“The most influential factor in our calf and heifer program that sets up future milk production is a very thorough and strict vaccination protocol,” said Jim Herron. “A quality calf starter that sets up the rumen for future success in the dairy herd is also key,” the third-generation Ohio dairyman explained. “We have a custom pellet that was balanced by our nutritionist to condition the calves for the ability to have extreme digestive efficiency as cows.”
Four farms that excel in milk production shared additional insights into feeding and breeding for a high-producing herd in this Hoard’s Dairyman Intel as well as the Round Table, “These farms feed for production,” found on pages 82 to 84 of the February 10 issue of Hoard’s Dairyman.
Here are additional responses to the question, “What aspects of your calf and/or heifer raising program do you feel set animals up for future milk production?”
Ever-Green-View Dairy, Waldo, Wis.: I think the most beneficial thing we have done with our calf program is the addition of a milk pasteurizer. The next most important thing is the installation of water beds to keep the heifers comfortable and keep their legs in good condition. Grooving of the heifer facilities in a diamond pattern has also helped reduce injury. Our heifers are fed a high-roughage diet to prepare them for the high-roughage diet they will receive as cows.
Hillrose Dairy, Hillrose, Colo.: Everything starts the moment the calf hits the ground. Immediate colostrum feeding is the first step. Then, a combination of hospital milk and milk replacer powder is blended and fed at a rate of approximately 14 percent solids. It’s fed in 3-quart bottles twice per day, and the nutritionist formulates a calf grain mix using the commodities at the dairy. No mill or bagged grain mix is used. Weaning occurs at approximately 60 to 65 days with weights at 200 to 220 pounds. We never cheat the babies because they are the future of our herd.
Kenyon Hill Farm, Cambridge, N.Y.: Probably the first thing is genetics. We are always striving to make sure the next generation is an improvement over the current one, thus leading to higher production. We put a lot of time into our calves, and we are lucky to have people who do a great job and care a great deal about our calves.
They are started in hutches and are cared for individually until they are 2 to 3 months of age. They are offered free-choice water at all times, which is something we feel has made a big difference. We work closely with our veterinarian, John McDermott, from Granville Veterinary Service, to try and stay on top of any issues that might come up.
Click on the links below to view previous reports from this Round Table series: