'Cause Comfort Matters

'Anudder' cow comfort resource for dairy producers

Fewer cows, newer tech, more comfort

chaney-19.JPGModernized in Kentucky: ‘The cows are an integral part of our lives’

by Sherry Bunting, adapted from a story that first appeared in Farmshine, Nov. 24, 2016

Chaney’s Dairy Barn is a welcoming place just outside Bowling Green, Kentucky — made even more welcoming to visitors last November.

The icons of the business — happy Jersey cows and America’s “happy food” ice cream — were appreciated by 30 visiting dairy producers from over a dozen states as they toured the Chaney Dairy Farm, as well as the ice cream shop and restaurant, after a nearby gathering of the National Dairy Leaders Coalition.


In addition to organized group tours of the farm, the Chaney family recently added self-guided tours, where visitors can walk down the lane connecting the farm and restaurant/ice-cream parlor to the visitor’s center attached to the bedded pack barn with a great view of the Lely Robot room behind the glass wall on the main floor.


Upstairs, visitors can look down over the compost bedded pack barn and watch 50 to 60 Jersey cows doing their thing – sleeping, eating, walking up to the robot for milking, scratching an itch at the rotating grooming brush, placidly chewing their cud (or playing with their tongues, as Jerseys are known to do).

The consumer connections brought on by the ice cream business, has, in fact, energized the next generation to find a way to keep the Chaney dairy legacy going. This Century Farm in western Kentucky has been in the family since 1888. James R. Chaney, Sr., was born here, and it was he who started dairying here with the purchase of the first two registered Jersey cows in the 1940s.


That led to the two queen Jerseys who put Chaney Dairy Farm on the map. Althea and Topsy are known worldwide by Jersey breeders and helped position James Chaney for his Master Breeder award from the American Jersey Association in 2003.

That same year, James’ son Carl and wife Debra opened Chaney’s Dairy Barn, where they have served ice cream to 70,000 guests to-date. It was a two-year process of looking at what other small farms were doing to remain viable. Carl knew the farm needed to diversify in order to survive.

Through the ups and downs of the dairy and crop markets, the Chaneys had sold three-fourths of their land and half the herd. Downsized to 52 registered Jerseys, they looked for ways to preserve the small herd on their smaller remaining acreage. They visited other small dairies for ideas. They kept seeing ice cream as what others started with when diversifying into processing.


Their location on a main road near a college town certainly helped firm the idea.

Carl took the Penn State Ice Cream Course, which gave him the confidence to move forward with Chaney’s Dairy Barn. They carved out three acres for the building along the road front, and in view of the farm buildings.

14915650_10211951797974441_1485037701226128831_nVoted number one for homemade ice cream in Kentucky, the Chaneys have given the enterprise their personal touch with 32 flavors, including a local favorite they’ve dubbed “Big Red Rumble” for Western Kentucky University.

It’s a decadent white chocolate ice cream swirled with red velvet cake and chocolate chunks.

As the younger generation spoke with visiting dairy producers, they shared their hope of one day bottling their own milk and making dairy products with their own milk processed from their own Jersey cows, which currently is sold into the local fluid milk market.


For now, the shell of a future processing building has been constructed along with the new bedded pack barn and robot what were completed a year ago (April 2016).

The Chaney family has been deliberate in taking each new step without rushing into anything. The modernization of the farm came 13 years after opening of the ice cream parlor with the combination of food and agrotourism providing a second revenue stream for the farm.

“You do what you have to do to get the work done,” Carl said in the video shown to guests. But there also comes a point where “you just can’t keep fixing things anymore.”

Cow care was getting difficult for him on his own, especially over winter, and the children had other careers – Jessica has a family of her own and helps Debra on the business side of things with the store; James Neale, a welder, has his own company, but builds things around the farm, and Elizabeth, the entrepreneur, has a  job with All-Tech. She helps with many aspects of the farm in her free time, including feeding the calves.

Four years ago, Carl and Debra brought the family together and informed them it was time to make a change. They were going to sell the cows and just run the ice cream business.

“From a young age, our lives revolved around the dairy cow. The cows are an integral part of our lives,” Elizabeth explained. “We weren’t okay with that idea.”


Simpy put: The kids did not want the cows to leave, but neither did they view themselves as the cow people needed to take on the dairy responsibilities if the investments were made to start from scratch and build new facilities with new technologies.

They knew that if the dairy legacy would continue here, it was up to them to figure out how. They spent four years looking at robots, but first had to figure out who was coming back to the farm to manage the deal.

They needed a cow person. And they found her in cousin Dorothea ”Dore” Baker.

Dore relocated from New York and started as herd manager at Chaney Dairy Farm in Kentucky in 2014, two years before robotic milking was implemented.

