Virtual Farm Tour: Holland Cattle Co.
Bill and Lisa Holland have farmed 37 years in Apple River, Illinois. They started the operation with hogs and cows, but transitioned to exclusively cattle within the first few years. Today, four of their five children play an active role on the family farm as they milk about 300 cows and raise feeder steers.
Their daughter, Megan, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville last year. She majored in animal science with an emphasis in dairy and minored in agribusiness. She helped manage the farm’s calves through school and, upon graduation, took on a fulltime role at the dairy. Her three younger brothers (two attend UW-Platteville and one is in high school) put in many hours on the farm as well. Her older sister is pursuing a Ph.D. in agricultural economics at Colorado State University. The farm also benefits from the help of one fulltime employee and two high school students who work part-time.
With so many people on the farm, Megan quickly recognized the importance of good communication and clear protocols to provide her calves with the consistency and care they need. She began putting those programs in place to keep all family members and employees on the same page.
“My brothers would probably say I’m a lot more bossy,” she said with a smile.
Nutrition to meet calves’ needs
Megan said changes are made gradually to the calves’ nutrition program to meet their needs. While she has defined protocols for feeding at different stages in their growth, she will adjust the plan and communicate that to the rest of the team to meet the individual animal’s intakes.
Within one to four hours after birth, the calf receives two bottles (4 liters) of colostrum and its navel is dipped. It receives a second feeding of one bottle a few hours later and its navel is dipped again.
At 24 hours of age, the calf receives its first feeding of 2 liters of pasteurized milk in a bottle. By the fourth feeding, the calf is put on a bucket that it will keep for the next couple of months. At two or three days of age, calves are introduced to a half-pound of starter, which is gradually increased as the calf gets older. At about two months of age, when they are consuming about 6 pounds of grain, the calves are weaned over the course of about two weeks in their individual pens. Then they move to the offsite heifer facility and are introduced to a TMR ration.
Caring for the individual calf
Megan puts a lot of energy into ensuring the calves are as healthy as possible from the beginning. All calves receive Bo-Se® and Inforce™ 3 at birth. Calves born to heifers also receive Calf-Guard® and a First Defense® bolus. For the first 20 days, they’ll receive Bovatec® to help promote gut health.
Tight biosecurity is important to Megan. Buckets are completely scrubbed and sanitized between animals. The panels between their pens are sanitized as well. The team wears gloves and washes hands after working with the calves and the milk room is rinsed down after every feeding. Leftover water and grain is thrown out every day as well.
Megan said one of the biggest keys to raising healthy calves is to treat each animal as an individual. She spends a lot of time with the calves, so she can quickly recognize abnormal behavior and address it immediately.
She explained, “It could be tempting to walk past a calf that’s not quite itself and say, ‘I’ll check again tomorrow,’ but what you should really do is temp it right away and figure out what’s going on.”
Megan said she and her family are always trying to learn the latest research by reading trade publications and apply that knowledge to their farm. As her brothers look to join the farm fulltime as well, they have many ideas for how they might grow and develop the business. However, regardless of any changes that come, Megan is sure to stick to the basics of calf care to raise each replacement heifer or feeder steer to be strong and healthy.
“You can’t just see it as a calf,” she said. “You can’t give human feelings to an animal, but you can give it individual attention like you would a child.”
Starting Strong - Calf Care