Virtual Farm Tour: Raising Dairy Beef in Ohio
Imagine two newborn Holstein calves on a farm: a heifer that will be raised as a replacement and a bull that will be raised for beef. Their care is similar in the first couple days, but the strategies used to raise them will quickly diverge as the animals grow. Most notably, a focus on efficient growth tightens the curve for feeding and weaning dairy beef calves.
Joe and Brooke Kipp of Kipp Beef and Grain Farm have raised beef calves in Anna, Ohio for the past several years. Both work full-time off the farm, so they and their three kids get up at 5:30 a.m. to feed the calves before they head out the door. Four years ago, they built a new shed to house the animals and today they raise about 120 dairy beef calves.
For the past year or so, Kipps have gotten their calves from Wisconsin. The calves, less than one week old, have to make a 12-hour trip to the Ohio farm. Although Kipps have no control of the newborn calf protocols, they said they’ve been impressed with the calves’ strength when they arrive and said it’s likely attributed to good colostrum programs.
Kipps raise the calves in an all-in-all-out system and follow a feeding program common among dairy beef raisers in the area. Calves are fed a 20/20 milk replacer. They start at 2 quarts fed twice daily by bottle and gradually ramp up to 3 quarts by day 28. They are given free-choice water and starter from the beginning. Once the calves consistently consume grain – at about five to six weeks – Kipps begin the weaning process, which is done in the course of a week. If a calf is a “slow starter,” it will be held back until it can compete with its cohorts.
After weaning, all of the calves are placed into one group of 120 calves. Kipps have a local market for the Holstein feeders and all of them are moved out by week 12.
The Kipps said they prefer receiving calves on Thursday or Friday. That way, they have the weekend to work closely with the animals and can catch and address any challenges that may arise in the first couple days.
Sanitation is key to the farm’s success. Kipps thoroughly clean between groups of calves and all bottles and equipment are washed and bleached between feedings.
A few miles away, Gary Homan also raises Wisconsin Holstein calves in a facility more common throughout the area. He retrofitted a barn built in the 1860s to include individual pens for his calves.
He feeds 2 quarts of milk replacer twice a day for the first 10 days and then ramps up to 3 quarts until week four. He switches calves from bottles to pails when they begin drinking more. At week five, Homan switches to once-a-day feeding and weans the calves by six weeks. Homan sells about 45 calves at 10 weeks and continues raising the others at another facility. He said he’s been feeding calves for 20 years, but has been raising them for customers since 2012.
Homan echoed the Kipps’ comments about the importance of cleanliness – a priority dairy calf raisers appreciate too. He also said it’s important to stay on top of vaccination protocols to prevent diseases. Because growth and performance is the goal for dairy beef calves, any energy sent to fighting disease is energy wasted. Staying ahead of those challenges leads to the best market success for these farms.
Starting Strong - Calf Care