It all started with an analysis of what we had been doing
Valley Line Dairy LLC
Oconto Falls, Wisconsin
Dairy Focus Consultant: Connor Willems
- Finding value in data and record keeping
- Utilizing off-farm knowledge and expertise
- Feeding 65 percent forage diet and making 95 pounds of milk
“It was pretty easy to see from Cargill’s analysis of our forages and feeds that our margins after purchased feed costs were much slimmer than the norm,” Says Troy Sellen, Operating Partner at Valley Line Dairy. “This encouraged me to discuss with our custom harvester, agronomist, and internally with my father and team on what our goals should be for forage production.”
Troy also pointed to the past and current state of the dairy industry as another catalyst for him to change his feeding practices. In the past five years many dairy farmers have either had to adapt or pivot in some way to stay in business, which is something Valley Line has come to accept. Troy, his parents, Jeff and Brenda, and wife Patty own Valley Line, a 650-cow dairy that employs seven employees.
“We realize that we don’t have all the answers, and recognize the importance of finding quality people to assist us in those areas,” explained Troy.
He listed off a veterinarian with aggressive reproduction protocol, a hoof trimmer with an excellent record and quality program, an agronomist who can get more value from your land, and a nutritionist who is able and willing to help solve problems as the type of people he values on his team.
Along with critical partnerships, data is another key part to making decisions. When it comes to nutrition, having the knowledge of where your farm was, is currently at, and a vision of where you want to go can be realized through data and records.
Connor Willems, Cargill Dairy Focus Consultant worked with teammate Dr. Hank Spencer, Cargill Technical Services Principle, to develop a monitoring strategy with Troy that they have been using for three years now. Valley Line has seen trends and patterns in milk production and have been able to mitigate and adapt their forage and feeding protocols because of this data.
Troy is able to answer three key questions by utilizing the data Connor helps him collect:
- What are our current forage inventories?
- Where will forage yields be at for the coming year?
- What will we be receiving per pound of protein and pound of milk fat?
“A year ago, we were at a 58 percent forage diet and I thought we were rocking then, now, we are pushing 65 percent and cows are averaging 95 pounds of milk,” shared Connor. “I believe it has been working so well because Troy has been eager to improve and get innovative on the forage and feeds for the dairy.”
With Cargill, Valley Line is implementing a stronger focus on forage quality. Troy noted that with past nutritionists, quantity took precedent over quality and concentrate was the bigger focus.
“What Cargill has shown us is how important good forage is for production and they have given us a more modern mindset from cutting and chopping forages to packing and storing them,” said Troy.
Knowing that higher efficiencies can be reached, Troy’s dream is to one day stop and realize that he has a dairy farm that supports more than his family’s lifestyle. It supports the dreams of every employee that chooses to work with them.