Jon Patterson’s dairy milks 1,100 cows on a farm that’s been in the family since 1832.
We have made several changes on the farm in the last few years focusing on cow comfort.
We started by putting more attention on how the cows walk, training people and having them just watch cows walk to and from the parlor. Any cow that’s not walking correctly gets put on the list to see the hoof trimmer.
We also created a TLC group that is closest to the parlor, and this is where any older or lame cows live, along with any that had a real troublesome calving.
We have moved neck rails on the stalls to allow cows to stand in the stalls. This has helped reduce perching in the stalls (standing front feet up in the stall and back feet down on floor). Some of the newer barns have rubber flooring in the feed alley.
We have backed off on the stocking density to limit the competition at feed bunk and for stalls. This is most evident in our pre- and post-fresh groups, where we try to run 24"-30" of feed bunk space per cow and one or more stalls per cow.
We use a lot of fans to ventilate the barns in the summer months to help keep the girls cool. Soakers have been used in the holding pens for quite a few years, and we have added soakers at the feed bunk to wet the cows while they are eating. These run on thermostats and timers so they run only when we want them to.
This led us to add rotating cow brushes in the return alleys to the parlor and the pre-fresh group. Our water has a lot of minerals in it and the cows get a buildup on their backs from the soakers. The brushes help to keep the cows’ backs clean. They really like the brushes, standing in line to wait their turn for the brushes.
This spring we added ventilation chimneys in the holding pen to let some of the heat out, keeping the pen much cooler. Now we blow fresh air in both sides of the holding pen and it pushes the warm air out.
I like the deep beds of manure solids and not using mattresses in the free stalls for cow comfort. This keeps the hock injuries to a minimum. However, they do require a lot of maintenance: leveling, bedding and liming every day.
I have stopped docking tails and started using a drill-operated tail trimmer to trim tails. I think this helps the cow with flies -- if the feed additive and sticky fly traps we put all over the farm are not enough to keep the flies away.
Most of what we do is to keep the ladies in our barns happy, healthy and comfortable to keep them milking well.
Patterson’s recent prices
Milk $21.43 (3.8 bf, 3.15 prt)
Cull cows $73/cwt.
Springing heifers $1,750/head
Alfalfa hay (milk cow) $385/ton
Corn meal $266/ton