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Extension > Agriculture > Dairy Extension > Precision dairy > Recap from Precision Dairy 2015 - Part II

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Recap from Precision Dairy 2015 - Part II

Marcia Endres, Professor
August 8, 2015

The University of Minnesota along with the University of Kentucky organized and hosted the 2nd US Precision Dairy Conference and Expo, June 24-25 in Rochester, MN. The program was developed in partnership with key industry sponsors and included a variety of topics related to technology in dairy. There were 24 presentations including 10 dairy producer showcases, which offered the opportunity to virtually visit those farms. For a complete list of topics, go here and click on Program. If you didn't attend the event, please take this short survey to let us know why.

Although industry and research presentations were very informative, I will focus on additional producer showcase sessions that I didn't have space to include in my last article and briefly describe the technologies used on those farms. Again, we are very thankful to all the dairy producers who traveled to our event during a busy time of the year to present a virtual tour of their farm. It is much appreciated!

The number five producer showcase was presented by Tony Louters from Merced, CA. They milk 600 cows (30,675 pounds RHA and 160,000 SCC). He summarized how SCR rumination/activity sensor technology has helped them improve health and reproductive efficiency in their herd. Before the system, 25-30% cows had early calving and/or retained placenta. With the system, they streamlined dry cow vaccination and pen moves and their dry cow management improved substantially - cows are healthier. They also improved fresh cow management with lower lockup times and have a fast insight into effectiveness of veterinarian treatments given to sick animals. In addition, pregnancy rate increased from 26 to 30%.

Next on the program was Chad Kieffer from Utica, MN. His topic was how to become successful with milking robots and achieve high milk production. They milk 310 cows with five Lely A3 robots (29,101 pounds RHA; 125,000 SCC; 25% pregnancy rate) and Chad is also a consulting nutritionist for many robot farms. He recommends a robot ration with multiple feed types according to level of production and days in milk which will reduce fresh cow weight loss and increase milk production. They use a concentrate feeder in the prefresh pen; it helps train the heifers to visit the robot. His key home messages: every second per box visit counts; think milk/hour in tank and milk/robot/day, not always milk/cow; the right ration is very important; search hidden areas for cow, management and machine factors; pay attention to details!

On June 25th, we started the producer showcase sessions with Nate Elzinga from Zeeland, MI. They have 250 Holstein cows (31,036 pounds RHA; 20 month calving age; 25-30% pregnancy rate). They use Afimilk system that measures milk weights, flow rates and unit-on times, conductivity, cow activity and rest time and ratios (lying vs standing/walking). The Afifarm software is used to effectively manage the herd. They also use TMR Tracker and Holm & Laue automated calf feeder and ColoQuick. All the technology on the farm has helped them improve health, feeding management, calf management, genetic progress, reproduction and productivity of their herd.

Next on the program was Chad Carlson from Pennock, MN. Last year they built a new cross-ventilated calf barn; four pens on each half and a mixing/utility room in the center. They have four Urban CalfMom Alma calf feeders in the barn and eight total pens of calves with two nipples per pen. There are two starter pens with 12 calves per pen; calves move into these pens at day one and are fed whole milk and/or milk replacer. There are six additional pens of calves; approximately 25 calves per pen. Feeders can simultaneously feed four calves at a time which reduces waiting time at the nipple. Machine self-cleans twice a day; nipples changed twice a day; machines calibrated once a week. They offer free choice 22% protein starter and electrolytes. Calf health and growth have been good.

Craig Finke from Nashville, IL gave us a virtual tour of all the automation on his 120-milking cow dairy, which is considered one of the most automated dairies in the country. Technologies include: Astrea 20.20 - AMS Galaxy USA robotic milking system, Trioliet robotic TMR feeding system, thermostat sensor-controlled curtains, text messaging cow alerts, smart Orion 6 lamp sealed lighting, two Comfy Cow brushes, and more. All the automation helped them expand their herd from 85 to 120 cows, reduced labor cost by $30,000 per year, increased profits due to better management tools and improved quality of life for the cows and their family.

The final showcase on the program was presented by Carlyle Westendorp from Nashville, MI. They milk 220 cows with Lely A4 robots. One of their goals was to expand from 90 cows and not have to hire employees and keep using all family labor. They effectively use the information from the robot software along with SCR rumination and activity data to optimize performance and improve health in their herd. An important point he made was working with a nutritionist that understands how to work with robots to achieve high milk production. Their herd is averaging about 100 pounds per cow per day. They also own MOO-ville Creamery; they bottle their milk, and make ice cream, cheese, yogurt, smoothies and butter!

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