Virtual Farm Tour: Elm-Roc Dairy
Adam Luchterhand bought his farm near Loyal, Wisconsin when he was 20 years old. He and his wife, Kristina, and daughter, Tanna, milk about 50 registered Holsteins and Milking Shorthorn cattle. Adam’s love of cows is deep-rooted in his 4-H days, and Tanna, 13, follows in her father’s footsteps. The Luchterhands dedicate immense attention and care to their herd, starting the day a calf is born.
A newborn calf receives at least 4 quarts of its dam’s colostrum within four hours of birth. That may require a late-night milking of the dam if the calf is born too far ahead of regular milking. Navels are dipped and the calves are identified right away. They also receive the Bovine Ecolizer® +C20 vaccine. Once dry, calves move into an individual pen in the calf barn. They continue to receive their dam’s milk for four to six feedings.
Adam built his calf barn in 2007. At that time, he custom-raised calves in addition to his own and had about 35 nursery calves in individual pens. After five years, he moved away from custom raising and added a transition pen in the barn for weaned calves.
Adam said he believes nothing is better for animal health than “sunshine and fresh air,” and he designed his calf barn accordingly. Curtains and a low sidewall allow him to maximize natural ventilation through the barn without drafting the young animals. Sunlight helps warm the barn in the winter and each calf is fitted with a calf jacket. Deep wheat straw bedding is used in the winter and shavings are used in warmer months.
Nutrition for show
By day three or four, calves transition to the 20/20 Calf’s 1st Choice® milk replacer. Adam said he strongly believes in introducing only one change at a time, so he waits until about 10 days to train the calves on pails. Larger framed calves are gradually increased to 6 quarts of milk replacer, but always receive a consistent milk solids concentration.
Calves are introduced to starter in a Braden bottle at three or four days. They start with just a handful of grain and the amount is gradually increased in response to intakes. They also receive fresh water daily. At one month, Adam introduces a small amount of soft, short-length grass hay.
“I’m a show guy and I want that rib,” he said.
Calves start the weaning process at eight weeks. Adam will delay weaning of potential show calves until about 10 weeks, which accounts for about half of his young calves. Again, to limit the number of changes calves experience, they stay in their individual pens for another 10 days before they move to the transition pen. During this time, Adam blends a grower feed with his starter so calves are used to the feed in the transition pen.
“It doesn’t pay to steamroll through changes,” Adam said. “That will end up costing you in the end.”
Calves will stay in the grower pen until about six months of age when they’ll move to a heifer barn. Because the grower pen holds a wide age range of animals, Adam moves the weaned calves in pairs. This prevents the new calves from being pushed away from the feedbunk by older calves.
Adam can’t help himself; he said he spends a lot of time watching his calves and heifers. That’s partly because he’s envisioning the animals in the showring, but also because he knows it’s key to calf health and performance.
“Study them” he advised. “You have to spend time with them.”
For example, he closely watches their growth and adjusts feed accordingly. He also pays attention to manure consistency as that can be an early indicator of feeding or disease issues.
Adam’s not the only one who gets a close look at the calves. Kristina and Tanna also spend a lot of time with the animals and pick up on subtle changes in health and performance.
Then there’s the six or seven kids that work with the Luchterhand family for their 4-H project calves each year. They make frequent trips to Elm-Roc Dairy to pick out their calves and heifers, work with them, and get ready for the Clark County Fair held in August.
Adam, who also volunteers as a county dairy judging coach in addition to several other fair roles, said he loves the opportunity to help kids develop their passion for dairy. He knows what it meant to him growing up and it’s exciting to see the next generation live it as well. Watching Tanna and her peers work hard for their success is what means the most to him.
“That’s why I farm,” Adam said. “I still believe in this.”
Starting Strong - Calf Care