In a unique twist of bringing “advertising” directly to the customer, the Alta Genetics management team has decided to forego the traditional route of having booths at major trade shows, and instead, has opted to bring the customers to the “products.” That”s right – the Alta Advantage Showcase tour series is bringing Alta customers from around the world directly to Advantage farms, so they can see results first-hand, and also interact with other Alta customers and industry personnel. The first Showcase tour of 2007 is being held right now in central New York and will conclude tomorrow. Over 250 people are on this tour and hail from the U.K., Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, Canada and France…and there”s even some U.S. producers along, including Terry Dye of Colorado and Dan DeRuyter of Washington! I rode along yesterday, getting a prime spot on the U.K. bus with a very, merry band of people! My seat mate was Sarah Liddle, who writes and sells advertising for the Journal, the official publication of Holstein U.K. Paul Meyer, Marketing Manager, Products & Programs, also sat with us and covered a wide variety of topics ranging from Advantage program facts and figures to U.S. geography! There are currently 175 herds on Advantage, a program that tests all bull daughters in competitive, commercial environments. The principle advantage of doing this is accuracy in bull proofs. Eight years ago, there was a staggering 25% mis-id on bull daughters. Because these bulls are now proven in controlled-data environments, Alta”s mis-id figures are down to 8%.
Our first stop was at Hardie Farms, Lansing, NY. Skip Hardie, general manager, joined the farm in 1977, and has helped grow the herd to its current 850-cow status. They plan to construct another barn this year, and will then be at an 1,110-cow capacity. The herd average is 88-90 lbs./cow/day and they credit that to their attention to making high quality forage. They are part of the Cayuga Marketing Group – which consists of 24 farms in the area that market milk for Dairylea. Another partner, Steve Palladino, is the dairy manager. He talked to the group about the facts — no bulls are used on the farm, their high quality forages have yielded a herd average that hovers between 27 and 29,000M, and they spend more on labor than most dairies, but feel that that investment benefits cow health, and that means profitability. They are running a 36-37% conception rate and have used sexed semen early on, with a 98% heifer rate.
Ridgecrest Dairy LLC, Genoa, NY, is the home of Dave & Sally Galton and Dan Osborn. The Ridgecrest operation is unique in many ways, one being that the barns were built with the natural lay of the land in mind. Because the dairy sits on top of a gorgeous rolling hill area in Cayuga County, the barns were built with a 3% grade. Tunnel ventilation and buffer curtains keep the air moving at a swift pace and at cow level. Dave explained that they also plan to expand, either by building another barn or purchasing a pre-existing facility. If all goes as planned, they will be at optimum production soon, making 2.5 million lbs. of milk/worker/year. Eventually they hope to have cow numbers at 1,500, but are currently at 1,275 with an 82 lb. average. From July through December this year, they have 900 cows scheduled to calve, and aim to have 10% of the herd calve each month. Nearly all young sires are used in the herd, with an average cost per pregancy of $8.00.
Patterson Dairy Farms, LLC, Auburn, NY, was our next stop of the day. The 7th generation of Pattersons is now living on the farm, which milks 860 cows. The Pattersons have a fairly new, and extensive manure digester system, which they use to produce bedding for the cows. Financially, it”s been a very sound decision for them and has reduced odor emissions drastically. They still purchase some sawdust to bed calves with, but have saved tremendously by using the digester. They do admit that their SCC is higher than they”d like to see, but are working on ways to cut that down. The herd average is at 76 lbs. right now, with a 13.5 month calving interval. All first lactation cows and heifers are bred to proven bulls.
Oakwood Dairy, LLC, also in Auburn, was the big cow-number stop of the day, milking 1,600 cows with a herd average of 85 lbs. Brent Crosscut, the herd manager, took us through some raw numbers for Oakwood. They have a 12.5 month calving interval and aim for a first calving at 22 months. Cows are milked in a double-22 parallel parlor and each is wearing a pedometer to track steps (used in heat detection). Pregnancy rates range from 26-29%, and cows are checked every Monday.
During each stop, the Alta team, led by David Hill, assembled a group of daughters in a “Performance Pen” to showcase specific sires. Among the favorites of our bus, in fact, were the AltaBlastoffs, AltaBaxters, AltaAdams and AltaAllys. The team also had demonstrations at different farms, including a pregnancy chart/repro protocol system at Oakwood, a demonstration of 1/2cc versus 1/4cc semen straws at Ridgecrest and a fantastic, complimentary lunch at Ridgecrest as well.
Tour goers were given an extremely detailed book of farm facts for each stop, pictures of daughters they”d be seeing in the Performance Pens, printouts for each pen and an Alta jacket. It was a great day to see the entire program at work with results right in front of you. The tour was not designed for people looking for elite show cows or tie-stall barns. It was a tour of extremely well-managed, commercial operations with functional, medium-sized cattle and very enthusiastic owners. One of the beauties of this industry is the fact that no matter what style of management you choose, what genetic avenue you travel down, there”s plenty of room for everyone and plenty to learn from everyone as well!
I”ll post photos from the trip on the daily news later today! If you get a chance to ever go on a Showcase Tour, I”m sure you”ll be impressed. The next tour is scheduled for this fall during Expo time.