Clear Communication Essential to Working with Custom Raisers

Posted on November 5, 2012 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
When a farm decides to send its calves to a custom raiser, it requires a lot of trust from both parties. Clear communication is essential to building that trust.

J. Hall of Hall’s Calf Ranch works with more than 16 dairy farms and has about 4,000 calves onsite. With immense experience in calf raising, Hall offers these tips to producers who are considering moving their calves to a custom raiser:
  • Talk to your neighbors and peers to get recommendations for quality custom raisers in the area.
  • Visit the facility to make sure the environment your calves will be raised in meets your expectations.
  • Treat your relationship with the custom raiser as a partnership. You both share the goal of raising the best calves to eventually enter the milking herd.
  • Stay involved with your calves. Regularly communicate with the custom raiser to learn more about management strategies and health status of your animals. That includes asking a lot of questions to make sure you are on the same page.
  • If you ever feel like your calves are performing poorly, bring it up with the custom raiser so that you can work together to isolate the problem. Hall said your focus shouldn’t be on the fact that the calf is sick, but rather it should be on why the calf got sick. This will help you prevent future issues.
  • Likewise, if things are going well, make sure you mention that too. This will help the raiser know which management strategies are most effective.
  • Don’t be afraid to bring outside experts into the conversation. Your veterinarian and other consultants can provide insight that you and/or the calf raiser may miss.
Establishing solid contracts with your custom raiser is equally important for clear communication. Having all expectations on paper will help both parties fulfill their responsibilities. Here are some questions to consider when drafting contacts:
  • How often will calves be delivered to the custom raiser?
  • Who is responsible for transportation to and from the custom raiser?
  • What will be your protocol for newborn calves?  (Consider colostrum management, navel care, tagging, vaccinations, etc.)
  • Who will be responsible for health costs prior to pick-up?  At the custom raising facility?
  • Who will be responsible for tests or screenings?  (Total proteins, ear notching, etc.)
  • What will be included in the custom raiser’s health and sanitation protocols?
  • Who will be responsible for routine conditioning programs? (De-horning, tail-docking, etc.)?
  • Who will be responsible for veterinary costs?  How will that be assessed?
  • What is the tolerable death loss?  What is the policy if your death loss is higher than that?
  • When will heifers return to the home farm?
  • Will the heifers be bred at the custom raiser’s facilities?  If so, what are the required reproductive benchmarks?  Who is responsible for these costs?
  • How will you determine the rate of compensation?
  • When will payments be made?  In full?  Monthly?
  • When will the contract expire or be re-evaluated?
  • Who is responsible for liability insurance?  What does that cover?
  • What records will each party be required to keep?  How will those records be shared?
Dr. Hugh Chester-Jones with University of Minnesota Extension offers a paper titled “Establishing Custom Calf and Heifer Raising Contracts.”  This resource describes a process for establishing a relationship with a custom raiser as well as sample contracts. These samples are intended to serve as a link for developing your own contracts.

Category: Business and economics
Starting Strong - Calf Care