Producing milk in a profitable way is the primary mission for the owners of Specht Farms.
Now, the Specht family has taken on a new mission: to minimize, and eventually eliminate, their carbon footprint.
Specht Farms milks 350 cows and grows all replacements on their family farm in Auburn Township in the Ragersville area. The business is owned by brothers Brian and Tim Specht, along with Tim’s son, Scott. The Spechts see opportunities to reduce their environmental impact further with ProCROSS hybrid cows. This is because the same features making ProCROSS cows more profitable than their Holsteins also make them more environmentally efficient.
ProCROSS is a genetic concept with more than 20 years of history that is used in more than 20 countries.
Crossbreeding has been successful
“Crossbreeding has been a mainstay for the beef, pig, and poultry industries for over 50 years,” Amy Loeschke, product consultant with the ProCROSS company, wrote in an email. “However, ProCROSS is the world’s first and only profit-proven crossbreeding system for dairy cattle.”
The scheme rotates the VikingRed, Montbeliarde and Holstein bulls sequentially by generation to create a hybrid cow. Only the best bulls available by artificial insemination from the three purebred breeds are used, said Loeschke, who is based in the Minneapolis area.
“Dairy producers are attracted to ProCROSS for a variety of reasons,” Glenn Carlisle, owner of Carlisle Dairy + Forage Consulting of Dover, wrote by email. “Among them are improvements in fertility and health, easier calvings, smaller cows, and adding more lifespan. In many herds I advise, we are seeing ProCROSS completing an additional lactation compared with their Holstein counterparts; consequently, ProCROSS cows require 25% fewer replacement heifers to be fed and housed.”
Carlisle, a genetic consultant and nutritionist working with the Spechts, said he was drawn to the idea of crossbreeding with ProCROSS after seeing it implemented in herds nationwide and reading about university-led research demonstrating an extra $125 of profit per cow per year.
“In the research done with ProCROSS, even more profit is on the table among traits the research studies didn’t measure,” Loeschke said. “A major one in the future could be extra payments from cheese processors who seek out ProCROSS milk for its documented higher cheese yield. We already see this happening with some processors who have found higher fresh curd yield compared to other herds with similar component levels.”
Less feed equals more profits
Feed efficiency adds profit to dairy herds.
“Besides the impact of fewer resources invested in heifer feeds, these cows [ProCROSS] have a 5 to 10% reduction in feed required for the milking cows, but with no loss of production,” said Carlisle. “On the back side, less feed consumed means lower emissions like methane.”
The lower emissions from ProCROSS cows, compared to Holstein herdmates, have been validated by university research in Italy, according to Loeschke. She said the research was a three-year effort carried out on over 2,000 commercially owned cows. It found lower emissions per pound of milk solids and more profit per unit of emissions.
The Specht family is shifting to ProCROSS. Their oldest ProCROSS cows are in their fourth lactations. They anticipate consumers will soon vote for lower-emission milk with their purchasing dollars.
European milk cooperatives are already paying farmers for reducing their greenhouse gas footprint. In the United Kingdom, ProCROSS herds have shown a 22% reduction in their emissions output compared to the UK average, according to measurements taken by the Arla milk cooperative’s Climate Check program, according to Loeschke.
ProCROSS on display Dec. 6
Specht Farms will show all aspects of its 30,000-pound herd as part of the Ohio ProCROSS Tour on Dec. 6. Three other dairy farms with ProCROSS cows will also be featured. The program is orientated towards dairy producers and their employees, but all are invited.
The schedule of events for the Dec. 6 Ohio ProCROSS Tour is: 9:30 a.m., Willow Brook Farm of the Joseph P. Miller family, at 2104 County Rd 600, Baltic; 11 a.m. Edge-A-Town Dairy, Owen A. Yoder family, 33462 Township Road 235, Fresno; lunch provided; 1:15 p.m. D & S Dairy, Lavern Schlabach family, 3856 state Route 93 NW, Sugarcreek, 2:30 p.m. program held at D & S Dairy, virtual tour of Specht Farms, of Brian, Tim, and Scott Specht, Ragersville. A producer panel and pie social will follow.
Those interested in attending are asked to contact Carlisle by Dec. 2 at 330-340-9051 or by email at Glenn@carlisledairy.com.
This article originally appeared on The Times-Reporter: Sugarcreek, Baltic, Fresno, Ragersville farms to be showcased in tour