VanderMade Dairy LLC is a family-owned and -operated dairy
milking 1,400 cows in northern Ohio.
**Extented comments highlighted in blue.
Today’s dairy farming has changed a lot from where we were even just a few years ago. New technologies come out all the time, and it is our job to figure out which one may work for us. With all the different ways of dairying and all the different geographic areas in our country, there’s no "one fits all" approach.
We have added quite a few technologies over the years on our dairy. A few examples:
• Milk meters with conductivity readers;
• A software program that provides parlor information as well as herd health;
• A dairy-specific software program to run our books on an accrual basis;
• A software program that tracks daily feed intakes as well as inventories;
• Use of smartphones to keep up with rapidly changing markets.
One of the biggest technologies that we have invested in recently is genomic testing. For 12 years now, we have raised all of our young stock. As a result, we now have excess animals.
Currently, all heifer calves get tested before going to the grower. All of these animals then get ranked according to the index that we created for our dairy. We have decided to flush the top 4%-5% (animals that rank in the 99th percentile of U.S. herd) and use these embryos in the bottom 10%-15%. We then plan to freshen these animals and sell them as fresh heifers.
Some dairies choose to use beef on their bottom end, but we wanted to keep our commitment to our heifer growers, and we felt our tail end would still be salable based on their genetics and health. Genetics have always been important to us, but with genomics we now can truly identify the top within animals our herd.
One other advantage that we’ve found is that we now don’t have to worry about inaccurate sire or dam information. We’re hoping that the sale of heifers as well as embryos can help offset the cost of testing and maybe someday turn into a profit center.
With dairy margins tightening and increasing volatility, we feel it becomes increasingly important to focus on getting better before getting bigger. Technology plays a crucial role in this. Most dairies have plenty of low-hanging fruit to go after that generally shows a great ROI.
VanderMade’s recent prices
$21.40 (3.8 bf, 3.0 prt)
Cull cows (dressed)
Alfalfa hay (milk cow)