Organic Producer Perspectives – Colorado Dairy

Hi, my name is Emily Prisco Currently we’re located at our Platteville dairy farm facility Which is the corporate farm facility for Aurora organic farms Hi my name is Brian England i’m landsman manager here at aurora organic dairy. Today we’re at our high plains complex in gill, Colorado I was born and raised on a dairy farm in western New York, and I went to school at Cornell University Learning about animal science focused in dairy production. I went and did numerous internships after I graduated from school to try to figure out exactly what my niche and what my area of Dairy farm love was so I grew up in Southeast, Colorado small family farm grew up farming and ranching and really fell in love with it from an early age. And then Continued through college working as an agronomist Scout in Southeast, Colorado Attended CSU got a dual degree in Ag business and crop and soil science As a certified organic operation we follow the national organic program regulations all land takes three years until it can be certified organic the cattle themselves can actually go through a Transition in which their milk after twelve months under organic management becomes certified organic However, those dairy cattle aren’t recognized for organic beef if the dairy cattle are raised from the last third trimester from that point on through birth organically then they can be sold as meat for organic as far as the feed stuffs are concerned after all the land has been certified organic everything that’s produced is organic our cattle eat 100% certified organic crops and forages the land that the cattle graze on is also certified organic Each one of our dairy farms has a general manager and he has four different areas he has a calf yard area a milking parlor area an operations area that handles the feed and the grazing and he also has the husbandry area so the general manager at each facility will Walk the pastures and he will also coordinate with the employees he has to graze to set up the individual paddocks and Then bring the cattle out according to the schedule for grazing every day We have 4,000 acres that are dedicated to growing pasture to meet the organic grazing requirement We are required to graze a minimum of 30% dry matter for our grazing season which is a minimum of 120 days our grazing season extends from usually the first of May till the end of September depending on on the weather in addition to rotating through our different pastures we’re also growing different types of pasture that will be ready at different times So we grow perennial grass mix works very well for us in addition we use other small grains to help fill in especially in the in the summer slump when When our cool season perennial pastures hit a low point we’ll use some warm season annuals to help keep us going through the grazing season In addition to our pasture management we take a lot of height samples clippings to monitor What type of production we’re getting off of these pastures Samples are also sent to the lab for quality so that we can continue to improve the quality of our pastures the whole operation is very integrated from reusing the waste on the dairy side for fertility on the the cropping side Very cyclical system that all works together Also use the cattle in the grazing rotation. They help us take care of weeds and other other pests in our alfalfa fields Alfalfa fields that we graze. We have very little alfalfa weevil pressure So the system works very well together some of our largest Production challenges on the cropping side would be would be pests and weeds. We’ve been very successful using crop rotation to mitigate those But at the same time you can’t always grow the crops that you would want to Like you could in a conventional setting where you can use the synthetic Herbicides and pesticides to help control your pests. We’ve got to do that more natural way through crop rotations In addition to our crop rotation, we also try to support a lot of other biodiversity Recently, we’ve constructed a few wild bee hotels to help promote some other pollinators We’re in the process of planning some wildflower mixes to help keep a healthy bee population around our dairies some other biodiversity that we do here at our high plains complex we have Predator wasps to help keep fly populations down. We also release a lot of other beneficial insects to help control puncture vine and bindweed and other noxious weeds In total we have 21,000 lactating cattle this Platteville facility milks 1,100 cows so 95% of our herd is Holstein and The other 5% is mixed breeds. Mainly Jersey dairy cattle We breed for longevity Meaning that it encompasses good feet and legs Good production and a long healthy lifestyle. We aim to have a calving interval of 13 months so roughly one calf a year per cow with that dairy cattle start producing milk after their first calf is born when they’re about two years old our employees milk cows with a full milking routine process which includes preparation testing the milk cleaning off the teats and then attaching the units after milking will apply a post dip and we milk all of our cattle two times a day or three times a day depending on their milk production and days in milk One of our production challenges is reproduction in the organic herd we don’t have all the tools that a conventional herd would have and therefore calving intervals are delayed and days in milk are a little bit higher than you would see in a typical herd for reproduction in organic herd, you’re tracking the animals activity levels and as they increase in activity and as you perform visual heat detection This is all based on the employees where in some conventional systems they use hormones to Ensure that the cattle are cycling and therefore they can get pregnant a little bit easier than in our organic system Which is more natural As far as animal health is concerned in our organic production systems We focus on prevention prevention prevention We have a very in-depth Vaccination program part of that prevention is also to make sure that the cattle are fed a balanced diet with the proper Minerals and vitamins every single day and in the case that any of our cattle get sick an illness then we will use supportive therapies such as fluids and Probiotic to help them feel better in the case of our young calves However, if they get sick and the organic treatment system is not working for them We will treat them with antibiotics and then remove them from our organic herd and sell them as conventional Heifers once they’re feeling better We use different types of housing and shelter for our cattle at the different locations at some facilities we have free stalls and at all facilities we have Open dry Lots that the cattle have access to for exercise. So They have access to the outdoors 365 days a year. These blue houses are sheds. There are three sided sheds facing south To prevent from northern winds northern storms at this facility agriculture is moving in a couple of different directions, especially dairy farming and Aurora organic farms in particular is taking some of those things to the next level Animal welfare, for example, we have a third party animal welfare audit that occurs every single year in which animal welfare professionals come to our dairy farms and evaluate 30% of our cattle and interview 20 to 30% of our employees Finding out about protocols and procedures and looking at the cattle to see lameness body condition health in general We also do a worker care Certification in which a third party comes in and evaluates the programs and benefits that we have for our employees they’ll do a safety audit and evaluate the entire facility to verify that our employees are working in good conditions

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