued to perform phenomenally. Somatic cell count has consistently stayed at or below 100,000, and sand quality is first-rate.

  • We were able to more closely manage the sprinkler system for cow cooling this past summer and dropped water usage by about 20,000 gallons per day from last summer, significantly reducing the load on the water system.

  • The lagoon quality is phenomenal. Almost no agitation is required, and the solids that had built up over the years are gone, thus adding capacity.

  • The first winter went just fine with the equipment. The buildings stayed warm with the heat from the equipment, and we only had to temper the incoming air.

“Our challenges:

  • The water system worked too good for flume quality in the early spring. The system was removing water as it should, but that made the flume too thick to run properly up in the special-needs barn. (That is the longest run for the flume and the most solid manure.) We are working to fine-tune this issue for the coming winter.

  • While electrical costs have come in on budget, supplies to maintain the water system are over budget, and we are working on getting those in line.

  • Repairs on the used composters have been much higher than anticipated, and the compost sales have not materialized to help offset that investment.”

—Jay Richardson, Son-Bow Farms

PHOTO: The NuWay process includes two phases: ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis. Ultrafiltration produces two products: a highly concentrated, high-phosphorus fertilizer (left) and a low-phosphorus tea water (center). Reverse osmosis further partitions the tea water into a “super” tea water that goes to the lagoon and finally, clean, clear water (right). Photos by Peggy Coffeen.

Read the article: Son-Bow Farms cuts cost of production with ‘new way’ of manure handling

19. Spring Breeze Dairy: A turn-key transformation
Published: July 19, 2019 print issue

Breeze Dairy Group LLC took turn-key ownership on Sept. 1, 2015 of a 1,800-cow dairy in Antigo, Wisconsin. The farm came with a good herd of cows, a passionate management and employee team, three 30-year-old freestall barns still in pretty good shape, a double-24 parallel parlor and a few additional buildings. And the cherry on top was that the operation came with permits, which enabled the group to set the site up for 3,600 cows. A 72-stall rotary parlor was up and running in December 2018.

A new rotary milking parlor (far left building) and six-row barn (second from left) were built last year at Spring Breeze Dairy

Q. Looking back, what do you believe was one of the best business management decisions you made with Spring Breeze Dairy?

“There are numerous design features we incorporated when we built Spring Breeze Dairy that came to mind when I prepared to answer this question. With that said, our focus at Breeze Dairy Group has centered around the development of our 100-plus employees, all of whom play a critical role in achieving our goals.

“My daughter-in-law, Katie, is the director of human resources at Breeze Dairy Group. Over the past year, she has made two major improvements to our human resource program.

  • Annual review process – Annual reviews for all employees occur during a two-week period using a standardized form. Previously, each manager used their discretion on how the review was conducted, and they were performed based on the hire date of each employee. We now have a process that is more systemized and focused.

  • Onboarding – A new employee’s first day at work should not include any actual work. Instead, we dedicate that time to educate them about who we are and what’s important to us. We show them around the farm and introduce them to the rest of the team.

“Our people are truly our most important asset. A good onboarding process results in enhanced job satisfaction and retention, improved performance and increased productivity.”

—Brian Gerrits, CEO and CFO, Breeze Dairy Group LLC

PHOTO: new rotary milking parlor (far left building) and six-row barn (second from left) were built last year at Spring Breeze Dairy in the same place where the manure pit was originally located. The three original freestall barns have been converted from mechanical to tunnel ventilation. Photo by Peggy Coffeen.

Read the article: Spring Breeze Dairy: A turn-key transformation

20. How to make milk for less than $15 per hundredweight
Published: March 14, 2019 Extra enewsletter

“Turning a profit during tough times doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does have to be different,” wrote consultant Pauly Paul. He recommends four basic steps for making milk for less money: Determine cost of production, set a goal, reduce expenses (through labor, feed, equipment/maintenance, heifer inventory and reproduction/veterinary costs) and generate more income (through another daily milking and/or selling land or machinery).

