Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability
Rosy-Lane Holsteins LLC
Lloyd and Daphne Holterman, Tim Strobel, Jordan Matthews, Watertown, Wisconsin
While the definition of sustainability can seem complex, for Rosy-Lane Holsteins LLC it starts with the cows.
Established in 1965 by Lloyd A. and Rosemarie Holterman, the farm is located near Watertown, in southeastern Wisconsin. The oldest of seven children, Lloyd and his wife, Daphne, purchased the cattle and equipment in 1989 and the farmland five years later.
Through a process of steady growth, Rosy-Lane currently covers 1,750 acres and includes 1,079 cows (950 milking) and 760 calves and heifers. Two younger, unrelated partners have been buying into the business and run day-to-day operations: Tim Strobel has been a partner for 20 years, Jordan Matthews for seven years. They’re aided by 22 other employees.
Continuously striving to improve all areas and create a business that is sustainable economically, environmentally and socially, Rosy-Lane’s partners live by this vision: “Great People. Great Cows. Great Returns.”
While Rosy-Lane is internationally recognized for genetics, management and other strategies that challenge conventional wisdom, it’s their focus on great cows that sets them apart. In the early 1990s, in pursuit of longer-living, healthier cows, Lloyd became an early adopter of breeding for Productive Life (PL) and Net Merit Dollars (NM$). The breeding program continues to evolve to take advantage of technology, such as genomics and updated indexes like Dairy Wellness Profit $ (DWP$). The goal is a moderately sized cow that lives a long time, produces a lot of milk without “sick days,” rarely needs her feet trimmed, breeds back on time and calves on her own.
One measure, productivity, is testament to that vision. Rosy-Lane marketed nearly 34.4 million pounds of milk – an average of 31,490 pounds per cow – for the year ending Oct. 31, 2019.
Genetics is a key part of reaching and improving the overall farm goal: Achieve 1.7 pounds of milk for every 1 pound of dry matter of feed fed to the milking herd. In 2019, it hit 1.67, well above the U.S. average of about 1.5. Over a 12-year period, it rose .07.
(Editor's note: This paragraph is corrected from the original print version of the article.) For every 0.01 improvement, the farm estimates a gain of about 13 cents per day (or $42 per cow per year) net income over feed cost, at $16 per cwt milk and 324 days in milk). Over a 12-year period, Rosy-Lane improved pounds of milk per pound of dry matter fed by 0.07, so the increase was $295 per cow over that period (at $16 milk). At $17 per cwt milk, it jumps to about $328 per cow.
Since 1992, Rosy-Lane has cut its cull rate from 35% to 23%. That means more older cows. The milking herd consists of 44% third-lactation or above cows (5 years old or greater). Herd fertility has improved, with conception rate rising to 54%. Needing fewer replacements opens additional income streams: selling more calves as beef and marketing excess heifers and cows as replacements to other dairy producers.
Veterinary costs decreased from 90 cents to 32 cents per hundredweight of milk sold over the past 10 years. That helps fulfill a second key element of achieving their milk yield goal: No antibiotics has been used in the milking herd for the past 85 months. Zero discarded milk means all milk produced is salable.
The Holtermans emphasize that the cows must have the chance to exhibit their genetic potential, and a basic principle for success is not to skimp on cow care. Rosy-Lane takes standard operating procedures and protocols seriously. Extensive time is dedicated to onboarding and continually training staff. There’s emphasis on animal handling, cow comfort, cooling, ventilation and air quality.
The farm is a destination for people interested in learning more about Rosy-Lane’s genetics and farm management practices, and hundreds of international visitors come to the farm during World Dairy Expo. Lloyd and Daphne travel extensively, sharing what they’ve learned with dairy farmers throughout the world.
Animal welfare is a message that appeals to consumers. Rosy-Lane’s motto is, “Our farm is open to anyone with an open mind,” and the farm hosts an average of two tours per week for consumers. They are a member of the local chamber of commerce, been featured in local and statewide media, produce a quarterly newsletter and have a robust presence on social media.
Making the land more sustainable, phosphorus levels in the feed ration were cut, reducing phosphorus in the manure and allowing heavier applications on the same or less amount of land with less risk of runoff. Rosy-Lane was one of the first farms to chop corn silage as shredlage, returning about 9 pounds more milk for each ton of corn silage fed.
Beyond genetics, participating in the Wisconsin Department Natural Resources’ Green Tier program from 2012 to 2018 piqued Rosy-Lane’s interest in measuring sustainability, looking at everything from recycling paper feed bags to adding more efficient light fixtures in barns.
Rosy-Lane has participated in the National FARM Animal Care program since 2011 and has applied to the FARM Environmental Stewardship program in 2020.
PHOTO 1: Rosy-Lane Holsteins LLC, Watertown, Wisconsin, is owned by partners Jordan Matthews, Tim Strobel and Lloyd and Daphne Holterman (top left photo).
PHOTOS 2-4: The Rosy-Lane milking herd consists of 44% third-lactation or above cows (5 years or older). Photos provided by Dairy Management Inc.
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