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Oregon Dairy Producer Loves Jersey Cows

October 3, 2012
By: Catherine Merlo, Dairy Today Western and Online Editor google + 
Martin Dairy   Copy
Norm Martin (right) and son Chad at their Jersey dairy in Tillamook, Ore.  

More milk, more cheese and more money, says Norm Martin.

Dairy producer Norm Martin of Tillamook, Ore., is a Jersey cow fan all the way.

“Jerseys make more milk, more cheese and more money,” Martin told the audience during yesterday’s Virtual Farm Tour at World Dairy Expo.

Using video of his operation, Martin described his family dairy, with its 160 acres of farmland, 32-cow rotary and freestalls. The dairy doesn’t use BST or dock tails. He also talked about moving his herd from California to the Oregon coast in 1995. He found more price stability and profitability in Oregon than in the Golden State, where his family had been dairying for decades. “It was a good move for us,” Martin said.

And he’s never regretted transitioning his herd from Holsteins to Jerseys. The result has been higher profit, higher yield, longer-lasting cows and more money.

He stressed that he deliberately set out to breed a top-notch genetic herd “so that if we ever had to bail out, we’d have a good herd of cows,” he said. “Using genomics is one more tool to make a better cow.”

Martin’s all-Jersey herd of 1,011 cows is No. 6 in the U.S. for the herd-average Jersey Performance Index. The dairy has placed multiple bulls in A.I., and is home to 47 of the top 500 genomically evaluated Jersey females. The 2011 lactation average was 18,331 pounds milk, averaging 5.0% fat and 3.7% protein, with 13 cows scored Excellent, 509 Very Good and 386 Desirable.

Like other dairies, Martin’s biggest challenge these days is the high cost of feed. He buys all of his feed except for the forages he grows. When he recently purchased canola at $406 per ton, it was considered a deal. “Who would ever have thought that canola at $406 was a deal?” he asked.

His July milk price averaged around $24 to $25 per cwt., and September rose to $27 per cwt. But his cost of production keeps rising, taking the shine off those high prices.

Martin is a member and director of Tillamook Cooperative Creamery Association. “It’s probably the greatest little co-op in the world,” Martin said. “The quality of cheese – and the milk going into the plant – is second to none in the world."

The Virtual Farm Tour was sponsored by the American Jersey Cattle Association.

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