From June 2005 through November 2009, Osterkamp Dairy achieved a milk quality bonus for 52 out of 53 months—a 98% success rate.
Those results, says owner Mark Osterkamp, don't happen without teamwork. In fact, getting milkers to buy in to the team concept is key to making everything work, he says.
Since he adopted the team concept in 2005, somatic cell counts (SCC)have been consistently lower and now average 175,000 cells/ml, udder health has improved and culling due to mastitis has been reduced. Current production on 2,500 cows is about 78 lb./cow/day, with an overall cull rate of 25%.
"Our ongoing effort for quality milk isn't confined to just one area,” Osterkamp explains. "It involves the environment, equipment, udder health and milker training. Teamwork is key!”
Osterkamp Dairy, located near Hereford, Texas, milks 2X per day in a double-35 parallel parlor. There is also a single-20 hospital barn where fresh cows and hospital cows are milked.
Cows are housed on double-sloped drylot pens, separated into nine milking pens of 275 cows each. Three more pens, with a capacity of 45 to 50 cows, are available for hospital, fresh and special-needs cows.
"Weather permitting, pens are groomed on a daily basis with a box scraper,” Osterkamp says. The goal, of course, is to keep cows clean, dry and comfortable.
The milking routine is based on zones, with the double-35 parlor divided into three territories. The first milker predips cow No. 1 to cow No. 13, then strips the cows in the same order. He then walks back, wiping cows 13 to 1, and finally attaches units 1 through 13.
"The second milker does the same routine with cow No. 14 to cow No. 24, and the third milker with cows 25 through 35,” Osterkamp says.
"One cow pusher completes the team. His responsibilities include prepping the cloth towels, filling the postdip, helping fill the lanes and bringing the pens to the barn.”
To ensure these protocols are followed, milkers are evaluated once a month. There are three evaluation goals:
- Document and discuss areas of improvement.
- Detect areas in the routine that need improvement.
- Determine if milkers qualify for the quality bonus.
A one-hour team meeting with each shift is held every three months. Milk quality information is shared for the past year and the previous month. "If a specific area needs to be addressed, such as inconsistent bulk tank SCC or high standard plate counts, more detail is provided,” says the herd's veterinarian, Eduardo Garbarino.
"In addition, our veterinary practice provides a milker meeting school for all new milkers,” he says. "An explanation is given of what the dairy expects from the milker and what the milker can expect from the dairy.
"The idea is to present rules and expectations clearly and upfront with the hope that good communication will lead to better compliance,” Garbarino says.
Working as a Team to Implement Milk Quality Programs: Osterkamp Dairy Milk Quality Program
Spanish translation - ¡El trabajo en equipo es la clave!