Like many of you, the Hoard's Dairyman Farm met its match this winter. Amidst frozen feed, frozen pipes and a few calves lost too soon, we've battled unpredicted and unforeseen cold.
And, as every member of our farm team can attest, they're tired.
It's taken a toll on our 400-plus-cow herd of Guernseys and Jerseys, as well. Production has been steady for most of the winter, averaging 67 to 69 pounds along with a 5.0 percent fat and 3.9 percent protein, but is starting to slowdown.
These high averages enabled the Hoard's Dairyman herd to excel on national breed production lists this past year. For protein production, the Jersey component of the Fort Atkinson,Wis., based herd is eighth in the nation.
The dairy's 115-year-old Guernsey herd is a frontrunner across the board, leading the way for fat and protein production in the nation, regardless of herd size. The Hoard's Dairyman herd also owns 40 of the nation's top 100 Guernsey cows.
"With the facilities we have, our current herd size seems to be the magic number," noted Hoard's Dairyman Farm manager, Jason Yurs. "To help cows better acclimate to and handle the cold though, a smaller herd could have been beneficial." A few weeks before the first cold snap, 25 Jerseys were sold to a local dairyman.
"Diet-wise, we made adjustments to help keep energy intake steady. It worked for a while, but you can tell that the cold is starting to get to the cows. Regardless of our attempts to stay ahead of the temperature, frozen feed hindered our overall impact," said Yurs.
"The perimeters of the silo bags are frozen. Feed came out of the bag frozen, went into the bunk frozen and, finally, went into the cow frozen. This, in turn, elevated health issues, including a higher prevalence of ulcers," he continued.
Our herdsman and veterinarian have been dedicated to finding and resolving such issues before severe production drops are seen.
Like you…we're ready for spring.
The author is an associate editor and an animal science graduate of Cornell University. Smith covers feeding, milk quality and heads up the World Dairy Expo Supplement. She grew up on a Medina, N.Y., dairy, and interned at a 1,700-cow western New York dairy, a large New York calf and heifer farm, and studied in New Zealand for one semester.