September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

A healthy heifer environment

Brands' new heifer raising facility featured during tour
Heifers rest in one of 12 pens in the new facility the Brands built last fall. The building houses about 300 heifers that range in age from two weeks to 8 months. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA M. SHEEHAN
Heifers rest in one of 12 pens in the new facility the Brands built last fall. The building houses about 300 heifers that range in age from two weeks to 8 months. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA M. SHEEHAN

By By Krista M. Sheehan- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

ELLSWORTH, Wis. - The Brands only had one regret after building their new heifer raising facility.
"Why didn't we build it sooner?" Steve Brand said.
Steve and Mary Brand milk 930 cows on their farm near Ellsworth, Wis. They have four children, Alex (15), Lauren (10), Austin (8) and Logan (6). The new heifer facility was featured during the St. Croix and Pierce Counties UW-Extension dairy modernization tour on April 4.
"We had been thinking about building a heifer facility for a long time," Steve said.
Before the new building, older heifers were housed in an older shed in the same spot as the new set up.
"It was inefficient and we didn't really raise healthy calves in it," Steve said about the old shed. "Buildings do wear out. That one probably outlived its life a long time ago."
Calves on milk used to be raised in calf hutches.
"It got to be really labor intensive," Steve said.
The Brands decided to start new, tearing down the old shed and constructing a new 100- by 240-foot barn. Animals were moved into it in October 2011. It now houses about 300 heifers that are about two weeks old to about 8 months old. There are 12 total pens with six on each side. One pen is split in half for two automatic calf feeders. The rest of the pens are bedded pack with headlocks along the feed alley.
"The automatic calf feeders are only here temporarily. We're building a separate calf barn in the long run," Mary said.
When calves are born, they are raised in a hutch for two weeks. Once they are able to drink from a bottle in a holder on their own, they're ready to be moved into the pens with the automatic feeders.
"It works a little bit better with the older calves. They're more aggressive so we don't have to spend as much time helping calves find the feeders. They also figure it out from each other," Mary said.
Each pen with the automatic feeder has about 25 calves. The feeders are filled with 50 pounds of a 20/20 powdered milk replacer about every 1.5 days, with each calf receiving an average of 6.2 liters a day. Although the calves can drink at any time of the day, there is a certain period in the morning and evening when it is programmed to be cleaned. The calves are also given free choice starter and fresh water.
"Their health is really good," Mary said about calves on an automatic feeder. "They socialize better, get on starter and water faster and take off after weaning faster, too."
Mary also said calf chores are easier now.
"I used to have to carry pails of milk replacer and water, but now I don't have to. I've come to enjoy calf chores," she said. "[The automatic feeders] are a nice way to feed calves
However, Mary did mention one downfall to the feeders.
"If one gets sick, they all get sick. You really still have to check them morning and night," she said.
Once the entire pen of calves is weaned, they are moved to a new pen, and will continue to move together as they increase in age. The pens in the barn increase in size as the animals increase in age.
The sawdust bedding packs last three to four days before the Brands clean it out and use it in their compost barn.
"It's nice that we're able to reuse the bedding," Steve said.
The feed alley is also scraped every three to four days.
The heifers are fed grass hay, corn silage, haylage and corn gluten.
"Outside it takes more energy to feed them. We don't need to feed them as much of the high energy diet as we have in the past," Steve said.
There are no fans in the barn, however, it is located on a high area of land.
"It gets plenty breezy in here," Steve said.
Curtains help regulate the wind and temperature, since the top portion of the curtains are controlled by a thermostat. The bottom portion of the curtains are closed all winter.
"It's a comfy barn and it's a good environment," Mary said.
Since moving the animals into the barn in October, the Brands said their heifers are doing well.
"They're not crowded, they're comfortable and the air quality is really good," Mary said. "They're happy in this environment, they grow and they're healthy."[[In-content Ad]]


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