Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy, located in Kewaunee, Wis., is the largest single family-owned dairy in Wisconsin. It all started in 1946 when Carl and Garnett Pagel purchased the farm with eight cows, eight pigs and some chickens. Since then, Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy has gone through tough times, but always managed to grow from those experiences. Pagel’s Ponderosa is now entering its fourth generation.
Today, Pagel’s Ponderosa has about 4,250 milking cows. The cows are milked in a 72-cow rotary parlor three times a day. Each cow has a RFID tag that is scanned once she enters onto the rotary. Each cow produces around 85 pounds of milk each day.
Two freestall barns each hold 1,750 cows and the holding area holds 500 cows. Almost half of the herd is crossbred between Holsteins and Jerseys. With 45 percent crossbred, Pagel’s Ponderosa increased the butterfat content of its milk. High production, smaller animal size, less feed consumption and less manure are some of the other benefits of crossbreeding.
Besides the dairy, Pagel’s Ponderosa also owns 8,000 acres of crop land. They harvest from 600 to 800 acres each day during harvesting season. Owner John Pagel is deeply interested in environmental stewardship and takes part in several natural resource preservation projets.
Each week, the feed is tested to ensure it’s at its highest quality before it is fed to the cattle. The cows are fed a TMR once a day; feed is continually pushed up to ensure intakes. Tiled flooring has been laid in the manger for the cows to eat from, giving them the smoothness and easiness of eating off a dinner plate.
Near the main dairy, Pagel’s Ponderosa Calf Ranch values high quality calf care to ensure the best calf health. Calves are housed in barns in their own individual pens. This allows the employees to care for the calves with ease regardless of weather conditions.
PVC pipes are used for tunnel ventilation as a way to keep the calves cool and comfortable. Curtains on the barns are also used to adjust the ventilation and temperature.
Calf pens are set on top of stone to allow drainage so the calves stay dry. This allows for less bedding and cleaner bedding overall for the calves. The calves are kept in the barn for two months before they are moved to the bed packs. Farm managers said their calves are healthier in the barns compared to individual hutches.
Calves are trained to drink milk out of a pail right away. They start out on two quarts of milk twice a day and then eventually increase to three quarts. Different colored pails are used to feed the milk/water and grain to prevent cross-contamination. Once feeding is done, the pails are rinsed and scrubbed out to prevent any bacteria growth or milk build-up before water is fed.
Calves are fed pasteurized milk with the addition of Vita Plus vitamin packets. Any extra milk is dumped out and fresh milk is brought over to feed the calves. An automated feeding system is used to feed the calves from a cart. This allows equal amounts of milk to be poured into the pails, making it an efficient use of time.
Once calves are weaned, they move to the bed pack. After the calves a moved out of their individual pens, the panels are removed and taken to the old parlor to be washed and disinfected.
When they reach five months of age, the calves are then moved to the free stall barn where they will stay until they reach 13 months of age. To keep the calves and heifers comfortable, bed packs at the calf ranch are also bedded with bio solids twice a week. The pens are also scraped once a day to prevent manure build up and to keep the calves clean.
Calf health is extremely important to the six full-time employees at Pagel’s Ponderosa Calf Ranch. Herd manager Chris Szydel gives great credit to the employees for the farm’s outstanding calf health.