Our Cows and Their Comfort Are Our Priority 24/7
From the Farmer's Tractor
February 26, 2015
Guest column by Karen Bohnert
Bohnert Jerseys is owned and operated by my husband, Scott, his brother, Brian, and their parents, Jim and Wanda. Even though our dairy herd is well known among fellow dairy farmers today, Bohnert Jerseys began small and simple in 1984, with a couple of Jersey cows serving as the kids' 4-H project.
The dairy quickly grew from a hobby to a business thanks to our family's willingness to incorporate efficient, progressive tools into our dairy and its management.
Through the decades of expansions and evolution of our family dairy business, we have never wavered from our commitment for excellence in terms of milk quality, cow care and caring for our land.
Bohnert Jerseys’ sharp focus on detail and superb cow care have positioned our dairy for success. Our Jersey cows produce 21,500 pounds of milk per cow per year (that's equivalent to 2,500 gallons of milk produced by one of our Jersey cows every year). This puts us in the top tier in the nation for milk production among our Jersey breed.
But our 24/7 commitment of taking great care of our cows isn't driven by high milk records; we strive to give the best care to our cows, day-in and day-out, because we simply believe it is the right thing to do. “Our cows are our livelihood,” says my husband, Scott. “We put their needs ahead of ours.”
We begin our day way before dawn and finish much after the sun sets, focusing on cow comfort at all times. Caring for our cows has allowed our cows to respond with tremendous production and improved performance status. Our family believes that comfortable cows are more productive, and we continually strive to make improvements to increase cow comfort any time we can.
Cow care isn’t a chore that you can check off; it’s a constant process 24 hours a day and 365 days a year to make sure our cows are clean, healthy and comfortable. Ensuring cow comfort begins by making sure where they live is clean and comfortable. We walk through our free-stall barn periodically and clean stalls twice a day, everyday, to make sure they are clean and comfortable. In addition, every day we add fresh, chopped straw to our stalls. This not only benefits each cow by keeping her clean and helping her stay healthy; it benefits us by helping that cow reach her full potential – both in health and production.
We also feed our cattle a free-choice feed throughout the day, which is a mixture of corn silage, alfalfa, corn, cottonseed, wet corn gluten, soymeal and a vitamin-mineral mixture. Free-choice feed allows the cows to eat whenever they want 24/7! The diets are balanced with the help of our herd’s nutritionist to make sure the cows are getting the best nutrition possible. We also have biweekly herd visits from our veterinarian. The vet routinely checks to confirm pregnant cows, visits cows that haven’t been feeling well and helps us keep updated on our entire herd’s vaccination program.
We also aim to keep cows comfortable and calm all the time in the barns. The cows at Bohnert Farm are milked twice daily in a parlor that can milk 24 cows at one time and housed in free-stall barn that is equipped with large fans that turn on to keep cows comfortable when it is approximately 70 degrees or warmer. In addition, the barns are equipped with side curtains that are raised in the warmer weather and lowered when the weather gets cooler so that the cows enjoy a comfortable temperature at all times. All cows are able to move around, eat and drink whenever they like.
These routines are a part of our 24/7 cow care and help our cows to not only be healthy and happy but productive. The long hours that my husband, his brother, father, and our nine employees put in day-in and day-out, helps our dairy farm succeed and our Jersey cows definitely show their appreciation.
Karen Bohnert, along with her husband Scott and his parents and brother, owns and operates a 500-cow registered Jersey dairy farm and farms 1,300 acres in East Moline, Illinois. Karen was born and raised on her own family’s 100-cow dairy farm in central Oregon.
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