“Our milk quality has been excellent since we bought this barn and I strongly credit DeLaval with that. This system allows us to grow our production for maximum return.”
"We are very confident that we can quickly gain a return on our investment with this system because it’s totally dependable and we can use it efficiently 24 hours day seven days a week.”
“This dairy has been at this location and in my wife’s family since 1938. When we took over we started expanding. This dairy started with 100 acres. In the 1960’s and 1970’s we bought the land for the heifers and silage pits, then over 200 acres more in the 1990’s.”
Jack admits it has been “hard work” getting Lima Ranch to its current capacity but says it has been a rewarding experience. Jack's average day starts at about 6am. “I come and meet with my key people to discuss the day and then do some office work. Around 7.30 to 8am we handle the cows then we spend the day making improvements plus farming the 1500 acres we have, before next milking.”
Part of the reward lies in the family’s commitment to the local community. “We are very proud to be part of our community and are very active in the local Portuguese club because my wife is of Portuguese decent. Where members of Western United Dairymen too, which represents over half the dairies in California.”
Jack looked at many parlours throughout the western United States before buying the DeLaval 2x30 EnDurance™ parallel parlour and says he made his choice based on the parlours unique features. “What caught my eye was the strength of the exit gates and the dependability of the milking system because all of the components are efficiently combined. We were interested in the ALPRO® activity meters and cow identification too,” says Jack.
Lima Ranch has been using the EnDurance™ parallel parlour for 18 months as of June 2004 and Jack says he is “more than satisfied” with the results to date. “Everything has worked to maximum satisfaction here. We can use cow identification and daily milk weights to increase milk yield milk and we’ve done a better job culling the cows, so milk production has gone up. It has been a very dependable barn for us,” he says.
The DeLaval solution gives Jack the “flexibility to milk our first cows four times a day and then put them back to two times a day” because the cows can be milked so quickly. “Currently we are milking 1300 Holstein cows two times a day and we have the potential to go to a 2000 strong herd before long. We average 80 pounds per cow per day and our production is increasing from using the DeLaval milk meters;” he boasts.
Lima Ranch uses a TMR feeding system with home grown forages of corn silage, oat silage and Alfalfa hay. This is then mixed with grain purchased off the farm – including roll corn, roll barley, beet pulp and raw cotton seed, which is then mixed in a single TMR.
“We feed once a day and push-up six times day. We raise our own replacement stock on this dairy and we’ve been fortunate enough to grow from this. After milking our cows go over to the dry lot, then into another lot, before the calves enter separate calving pens where they are fed their mothers colostrums. Later they go to the calf raising facility and we feed them with our own home grown forages.”
Crops and forages
“We are proud that our dairy is dairy quality assurance certified. The inspectors have checked that our waste management is above and beyond compliance with the law. We use a flush system with recycled water in the alleys. The solids go to settling pounds, then holding ponds. We fertilise our corn and Alfalfa with the manure and spread it over 500 acres. It goes from being a waste to a nutrient.” Forage is also cut by the Lima Ranch team.
Jack adds that any potential land buyer will need to come prepared, noting matter-of-factly that he could currently sell the land for “about $3.50 to $4.00 US a square foot”.
ALPRO® herd management has made a large and positive difference to Lima Ranch, particularly regarding milk quality. “ALPRO® is working extremely well for us and we really enjoy its features. We use ALPRO® for daily milk weights and seven day average milk weights so that we have an accurate measurement and know when it’s the right time to move each cow to a different string. The automatic sort gate allows us to keep our dry cows right at the parlour and this saves labour when it comes to drying off. We look at the dry list once a week, cull potential twice a week and two to three times per week we check on fresh cows, breeding cows and bulls. It’s very important to keep info current so that the milk weights come out well and ALPRO® is always up-to-date.”
Jack plans to implement a “shortened dry period” and says that while the farm’s current dry period is a low 60 days - he wants it to be less.
The barn’s technology is “extremely useful” according to Jack and he adds that he has never seen a barn with so much of it to offer. “Once we learned the technology, we were able to take time to look at individual cows and make accurate individual cow decisions much more rapidly. We are making progress in every category.”
Lima Ranch has a team approach to daily herd management and other farm matters, utilising 15 employees. Jack has the overall management power but he employs “a certain number of key people” who are responsible for different farm areas.
“One part of this barn that you don’t see is the high quality of service that comes with it. Our dealer does an excellent job of supplying us with what we need, when we need it. Whenever there has been a problem, he has been there to help. He has also been right here and more than helpful when it comes to training us in how to use the software and technology.
“The dealership has been fantastic. We use scheduled service with our local dealership. They do routine maintenance every month and six-monthly replacement, plus meter servicing.”
Urban overflow is infringing on one part of the farm’s acreage, with an 18-hole golf course right beside it and the city beside that. Jack is unsure of this land’s future use because the family currently leases it annually and local housing developers are keen to take over the land.
But Jack believes in a bright future for Lima ranch and is keen to see his children remain there once he and Patti retire. “My wife, my son Mike and I work on the dairy fulltime right now. Hopefully my children will continue dairying on the farm if that’s their choice. We (Patti and Jack) feel we’ll finish our careers here and pass the whole operation on to our children in a smooth transition, if that’s what they want to do.”