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Making Management Changes For Better Results
The team from Sauk Country Dairy producers

Partnerships are created for a lot of reasons. Regardless of why, knowing who to partner with can be a more difficult decision. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case for Sauk county dairy producers, Tim and Lisa Evert, and Rick and Ronda Lehman. “Our parents were good family friends and Rick and I were the only ones in each family interested in dairying,” reflected Tim. “We both knew our small tie-stall herds were not a sustainable model for us, so in 1997 we decided to unite and created United Dreams Dairy, LLC.”  

Making partnerships work can be tricky, and while Tim says theirs isn’t perfect, there are a couple elements that contribute to making it work. “One thing we do that helps our partnership be successful is a monthly meeting with our business consultant where we discuss options before decisions are made,” said Tim. “Something else is while we manage the dairy together, we have our own family corporations allowing us some independence, though I admit we run things pretty similar.”

Bringing both herds together initially required Tim and Rick to build a parlor and a 360-cow freestall barn. Then, in 2018 a 400-cow cross-ventilation barn was erected, and the herd doubled in size. That same year Michael Niemann, Rick and Ronda’s nephew, and Jeff Evert, Tim and Lisa’s son joined the dairy as owners. In addition to the dairy, Rick and Tim each maintain a family corporation, LD&R and Evert Farms Inc., that raise young stock and crops which are sold back to the 825-cow dairy.

This partnership of two unrelated dairies was a unique approach in 1997, however it represents the mindset the Lehman and Evert families have for positioning for the future. “This team is very forward thinking. They aren’t afraid to implement a practice, make a management change or try something new if it can provide better results,” shared CentralStar Team Leader, Jim Galstad.

With that way of thinking, earlier this year the United Dreams Dairy team decided to upgrade their electronic activity monitoring system for one that provided rumination insights. “Having rumination information available is a great way to monitor cow health,” shared Tim. “Finding cows on the front-end of a health challenge is critical to getting them back to ruminating quickly, keeping them healthy and profitable members of the dairy. We have a lot of confidence in Chris (Meyer, CentralStar A.I. Specialist) and wanted to stay aligned with Select Sires so we chose CowManager® for our new system.”

Responsible for managing the cow herd, Tim and Michael shared, “By using the alerts, we don’t have to be in the parlor at a specific time to see the cows, which means we can manage our time based on demands. CowManager does a great job identifying cows that aren’t feeling well, which we see through a decrease in rumination, allowing us to treat them sooner. It’s also very effective at identifying cows with mastitis before they really get sick.”

The reproduction plan at the dairy begins with a Double Ovsynch program. Once cows are enrolled and meet the 70-day voluntary waiting period, they are eligible to be bred based on CowManager insights. Those not bred based on activity continue through the synchronization protocol. Since installing CowManager, the herd’s heat detection and pregnancy rates have consistently improved, at an average of 4 percent each. Today the dairy has a 67 percent heat detection rate and a 31 percent pregnancy rate.

“Identifying cows to breed through CowManager means cows spend less time in the lockups, reducing stress and time away from feed and water. At the same time, it’s more efficient to find, sort and breed cows,” shared Chris. Tim adds, “Not having to work and breed cows has removed a huge labor burden for our dairy.”

“I’m excited to see the good repro results on cows that have had health events,” shared Chris. “When we intervene early, we are able to keep cows on track and get them bred on time.”

“We trust Chris, it’s his repro program,” shared Tim and Rick. “Between him and the way CowManager works it saves our dairy from having to hire a full-time employee. CowManager has been a great investment!”

That trust and value of collaboration extends beyond the reproduction program. Working with CentralStar Genetic Consultant, Dave Sarbacker, the dairy has implemented a breeding program that creates future herd replacements from the best genetics, while using beef genetics on lower genetic merit animals, which helps manage heifer inventories. Animals are ranked by relative value, and the top 20 percent are bred using elite sires from the NxGEN® program. Beef genetics are mated to the lowest genetic ranking animals, while conventional dairy semen is used on the balance of the herd. “We have a lot of confidence in our CentralStar team to keep our genetics moving forward and help benchmark our herd,” shared Tim.

Using the best genetics is the start of the equation to building a profitable future herd, however ensuring elite calves make it to the milk herd is equally as important, but certainly not a problem for the dairy which has only a 3 percent calf death loss. “Good calf health starts with attention to details,” shared Rick. “It’s all family members that care for the calves and because we are so hands-on, we catch and treat problems early.”

Many other factors, including putting up quality feed, also play an important role in having a healthy, productive herd. “Jeff does a great job with bunker management,” noted Chris. “We aren’t afraid to spend money on plastic,” said Jeff. “We line the walls and everything in the bunker with plastic and pay close attention to packing. All of this helps us make the best feed possible for the cows to perform on.”

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success,” said Henry Ford. The partnership to create United Dreams Dairy is no exception to this. The foresight Tim and Rick had to partner and create United Dreams Dairy has resulted in a successful and sustainable business.

By CentralStar Select Sires