Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Slideshow: What we didn't tell you about McClellan Farms

Julie Ashton for Progressive Dairyman Published on 25 September 2017
milking cows

The Oct. 1, 2017 issue of Progressive Dairyman features Tom McClellan of McClellan Farms Inc. who achieves an average milking time of 3.9 minutes per cow. See images of his operation below. (Photos by Julie Ashton.)

Visit the article link to view comments from McClellan and veterinarian Dr. Andrew Johnson about this noteworthy accomplishment.



Visit the text below the slideshow to learn even more about the operation.

McClellan Farms: What we didn’t tell you in print

Read on for more information about the McClellan operation that wasn’t included in the print publication.


Started in 1926 as Swiss Croft Farms by McClellan’s grandparents Bruce and Betty, McClellan Farms Inc. is located on the original homestead in Delavan, Wisconsin. In the 1950s, his father, John, returned home from college and milked 30 cows a half-mile down the road and his uncle Frank joined the home operation a few years later. In 1966, the two operations merged and the family built an early double-six herringbone parlor and freestall barn for 100 head. In the early ’70s, Uncle Frank left the operation to work for BouMatic LLC. Tom McClellan joined the farm in the late ’70s and family friend Wes Hopkins became a partner in the mid ’80s, managing the shop and cropping operation.

Over the last three decades, barns and freestalls for 350 more cattle, a 40-cow post-fresh barn and a special needs/hospital area has been added, along with a new heifer facility at John’s original farmstead down the road. Additionally, the parlor has been expanded in the original facility to a double-eight herringbone parlor with BouMatic technology.



Nutrition plays a key role in the success at McClellan Farms, where they own 600 acres and farm an additional 2,400 acres. With this amount of land, byproducts and protein supplements are the only purchased feeds, and they are able to also cash crop. Additionally, they have enough land for their manure disposal. For the past 35 years, Vita Plus has been their nutrition consulting company. The McClellans feed a two-third corn silage, one-third haylage ration with 0.75 pound of straw per cow, corn gluten pellets and dry corn or high-moisture corn. They are also amino acid balancing for the whole herd and using good inoculants so that their TMR doesn’t heat during hot weather. Transition cows receive molasses and glycerol in their ration, and they are doing DCAD balancing for the pre-fresh group. “We believe that focusing on transition cows is critical for building their success the rest of their lactation,” Tom McClellan says.

Calves and heifers

McClellan also recognizes that proper calf nutrition and care is vital to the success of the herd. While the farm was going through its expansion, they did not have the facilities to raise the additional calves and they began using a local calf grower. While they didn’t have to expend the labor or feed for their heifers anymore, they noticed the quality of heifers that were entering the herd wasn’t as good. After several years, a neighboring heifer facility became available for rent, and calf raising returned under home management. In 2014, they built a new heifer facility, and now all heifers are raised on-farm. Colostrum is kept refrigerated, and calves receive a gallon within an hour of birth. Navels are dipped with iodine, and the calves are removed quickly from the calving pen. The farm follows a strict vaccination protocol, so the calves start with a good base. “If you do things right from day one,” McClellan notes, “you’ll have less problems down the road.”

Heifers are fed pasteurized hospital milk with a balancer for 45 days and then transitioned to super hutches, group housing and then freestalls with headlocks or slanted bars. They have a 40 percent pregnancy rate for their heifers just from observed heats, and the average age is 22 months at calving. All cows are on an Ovsynch protocol with a 30 percent pregnancy rate. They are involved with a young sire program and have focused on production and health traits for years when selecting mating sires. Herd manager Bill Mansfield makes the critical mating decisions for the herd.  end mark

Julie Ashton, a freelance writer based in northern Illinois, grew up on a registered Holstein farm and specializes in the dairy industry.

PHOTO: Photo by Julie Ashton.