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Friday, 30 September 2016

Alta Advantage Spotlight: Vortex Holsteins

Tom King focuses on the little things that make a big difference to achieve success at Vortex Holsteins.

Number of cows: 600
Milk production: 13,000 L (28,660 lb) shipped per cow per year
Milking parlor: Double-9
Pregnancy rate: 27%
Voluntary wait period: 50 days
Acres: 800 (324 hectares)
Crops: corn for silage, grass, wheat
Number of employees: 12
Genetic Plan: 70% Production | 30% Health | 0% Conformation

It’s the little things that make a big difference at Vortex Holsteins, owned by Tom King and his father, Alan. While Tom manages the employees, herd health, reproduction, crops, feed and nutrition, Alan tends to the young stock and does about 60% of the breedings on the cows.

With a mind to not only be bigger, but also better, the Kings have implemented numerous upgrades to their farm since Tom joined his father after college. Currently at 600 cows, they have goals to reach 900. Tom King knows the importance of having every facet of management in line to be the best, so they handle all aspects of the farm in-house to keep a handle on constant improvement.

Cows at Vortex Holsteins are housed in a freestall barn with sand bedding, which was implemented after a trip Tom took to California, US in 2005. He mentioned that when cow comfort is a top priority, there’s no other option than sand bedding.

Cow comfort at Vortex Holsteins comes from the open air barn with sand-bedded stalls

Many of the other changes and advancements at Vortex Holsteins came after Tom attended the AltaU Dairy Manager School in Watertown, WI. Tom mentioned that he learned more in one week at AltaU than he did all throughout agricultural college.

You can get comfortable in thinking what you do on your farm is good enough, but things like AltaU really challenge you to question your methods and to get better
Tom King, Vortex Holsteins

Some of the changes that he implemented after AltaU include the switch to a 14-11 day pre-synch/ov-synch program. Between strict compliance to protocols and a parlor-based activity monitor system to cherry pick cows in heat after the 50-day voluntary wait period, they have bumped up their pregnancy rate to 27%!

In addition to stellar reproduction, Tom also puts a focused emphasis on achieving the most production per cow. To do this, he ensures cows are only gone to the parlor for 40-45 minutes from the time they leave their pen until they’re back at the feed bunk.


He also did some rearranging of groups of cattle, sorting out one group of slower milking cows. With the slow milkers grouped together, he was amazed by the full hour per day that they save in the parlor from the added efficiency of grouping. He also keeps the first lactation animals separate from the older cows.

Furthermore, only one ration is fed to the entire herd, as opposed to one ration for high producers and one ration for low producers. Increasing the production on what have been the lower producing cows has increased their overall production levels to 42 liters (93 pounds) shipped per cow per day.

Tom aids his quest for added production with the genetic plan he has in place. With 70% emphasis on production, and the remaining 30% placed on health, Tom selects sires that make the high-producing, healthy cows that create the most profit.

To further advance the genetics, and also capitalize on current beef prices, Tom and Alan are using sexed semen on the top heifers, and then using beef semen to breed the bottom 30% of the herd and any cows over 3rd service.

Tom comments on the benefits of DairyComp 305 to keep things in order in terms of synchronization, dry-off, herd health, and other protocols, and to keep a handle on metrics to manage herd on a day-to-day basis. He adds, “DairyComp has really revolutionized the way we run things here.”

Looking ahead, Tom and the team at Vortex Holsteins plan to work toward their challenge and goal of expanding. With a progressive, focused mindset, and a constant desire to learn, they plan to become not only bigger, but better in all areas of management.



Chrissy Meyer
Chrissy Meyer
US Marketing Manager
United States

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