Q. Looking ahead into 2020 and beyond, what do you think the biggest takeaways from the past few years of struggling dairy prices have been?

“People have learned to adapt, and that’s not always easy. Adaptability is critical because by no means are these difficult times even close to being over. I see more people spending within their means and buying what they can afford, which may mean pushing off top-dollar purchases they would have made in the past. Dairy farmers are also realizing how important it is to surround themselves with a very good team and to not be afraid to ask for help. Those who will be successful in the future are the producers willing to think outside the box and are open-minded to doing things differently. They are the ones asking, ‘How can we do things better, save money or get more income?’ They are willing to change.”

—Pauly Paul, consultant, Complete Management Consulting

Read the article: How to make milk for less than $15 per hundredweight

21. Stone Cow Brewery opens to keep a longstanding dairy going
Published: Jan. 1, 2019 print issue

After a hay barn fire, Carter-Stevens Dairy embarked on a brewery venture to diversify their farm for extra income. The story of how the brewery unfolded after the fire is enough to make a listener believe a brewery was meant to be all along.

A Holstein cow from Carter-Stevens Dairy sniffs one of Stone Cow Brewery’s

Q. What new updates or changes have been made in the past year to the brewery or dairy?

“Based on high demand for our beers, we have broken ground on a new building project at the brewery that will allow us to expand not only our rotating beer offerings but also incorporate a new barrel-aging program for specialty and wild-ale beers. We have also recently constructed a new outdoor beer garden with pavilion at the farm.”

—Sean DuBois, Stone Cow Brewery and Carter-Stevens Dairy

PHOTO: A Holstein cow from Carter-Stevens Dairy sniffs one of Stone Cow Brewery’s most popular beers, Bono Loco New England IPA. Photos provided by Sean DuBois.

Read the article: Stone Cow Brewery opens to keep a longstanding dairy going

22. Beef-on-dairy: First things first
Published: May 9, 2019 Extra enewsletter

Before incorporating beef semen as part of your genetic planning process, consider these questions and the possible scenarios: Which animals will I breed to beef? How much beef semen should I use? Which beef bulls should I use?

Black, beefy-looking calves can add value to a dairy's bottom line

Q. Where do you see the future of the dairy-beef cross calf market headed in the coming year?

“I believe the beef-on-dairy trend is here to stay for now. Dairies continually aim to optimize their efficiencies in every area – and using beef-on-dairy as part of their genetic strategy is one way they can do that. While it’s nearly impossible to predict the future, it seems the dairy-beef cross calves will continue to earn a higher dollar at market than their pure Holstein counterparts – because those raising beef also want to take advantage of the opportunities that improve their operational efficiency.”

—Chrissy Meyer, marketing manager, Alta Genetics

PHOTO: Black, beefy-looking calves can add value to a dairy's bottom line when part of a business strategy. Photo provided by Diana Henschel.

Read the article: Beef-on-dairy: First things first

23. Robots bring beneficial cost savings to Majestic Crossing Dairy
Published: Feb. 7, 2019 print issue

One year after installing 13 robots at Majestic Crossing Dairy in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, brothers Dean and Darin Strauss share what the change meant for their farm, both in management and metrics. Both people and cows had to adapt to the new system but, in doing so, they could cut back 40% in labor hours and focus on more high-level work. They also noticed better reproduction, feet and legs, milk production and less water in the manure pit.

Dean and Darin Strauss

Our sincere condolences

In July, Dean Strauss experienced sudden cardiac arrest while driving. He passed away peacefully on Sept. 29, surrounded by his family. Beyond being a skillful dairy manager, Strauss was a leader and advocate for the dairy industry. In May, he was recognized as one of three U.S. Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability award recipients. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Strauss family and the team at Majestic Crossing Dairy during their time of loss and transition.

