As the third generation helping run the family farm, Justin Ulrich (along with brother Jake Ulrich and cousin Corey Ulrich) has seen a lot of changes on his Dresser, WI, dairy farm through the years.
“Our grandpa started with 20 cows. My dad and uncle purchased that herd and grew it to a larger tie-stall barn. We purchased our current 500-cow operation from them in 2001. We’ve been continuously growing ever since.”
“I don’t think you can quit. I think you have to keep continually growing.”
Today Ulrich Farms, Inc. milks 1,200 cows three times a day in their modern double-18 parlor. They also have 1,200 head of young stock on the farm and crop about 3,000 acres.
“I just felt like we spent more time working on technology and data issues that were going on… more than we paid attention to the cow.”
As the dairy continues to grow, one thing has remained consistent: The company has relied on ParlorWatch from VAS to continually monitor milk production, productivity and wash processes. While quantities change, the consistency of information provided by ParlorWatch has helped make that growth relatively seamless. The farm originally relied on milking meters through the 1990s, but Ulrich and his family quickly tired of the consistent changes and updates those systems required.
The ParlorWatch software has ultimately given the family a consistent perspective of how the dairy is performing — even when they’re not present.
As Ulrich and his family switched over to ParlorWatch, some of the advantages became evident immediately. This included saving time with better management of labor and more streamlined washing processes. “We were milking so many cows and so many times per hour that it was really critical for us at that time to keep an eye on it, so we wouldn’t fall behind and keep guys on task. There just wasn’t much down time at all.”
“We were able to monitor our wash and how long it takes to wash the parlor between milking, and we did some different things… and we cut 30 minutes off our wash time. When you’re multiplying that by three times a day, it sounds like not much, but we were able to milk another 100 cows in a facility, so we just kept pushing that parlor, kept getting more efficient. It helped us monitor a lot of that stuff that is important.”
“It gave us a really good way to manage the parlor when we’re not there. It provides useful basic information at a price we like. It allows us to handle pen groups that fits our management style. It’s helped us to be very successful with our call rates, and our breeding and milk direction. When you monitor milk weight by pen you know right away if there’s something off. Either the cows went up on milk a lot or I’ve got some cows in the wrong pen.”
“Another thing I like about ParlorWatch is that it’s accurate,” says Ulrich. “The data matches what’s going across our scale. If the numbers don’t agree, then we have to ask, ‘Oh, did the guys dump some milk somewhere? Did a hose break in the milk room? Or it didn’t get into the tank?’ It’s just another way to monitor your milk and another way of managing the parlor. It’s another way to have some checks and balances.”
Another important aspect of ParlorWatch is that it helps Ulrich ensure compliance and the quality of his washing operations. He’s able to identify potential issues in the washing system that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
“We’ve got a couple water heaters at the farm that, from time to time, a gas pilot will go out or if you lose power, or something goes on, you can catch a wash [in ParlorWatch], and all of a sudden you’ll see that wash temperature isn’t where it was a couple weeks ago. Or you walk into the utility room and find that you have a water heater that’s not working properly or the pilot is out.”
Ultimately, ParlorWatch has given Ulrich and his family peace of mind and consistency as their business continues to grow.
“[With ParlorWatch] we’ve managed the parlor pretty similar from when we were 600 cows to when we are 1,200 cows.”