On the first day of the trip we headed to Pickett, Wisconsin to visit Rosendale Dairy. Rosendale Dairy is an intensive dairy farm, consisting of nearly 9,000 herd of cattle. They have two 80-point rotary parlours that run side by side, each running for 23 hours per day milking on average 600 cows per hour. The herd is split into sub herds and all of the first and second lactation cows are separate from the main herd. We had a fantastic tour of the farm
and had a great discussion with the herd manager on his main focuses and cow management. The farm employed around 90 members of staff. The unit hosts more than 10,000 visitors per year and prides itself on its openness and willingness to educate the public.
Take home point: Staff management was really at the heart of the whole business, they invested a lot of time, money and effort into developing their staff. For such a large operation the staff turnover was very low. Although milk price is low, they are driving for efficiency but they were unwilling to compromise on staff welfare.
The calf source unit is the main rearing unit, it has space to house over 12,000 calves under six months old. It has 4,500 individually housed calf pens and span over 75 rows. The calves arrive from between 24hours-7days old. The pre-weaned calves are fed a combination of pasteurised whole milk and milk replacer balancer with adlib access to water and grain. The unit usually runs on a mortality rate of less than 1%. The calves are weaned between 7-8 weeks old and are then moved into purpose built weaned calf shed with temperature-controlled gale breakers. The calves are then grouped into batches of 10 and fed ad-lib grain 20% and hay/alfalfa hay. At four and a half months olds the calves are moved onto a TMR and small training cubicles.
Take home point: having purpose built post weaned heifer pens ensured an easy transition from milk to grain while reducing labour and increasing health and productivity.
Take home points:
- CLARIFIDE® Plus for Holsteins can genetically improve calf
health and survival with three calf wellness traits: calf livability,
respiratory disease and scours
- The calf wellness trait information can help to obtain the full
lifetime value of healthier calves to increase profitability and
impact all six financial drivers impacting net farm income
- With more and more herds in the UK and US using genomic
testing it makes sense that farmers should have the ability to
make genetic selection for healthier Holstein calves
Visit to ST genetics facility – Fond du Lac, Wis
During the visit to ST genetics we explored the history and advancement in sexing semen. There are a large number of herds in the US using sexed semen in far larger quantities than ever before. This is due to a huge advancement in the success of sexed semen and discussed the latest in genomic testing and sexing technologies. Many farmers are now breeding their heifers and 1st calvers to sexed semen, with the rest of the herd going to
beef, this ensures the farmer has sufficient heifers while gaining a better income through the sales of the beef x calves. We were also lucky enough to have a tour around their stud barn where there were 120 of some of the world’s finest bulls, we also saw the collection facility, lab and distribution centre.
Vir-Clar Farms, Fond do Lac, Wisconsin
Exceptional calf care protocols and cleanliness were key to calf management success on this 2,000 cow dairy herd. We had to the opportunity to discuss the protocols with the calf manager Katie Grinshead, she discussed their approach to getting calves off to the best possible start. Some of the highlights included their excellent maternity pen management, newborn protocol, sanitation practices and calf nutrition.
On Farm demonstration: Dehorning calves with caustic paste.
The milk fed calf, social housing and welfare – Marina Von Kerserligk.
Marina’s talk was extremely interesting as she outlined the research looking at calf behaviours associated with milk hunger and correlated perceptions of animal welfare. She also discussed the negative effect individual housing has on the cognitive development of dairy calves and how group or pair housing increased DLWG and starter intakes.
Advances in colostrum management – Dr. Sandra Gooden
Dr Godden discussed the key aspects of a successful colostrum management programme and recent advances in feeding clean colostrum and the importance of farm level monitoring.
Take Home messages:
- Clean/pasturised colostrum can improve the calves ability to
absorb more IgGs
- Monitoring is the key to success
Ken discussed the fact that calf barns can equal calf hutches
in the reduced risk for respiratory and enteric disease, but also
provide improved working conditions for caregivers.
- Use positive pressure tube ventilation systems to supplement
- Drainage below bedding should be considered
- Consider all in all out grouping systems
- Avoid cold stress by using deep straw
- Good drainage