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Local Michigan dairy farm wins prestigious award

February 26, 2018

ALPENA, Mich. (AP) — Butterwerth Dairy recently was given a Platinum Award of Achievement from the National Quality Dairy Awards.

The farm is owned by Larry and Paulette Werth and their sons Paul and Jeremy. This award is given to the top six dairy farms in the United States.

Paul and Jeremy said the farm has changed and updated its practices after bovine tuberculosis infected their herd three years ago.

“In 2015 the herd had a positive for bovine TB. So after a depopulation of the whole herd we made the decision to come back to dairying again with some modifications and changes,” Jeremy said. “We had to reset our facility and change the stall size because we used to milk Jerseys.

“Jersey is a smaller breed of animal and they give less milk, but it’s a higher component value. We couldn’t find the number of animals at the quality of what our existing herd was. So we went back into it with Holsteins and tried to repopulate as quickly as possible.”

Paul said the bovine TB issue forced them to press reset and made them farm in a new way. Once they depopulated the old herd and cleaned and sanitized the facilities they decided to get back to maximum capacity, Jeremy said.

“We resourced all animals from outside of this area. This area is the TB area so to mitigate risk we found animals out of this area,” Jeremy said. “There were some generous people who opened their farms to us and we picked out groups of animals. When we repopulated we got animals from 13 different farms, all well-managed farms with good genetics. Our goal to take the animals and maintain them at that level or to even do better with them.”

The Alpena News reports that they now have 402 cows on the farm. He said because they brought in animals from different farms, it can create more risk, so they set protocols in case anything was to arise.

“Strong vaccination programs, we monitor and watch the cattle very closely. With repopulating we want to make sure we put in place strong protocols for milking procedure and animal health,” Jeremy said. “We took the time to sit down, went through milker training schools and worked with our co-op on the best practices that we could put in place for milking procedure, udder health and cow care on the farm. So implementing the procedures we thought we could do the best job to have the strongest health and the best quality possible, which in turn would pay us dividends because we hope to lower our caul rate or rollover rate on out cattle.”

They wanted to be more proactive than reactive, he said. One way they did this was through a computer system called PCDART to track each individual cow, Paul said.

“The system records all data on each individual cow. We also test the milk of each cow every month,” Paul said.

For this system every cow has a tag placed in an ear. The tag has a computer chip in it and can read the cow’s activity, stomach function and reports the data back to computers. It also helps measure the cow’s heat state to breed her for artificial insemination. This new program saves time and manpower, Jeremy said.

They also made some changes to their milking process. Jeremy said they have six employees who milk the cows twice a day, once at 4:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The cow is first prepped and milked. Then a dip is applied to the cow’s udders. This dip serves as an antibacterial.

“Once that cow is done milking she returns back to the barn where she came from and they’re bedded with sand bedding. I would relate that to a cow laying on a sand beach. Sand is very giving, so when the big cow gets up she can stretch her legs and she can push into the sand. Sand is excellent for udder health,” Jeremy said.

In sand there isn’t the ability for bacteria to grow like there is with straw, he said.

Paul said they take a steel rake and clean the stalls twice a day.

“We also work with a nutritionist to balance the diet. I like to say we want to perform optimal health on the cow,” Jeremy said. “You can kind of say it’s like an athlete. They’re making milk so their body has to function. There’s a lot of energy for that cow to create milk production. So we work with a nutritionist to balance all the energy and protein in the cow’s diet, plus the vitamins and minerals.”

Paul and Jeremy are the fourth generation of dairy farmers in their family. Through more stringent managerial practices their farm has grown and changed, Jeremy said.

“One thing that is key is we have great people that care. It’s not just one individual’s effort it’s a team effort. Everybody is fully engaged and they’re hands on and they care about what’s best for the cow. We have monthly meetings and that’s what we talk about. We want what is best for that animal. We’re caregivers to those cows and they give us back milk in return,” Jeremy said.

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Information from: The Alpena News, http://www.thealpenanews.com

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