Tulare, CAFor nearly three decades Frank Cardoza, with Dairy Works, has been charged with analyzing and improving efficiency on dairy farms. As Dairy Operations Officer for Philp Verwey Farms in Hanford, California, Frank relies on VAS software solutions to provide the information he needs to manage their 9,000-cow operation.
“It started off with DairyComp, then we went to their feed program , and then most recently ParlorWatch,” he says. “And, so in different phases we’ve added more and more products from VAS.”The program has proved helpful for numerous disciplines around the dairy (veterinarian, milking, etc.) to easily input information on each individual cow into a centralized repository of information on the entire dairy that can be accessed by all.DairyCompIn the late 1990s, Verwey Farms began integrating DairyComp 305 herd management software into their operation. DairyComp 305 is the industry’s most comprehensive on-farm dairy management software program. It has the necessary tools for keeping track of all cow information (reproduction, production and health), as well as meet all current and future record-keeping needs.“As the guys are making the load, it tells them to put in alfalfa, tells them how much to put in, and then it goes to the next ingredient, whether that’s corn or whatever”“That changed everything,” he says. “We were able to get more information on both herd health and how consistent we’re doing things on a day-to-day basis. If you’ve got consistency, then you can make decisions on what needs to be done. You know where you’re at. If you don’t have that, it’s pretty tough to fix problems or improve things.“
The program has proved helpful for numerous disciplines around the dairy (veterinarian, milking, etc.) to easily input information on each individual cow into a centralized repository of information on the entire dairy that can be accessed by all.
“Every day, each morning, there’s a printout of what medicine the cows are going to get,” Cardoza continues. “We enroll any new animals that are going to get on the protocol, and the protocols are really nice because they also are highlighted on the display (Pocket CowCard). If she’s going to beef, the withdrawal date will be in red, and it’ll stay in red until she’s clear to go.”
“We also have the repro, so depending on what day, certain animals are getting certain hormone shots, certain animals are up for preg-check, so all that information is input through the scanner and automatically updated into DairyComp, so that makes things efficient. We also have our own in-house hoof trimmer. He has a scanner and he also puts in information—anything that he sees on his part, that’s reported automatically and uploaded into DairyComp.”
Calves are easily enrolled into the system with electronic tags, giving the farm a powerful tool to track the entire life cycle of its herd.
“The baby calves are given the ear tag and they’re also given the EID tag. So that animal is automatically enrolled once she’s scanned, and that is uploaded into DairyComp.”
The software also provides users with regular detailed reports, providing valuable information that can be used to further optimize efficiencies.
“Once a week I have several different reports that are emailed to me of what I want to look at,” says Cardoza. “On there it’s got how the animals are doing in the maternity area, how the repro is going, it’s telling me how many lame animals we’ve got.”
“There’s also one page that has errors. So, for example, somebody doesn’t put in a fresh cow, but she’s in the milk pen. You don’t identify that. I’ll look it up and tell the guys that somehow we missed an animal. We need to look at how we can make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”The Incorporation of FeedWatchFeed is one of a dairy operation’s largest expenses, and dairy producers work to manage their input costs successfully to obtain a higher return on total investment/higher yield per input.
“Your biggest expense is your feed,” says Cardoza. “You want that to be as accurate as possible to what your nutritionist develops. So, whatever you put together, you want to try to do your best to get that to the cows.”
FeedWatch monitors feed use, sales, purchasing, animal intakes and material costs. It also exports files for consultants, generates customizable reports, manages user security levels, monitors chemistry levels and helps with inventory forecasting.
FeedWatch allows Frank Cardoza and the staff of Philip Verwey Farms to deliver customized nutrition programs on a pen-by-pen basis.
“As the guys are making the load, it tells them to put in alfalfa, tells them how much to put in, and then it goes to the next ingredient, whether that’s corn or whatever,” he says. “Each ingredient, it tells them how many pounds to put into the mixture. Then, once it’s loaded, it tells them to go to what pen is designated for that night. Our nutritionists get our DairyComp reports and review them as well just to make sure everyone is getting fed, the deliveries are getting delivered when they should be, and of course the inventories as well.”ParlorWatchParlorWatch monitors and evaluates real-time information that aids in milk production management — pounds of milk per cow by pen for each milking, bulk tank totals and other production information.
“One of the reasons I like it is when you’re starting a new pen, you go into the milk room and press the new pen button,” says Cardoza. “The way I have it set up is I have it in the milk room where the tanks and the temperature charts are. Then, they go in there to start the new pen for ParlorWatch, but meanwhile they’re also looking to make sure no milk went down the drains, the temperature of the milk is where it should be, etc.”
ParlorWatch also provides production managers with the ability to monitor staff performance in the parlor.
“You’ll know exactly how long it’s taking to milk a pen. You know how many cows per hour you should be milking. If it’s going too fast, you’ll need to see why that is, because more than likely you’re not milking out cows like you should. If it’s taking too long, well then you have to look at that because either they’re not doing the right job, or there’s some obstacle there. People always want to do a good job, but sometimes there’s things creating a problem for them. .”
VAS software solutions have helped Philip Verwey Farms gain efficiencies throughout all aspects of their operation, and Cardoza continues to appreciate the benefits that VAS technologies provide.
“We don’t know what we don’t know. You need to know what’s happening on the dairy, whether it’s large or small. It goes back to that feed area too—I don’t care if it’s a big dairy or small dairy; VAS has always found a way to work with people so they can get it done.”