North Florida Holsteins began in 1980 when one dairy farmer and two cattle dealers purchased a feed lot with cropland in Bell, Florida. They immediately built a double 10 herringbone parlor. The parlor was opened in September with 125 cows.
The capacity of the double 10 was reached in 1985 as the herd approached 1000 cows. At that time a double 12 herringbone was added. Also three times a day milking was initiated at this time. By 1990 the capacity of both parlors was reached and a double 40 parallel parlor was added.
Soon over 3000 cows were being milked in the double 40. The double 10 facility was converted to a parlor office allowing the cow records to be maintained away from the employee and accounting divisions. The double 12 became the hospital facility with ability to handle overflow from the double 40.
Originally, cattle were bought and sold in addition to the milking herd. After nine years, one of the dealer partners was bought out. This allowed greater emphasis on improvement of the milking herd.
The major challenge was how to make cows comfortable in Florida’s climate. Many different combinations were tried. In 2002, a tunnel ventilation facility was constructed. From the first attempt, a number of variations were initiated. Today the milking cows from the 4700 cow herd are mostly in tunnel ventilation with bunk sprinklers and evaporative cooling in the summer. Some overflow cows would not be in the cooling facilities in the winter.
The farm consists of about 10,000 head of cattle and 2400 acres of land. The 10,000 head of cattle are 4700 cows; 4000 replacement heifers; 1100 bulls held for AI and for sale to other dairy farms, and a few beef cattle. The land is used for farm facilities, pasture and cropland.
The farm’s feed program is purchased commodities and farm stored forages. Today the bulk of the forages are purchased from neighboring farmers. The future includes more home grown forage.