Virtual Farm Tour: Ostrowski Farms, Inc.
If you were to tour Ostrowski Farms’ calf facilities, you might think you’re looking at a calf raiser’s dream. That opinion isn’t too far from reality.
Ostrowski Farms, Inc. is owned and operated by two brothers, Greg and Dick Ostrowski, in Eland, Wisconsin. Greg’s two sons as well as Dick’s son and son-in-law are also a part of the farming business. Started by Greg and Dick’s father, the farm has grown to its current size of about 1,500 cows.
For many years, the calves were sent to a custom raiser. Unhappy with animal health and performance, Ostrowskis brought the calves home in 2006. In the first year, all of the animals were kept in hutches, but the family knew they didn’t want to keep that system long-term. In 2007, they built their calf barn.
With the goal of creating an optimal calf environment, Dick did extensive research and toured many facilities before designing the calf barn. He custom-designed many features – from panels to pail holders – to best fit the calf program. That strategy has paid off in terms of employee efficiency and calf performance.
Dick’s son-in-law, Matt Krull, works as the farm’s youngstock and maternity manager. With cleanliness as a top priority, he said the individual maternity pens are cleaned between each calving. Newborn calves are placed in individual warming pens for about 24 hours. They are towel-dried, their navels are dipped twice with Vetrycin® Super 7+, and they are fed 1 gallon of pasteurized colostrum. He tracks the total protein on every calf to evaluate the effectiveness of the colostrum program.
After one day, calves move to dedicated pens in the calf barn, which are completely sanitized between animals. Here they are fed three quarts of Calf’s 1st Choice milk replacer twice daily by bucket. They are introduced to starter grain after a week.
The 93 calf pens are positioned in four rows to keep the building more compact. The floor has a two-degree slope to keep water from pooling near the pens, which are bedded with sawdust and straw and re-bedded every-other day.
Krull explained that adequate ventilation was an initial concern with the four-row barn. To address the challenge, Ostrowskis installed positive pressure tubes above the pens. In addition, automatic curtains are temperature-controlled and rain-sensitive. This helps provide an optimal calf environment regardless of the weather.
Calves are weaned at about seven weeks of age and remain in their individual pens for another week before moving to group pens of 10 calves. They receive the same starter grain they ate in the individual pens for about the first week. Slowly, they are introduced to hay and stay in the same groups for another two months.
A week before they move to the next barn, the young heifers are introduced to a TMR. Next they are placed into pens of 20 and eventually 40 animals. Monthly, they move to new pens and into another heifer barn until they reach breeding and calving age.
Krull said the custom-built facilities make it much easier for them to focus on cleanliness and track animal performance. Noticing the details and planning accordingly means the calves have exactly what they need to grow into strong replacements.
Starting Strong - Calf Care