Jon Patterson’s dairy milks 1,100 cows on a farm that’s been in the family since 1832.
**Extended comments are highlighted in blue.
We have made a change from keeping our transition cows in the worst place on the farm for comfort and crowding to the best place after building on to a barn in 2011. It was hard for me to see all that open space and not pack it full of cows. This has had a great impact in our cow health and reproduction of the herd.
The new facility allows us to handle many calvings at one time with one person. There is a dedicated place for calf care. This is where every heifer calf gets navel-dipped, colostrum within 30 minutes of birth, vitamins and vaccinations. She will stay there and receive more colostrum in about five hours.
During the winter months, we will calves in a warmer until they are dry. A calf jacket is put on them before they are taken to a hutch, where they spend 60-70 days and are fed pasteurized waste milk with a pasteurizer balancer added to it. All animals are on a vaccination program that is tailored to our farm and management, from birth through the pre-fresh pen.
After a cow freshens, she is moved to the fresh group where she can be monitored closely. We lock up this pen daily and check temps and rectal of every cow at five, seven, nine and 14 days. If a cow has no problems with calving or other health issues in the first 14 days, she will move out of the fresh pen after 21 days, depending on space availability in the other pens. If a cow has had a difficult calving or shows a temperature or any other health issues in the first 14 days, she is dealt with accordingly.
Each cow receives vitamins and calcium at freshening in the fresh group. All first-lactation animals go to a separate barn and fresh group to help eliminate competition from older cows. This is an older barn that that has stalls sized better for the smaller animals.
We have a 60-day voluntary wait period on second and greater animals and a 70-day voluntary wait on first lactation animals. All breading is done AI -- no bulls on the farm. All cows’ first service is on the Ovsynch program that will bring them into heat in the week after their voluntary wait.
Any cows showing heats after the first service are rebred. We ultrasound at 30-36 days after breeding, and any open cows are given GNRH and put on a resynch program. Any cows that are cystic or problem breeders are put on a CIDER program. Heifers will receive Lutalyse shots after they are one year old and if they are not bred. After one month, if she has still not been bred, then we will use a CIDER on them as well.
Nutrition and body condition are extremely important to cow health and reproduction. We have struggled in the past with fresh cow problems from cows getting too fat in later lactation or too much condition on heifers. This will just compound the problem and make her hard to breed.
Our feed manager and crop crew do a great job making sure only the best feed is put up and then fed out to the cows. This allows the nutritionist to respond in a timely manner to our concerns, whether in the close-up pen or in the breeding-age heifers. We know all the details have a big impact on the cows’ health and reproduction.
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