Maaike Verhaar was born in the Netherlands, but moved to the United States 14 years ago. Across the ocean, her family milked 30 cows, but the farm it owns today is a bit different. Today, Verhaar Dairy in Bad Axe, Mich. milks 2,150 with a total herd of 5,000.
In about a month, Verhaar will graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course with a certificate in dairy herd management. She plans to go back home to join the family operation and hopes to someday own her own farm. To help her prepare for that career, Verhaar sought an internship that proved very valuable to her dairy management skills.
This past summer, Verhaar joined the team at Hall’s Calf Ranch in Kewaunee. J. Hall raises calves for more than 16 farms and has about 4,000 calves onsite. Through her internship, Verhaar was able to gain experience in all areas of the operation, including watering, feeding, cleaning, tagging, treatments and blood testing.
“It was important that I pursue an internship like this because I needed to see a different way of farming,” Verhaar said.
In addition to day-to-day calf care, Verhaar was charged with the task of observing newborn calf handling at each of the customer farms and scoring that information. She said she appreciated the opportunity to see so many different operations and management styles.
Verhaar described working on Hall’s Calf Ranch as “a really great experience.” She said she was so impressed by the tight protocols J. and his team follow when caring for calves.
“To have such a great operation and reputation, everything needs to be done perfectly,” she said.
Verhaar looks forward to taking what she’s learned back to her home farm to help improve what’s already a top-notch dairy operation. According to Verhaar, producers can always find details to perfect, no matter how strong their operations may be. She said that was an important lesson to learn and she recommends this kind of opportunity to any future dairy producers.
“There is so much to learn,” Verhaar said. “Even if you only have a few calves back home, there are so many important little things that can be learned if you have an open mind.”