Dairy Farming

For the dairy folks and/or beef folks with questions about udders, milk and mastitis.
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born2run
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Postby born2run » Sat Apr 08, 2006 8:40 am

Jerry...

What happened is that they started simply not paying me for time I was working. When confronted I got back 8 hours, not the full 12 plus that I was shorted. I try to be content and think hey, I got back at least those...but it's tough. They told me that I'm getting paid up to 50 hours/week, 100/pay period due to the falling milk prices. I'm fine with this, but I'll have to do some rearranging of my time. I don't know what to do about those shifts like last night where a couple little things go wrong and run me up to 8 1/2. They make no exception for this, so after 3 AM I work for free.
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Postby J and L » Sat Apr 08, 2006 9:37 am

Born2run, I do understand the softer milk price, however that is not nessesarily your problem. It is not right for them to just declare wage/hour consessions. There are probably better ways to handle this. Seems like employee/employer discusions could result in a solution to short term cash flow issues in such a manner that lets both parties would own the solution.

So, it sounds like you are salaried at this point and experiencing one of the problems that I mentioned. Hours don`t match the workload. As you say,tough for someone who cares.
Jerry
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Postby born2run » Sat Apr 08, 2006 3:18 pm

Jerry...
Thanks for "listening". Yes, they've essentially salaried me, which is why I asked the initial question to begin with. What I would've appreciated was a bit more honesty. I had wondered since last month if they were shorting me, but I wasn't going to whine about 4 hours. It wasn't until yesterday that it came to a head and had to be confronted.

I had a pretty lengthy text message conversation with the herd manager this morning. He at first told me to go tell them I wanted $400/month more, salary. When asked if they'd pay me, he said probably not, but you work hard enough for it. If anything can dull my irritation, it was that last part. He notices what I do, even if they don't. I'm not about to walk away from my job when it isn't done. I won't leave cows without feed, or not treat because of them shorting me. On the other hand I very well may stop spending time pressure washing. That isn't essential to the herd's health.

Herd manager told me to stick it out until 07 and the expansion. Hopefully it'll improve then.
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Postby J and L » Sat Apr 08, 2006 7:26 pm

Born2run, How will the expansion change the employment philosophy of the owners of the dairy?
Jerry
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Postby milkmaid » Sat Apr 08, 2006 7:48 pm

Hi Jerry/Linda...Sorry I wasn't around this past week. I would have liked to have been able to meet and talk with you in person. Perhaps some other time. I was out of town again - I believe that was the third time within the past month. :roll: Just got back today; thankfully this should be the last time I'm gone for any significant amount of time until August.

It is pretty out here, isn't it? Of course it's all a little brown now, as the snow is melting, but given another month everything will green up as summer arrives. :) What farm were you at?

More later...
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Postby born2run » Sat Apr 08, 2006 8:38 pm

I think the general idea is that with more cows it'll mean more cash flow and a more generous boss. He's told the herd manager we all deserve a raise, which should be coming when the bottling plant goes up. They haven't always behaved like this, which leads me to believe that they are just experiencing tough times and reacting to it.
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Postby J and L » Sat Apr 08, 2006 8:55 pm

Milkmaid, It seemed nice out there. We flew into Salt Lake and drove toTwin Falls. The farm was about 3 mi north of there. The owner of the farm was Mike Vestra, about 1000 cows. I was amazed at how little housing that the cows had. It must not get very cold and nasty there. The most interesting thing we saw was the Snake River Canyon. We were probably well south of were you are. I didn`t buy the used parlor but the trip was worth it just to rule it out.
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Postby born2run » Sat Apr 08, 2006 9:00 pm

Funny thing is that Idaho's weather seems to mimic ours, Jerry. Milkmaid and I have been conversing since November, and I kid you not, their weather is darn close to ours, sometimes colder. I can't see how they get by with housing all those cows outside.
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Postby milkmaid » Sat Apr 08, 2006 9:06 pm

About 3 hours south of me. I made that trip from Twin Falls to home just this afternoon. Think it came out to 3 hours and 15 minutes.

Cows out here aren't housed in freestall barns...most of the time it's an empty lot with a shed on one side or an open-sided shelter with a roof in the middle of the lot. I wouldn't say the weather is that friendly either. Boss's cows have nice stalls in sheds near the feeders and one barn with 40 stalls on each side...looks a bit like born2run's pics of the freestall barns, but boss's cows aren't enclosed in a barn - they're free to come and go.

