A year of changes at the MSU Dairy Farm

One year ago, Jim Good stepped foot on the MSU Dairy Teaching and Research Center for the first time in decades - as the new farm manager. Learn more about the changes over the past year at the MSU Dairy Teaching and Research Farm.

One year ago, Jim Good stepped foot on the MSU Dairy Teaching and Research Center for the first time in decades - as the new farm manager. Jim, an MSU graduate, took the job during the early months of Covid-19 when MSU was not allowing in-person interviews. Thankfully, the job was a good fit for Jim and he got right to work. The changes at the dairy in the last year are quite impressive!

A management oversight committee had been formed a few months prior to Jim starting and had already put several changes in motion that Jim was able to see through. One such change was moving heifers to Kellogg Biological Station from 8 months of age to 22 months. This allowed the farm to renovate a barn to house 80 lactating cows in free-stalls. Moving youngstock that were rarely involved in teaching or research off campus allows us to meet our mission more effectively as we do not have enough land to grow all of our crops or to spread our manure on South campus.

Because the MSU Dairy Teaching and Research Center does so much research that involves measuring individual animal intake, these cows are housed in tie-stalls and are labor intensive. When research is busy, like it is now with six projects happening concurrently, all 163 tie-stalls will be used. Cows are hand fed and feed refusals  later picked up and weighed. The dairy has recently added two mechanized feed carts to make this process more efficient and to save the backs of employees!

Over the last 12 months, Jim and his team have heavily focused on putting up the best feed possible. To do this, the farm moved away from using upright silos (which were also very labor intensive) and put in a pad to store more bagged silage. We utilized a bigger forage bagger than before, allowing us to put up feed quicker. The biggest impact was realized when Burnips Equipment donated the use of a self-propelled chopper. This equipment provided optimally processed corn silage very quickly!

Additionally, the farm switched from milking twice daily to three times. All these improvements resulted in not only major labor efficiencies but also a huge production improvement! Cows are up about 20 lbs of milk per head/day and herd health has also improved.

Even more improvements are on the horizon for the MSU Dairy. With such high research demand, we purchased 50 cows in the spring of 2021 to help meet the needs. The extra milk put us over our bulk tank capacity, so we are currently adding another tank to store milk.

Improvements to Cow Comfort

• Renovated barn to add 80 large free-stalls

• Modified the existing free-stalls to give cows more lunge space


• Renovated the down cow pen

• Upgraded the treatment chute and added a handling area

• Added 40 ft of water trough in parlor return

• Regrooved concrete as part of hoof management plan

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