All in a Day’s Work: Life Lessons from Pleasant Valley Farms’ Herdsmen Chris Lourie & Jeff Grennon

All in a Day’s Work: Life Lessons from Pleasant Valley Farms’ Herdsmen Chris Lourie & Jeff Grennon

“I start at 5 a.m.”

“I’m usually here at 5:30.”

Chris Lourie and Jeff Grennon are used to early mornings and the 12 to 14 hour workday. As herdsmen for Pleasant Valley Farms in Richford, Vermont, they’re responsible for the health of the dairy’s 3,000 cows. Forget sit-down lunch breaks. They eat while walking through the barns.

“I average between 11 ½ and 13 miles a day, walking,” Chris says. “And that’s just inside the barn.” He motions to a tracking app on his phone.

“25,000…35,000 steps,” Jeff adds. “I had a Fitbit in my pocket for awhile. Then I lost it. Just as well!” Both men laugh.

Sitting in a break room at the farm—so far north in Vermont you can see the Canadian border on the horizon—the herdsmen pause during their busy Saturday morning for an interview with Phoenix Feeds. Chris, in a ball cap and Carhartt vest, rocks back and forth in a chair. Jeff, in coveralls with his name in cursive on the pocket, drums a tabletop. The pair are fidgety—perhaps guiltily so. They’re not used to being off their feet.

When asked to talk about what they do on a daily basis, they visibly relax. At 54 years old—they’re the same age—both men have had long careers in the dairy industry, respectively. They’re experts in this subject.
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Feed Center: Design for Your Management Style

Feed Center: Design for Your Management Style

Layout and design of your feed center can save you more money, or cost you more money, depending on your operation. There are many different ways to build a feed center that will work for you. You have to decide what type best fits your management style. Maybe a fully automated system is best suited to your management capabilities to allow you to feed with minimal labor. Or, you may want to have a feed center that has little to no mechanization, other than a loader and a mixer. Another way may be to use a combination of the best features of both to maximize your feeding operation’s efficiency. Studies have shown that as tons of feed per labor hour increase, typically the cost per ton to deliver the feed decreases, which means the layout and design is critical to the overall efficiency of your dairy’s feeding operation by having the feedstuffs as close to the loading area as possible. Do your homework on feed center design and layout before you pour concrete and can’t change it. Go visit as many different feed centers as you can, and ask the operator’s thoughts on each type of feed center visited. You can take the best ideas from several and incorporate them into one that best suits your operation. To give you an idea of the possible designs, find generalized layouts for the three types below.

Fully Automated Feeding System
A fully automated feeding system can be very efficient but is likely to have a higher initial investment and may require a skilled, mechanically- minded person to be on staff to repair and maintain the system (Diagram 1). Such a system can substantially reduce labor costs, especially a robotic type system. The robotic systems are set up to deliver smaller loads more frequently throughout the day, which can also help with cow health and feed efficiency.

Minimal Mechanization Feed Center
Feed center systems with minimal mechanization are more buildings and concrete than anything else. The only mechanized parts consist of the loader and mixing and delivery system. This type of system is designed to have fewer moving parts so that breakdowns are less of a concern. When designed properly, these systems can feed a large herd very fast. They can be designed as buildings with commodity bays or as feed bins with drive-under, gravity-flow load-out. A common type of minimal mechanization system consists of mobile type mixers and loaders (Diagram 2).

Combination Feed Center
A combination feed center system is a very common type in any area of the U.S. Such a system may consist of commodity bays for part of the ingredients and bins for other, higher priced, lower inclusion ingredients. It also may have a smaller footprint building with outside pits to receive ingredients. The dump pits may have a live bottom to carry ingredients over the top of the bays and drop into the bays, rather than having ingredients hauled into the building with delivery trucks. Auger delivery is very efficient because ingredient unloading never interferes with making TMR (total mixed ration) loads.

These systems typically have less mechanization, but still may have a considerable amount of technology involved. “Micro machines” are seen in this type of system (Diagram 3), allowing the producer to practice precise feeding on every load if desired, which can be very profitable. Without the micro machine, this feed center is considered a minimal mechanization system.

Remember…
Here are key things to remember when designing your feed center:
• Always keep off-farm traffic separate from on-farm mixing traffic. This is important for multiple reasons, First, ingredient unloading never needs to interfere with making on-farm loads. Second, traffic separation reduces safety issues around the feeding operation. Finally, this practice decreases the likelihood of biosecurity challenges.
• Adequately size the bays for your operation. The best way to calculate the bay size is to take your daily usage of ingredients and decide what inventory you are most comfortable having on hand. Calculate the cubic feet of space you need for that amount and size your bays accordingly. Depending on the spacing of the building, for example, it may be be a 24- foot on-center building. You could have 12-foot-wide bays or 24-foot-wide bays depending on what might be needed.
• Be able to unload various types of delivery trucks so that you can take advantage of opportunity ingredient buys. Certain delivery trucks can have lower freight rates because they can haul more weight. Over a large volume of ingredients, a small per-ton savings can add up to a significant amount on an annual basis.
• Always have one or two “flex bays” designed into your building. You can never have enough storage. There may be opportunities to buy ingredients and to have a need for that extra storage. Flex bays allow you to take advantage of those opportunities.
• Design the facility to be completely under roof and out of the weather. Wind is a major cause of increased shrink.
• If possible, have a platform scale for delivery trucks to weigh in and weigh out. This allows you to precisely track inventory and shrink and not have to rely on invoice weight amount.

