CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. -- A mix of new technologies, on-farm innovation, top-notch management, family farm transitions, and the incorporation of bedded-pack barns as stepping stones to expansion highlighted the 2014 Kentuckiana Dairy Exchange tours in Taylor, Greene and Adair counties, Ky. July 29-30 and included an evening educational program featuring Dr. Nicola Blackie, from Writtle College in England. A combined 100 dairy producers from both states attended for a time of learning, networking and sharing ideas. (Look for a story on the evening program in the future).
IDP president Steve Obert -- whose dairy is located just 25 miles from the Kentucky border -- noted the group from Indiana found “a lot of ideas to take North” from this year’s Kentuckiana Dairy Exchange.
An 8-year tradition -- alternating between the two states -- the event is organized annually by the UK and Purdue extension, and is promoted by the Kentucky Dairy Development Council (KDDC) and the Indiana Dairy Producers (IDP).
“We picked dairies that have features of interest to other producers and with intergenerational transfer,” said UK’s Dr. Jeffrey Bewley about the 2014 Kentuckiana tours. Low somatic cell counts were a primary feature on the first day, showing “we can achieve high quality milk in the South,” said Bewley.
Compton Dairy and Hutchison Holsteins were recognized as the top two dairies in 2013 for milk quality. Tony and Ben are the father and son team at Compton Dairy, and they have taken their SCC down to an average of 70 to 80,000. The 190 cows produce an RHA of 23,000 pounds (2x).
“One of the biggest things we focus on is to keep the parlor dry at all times,” said Tony Compton. “We put no water on the cows, and our milkers wear gloves.” They rely on fully laundered microfiber towels and pre- and post-dip, and cull at 45%. The new freestall barn built six years ago brought the first SCC drop.
Dave Hutchison and his nephew Matt Sabo are the two-generation team at Hutchison Holsteins, where 125 cows are milked 3x and produce a 28,900 pound RHA with SCC averaging 160,000.
This farm has made significant advances in production largely the result of two big changes – going from 100% hay and pasture to a corn silage forage base for the ration and adding the third daily milking. The cows also went from being housed in freestalls only in the winter to being housed year-round today.
The corn silage for the dairy ration is custom-harvested by a large grain operator in the area. “He knows corn, and we concentrate on the cows,” Dave explained. The culling rate at Hutchison runs 38 to 39% with so many heifers coming in.
The breeding interval is 80 to 85 days, and Dave has found “it is better to breed later than earlier. We breed off of 21-day heats, and use the GEA Cow Scout system to help us catch heats and early problems,” which he finds more difficult with 3x milking. Their calving interval runs 12.9.
On the second day of tours, production and reproduction were part of the focus, and all three farms work together to buy commodities, grind corn and chop silage.
The first stop was Corbin Dairy with an RHA of 26,988 pounds with SCC averaging 180,000.