Beyond the Barn: Producer Peer Groups
Sandy Keller farms with her family at Kellercrest Registered Holsteins, Inc. in Mt. Horeb, Wis. The Kellers milk 300 cows with a total herd of 600 animals. They also do embryo work and contract bull studs. For the past couple of years, Sandy has participated in a peer group of a dozen or so local dairy producers to bring new ideas back to her farm.
With a primary focus on calves, producers use the peer group as an opportunity to share ideas for products as well as feeding, sanitation and weaning protocols. They discuss what they’ve learned on their own farms and give each other ideas of how to use those techniques at home. Sandy said the peer group meets quarterly and usually includes a few Vita Plus staff members as well as Mike Keller, a nutritionist with Middleton Farmers Cooperative.
The peer group generally meets at a local restaurant, but producers came together at Kellercrest Registered Holsteins for the most recent meeting. The Keller family recently completed construction of a new calf barn and producers were excited to tour the new facility. Sandy said the barn was designed with extra space behind the calves to prevent drafts in the winter time. Each individual pen also has its own drainage system to keep the bedding dry. Touring the barn gave peers a chance to ask questions and see the benefits of the facility first-hand.
Sandy said one of the best aspects of the peer group is that it gives producers a chance to get away from the farm for a few hours. She enjoys learning from others and making connections with local farm families.
She said, “It’s just a lot of fun to get together with everybody.”
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Starting Strong - Calf Care