7lb Component Herd Sticks to Fundamentals
Dairy Focus Consultant: Connor Willems
- Combined 7.5 pounds fat and protein
- Transitioning strategies for robots
- Utilizing fundamental management objectives
Achieving a combined 7.5 pounds of fat and protein on one’s dairy is no small feat. With years of family history and a focus on the farm’s core objectives, Horsens Homestead Farms in northeastern Wisconsin has achieved just that. The farm began in 1879 and today milks 60% of their 1,200-cow herd through robots and the rest in a conventional double-8 parlor. Overall, the cows average an energy corrected milk (ECM) of 113 pounds with 7.5 pounds of combined fat and protein.
Ryan Horsens is the fifth generation on the farm and works alongside his parents, Jeff and Connie. Both Ryan and Jeff share the responsibilities as general managers and Connie is the finance and human resources manager. The farm expanded in 2019 and built a barn with 12 Lely robots to accommodate a 700-cow increase.
During their transition to robots, the farm leaned on Cargill Animal Nutrition and their Dairy Focus Consultant, Connor Willems, for technical advice and as an extra hand for training cows.
“Cargill has the years of experience in nutrition and in management that we need,” says Ryan. “During our expansion, they guided us from day one on how many cows to first put through the robot to developing a pellet specific for our cows and our production goals. Connor even stopped in daily the first week to monitor and help fetch cows.”
Connor along with Cargill Tech Specialist, Dr. Hank Spencer, worked with the farm on milk quality, cow flow, and grouping the herd specific to stage of lactation. One thing Connor is especially proud of is the monitoring reports he developed for the herd.
“I pull weekly stats from the robots and track the changes. Then, between Ryan, Hank, and myself we can make better decisions” says Connor. “One decision that’s proved beneficial is grouping robot pens based on their stage of lactation, similar to a conventional dairy.”
Connor notes this decision enabled him to target each cow’s nutritional needs closer and improve efficiencies at each robot. A true sign of this is in the farm’s milk production. When comparing this summer to previous years, the farm saw a butterfat increase of three tenths.
When asked about maintaining such a high level of production, Ryan is keen to answer that throughout the years the farm’s core objectives have remained true to the fundamentals of dairy farming.
“Number one is always cow comfort. For us that’s fresh bedding, clean waters, and people moving calmly in the pen,” says Ryan. “Number two is consistency. Consistency in the form of milking, feeding, and handling animals at the same times every day. Number three is quality forage. We stress this not only during harvest but continue the same focus throughout the year through feed management. And finally, number four is good people.”
These simple, but critical, objectives rely on one another to be successful. A cow needs consistency to be comfortable, and consistency heavily relies on quality nutrition and forage. Ultimately, Ryan notes having a team of good people who understand those three things and who are passionate about taking care of animals is what puts everything into motion. He considers Connor to be one of those “good cow people” on his team.
“Cows can be so sensitive to tiny changes in the ration or weather,” says Ryan. “Connor is so good at using Cargill‘s resources to adjust on the fly to meet our needs. He always puts the farm first.”