Celebrating dairy month & udder heroes

It’s National Dairy Month! What has JMB North America been doing to celebrate? We’ve been eating cheese, drinking milkshakes and interviewing really awesome dairy producers.

Jan Henderson, CEO of Alliance Dairies Group, has recently picked up the reigns from her father and is pushing forward with continued plans for a sustainable and profitable operation. Read on to find out how this young entrepreneur found her place in today’s dairy industry.

Jan Henderson Professional2

Jan Henderson

JMB: How long has Alliance Dairies Group (ADG) been in operation?

Jan Henderson (J.H.): Alliance started in 1990 as a 2,500-cow dairy farm.

JMB: How many mature cows does ADG have today?

J.H.: We have about 6,000 mature cows at Alliance, which is our freestall dairy, and 5,500 cows at our combined (three) grazing operation Alliance Grazing Group.

JMB: Is ADG a freestall or grazing operation?

J.H.: Alliance was the first farm and is now 100% freestall. We later added grazing dairies where cows are housed under irrigation pivots and misters run to cool them during the hot summer months.

JMB: Why did ADG choose to incorporate grazing dairies?

Parlor area

Parlor area

J.H.: It would have been very difficult to permit another Alliance Dairy due to public perception, so we moved to grazing dairies which are more publicly accepted in the community.

JMB: What type of parlor(s) do you use?

J.H.: At the freestall dairy, we use two double 40 parallel parlors. At one grazing dairy we use a 26 double parallel and the other two we use swing 60s, which I would not recommend.

JMB: Do you have a processing facility onsite or ship the milk elsewhere?

J.H.: We are members of Southeast Milk Cooperative. They truck and market our milk, so there is no processing onsite.

JMB: What steps does ADG take to increase sustainability and good land stewardship?

Manure Screens

Manure Screens

J.H.: Sustainability starts with profitability. You can’t be sustainable if you’re not profitable. We strive to be a low-cost producer, and we participate in risk management by hedging our milk and feed. We participate in a lot of new technology. In 2012, we built an anaerobic manure digester, which allows us to use cow manure to produce 70% of our farm’s electricity needs. We recently completed a denitrification pond. This will allow us to capture excess nitrates that escape the root zone before they move to the aquifer. Installation of low pressure drop nozzles in 11 of our spray fields has decreased evaporation and improved the coverage of the nutrients on the crop. We also produce compost from the manure solids and sell them as a soil amendment. We recently began accepting grease trappings from a rendering company and are using that substrate to generate additional methane gas within the digester. We are partnered with CAMCO and sell carbon credits that are created by flaring excess gas at the digester.

JMB: How does ADG help educate the public?

J.H.: For years, we’ve hosted school field trips and numerous other dairy farmers from across the world. This year we also started hosting farm tours the last Friday of the month to anyone who signed up. We have a website and participate in social media. I encourage anyone reading this blog post to “like” our Facebook page!

JMB: How does ADG ensure cow health and well-being?

J.H.: We participate in an annual animal welfare audit through our milk cooperative. We also have a nutritionist who helps us balance our cow diets and we have a veterinarian on staff. Animal welfare is very important to us; if we don’t take care of our cows, our cows won’t take care of us.

JMB: Is ADG a family operation?

J.H.: We have a family farm culture. Even though we are large in size, we have an open-door policy and have several brothers working alongside brothers and cousins working alongside cousins. An example of this: Recently one of our employees was hospitalized for an extended period, and we sent a crew over to help do yard work while he was out.

JMB: Have you been the CEO since the company’s conception? If not, how did you come into this role?

Alliance Dairies

Alliance Dairies

J.H.: Alliance Dairies Group is a partnership between my father Ron and Sandy Mc Arthur, and my dad has been the managing partner up to his recent retirement on

Jan 1, 2016. I worked 12 years at Farm Credit as a loan officer and team leader, and have been on the dairy since 2010. Prior to my arrival at the dairy, I had limited dairy experience besides washing out water troughs and digging out cattle gaps during my teenage years. Thankfully, I mastered those tasks and did not need to prove myself once again! I learned very quickly there are a lot of moving parts to our operations, and it takes very dedicated and skilled people to be successful. I continue to learn new things every day.

