September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
The Stempfles shared the story of their new calf raising facility at a calf-raising workshop hosted by the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Dairy Team on Feb. 10.
Last year they constructed a 32- by 180-foot calf barn with 12 feet under the trusses on their 300-cow dairy near Maynard, Iowa. The Stempfles said they are very happy with how things turned out.
They also erected a 24- by 90-foot heifer barn nearby and increased their bunker space by two-thirds.
Jody was feeding calves in about 30 individual hutches outside and about 30 individual stalls in two barns. With the new facility all the calves are in one location. With the harsh winter in the upper Midwest, Jody and Paul are thankful for their new calf facility.
"Those days of the blizzard would have been horrible in calf huts," Jody said.
The new calf barn has 80 stalls measuring 4- by 7-feet, deeply bedded with purchased wheat straw. Under the straw is about four feet of gravel topped with about four inches of lime screenings.
The barn features natural ventilation and is oriented east to west so they can open the curtains and catch the southern breeze. The curtains roll up from the bottom and can be "infinitely adjustable and self-adjusting."
The back of the pens can open up in warmer months to allow more air movement over the calves, and they can be closed in the winter to help prevent drafts. The stalls break down and are power washed between each calf use.
"Jody is really very careful about cleanliness," Paul said.
Jody makes sure collection pails, bottles, nipples and the pasteurizer are cleansed and disinfected daily. The floors are swept, and any calves that need bedding are bedded.
In addition to having all the calves in one location, Jody uses the Milch Taxi system. They collect waste milk in the parlor and place it in this portable pasteurizer. The "taxi" can store up to 70 gallons of milk and is pulled to the calf barn with their Kubota. They start the pasteurizing process - heating to approximately 147 degrees for 30 minutes and then cooling down to about 55 degrees - right away, which takes about 90 minutes. Jody programs the unit to heat the milk to feeding temperature at 104 degrees for the next feeding time. They use milk from the evening milking for the morning feeding, and milk from the morning milking for the evening feeding.
Jody pushes the unit down the aisle of the calf barn. The unit automatically dispenses as little as two liters and up to 2.9 liters of milk in each bucket as she tells it to with a push of the button. The dispensing pump is battery operated, and the battery charges while the milk is pasteurizing.
The pasteurizer also has an automatic washer, similar to that used in bulk tanks. The Stempfles wash the unit after each use.
Feeding the calves now takes less time.
"I'm more focused on keeping everything in tip-top shape. I spend more time going over data collected from the calves to analyze growth rates on calves to help the calves reach their fullest potential faster and be healthier," Jody said.
Although many dairy producers are switching to automated feeders and grouped housing, the Stempfles said they weren't looking to change the way they were raising their calves since they have less than a 2 percent mortality rate. Their main focus was to make it more convenient.
During times of extreme cold the Stempfles use calf jackets on the smallest calves and make sure they have deep bedding to nestle into.
Once they are weaned, the calves are moved to the new heifer barn, and housed in groups of 10 to 12 calves. The new barn was built in a way so that it could be doubled down the road.
Once they are about 400 pounds they are moved to another farm the Stempfles own. The animals are brought back about a month before calving.
The Stempfles milk in a double-8 herringbone parlor and their cows are housed in a freestall barn that is bedded with sawdust. Their current rolling herd average is 26,000 pounds of milk for their registered Holstein herd. They also have a 2,000-head hog facility and farm about 700 acres. They have two full-time employees.[[In-content Ad]]