Virtual Farm Tour: Loehr Dairy LLC
Joe Loehr of Loehr Dairy LLC in Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin believed he could adjust his pasteurized milk feeding program to improve calf health. As he reached for that goal, he also achieved better efficiency in the total calf raising program.
The 540-cow dairy is a partnership between brothers Joe, Mark and Dan Loehr. Joe takes the lead on herd management. Two years ago, the farm built a calf barn to replace hutches and provide housing for about 70 calves on milk. About a year ago, Loehr researched milk balancers to add to the farm’s pasteurized milk to improve calf health. He selected Calf Magnify because it was easy to use and provided consistent nutrition to calves. He’s been impressed with his results so far.
For the past seven months, Loehr and his kids have weighed calves at birth, four weeks, eight weeks and 12 weeks. Their average daily gain is 2.3 to 2.4 pounds per day, and they reach 220 percent of their birthweight by eight weeks. Perhaps the most impressive growth happens after calves are weaned. While many farms see growth slow during this transition phase, Loehr Dairy has achieved an even faster growth rate in weaned calves.
Efficient feeding program
Calves are fed 1 gallon of fresh maternal colostrum within 1 to 2 hours of birth. They receive a second 2-quart feeding at 6 to 8 hours. If the dam does not have enough colostrum, managers will use stored colostrum (refrigerated with potassium sorbate preservative for up to one week) or a colostrum replacer.
The first milk feeding is offered 24 hours after the second colostrum feeding. Calves generally receive milk from bottles for about three to four days and then switch to a bucket.
Calves are fed three times a day at Loehr Dairy. They receive 1.8 liters per feeding for the first week, and this is increased to 2.5 liters after seven days. When a calf is 6 to 7 weeks old, it’s reduced to 1.6 liters per feeding. The weaning process begins at seven to eight weeks when the calf receives only one feeding of 1.6 liters for a week. After that, the calf receives just water and starter grain.
An 18-percent starter is offered starting the second day. Calf feeders closely monitor starter intakes and gradually increase the amount offered accordingly. Loehr said the goal is to always have a very small amount of starter left in the pail, indicating that calves aren’t running out of grain or wasting a lot.
Calf Magnify is added to all the milk to balance its nutrient profile. Loehr worked with Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus calf products coordinator, to design this feeding program. Loehr said he was skeptical when Hoskins shared growth projections and said he could reduce the total amount of milk fed by adding Calf Magnify, but he gave it a try and has liked the results. He said he’s been pleased with calf health as well as the improved growth efficiency. Less milk fed to calves means more milk in the bulk tank.
Unique housing also improves efficiency and performance
Loehr said one of the first things he noticed with the new barn was how it required much less bedding than the hutches. His policy is if calves have dirty knees, then they need more bedding. Newborn calves have deep straw bedding for the first three weeks during the summer and six weeks in the winter. After that, they switch to sawdust bedding.
For the first two weeks, calves are housed in individual pens. At two weeks, Loehr pulls a panel between calves and houses them in pairs for the rest of the preweaning period. He said he first read about this pairing strategy in a Hoard’s Dairyman article, and the farm’s herd veterinarian had done some research on it as well. Loehr said he believes the socialization pushes the calves to consume more starter earlier and reduces stress when calves move to group pens one to two weeks post-weaning.
For Loehr, one of his favorite parts of the calf program is its simplicity. He said he believes calf raising does not need to be complicated.
“They need colostrum early, a clean environment and good nutrition,” he said. “That’s all it takes.”
Calf and heifer nutrition
Starting Strong - Calf Care