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

Calf care headlines Carver County Dairy Expo

Panel members discuss management practices
Dawn and Tim Schauer (left), who operate Schauer Farms in Glencoe, Minn., emphasized their accelerated calf program on their 70-cow dairy. (photo by Krista M. Sheehan)
Dawn and Tim Schauer (left), who operate Schauer Farms in Glencoe, Minn., emphasized their accelerated calf program on their 70-cow dairy. (photo by Krista M. Sheehan)

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

NORWOOD-YOUNG AMERICA, Minn. - Calf management took center stage as the topic of discussion during the headlining workshop with a producer panel at the 18th annual Carver County/University of Minnesota Dairy Expo and Trade Show Feb. 15.

Moderated by Hugh Chester-Jones, a dairy scientist at the University of Minnesota, the panel talked about calf management styles and their operations. The panel included Matt Hendel and Karl Stokman from Hendel Farms in Caledonia, Minn., Tim and Dawn Schauer from Schauer Farms in Glencoe, Minn., and John Brantsen from Trans Ova Genetics in Sioux Center, Iowa. Following the three panel explanations about on-farm calf care, audience members had the opportunity to ask the panel members questions.

Hendel Farms

Matt Hendel and his brother, Carl, own Hendel Farms, which milks 380 cows and raises all their own replacement heifers. For the past 13 years, Karl Stokman has been responsible for their calf management.

Last summer, Hendel Farms built a new calf barn with an automatic calf feeder.

"There are always a few challenges when changing concepts in raising calves from hutches to group housing," Hendel said. "So far, it's been going pretty good."

When a calf is born at Hendel Farms, Stokman puts the calf in a Poly dome for four days, wearing a Woolover calf jacket.

On day five, Stokman moves the calf into a group pen with an automatic calf feeder. There are three groups with automatic calf feeders, each holding about 13 calves. Pens are situated to have 35 square feet per animal.

Hendel Farms uses a 20/20 milk replacer. Most of the calves are fed four to six liters of milk for the first week. During weeks two and three, calves receive six to eight liters of milk before topping at eight liters for weeks four and five. The last two weeks calves are gradually weaned. In addition to milk, calves have 24-hour access to water starting at day five and are also fed an 18 percent protein calf starter grain.

"On day five they've already started eating starter," Stokman said. "It's interesting how they'll go for the water, too,"

By the time the calves are weaned, they are eating 18 percent protein pelleted feed and 1.5 pounds of hay.

Stokman said they grow the calves well enough - weaning at about 275 pounds - without using an accelerated program.

"I'm getting the gains. For dairy replacements, I'm getting what I'm looking for," he said.

Schauer Farms

At Schauer Farms, Dawn has been the main calf feeder for the past three years on the 70-cow dairy. Recently, the Schauers built a curtain-sided calf barn with room for about 20 individual calf stalls bedded with straw. Previously the Schauers raised replacements in hutches.

Although the barn has been a big improvement, the best find for the calves at Schauer Farms has been an accelerated calf-feeding program started about seven years ago.

"I just wasn't happy with the calves I was getting. But then I started feeding them an accelerated program," Tim said. "It's very intense and you have to be on top of it and watch your calves closely, but the end results are unbelievable."

Two years after starting the accelerated program, cows at Schauer Farms jumped in milk production from 77 pounds to 95 pounds.

"It teaches (calves) to eat a lot and they keep eating a lot all their life," Tim said.

Within the first hour of birth, calves are given colostrum, then again at the second and third feedings. On the fourth feeding, calves are started on the accelerated program.

Water is introduced to calves at 15 days. At 32 days, the calves reach a peak of four quarts of milk and two pounds of grain. By 42 days, the calves are weaned and eating six pounds of starter and hay.

The Schauers also have an extensive washing process, first rinsing with warm water, then washing with chloride solution and rinsing with an acid solution.

"It may seem like a lot, but it has helped to isolate sickness to just that calf," Dawn said.

Trans Ova Genetics

Since Trans Ova Genetics uses beef cattle to carry the embryos for high-demand matings, the business decided to start raising calves on site.

Calves are immediately taken away from the cow, towel dried and given one gallon of a colostrum replacer. Even with the replacer, IGG levels have averaged 1,500 and have even peaked at 3,000, said Brantsen, calf facility manager at Trans Ova Genetics.

Calf hutches bedded with six inches of woodchips and one bale of straw are used to house the calves. During the winter, Trans Ova uses a transparent door to keep the calves and the bedding dry.

A 20/20 milk replacer is used to feed calves. Until day 10, they are given 10 ounces, and at day 11 they are given one pound. Starter and water are offered from day 1. By day 50, calves are usually eating eight pounds of starter.

To wash bottles, Trans Ova uses an industrial dishwasher, which washes 16 bottles at one time in 60 seconds.

"It's a huge time saver for us, " Brantsen said.

Since calves are owned by people all over the country, Trans Ova does not wean their calves so they are not stressed during their transport home. All calves are scheduled to leave by 60 days of age.

Question Session

After each explanation of their calf raising, the panel members answered questions from the audience. The first question - asking whether each of them measure for adequate passive immunity transfer levels - had mostly the same response. Hendels and Schauers don't measure it and Trans Ova measures every once in awhile. They used to monitor it, but found no problems so they decided to cut back on the practice. However, they all know IGG levels are important.

"I read that adequate IGG or passive immunity in a calf can cut vet costs by 70 percent," Stokman said.

The Hendel and Schauer Farms were asked about thawing colostrum. Both are cautious. Dawn said they use lukewarm water, but never strictly hot while Stokman said he uses barely warm water.

"Thawing can be a major problem," Stokman said. "Hot water kills protein and destroys the IGG."

None of the panel members pasteurize milk before giving it to calves. Hendel Farms is the only panel member to feed waste milk. It is given to bull calves that are sold at 10 days old.

Another person asked about the sanitation process of automatic calf feeders. Stokman said the feeder is programmed to wash itself and is flushed twice every day with an acid-based detergent.

"But there is still plenty of other maintenance on them and I change and wash the hose daily," he said.

Electrolytes used on the farms vary. The Schauers use Resorb when they have scours and follow directions according to the packet. Dawn also said she mixes a little with the milk replacer after they've gotten over the scours. Brantsen said Trans Ova has the mentality, "treat it before you have it."

"If they go off feed or get a little loose, they get five days of Resorb," he said.

At Hendel Farms, electrolytes or any other liquid medication is given through a liquid injection system through the calf feeder.

The session rounded out with a question about costs per calf. Although none gave an overall dollar amount, they all agreed about the necessity in spending a little extra on their calves.

"It's wise to spend more on a calf because she's your future and you don't want to cut corners for her," Tim said.

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