VanderMade Dairy LLC is a family-owned and -operated dairy
milking 1,400 cows in northern Ohio.
**Extended comments are highlighted in blue.
When it comes to reproduction, overall herd health is crucial. Over the past 12 years, we have made several improvements to ensure cow comfort and overall health. Our facilities are 6-row freestall barns with sand bedding. Below are some topics that we have focused on to improve reproduction:
Transition period. Getting the cows to transition well starts at dry-off. Dry cows are housed in the same facilities as the rest of the herd at a stocking rate of 100% or less. A typical dry period is 50-60 days, then 21 days pre-fresh. Stocking rates in pre-fresh are 80% or less. We believe that with lower stocking rates there’s no disadvantage to having heifers mixed with cows (maybe even a slight advantage). For the past eight years, we have fed the same high-straw, low-energy based diet, which has worked great.
Cow comfort. We do not recycle sand, as sand has been reasonably priced and we like the simplicity of the system. Over the years, we have added on and modified existing buildings. Proper stall dimensions, adequate traction of concrete floors and stocking rates seem to have had a positive impact.
Ventilation and cooling. This is an area that we have struggled with. Northwest Ohio may not seem like a hot climate, but every year we see milk production and preg rates fall dramatically when the Temperature Humidity Index approaches 80. We have had the best results striving for air movement of 6-7 mph throughout the barn, specifically over the stalls. We like to see lying times of 12-13 hours.
Hoof health. All cows are trimmed twice per lactation and lame cows as needed.
Vaccination schedule. Having a proper vaccination schedule is extremely important on any livestock facility.
Repro protocols. This obviously is a crucial part of a farm’s reproductive performance. All animals are enrolled in a synch program. Mature cows get bred after their second good heat passed 60 DIM. Breeding pens of mature cows as well as first lactation animals get tail-chalked daily. All animals are checked with ultrasound at 31 days.
People. The most important reason why all of the above has worked for us is because we have been blessed with having a great group of people who work hard to strive for success.
I think there’s lots to learn yet when it comes to herd health and repro performance. I really appreciate the research that is being done in this field. Cow comfort should be on top of everyone’s list. Happy cows pay the bills!
VanderMade’s recent prices
$21.40 (3.75 bf, 3.0 prt)
Alfalfa hay (milk cow)