Editor’s note: This is a follow-up to the case study reported in the September 2012 edition of this newsletter by Luciana Jonkman of Progressive Dairy Solutions, Inc.
Since last reporting on this central California herd in September 2012, we have all kept our feet on the accelerator in all the areas we set out to impact.
In late 2011 (start of the dairy), the goals were to improve transition performance, feed management and cow comfort. Today, many of the production and cow management goals are being met and plans are being executed to increase return on feed, facilities and cow investments. We now face challenges of expanding the herd and how to best approach roles and responsibilities for owners and team members we hire.
Since the fall of 2012, the dairy has increased the herd 300 cows to 1,800 and has plans to reach 2,000 milking by August. Much of the growth has been internal and a result of diligent execution of protocols and record-keeping. With a 12 percent increase in animals so far, and another 13 percent in the next few months, we need to carefully consider how we modify the pen demographics, adjustments in feed, ROI expectations, and total farm management to support the expansion. Things to consider could be:
- Do we make another high or mid pen?
- Do we expand the fresh pen area so that we stay under 90 percent headlock stocking rate?
- What about the maternity area? If we are not expanding it, how does our management of that facility and the timing of the cows moving in change to maintain excellent transition?
And so on. After spending the first year in "getting our feet under us" mode, it's time for expansion mode and with that comes challenges.
As the expansion has progressed, new people have joined the team. More cows have calved per month, more cows milked, moved, and fed every day.
It was obvious to the leadership that the feeder had the longest day and needed the most support. Previously, the feeder would lock cows up for the breeder, give shots for sync program, clean mangers, prep silage, hay and premixes, feed all lactating animals at the home ranch in addition to feeding support stock on two other locations about three and six miles away. He was getting in and out of the feed truck and loader 75+ times a day, consuming nearly two hours of his time and turning his day into an 11-13 hour day.
What we saw on the Feedwatch graph was that cows were not getting fed with any regularity in delivery times, and loads varied widely in mixing times. Feeding appeared to be an after-thought that worked around the manpower schedule rather than an intentional activity centered on cows, comfort and consistency. Cleaning out mangers only happened when there was time, which every reader of this article knows doesn't happen unless you plan on it.