Cheese Lovers Newsletter (12.6.2020): Udderly perfect weather
Hello Cheese Lovers,
It’s getting down there. We might, not for sure, but just might, run out of cheese – and definitely will run out of some cheeses. So, we warn you to order soon if you’re hoping Redhead Creamery LLC cheeses are part of your holidays!
We head back to Fargo this week (with stops anywhere within five minutes of 55, 29, I-94 and Highway 210 or highway 71 in a loop through Glenwood, Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Fargo, Detroit Lakes, Perham, Long Prairie and Sauk Centre).
Order by Monday, December 7, at midnight for delivery Wednesday, December 9!
Gift idea: Cheese of the Month Club
We’ve had a huge uptick in our CHEESE OF THE MONTH club this week despite not talking about it for a while on here.
To reintroduce you: Get it for yourself or a family member – it is $50 per month plus $10 shipping (or you could pickup for free). Our cheese team will select what’s best for you each month and send you about four pieces of our favorites at the time.
Question of the Week: You talked a few weeks ago about milk testing. Do you also grade how your cows look?
Yes, we end up being very judgmental people… with data… on cows... and especially the udder. The most important things for us when trying to improve our herd (or when we need to make a decision on which cow stays and which one goes) are butterfat, protein, milk, somatic cell score (higher score=lower quality milk) and a humungous category called “type.” Type, is short for all things related to how she looks, and is an evolving science with a subjective eye.
About every seven months, the “classifier” comes from the Holstein Association to – as objectively as possible – grade our cattle on 17 characteristics. Our cows were classified a few weeks ago and will next be classified in July 2021 (don’t believe me? You can check the schedule: https://holsteinusa.com/programs_services/classification.html
We pay $55 for this and $8 per cow, and in return we get data and marketing opportunities – kind of like winning a cheese contest. We also give data to the genetics companies so they can aggregate to determine what kind of traits their bulls are putting out. Generally speaking, it is very accurate due to heritability. We'll talk about that another time.
We are really pleased with how our cattle have developed over the past 40 years, but we can always strive for improvements… and occasionally our geneticists will find new things that correlate with healthy or productive or reproductive or longer-living or more-profitable cattle (or all of the above), and the various breed associations might change some traits.
Here’s a really big example that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – and it is true to this writer’s knowledge: Let’s talk about teats. Yes, we’re going there. 😊 Teat placement, as you can imagine, is one of the more important things in terms of productivity. If they’re too close together or too far apart our standard milking unit won’t fit properly. Not fitting properly causes air to come into the system during milking. This can create a "squak," which is annoying to the ear, but more importantly can cause infections, and mastitis, which can cause the cow to be very sick.
Any young dairy kid who grows up dairy judging will know that you want squarely placed teats that are straight down and not too short or too long – about 2.25 inches is perfect.
However, a few things make people like their teats different. The Amish, still milking in many areas, often like larger teats as they milk by hand and this can make the process much easier on their hands – and thus much faster. Robotic milking systems do much better with light colored teats (versus coloration like black on a Holstein) as the lasers don’t always identify them. There are also specific placements that allow the cows to be milked in a robot box in a shorter amount of time. Less time for the same amount of work is happier for cows and farmers (and everyone else).
Today, genetics companies have a specific “robot index” for bulls that milk faster on robots – sometimes these are the same as the “best” bulls for the general milking parlor dairy farm population, and sometimes for whatever reason (teats too close, too dark, too something else) they’re very different than the bulls of cows who work well in traditional parlor or tie-stall systems.
The same is true for the other 16 traits – the classifier and Holstein Association USA is trying to use the best science available for us all to get more efficient, better use of our genetics, but maybe on your farm or in your experience you like it different for some reason.
The traits are: Stature, rump width, strength, rear legs – side view, body depth, rear legs – rear view, dairy form, foot angle, rump angle, fore udder attachment, front teat placement, rear udder height, front teat length, rear udder width, rear teat placement, udder depth and udder cleft. As you can read, a lot of focus is on the udder – 40% of their score. Three traits under research right now are udder tilt, locomotion and body condition score. Are you crazy enough to want more, here's the manual: https://holsteinusa.com/pdf/print_material/linear_traits.pdf
That’s enough cow-talk for you for the week. We’re having a classifier come for our Brown Swiss soon as they will grade for some animals that look really nice and a genetics company wants to learn more about. That's always fun... we'll post results when we have them.
Have a great week!
Lucas, Alise, Jerry and Linda