She talked with the visiting dairy producers about her role in managing the dairy with its legacy herd of purebred Jerseys. She grew up with registered Jerseys on the Chamberlain Dairy Farm in New York.

It was obvious to all. This gal loves cows. Eats, sleeps and breathes them, in fact.


When one dairyman asked how much time she spends with the cows, she said 24/7 because I live upstairs.”

Actually, she explained that she’s here all of the time, “but the difference is that now I am getting more sleep and I’m in a better frame of mind. I love this robot, and our local dealer has been so helpful.”

She does everything cow-related. She tills the bedded pack 3 times a day, assists births, does all the herd health, breeding, and stays after the fresh cows, being sure they are getting milked.

“Yes, I don’t have much of a social life,” she said. “But I just love it. The day to day interaction with these little brown cows is the best part. I love seeing a heifer calf out of a favorite cow grow and develop, and to see the love and enthusiasm of young kids when they learn something new about cows or about the dairy industry.”

Since operating the robot, the herd is already averaging 3.3 to 3.5 times a day milking, with some milking 4x voluntarily. The average number of refused visits is 2x/day. They program the robot to accept cows nearing dryoff only twice a day for milking

The modernization has increased milk production from 52 pounds/cow/day when they milked 2x to 60 to 70 pounds/cow/day with the compost pack and robot. Fat runs 5% and protein 3.7. Consistent improvement in performance is happening as the herd’s days in milk decline with the spring freshenings.

“We know the potential these girls have,” says Dore, noting that comfort after calving is a critical part of helping cows reach their genetic potential. She uses Udder Comfort on all fresh cows/heifers for the first few days after calving.

“It softens the edema and helps with any skin chapping,” she explains, noting that she has used the product for fresh cows ever since her high school milking days in New York.

With the robot, things are a bit different. “I’ll spray each quarter as each cup is removed robotically, or, since we have a relatively docile herd and the spray involves little contact, I’ll apply it in the alley after they’ve exited the robot. It is calming and especially helps settle fresh heifers, a pleasant outcome for heifers that can be uncomfortable as they get accustomed to the rest of the milking process.”

Aside from “loving the smell,” Dore finds Udder Comfort to be effective as just one of the ways cow comfort and milk quality are managed.

“The two main things that contribute to cow comfort here are the pack barn and the robotic milker,” she relates. “Our compost pack is a one-size-fits-all environment. The largest cow in our herd can sleep as comfortably as the smallest. We’ve allotted 116 sq ft/cow on the pack if our barn were at 60 cows, which is more than the minimum recommendation.”

Dore says that providing more space per cow means less frequent additions of sawdust to the pack, and the cows stay cleaner. “We like to keep our herd number at or below 60 cows, because we’ve seen more frequent milk visits (to the robot) with higher production when we’re not overcrowding.”

Robotic milking has also “aided tremendously in cow comfort, because the cows are no longer spending time in a holding pen without access to feed, water, or a place to lay down. Cows are able to move around more freely as they’re waiting for their turn to be milked.”

Since start up in June, Dore has also noticed a reduction or elimination of “flight zones” among the more nervous cows in the herd.

“It’s pretty satisfying to find yourself petting a cow that last year wouldn’t let you near her with a 10-foot pole!” she relates.

In addition to the robot and bedded pack, the facility utilizes thermostatically-controlled fans, sprinklers, and curtains to keep the girls cool and “keep some of the crazy Kentucky weather off of them,” Dore adds.

The calmness of the barn and comfort of the pack has also led to what Dore refers to as “the quality and depth the cows sleep.

“You can walk through the cows on the pack and have multiple girls sleep uninterrupted as you walking directly in front of them,” she explains. “Another bonus to the bedded pack is you never have to worry about having any alley rats. Cows don’t have to learn to use a pack like they have to learn to use a free stall, and that’s a stress reliever for me.”

Dore explained the initial process of training the herd to milk robotically: “We put them through the gate and fed them, but no milking. The next time, we introduced them to the robot and the third time we allowed it to milk them.”


Elizabeth noted that the tendency is to want to push the cows into the robot at first, but the experts kept stressing to “let the technology do its thing and let the cows get used to it on their own,” she said.


Carl can’t really keep himself away from the cows completely, but he has put his trust in Dore who started managing the herd before the Lely robot arrived.

In fact, things are going so smoothly, Carl and Debra took an anniversary trip they had long postponed, so we didn’t get to meet them in our time at Chaney Dairy. Elizabeth and Dore showed us around, and their positive energy and determined thinking were appreciated.


While visitors now get to see robotic milking and cows laying around looking like they take care of themselves, the wall murals and video show what it takes to keep cows healthy and comfortable and the amount of work required to tend to their daily needs.

