Royal Farms Dairy and Land Institute
The Dairy industry in the United States is not supply managed whereas in Canada the dairy industry is supply managed. Today we visited a dairy farm that has 6600 milking cows in an open lot facility with a double 60 parlor at one facility and 2500 milking cows in a second open lot facility south of Garden City, Kansas. During a typical day the larger barn can ship out 10 tankers of milk per day and the smaller one around 4 tankers. Each tanker holds approximately 6000 gallons of milk; the milk is directly loaded into the tankers.
Herd health is important in an open lot facility and everything here is done in house. Within the farm there are people trained in all aspects of daily activities but then there are people who work in one section of farm such as feed, milking or vet. All cows are vaccinated to prevent as many diseases as possible and footbaths are done to prevent injuries. The entire herd is artificially inseminated and they have about 25 cows that calve per day on an average calving day. All calves are sent to calf ranches no matter the sex. Royal Farms does retain ownership of their heifer calves but not the bull calves. The fresh milk on farm is known as the hospital milk and is sold to the calf ranches. There is a 40 percent replacement rate from their heifers at the cattle ranch.
Feed for the dairy farm is grown on 14,000 acres that is owned by one of the partners. On site there are 6,000 acres of irrigated land that is used mainly for their corn silage but within their feed there is also bagged alfalfa, haylage, corn, hay, sorghum, triticale, wet distillers, ground corn, wet corn gluten and cotton seed. There are 4 loaders working on the silage and 3 choppers.
Genetic progress is key for Royal Farms as genetics are constantly changing. They use the top 20 percent of their gene pool for their artificial insemination and are in the process of determining if using the top 20 percent of their own genetics is really worth it or not.
As a switch from our regular schedule we headed to the Land Institute of Kansas that is working with perennial crops to increase the yield produced from perennials and produce a crop that will be more beneficial to the soil. Some of the issues that are future goals of the land institute are; to help prevent erosion, provide resistance to weeds and aid in the prevention of the runoff of nutrients.
The land institute was established in 1976 when sustainability was all encompassing. Perennial plants take very little time to produce seeds and the goal is to get them to produce seeds faster and more plentiful. Some annual crops are very labour intensive and there is the need for less labour intensive crops. The land institute is looking at ways to improve both of these issues.
The research is ongoing and will take years still before any of the crops being researched will be available for commercial sale. Currently there is one crop, intermediate wheat grass that is being sold in a niche market. Recently the intermediate wheatgrass name was changed to Kernza for retail purposes. Originally researches didn’t want the intermediate wheat grass to be sold on the specialty market due to the difficulty of getting that product off that specialty market. The only problem with the crops that are being researched is that they have low yields and that there is no natural disease resistance or pest resistance.
The overall theme for today was about Dairy production and the efficient use of land as well as what the future of agriculture research is looking like. My three learning points for the day was about what producers are doing to secure the profits of their business. While visiting the dairy farm it was interesting to learning about the processing plant that the cooperatives were building to secure their futures. My second learning point for the day was just learning about what is going on at the Land Institute in general. I am not sure that I could pick just one learning point about that visit because it was all new. My third learning point is pretty much the same as the second one, which was about learning what the future holds for the research industry. My assessment of the visit was that the dairy farm was amazing. My assessment of the Land Institute was good but it was really hot, so that may have had a negative effect on my perception of events.