J Hall has been raising calves for the past 15 years. He started his business with a few hutches and has grown to raising 5,000 calves under five months and 1,800 heifers five-months to springers. This year, he is planning to continue the expansion of his operation to accommodate the needs of area farmers.
Hall said, “As long as you can raise healthy calves, the demand is there.”
Raising healthy replacements doesn’t come easily; it takes the help of 35 employees, two summer interns, communication and dedication. At Hall’s Calf Ranch in Kewaunee, Wis., the death loss is below 2 percent. Hall is proactive in making sure the calves he will be raising are born into healthy environments. He periodically checks in at the dairies to make sure they are following colostrum management protocols, keeping a clean facility, and communicating properly.
Hall’s Calf Ranch follows an incoming protocol for all calves that are brought to the facility. The calves are picked up daily from all dairies; not just heifer calves, but bull calves too. Hall said, by picking up both bulls and heifers, “we are able to keep the farms cleaner, otherwise some calves are left in the newborn pen for days, which would create problems for our new babies.”
Once the calves are brought to Hall’s, they are placed in a hutch adequately bedded with straw year round. Next, their navels are dipped with Navel Guard and are trimmed to less than six inches long. On day 2, blood is pulled to check IgG absorption.
At the calf ranch, 2,000 to 2,200 gallons of pasteurized whole milk from an HTST (High Temperature Short Time) pasteurizer is fed daily. This milk is from the same 25 dairies as the calves. If he doesn’t have enough milk, Hall will buy milk from a few of his producers for $3 per cwt. Hall’s team goes the extra milk to make sure their milk is the best for its calves by filtering the milk when it is cold, pasteurizing a few degrees higher than the minimum, and also a few seconds longer. The calves are fed on a bottle for the first few feedings and moved to a bucket as soon as possible. The calves are offered an 18-percent texturized starter, which is dumped anytime it rains or snows.
Hall said, “It is important to give them water if you want them to eat grain.”
These calves are offered water twice a day and the water is dumped in a large container, not just outside the hutches which helps control flies and prevents ice. The calves are weaned as early as five to six weeks, depending on starter consumption, and are grouped at eight weeks.
Mentioning communication several times throughout his presentation, Hall closed with the comment, “Be open and talk with your clients…Walk the calves, know your farms, and know your calves.”