Efficiency is the name of the game when you’re milking between 1,250 and 1,300 cows like Fetzer Farms, Inc.
Brothers Paul, Steve and Joe Fetzer depend heavily on their workhorse TMR mixer not just to keep their expanded dairy in the game, but to keep charging across that moving goal line of ever-higher production.
Three years ago, the three brothers increased their milking string from 700 to over 1,250 cows with a major construction project that included cross ventilation, and sand separation and reclamation. Today, they’re relying on their KUHN Knight VTC 180 Vertical Maxx mixer not just to maintain - but move beyond - the dramatic gains in production achieved by cow comfort-enhanced facility changes. Their rolling herd average is around 28,700 pounds; cows are milking about 90 pounds per cow per day.
Paul, 48, is the eldest brother and president of this family corporation near Elmwood in northwest Wisconsin. He says they couldn’t be happier with changes made – a 900-cow cross-ventilated facility coupled with a double-20 parallel parlor, along with a closed-loop sand separation system that allows them to reuse sand bedding and water. Admittedly big investments are paying off thanks to precision management – made easier, says Paul, with equipment like their truck-mounted VTC 180 mixer.
The VTC 180 is one of two twin-auger commercial mixers from KUHN Knight that are built rugged for producers like the Fetzers, who are feeding almost around the clock. Improved feed movement provides a fast, yet complete mix and a consistent, fluffy and palatable ration. The other KUHN Knight twin-auger commercial mixer in the VTC Series is the VTC 1100 Vertical Maxx, with a 1,000 cubic foot capacity instead of the 180’s 800 cubic feet (without extensions).
Paul appreciates this mixer’s durability and dependability. Its two-speed, split planetary drive – the toughest in its class – independently protects each planetary, for longer life. And a redesigned tub on this truck-mounted mixer has a lower loading height and a wider base for more unloading versatility.
Paul just shakes his head and doesn’t want to even wager a guess when asked how many miles their truck-mounted mixer puts on in a week delivering feed to mature cows in the two feed alleys of their new barn, as well as three other facilities. Heifers return two months prior to calving to a facility that has curtains, fans and mattresses with sawdust.
Three weeks before calving, heifers move to a “transition barn” (heifers on one side, mature cows on the other), where they calve in a maternity area. The transition barn, where fresh cows remain for about a week post calving, holds 200 head, and was converted from curtain sidewalls to tunnel ventilation with sand bedding. Fresh cows are milked in the Fetzer’s older parlor, which is now a single-12 parallel.
Then, first-calf heifers go to a milking barn separate from the mature cows. The first-lactation milking barn has also been converted to sand bedding and tunnel ventilation and holds 400 head. It had formerly been the lactating cow facility. Both the first-lactation barn and cross-ventilated mature-cow barn feature automatic manure scrapers.
Day in and day out, their KUHN Knight mixer makes the rounds in all those barns, traveling back and forth from this operation’s central feed area, where haylage and corn silage are stored in bunkers as well as a host of other TMR ingredients.
Paul says they’ve owned their VTC 180 since spring this year – it replaced a KUHN Knight Botec four-auger mixer. He reports they’ve relied on KUHN Knight mixers for roughly 12 and a half years. The one they’re using now is their fourth one. Each and every time they’ve expanded, they’ve found that KUHN has a mixer with capacity and feed delivery that meets their needs.
Paul says they chose the VTC 180 model primarily for three reasons.
“Fewer moving parts, longer life and faster mixing. The mix quality has always been good with KUHN Knight mixers, but we think we can do it faster now."
Their mature cow ration is 60 percent corn silage and 40 percent haylage, along with cottonseed, soybean meal, corn gluten pellets, a vitamin/mineral mix, corn and distillers, and a whey permeate. They add dry hay and straw to the dry cow ration; the VTC 180 handles those “just fine,” Paul confirms.
He estimates it takes their new mixer four minutes to mix the mature cow ration – some 15,000 pounds of feed. They do 12 batches (15,000 pounds each) daily, in addition to three smaller batches. They also mix and deliver corn silage and haylage to a neighboring dairy.
With all that use, he says they felt they’d get “longer life out of it,” citing “fewer moving parts on a vertical mixer.”
The three brothers are the fourth generation on a farm established by their great grandfather in 1914. Their father, Bob, who passed away in 2004, farmed with his brother.
The Fetzers purchased the mixer from Komro Sales in Durand, for which Paul offers high praise.
“They’re good at having parts on hand, though we see very little of that need. They’re always good to work with us on the sales end, with trade-ins, too."
The Fetzers also have a KUHN Knight 8024 slinger spreader, which they use to spread waste feed and some pen pack. They’ve owned it for four years and Paul cites its:
“Good spread pattern and quite rapid unloading time."