This farm really needed to look outside the box

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Editor’s note: The following case was handled by Jason Brixey, partner in Pine Creek Nutrition Services in Turlock, Calif.

It may be too little too late, but dairy nutritionist Jason Brixey is giving it his best try.

In early April, he began working with a central California dairy with more than 2,000 cows. Unfortunately, the farm was already in big financial trouble.

For 20 years or more, the dairy worked with a feed mill to have all of its feed pre-mixed and delivered on a daily basis.

But as the dairy fell into worse financial shape ― exacerbated by high feed costs and declining milk prices in the early part of this year ― the farm’s financial advisors knew it was time for a change. They recommended that the owner start working with Brixey. And, many of the neighboring farms confirmed that recommendation.

“It took dire straits for (the farm owner) to look outside the box and give someone else a chance at look at his program,” Brixey says.

Initially, Brixey’s objective was to get feed cost down. And, he certainly achieved that.  

“By mixing the same ingredients on farm, we saved about 50 cents per cow per day,” he says.   

There was an added bonus.

In early April, the farm was shipping an average of 68 pounds of milk per cow per day (on three-times-a-day milking). By early June, that number had increased to 89 pounds.

“I have never in my career seen that kind of response in a Holstein herd so fast,” Brixey says.

The farm owner, who had relied on the feed mill to feed his cows for such a long period of time, had to see the improvement to believe it. But once he did, he was more attentive to Brixey’s suggestions.

“I knew I had his attention at that point,” Brixey says.

Brixey worked with the owner to improve overall farm management, including hoof care, cow comfort, keeping the water troughs clean, and grinding hay.  

Again, it may prove to be too little too late. The farm was already about to go belly-up, Brixey says, when he got there last April. “Unless we see $20 milk in the near future, I am not sure we are going to get out from under it.”

At this point, Brixey is doing everything he can to help the farm right itself so hopefully the owner, who is in his early 70s, can sell the operation and make a graceful exit. But Brixey was surprised at how much production increased with the new rations and perhaps there are a few surprises left.  



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