Producers review new backpack, see benefits of softer start for fresh heifers

The specially equipped Udder Comfort Backpack Sprayer is a new tool allowing dairies to customize pre-fresh and post-fresh applications to fit their management.

MADISON, Wis. — In the milking parlor or out in the headlocks, it’s good to have options. Udder ComfortTM is pleased to announce a new tool for spray application and a revamped new website with customer profiles and videos in multiple languages.

Just in time for World Dairy Expo Oct. 1-5 in Madison, Wisconsin, the specially equipped backpack sprayer was introduced exclusively for customers.

It offers the spray-wand capability of the spray gun, debuted in 2013, but without the need for the air supply. Both tools give dairy managers options to customize usage at the start of lactation.

Lingen Dairy’s robot barns, Balaton, Minnesota

At Lingen Dairy, Balaton, Minnesota, 240 cows milk robotically and 90 through the parlor. The herd makes 87 pounds with SCC 150,000. Josh Lingen uses the Udder Comfort Spray Gun in the parlor so fresh cows get it twice a day for a week after calving.

But for the robot barn, he wanted an option to do two-year-olds more consistently ahead of calving.

Josh Lingen

“The Udder Comfort Backpack Sprayer is slick, portable, no air needed. It sprayed fast and easy, giving us cost-effective uniform coverage from fore-udder to rear-udder. The two-year-olds we did pre-fresh came in with udders full of milk, but so soft, and we saw two pounds more milk from those heifers at 14 days compared with inconsistent spot-applications after calving in the robot barn,” he reports.

“The biggest thing is reduced fetching and improved robot attachment times. We were fetching fresh two-year-olds the first two to three weeks of lactation, but for the pre-fresh group, we got that down under a week. That’s huge,” Lingen confirms. “By softening the first-calf heifers right into calving, udders went through fewer changes in the first 10 days, for greater efficiency in the robots. The backpack made it easy to do pre-fresh groups in lockups.”

At Beer Farms and Cattle Co., Berne, Indiana, the Beers raise and sell fresh heifers, calving 200 two-year-olds monthly. They strictly milk two-year-olds for up to 21 days and average 150 to 160,000 SCC. They have been using the spray gun in the parlor for twice a day applications for five to seven days after calving.

Keith (right) and Max Beer at Beer Cattle Co., Berne, Indiana

“Dairies continue to get more milk per cow, and we find ways to supply them with heifers that continue to get more milk. Starting lactations with this product is part of that value,” Beer explains. “Udders are softer and more pliable, so we see improved quality in our heifers, and they are free to reach their genetic potential with a three- to four-pound production increase by 14 days in milk.”

Beer reviewed the backpack this summer to do pre-fresh groups. “It’s a great tool for doing the applications in headlocks. We did some groups once a day for a week before calving and found results similar to our post-fresh groups using the spray gun in the parlor. A combination is ideal: one to two days before calving and three to five days after.”

Beer explains that with both methods, one pass under the udder (front to rear) delivers a spray pattern to the bottom of the udder and up a few inches. “That’s the critical area to soften and soothe, so udders are ready to accept volumes of milk,” he says. “Now there are two methods to make it fast and easy to get the job done.”

Other customers have also been trialing the backpack sprayer over the past year. At one customer’s 12,000-cow dairy in west Texas, this method gave managers the flexibility for hands-free use in the parlor where large groups of fresh cows get their applications after calving, while first-calvers get it pre-fresh in headlocks.

With its larger reservoir, and no air supply needed, the backpack works well in the parlor of this large Texas dairy. A designated employee uses it to spray udders after each milking unit detaches, instead of waiting for all 40 on one side to finish. This saves throughput time while achieving the desired results.

Bob Keefer

At Hard Earned Acres, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, Bob Keefer milks 700 cows in a parallel parlor. RHA is 28,900, with SCC 135,000. “We saw improvement when we began softening fresh udders with Udder Comfort two years ago. I’m sold on this product even before trying it pre-fresh,” says Keefer.

With headlocks in, he alternated months for heifer groups to receive Udder Comfort 1x/day for the week prior to calving.

“What impressed me is we had no problems in the Udder Comfort pre-fresh groups, but did have some issues in the groups not getting it. Softening the udders ahead of calving improved quality and comfort at the start of lactation, helping those two-year-olds do better. That’s big,” Keefer reports. “I can see the benefits when I line up my pre-fresh heifers every Friday. We’ll keep doing this.”

A 1000-cow dairy in western Minnesota found similar benefits, with the herdsman and partner reporting that, “Pre-fresh applications were more consistent with the backpack sprayer than what we had been doing in the parlor with bottles,” he said. “Our two-year-olds calved into milking without some of the challenges we had been seeing. I was concerned about the time this would take, but after we did it, we see it added no time. We’re in the pre-calving pen daily anyway, and the backpack made it easy to do in headlocks or even walking by as they stand up in the freestalls.”

On average, the producers reported that one gallon of Udder Comfort covered 12 to 14 applications for 40 to 50 fresh / pre-fresh udders.

To learn more, call 1.888.773.7153 or contact Udder Comfort at https://uddercomfort.com/contact/

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