Virtual Farm Tour: Kellercrest Registered Holsteins
Family is truly the central theme at Kellercrest Registered Holsteins in Mt. Horeb, Wis. The 320-cow dairy is a partnership between brothers Tim and Mark Keller and their wives, Sandy and Kareen. Tim and Sandy’s teenage kids, Andrew and Kimberly, also own a few cows.
Tim and Mark’s parents started the farm. Tim and Sandy farmed in partnership with their parents from 1988 to 1997. In 1999, Tim and Sandy finished purchasing the farm and expanded the operation. At that time, Mark also returned to join the family business.
It would be fair to say the animals are considered part of the family at Kellercrest as they receive optimal comfort and care. That’s demonstrated by the farm’s motto: “If we don’t take care of the cattle, they can’t take care of us.”
The Keller family has a passion for genetics. This last summer and fall, the farm sold 15 bulls into stud. They also sell embryos from top dams. Tim and Mark grew up showing dairy cattle and are now passing on that tradition to the next generation. Andrew and Kimberly work with their calves throughout the summer and show at the county and state fairs as well as the district Holstein show. The kids said they enjoy showing because they like the competition and working with their animals.
As the Kellers look to the future, they said they would like to become a “genetics hub.” Tim said the awards are nice, but filling a wall with plaques isn’t the top goal of their program. Instead, they look to increase the herd’s genetics to put more milk in the bulk tank. With an average production of 90 pounds, it appears they are doing just that. The farm’s excellence in dairy production was recognized in 2008 when it earned the Progressive Dairy Producer Award from the National Dairy Shrine.
It would be easy to say that Kellers give their animals such excellent care because of their high genetic value, but Tim and Sandy said it’s not at all about the profits. They provide the best care for the herd simply because it’s the right thing to do.
That care starts from the day the calves are born.
Sandy heads up the calf operation. When they are born, the calves are immediately fed two doses of Secure colostrum replacer and then moved to individual pens in the calf facility. This facility, constructed about one and half years ago, helps Sandy to optimize calf care. Each pen has its own drainage to keep bedding dry. To further promote drainage, Kellers bed with corn stalks on the bottom and straw on the top. The barn was built with an extra space between the pens and the wall. This allows air to circulate without drafts blowing in directly on the calves. Temperature-regulated side curtains help keep the facility at the right temperature year-round. A large milk house and storage area helps keep all of the pails, bottles and other equipment clean and dry.
Sandy said calf care is of the utmost importance. Although a lot more is at stake for calve with high genetic potential, the philosophy of top-notch animal care translates to every animal at Kellercrest.
“If I don’t care for them up here, they won’t make it to the parlor,” she said. “I baby them all.”
Starting Strong - Calf Care