‘We love genetics, but the bigger part of production is the environment,’ states Pam Selz-Pralle. ‘A stress free environment, and stress free rumen, is key to getting return on genetic investment.’ Aftershock 3918 runs in a herd of 450 cows, a herd that consistently averages over 100lb (45kg) per day: Top level production is the norm in this barn. ‘Our approach is 450 cows, one cow at a time,’ adds Pam’s husband Scott Pralle. ‘Learn to listen to cows, watch cows, and hear what they are saying. It’s rather like being a cow whisperer.’ And at Selz-Pralle Dairy they have invested in technology to help listen to their cows. They use the SCR rumination and activity sensors to monitor the health of the cows and for heat detection. A significant drop in the rumination time of a cow is an indication of impending sickness and triggers a warning. ‘Each morning we will have 4-5 cows on the “naughty list”, cows that I then go and check to see if they need treatment,’ explains Scott. ‘We’ve been impressed with how accurate the rumination times are at picking up cows before they even know they are sick, and of course early treatment makes a big difference in getting a successful outcome.’ Pam goes on to explain that in addition to listening to the cows, achieving high-level production involves a commitment to all the little details such as pushing the feed up regularly, fly control, and even ensuring that the staff don’t rush the cows when moving them.
It was in fact the rumination rate that first alerted Scott to the fact that they had a big-time producer on their hands. ‘The cows average around 570 minutes per day chewing their cud and I happened to notice that there was one cow that was consistently up over 600 minutes per day. When I checked her milk production I discovered she was giving 90lb (40kg) per milking 3x/day,’ explains Scott. As it turns out, Aftershock 3918 likes being one of the girls and doesn’t much care for special treatment or extra attention. ‘She has a mind of her own,’ explains Pam. ‘She is always first up at the milking parlor but waits for the first run to go through and then manoeuvres herself into the third place in the row, always on the same side and always in the second row to go through.’ She is now on her fifth lactation and has lifetime production of 287,000lb (130,000kg), that’s 1,862 days in production averaging 154lb (70kg) per day of productive life. She went through her first four lactations without ever having any health treatments (other than vaccinations) and it was not till day 1,680 during her fifth lactation that she had an incidence of mastitis. She is now over 300 days into her current lactation and will be over 70,000lb (31,750kg) again this time! She has never had lameness or foot problems, and has always bred back on first or second service. Early on this current lactation Scott gave her some individual care but discovered she performed better when she’s back with her group. ‘When visitors come she likes to be at the back of the pen so during Expo we kept her in a smaller group so that people could actually see her,’ adds Pam.
This is Pam’s home farm where she grew up, and cows were registered under the Joliam prefix: Her father John and his brother William joined their names together to create the prefix. Later when Scott and Pam were expanding the operation they purchased a herd from Canada and one from the US, and these new bloodlines were registered with the Selz-Pralle prefix. Now after 20 years they are all registered with Joliam again for the sake of simplicity. The key cow family of the herd has been developed around Joliam Dundee 3035 EX-92, known as “Phoenix”, whose pedigree traces back to the well-known show star El-Dor Saber Pansy EX-95. Two 94-point daughters of Phoenix are currently in the herd: Joliam Shot Pepper is a Shottle that has been designated as a National Elite Performer and is currently being flushed, while the other at 94 is Joliam Atwood Frisco. Also being flushed at present is another Phoenix daughter, Joliam Penny EX-90, a Reginald who placed 4th Senior 3 in the Junior Show at the recent World Dairy Expo for Scott and Pam’s daughter, Nicole. Phoenix has 9 more daughters scored EX including a Shottle at 93, Lauthority’s at 92 and 90, and other EX daughters by Goldwyn, Bookman, Fever, Stormatic, Goldsun, and Supersonic. The herd includes 25 cows that have produced more than 200,000lb milk, while 25% of all cows have over 100,000lb to their credit. There are three 94-point cows and another three at EX-93.
Well grown heifers for herd replacements are a prerequisite for high-level production, and with that in mind the latest barn project at Selz-Pralle Dairy is a calf barn for group housing calves. The barn measures 45 by 152 feet (14/46meter) with 20 pens and has a concrete alley-way but with a gravel base for the bedding pack. Calves are started for the first 12-14 days in individual pens during which time they receive frozen colostrum cubes in addition to 3 feeds/day. From there they move into the group pens with 5/group. Why the choice of group housing? ‘For a start the lower price tag, but also for the competition,’ explains Pam. ‘The calves follow each other so when they are eating starter ration they are all eating, and when they lie down they are all lying together at the back of the pen. We found that we doubled the starter-ration intake. We also like to get them eating hay early and we find we have fewer cases of scours than when we were relying primarily on heavy milk feeding.’ Daily growth rates of 2.4-2.5lb (1.08-1.13kg) are now being achieved. The barn uses pressure ventilation with the fans blowing down into the pens. ‘The most important area is the first 18 inches (50cm) above the bedding pack where constant air flow will help keep the bedding pack dry: It’s all about the air,’ explains Pam. ‘As with all changes there was some fine-tuning involved. We discovered it was important to flush the nipples after feeding because that’s where the greatest build-up of bacteria occurs.’ The herd cull rate of 18% means that there is a surplus of replacement heifers so most years between 80-100 cows are sold for dairy purposes. A well-managed operation with plenty of attention to detail awaits you when you visit Selz-Pralle Dairy. l
Selz-Pralle Dairy in the US
Located at Humbird, Wisconsin, 2½ hours north-west of Madison Owned by Scott Pralle & Pam Selz-Pralle 450 cows, 900 head Production: 30,433lb (13,804kg) 3.9% 3.2% Classification: 45 EX, herd average score: 85.8 800 acres (324ha): 400 corn for silage, 400 alfalfa Ration: 65% forage of corn silage and haylage, plus corn, protein mix, canola & palm fat Current sires: 60% proven/40% young sires. Doorman, Kingboy, Ferdinand, Delta, Pety, Defiant, Silver, Monterey/Dark Horse, Delta Lambda, Doc & House