“We’re proud to be producers of a wholesome product,” says Elizabeth. “Our father, grandfather and great-grandfather gave their lives to this farm, so it is also important to us to keep that legacy alive. Milk production is not just a business, but a way of life that we love.”


Fluctuating temps bring attention to VFDs

Frustrated by the new FDA VFDs? Here are some thoughts for ‘making lemonade out of lemons.’


By Sherry Bunting, reprinted from Farmshine, Feb. 10, 2017

EAST EARL, Pa. — Fluctuating temperatures in Pennsylvania and elsewhere this winter have suddenly brought the FDA’s Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) to the attention of farmers who may not have realized prescriptions are needed for respiratory crumbles and medications for milk replacer, among other things.

While the VFD has been discussed and published for two years before the FDA’s January 1, 2017 implementation, many farms with dairy cattle and other livestock did not realize the impact it would have on them… until they went to order medicated crumbles or feed for a group of coughing heifers or medication to add to milk replacer for scouring calves this winter.

These fluctuating temperatures have Dr. Joy Lenker of Great Creatures Veterinary Service seeing a lot of VFDs in Central Pennsylvania.

Dr. Lenker shared how the FDA’s VFDs work and what producers need to know during the R&J Consulting Dairy Seminar, attended by around 350 dairy producers at Shady Maple Smorgasbord, East Earl, Pa. on Tuesday, January 31.

She noted that the whole process isn’t going over well with many farmers. Some view it as a “veterinary financial deal”, when in reality, the VFD is truly a “very frustrating deal.” Frustrating for producers and for veterinarians, but is something that Lenker says should be embraced.

“There’s no looking back. Agriculture is changing, and we have got to move forward. These are the lemons, and we can make lemonade,” said Dr. Lenker. “We have to put our best foot forward. Let’s show the medical community that we are committed to responsible care, even though we already know we are not responsible for the antibiotic resistance in human medicine.”

Lenker chooses to see the benefits and said that if farmers choose to view this in a different light, it helps.

“We can look at this as an opportunity and use that relationship to ask your vet what you can do differently to be more proactive on animal diseases,” she said. “This year has been very difficult with the fluctuating temperatures. We keep feeder cattle on our own pasture. We have never had to treat these cattle in the past, but this year needed to. Yes the VFD is restrictive and brings more paperwork, but if we look at this in a different light, we can take the bull by the horns and make it work for us.”

As Lenker, and other veterinarians visit farmers who now realize they must have that valid Veterinary Client/Patient Relationship (VCPR) in order to have VFDs written for medications added to feed or water, they bring other benefits to the table

“The FDA VFD orders require producers to be working with a veterinarian who knows what is going on on the farm,” Lenker explained. “That can be a good thing if you choose to use it to your advantage.”

So what exactly is the VFD? According to the FDA, it is a written (nonverbal) statement issued by a licensed veterinarian in the course of the veterinarian’s professional practice that orders the use of a VFD drug or combination VFD drug in or on an animal feed. It also pertains to these drugs used in water or milk replacer or whole milk from the tank. What it does not cover are ionophores, coccidiostats and bacitracins, which are exempt.

The first main component of the VFD is that it covers the use of medically important antibiotics – those that are important to human health – in food production animals to limit their use to necessary treatment to ensure the health of the animal.

The second component is that it gives the responsibility of prescribing and administering medicated feed additive antibiotics to a licensed DVM / VMD, who is responsible for authorization of antibiotics in both feed and water.

As of Jan. 1, 2017, farmers who use crumbles to treat respiratory disease in calves, medicated milk replacer to treat calves with scours, and L-S 50 soluble powder to treat a hairy heel wart must have a VFD from a licensed veterinarian to even purchase these items, which used to be available over the counter.

In addition, the practice of preventive medication for incoming cattle is eliminated and sulfa drugs are completely prohibited for all classes of dairy animals. Period.

Dr. Lenker explained that the VFD must contain:

  1. Veterinarian’s name, address and phone number;
  2. Client’s name, home and business address and phone number;
  3. Premises at which the animals that are located for treatment;
  4. Date of VFD issuance and expiration date;
  5. Name of the VFD drug(s);
  6. Species and production class of animals to be fed the VFD feed by the expiration date;
  7. Approximate number of animals to be fed by the expiration date of the VFD;
  8. An indication for which the VFD is issued, the level of the VFD drug in the feed and the duration;
  9. Withdrawal time, special instructions and cautionary statements necessary for use of the drug in conformance with the approval;
  10. Number of refills authorized;
  11. Statement on no extra label use;
  12. DVM / VMD signature.

These records must be kept by the producer, the veterinarian and the feed mill for two years. “If you have a residue violation, I guarantee someone from FDA will be knocking on your door wanting to see this paperwork,” said Lenker.

