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Send us your calf and heifer tips

Dairy Herd Management is planning a special calf and heifer tips section in its March issue.

Please submit your heifer- or calf-management tips by Jan. 31 to be considered for this special section. The best tips will be featured in the March issue of Dairy Herd Management and the Calf & Heifer Adviser newsletter.

Send your tips in care of the editor, Dairy Herd Management, c/o Vance Publishing Corp., 10901 W. 84th Terr., Lenexa, Kan. 66214, or e-mail them to:

Warm those newborns

Fertile Ridge Dairy LLC, in Mount Horeb, Wis., uses a calf-warmer to help get its calves off to a great start.

Newborn calves are placed inside the warmer for 12 hours. Then a blanket is placed on the calves for the first two to four weeks, or until the calf is consuming half a pail of starter. The warmer is used primarily in the winter or when temperatures are consistently below 50 degrees F.

Fertile Ridge Dairy feels this step helps get the calves consuming more grain and keep body growth.

Think safety in winter

Feeding water in the winter is very important to raising healthy calves. Just remember to save yourself some hassle and dump the water before those pails freeze (within an hour), says Ann Hoskins, calf specialist with Vita Plus. 

Dump away from the hutches and pathways where you feed the calves.  Ice blocks and icy patches can make moving around the pens and hutches dicey.  So, save yourself the bumps and bruises, and keep the area around your calves ice-free this winter.

These protein goals work

Even in times of high feed cost, Vance Kells is determined to keep protein levels in heifer diets at industry standards. He knows that if he were to skimp on protein, heifers at Circle Bar Heifer Ranch in Satanta, Kan., would not meet breeding size goals by 13 months of age.

If you don’t feed enough protein, “you’re not going to be able to maintain 50 inches (wither height) at 13 months old,” Kells says. “I think the numbers we give in the Gold Standards adequately grow that heifer to be bred by 13 months old.”

The “numbers” that Kells is referring to can be found in the Gold Standards II, a set of performance benchmarks developed by the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association. The standards recommend that Holstein heifers six to nine months of age receive a ration with a total protein content of 15 to 16 percent. Rations fed to Holstein heifers nine to 13 months of age should contain 14 to 15 percent total protein. Heifers 13 months of age to freshening need 13.5 to 14 percent total protein.

Feeding less protein may reduce ration cost, but those savings quickly evaporate if you end up sacrificing heifer body size goals at critical stages of development.

Source: Dairy Calf and Heifer Association

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