Focus on Calf Care Leads to Show Ring Success
Watch a cattle fitter work at a national show and you’d swear he focuses on each hair on that heifer’s body. Every detail counts.
But, according to Jason Luttropp of Lost Elm Jerseys, raising those animals – from birth to show day – is really a matter of sticking to the basics. He said cleanliness, good bedding and a nutrition program to match his Jerseys’ needs are the keys to his success.
That approach appears to have paid off for this farm of about 200 registered Jersey cattle in Berlin, Wisconsin. 2016 has been a landmark year. Four of Luttropp’s animals were nominated All American, bringing the total to seven nominations in the last six years. When he classified in July, the milking herd was appraised with 45 Excellents and 31 Very Goods.
His proudest moments came when Lost-Elm Tequila Petunia was named Junior Champion of the Midwest National Jersey Spring Show, the Wisconsin State Show, the World Dairy Expo International Jersey Show, and the All American Jersey Show at the North American International Livestock Exposition. He also stood in first place with his Junior Best Three at this year’s World Dairy Expo.
Luttropp’s success in the show ring stems from a lifetime passion for farming and dairy cattle. He took over his father’s farm in 2002, which was comprised of Holstein and Brown Swiss cattle at that time. He had a few Jerseys for the past 20 years and, after a 2010 dispersal of his Brown Swiss cattle, he began to grow his 100-percent Jersey herd.
“It’s not gonna change, anytime, ever,” Luttropp said smiling.
He said he really appreciates the efficiency of the Jersey breed. The herd requires relatively low inputs, yet averages 5-percent butterfat and 3.8-percent protein. He said the Jersey cows also have fewer foot problems, calving issues and other health challenges.
That said, his small Jersey calves do require slightly different management.
Calves are fed “all the colostrum they can drink” at birth and receive the Bovine Ecolizer®, Inforce™ 3, and Calf-Guard® vaccines on the first day. Luttropp feeds 4 to 6 pints of whole milk twice daily for the first four to six days. In the summer, calves are then moved from the tie-stall barn to individual hutches and switched to 6 pints of Calf’s 1st Choice milk replacer and offered free choice 18-percent One Shot starter with Rumensin®.
Luttropp keeps the newborns in the tie-stall barn for a much longer time during the winter because the small-framed calves can’t handle the cold, even with calf blankets. In the winter, he also adds more powder to increase calorie intake and battle cold stress.
Calves are kept on bottles for the first eight weeks and switch to pails after that. Luttropp said the bottles keep the calves drinking more aggressively. They also receive a Bovi-Shield GOLD® vaccine at eight weeks. After 12 weeks, Luttropp begins the weaning process and the calves are switched to all water in about 10 days.
In the summer, the hutches are bedded with wheat straw, but Luttropp prefers canary grass straw in the winter. He said it’s a fluffier straw, which allows for better nesting.
Luttropp “has an eye” for recognizing potential show heifers and segregates them into their own pens. These animals are fed grassy hay to promote better condition for the show ring. The other heifers are put into small groups prior to weaning to promote competition.
“Cleanliness is next to godliness,” Luttropp said, citing strict cleaning protocols as the most important thing he does to raise healthy calves.
He explained that controlling disease pressure in the calf’s environment and sticking to the vaccination program is worth the time invested. Sixty heifers have been born in 2016 and Luttropp has not lost a single one. That’s especially valuable with Lost Elm Jerseys' outstanding genetics.
“So much focus needs to go on calf health and care,” he said. “That’s your future herd.”
Luttropp also credits his dad and other dairy mentors for teaching him how to raise great animals. He said he tries to keep learning and improving as he goes. It also helps that he loves farming and loves his cows. He is willing to give them the time and attention they need to reach their genetic potential.
“I just do my best to raise healthy calves,” Luttropp said. “And good calves turn into good cows.”