Catering to the Cow

February 3, 2011 10:08 AM

JeremyVisser 049Jeremy Visser

Sumas, Wash.

Visser milks 3,200 Jerseys and Holsteins near the Canadian border.  



*Extended comments are highlighted in blue.

Keeping cows healthy and bred back quickly is one of the keys to our operation. This is one of the areas that just seem to come easily for us now. It starts with good cow comfort and nutrition. At the most basic level, we just try to get out of the cows’ way.

This is accomplished by having as few pen moves as possible and trying to ensure the dry cows aren’t over-conditioned. Too many times in the past, we have had to move cows from group to group and just got burned on lost productivity from each move. So, presently, our approach is simple: Keep cows well-fed and healthy so that they leave the herd when we want them to and not because a train wreck forces us to remove them.

Additionally, we have renovated or installed comfort stalls at all of our barns and don’t overcrowd more than 5%. We use mostly recycled bedding from an in-vessel composter as well as some sawdust in our calving and calf pens. We have been pleased with the reduction in clinical mastitis from the use of the composters and probably also from the fact that, since we have lots of bedding, we use lots of bedding. Perhaps the cows are more comfortable with a higher frequency and amount of bedding.

We feed a plain good diet, nothing fancy or exotic. We just shoot for value.

Rarely do we have to assist calving, and that really helps to get the cows off to a good start. After calving, the cows spend about two weeks in a fresh pen before they move to the milking group, where they will stay until dryoff. We breed cows starting at 55 DIM and, through the help of Ovsynch, have all cows inseminated by 70 DIM.

We used to wait about two weeks later on breeding, but since the loss of the use of Posilac, we have had to shorten the voluntary wait period. It’s unfortunate because we have seen our cull rate move up nearly 30% since the loss of this tool. It really makes you aware how valuable early pregnancies are when you don’t have a tool to help keep those cows around and productive longer.

Our vet preg-checks every other week, and we re-enroll open cows in our Ovsynch program. The weight of the cow and the price of culls at the time will impact how many times we will try to breed a cow. Our breeders do a great job of getting cows bred. Sometimes it’s difficult to admit that we are breeding a cow that probably won’t be able to stick around for the entire lactation because there is a more productive cow ready to take her place.

We need to continue to get better in cow-side care and disease diagnosis. As an operation with a growing herd, we seem to encounter a myriad of health challenges at times. Each month, we try to study why cows are leaving and try to improve on those statistics in the future, but we realize perfection is only a dream on a dairy.


Visser's December Prices  
Milk (3.5% bf, 3.0% prt): $14.58cwt.
Cull cows: $55/lb.
Springing heifers: $1,200/head
Alfalfa hay (milk cow): $230/ton
Corn (meal): $275/ton
Canola:  $300/ton
Soybean meal:  $420/ton
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