This year, McCarty Family Farms became the first dairy in the nation to earn all four Validus certifications in animal welfare, environmentalism, on-farm security and worker care. "Third-party verification has been something that my family has been interested in particularly on the animal welfare side for years," says Ken McCarty. "We implemented best practices and did our best to be good stewards, but we never took the leap into the actual verification. With our relationship with Dannon, there was not only an economic incentive, but a brand incentive to take that leap into third-party verification."
CADILLAC OF COMFORT
Sand-bedded freestalls are a cornerstone of cow comfort for McCarty Family Farms, says Ken McCarty. "It's the Cadillac of cow comfort," he says.
While McCarty's three Kansas farms use flush systems, the Beaver City farm uses a scrape and flume system, along with a gravity sand separator system to recycle sand bedding. After scraping the bedding into a channel, the system flushes the slurry into a gravity sand separator, which uses gravity to suspend the water out of the sand, and pooling the gray water into a settling basin, where a large percentage of solids will be reclaimed from and applied back on crop ground. The gray water flows into the facility's lagoon to be reused in the flume system, or to be used as supplemental irrigation water.
Ken McCarty's freestall barns are equipped with automated mister lines controlled on smart sensors to keep cows at a comfortable temperature. "At about 68 degrees F, our mister lines start running about four times an hour at that temperature for about a minute at a time," says McCarty. "As temperatures warm up, the frequency of the misters speeds up as well."
ABOVE AND BEYOND
While McCarty Family Farms implements a number of practices included within Validus animal welfare standards, their facilities also include several tools and practices that go above and beyond. For example, barns are equipped with street sweeper brooms to use as scratching posts. In the case of McCarty's Rexford, Kan. barn, those brooms aren't stationary but rotate automatically.
For Ken McCarty, data management and monitoring improvements are a part of everyday life, especially when it comes to monitoring herd health and improvements in the four dairy locations his family manages in Kansas and Nebraska. "We're to the point now that the big silver bullet and change moments aren't really there. Now it's about incremental change," says McCarty. "If you're living in it every day, incremental changes are hard to notice. When you're looking at the data all the time, we get caught up in using data to find a problem. It needs to be used just as much to find successes as well."