Second pair of eyes and hands
Dairy Focus Consultants: Mike Westphal and Jodi Weisenbeck
Switching to Cargill for a more hands-on approach to nutrition
Achieving production and milk component goals
Lowering cost of production
“Since switching to Cargill, it’s like we have a second pair of eyes and hands on the dairy. The regular walk throughs, manure screenings, shaker box readings, and data analysis from the Cargill team has given me more information than I ever had before with any past nutritionists,” explains Parker Byington who is the part owner and manager of Heritage Hills Dairy in Southeast Minnesota. On the dairy, Parker uses expertise from the Cargill team and utilizes Cargill feed in his pre-fresh and lactating diets.
Parker, his wife Katherine, and parents moved from Eastern Washington, where Parker’s family dairy farmed until selling in 2007. Both Parker and Katherine still had a strong desire to dairy farm, and after looking at multiple dairies they and Parker’s parents bought a 350-cow dairy near Lewiston, Minnesota.
Throughout the years the farm has steadily grown to 650 cows and currently has production records of 93 pounds of milk, 4.2% fat, and 3.3% for protein. Parker notes that his current production highs were achieved recently, and a large factor was his switch to Cargill nutrition and the expertise from his nutritionist team, Mike Westphal and Jodi Weisenbeck.
It was this past April when Parker started with Cargill, and he says the first thing he and Mike did was write down the goals for the herd. “Obviously the biggest goal was to increase production and along with that sustain 6.5 pounds of components, which seemed like a very difficult thing because we were just around 6 pounds at the time,” shares Parker.
It wasn’t long after that Mike identified the first opportunity for Heritage Hills Dairy, says Parker. From taking manure screenings and doing regular walk throughs of the cows, Mike found that the rate of passage was too fast. The cows weren’t able to absorb all the available nutrients from the feed because the physical effective fiber of the forage wasn’t adequate.
“Being able to feed the correct amount of physical effective fiber slowed down the rate of passage and maximized the digestion of the feed,” says Mike. “Managing the physical effective fiber not only helped us reach the goal of increasing production and components, but it also helped to lower dry matter intakes to an acceptable level for the milk production Heritage Hills is getting.”
Beyond manure screenings, regular urine pH testing has been a tool that Mike and Jodi use to manage transitional cow issues. The Cargill team says this helped them target fresh animal issues such as ketosis, retained placenta, and milk fever.
Parker notes Cargill’s hands-on approach and attention to detail as key to recent success, and says the proof is in the health of his cows. “When we finally hit 6.5 pounds of components, it was a great feeling and a moment of accomplishment that we've been able to do something we set out to do. At the same time, the cows are healthier than I've ever had them. We're milking more cows than ever on this site and I am having fewer sick cows than when I was milking 350 cows.”
Today, Heritage Hills Dairy has surpassed their production goal for 6.5 pounds of components and are now averaging above 7 pounds. Parker gives the nod to Mike and Jodi as key partners in steadily increasing the farm’s production.
As for whatever the future holds, Parker says, “Bring it on.” He rationalizes that he, Katherine, and their young family of four are prepared for it now that they have a stronger consulting team supporting them. “We've made strides in lowering our cost of production and because of that we’re going to be better prepared for whenever the next downturn comes. A better consulting team providing that level of involvement at an economical price to the farm is why we are so much farther ahead.”