This time, the honors go to Selz-Pralle Aftershock 3918, bred and owned by Scott Pralle and his wife, Pam Selz-Pralle, at Selz-Pralle Dairy in Humbird.
The record cow produced 78,170 pounds of milk in 365 days, surpassing the record of 77,480 pounds set last year by Ever-Green-View Gold ET, owned by Ever-Green-View Holsteins of Waldo. In December 2015, the Behnke family of Brooklyn had set the record with Bur-Wall Buckeye Gigi, at 74,650 pounds of milk. Gigi died in a September fire on the Behnke farm.
Selz-Pralle described the cow as a “blue-collar worker,” going about her business of producing milk at a record pace without much fanfare. The cow was kept in a group pen and milked in the farm’s parlor with her 425 herdmates.
The 78,170 pounds of milk means the cow averaged a little more than 214 pounds per day for her entire 365-day lactation.
“She’s just consistently in that 220- to 230-pound-per-day range,” Selz-Pralle said. “She has been doing that since after the first month she calved.”
Selz-Pralle said the cow was actually on a pace to produce 82,000 pounds of milk for the year “until we started messing with her” by taking her out of her pen, washing her and taking photos of her.
“She got mad at us and dropped 25 pounds a day,” she said. “It was kind of a foolish thing for us to do. We should have left her alone to do her thing.”
The cow, known as 3918, was dried off in mid-October while still milking 200 pounds per day. She is bred to Vieuxsaule Wilson-ET and scheduled to have a calf in December.
“She needs to rest that udder and build her body reserves,” Selz-Pralle said of the reason for drying her off when she was still producing that much milk. “She’s a good athlete. High-producing cows have to be well-conditioned and in shape.”
Perhaps the most impressive thing about 3918 is that she is also a high-performing cow when it comes to butterfat and protein, too. She averaged 15 pounds of combined fat and protein over her lactation, peaking at 19.6 pounds in July, when she was giving 228 pounds of milk with a 5.3 percent butterfat and 3.3 percent protein test over a seven-day average.
“That’s what we think is really great about her — she produced a lot of modern milk, solids instead of water,” Selz-Pralle said. “She’s built with dairy strength and a capacity to live. She’s a good-sized cow with plenty of capacity. That’s what you want in this environment.”
Selz-Pralle said 3918 was given “no fancy frills” during her record-breaking lactation, just following other cows into the milking parlor when it was their turn.
“She doesn’t like to be by herself,” she said. “She likes to be in a group. We decided to leave her alone and let her do her job.
“She’s the perfect cow. She eats, she doesn’t get sick, she handles Wisconsin weather very well. She has a strong front end, and she was well-conditioned and happy.”
Selz-Pralle said she hopes to spread the word about 3918 to consumers who have questions about how dairy farmers treat their animals.
“The exciting part about the national record is it brings attention to the fact that dairy producers have really good genetics and we work hard,” she said. “If cows weren’t taken care of with excellent animal care, they wouldn’t produce like that.
“Cows like things to be consistent. She had a consistent diet, consistently good bedding and a consistently clean environment in which she was not exposed to viruses. If you do all the right things then the genetics take over. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tie-stall barn, free-stall barn or pasture. Cows just want to work in a low-stress environment.”
The past year wasn’t the first time 3918 had a good production record. She produced more than 44,000 pounds of milk as a 3-year-old and almost 58,800 pounds of milk as a 4-year-old. She started the record-breaking lactation at 5 years and 11 months.
3918 is a Very Good-88 daughter of MS Atlees Sht Aftershock-ET. She has two daughters in the milking herd: 3-year-old Selz-Pralle Topside 4550 VG-87, and 2-year-old MS Joliam G W Atwood 4836 VG-83.
The cow was milked three times a day.
Selz-Pralle Dairy has been in the Selz family for more than 100 years. Pam and Scott took over the operation from Pam’s father in 1990.
The farm has a rolling herd average of 30,917 pounds of milk, 1,219 pounds of butterfat and 969 pounds of protein.
The average production for all U.S. Holstein herds enrolled in production-testing programs in 2016 was 25,558 pounds of milk, 946 pounds of butterfat and 790 pounds of protein.