People First, Protocols Second

April 3, 2013 09:12 AM

Lambert VanderMade

Lambert VanderMade
Sherwood, Ohio

VanderMade Dairy LLC is a family-owned and -operated dairy milking 1,400 cows in northern Ohio.


**Extended comments are highlighted in blue.

Milk quality has always been one of our main focuses on the dairy. Generally speaking, there’s little of our milk check that we as dairy producers have control over, but milk quality (and the premium that we receive from it) is definitely one of them.

Besides the revenue side of high quality milk, there’s also a cost to not having it, as clinical cases of mastitis can get quite expensive. For many years, our goal has been 100,000 SCC. This past year, premiums have actually decreased so currently we strive to stay below 150,000 SCC.

We have found that there are many parts of our dairy that affect milk quality. By far, people rank highest on our list. Having a great team of employees is crucial to success in many aspects of a dairy, and milk quality is no different. You can have all the protocols you want, but ultimately they’re only as good as the people who execute them.

I do think protocols are very important, but we’d rather have fewer simple protocols that actually get executed versus the alternative. For many years now, we’ve had the same simple milking protocol: dip, strip, dry, apply.

Cows like consistency, so with having many different people working different shifts, having a good, simple milking protocol goes a long way toward good milking performance.

Some other examples of what we have found most important in managing milk quality on our
dairy are:

  • Testing all fresh cows with a CMT test and treating positive animals immediately;
  • Developing sound vaccination protocols and striving for great animal health, including feeding proper diets with adequate mineral levels;
  • Keeping freestalls bedded well with the right material and clean alleys;
  • Adhering to scheduled parlor maintenance;
  • Monitoring bulk tank milk quality and taking action immediately if needed.

In the past, we have found that sometimes we tend to overthink milk quality. It is easy to get caught trying to continuously change things that we think will improve milk quality. Even though some change is necessary to keep up with new technologies, we have found that many times, when we try something different, the results aren’t as good as what we had before, and we end up regretting it. Or, as the saying goes, "If it works, don’t change it!"

VanderMade’s recent prices

$20.70 (3.7 bf, 3.1 prt)

Cull cows (dressed)

Springing heifers

Alfalfa hay (milk cow)


Ground corn

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