HATLEY, Wis. – Cleanliness, milker training, frac-sand quality, milking-equipment maintenance and cow comfort. They’re five keys to overall success with milk quality, says David “Mike” Fischer of Fischer-Clark Dairy Farm. He and his family recently earned a platinum award in dairy quality from the National Mastitis Council.

“Cleanliness is next to godliness,” Fischer said.

He credits improvements in sanitation to Epic, a sanitizing teat dip to kill bacteria and viruses. He also credits improvements to frac-sand for bedding. Within three months of bringing frac-sand to the farm, somatic-cell count declined from 120,000 to less than 100,000. Average somatic-cell count in 2019 was just 77,000, he said.

“I’m fussy about sand quality,” he said. “Cows can eat sand; if you have rocks that’s a problem. Frac sand has no rocks and it helps keep down the cell count. It’ an easy button.”

The milking team meets about every other month. Meetings feature different topics and speakers. The herd veterinarian, for example, recently discussed with the team an udder biopsy. Mastitis, dry-cow treatment and other scenarios were discussed.

“The meetings help us explain the ‘whys’ of what we do,” said Heidi Fischer, Mike Fischer’s daughter-in-law, during a virtual farm tour presentation at the 2019 World Dairy Expo. “If there are any issues or concerns I bring that (to the team members) and ask for solutions.”

Jay Krull, a team leader for CentralStar Cooperative Inc., said he and his team are involved in quarterly meetings where goals are evaluated at the Fischer-Clark farm.

The farm’s use of the SCR rumination and activity program has helped to quickly detect any sick cows so they can be immediately helped, Krull said. The program also has enabled the farm to reduce its use of antibiotics as well as hormones for breeding purposes.

CentralStar tests milk on a monthly basis for the farm. Each test day a team member provides the farm with a “hot sheet.” That indicates whether any cows have elevated somatic-cell counts so they can be managed accordingly.

Of the dairy-quality recognition, Mike Fischer said, “It gives us the opportunity to recognize our team’s hard work and to thank them and Sartori Cheese for their help in making this all possible. Our team steps up and puts in long hours of work to make this happen. We have 20-year employees of whom we’re very proud.”

The Fischer family has shipped milk to Sartori Cheese for several decades. Jolynne Schroepfer, a field representative for the cheese company, nominated the Fischer-Clark team for the dairy-quality award.

“The family conducts on-farm cultures to evaluate milk quality,” she said. “Therefore if there’s a cow with an elevated somatic-cell count the team can discuss their management options.

“The Fischers are always open to new ideas. They understand how milk is priced.”

The farm’s rolling-herd average is 31,823 pounds with 4.3 percent fat and 3.2 percent protein. The cheese company provides incentives for milk with good components.

During the virtual tour at World Dairy Expo, Fischer said his farm has received numerous milk-quality and cheese-yield awards from Sartori. The company pays premiums for that quality.

“There are profits in those premiums; without them a dairy farm isn’t going to be successful,” he said.

The Fischer-Clark team currently milks 895 cow three times daily in a double-20 GEA parlor. The facility was designed with a subway where milking equipment can be maintained and milk testing conducted. Therefore people doing those jobs aren’t in the way of employees or the cows. That keeps the parlor quieter, he said.

In addition to the milking herd the farm team manages 107 dry cows, 650 heifers and 75 head of beef cattle. They also farm 2,400 acres, producing corn, alfalfa and grass for forage.

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Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin.