Virtual farm tour: Redetzkes’ No Joke Dairy, LLC
It’s not often that farmers completely start over on the same farm where they grew up, but that’s exactly what brothers Sam and Matt Redetzke are doing at Redetzkes’ No Joke Dairy, LLC in Stratford, Wisconsin.
The brothers’ great-great-grandfather built the farm in 1911 and the farm has been passed on through the generations. Their father, Doug, milked Holsteins in the tiestall barn until he sold the herd in 2011. In 2015, Sam and Matt decided they wanted to start milking again and their dad encouraged them to “try something other than Holsteins.” They started with a 50-50 split of Holsteins and Jerseys. They added a freestall barn in 2019 and currently milk 190 cows. Today, about 75% of the herd is Jerseys, although they have every major dairy breed except Ayrshires.
“The Holsteins just kind of culled themselves,” Sam said, noting that calving ease “is phenomenal” with their Jerseys and they have fewer milk fever issues.
Aside from a couple relief milkers, the farm is operated completely by the family. Sam takes the lead on cow and calf care while Matt focuses on crops and business management. Matt’s wife, Brittany, assists with chores and works off the farm. Doug works full-time for his sons and their grandfather still comes to lend a hand almost daily. Sam’s and Matt’s kids also enjoy farm life.
“On any given day, we have four generations walking on this farm,” explained Sam.
First days are critical
Sam said he’s found that the first week of the calf’s life are especially critical with Jerseys. The calves, which weigh between 40 and 50 pounds at birth, are fed 2 quarts of maternal colostrum as soon as possible. Navels are dipped and heifers are vaccinated with First Defense®, Inforce® 3 and Calf-Guard®.
Calves continue to be fed maternal milk until it is cleared to go into the bulk tank. At that point, calves are switched to 2-quart feedings of Vita Plus Talon, a 25/25 milk replacer, twice a day. In addition, they are introduced to a high-quality texturized starter with 18% protein.
“After that first week, the Jerseys really take care of themselves,” he said.
Last spring, the calves moved out of the old calf barn and into hutches, which Sam said had tremendous impacts on calf health and growth.
“There’s nothing better than hutches,” he said, noting that, long-term, he would like to expand the space for hutches.
During the summer, calves are bedded with sawdust. Straw is added on top of a sawdust base in the winter. As soon as average temperatures drop to between 50 and 60 degrees F, Sam puts jackets on the youngest calves to reduce thermal stress.
Weaning and heifer care
Calves continue to receive 2 quarts of Talon twice daily until they are six weeks old. Sam reduces the solids concentration of the milk replacer first and then the volume. Calves are fully weaned at seven weeks. The average daily gain (ADG) for the preweaned period is 2.1 pounds.
After they are weaned, calves move to nearby group pens of four to five calves. They continue to receive the same starter, but the protein content is reduced to 16%, and they’ll continue on this same feed when they go to the custom raiser at five to six months of age.
In 2017, Sam and Matt’s brother, Mike, bought a farm and began custom-raising heifers. No Joke Dairy was his first customer. Mike raises the heifers until they are 30 to 60 days pre-freshening. The heifers achieve an ADG of 1.9 pounds during this phase.
Sam and Matt have already made great strides in establishing their herd and upgrading their facilities for future success. They said it’s fun to think about how they can continue to grow their business while also working with family and enjoying that time together. They are always looking for opportunities to improve performance and invest in the next step.
Calf and heifer nutrition
Starting Strong - Calf Care