My vet was telling me a few months ago that we weren't the only ones dealing with lots of new mastitis cases and high SCCs. A lot of the other dairies around us were having trouble too - the cows (esp fresh heifers) were getting frostbitten teats due to the -20F weather. Obviously it caused damage to the teat ends and almost all of those cows showed up afterwards with severe mastitis. We did quite a bit of culling and drying off after that cold spell to get the SCC down to a normal level.

What are milk prices like on your side of the country? I picked up some calves from a dairy in Wyoming last week, and they told me they were getting 9.60/cwt minus .90/cwt for shipping it (local creamery closed; they were sending it 2 1/2 hours away to another creamery in Idaho). Boss said something about 10.32/cwt recently as base price, and I heard another local dairy farmer (with a 4.1 fat content) say something about 12/cwt for his milk. How's that compare to prices out there?
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Postby J and L » Sat Apr 08, 2006 9:39 pm

Milk price for the spring looks like 10.90-11.25 plus 1.00 componant,quality, and volume premiums. I am not surprised to hear that winter weather causes problems from time to time. What would typical production be out of a dairy out there? Our cows go down in milk when it rains and they are inside!
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Postby milkmaid » Sat Apr 08, 2006 9:47 pm

J and L wrote:Milk price for the spring looks like 10.90-11.25 plus 1.00 componant,quality, and volume premiums. I am not surprised to hear that winter weather causes problems from time to time. What would typical production be out of a dairy out there? Our cows go down in milk when it rains and they are inside!


There's a 3000 cow dairy about 1 1/2 hours from me (south), and what I heard from the fellow that trims hooves for them is that they're getting 87lbs RHA. 20% of the herd on BST. (They are running a second herd with the lower cows and ones with leg/hoof/udder/mastitis/etc problems.)

Fellow not far from me running 51 is getting a 66lb RHA with cows on pasture with no shelter all winter. 80,000 SCC week before last when I talked to him. No BST. TMR ration.

Fellow I got the calves from appeared to be running the herd on pasture, had a 300,000 SCC and 44lb herd average. No BST. No DHI records. No TMR.

My boss's cows drop on production a little bit in really nasty weather, but not too much. I think they get used to the weather, -and- a lot of the feeders are right in front of the stalls and the cows have a roof overhead.

How's all that compare to dairies out your way?
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Basics needed to answer questions: age, weight, breed, sex. # affected vs # in group, feed type/amount, prior vaccinations, deworming, antibiotics, any recent changes....

More info = better answers.

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Postby J and L » Sun Apr 09, 2006 6:52 pm

Milkmaid, I can`t speak for others but our production runs 83-89#/cow milked in the tank /day. We like to think that 90-95 is within reach once settled into the new barns. scc is between 125 and 225. We have about 25% of 375 cows on BST. This is used mostly as a tool to make up for poor repro.

We have a wide range of managment styles on daries here, small, large, stall barn, grazed, parlor/freestall, regestered, grade, holstien, and colored.
Jerry
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Postby J and L » Sun Apr 09, 2006 8:27 pm

Hi Linda here--a suggestion about the wage issue.
You have the right idea about trade offs needing to be made but it is the owner or herdsman who should be the ones to make the tough choices that balance time and work that could be done. For example, perhaps the cleaning should be cut-- but that shouldn't be your call because otherwise you might hear about it when the parlor is dirty.

It is EXTREMELY important for you to discuss this with the herdsman and/or owner. Both they and you must make informed, conscious decisions otherwise you could end up feeling used and abused when "things" happen and you must work for free, and they might feel that you are just doing a poor job when things change. Please note that I am not saying there is a clear cut answer here. With any choice there are gains and losses-- and you must do what you can live with long term.

Among the possibilities I see:
1) You could keep doing what you are now and occasionally putting in hours for "free." You cannot assume that there will be a bonus or extra pay, etc. There is no promise here only the herdsman's encouragement to "hope" things will get better ---and that is inviting trouble. So if 2007 rolls around and you have put in 100 extra hours without pay-- the milk plant is slow getting running and the $ aren't there for a raise-- How will you feel? Is the pride of a job well done worth giving away a few hours? Sometimes the answer to this is a resounding "YES!"-- and sometimes a blatent "no." You must decide.

2) You can choose to only work the number of hours you are paid for. Perhaps this will mean coming in 30 minutes before milking and doing only the cleaning your remaining time allows. If you have a fresh or sick cow the cleaning gets cut. Again, the boss needs to be in on this one because they need to know that they will get what they pay for--- and somethimes there will be things not done to today's level.

