HUMBIRD, Wis. — A perfect ration doesn’t guarantee high milk production in a dairy herd.
“There is no secret to high milk production,” said Pam Selz-Pralle, who owns Selz-Pralle Dairy with her husband, Scott. “It’s what the cow tells you.”
The Wisconsin dairymen are the owners of Selz-Pralle Aftershock 3918 that holds the first and second place milk record for mature cow on the Holstein USDA National Leader List. For her world record lactation, Aftershock 3918 produced 78,170 pounds of milk, 4% fat and 3.1% protein.
“Aftershock comes from a pedigree that we would not call very sexy,” said Scott during a webinar hosted by Hoard’s Dairyman. “But a pedigree with six generations back that is filled with a lot of production.”
While setting a world record, 3918 was in a group of 85 to 90 cows.
“She always tried to stay close to everything she needed to do. She picked out two or three stalls that she laid in every day,” Scott said. “And she stayed in proximity of the feedbunk between 30 to 50 feet, so she could put all her energy in doing what she does best, which is making milk.”
This special cow also had little quirks when she went to the milking parlor.
“In the holding area, she never went in early, she waited for the third turn in the parlor, and she would go on the same side of the parlor for every milking,” Scott said. “She always went in the same stall, as well, so she was very detailed about what she did.”
Although Aftershock is not a very tall cow, Scott said, she is very sturdy.
“She has a massive front end with a wide rump,” he said. “She also has a great set of feet and legs that helps her do what she needs to do in a timely fashion.”
Aftershock has only been in the sick pen for 10 days with one case of mastitis.
“This cow has milked 2,069 days in her lifetime, and she has averaged 153 pounds of milk per day,” Scott said.
“One of the things I find amazing about her is her combined fat and protein was 18 to 19.6 pounds per day,” Pam said. “That’s what we’re excited about, especially here in Wisconsin, where we make a lot of cheese.”
For their herd of 500 Holsteins, the dairymen balance the ration for 105 pounds of milk per day.
“Our ration is balanced for 60 pounds of dry matter intake, and we estimate 3918 ate up to 118 pounds of dry matter per day, so no wonder she didn’t walk around very much,” Pam said.
The dairymen keep the cow ration pretty simple.
“We are big believers in BMR corn silage, and we like to feed canola because we’ve seen a real boost in components,” Pam said. “One thing that is a little bit different is we feed BergaFat because we’ve seen a little higher fat test and the cows sustain the test a little longer.”
Typically, the ration is 65% BMR corn silage and 35% haylage for forage.
“We put cameras up and saw that we needed to keep pushing in feed,” Pam said. “We push feed to the cows about every two hours.”
Minimizing stress for the cows is important for the Wisconsin dairymen.
“We have sprinklers, and we added 32 fans to drive more air,” Pam said. “And we pay attention to the sand in the stalls.”
For breeding, Scott said, the focus is to have cows that fit the environment they’re living in and for them to be mobile and agile.
“They need to be more like athletes, and we like them with strong front ends,” he said. “We like udders that work and wear, and we like cows with udders that are high above the hock to keep the manure away.”
Aftershock is now in retirement at the Wisconsin farm.
“We have done some flushing with her, and she’s been averaging 18 embryos every time,” Scott said. “We have a couple of calves on the ground now, we have 20 pregnancies coming this year and we have a bunch of embryos in the tank.”
The dairymen examine return on investment before making any decisions on new technology.
“We’re persnickety, and we believe in preventing because we don’t like to treat cows,” Pam said.
Before making a decision on a new calf barn, the dairymen took a little fantasy tour to check out other dairy facilities.
“We went to auto feeder barns, and we were excited until we got the price tag,” Pam said.
“We definitely got sticker shock, so we made our own hybrid barn,” Scott said.
“We have a positive pressure barn with fans above pushing air down on the calves,” Pam said. “We have solid panels on the sides because we want to control all the air in the entire barn, so in the summertime the calves get a complete exchange of the air every six minutes.”
The calves are housed in groups and fed with a mob feeder.
“After we feed the calves we wash out the mob feeder and floss every nipple to make sure we have a healthy environment for our calves,” Pam said.
“We have had less than a half percent of treatment rate, less than half a percent of death loss and the past year we have not lost a calf from calf scours or pneumonia,” she said. “We are really thrilled with the success that we’ve seen in this barn.”
For more information about the Selz-Pralle Dairy, go to www.selzpralledairy.com.