Quality Starts with People

April 6, 2011 12:35 AM

CarlsonsCarlson Dairy, LLP

(Curtney & Louise Carlson, Chad & Kindra Carlson, Carl & Kellie Carlson)

Willmar, Minn.
The Carlsons milk 950 cows on a 120-year-old family farm.


*Extended comments are highlighted in blue.


One of the strategic goals on our farm has been to continue to improve milk quality every year. We’ve tried to do this by building on some key fundamentals and focusing on the little things on a daily basis.
It’s our firm belief that quality milk starts with quality people. Our goal is to instill this belief in our employees through monthly milker meetings and continuous training. Key messages include cow prep procedures, consistency in the milking routine and care of animals, paying attention to the "little" details such as teat ends and the actual physiological process of a cow’s milk let down and stimulation.
To be successful, we believe that it’s important for our milkers to understand the "why" of what and how we’re asking them to do things. It’s been a real eye-opener for some to see the actual dissection of an udder at some workshops hosted by outside vendors. Consistency has probably been the biggest struggle for our farm, but we’re working hard to improve it and have come a long way.
We typically don’t treat cows for mastitis. Instead, we’ve had success with administering oxytocin and stripping the quarter out every milking until it clears up. We selectively cull chronic high–somatic cell cows.
Another component of improved milk quality was our transition to sand bedding in 2009. The cows are just cleaner and more comfortable in the stalls now. Over the past two years, we’ve been able to decrease our SCC average to 210,000 cells/ml.
Stall maintenance is critical. Our employees groom stalls every milking, using a rake to remove urine and manure and level off the sand to prevent pooling. We refill stalls with recycled sand every five to seven days, depending on the weather.
We’ve been very happy with our switch to Beco milking equipment with PulsNexus in early 2009. PulsNexus allows us to easily monitor the pulsation system and quickly respond to any issues. We now also utilize a backflush system that sanitizes each unit after every cow is milked.
Our Beco equipment gives us the opportunity to monitor employee performance in the parlor by providing details such as milk in the first 30 seconds, number of reattachments and time between sides. We routinely check equipment and change inflations. Milk and pulsation hoses are changed every six months.
We believe that the cow’s dry period is particularly important to get her off to a great start in the next lactation. At dryoff, we use both Quartermaster and Orbeseal and cows are vaccinated with J-Vac. We also pay close attention to the dry cow ration, keeping selenium and Vitamin E levels high.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson’s saying goes, "Life is a journey, not a destination." So too is the work of each of us toward improved milk quality. 

Carlsons' February Prices  
Milk (3.76% bf, 3.11% prt) $15.87/cwt.
Cull cows $63/cwt.
Springing heifers $1,550/head
Alfalfa hay (milk cow) $144/ton
(160 RFV)
Dry beet pulp $110/ton
Ground dry corn $241/ton
Canola $224/ton


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