Pioneer Farm receives multiple dairy awards

Holstein cow

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneer Farm is being awarded for its cattle and quality of milk. The farm was recently recognized as one of the Top 10 BAA College/University Herds from the Holstein Association USA Inc. and received the Excellent Quality Milk award from Foremost Farms USA.

According to Cory Weigel, Pioneer Farm dairy enterprise and crop production manager, there are 150 milking cows at the farm and every seven months each one is classified. “A Holstein classifier comes out and gives a score to all the animals on how well they look for their type, how good their udder is, their frame and feet and legs, and their overall dairyness,” he said.

The registered herd is ranked and scored with the numbers being deposited into a breed age average. UW-Platteville’s cattle received an average score of 105.9. “We have a good herd of cattle. We have been using good genetics to continue to improve the herds type along with its production. The overall type is important to us. It’s showing we have progressed with our herd throughout our years,” said Weigel.

“A lot of the scoring comes with genetics and breeding. Using bulls that are going to improve individual cow traits such as improving a cow’s udder and increasing her milk production,” said Weigel. “There are different things you look at when you’re judging or classifying a cow. Through genetics over the time I have been here, I’ve been able to improve the herd to make them look good enough to score that well.”

As Pioneer Farm employees reflect on the high classification scores of their cattle they’re also acknowledging their high quality of milk. To receive the Excellence Quality award, the milk is evaluated on a criterion which includes being an active member of Foremost Farms USA from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2018, no added water, no antibiotic violations, no quality premium deduction on milk shipped, an average annual somatic cell count of 200,000 or less, among others.

“By producing high quality milk you receive premiums for your milk. The higher quality the more income we can make for that milk,” said Weigel. “The award also shows how good the students are who work for me, as far as prepping the cows, getting the cows clean, making sure the cows are being milked properly and doing the milking procedures properly.”

Before the milk is collected from Pioneer Farm a milk truck stops to take a sample from the bulk tank. “It gets sampled for somatic cell count, plate count which is bacteria, that all gets tested at the lab,” said Weigel.

Weigel also receives a weekly report with the somatic cell count for the herd. The cows are also tested individually once a month from the Dairy Herd Improvement Association. “DHIA tests the cows individually for milk production, for their fat percentage, their protein percentage and tests them for their somatic cell count,” said Weigel

A big part of the success of the dairy enterprise is due to the student employees said Weigel. Currently,15 students are working on the farm. The students go through a month-long training period to learn the milking procedures and how to keep the environment clean for the animals. “The quality award is the recognition of my student employees. They’re the ones who make it so we are high quality, because if they are not doing their job correctly there’s no way we would be recognized for that.”