We Listen to Our Cows

January 30, 2013 05:30 AM

Nick Vande Weerd

Nick Vande Weerd

Brookings, S.D.

The Vande Weerd family is majority owner and manager of Pleasant Dutch Dairy, which milks 1,400 Holsteins.



**Extended comments are highlighted in blue.

Cow health and comfort are the highest priority at Pleasant Dutch Dairy. Over the last three years, we have made numerous changes to improve the dairy. We continue to look for ways improve health and comfort by keeping current with practices that make sense for our dairy and watching what the cows are telling us.

One example of listening to our cows came six months after we took over the dairy. We have sand stalls, and we noticed that the cows stood excessively and would lay down kitty-corner in the stalls. We weren’t sure why until one day I was walking through the dairy with my nutritionist. The observation was again made that the cows were standing too much. We proceeded to investigate and found that, although the top layer of sand was soft, if we dug down 2" to 3", the sand was rock hard.

In the following weeks, we removed the hardened sand from all the stalls and replaced it. The cows immediately laid down. We found out the hard layer of sand was caused by using unwashed sand. The unwashed sand in our area contains some clay, which, over time, packs and becomes like concrete.

In addition to improving cow comfort, we have focused on improving cow health by improving our transition management. We move heifers to our transition facilities 35 days prior to calving and keep them separated from the cows. We give our close-up animals 30" of bunk space in order to reduce stress. After calving, we move all animals to a common fresh pen. We keep them in the fresh pen for 10 to 14 days. All animals are examined daily and treated if necessary.

Once each animal is determined to be healthy, she’s moved to separate heifer and cow breeding pens. They are enrolled into our breeding program and bred after our voluntary waiting period is over.

Our voluntary waiting period is 45 days in milk (DIM) and cows get Lutalyse at 45 DIM and 59 DIM. We breed off of both lut shots. If cows are still open at 72 DIM, they are started on Ovsynch 56 so everyone has semen by 82 DIM.

We have found the solution for many health problems can often be solved by improving cow comfort. When we fixed our sand in our stalls, we saw an increase in production and reproduction and a decrease in lameness. I believe I won’t see a time when we won’t have improvements to make to improve herd health.

Vande Weerd’s recent prices


$20.00 (3.8 bf, 3.05 prt)

Cull cows

Springing heifers

Alfalfa hay (milk cow)


Ground corn

Soybean meal

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