Four Changes, Big Impact

April 3, 2013 10:26 AM

Nick Vande Weerd

Nick Vande Weerd
Brookings, S.D.

The Vande Weerd family is majority owner and manager of Pleasant Dutch Dairy, which milks 1,400 Holsteins.


When we purchased our dairy three years ago, milk quality was an area we needed to improve. At that time, the somatic cell count (SCC) was averaging 380,000. We have made numerous changes in procedures and management practices to reduce our SCC.

The four changes we made that had the largest impact are improving cow comfort, treating cows with subclinical mastitis, segregation and milker training.

We have put a lot of emphasis on improving cow comfort. We have found that keeping the stalls completely full of sand helped lower SCC. Our goal is to keep the sand above the back curb. This allows for easy removal of dirty sand from the back of the stall.

Another procedure we implemented was actively identifying cows with subclinical mastitis and treating the cows that would have high cure rate. We used our DHIA information to select those cows. The criteria were:

  • cows that previously had low SCC but had whose SCC was high in the most recent test;
  • cows that had not been previously treated for mastitis and needed to be early lactation.

After every DHIA test, we would treat the cows that met the above criteria.

After implementing the above procedures, it took 10 months to lower SCC to 240,000. For the next year, we bounced between 230,000 and 265,000. We still weren’t happy and felt we could lower SCC even more.

A member of my management team pushed hard for us to create a high SCC pen. We finally listened. Our initial threshold was all cows over 300,000 SCC. Any cow that was treated for mastitis would be placed into this pen. We saw immediate results. Our SCC for the herd lowered by 40,000; our very next month average was 200,000.

Our SCC ranged from 192,000-215,000 for the next 10 months, but once again we felt we could do better. Late last fall, we implemented a more intensive milker training program. The training program includes a PowerPoint presentation with videos on our current milking routine. Every new hire is required to go through the program.

We continue to monitor and evaluate the milkers on an ongoing basis. We also saw immediate results after implementing the training program. Since its implementation, our SCC has averaged 179,000 and ranged from 174,000-186,000.

We have taken several steps to reduce our SCC over the last three years. Improving cow comfort and treating cows with subclinical mastitis didn’t show immediate results, but we felt they would pay off in the long run. On the other hand, segregating high SCC cows and improving our milker training did immediately improve our SCC. Going forward, our goal will be to keep SCC below 185,000.

Vande Weerd’s recent prices

$19.12 (3.8 bf, 3.05 prt)

Cull cows

Springing heifers

Alfalfa hay (milk cow)


Ground corn

Soybean meal

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