JMB: What have been the greatest lessons you’ve learned through working on a dairy?

J.H.: I’ve learned the inner connectivity of all the departments on the farm. Each department can positively or negatively impact others. We’re one big team, and teamwork is necessary for the greatest success.

 JMB: What is your number one priority as CEO of ADG?

J.H.: My major priority is keeping our employees happy, productive and safe.

JMB: If there was one thing you could communicate to the general public about the dairy industry, what would it be?

J.H.: I would communicate that people do not realize the skill set required of our labor force to produce high-quality milk.

JMB: What do you love most about what you do?

J.H.: I enjoy being part of a great team of managers and employees. It’s unbelievable what can get done when everyone works together. I love team work!

JMB: If we are allowed to know, does ADG have any exciting ventures coming down the pipeline?

J.H.: We have plans to build a 1,000-cow freestall barn at Alliance.

Cows Eating - ADG

Happy, healthy & hungry!

JMB: Anything else for our readers?

J.H.: A lot of dairy farmers have great stories, and everyone including Alliance needs to make sure we tell our stories to the general public. I know it’s hard for us to pat ourselves on the back, but we really need to get our stories told.

Technology that’ll make ya slap appy

Move over Mr. City Slicker Businessman, Mr. American Farmer has an app or two up his sleeve, as well.

Technology. We’ve all witnessed how powerful this tool has been in revolutionizing the way we eat, work, exercise and communicate, and farmers realize the power technology has to make agriculture a much more efficient and profitable industry. The University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine is right in line with this thinking. Its Food Animal Production Medicine Section of the Department of Medical Sciences has been developing apps for a few years now, many available for practical on-farm application today.

While some well-known dairy industry publications have announced these apps are available, The Cow Columns wanted to take a closer look to understand the background behind this app creation and discuss what cool tools may be available for producers in the future.

Join JMB North America as we learn from Tom Bennett, the programmer and developer for these nifty apps. Tom has learned that if you build it…they will be appy. 



JMB North America: Who is responsible for creating these apps?

Tom Bennett: I am the programmer/developer.  I work with a group of faculty veterinarian in the Food Animal Production Medicine Section of the Department of Medical Sciences here at the School of Veterinary Medicine. Most of our clinical instruction involves dairy herd management troubleshooting with respect to herd health and welfare. Our apps are designed as tools to help collect information pertinent to this goal. The apps may be used by producers, consultants or our students.

JMB: What was the first app introduced, and when was it developed?

T.B.: The first app introduced was the Locomotion Scorer app. It was released on the iTunes store August 21, 2014. Development of this app began in 2013, while simultaneously working on other apps.

JMB: Why did your department feel a need to get involved in inventing apps?

T.B.: Dr. Nigel Cook felt the emerging iPad technology really lent itself to on-farm data collection and could replace paper records, eliminating the time consuming task of data transcription. There were no apps available for our purposes, so we decided to build our own.

JMB: Did someone, another app or specific need inspire the department to get into app creation?

T.B.: App creation was really driven by our desire to use iPads in the classroom and create tools our clients could use for easy data collection and monitoring.

JMB: How many apps does the department currently have available for producers?

T.B.: We currently have nine apps available on the iTunes store. A couple are designed to be used on both the iPhone and iPad. The rest are specific to the iPad because of the larger screen.Locomotion Scorer app

JMB: Is there one app that’s proved to be more popular with producers?

T.B.: We have had the most downloads of the free Preg Calculator app. It uses information about the herd to calculate how many pregnancies the herd should be obtaining to maintain itself. The Locomotion Scorer, Freestall Analyzer and Calf Health Scorer are the three most popular purchased apps.

JMB: What feedback have you received from producers regarding the apps?

T.B.: All feedback has been tremendously positive! We have a lot of people asking for Android versions. I will be taking a class this week to assist me in developing our apps for that OS.

JMB: Have you tweaked any existing apps due to producer comments?

T.B.: Yes, based on customer comments I am creating a version update to the Calf Health Scorer. Our customers want the ability to use electronic ID readers and have a Spanish version. I hope to have this update available by July 1.

JMB: What app does your department feel is the most beneficial for producers?

T.B.: The Calf Health Scorer, Freestall Analyzer, Locomotion Scorer and Body Condition Scorer are all probably equally beneficial to the producer. Each are purposefully built to provide a useful tool to assess critical areas of the dairy system.

JMB: What is the overall goal of providing these services for producers?

T.B.: To provide useful tools to promote animal health and welfare in the dairy industry.

JMB: Any cool new apps coming down the pipeline?

T.B.: I am currently working on four other apps that will continue to aid the dairy industry. These apps will help with assessing the milk prep routine, teat end scoring, calving pen monitoring, and calf feeding and management.

The Dairy Veterinarian: The next 15 years

This post, we are excited to feature Andy Skidmore, DVM and PhD, as he reflects on dairy veterinarians’ past, present and what to expect in the years to come from these industry professionals.

This is actually only a snippet of the knowledge and insight Andy has to share. Stay tuned to The Cow Columns as we will invite him back to further expand on some of the points he brings up in the post below. Enjoy!

Andy Skidmore

Dr. Andy Skidmore

Over the last 30 years, dairy herd health has evolved from fixing problem cows, preventing problem cows, promoting healthy cows, to now identifying the most profitable cows and promoting their careers.

Some time ago, I had an interesting conversation with another veterinarian about precision animal agriculture. The conversation started with why nutritionists command so much more respect than veterinarians. He pointed out that nutritionists work with overachievers and money, while veterinarians work with underachievers – sick, unhealthy problem cows that only cost money. I have often pondered this concept and have concluded that for the dairy veterinarian to command greater respect, he/she will have to start working with the overachievers or identify the underachievers to not waste resources on them.

About 6 to 8 percent of all cows that calve can’t compete. Cull rates are much higher than this and are the result of cows losing their competitive edge to profitability resulting in career changes. Everyone has seen the profit matrix of current profitability versus future profitability with four quadrants of stars, question marks, cash cows and dogs. The stars are those cows that have high current profitability and high future profitability. The question marks are those cows thSkidmore's cow profitability matrixat have low current profitability but have potential to become stars or cash cows. Cash cows are those cows that have high current profitability but low future profitability. The dogs are those cows with low current profitability and low future profitability. The dogs need a career change as soon as possible. The cash cows need to be milked until it is more profitable to change careers. The question marks need to be investigated to find out if they are cash cows or stars. The stars need to be cultivated to keep them there as long as possible.

It is reproductive efficiency that makes all this possible. The ability to get the right cows pregnant fast provides the greatest opportunity to promote high achievers and give career changes to the underachievers. “Fail fast and fail often.”

In addition to working with reproduction efficiency, dairy veterinarians are in a sweet spot to data mine available farm data and identify which quadrant every cow fits in before she is 30 days in milk. This is the future. Data drives everything.

Animal agriculture is light years behind crop agriculture in terms of technological advancements and precision management. In order to make progress and provide value to dairymen and women, the dairy veterinarian needs to evolve into a dairy data miner, identifying opportunities and providing direction. This will be the role of the dairy veterinarian in the next 15 years.

Dr. Skidmore has more than 30 years of experience in the dairy industry. Learn more here.

Bovine Love

Most consider February to be the month of love because of that little holiday that falls during the middle of the month. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s the one where you men out there either gain serious brownie points or end up in the doghouse. Why does it just have to represent romantic love, though? JMB North America thinks it shouldn’t. That’s why we’re using The Cow Columns debut blog post to showcase two very loved representatives of the beef and dairy industries.

Read below to find out more about TRUE love through the voices of 2016 International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA) Queen McKenzie Posey and 2016 National Jersey Queen Regina Pozzi…

McKenzie Posey – 2016 IBBA Queen

McKenzie Posey

McKenzie is currently a high school senior at her hometown in Wayne, OK. Following graduation this spring, she plans to attend East Central University in Ada, OK, then transfer to Oklahoma State University to obtain a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness. She also plans to own a registered Brangus cattle ranch in her future.  

JMB: Why do you like Brangus cattle?

M.P.: I like their adaptiveness to certain environments and their overall hardiness as a breed. They also have great mothering abilities which makes them outstanding. I definitely love the calves when they are first born, too. Looking out the window to see all of them running in a pack puts a smile on my face every time!

JMB: When and what made you fall in love with this industry?

M.P.: I have been showing Brangus cattle for about 10 years now and I have always enjoyed the breed, but when I truly fell in love with the cattle industry was during my first year on the IJBBA Board in 2012. Every show I went to my first year on the Board, I got to see the love and passion each Brangus breeder has for this breed. To this day, at every show I attend, being around the juniors and all the Brangus breeders just makes my love and passion for this breed grow even more.

JMB: What is your goal in representing IBBA during your reign?

M.P.: My goal is to represent this breed with integrity and honesty because that is the most important thing. I want to help other juniors to achieve their goals and be the best representative I can be for this wonderful breed.

JMB: Share a favorite memory you have experienced so far as the IBBA Queen.

M.P.: There have been a lot of great memories so far, but one of my favorites would have to be going to the Southeast Regional Brangus Show in Florida. I had the privilege to meet some of the Southeast Brangus Breeders for the first time. I loved getting to be in such a great environment with some amazing people.


Regina Pozzi – 2016 National Jersey Queen

Regina grew up in Petaluma, CA, and is now a junior at the University of California, Berkley. She is studying genetics and plant biology, with a minor in public policy. After earning her bachelor’s degree, Regina plans to stay involved in agriculture and work in agricultural policy.

JMB: Why do you love the Jersey breed?Regina Pozzi

R.P.: The Jersey cow is outstanding in her field; she produces milk with higher components. Compared to average milk, the consumer gets 15-20% more protein, 15-18% more calcium, 12% more phosphorus, and higher levels of essential vitamin B12 in a glass of Jersey milk. Jersey milk also yields 25% more cheese than average U.S. milk. The Jersey breed was developed so that dairy producers would have less cow to feed, and more cow to milk. With Jerseys, you can get more pounds of Energy Corrected Milk per pound of dry matter over the average U.S. dairy cow. The Jersey cow also offers reproductive benefits; she calves earlier and on her own. She produces at a high level and breeds back sooner. Jerseys also have a longer-than-average productive life, and thrive in all climates and operation types. The Jersey cow is a strong and efficient little lady that I love for these reasons and her sweet demeanor. I also love the Jersey breed for the people that work with Jerseys; they work just as hard and smart as the Jersey cow.

JMB: What is it about this industry that you love so much?

R.P.: I enjoy this industry because people associated with dairy take pride in their products and production practices. They are continually improving operations and using cutting-edge technology on the farm to improve animal health, products and production efficiency. Dairy people also have a shared affinity for the dairy industry, leading to an incredible ability to work together. Greater technological advancements and effective public outreach programs are a few results of a dairy industry that works together. This is an exciting part of the dairy industry and motivates people within the industry to achieve greater levels of success in their work.

JMB: How are you able to use your position as National Jersey Queen to help shape public opinion?

R.P.: I am excited to serve as National Jersey Queen in the upcoming year where I will get to communicate to the public about dairy farms, dairy products and Jerseys in particular. I hope to continue to dispel misconceptions, give the consumer piece of mind about agriculture and show them the benefits of Jerseys. Working with the American Jersey Cattle Association, I think we will have a great year. I am especially looking forward to the AJCA-NAJ Annual Meeting in San Diego this summer where dairymen and breeders can meet and set the direction for the association for the upcoming year.

JMB: If you could pair one love song with your Jersey Queen journey, what would it be?

R.P.: “Who Wouldn’t Want to Be Me” by Keith Urban is a fun song that I like listening to. It has a little bit of love in it, but resonates with me because I am thankful for the opportunity to serve as Jersey Queen and excited for the upcoming year and the Jersey breed.