Dairy Barns Systems' business development manager, Graham Petrie and team travelled overseas to Oregon, USA to look at dairying, particularly off paddock solutions and how they are integrated into farming systems. Here's a rundown of what they got up to on the trip.
Tillamook Dairy Farms
Our first destination was Portland, the state capital of Oregon, and then a 90-minute drive west to the town of Tillamook, pop 5,136, on the south-east end of Tillamook Bay on the Pacific west coast. Tillamook is a similar size to Kerikeri and Stratford.
Map of Oregon showing Tillamook
Our guide while visiting farms in Tillamook was Troy Downing, a dairy extension specialist from Oregon State University.
Troy told us that:
- There are 92 dairy farms in Tillamook County, down from 160 farms 20 years ago, with an average herd size of 326 cows
- Only one farm is on seasonal supply with the rest of 12 months supply
- All farms have an effluent plan
- As in New Zealand environmental issues are a concern for dairy farmers in the USA
- Less than 20% of farms feed an all grass diet to their cows
- Hay is currently $150-$160/ton (NZ $206-$219) and has been up to $280 (NZ $384)
- Corn is starting to be grown and can produce up to 20 ton/acre
- 20% of suppliers to the Tillamook County Creamery Assoc (TCCA) are less than 100,000 SCC (somatic cell count)
- Calving is year round
One of the 92 suppliers to the TCCA we visited while based in Tillamook was Brad & Melody Cowan's Jenck Farms. They run a family based dairy business with two farms, one in Tillamook and one in neighbouring Astoria County.
The Tillamook Farm
- Runs 380 cows on 210 (85 Ha) acres. The cows were all jersey genetics
- They barn the cows in October when it starts getting wet with an average 20” rainfall in October and 10” in Nov- Jan
- The farm is free draining sandy loam soils
- They have 30-40 days effluent storage
- The cows produce 4-5lbs ms/day
- A springing heifer is worth $2000 (NZ $2746)
- A contractor had quoted $2000/cow to build them a free-stall dairy barn
Jenck Farms LIC technology and herringbone pit
The Astoria Farm
- Comprised of 727 acres (294 Ha) running 1,100 cows in four herds, through a 60 bail rotary shed, with 11, mainly Hispanic, workers
- They work 50-60 hours/week earning between $2500-3000/month (NZ $3433-$4120)
- The farm had a compost barn which cost a total of $177K: $147k for the kit, (was 266’ x 80’ in size,) and a further $30k for erection (Total NZ $243,100, 81 m x 24 m)
Astoria Farms compost barn
- The barn would house 210 cows = $842/cow (NZ $1156)
- It is cultivated every day with a maxitill
- The farm's previous owner was Phil Knight the co-founder of Nike