Farmers cannot buy these medicines for mixing into milk replacer or whole milk without the prescription, and the mill can only mix the legal limit according to the prescription for the duration prescribed.

Lenker urged producers not to shoot the messenger when they get to the feed mill and are given a different quantity of feed bags, for example, because the amount mixed must match the details of the veterinarian’s prescription exactly.

Conversely, the new FDA directive prohibits the selling of an open bag of medicated feed, meaning that in the case where just a few show animals need crumbles after the Farm Show, the script is written for a complete bag size.

The positive side of the VFD, according to Dr. Lenker is that the required Veterinary Client / Patient Relationship can work for the producer — with a veterinarian knowing the operation being the one to write the prescriptions. This improves the vet/client relationship to more proactive collaboration on animal health, comfort and performance — beyond calling for an emergency calving situation in the middle of the night.




Inspirational young dairyman tailors bank barn renovation for cow comfort


By Sherry Bunting for Farmshine, Jan. 27, 2017

CHILTON, Wis. — When Adam Faust purchased his parents farm four years ago, he was determined to carry on his grandfather’s legacy, and had already had his sights set on updating the old bank barn for creature comforts during his 15-year partnership with his father. The last update was in 1974.

The work began in October 2015. Two months later, he was milking cows in the renovated tie-stall barn on Christmas Day 2015.

“I spent a lot of time researching. I looked at all types of ventilation systems and all types of facilities and milking systems. I looked at Nigel Cook’s designs at the University of Wisconsin. but when it came right down to it, Tom Kestell (Ever-Green-View) encouraged me by telling me the walls here are strong, and that what’s between them can be replaced, and so that’s what I did,” Adam reflects. “He told me there is not a better system for making milk than a properly designed and managed tie-stall barn.”

Faust6751.jpgWhile he farms 500 acres, runs a custom harvesting business and sells Latham seed, it is the cows on the Northeast Wisconsin farm that are his biggest focus. Whether it’s the cows or the crops, Adam enjoys developing genetics in all that he does. He has a few Excellent cows, including an Adonis daughter with four out of five dams all Excellent that he purchased as a calf, and calved into his herd last summer.

Adam was one of five finalists for the 2017 Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer award. He is president of the Calumet County Forage Council, has served several years on the county dairy promotion board, is a member of the Holstein Association and Farmers Union, as well as participating actively in various community civic organizations and volunteering as a member of AgrAbility.

But those aren’t the things I found so inspiring during my summer visit to the rejuvenated Faustone Holstein Farm, Chilton, Wisconsin.

Born with spina bifida, Adam has overcome mobility challenges from the various degrees of paralysis. He has worked hard and persevered to pursue his passion for dairy farming. His recent remodel of the bank barn added a few touches for his own assistance, but his focus has admittedly always been the cows.

AgrAbility partnered with Easter Seals and the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to help Adam realize his dream of independent farming, including custom steps for the tractor and feed bins instead of carrying feed bags for the youngstock and the detacher rails for moving milkers from stall to stall.

“I have always known this is what I wanted to do,” the young dairyman said. He has been mentored by some of the best in the community, like Tom Kestell, getting him involved in showing at the age of 12. From these mentors, he learned how to pick a calf that will make a good cow. Some of his best can be traced to the Ever-Green-View cow family that produced Kestell’s single-lactation milk yield world record holder for 2013 and 2016.

Adam has been thinking about modifying the dairy’s bank barn ever since he completed the two-year University of Wisconsin short courses in agronomy and dairy at the Madison campus in 1999. He did his own research on dairy systems in Europe and Canada, and he was inspired by Kestell’s comments, especially since Ever-Green-View is home to the cow that set the world record for single-lactation milk production in two of the past five years.

Top on his cow comfort list was to increase the stall size. He added 10 inches to the width and length and increased the neck rail space for lunging from 48 inches to 54.

Faust6687.jpgHe deep beds the tie-stalls using “Alternative Animal Bedding” produced from a byproduct of recycled de-inked paper from a mill outside of Green Bay. Each load is mixed with deep-bedding lime to reduce moisture and increase pH. Adam grooms the stalls each day to keep the deep-bedded material flat and adds fresh as needed. The cows are free to nestle in just like a sand bed.

“I like big powerful cows, so I wanted the stalls to fit the kind of cows I like, and I wanted them to be comfortable,” said Adam as he showed me around and pointed out a few of his top producers and Excellent cows. He has built up the pedigrees for type, relying on quality forages, a high forage TMR and improved cow comfort for increased production among his 70 cows. Production continues to climb into the upper 70s with good components and low somatic cell counts as the comfort has improved.

Faust6735.jpgMilk from the Faustone Holsteins is shipped nearby through membership in a small local marketing cooperative and is used for both cheese as well as soft serve made famous by the farmer-appreciating Midwestern restaurant chain: Culver’s.