PHOTO: After having cow management turned upside down with the installation of 13 milking robots just over a year ago, Dean and Darin Strauss are seeing positive changes in labor roles and farm expenses.Photo by Karen Lee.

Read the article: Robots bring beneficial cost savings to Majestic Crossing Dairy

24. Renewed interest brings big changes to Ideal Dairy LLC
Published: Oct. 11, 2018 Extra enewsletter

In the past 10 years, gradual growth occurred at Ideal Dairy LLC in Hudson Falls, New York, moving the farm from 600 cows to more than 2,400 cows. This included adding barns, feed storage, a heifer facility, a new rotary parlor and a satellite manure storage system as well as the opportunity for new ownership to join the farm team, which now consists of Kyle Getty, Luke Getty, Crystal Grimaldi, and John and Denise Dickinson.

As Ideal Dairy grew in size and more changes were planned

Q. Could you share some of the methods you used to sustain your farming operation during the last few years?

“In everything we do, sustainability is in the forefront of our minds. We all share a vision that together we build something that is viable and that will last for future generations. With the challenges of milk marketing driving down price, we are pretty focused on efficiency. Driving down expenses, either with increased production or cutting costs, is often our go-to strategy for remaining competitive, but it is not our only strategy.

Being in balance, investing in and caring for our herd, and thinking creatively to get the most value out of our resources has served us well. In recent years, we have done a lot of collaborating with other local farmers and custom operators, pooling resources and talent for everyone’s benefit. We have fostered some really valuable relationships that we hope will continue. Working together locally and as an industry will help position everyone for a better future.

“In addition to being viable, sustainability is also about having a next generation interested in joining the team. The ‘senior’ generation on our farm is happy to have a ‘junior’ generation to hand the reins to, but handing off a life’s work does not come easily. It involves many tough conversations, hard work and compromises on both sides. Sometimes having a trusted and unbiased third party in the room can make all the difference in the world.

We were lucky enough to have a couple key individuals who have helped us along the way to build our team with a solid foundation. Many days are not perfect, but we are a well-balanced team, each with our own strengths and all focused on the common goal of sustaining our family farm for another generation. Now we’ve just got to find a way to keep the next generation interested.”

—The management team at Ideal Dairy LLC

PHOTO: As Ideal Dairy grew in size and more changes were planned, the opportunity arose for new ownership to join the farm team, which now consists of, left to right, Kyle Getty, Luke Getty, Crystal Grimaldi, Denise Dickinson and John Dickinson. Photo courtesy of Ideal Dairy LLC.

Read the article: Renewed interest brings big changes to Ideal Dairy LLC

25. How to audit your TMR for consistency
Published: Nov. 1, 2018 Extra enewsletter

Feed is a primary cost of production for dairy farmers, and cow performance is directly related to the ration fed. Performing an audit to verify that your fed ration is close to your paper ration is cost-effective and can help find inefficiencies in your feeding program. A complete TMR audit includes a review of feed center organization, defacing protocol, mixing wagon performance and an examination of refusals.

Performing a TMR audit to verify that your fed ration is as close as it can be to the one on paper

Q. What additional questions should producers ask themselves for a TMR audit?

“Examine all feedstuffs. Is there any top spoilage present in the bunker silos? Why is it there, and can it be prevented or safely removed? Do ensiled feeds pass a visual examination and olfactory ‘sniff test’? What are the approximate dry matters of the ensiled feeds? Are commodity feeds being completely turned over between deliveries, or are residual feeds left in back of the most recent delivery? Any visual signs of any spoilage or ‘surprises’ (color, particle size, consistency, odor) in any of the feeds? Is there much spilled/blown/rotting and wasted feed around the feed center?”

—Bill Stone, DVM, Diamond V

PHOTO: Performing a TMR audit to verify that your fed ration is as close as it can be to the one on paper is cost-effective and can help find inefficiencies in your feeding program. Photo by Mike Dixon.

Read the article: How to audit your TMR for consistency   end mark

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