Regional Calf Report: Indiana – Bruce Owens

Posted on February 26, 2013 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Bruce Owens, Vita Plus district sales and marketing manager

Like other parts of the Midwest, calf raisers here in Indiana and western Ohio are dealing with a challenging winter.  Temperature swings have been rough on calves this year just like they were last year.  Most of the calves I see are in hutches, so they have good ventilation.  The catch is that producers have to work extra hard to make sure bedding stays dry.  Most have been doing a good job because they know that, if they keep calves clean and dry, they are going to perform better.

The other challenge with damp weather is disease pressure.  For example, this week we’ve gotten a lot of rain and sleet.  The ambient temperature is about 32 degrees F, but it feels cooler with the moisture in the air.  So calves feel cold, but it’s not cold enough to kill off the bugs.  Again, it goes back to doing a good job of keeping the calves clean and warm.

As I’m talking with producers, I remind them that healthy calves become healthy heifers and healthy cows.  Giving them a good start now pays off down the road.  Of course, we need to do a good job of keeping the older animals clean and dry too.

In my region, I work with both dairy and beef producers.  One trend that seems to be picking up momentum on larger dairies is genomics testing and breeding dairy animals to beef bulls.  Each program is different, but here’s the basic concept:  A dairy will genomic test the whole herd and breed the top tier to good dairy bulls.  This increases the genetic potential of the replacement heifers.  The bottom tier of cows will then be bred to beef so that the calves (heifers and bulls) can be sold at a premium as beef animals.  Some farms will sell the calves to a beef farm right away while others will sell them at as feeders at about 400 pounds.  Both the dairy farms and the beef farms are thinking through these programs carefully to see if they make sense for their operations.

As we look to spring, temperature swings and moisture in the air will continue to challenge our calf programs.  However, good management and keeping the calves in good environments will go a long way in keeping them healthy into the summer months.

Category: Dairy beef production
Starting Strong - Calf Care