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

Schuttes make improvements for healthier calves

Building renovations, automatic calf feeders reduce calf care time
Jeff Schutte and his son, John, (not pictured) use heated, slatted floors and automatic calf feeders when caring for their calves. The Schuttes farm near Readlyn, Iowa.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED
Jeff Schutte and his son, John, (not pictured) use heated, slatted floors and automatic calf feeders when caring for their calves. The Schuttes farm near Readlyn, Iowa.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED

By by Kelli Boylen- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

READYLN, Iowa - Jeff Schutte of Kinger Cattle updated some of his calf facilities last year, and he's very happy with the changes.
Schutte has been raising dairy beef since 1980 when he purchased his farm from his Grandmother. Last year his son, John, joined the operation, and they decided to make an investment in the beginning of their animals' lives.
They renovated an old hog building that was divided into individual crates for the raising of calves, and that went so well they started updates in an old chicken house they use for raising calves as well. There are a total of four pens and four feeders in one structure, and three pens with three feeders in the other.
They installed BioTech automatic calf feeders, which they chose because they were the most economical. Schutte said they like the ability to monitor calf health with the automatic feeder computer software. If a calf doesn't come eat, they get an alert, so they know to go check on it.
Schutte said they have to push the calves through the feeders for about the first three days, and after that, they have it figured out.
There are about 15 calves per pen, and each calf has about 16 square feet of space.
The Schuttes were already using a slatted floor in the individual calf pens, but when they switched to group pens, they put in a three-eighth inch tri-bar (three-sided) pipe every nine inches which circulates hot water.  
They use a gas boiler system to heat the water that runs through the pipes. The floor is kept at 70 degrees, which then basically functions like a huge radiator, heating the air in the building to about 55 degrees. Additional heated air can also be brought in from the boiler room which serves as a supplemental heat source when it is very cold out.
They do not use any type of bedding, and Schutte said the calves are spotlessly clean.
Scrapers under the floor remove the waste that falls through.
Schutte said the floor heating is considerably less expensive than the forced-air LP heaters they were using previously.
In addition to the other changes, Schutte installed an air sanitizer system.  The system is designed to kill 98 percent of viruses, bacteria and mold in the air and on surfaces. Similar systems are used in schools, hospitals and day care settings.
He believes that the sanitizer system definitely has helped stop the spread of airborne illness, especially in the winter months.
"It's not foolproof, but it does help eliminate health problems," Schutte said.
The old ventilation in the hog barns was typical negative pressure with exhaust fans. The Schuttes worked with an ag engineer to redesign the ventilation. They now use some of the existing exhaust fans with pre-heated air in the winter, which helped to reduce stress on calves.
The new ventilation design incorporates poly-tubes and a zero-pressure air flow system. The air sanitizer streams into the duct work with the flowing air, and the hydro-peroxides are distributed evenly that way.
Overall, Schutte reports that the improvements have reduced the amount of time spent on calf care by more than 30 percent and that his calves are very comfortable. They have been in the updated facilities for more than a year and have been happy how things have operated throughout the seasons. 
One side of one of the calf raising buildings is still the individual pens, but he plans to switch them over sometime in the future as well.
The Schuttes purchase most of their calves at sales barns in Wisconsin.
Once the calves are weaned, they are moved to a different building and grouped 18 to a pen. They are fed a TMR ration that includes high moisture corn, distillers, wet gluten, earlage, corn silage and bean straw. They recently switched from hay to the bean straw for roughage, and they are feeding some corn screenings which he reports work well and are cheap.
The majority of steers they raise up are Holsteins, and they sell them at a finished weight of 1,400 pounds.
Jeff and John are also assisted on the farm by Jeff's wife, Judy, and John's wife, Megan.[[In-content Ad]]


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