Boehringer Ingelheim announced the 2023 recipient of its Dairy First Award, which celebrates a dairy producer who has demonstrated dedication to milk quality and all-round herd health.
The panel of judges awarded the 2023 Dairy First Award to Tom Wegner of Wegnerlann Dairy LLC in Ettrick, Wisconsin.
Wegner’s commitment to cow comfort, top-notch milking protocols, somatic cell count management, team communication, biannual employee training, and the implementation of activity collars to monitor sickness in the herd are all reasons why Wegnerlann Dairy, LLC was selected for recognition.
“I get to see the everyday care that goes into keeping their cows healthy, and it’s clear that Tom is devoted to doing what’s best for his cows,” said Reba Gotham, territory manager, Boehringer Ingelheim, who works with Wegner and his team. “Wegnerlann Dairy is not only a beautiful farm, but it’s run by great people. I love having the opportunity to work with them.”
Wegner and his wife partner with his parents on the dairy, which was started in the 1980s. The four of them and a crew of ten keep the dairy running daily.
Technology aids in keeping the herd healthy
Over the past five years, Wegnerlann Dairy LLC has implemented activity collars in the milking herd. The new technology has helped streamline the reproduction program and alert Wegner to any cows that may not feel their best.
“One of my favorite features of the AI collars allows me to pinpoint low-activity cows,” shared Wegner. “I used to walk pens daily, looking for sick cows or cows that didn’t eat, but now I’ll look at the low-activity list every morning and go find that one cow instead of bugging all the other pens.”
Thoughtful handling and comfort at the forefront
Wegner is a strong advocate for minimizing unnecessary handling of cows.
“With cow health in mind, I would say getting cows to and from the milking parlor as fast and efficiently as possible is an important factor,” he said. Outside of grooming the sand-bedded stalls three times a day, the dairy has sprinklers and fans working throughout the barn to keep cows cool and content. He added, “We work to give the cows a nice, comfortable stall to lie in so that they can relax when getting back from the parlor. After that, we try not to bug them too much.”
Cleanliness and communication are a focus
Wegnerlann Dairy LLC recently implemented a teat scrubber in the milking parlor. Not only did the addition slightly increase parlor efficiency, but Wegner was also happy to eliminate the use of towels and the time that went into cleaning them. Parlor protocol and herd somatic cell count are two areas that Wegner closely oversees and communicates with his employees about. He encourages herdsmen to speak up when something does not look right, to ensure cows are staying healthy and comfortable.
“There is satisfaction in keeping the cows healthy, having them milk well, and being able to say ‘I did that,’” concluded Wegner. “I’d much rather be outside working with the cows compared to any other job. I not only enjoy my work and the lifestyle, I’m proud to raise my family on the farm.”
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