Virtual Farm Tour: Badger Holsteins
Badger Holsteins Care for Calf Raising
Badger Holsteins in Unity, Wis. has been a family-owned farm from the beginning. Started in a stanchion barn, Larry Meyer, along with his sons, Jeff, Joe and Terry, recently expanded the farm to 1,200 cows. The cows are housed in a new cross-ventilated freestall barn and are milked in a 60-cow rotary parlor.
Joe Meyer takes the lead on the farm’s calf care. Serving as the calf manager for Badger Holsteins, he recently returned home after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. He has five employees that alternate shifts, two per shift, to feed and care for the calves. To succeed with quality calf care and growth, Meyer said that cleanliness is the number one factor.
On average, Badger Holsteins will welcome 120 newborn calves to the farm per month. The farm will raise all the heifer calves and sell the bulls for breeding. At 10 to 14 days before birth, the cow is moved to the maternity pen. The pen is bedded with straw and is cleaned every two days.
Meyer said straw has shown to be cleaner and easier to monitor quality over other bedding options, such as shavings. Once the calf is born, it is moved to a separate pen where it receives colostrum. Newborns receive vaccinations to help build immunity and prevent future health issues. Badger Holsteins keeps extra colostrum in bottles, frozen and ready, if needed for future feedings.
After the calf receives its first colostrum feeding, it is moved to a hutch. Here, the calf will be fed two quarts of pasteurized milk per feeding. The farm primarily consists of all registered Holsteins, but also has a few Jerseys. Jersey calves start out on one quart of milk due to small body composition. Each calf is given starter grain and water as well. The water is replaced three times per day.
After 10 to 14 days, calves will move to the barn and transition from bottle to autofeeder. Here the calves will reach peak milk intake of 2.9 gallons per day in addition to unlimited starter grain and water. Every day, the bulk tank, pasteurizer and autofeeders are washed and disinfected.
After eight weeks on milk, the calf is fully weaned and moved to the other side of the barn. Once the calf is weaned, it will transition to limited grower grain for two months and then transition to TMR. The calf will spend four to five months in the barn before it is moved to the heifer farm, three miles down the road from the main dairy.
Comfortable living quarters for the calf is important to Badger Holsteins. The packs are bedded with straw and cleaned every three weeks. The front of the pen is scraped out every day to keep disease down and the calf clean and safe. Tunnel ventilation keeps fresh air moving throughout the barn. During the winter, all calves are given jackets and group hutches are put in the bedding pack for calves to stay warm and maintain proper growth rates.
Meyer said it is important to keep the building, feeding equipment, air quality and bedding pack clean to ensure healthy growing calves. Proper vaccination protocols are also important to keep ahead of any diseases or future breakouts.
Starting Strong - Calf Care