Better Barn, Better Breeding

February 3, 2011 10:01 AM

CarlsonsChad and Kindra Carlson and family

Willmar, Minn.

Carlson Dairy, LLP (Curtney & Louise Carlson, Chad & Kindra Carlson, Carl & Kellie Carlson)  


*Extended comments are highlighted in blue.

We might be a long ways from California, but we’re pretty sure that our Minnesota cows are just as happy as the ones we’ve seen on California’s “happy cow” ads.

As do so many dairy producers throughout the U.S., we work hard on our farm to keep our cows happy and healthy.

We’ve always held the belief that cows are happiest on sand bedding. With that in mind, in late 2008 we expanded and renovated our existing six-row mattress freestall barn into a 10-row cross-ventilated facility with sand bedding. Making the shift to sand has increased cow comfort in our barn dramatically.

When our cows are not eating or being milked, they’re laying down in stalls. Sand bedding has also led to better whole-herd foot health. In particular, we’ve seen less white line disease because cows are not slipping on the cement anymore. Likewise, increased stall use has cut down on cows’ standing time on cement.

Our hoof trimmer visits every two weeks. On average, our cows are trimmed 2.6 times per lactation: before dry-up, at 150 days in milk and anytime there’s a hoof issue.

Adding a cross-ventilation system to our freestall barn was also a major part of our 2008 renovation. The result? Better air quality and fewer respiratory problems, as evidenced by no cows in the sick pen for the last two months.

Another added benefit: The barn stays cooler on hot, humid summer days with more consistent airflow throughout the entire facility.

Chad’s brother, Carl, focuses on getting cows and heifers off to a solid start after calving. Any cows that calve twins are pumped with electrolytes for the next two days. All later-staged cows are also pumped once.

We have two postfresh pens, one each for heifers and cows. Each morning Carl takes time to walk these pens to identify any problem cows. First-calf heifers stay in the fresh pen for approximately three weeks and aren’t moved until they’re in good condition. Cows stay for two weeks.

Our veterinarian oversees our vaccination program and makes vaccine recommendations. All cows are vaccinated three times per lactation: three weeks before dryoff, at dryoff and three weeks before calving. Prefresh heifers are vaccinated three times as well: at 80, 60 and 21 days prior to calving.

We utilize Presynch in our breeding program. First-calf heifers are Presynched before breeding with two Lutalyse shots. They’re bred off the second shot if in standing heat. Heifers not showing heat are started on Ovsynch 11 days later. We also use a Presynch program for second-lactation and older cows that have had problems calving; i.e., twins, metritis, etc.

All other cows are double-Ovsynched and bred on the first Lut shot when they show heat. Synchronization continues if no heat occurs. All of our cows are bred voluntarily after 60 days if they show heat on their own; any cows that come in heat after this will be bred again on standing heat.

We preg-check cows every two weeks and check any cow 28 to 41 days bred. Cows 35 to 41 days bred and confirmed open are resynched the week before and given Lutalyse on vet check day. Open cows from 28 to 34 days are started on Ovsynch.

It may not be 75ºF and balmy this time of year in Minnesota (heck, we’re lucky if we get to 15ºF), but we think our cows would agree: Minnesota is still a great place to dairy.

Carlsons' December Prices  
Milk (3.58% bf, 3.13% prt): $16.60/cwt.
Cull cows: $55/cwt.
Springing heifers: $1,550/head
Alfalfa hay (milk cow): $144/ton
Dry beet pulp: $110/ton
Ground dry corn:  $187/ton
 Canola:  $229.59/ton
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