Two Entities, One Goal – Quality Calf Care
Located near Philips, Wis., in the heart of the state’s northwoods, United Pride Dairy started as a partnership between two neighbors in the 1990s. In 2000, the farm milked 200 cows and, by 2010, it had fully expanded to its current herd size of 1,650 cows, which are milked in the farm’s 60-cow rotary parlor. The calves were custom raised off-site until 2005 when Quality Calf Care was created.
Quality Calf Care and United Pride Dairy are located on the same property lines and work together to raise healthy calves. However, Quality Calf Care operates as a separate independent business and is managed by Bill Harper. Aside from calf manager, Harper also owns Railview Distribution, delivering an average of 85 to 100 semi loads of whey permeate to producers, along with Cabin Creations
, a rustic décor and furniture store.
The United Pride Dairy team oversees the maternity pens, which are kept clean and ready for calving. The farm has two maternity pens, one for the heifers and one for the cows. After birth, the calf is moved to its own pen inside the barn. Once the calf is fed its colostrum, it is moved out to a hutch where Quality Calf Care takes full responsibility. All maternity equipment that is used or touched by the calf is cleaned to decrease disease spread.
On average, Quality Calf Care will raise 170 calves in hutches. Calves are fed two quarts of pasteurized milk with an added Vita Plus medpack. All calves are fed from bottles from birth to weaning age. Each is watered twice a day and three times a day on the hot and humid days. Harper said bottle feeding is more sanitary because leftover milk residue is not mixed in the water pail. He also believes bottle feeding promotes the natural suckling ability of the calf. Calves get fresh water in a clean pail and are also fed 18-percent starter grain to ensure proper intakes are met.
After six weeks, the calves are weaned. Calves spend a week in the hutch after weaning, which decreases future respiratory issues. Once week 8 arrives, the calf is completely off milk and ready to be moved to the transition barn. Transition calves are also fed AS700 to reduce respiratory issues. Water is replaced twice a week for the calves and heated in the winter to prevent freezing. Calves receive unlimited starter grain and eventually transition to grower grain at 10 weeks. Slowly, the grain is then substituted with high quality hay, which is transitioned to a TMR.
To keep bacterial loads at a minimum, the pasteurizer is cleaned after every feeding. Bacteria samples are taken weekly from the pasteurizer, the raw milk bulk tank (which is washed on a regular basis) and the last bottle fed. By doing this, managers can find out which area of the feeding system is malfunctioning if there is an elevated level of bacteria.
Calves are given a clean water pail every week. Hutches are power-washed with bleach and detergent between calves. The shavings are discarded, leaving the gravel open to air-dry.
Recording 0.5-percent calf loss in 2011, attention to detail and dedication from Quality Calf Care’s employees is what makes this operation a growing success. Harper said it is important to have in place simple protocols that are followed to ensure quality calf raising. He said he believes that serving as manager of Quality Calf Care provides closer calf attention under a separate business.
“Employees of the calf operation only worry about the calves, not about crops, cows, and all of the other arrays that come with dairy farming,” said Harper. “After all, the calves are essentially what make the future of our dairy, and having minimal death loss with attention to detail, is what has helped United Pride Dairy get to the point that we are at.”