Virtual Farm Tour: Stieglitz Dairy LLC
Hutches are considered by many to be the ideal housing for young calves. Yet the outdoor pens can be tough on calf raisers, especially during the cold, icy and snow-filled winter months in central Wisconsin. How do you maintain excellent calf health while keeping the calves indoors?
According to Danae Stieglitz of Stieglitz Dairy LLC in Greenwood, Wisconsin, the answer is simple: provide consistent care in a clean environment.
Stieglitz Dairy is a partnership between Danae’s husband, Nick, his brothers, Louie and Eric, and their father, Wes. Danae heads up the calves, bookkeeping and human resources. Her mother-in-law is also actively engaged in the farm.
Stieglitz Dairy is a century farm. Wes’ grandparents originally built it as a honey bee farm in 1906. Today, the Stieglitz family milks about 320 cows, which are housed in a freestall barn. That left the old dairy barn open to house the farm’s calves.
Danae said they moved baby calves into the barn’s lean-to addition approximately 11 years ago to get out of the elements. They originally used homemade pens, but had issues with the calves getting loose. They switched to Cozy Calf pens that are also much easier to clean. After weaning, the older calves move to group pens in the retrofitted facility.
According to Danae, pneumonia was the biggest struggle with housing calves in the barn. Two years ago, the family installed tube ventilation in both calf barns, which has significantly helped. Danae said she will hear coughing every now and then during the spring and fall, but seldom has any serious pneumonia cases.
Attention to details
Prior to joining the farm fulltime, Danae worked as a veterinary technician. She said that experience has had a big impact on the level of attention she gives to her calves. She carefully watches each calf as she feeds them, which helps her notice any disease issues early and minimizes the need for treatments. The farm also has a strong vaccination protocol to stay ahead of disease pressure.
“My New Year’s resolution every year is no lost calves,” Danae said.
Each calf pen has a laminated identification sheet at the front of the pen. The sheet includes the calf’s date of birth, dam, sire and tag number. All of the calf’s vaccination and location information is stored in the farms DairyComp 305 records. In addition, Danae keeps a notebook to track any chronic cases as well as twin calves. This helps the farm make culling decisions.
Danae said “consistency is a big factor” in terms of feeding times, temperatures and cleaning protocols. She sanitizes each pen between calves and also lets the pens rest if possible. Fresh, clean bedding is added every day, alternating between straw and sawdust.
This high level of care has paid off as Danae has only lost one non-weaned heifer calf in the last four years.
Stieglitz’s calves – both heifers and bulls – are given one gallon of colostrum at birth. They are then fed pasteurized waste milk. Danae will usually feed with a bottle for the first feeding, but begins pail training after that. The calves receive a half gallon per feeding the first week, gradually increasing to a full gallon by three weeks. They are also introduced to starter immediately and transition to 2 pounds of grain in that time. Water is given after every feeding.
At one month, the calves switch from a starter to a grower grain. At eight weeks, they’ll begin the three-day weaning process and stay in their individual pens for one week post-weaning. Then they’ll move into a group pen and remain there until they transition to the heifer facility at six months.
Danae said she and her family are continually looking at options to grow and improve the dairy. They have talked about building a new calf facility, but that will depend on changes made to the milk cow facilities first. Before any changes are made, the family is sure to visit numerous other farms to gain ideas and make the best decisions for Stieglitz Dairy. Danae’s goal is to always improve the conditions for her calves to raise the healthiest replacements possible.
She said, “They are babies, so you really have to take care of them.”
Starting Strong - Calf Care