Wis. Couple’s Focus on Cow Management, Comfort Leads to Success
Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade
Special Sections Editor
LANCASTER, Pa. — Rosy Lane Holsteins of Watertown, Wis., has followed a model for growth and progress since Lloyd and Daphne Holterman started dairying in the early 1980s.
“All decisions have been driven off our strength — and that is cow management and cow comfort,” Lloyd Holterman said, speaking at the 2013 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit last week.
Lloyd said success requires an efficient production system that drives net worth. “I have one simple measure of success, I am net-worth driven. The big thing is if you sold everything today, how much would you be left with.”
The Holtermans operate Rosy Lane Holsteins LLC along with partners Tim Strobel and Jordan Matthews.
The farm milks 850 cows and has 820 heifers and 25 young bulls. The rolling herd average is 30,725 pounds per cow. Their somatic cell count averages 180,000. The farm crops 1,525 acres with a mix of corn and grasses.
If there is one statistic Lloyd is most proud of it’s the pounds of milk shipped to the dairy plant for each pound of dry matter consumed. Rosy Lane Holsteins averages 1.7 pounds of milk shipped for each pound of dry matter, compared with the Wisconsin state average of 1.4 pounds of milk per pound of dry matter.
What does this mean?
Because of the higher production, Lloyd said his farm generates an additional $1.1 million in income compared with a herd of similar size.
At the Dairy Summit, Lloyd and Daphne shared the key points in their operation that have helped them achieve their milk production levels.
It takes the right kind of people, Lloyd said. They have established farm standards, and spend time training and holding employees to those standards. The Holtermans also promote from within, encouraging high-quality work. He said Strobel and Matthews both started out at $6-per-hour part-time jobs on the farm in high school and have worked their way into partnership.
The next area Lloyd discussed for achieving high milk production is environment. They do not overcrowd stalls; rather, it’s one cow per stall, he said. As a result, cows stay cleaner, and they cull more cows by choice, instead of for health reasons.
They also work to keep a clean environment for cows and stress gentle cow handling.
“If you want to market 30,000 pounds per cow, you are not going to do it with first-, second-lactation heifers. You have to have old cows. You have to have third-, fourth- and fifth-lactation cows,” he said.
Strobel’s job on the farm is the crops, environmental compliance and employee safety.
“Tim’s job is important. If Tim does not do a job putting it in storage and get it properly fermented, we are not going to see the performance on our end,” Lloyd said.
Both Holtermans said they believe cows and calves thrive with consistency. Lloyd said feeding cows has to be timely and consistent, at the same times every day. Same goes for handling in the milking parlor.
Daphne, who manages the calf-raising barn, echoed that sentiment. Her goals is to have calves fed within the same five-minute window three times a day, every day. Milk replacer has to be about the same temperature and mixture. Many of the cow practices, for undercrowding, feeding protocols and cleanliness, are the same for the calves.
Daphne said she views the calves as an investment. Putting the extra effort and care into the calves today will result in productive cows. They strive to have heifers calving at 22 months.
Technology is a part of the farm. “We use as much technology as possible. Not only does it replace some labor, it makes our labor better,” said Lloyd.
They have computerized heat detection systems for the cows and breeding-aged heifers. GPS systems are on cars and trucks and also are used to help with logistics in planting, manure management and harvest. Cellphones, tablets and Internet offer instant access to production information.
Rosy Lane has an established reputation for its high-quality cows. They have developed more than 60 bulls sold to AI companies and have six females on the top 500 GTPI females in the U.S.
“Great bulls sire great cows,” Lloyd said. He focuses on Net Merit values in bull selection, not TPI (total production index).
Genomic testing has helped identify better bulls earlier. However, he said, you still have to select for the same traits.
Genomics is a “small part of the equation,” Lloyd said. They also genomic test their calves. If culling calves, he says to cull out poor, unhealthier heifers, not just on the genomic test.
For their breeding program, 90 percent of their service bulls are genomically tested. When selecting potential bulls, Lloyd looks for $800 net merit scored bulls. Other traits include good feet and legs, and calving ease, and he breeds away from stature.
“We have a commercial dairy and we like cows that fit in (our) free stalls,” he said.
Genomics has helped by allowing the farm to make a small margin through bull sales. Looking back, Lloyd said, he should have kept fewer bulls back for AI. Genetic sales are a low part of gross income, but after net income, they account for 15 percent.
Daphne Holterman is engaged in the public outreach of the farm, serving as a “resource” for other businesses in their town. She manages the farm’s Facebook page, hosts farm tours for schoolchildren, and the local hospital’s health committee.
She is a strong believer in consumer education. On the farm, one of their daily goals is to be “tour ready” or make sure the farm is always presentable. She acknowledges it might not be perfect every day, but it is something they work on every day.
The farm aims to be “ready” for milk inspection, OSHA inspection, CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) reviews, and in compliance with FARM, the farmers assurance responsible management program.