Over the past four years, more than 20 percent of Michigan dairies have closed their barn doors. Forced out with the shrinking milk check and rising input costs. This unfortunate circumstance is felt from coast to coast—enforcing those dairy producers still standing— to do more, with less. Johnson Farms, LLC, a fifth-generation dairy farm in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, located in Dagget, is of no exception.
Today, Johnson Farms LLC., milk 2,000 cows—all of which are crossbreds with a rolling herd average of 28,000 pounds of milk with a 4.2 and 3.2 butterfat and protein tests. The herds somatic cell count runs around 160,000. In 2012, the Johnson family began crossbreeding because according to Lance, “We were tired of the problems that came with Holsteins and ultimately we wanted to build a tougher cow.”
They navigated towards the Fleckvieh breed due to their hardiness, ability to eat less and produce more high quality milk. Johnsons do a three-way cross and focus on breeding cows that show results to their bottom line. “It is really all about efficiency—labor, feed, and reproduction,” says Lance. “We feel we continue to breed a more efficient and profitable herd year over year.”
CRV’s great to work with and we have easy access to get the bulls we want,” says Lance. “In my opinion, CRV’s customer service is the best.”
Johnson studies the bulls every proof run and selects the best of each breed, honing in on components, Udder Composition and Net Merit Dollars. Current CRV service sires used by Johnson Farms, LLC., is: 097FL57697 HERMELIN, 097FL80493 WALK, 097FL59680 MAHUTA. Current milking daughters—WEB, IMMUNATI, HARIBO—are among herd standouts and favorites of the Johnson family. “They are powerful, strong and consistently milk well,” says Lance. “I know the sires without looking when the calf hits the ground. The calves are consistently uniform.”
At the end of the day, Johnson is looking to make strong cows, that breed back with no problems, produces good components, and cows that will last. Johnsons have been able to do just that. “This all spells profitability,” says Lance. “Cows that I have to spend less time with, result in making us more money.” Johnson continues, “I need trouble-free cows. Not ones we are going to spend time IV’ing. We need easy cows, which means less time an employee has to work with them and less money in treatment, all which results in less cost that goes into that cow. “This all shows up on the bottom line,” says Lance.
While the long-term dairy outlook looks less than desirable, for Johnson the future looks a bit brighter. Focusing on profitability, by breeding a stronger cow, that produces more nutrient-rich milk and stays in their herd longer—aids to Johnson Farms, LLC., bottom line and staying power in the industry. “We love what we do— working with our cows and we hope to continue on for the next generation.”