Maximizing Production in Tough Times
May 2009

Dennis Neumann started dairying on his own in 1978, with 28 cows and 40 acres. He started four miles from the dairy farm where he grew up. Soon, he sold that farm and rented another. “Forty cows grew into 70 and I bought this farm,” he says of his current location near East Farmington, WI. At the same time, he milked cows on a Somerset, WI farm he had purchased. Dennis credits his wife, Dawn, and his daughters, Danette, Amy, and Becky, for helping through those early years. “I would not recommend anyone spread himself over two farms,” says the dairyman. “You can’t be in two places at once.”

Getting all his cattle onto one farm was important. In 2007, Dennis consolidated his dairy operation at the East Farmington site. Today, he milks 439 cows (with 41 dry cows) and raises all his heifers and steers. He also farms 2,200 acres of corn, beans and alfalfa, all with the help of 15 employees. He survived the 1980s Farm Crisis when interest rose to 18 percent, so he’s convinced he’ll survive the current milk market with good nutrition.

Dennis relies on Munson Lakes Nutrition’s Mike Foust for feeding advice. He speaks appreciatively of what Mike did for his dry cow program. “I gave him the (dry cow) facility and he gave us the ration,” says the dairyman, adding, “The dry cows look nice, bulked up like they should be.” Mike agrees, “If you meet the requirements of the dry cow, most other problems will disappear.”

In December, Dennis added Land O’Lakes PROPEL energy pellet to his protein mix. At the same time, he changed the way in which he dropped the feed for his milking cows. The combination boosted production by 10 lbs to 83.5 lbs per cow. “I don’t know how dairymen who are not optimizing their milk production at this time are going to weather these milk prices,” he states.

People most important
There are only a few management principles Dennis considers critical to operating a successful dairy. The first is Standard Operating Procedure (S.O.P.). “Everyone has to be doing the same thing,” he states. “Cows are boring. They like repetition, and because of that you have to have people who can be repetitious in their routines.” The next is assembling a team of people who will work together to implement the S.O.P.s. Another important management principle is to pay attention to forage harvesting and storage. Selling his Somerset farm and concentrating on one location has allowed Dennis to concentrate on getting forage out of the field when it’s ready and packing it right. “My feeder, Dan Harvey, does an excellent job of bunker management,” he adds.

The bottom line, says Dennis, is that it takes a team of good people to make a successful dairy. He credits his herd manager Desi Anderson as well as outside resource people like Mike for his success. “It’s about the Mikes, the vets, the hoof trimmer, the agronomist, and all the others who come to my dairy on a daily or weekly basis—it’s about all of them,” declares the East Farmington dairyman.

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