by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Winning the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council’s Reproduction Award at the DCRC annual meeting this November, in Reno, NV represents a highlight in Dale Mattoon’s life as a dairyman.
“It’s great for our team and our staff at the farm to get acknowledged for their hard work,” Mattoon said. “Last year, they were recognized as a platinum winner and gold this year. We have a record for strong performance and it’s a tribute to our staff, agribusiness relationships and standard operating procedures.”
Mattoon’s Pine Hollow Dairy Farm, LLC was selected from among 82 nominees from the United States, Canada and Italy for “successfully implemented management procedures that have achieved high reproductive efficiency,” states the Council’s website, www.dcrcouncil.org.
At Pine Hollow, a 1,500-acre operation in Locke, NY, Mattoon and his crew of 17 full-time employees milk 1,000 cows. They also raise their own calves, plus corn, silage, alfalfa for haylage, grass hay for baling, and corn for grain and a few soybeans.
The animals’ free stall facility boasts waterbeds for cow comfort measures, along with curtains and fans for ventilation.
Mattoon said the farm’s first service conception rate “is pretty strong. I’d hope we have every cow pregnant by 120 days or more. We don’t always accomplish it, but it’s our goal.”
He attributes his farm’s success to carefully following the system the farm has established.
“Our people followed the system very, very carefully,” Mattoon said. “We have very strong adherence to our procedures.”
While the management of many organizations must strive for employee compliance with company procedures, Mattoon said he feels fortunate to employ workers who motivate themselves to adhere to the farm’s SOPs and Mattoon’s standards.
“I don’t really do anything to make it happen except we have a weekly chart where we keep track of our performance and that attention to success or failure keeps everyone on track,” he said. “When something starts to go wrong, you know it pretty quickly and you can deal with it before it’s a big problem.”
Mattoon has displayed his herd’s reproduction as one of the six farms displaying at the New York State Fair’s Dairy Cow Birthing Center. The exhibit allows fairgoers to witness a live calf birth. Fair managers plan so that cows from area farms, including Pine Hollow, are present at the time they’re due to give birth. Usually, one birth occurs each day of the fair.
For 2018, he hopes to continue the farm’s level of performance “and become profitable,” he said.
“We can’t slip as far as feed efficiency and herd health, milk quality and reproduction,” Mattoon added.
He wants to focus more on labor efficiency this year to keep pace with the rising minimum wage, a challenge in an industry where revenue remains flat or decreases.
The six Platinum-level winners included Emerald Spring Dairy, Plainview, MN; Jer-Z-Boyz Dairy, Pixley, CA; Plymouth Dairy, LeMars, Iowa; Rollin Green Dairy, Brooklyn, WI; Schilling Dairy, Darlington, WI; and Weisenbeck Farm, Durand, WI.
The other Gold level winners were K&R Blount Dairy, Landing, CA; Copperhill Farm, Fairfax, VT; Riverside Dairy, Reedsville, WI; Skyview Dairy, Hutchinson, MN; United Ag LLC’s Dairy Fountain Dairy, Plainview, Texas.
The organization also named six Silver and six Bronze award winners.
Founded in 2006, the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council is a non-commercial dairy trade group that focuses on reproductive technology. The organization provides information and strives to improve dairy reproductive performance.