While he uses genomics to a point, Adam is building his herd’s genetics by investing in cow families and is quick to point out that the world record milk production cow from Ever-Green-View was not a high genomic testing cow on paper. Adam is proud to have daughters from her in his herd because, as he points out, “that family has produced tremendous milk cows.”

“I will use high genomic bulls — if the pedigree behind them in decent,” he explains. “I want the bulls to have something real behind them. I look for deep cow families and components. I want a balanced cow that I can feed for yield. They need to be big enough to consume enough forage to make the milk.”

Faust6720.jpgTo that end, he feeds a 65% forage TMR that consists of hay, corn silage, corn and soybeans — all grown on the farm.

Adam has made numerous other cow comfort modifications to the bank barn.


Faust6704.jpgThe detacher rails are helpful to him, allowing him to pull the milkers to each tie-stall on the rail system instead of carrying them. And he has equipped each tie-stall with a deep Canadian-style drinking cup.

He has opened up the window sections of the concrete block walls for larger glass-block windows to let in more light and added long-day LED lighting. This concept can be a bit difficult for the previous generation when walking through the barn feeling as though lights need to stay off. But Adam is happy with the atmosphere for the cows.

To increase air flow through the barn, he put into the wall at the far end of the stable two 72-inch ceiling-to-floor fans for air-intake year-round and small directional fans over stalls for summer. The two large intake fans produce air exchange every 14 seconds and air movement at 12 to 15 miles per hour.

The barn is now wireless equipped, and Adam uses the Del Pro system, allowing the DHIA testing to be done electronically.

In addition to the tie-stall renovation and the deep bedded stalls, Adam has adopted the 7-day fresh cow routine for his fresh cows and two-year-olds. “I picked up a sample on the first day of the 2016 Oshkosh show. Two days later, after using it on a high-pedigree 2-year-old, I had my hired man go back to buy a whole gallon.”

That fresh heifer had not been milking out completely and was giving well below her production potential. “I sprayed her udder after each milking, and by the 3rd time, she was milking out to a dishrag. Her 7-day average rose quickly from 15 to 94 lbs after the Udder Comfort straightened her out,” he explained. “I am sold on this product. It gets edema out fast for a complete milkout. Now we spray it on all fresh udders after each milking for 7 days to improve comfort and reduce stress. I see them get going and their SCCs coming down faster with far fewer high-count cows. ”

All of these changes will help Adam further build the herd’s performance at Faustone, and he has no regrets about renovating instead of building new. He wanted to continue with the tie-stall style of management and wanted to keep the herd small.

Dairying is something he loves, and now he loves the way the barn suits both him, and his cattle.


Photo captions

FAUST6725 or 6678

Adam Faust was born with spina bifida, but that has not stopped him from pursuing his passion for dairy and carrying on the legacy begun by his grandfather in Northeast Wisconsin. He recently renovated his tie-stall bank barn for modern-day cow comfort. Photos by Sherry Bunting

FAUST6687 and/or 6691

Adam deep beds the tie-stalls using “Alternative Animal Bedding” produced from a byproduct of recycled de-inked paper from a mill outside of Green Bay. Each load is mixed with deep-bedding lime to reduce moisture and increase pH.


Detacher rails were installed to make it easier for Adam to move his milking units from stall to stall.


Adam Faust did a lot of research over the past 15 years and decided to stay with tie-stall milking. He bought the farm from his parents four years ago and the renovation was complete on Christmas Day 2015.

FAUST6704 and/or 6706

Two 72-inch floor-to-ceiling fans were installed for air intake, providing air exchange every 14 seconds and air movement of 12 to 15 mph.












For the love of cows, a dream barn was built

By Sherry Bunting

CHRISTIANA, Pa. — Not everyone would choose a 40-cow tiestall barn to “move up to” when building their dream barn. But for this young dairyman, it’s just the ticket.

“I’m happy with my decision because I feel I am able to care for the cattle a lot better now,” says Rusty Herr of Golden Rose Genetics near Christiana, Pennsylvania. “I can give them more individual attention, and that’s what I wanted.”

And can we just say it? This Lancaster County, Pa. barn is beautiful. Breathtaking in fact.


Last Friday, October 21, over 500 people came out to see it for themselves during the Open House at Golden Rose Genetics, organized by Rusty and the builder and subcontractors.

The Golden Rose tiestall project — from financing to construction — had been planned right down to the minor details.

Page 14 111315Farmshine.indd
Rusty and Heather Herr with children Allison, Daisy, Madison and Jeremiah during the sale of 150 of their cows last November as they downsized for the new barn. (S.Bunting photo)

Rusty had coordinated his dispersal sale of 175 cows (3/4ths of his herd and pretty much the best of his best) to occur last November in conjunction with moving the now smaller herd out of the former freestall barn and into their new digs, which E&F Ag Systems had ready for them by November 1, 2015.

Since then, the new all-wood construction, Canadian-style tiestall barn has provided all the cow comfort and individual hands-on management perks Rusty was looking for  — from the stall design and tunnel ventilation to the indoor washroom and loads of natural light.

Indoor washroom is a special feature, plus copious windows and natural light.

Before construction began, Rusty visited tiestall facilities in Canada and Vermont for inspiration. One of the barns he visited was Lookout Holsteins in Quebec, where Callum McKinven and his family have both Holstein and Jersey cattle.

Tapered front curb allows for a range of stall widths and longer stalls.

Callum’s stall design captured Rusty’s attention, and so he adapted the idea of transitioning the stall sizes from large to small to accommodate differently sized animals. Callum grew up with Jerseys, and his wife with Holsteins. The McKinven family is involved with both breeds and designed their stalls accordingly.


As for the Herr family, Rusty’s daughter, Allison, introduced Jersey cattle to the Golden Rose Genetics’ stable of Holsteins seven years ago. The idea to use tapered front curbing to adjust stall sizes makes both breeds feel at home. The stall sizes are grouped by fives at 48, 52, 56 and 60 inches with the two rows mirroring each other. This smart use of space accommodates the placement of four box stalls at one end of the barn.

While visiting Lookout Holsteins in Quebec, Rusty also saw how Callum McKinven deep beds his stalls. Rusty decided to do this at Golden Rose — instead of using mattresses. He deep beds mainly with straw, and some additional shavings. A thin strip of rubber at the front of the stalls keeps the cows from digging out the bedding.


One of the most obvious features of the new barn is that is made completely of wood with a rough-cut pine exterior.


The interior of the barn is smooth pine of tongue-and-groove construction — using three different wood widths in a random pattern. All the interior wood has been clear-coated with polyurethane to protect against the moisture.

“We can wash it right down,” Rusty says.

The barn also has lots of windows “because we wanted plenty of natural light for the cows,” he explains, adding that the entire facility is tunnel-ventilated, but on nice days when the tunnel is off, the windows are open.

Ally and her Jerseys.

It takes a special builder to work with a dairyman who wants a building that doesn’t fit the trends and that requires new thinking. “E&F listened to our ideas and worked with us,” Rusty reflects. “They made sure we were happy with the final product.”

He notes that Steve Esh at E&F “is a great guy to work with, and if something wasn’t how we wanted it, he was quick to make it right.”

Rusty is thankful to everyone who played a part in the project from start to finish. “We were under a tight deadline with the November sale last fall, and Steve promised they would have the barn ready by Oct. 30, and they did.”

He is especially thankful for the “foresight and vision” of his former herdsman Jonathan Pinkerton as he helped in the new barn’s design.He also has high praise for Brandon Umble, who did the excavation, and for subcontractors H.W. Martin, Earl Musser Plumbing, Leinbach Electric, JBZ Dairy Advantage and Georgetown Stoneworks.

“But none of this would be possible without Lamar King and Fulton Bank,” Rusty adds. “They kept the process simple to get everything coming together in terms of the financing.”



While Rusty admits some people may walk in and feel the barn is “overdone,” the young dairyman — with an eye for cattle and a passion for genetics and cattle care — made wise cattle investments. He used his previously growing herd as the piggy-bank by building up his cow numbers and their genetic value, and then selling most of the herd to raise the hefty chunk of money to put down on his dream barn.

“This is our dream. I didn’t want to build something and later have regrets,” Rusty notes. “The milk market is not reflective of this type of building, and it cost more than it needed to, but my intention was that if I do it, if I build a barn, I wanted to do it right and do it now. I wanted a facility for the cows that when people drive in the lane they are looking at something that does not look like a dairy barn. I want people to be curious about this barn before they even get to the property.”

Currently, the barn is full with 44 cows (40 tiestalls, 4 box stalls). The herd average on 53 cows is 25,700M 967F 814P.

Of the 44 milk cows, three are Jerseys from the first cow purchased by daughter Ally seven years ago. They flushed her and got the embryos to start the Golden Rose Genetics Jersey line.

Now in the new barn with a smaller herd for one year, Rusty is digging back in to gradually building up the genetic lines and cow families he is working with. But he is not in a hurry. Right now he’s enjoying the dairy life and caring for the cows with his family.


From a practical standpoint, Rusty wanted a facility where he could do everything himself, with just his family, given the market conditions of the dairy industry and uncertainty about being able to hire help in the future. In fact, his recent trip to World Dairy Expo was the first couple nights he was away from the dairy farm since the move. His family manned the fort.

From a philosophical standpoint, Rusty wanted a facility with a bright environment where he would enjoy working and where he could treat every animal like a queen.

Among his comfort protocols for those queens is to start fresh heifers with Udder Comfort. He likes breeding and having healthy cattle that last. Udder Comfort fits that philosophy by supporting the cow and the udder, after calving.

“I had tried udder products before, but I didn’t see much effect, so I was surprised when I tried Udder Comfort for the first time a few weeks before the sale last year,” Rusty recalls. “We had quite a few fresh 2-year-olds selling, so I started using Udder Comfort 2x/day for a week on those animals, and it really brought out the quality and potential of the udders. We typically don’t have much edema in our herd, but the overall quality of the udders was still noticeably improved. I see this routine definitely bringing any visible swelling down faster than anything else, and improving udder quality when used across the board on first-calf heifers.”

Last November, Rusty sold a lot of his better cows and first-calvers to downsize the herd for the barn. “We wanted to sell from our best.” he explains. “We actually kept more of the recipient cows and average cows as well as a small group of foundation cows to gradually work our way back into the genetics.”

14701041_1054006028058462_7578693509160923449_o (1).jpg
New twin heifers by AWESOME-RED out of 2-yr Armani with tremendous potential, represent the future at Golden Rose Genetics. Next dam 88 pt. Braxton (needs to see classifier) x 92 pt. Atwood Ritzi x 16 more EX dams.

So, it’s not like Rusty has a barn full of high-scoring cows — yet. He believes every cow demands the individual attention he prefers to give in this new barn and smaller herd.


“The whole thing — that we’re here — is still surreal some days,” the young dairyman relates. “There are still days where things don’t go well, no matter what kind of facilities you are in. Whether it’s a good day or a bad day, they are all better because now I can care for the cows the way I have always wanted to, to maximize their potential. And even though there is more work, it is work I can do with my family so I get to see my family more than before.

“It’s like walking out of the dark and into the light, into a totally different cow-care environment.”



To go from a freestall barn with 150 cattle to a tiestall barn with 40 is a big change and opposite to what the industry trends are today.


But it works for Rusty. He loves cows. He loves taking care of cows. He loves being in a nice environment with his family, taking care of cows. And he loves starting over anew in this beautiful new 44-cow barn that has most people driving by wondering what lives there.


Reprinted and adapted from Oct. 14, 2016 Farmshine.

Most photos provided by Rusty Herr












USDETC draws students to Clovis to learn large herd management


By Sherry Bunting

CLOVIS, N.M. — “Who will train our next generation?” That has been the concern of New Mexico State University extension dairy specialist Dr. Robert Hagevoort and colleagues in other university programs where college dairies have closed their doors over the past five to 10 years.


“This program is starting to resonate, and the numbers of students taking advantage of it are increasing,” he observed about the U.S. Dairy Education and Training Consortium (USDETC). The program has evolved over the past decade to provide first and second year components during six-week sessions annually from mid-May through June.

“I’m always running into former students who have gone on to manage herds, become nutritionists, AI specialists, or reps for companies,” Hagevoort relates. “This program is making a difference. It facilitates a future by opening eyes to dairy systems and helping students see themselves in potential roles. Some will come here with no dairy background and go on to manage dairies. They had it in them, and their connection to the program helped bring it out. Some students will learn this is not for them, and that’s okay too.”


First-year USDETC students visited Clover Knolls Dairy, owned by Tio and Chyanne Ford near Texico, New Mexico, during the second week of the 2016 session. Ford walked them through the operation and his management protocols.

The nearly 3000 cows milking at Clover Knolls produce 88 pounds/cow/day of milk that is consistently at or below 100,000. This is up from prior years around 85 to 86 pounds.


Along with the tour and learning stations, the students had lunch provided by Udder Comfort International through area representative Al Lanting. Since Clover Knolls ships as a member of Select Milk Producers, Lanting worked with Select to provide their milk beverages. The students were anxious to try Select’s assortment of Fairlife, CorePower and the new Yup ultrafiltered flavored milks.


“We work with producers and industry sponsors to get the students out on dairies to listen to producers and see, firsthand, how they run their operations and manage their herds,” Hagevoort explains. The goal is “total immersion” in large herd dairy management with producers, industry representatives as well as experts from dairy program universities from coast-to-coast.

Operating out of Clovis Community College, the students spend mornings visiting nearby dairies with a range of management styles, focusing on different aspects of dairy management each week. They return to the classroom in the afternoons to discuss, debate and be tested with subject matter experts on the topics related to dairy management.

“This is what we used to do with the dairies at universities, but now we work with producers to provide the real-life examples,” Hagevoort explains. They learn milking protocols, cow flows, calf care and housing, and to feed, breed, and treat cows as well as the business decisions dairy owner/ managers are faced with.

