Milk­ing three times daily.

Dairy News Australia - - NEWS - STEPHEN COOKE

DAIRY FARMER Alex Huis­man is no stranger to milk­ing three times a day. How­ever, he fine-tuned the process, adding a third milk­ing for 84 high pro­duc­tion cows from his herd of 150 head. Alex moved from Hol­land with his mother and father, Adrian and Bertha, at the age of 15 in 1994, and now man­ages the fam­ily farm, near Leth­bridge in south­ern Al­berta, Canada. He hosted an All­tech tour of Aus­tralian and New Zealand dairy farm­ers in May. Alex milks be­tween 145–150 cows, which are all housed due to winter con­di­tions that can drop to be­low -35 de­grees cel­sius. Milk­ing high pro­duc­tion cows three times a day has pro­duced an ad­di­tional 1000 kg of milk — up to 11 400 kg — over 305 milk­ing days. Un­der the sys­tem, first milk­ing be­gins at 3 am, the high pro­duc­tion group is milked again at 10.30 am and the fi­nal milk­ing is at 4.30 pm, with the low group milked first, fol­lowed by the high group. The herd was av­er­ag­ing 38 kg of milk at 3.85 per cent fat. Although he said the for­mat was work­ing re­ally well, Alex started milk­ing the en­tire herd three times a day last month be­cause of heat stress. “The high group was too big so I have split the herd up evenly.” They are av­er­ag­ing 40.5 kg at 3.75 per cent fat. The drop in fat per­cent­age was caused by heat stress.


Alex’s father was dairy­ing in Hol­land with his brother and father. “There are so many rules there,” he said. He chose to move to south­ern Al­berta be­cause of the “big open ar­eas”, the fact land was a lit­tle cheaper than Cana­dian prov­inces of On­tario and Bri­tish Colom­bia, and ad­vice that for­age har­vested in Al­berta was of a higher qual­ity. The warmer con­di­tions in south­ern Al­berta are bet­ter for ir­ri­gated pas­tures and crop­ping, as it can be winter for six months of the year fur­ther north. Alex aims to be as self-suf­fi­cient as pos­si­ble. On their 210 ha farm, which is ir­ri­gated, they grow 22 ha grass, 50 ha al­falfa silage, and crop 66 ha of canola for cash crop. They also grow 52 ha of corn which they chop. They em­ploy two full-time and two part-time staff, en­abling them to take on con­tract work, in­clud­ing field work and ma­nure han­dling. Sig­nif­i­cant in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ment has been con­ducted over the last five years. With cows housed all year, they run a to­tal mixed ra­tion sys­tem, feed­ing a mix of 500 grams of dry grass (grass hay), 2.8 kg of al­falfa hay, 17.5 kg of corn silage, 7 kg of grass silage, 1 kg of al­falfa baleage and 12 kg of con­cen­trate. “We add 10 kg of water to get the con­cen­trate to stick to the silage bet­ter. It boils down to about 25/kg of DM in­take per cow per day.” They pur­chased their own ham­mer mill early last year. “With a ham­mer mill, you get bet­ter pro­cess­ing than rollers, which you have to ad­just a lot de­pend­ing on what bar­ley and corn you get. We get a more con­sis­tent mix now.” All grain is pur­chased, se­lected by bushel weight and clean­li­ness. “We re­ject it is there are too many wild oats. Er­got has also been a prob­lem lately in bar­ley and wheat. It’s hor­ri­ble stuff and can cause preg­nancy fail­ure, de­pend­ing on per­cent­age.”


The Huis­mans have im­proved an­i­mal and op­er­a­tor com­fort by im­prov­ing the dairy and cow barns. They ini­tially milked 45 cows through a dou­ble 5 par­al­lel par­lour but now have a dou­ble 12 par­al­lel par­lour, house their cows in a 152–freestall barn, and a sec­ond barn, with a spe­cial needs pen, and ded­i­cated ar­eas for calvers and calves. “We used to have calves out­side, but it could get to 30 be­low with wind chill. If a calf was born out­side you’d bet­ter be there, be­cause it’s too cold for them.”


An ABS mat­ing sys­tem is used to se­lect new ge­net­ics, with an em­pha­sis on milk, fat and longevity. Sexed se­men is used for heifers. Their 21-day preg­nancy rate (el­i­gi­ble cows di­vided by preg­nan­cies) is be­tween 22–25 per cent, well above the Al­berta av­er­age of 15–16 per cent. Heifers are first joined at 13–14 months.

Preg­nant cows

Pre-calv­ing cows are brought to a calv­ing barn 3 weeks be­fore calv­ing. They re­ceive a ra­tion of straw (1.8 kg), corn silage (15 kg) and 5 kg of closeup ra­tion, in­clud­ing Opti­gen. “It sets them up pretty nice.” All­tech prod­ucts Opti­gen, Yea-Sacc, and Bio­plex/Selplex are used for lac­ta­tion cows. The Bio­plex and Selplex prod­ucts pro­vide a 100 per cent re­place­ment of all in­or­ganic trace min­er­als in the diet. Part of All­tech’s to­tal re­place­ment tech­nol­ogy. Yea-Sacc is a specif­i­cally se­lected live yeast strain, which All­tech says is proven to en­hance di­gestibil­ity and per­for­mance in dairy cows; Bio­plex and Sel-Plex are or­gan­i­cally bound trace min­er­als. Opti­gen (called Op­tisync in Aus­tralia) is a non-pro­tein Ni­tro­gen (NPN) source that en­ables im­proved feed con­ver­sion through the pro­vi­sion of ni­tro­gen for the ru­men mi­crobes. Op­tisync drip feeds ni­tro­gen con­sis­tently over the whole day, which All­tech says helps bet­ter diet util­i­sa­tion, ru­men health and fer­men­ta­tion.


Alex al­lows cows to lick their calves dry be­fore re­mov­ing them. Cows are then moved to the free stall barn. Calves are weaned off milk and onto water, home grown feed that Alex grinds him­self and a calf starter. He does not like feed­ing meal to calves. At 10 weeks, calves re­ceive grain and meal, which he also pre­pares him­self. Once calves have grown too large for pens, they are moved into out­side cor­rals. All­tech funded Stephen Cooke’s at­ten­dance at the All­tech ONE Con­fer­ence and tour.

Alex and Adrian Huis­man on their Al­berta dairy farm

The full TMR ra­tion is pro­duced on farm.

Calves are housed in­side be­cause of freez­ing con­di­tions.

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