This article was #2 of the Top 25 most well-read articles on www.progressivedairy.com in 2013. It was published in the May 1, 2013 Extra e-newsletter and the August 11, 2013 print issue. Click here for the full list of the Top 25. Last winter, JTP Farms in Dorchester, Wisconsin, set a new production record for the DeLaval VMS system. In a period of seven days, the dairy – owned by Tom and Peggy Peissig and Jake and Tolea Peissig – harvested an average of 6,453 pounds of milk per milking station from their 247-cow herd, equaling 104.5 pounds per day. Jake Peissig attributed this accomplishment to the farm’s focus on cow comfort and animal welfare in their new facility.
We asked Peissig,
Q. Have you or do you anticipate achieving the 104.5-pound average again? Why or why not?
The 104.5-pound average is something we have struggled with all summer. With much lower than average forages, it has been a struggle to keep the cows producing in the 90s. It isn’t a matter of if we will ever achieve it again; it’s a matter of when.
Through the natural progressions of expansion, we are anticipating the bulge of heifers that are going to be calving toward spring and are looking forward to “cleaning house,” so to speak.
We probably have been holding on to a few more cows than what we should have just to keep the barn full, but once we are able to start culling for production, milking speed and temperament, things will begin to take shape for our new goal of 110 pounds. A change in forages around the first of this next year should also aid us in achieving this goal. PD
— Jake Peissig, owner, JTP Farms, Dorchester, Wisconsin
Never in his wildest dreams did Jake Peissig think he’d see a 30-pound-per-cow increase when he and his father built a new robotic milking facility.
Now, according to a DeLaval press release, JTP Farms in Dorchester, Wisconsin, achieved the highest production for any VMS (voluntary milking system) customer in the world – and possibly any producer milking robotically.
In a seven-day period this winter, the dairy – owned by Tom and Peggy Peissig and Jake and Tolea Peissig – harvested an average of 6,453 pounds of milk per milking station from their 247-cow herd, equaling 104.5 pounds per day.
“It has far exceeded our expectations,” Jake Peissig says. When they budgeted for their expansion they had hoped to average 68 pounds per cow per day in the first year and 72 pounds in the second year. Within 13 months in the new facility they had hit 100 pounds per cow per day.
The farm started milking their cows with the robots in January 2012. Previously they were utilizing a remodeled stanchion barn that had small freestalls with mattresses and a double-four flat barn parlor.
“A big factor in planning for success went into designing our new facility. We put a premium on cow comfort and animal welfare, and it’s clearly proving out as the right decision,” Peissig says.
The new cross-ventilated facility has sand-bedded freestalls, swinging cow brushes and automatic manure scrappers.
“Everything about this new facility brings better comfort to the cows,” Peissig says. The layout and design makes moving cows less stressful. Cows are brought into the barn at three to four weeks prefresh, and they stay there throughout their lactation.
Before they were forced to cull a lot of cows due to poor feet and legs. Now they are down to a 4 percent cull rate, which is helping them fill their new facility faster.
The new operation also requires significantly less labor with just two full-time employees for the entire herd and cropping needs. Instead of milking, the Peissigs are spending management time with the cows, focusing more on reproduction and herd health than they could in the old facility.
Labor was a leading factor in their decision to install robots. Another was to position themselves for future technologies coming up the line.
While the record-setting production has fallen a bit, the herd is still doing well in the mid to upper 90s. Peissig says his cows could certainly do better and there is no limit to what a cow can produce in an automatic milking system.
The only limitation is that, like any milking system – automatic or not, it can only perform so many milkings a day based on time it is occupied or being cleaned. Fewer cows in the pen would open up time for each to be milked more often.
JTP Farms is averaging 2.7 milkings per day. They like to keep about 65 cows per unit and in the last 30 days have averaged 6,000 pounds per robot.
With an emphasis on cow comfort and more time spent on management, JTP Farms will continue to push for maximum performance from their new facility. PD
Jake Peissig will be a participant on the robotic milking producer panel at the first-ever U.S. Precision Dairy Conference and Expo, June 25-27, in Rochester, Minnesota. Learn more about the event at http://precisiondairy.umn.edu
Tom and Jake Peissig stand in front of their new dairy facility in Dorchester, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of DeLaval.
Progressive Dairyman magazine