2. Ramp up milk intake.
To ensure adequate nutrition, many farms have switched from 2 quarts of milk fed twice a day to 3 quarts two or three times a day.
Brandon Andersen, calf ranch manager for the Aardema Group of dairies in Idaho, oversees 3,500 calf hutches. It’s a big responsibility — and having protocols in place is essential. At the Aardema Group dairies, they feed 4 quarts for the first five days of life, then ramp it up to 6 quarts a day through weaning. (Holstein calves receive 3 quarts of pasteurized milk twice a day and Jersey calves get 2 quarts three times a day.) Pasteurized milk is tested and fortified with milk replacer to meet a minimum of 14 percent total solids, 26 percent crude protein and 20 percent fat.
“Experience has changed weaning recommendation and weaning should be based on calf starter intake versus days of age,” Boomer says. “Do not wean an animal until it is consuming 2.5 to 3 pounds of calf starter for three consecutive days.”
That’s the rule followed at Aardema Group dairies.
After weaning, they keep the animals on calf starter for an additional 10 days to two weeks. During that time, Holsteins consume 5 to 7 pounds of starter feed per day; Jerseys a little less.
4. Grouping lag.
This is an area where M & M Feedlot in Parma, Idaho, puts a lot of time and effort. (See the description that appears earlier in this story.)
Currently, M & M raises about 700 bull calves, but has the permits and facilities to raise a lot more calves someday for other dairies.
5. Grower stage.
Besides calves, M & M Feedlot specializes in replacement heifers. Currently, it raises 13,000 heifers for five different dairymen.
Heifers typically arrive at six months of age. M & M keeps them segregated according to weight — 400 to 450 pounds in a pen, 451 to 500 pounds in a pen, and so on in 50-pound increments. That allows the feedlot to keep track of the animals’ progress and tailor their rations to their exact needs.
“We don’t limit-feed, we don’t over-feed. I call it exact-feed,” says Darin Mann, who besides helping to run M & M recently served as president of the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association.
There is uniformity in the animals’ appearance, which indicates that M & M is feeding them right; the animals are not stressed, and the pens are not overstocked.
Average daily gain has been running 1.96 for the animals between six and 12 months of age, which is outstanding.