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Category Archives: Advantage

Alta Spotlight: Väätsa Agro

Each day on a dairy farm brings a new challenge. Väätsa Agro chooses to face those challenges head on. Focusing on people and reproductive management, this 2300-cow dairy is truly an example of how to rebuild a dairy from scratch.

Väätsa Agro is one of the dairies of Trigon Dairy Group. This Estonian-based company, founded in 2006, is comprised of three dairy farms. With a total herd of 7,000 dairy animals, of which 3,550 are milking cows, it is the biggest dairy operation of the Baltics.

Number of Cows: 2300
Milking Parlor: 80-stall carousel
Milk Production: 11 000 kg
Acres: 4000 ha
Pregnancy Rate: 28%
Number of Employees: 90
Customized genetic plan: 50 Production | 50 Health | 0 Conformation

Many dairy farmers remember the struggles of 2009 and the vulnerability of the milk market afterwards. In 2012, this particular farm was purchased out of bankruptcy. With production at 7500 kg and 1,800 cows in several buildings, the new owners knew changes needed to happen. Those changes began in 2014, when they built a new 80-cow carousel. Now, 2,300 cows average 11,000 kg on 3x a day milking. They maintain a current somatic cell count between 100,000 – 140,000, and cows average 2.2 lactations.

In 2013, Väätsa Agro began their partnership with Alta Genetics. Together, we created a genetic plan, evaluated the current situation and set goals for the future. Trigon CEO, Margus Muld, who was recognized as Estonia’s 2017 Farmer of the Year, and also pictured above, follows up by saying, “Constant monitoring enables us to stay motivated and move towards the right direction.

The right direction for this dairy, is a genetic plan of 50% weight on production, 50% weight on health traits, and no weight on type traits. This specific index was chosen to increase the herd’s production and strengthen health traits for longer lasting cows.

The dairy focuses a lot of their attention on reproduction. They follow a 14-11 day pre-synch / ov-synch program. They cherry pick any cows in heat to breed off the prostaglandin shots if they are ready after their 46-day voluntary wait period.

Eleven days after the second PG2F injection, the following ov-synch protocol is in place:

  • DIM 71 GNRH (gonadorelin)
  • DIM 78 PG2f (dinoprost)
  • DIM 79 PG2f (dinoprost)
  • DIM 81 GNRH (gonadorelin) + insemination.

Thirty days post-insemination, animals are ultrasound checked for a pregnancy. Throughout the breeding process, animals wear a DeLaval activity meter to track their heats, health, and habits. Additionally, employees are trained to visually detect heats in animals.

Currently, the farm has two 1,000-cow barns plus a calving barn, with 10-20% overcrowding. They separate manure and use the recycled compost to bed the stalls. The farm employs 50 people including veterinarians, assistants, milkers and A.I. technicians.

In the future, Väätsa Agro plans to increase their herd size to 3,300 cows. They focus all efforts on further upscaling to increase cost-efficiency

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Alta Spotlight: Kischenzi Agriculture

  • Number of Cows: 1200
  • Milking Parlor: 80 GEA Autorotor Performer
  • Milk Production: 33 kg/cow/day
  • Acres/hectares: 15.200 hectares
  • Crops grown: Corn, sugar beets, sunflower, wheat, barley, alfalfa, soya and peas. Additional 400 hectares with vegetables, onions, cabbage and carrots.
  • Pregnancy Rate: 28%
  • Number of Employees: 25 (dairy)
  • Customized genetic plan: 0 Production | 10 Health | 90 Conformation

Kischenzi Agriculture of Ukraine, is a 1200-cow dairy with plans for steady growth and progress in the areas of cow comfort, people management and milk quality. The four investors Berend van der Velde, Gerhard Tonkens, Cornelis Huizinga and Oksana Kryacko, purchased the dairy in 2008 with just 200 cows in an outdated tie stall barn.

Initially, efficiency was quite low, with 50 employees and production at just 4.5 liters/cow/day. To improve productivity, the owners retrofitted the barn into a herringbone parlor, which allowed them to operate more efficiently. This led to an increase in milk production to 12 liters/cow/day.

With a positive outlook in the Ukrainian milk market, the investors decided to expand the dairy to 10,000 head. The farm hired a new farm manager to make this dream come true. By 2013, they completed plans for the first farm of 3500 cows. However, the Ukrainian revolution put a stop on physically building the facilities. With progress still in the front of their minds, throughout 2014-2015, they grew the farm to 750 cows and 25 kg/cow/day.

By 2016, they took matters into their own hands, building the facility entirely themselves. Allan Bergholdt, COO of Dairy Production says, “We create a lot of jobs here in the area, and we can construct the barns cheaper and most of it without financing.”

In 2017 the heart of the new farm was finished, home to their 80-cow GEA rotary parlor. Currently, they milk 1200 cows three times a day. Within the next four years, they aim to reach 3500 cows.

Kischenzi Agriculture has been working with Alta since February of 2017, after several years of working with semen companies that did not support their operation. Bergholdt says, “In Ukraine, the words “service” and “support” are not commonly used and I think for many people the meaning is a bit unclear.” From District Sales Managers, Ukraine Country Manager and International Sales teams, the farm receives support from a team of skilled people and industry specialists.

The farm has a unique genetic plan, set at 10% health and 90% conformation with 0% on production. Bergholdt believes that nearly every bull on the market has high production traits, so they can afford to emphasize different areas of genetics and still see positive results in production. Today’s goal is to create more functional cows that will excel in their new operation, last longer and produce more overall.

It is important to keep in mind that the new operators have only had 10 years to improve the herd’s genetics. They place such a heavy focus on conformation to improve the functionality of the herd. When the current owners took over the dairy, health was not a priority and the cows were not built to be milked in a parlor. “Now the main reason for working with Alta is, in fact, that it’s nice to have someone looking you over the shoulder and pushing a bit,” Bergholdt comments.

In addition to strengthening their genetics, the farm is looking to rapidly increase their herd size, so replacement heifers are in high demand. They use sexed semen on the heifers for the first three services and are happy with the fertility results.

Cows are bred to conventional semen after their 40-day voluntary waiting period. Any cow more than 50 days in milk, and not yet bred, is set up on the G-6-G synchronization program. Additionally, the farm has implemented the Cowscout Program from GEA to further improve reproductive results. Overall, the reproduction on the farm has increased significantly, currently at a 28% pregnancy rate.

Above all, cow comfort is the highest priority on the farm.They cap groups at 250 cows, and clean all pens while the group is being milked to minimize the disturbances when the cows are eating or lying down. Any treatments or routine checks are quickly done in palpation lanes immediately following milking. “I like to see minimum 85% of the cows being “efficient” at any given time. This means that they should either eat, drink or lay down in the boxes. Only on Fridays this target is hard to reach since we have a lot of cows in heat that day,” says Bergholdt.  

“It’s been a drive and a passion for me to try and share the knowledge that I have. I enjoy seeing people grow and learn in their jobs,and together with them, grow farms significantly.”

Two members from the Kischenzi Agriculture team tour a farm during the Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tour 2018.
Kischenzi Agriculture was represented by guests who attended the 2018 Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tour in Idaho, USA.
Image of cows in a freestall barn to illustrate that
Cow comfort is a key management factor at Kischenzi Agriculture
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