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DAIRY TAB - Details pay dividends for dairy producers

DAIRY TAB - Details pay dividends for dairy producers

SCC decline impressive

By Carol Stender

cstender@agrinews.com

MEIER GROVE, Minn. -- John and Ginny Nathe couldn't find what was causing their herd's somatic cell counts to soar to 200,000 to 300,000. livestock farming agriculturep SCC decline impressive

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By Carol Stender

cstender@agrinews.com

MEIER GROVE, Minn. -- John and Ginny Nathe couldn't find what was causing their herd's somatic cell counts to soar to 200,000 to 300,000.

The couple expanded their herd and were milking in a flat parlor. They were moving cattle in all kinds of weather, the ceiling was low and cows had mastitis.

After they visited with a milking technician, they changed procedure and found success. Their SCC for December 2002 was 92,000 and was 146,000 for the year.

"We didn't follow it at first," said Ginny of the milking procedure changes. "We thought it was time-consuming. We did do it after a while. It's more time-consuming but it's worth the effort."

The procedure involves dipping teats, rubbing them -- especially the ends -- stripping, then dipping again. The idea is to get good stimulation and milk letdown. The teats are finally dried using a cloth towel. It must all be done within a minute and 20 seconds, Ginny said.

The Nathes also added rubber-filled mattresses to free-stalls and bed with wood shavings and sunflower hulls. They clean the back half of stalls and the alleys in the free-stall barns twice a day. After cleaning, hydrated lime is spread on each stall.

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When their operation is compared with the 3,500 dairy herds tested by the Dairy Herd Improvement Association, the Nathes are among only 37 with a SCC under 100,000 for December and of 150 that were under 150,000.

"That puts them up there with the elite," said Jeff Reneau, University of Minnesota Extension Service dairy scientist.

The attention to detail pays off, They earn a milk quality premium of 70 cents to 80 cents per hundredweight, which added $3,572 to their milk check in December 2002 and a monthly premium of $3,000.

"You don't ever solve it," said Ginny of mastitis. "You just do your best. You are always learning. It's an ongoing problem all the time."

The entire milking procedure takes from three and a half to four hours to complete. They try to have two people in the parlor at a time.

When they started, John and Ginny milked 45 cows and raised chickens and pigs. They took over the operation from John's father, Leander, in 1970 and eventually got rid of the other livestock to concentrate solely on dairy. The couple's son, Jeron, returned to the operation and they expanded, built a free-stall barn for 100 cows and converted an old barn into a flat parlor in 1994. They've since added another 100 cows and put in a double-eight parlor.

"If we knew then what we know now, we wouldn't have gotten into the flat parlor," he said.

The family was able to turn their operation around by paying attention to milk procedure and by, as Ginny put it, being fussy.

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They keep a close eye on individual cow SCC information from the DHIA. If there's a problem, they use the on-farm California Mastitis Test to check individual quarters. All cows with mastitis or high cell counts are cultured. If it shows contagious mastitis, the cow is moved to the last milking group.

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