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News Fe b r u a r y - M a r ch 2 0 1 8

Gross Farms

Progressive Dairy Producer Award As third-generation dairy producers, Steve and Phil Gross have played a large role in the evolution of their family’s 140-cow registered Holstein herd. Over the past five years, the Weidman, Michigan dairy built a double 10 parlor, expanded their herd by 38 cows, switched to three times-a-day milking and increased their Rolling Herd Average (RHA) by over 8,150 pounds of milk. Hard work and the support of their large family has helped make these advancements possible, but above all, Gross believes a humble demeanor is what builds a successful business. “A long time ago, a friend said something that really stuck with me and ultimately affects the management decisions we make for our dairy,” explained Gross. “Know what you don’t know.” Today, with that mentality, Gross Farms is being awarded the NorthStar Progressive Dairy Producer of the Year Award for their consistent production improvements. Established in 1975, the Progressive Dairy Producer of the Year Award recognizes the herd that has shown the greatest total increase in dollar value over the past five years. “One change that has positively affected our herd is switching to custom harvesting,” said Gross. “After talking to our neighbors and nutritionist, we realized we were wasting a lot of time and efficiencies by doing all of the forage harvesting ourselves.” Hiring a custom harvesting team has allowed the dairy to cut down on equipment and labor costs as well as improve forage quality. “Since switching to custom harvesting, our feed quality has increased dramatically, which is

crucial for our herd – quality feed means healthy cows and healthy cows produce well,” explained Gross. “Not only are we saving money on equipment maintenance and updates, but we’re able to reallocate labor, which has allowed us to switch to three-times-a-day milking.” “Now we can also focus more labor on cow comfort,” claimed Gross. “We replace our sand beds two times a week as well as level the sand and scrape the barns two times a day to make sure our animals are relaxed and comfortable. Ensuring our cows are never hungry is also very important for both comfort and production. We feed fresh forage three-times-a-day and our animals eat from a double-sided bunk, which means they don’t have to stretch to reach their food and we don’t need to worry about pushing up the feed.” Following the standard of top quality, the Gross’ herd is also held to high standards when it comes to record keeping and lactation performance. Using NorthStar’s DHI Services since 1958, the dairy utilizes monthly data to help guide herd management decisions. “The first thing I look at when we receive our DHI data is SCC,” Gross explained. “If an animal reports a high SCC, we make sure any cases of mastitis are treated and give her time to heal. If she’s flagged as a high SCC cow the next month, then it’s time for her to leave our farm.” “We also use our DHI data to really analyze individual animals. Once I take

Phil, Steve, Kevin and Matt Gross all of the information into account, it’s much easier to make a decision about her future. In all, our DHI information really helps us see each individual cow – something we wouldn’t be able to comprehend without our monthly data updates.” The dairy also depends on their NorthStar team for quality herd genetics. “We enlist both our NorthStar Sales Representative and Genetic Consultant when making sire decisions. Our field representatives are extremely important to our reproduction program and we really value their opinions,” Gross noted. “We use the information to help us select sires that will ultimately improve the quality of our future herd. Our evaluations also free up a lot of time in my day that I used to spend studying pedigrees – which is a big plus.” Knowing what they don’t know has helped Gross Farms improve almost every aspect of their dairy through a little investigation and a lot of friendly help from their neighbors and NorthStar team. “We’re thankful for the decisions my dad made when he ran the farm, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for our family dairy,” said Gross. Gross Farms was established in 1926 and is operated by brothers Steve and Phil Gross along with Steve’s son Matt and nephew Kevin Gross. ~Kailey Watson


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NorthStar Cooperative • 800.631.3510 • northstarcooperative.com

NorthStar News Feb/March 2018  

Inserted with DHI management reports.

NorthStar News Feb/March 2018  

Inserted with DHI management reports.