Dairying with 2,700 cows, Siemers Holsteins has been operating at the same site for more than 120 years.
Milk quality is a topic I love to talk about since it is one of our dairy’s best success stories. It wasn’t that many years ago that we thought a somatic cell count [SCC] of 200,000 cells/ml was a far-off dream. We struggled with a 300,000 count, Staph.- and Strep.-positive cows and a full hospital pen.
Today, looking back, it’s hard to imagine the progress we have made. In the past 24 months, our monthly average has been below 100,000 more often than above, and our highest month was 125,000. The fun thing about dropping SCCs is that it’s the gift that keeps on giving! Quality bonuses and fewer cows to treat for mastitis are just the tip of the iceberg.
Along with quality came higher and higher production. Twenty-three of these past 24 months saw our production reach more than 100 lb. per cow. And there were benefits to reproduction as well.
So how did we pull off the transformation?
First off, I have to thank our excellent employees who made this happen. As with many things, there wasn’t a single silver bullet for improving quality, but having the proper protocols and excellent training were key elements. Moving from mattresses to sand probably didn’t hurt either, and it just gave us more motivation to make other cow comfort improvements.
Most of what we do is roughly the same as on most dairies with regard to dry tubes, J5, etc. The things we do that are different include bedding with reclaimed sand from our sand lanes. It seems like you don’t mind using lots of sand if you’re not filling lagoons with it!
Another thing we do that’s unconventional is using teat scrubbers for cow prep. We love the job they do for stimulation and cleanliness, as well as streamlining the milking process. If you have questions on our teat scrubbers, go to
The last thing I want to mention on milk quality is the genetic component. There is merit to using bulls with a lower somatic cell score, as well as a high udder composite for several lactations of high-quality milk, milking units that hang square and udders that don’t get deep.
Let’s all strive to produce the best-quality milk we can, because quality is the gift that keeps on giving.
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