They also learn whether or not this is something they want to do, or find direction into other dairy-related careers.

During the session at Clover Knolls, for example, Ford touched on some of the challenges the dairy has faced beginning with its re-start in 2007 when Ford’s wife’s parents bought out their previous partners and brought Tio and Chyanne in to take over. While Ford grew up in one of the region’s century dairy farms, Chyanne’s parents Doug and Irene Handy left the cold winters of Meadville, Pennsylvania in the 1950s to start what would later become their own 3000-cow Do-Rene Dairy near Clovis.

Ford talked about the freak Winter Storm Goliath that hit both Clover Knolls and Do-Rene last December. Since then, they have worked together on cow flow because both operate closed herd dairies, not wanting to buy-in replacements after the storm.


“We are content to be milking 200 to 250 fewer cows after the storm, and found through this process, we are shipping more milk while using less feed, less water, less labor,” Ford related. With the use of sexed semen and a successful heifer raising program, Ford has had enough heifers calving-in to send many of them to Do-Rene to replenish their numbers after substantial storm losses.

At Clover Knolls, cattle are sorted and moved daily with closeups moving to the calving area and post-fresh cows to the fresh pen at the lower end of the dairy by the hospital parlor. They are milked there for their first six to eight milkings before heading to the main pens and parlor.


Ford allows calves to nurse one time and then separates the calves and marks the cow with her calving date for easy identification of where she should be in cow flow and health-watch.

In the hospital parlor, an Udder Comfort Spray Gun has been set up to apply product to the center cleft from front to rear after each of those first six to eight milkings.


“This primes the fresh animals, and definitely helps get their udders headed in the right direction,” said Ford. “Our key is to get them out of the starting gate without issues. We’ve seen a real benefit, and the spray gun system is simple, fast, and helps us conserve how much of the product we need to use to meet the objective.”

Ford likes to keep things simple, without a lot of extras. Simplicity applies to the parlor itself — a plain double-20 that turns 10 times per hour — and simplicity applies to the protocols on the dairy.


“Managing a dairy, we find that 90% of our problems are when employees don’t have protocols that are simple to implement and follow-through consistently,” he explained. “Dairies all have the same issues to work through. The typical problems are just bigger on a larger dairy because there are more cattle and more people doing the work.”

He keeps a simple udder prepping protocol, and adjusts the use of pre- and post-dip to account for changes in the weather when the normally dry conditions can turn muddy after rain.CloverKnolls0216.jpg

“We use a pre-dip cup when it’s rainy and we spray the teat-dip under normal dry conditions,” said Ford on what was a rainy day. Unlike other session visits, the 2015 and 2016 students saw this southwest dairy region contending with a rainy week and plenty of moisture, whereas in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the prolonged drought painted a different picture – drier drylots, less udder prep, but also greatly reduced crop yields and high-priced feedstuffs.

Ford talked about growing and feeding corn silage and sorghum silage and how every drop of water that falls on the dairy gets used, and how all water associated with the dairy is recycled six times before reaching the fields as irrigation.

Adequate bunk space is also important, and he gives more space between lockups for closeup cows, with the main pens at two feet between lockups and the closeup pen two-and-a-half.

Ford is big on fresh feed.

CloverKnolls0225.jpgHe does five to seven feed drops a day and cleans up feed twice a week — more often when it rains. He also leaves lot hay at the end of each pen for cows to regulate themselves and their own digestive health. When it comes to rations, he gets a bit more detailed, feeding four rations: a special ration for the fresh cows, a high cow ration, a general ration and a late lactation / low cow ration.


Pens are also spacious in an open drylot setup. Space becomes even more important in wet years. “You don’t want cattle stressed by space issues,” said Ford, who provides 600 square feet of pen space per cow on average. “We don’t stock to the max here, particularly in the last two years where we have had more rain.”

He commingles his cows and heifers in closeup and fresh pens, but separates the heifers once they get to the main group pens to help with aggressiveness issues. Ford also likes to use a buddy system in the sorting process. “Cows like to have buddies,” he said.

Students who enroll in the USDETC typically hail from the western states of New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Idaho, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, North and South Dakota and California. In addition a few students show up every year from the eastern and midwestern states of Pennsylvania, New York, New England, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as from Canada and other continents, including Europe, South America, and countries like Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. A team of students came this year and last with their instructor from Cal Poly as well.

Subject matter experts come from universities across the U.S., including, for example, from Penn State Lisa Holden on human resources and Chad Dechow on reproduction and from the University of Illinois, Mike Hutjens on feed efficiency.

For more information about the USDETC program, click here

By Sherry Bunting, reprinted from Texas Dairy and Ag Review, Farmshine



Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: