Visit Date: Saturday 26th March 2016
Location: Riverdale, Fresno, California
Maddox Dairy was established in 1982 on the belief that modern facilities, under top management practices, directed by a dedicated and expert staff could efficiently handle large numbers of dairy cattle in a productive and profitable manner. Our Nuffield group were lucky enough to spend a morning visiting Maddox Farms and to learn and understand how Maddox Dairy had grown over the last 30 years to help shape the Californian dairy industry.
Currently, the herd consists of 4,000 cows, and it was apparent from our visit that Maddox Dairy had encompassed all aspects of management for optimum return and greatest future gain. Attention to detail was apparent, and it was fantastic to see how Maddox Dairy had combined human resources, the Holstein cow, and modern technology to shape the future of the Californian dairy sector.
The farming enterprise consists of 9,000 acres. The farm provides all the roughage for the dairy, with 2,000 acres in alfalfa for hay, 2,000 acres double cropped with corn and winter forage for silage or wheat for grain. The remaining open acreage is normally rotated around other crops such as wheat or sugar beets. 2,500 acres is planted with wine grapes, varieties include Chenin Blanc, Rubi Red, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, amongst many others. 1,500 acres has been planted with almond trees.
Our visit focused on Maddox Dairy, and this blog aims to summarise some of the key findings from our visit.
Strategically located at the centre of the dairy are two maternity barns. The short and long term performance and efficiency of Maddox Dairy rests on the results in this area. Observation and individual care is provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help minimise this important period in the cows life. An average of 12 calves are born each day. The still born rate is constantly being improved upon with 6% currently being maintained.
At Maddox Dairy, they manage over 11,000 head of Holstein cattle and operate one of California’s most modern dairies with the help of 60 employees. The milking facility contains four double-13 herringbone parlours designed to milk 3,500 head within seven hours. Maddox Dairy’s goal in the milking facility area is to produce the highest quality milk. Through diligent sanitation and regimented milking procedures they strive to maintain less than 180,000 somatic cell count.
Raising replacements is a vital cog in the efficiency of any dairy operation since replacement costs are second only to feed costs.
At Maddox, calves are removed from their dams within 24 hours after birth and placed in either one of two calf barns housing 332 head each or hutches in the calf barn area. After receiving colostrum for three feedings, the calves are then switched to one gallon of pasteurised milk per day and are offered free choice of grain and water. With careful attention to strict sanitation, Maddox strive to keep calf losses below 3%.
Calves are moved from the individual pens at 8 weeks weaned into 8 calf group pens whether they are dehorned and vaccinated. At 12 weeks calves are taken to 14 group pens north of the calf barns whether they are grouped accordingly to their age and size. At seven months of age, the heifers are moved east to the yearling barn where they are cared for through 13 months of age. At that point, they are moved to the breeding barn. In the breeding barn, the heifers are impregnated by embryo transfer at between 15 to 20 months of age. After being diagnosed as pregnant, the heifers are moved to pens in the feedlot area. Springers and far off dry cows remain in the dry cow barns until they are within two weeks of calving. At that time they are put in the rear of the maternity pens where they are under constant supervision.
Maddox Dairy takes advantage of modern technology through an extensive embryo transplant program designed to shorten generation intervals and gain genetic improvement on every animal. Maddox’s goal is for the top 10% of breeding to provide the genetic pool for the entire herd. Maddox intend to progress to the point where most cows are either giving or receiving an embryo. The objectives for Maddox’s breeding programme is to breed for exceptional udders and feet and legs, while also selecting for high % components for butterfat and protein.
Maddox Dairy work hard to keep their feed and feed management consistent. Cows are fed four times a day and mangers are cleaned 6 days a week. TMR Feed rations consist of corn silage, canola meal, whole cotton seed, soybean hulls, rolled corn, molasses, DDG fat, alfalfa hay, water, minerals and vitamins are included in the concentrate mix and rock salt is available free of choice for the cows. Cows are group feed with high, medium and low and first calf strings. Age, body, condition and production are all taken into consideration when grouping cows.
It was clear from our visit that the Maddox family take exceptional pride in their work, and through focusing on clear management procedures, with dedicated and expert staff, they have managed though their interaction with Maddox Farms, efficiently handle large numbers of cows in a productive and profitable manner, which I have no doubt over the last 30 years has helped shape the Californian dairy sector. I would sincerely like to thank the Maddox family for the visit.