Perspectives Summer 2017 Issue Now Available!

Perspectives Summer 2017 Issue Now Available!

We’re proud to announce the release of the Summer 2017 edition of Perspectives Magazine, brought to you by Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition!

This issue, check out our featured farm story on Landview Farm in Eagle Bridge, NY. In addition to great human interest stories, we also have you covered on the technical side of things with tips and best practices. Read the digital edition here or sign up to get future updates delivered straight to your inbox.
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Heat Stress Can Be Taxing

Heat Stress Can Be Taxing

Just like tax season comes around every year, whether we like it or not, it requires preparation and action on our part; heat stress also comes around every year, whether we like it or not—and it too requires preparation and action on our part to help our animals cope with the summer heat. While it may still feel like “heat” is months away, it is not too soon to start preparation. Now is a good time to start testing sprinklers and fans but also giving thought to what else you might consider to help your animals this summer.
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SoyChlor Stops Costly Early-Lactation and Transition Disorders Before They Begin

SoyChlor Stops Costly Early-Lactation and Transition Disorders Before They Begin

You find a cow that calved last night lying down with her head back over her flank. She can’t stand and her ears are cold. She has milk fever! If you treat her before muscle or nerve damage has occurred, an I.V. injection of calcium will get her on her feet in minutes. Unfortunately, she is still in trouble. That bout of severe hypocalcemia sets her up for more problems and makes her more likely to be culled.

But milk fever is just the tip of the iceberg. Sub-clinical hypocalcemia, a calcium deficiency mild enough that cows don’t show any symptoms, is way more prevalent than the clinical form. This is where the big economic drain occurs, with increased incidences of retained placenta, displaced abomasum, ketosis, mastitis, and reduced milk production in early lactation. In many herds, 30–60% of the cows and 25% of the first-calf heifers develop sub-clinical hypocalcemia. At the onset of lactation, large amounts of calcium move from the blood into colostrum and milk. The calcium lost to milk must be replaced from diet calcium or from calcium stored in bones if the cow is to avoid a further decline in blood calcium.

Preventing sub-clinical hypocalcemia will improve the health, productivity, and longevity of cows, as well as improve the economic bottom line of the dairy. And, prevention is possible with SoyChlor®, a palatable chloride supplement for close-up dry dairy cows.
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Help Calves Get Through the Cold Season

Help Calves Get Through the Cold Season

Megan Wildman

Calf and Heiver Specialist at Purnia Animal Nutrition

Latest posts by Megan Wildman (see all)

It’s cold outside, and your calves can feel it. Calves under three weeks of age can begin feeling cold stress much earlier than most people think. Even at ambient temperatures of 60 degrees F and below, cold stress can hinder calf growth and performance. Cold stress can continue to affect calves over three weeks of age as ambient temperatures dip to 40 degrees F and below. Below are some tips to help keep calves growing and thriving until these temperatures begin to heat back up.
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The Benefits of Yeast Culture and Yeast Cell Wall Components in Beef Cattle

The Benefits of Yeast Culture and Yeast Cell Wall Components in Beef Cattle

Yeast culture and yeast cell wall components are effective products that have been fed to cattle for years and have been shown to exhibit a variety of beneficial properties affecting animal performance and health. The different modes of action of these products impact their contributions to health and performance benefits. First, let’s take a look at each individual component and then explore their use in beef cattle production.
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Purina® Ampli-Calf® Program Helps Keep Calves Growing and Supports Health

Purina® Ampli-Calf® Program Helps Keep Calves Growing and Supports Health

At Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition, we are constantly striving to bring you the best in quality, service, and new technology. That’s why when we were looking for a new and improved calf program to offer our customers, we turned to Purina Animal Nutrition and the field trials done with Cricket Jacquier at Laurel Brook Farm, an 1,100-cow farm in Canaan, Connecticut. Here’s how here reaches his goal of raising exceptional cows starting at birth:
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Perspectives Fall 2016 Issue Now Available!

Perspectives Fall 2016 Issue Now Available!

We’re happy to announce the release of the Fall 2016 issue of Perspectives magazine, brought to you by Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition!

This issue is packed with great articles; from in-depth technical pieces to our inspiring feature on Maple Meadow Farm, we continue to bring you the best of dairy farming in the Northeast. Read the digital edition here or sign up to get future updates delivered straight to your inbox.
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The Transition Period

The Transition Period

Philbro Animal Health Corporation
Philbro Animal Health Corporation

Latest posts by Philbro Animal Health Corporation (see all)

The transition period, the weeks leading up to and following calving, are the most stressful in a dairy cow’s life. One of the major determinants of whether a cow transitions successfully is her ability to maintain adequate blood calcium status during this time. It is all too apparent when a cow exhibits clinical hypocalcemia (milk fever) and is actually down. The silent profit drain is the effect on those cows that experience subclinical hypocalcemia with blood calcium levels dropping below the industry-accepted threshold of 8.5 mg/dL. These cows are at higher risk for developing metabolic and infectious disease after calving. Fortunately, the physiology of fresh-cow calcium status is becoming better-understood all the time and it can be effectively managed.

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