Using Tech to Boost Milk and Educate
Co-Jo Dairy, located north and west of Grove City, MN, started with two cows and today milks 540 on the way to 900. “As the world’s population grows, we have to feed them,” states Greg Jans, co-owner of the dairy. “If we don’t increase technology and produce as much as we can, we’re not going to feed the world—and we’re so close to not keeping up now. Demand will only increase.”
Left to right, Greg Jans, Joe Jans, and assistant herd manager Jenessa Thompson in the new barn at Co-Jo Dairy.
Giant fans mounted on the north side of the Jans’ new barn sends sprinkler-cooled air across the cows.
Pumps in the foreground draw liquid from the barn to a lane where sand bedding is separated from manure and dried on the distant beach.
Greg’s dad, Alvin, started the dairy with two cows back in 1952. He moved to the current site of Co-Jo Dairy in 1959 and formed a partnership with Greg in 1976. At that time, they milked 40 cows. By the time Alvin retired in 1992, they were milking 80 cows in a tie stall barn.
Growing the dairy
In 1995, Greg built a 200 free-stall barn and parlor. He added 240 stalls in 2000 and expanded the milking parlor from a double 6 to a double 12.
In 2002, Greg formed a partnership with his son, Joe. Father and son place great value on the use of emerging technology, both to grow their milk production and to educate the non-ag world about the dairy industry. Just this year, they began construction on a new cross-ventilated barn with 486 free stalls and sand bedding. They are in the process of finishing and filling that barn.
Greg explains the new technology built into the new barn. “In the past, whenever we expanded, we basically did what we thought was best for the cows,” he states. “The barn we are building now is designed to be the most optimal cow comfort building there is today.”
“I’m excited about the sand lanes and cross ventilation,” says Jeff Thorpe, dairy nutrition consultant with Munson Lakes Nutrition. “Their herd health is going to be dramatically improved, and it should increase production.”
“Joe and Greg are forward-thinking producers that plan for the future,” Jeff adds. “Part of their strategy was to wait until milk prices dove before going into this construction project, and be ready for the next wave with more cows that will generate additional cash flow.”
The barn also features a state-of-the-art manure removal system, which separates the manure from the sand in a “sand lane” and provides a “beach” to dry the clean sand before it is brought back into the barn. “They’ll recover and reuse 98%-99% of the sand,” says Jeff.
“Another thing the Jans do well is bunker management,” continues Jeff. “They cover each bunker less than 12 hours after they complete the pile with a double layer of plastic—an oxygen barrier and a regular plastic on top of that. This keeps spoilage down, reducing shrink and giving them top-quality feed.” It’s high-quality feed and the attention paid to cow comfort that allows Co-Jo Dairy to coax maximum milk production from their herd, according to Thorpe.
The dairy began with Munson Feed Company in the early 1970s and for most of the years since then has relied on Munson for nutrition advice and high-quality dairy feeds. “Jeff Thorpe works the rations for us and Munson delivers all of the protein mineral mixes for our cows,” says Greg. He also appreciates the specialists Jeff has brought to Co-Jo Dairy to assist in the move to the new barn. “Steve Wilke,
Land O’Lakes® large herd specialist, has given us advice on building design and on how to handle the cows as we move them in,” says Greg. “Curtis Harms of Diamond V has helped us manage our milk quality as we increase our herd size.”
Educating the world
With around 10 full-time employees responsible for daily milking and managing the cow herd and crop production, Greg and Joe have taken a leadership role in the community and in the dairy industry.
Joe serves on the local American Dairy Association board, as well as the Grove City volunteer fire department. Greg is vice-chairman of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, with the dual goals of educating producers and lawmakers. He is also a director with United Farm Credit based at Willmar.
Recently, Greg and other agriculture leaders from across the United States met in St. Louis to form an organization called AFACT—American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology (http://itisafact.org). AFACT uses the Internet and social media to educate consumers about modern agriculture.
“We try to watch for misleading information in the media and counter that information on Facebook and Twitter, where more and more people are getting their facts. “We just started doing this six months ago,” says Greg. At last count, we were talking to about 460 people on AFACT’s Facebook site and about 900 on Twitter.”