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Dairy Farmer Succeeds with Backward Cows
"Backward" bovines have been taking Glenn and Mary Van Handels' dairy herd forward. At auctions, instead of buying a cow that's soon to freshen or is already adding to the bulk tank, the Hortonville dairyman has been purchasing what he calls "backward" cows.
"Generally, in your farm auctions you'll find a cow that is near the end of her lactation or is dry," Glenn explains. "She'll be a cheaper animal because most people want instant milk. If the other cows are going for $800, maybe you can get her for $600."
A "normal" cow, purchased at freshening, has all sorts of stress heaped upon her ¨ being hauled to another farm, calving, and becoming acclimated to new surroundings, Glenn points out. By the time she finally gets settled in, he notes, "It seems like you lose a whole lactation."
In many cases the farmer winds up keeping her a year and devoting a year's worth of feed to her ¨ only to eventually discover that he doesn't want to keep her.
"On the other hand," compares Glenn, "if I keep a cow (such as a "backward" cow) three months and she doesn't cut the mustard ... ," out she goes.
A dairyman who pays a grandiose sum for a cow ¨ say $1,000 or more ¨ is reluctant to ship her if she doesn't pan out. Because he has paid so much for her, maybe he keeps her longer than he should, continuing to throw good money after bad, Glenn reasons. "You're quicker to admit it (a mistake) with a Šbackward' cow," he contends.
Like other motivated dairymen, Glenn and Mary are shooting for a 20,000-pound herd average from their 35 Holsteins, a couple of which are registered.
He feels that goal is not unrealistic, since they're at 18,078 pounds of milk, 705 of fat, 583 pounds of protein and a 3.9 fat test. To put those figures in perspective, one should note that Mary and Glenn have largely been relying on, as Glenn says, "cull cows, backward cows at farm auctions and bred heifers."
To bring those statistics into even sharper focus, it helps to point out that Glenn and Mary milked their first three cows less than four years ago ¨ April of 1983. They vividly recall stirring the milk by hand that first night, simply because there wasn't enough of it to reach the bulk tank's agitator.
Glenn singles out one area which Mary and he greatly improved ¨basic feeding. "I don't think there are that many elite cows out there in the state of Wisconsin," contends Glenn. "You take your average cow and feed her right and she'll produce."
"I guess if I was going to pick out any points whatsoever, you've got to feed them right and balance the ration. We really got on a good program," says Glenn.
"We never hit 100 pounds (of milk a day from a cow) until we balanced the ration like he said we should. We didn't change feeds. Don't get me wrong," Glenn points out.
Story reprinted with permission from Agri-View, P.O. Box 730, Marshfield, Wisc. 54449.

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1987 - Volume #11, Issue #1