Cooperative's motto: Test the best, cull the rest

Gloria Hafemeister
Now Media Group


In the 75 years since the Dodge County Dairy Testing Association began, milk production per cow has increased dramatically.

More important, milk quality, measured by somatic cell counts and linear score, has improved even more.

During the cooperative's annual meeting in Juneau last week, dairy producers were recognized for their production and quality achievements.

Seventy of the 260 herds enrolled in DHIA testing had linear scores of 2.3 or lower and SCC of less than 200,000. The top herd on the udder health honor roll was Boehlen Dairy Farm in Hustisford with 136 cows and an average of 61,000 SCC and 1.5 linear score.

The Boehlen farm is on unofficial test. Daryl and Lori Hoffman's herd of 33 cows is on official test with 65,000 SCC and 1.6 linear score.

The top production herd for twice-a-day milking, as determined by cheese yield for milk produced, was Zwieg Maple Acres of Ashippun with 77 cows on test and an average of 3117 pounds cheese yield.

The total milk production for their herd was 30,125 pounds per cow with 3.8 percent fat, 3.15 percent protein.

In the three-times-a-day milking herd was Oechsner Farms, Brownsville, with 529 cows and an average cheese yield of 3,239 pounds.

Their total milk production averaged 32,299 pounds of milk with 3.7 percent fat and 3.03 percent protein.

Julie Bacon, Guern-Z-Meadow, Columbus, earned the top colored breed cheese yield award with 40 cows producing an average of 2,913 cheese yield.

The herd produced an average of 26,144 pounds of milk with 4.5 percent butterfat and 3.26 percent protein. This herd is milked in a robotic barn.

Steady improvements

Holly Smith, in-house manager of the Dodge County Dairy Testing Association cooperative, said a lot has changed in the 75 years since the cooperative was formed.

'It started out when there were eight cow-testing associations in 1941,' she said. 'There were about 200 members with less than 4,000 cows in those associations.

'All of the members were on official test, and then seven of the eight associations decided to merge to make a central lab and also make it possible to add owner samplers.'

When the Dodge County Dairy Testing Association formed in 1941, there were 400 members and a central lab located in a 12-foot-by-29-foot room adjoining the Dodge County Extension dairy agent's office in Juneau.

By February 1942, the lab had outgrown its location and relocated to a different room within the old courthouse building.

Finally in 1966, with assistance from the county, the current lab building was constructed.

Brenda Conley is the current association president.

'We now have around 260 members, but we test over 24,000 samples from Dodge County each month,' Conley said. 'In addition to testing for farms in our county, we also test two other DHIA associations' samples for an additional 26,000 samples per month.'

On average, more than 50,000 samples are tested each month.

The association started out by only testing milk and butterfat production records. Fast forward 75 years, and see that the lab is doing a vast array of testing.

The association provides lab services for butterfat, protein, lactose, solids, scc, Milk Urea Nitrogen (MUN), Johnes Disease and, the newest test, BHBA/Acetone or KetoMonitor.

With this test, beta-hydroxybutyric acid and acetone concentration is analyzed and the cow data is combined to predict the cow's blood BHBA. High levels of blood BHBA in fresh cows are classified as ketotic.

With the advancement in the science of testing and with the lab's new equipment, Conley believes the lab is ready and functional for whatever the future may hold for new types of testing in the industry.

New this year was the FOSS equipment. The staff has been trained on how to use it to its fullest advantage, and the lab has been awarded certifications for new and different types of testing that can be implemented in the future.

The equipment is faster and accurate and will help the efficiency of returning information quickly to producers.

'With this equipment, we feel we can still be in the competitive market of DHI testing and still keep our services local,' she said.

Conley said the key word is 'local.' The goal in all areas of agriculture is to try to help farmers in the area and keep the business and money right where the farmer is located.