Lance Haase
Lance Haase
PARKER, S.D. – Achieving a high genomic herd starts well before the cows enter the parlor. DaBru Dairy has found their success by laying a strong foundation of calf care and management with an automated calf feeding system.
DaBru Dairy was among tour stops for those attending the National Holstein Convention June 29 in Sioux Falls. The tour showcased the dairy’s automated calf feeders and high genomic herd.
“Since putting in the automated feeders, we have noticed better growth and all-around higher achieving calves,” said Lance Haase, manager of the calf raising and facilities. “Ultimately, those calves are making more productive cows.”
Haase dairy farms alongside his father, Bruce, and uncle, Dustin. Together, they milk 600 cows in a single-14 straight parlor and farm 6,000 acres.
Four years ago, DaBru Dairy built the calf facility and put in the automated calf feeding system. The structure can house 80 calves at a time with stalls for four calves to eat simultaneously.
Before building the new facility, calves were raised in individual hutches. Haase recognizes the benefits he has experienced since transitioning to group housing.
“The calves are way less timid,” Haase said. “I see them perform way better when they interact with each other. They are less scared around us and seem happier all around.”
Along with the positives of calves’ changing demeanor, DaBru Dairy has seen benefits in calf health and performance because of the information they receive from the automated feeding machine.
With an ear tag sensor, Haase is informed when a calf may be sick, how many visits each calf makes to the feeder, which calves are not finishing their portions, and whether calves could be fed more to increase their rate of gain.
“The machine knows the calf is sick before the calf does,” Haase said. “Anyone can help manage the calves because it takes all of the guessing or needing to know calf behavior out of the equation.”
For certain calves, such as the show calves and higher performing calves, the automated feeders can alter the individual portion size to increase their feeding curve.
Haase has found this feature to be especially helpful with the Wagyu beef calves they are raising. Calves can be in the same pen despite differing growth rates, breed or being show animals.  
The Holstein calves are weaned around 70 days and the beef calves around 80.
Haase credits the automated calf feeder in allowing DaBru Dairy to compete with the large dairies that send their calves to heifer raisers in southern states.
“No one can raise a heifer better than you,” Haase said. “With the right resources, you can get the ball rolling because you as the farmer know the exact plans you have for the animal.”
The tour wrapped up with displaying cows DaBru Dairy has developed by giving extra attention to detail surrounding youngstock, calf facilities and genetic selection.