Healthy Herd, Healthier Dairyman

October 11, 2012 11:01 AM

LarryHancockLarry Hancock

Muleshoe, Texas

A dairy pioneer on the Texas High Plains, Prairie View Dairy milks 4,200 Holsteins. 


**Extended comments highlighted in blue.

We all know a healthy cow gives more milk, and a healthy cow makes a healthier dairyman, so we are all striving to provide a healthy environment for our herd.

Prairie View Dairy is located on the desert High Plains of far west Texas, where our weather is usually pretty mild. Most of the year, we have warm days and cool nights with a constant breeze. Of course, there are always the years that don’t cooperate, but usually we are safe with our open-lot system of dairying.

We have a routine of scraping and grooming our pens twice weekly to ensure a soft, dry place for the cows to lie down. During any rainy times (the last two years, there have been none on our farm), we scrape more often and depend on the slope in our pens to help them dry out as quickly as possible. We provide shades with enough room for all the animals in the pen to easily fit underneath to help with summer heat.

We find our animals are healthier and more comfortable when we don’t overcrowd our pens. We allow for enough manger space for each animal to lessen the stress of feeding time and cut down on the muck that tends to build up behind the manger.

All areas that the cows travel on are a nonslip surface. We have rubber mats in the parlors to help keep the cows more comfortable while they are milking. We find that the mats help with the cows’ feet and allow them to enter and exit the parlor more efficiently.

All cows have their hooves trimmed on a regular basis to alleviate lameness. We have a small pen close to the parlor for any cow that has trouble walking, where she will be housed and can receive extra care.

We have been dairying long enough to realize that cow comfort isn’t just for the milking herd but a "from birth ’til no longer with us" effort. We start with our babies, which calve in an area that has been provided for just that purpose. They are housed in individual hutches that have a wired pen area, both lined with clean dry bedding for their comfort.

As the calves grow, they are moved to larger pens, keeping the numbers low and allowing them to get accus-tomed to a group atmosphere, where they learn to feed at a manger and get along well with others. Each group is evaluated and moved to larger areas as they grow from baby calves to heifers to springers to milk cows. They are monitored by the herdsmen, veterinarian and nutritionist for any health concerns, vaccinations or special care that they might need.

We all know that with the difficult times we are all experiencing, cow comfort is a vital part of our operations. Again, healthy cows make healthy dairymen.

Hancock's Most Recent Prices  
Milk (3.57% bf, 2.92% prt) $16.56/cwt.
Cull cows $74/cwt.
Springing heifers $1,300/head to %1,500/head
Bull calves $40/head
Alfalfa hay (new crop) $265/ton (delivered)
Cottonseed $318/ton
Cottonseed meal $245/ton (contracted)
Beet pulp $261/ton
DDGs $256/ton


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