3) You can ask the herdsman to talk to the boss. From what you have said, the herdsman is the one who knows the quality of your work and whether you are making wise use of time. While this next statement sounds blunt, I don't know how else to put it-- having the herdsman give you a pat on the back and say "good girl" will not balance feeling cheated on a paycheck for the long term. If the herdsman really sees a value in what you do beyond what others do, he should be willing to push your case. Someone needs to have the flexibility in their schedule for contingencies....how does he believe this should be covered? Should it be you?

3) Perhaps all should be charged with finding ways to work more efficiently. Do you have ideas you can bring to the table? Perhaps some things could be done more efficiently during the day or by another person leaving you time for contingencies?
Periodically all businesses need to look at what they can stop doing-- for example, perhaps a spotless parlor must take back seat to watching for heats, etc when $$ are short.

No matter what the outcome, I cannot put enough emphasis on the need for conscious, informed choices. These will ensure that both your reputation as a good employee and their reputation as fair employers are protected. As a side note-- are all milkers getting the same treatment?

As for the milk price here, I have already told the herdsman about the price drop and what that will do for the bottom line. He has talked to the other employees about it--I know this because one of them approached me for more information. We too will go to defining essential tasks and asking the employees to help find ways to be more efficient. We have alot of faith in the integrety of our crew-- I'll let you know what comes out of this weeks meeting.

Linda
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Postby born2run » Mon Apr 10, 2006 12:43 pm

Thanks Linda...you've given me a lot to think about. I've thought about asking the herd manager to talk to the boss, but I very well may go directly to the boss myself. The herd manager wants a healthy herd, and a clean parlor is on the bottom of his list, even though he has told me he appreciates it. They're trying to get a "cheaper" employee to the pressure washing, which is fine with me. Let me be clear. I do not WANT over 50 hours a week. I was simply doing this because no one else was. I'm not exactly shedding tears about not being able to clean. What I need to discuss with the boss is this...1. There are shifts that a lot of little things result in us shutting off the pump 15 min. later than normal. What do I do about those nights? 2. I work 13 days, which runs me up to 104 hours on a good pay period. Do you want to find someone to come in and replace me for those 4 hours or will I be paid?

Is everyone being treated this way? The answer is a resounding "no." I am the highest paid there right under the herd manager, so I'm getting the brunt of this. I've asked other people working there, and so far everyone is getting paid for all their work.

A normal shift will only take 8 hours, and from this standpoint I don't care if that's all I'm paid for. On a shift like the last one, I was able to treat two new cows, and retreat another one all within the required time frame, simply because I brought the Banamine up with me before the start of the shift. I try to know the herd's records so I don't have to be making needless trips to the computer. This helps in fast decision making as weather to treat or not.

I don't mind volunteering time when it comes to herd health. I feel good about what I'm doing, and in the long run could overlook not getting paid. I cannot overlook lack of compensation when I pressure wash walls for 1 1/2 hours after the shift ends.

A normal night...I go in at 7 PM and clean waterers for 45 min. I like this for more one than one reason. It gives me an opportunity to walk the pens and see bleedoffs, heats, or health problems.

Done with that, I clean the kitchen and living area, which no one else would do if I didn't. ;-) Then I'll focus on the front tile of the parlor and the milkhouse floor, all of which get filthy in a quick hurry. After I clean waterers I really can't start on a wall and than expect to be done in time for milking. This is the schedule I've established for myself, and it works well for the time frame I'm allotted.

Edited to add that I've did a lot of thinking, and simply decided to cut the hours on my own. If they confront me then I'll tell them why I'm doing what I am, but knowing them very well I doubt they'll say anything. It's summer so going to work later isn't exactly going to torture me. :)
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Postby milkmaid » Fri Apr 14, 2006 2:12 pm

Jerry/Linda/K-Shires....quick question for ya'll. I've got two 8 month old heifers that are running around 500lbs or so. Both of them have one extra teat. Both of them are destined for the dairy sale in Jerome as springers...hopefully early next year. Everything I've ever heard says to cut that "extra" off - esp if they're going through the sale and they're not ones I'll be keeping - but I was just wondering if there were any "cons" to cutting extras off. Infection? and what's the chance of that? How about how long you can wait before doing it? I'd prolly have it done in about 2 weeks; I need to make a vet appointment for one of my older heifers for an ultrasound and I could take these two calves in at the same time. Any opinions on removing the extras?
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Basics needed to answer questions: age, weight, breed, sex. # affected vs # in group, feed type/amount, prior vaccinations, deworming, antibiotics, any recent changes....

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