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DCHA conference will provide insights from calf experts

Progressive Dairyman Editor Emily Caldwell Published on 31 March 2014
As this issue hits your mailbox, the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association’s annual conference is taking place in Green Bay, Wisconsin (April 1-3). New to this year’s conference format are several tour stops, each of which will provide additional, focused training from industry experts.

We reached out to tour presenters and asked them to share what they hope attendees will take away from their presentations and their perspective of the calf and heifer-raising industry this year.

One key theme from these presenters is that a strong outlook for milk prices this year means new opportunities to improve and even expand calf and heifer operations.

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ryan leiterman

Ryan Leiterman, DVM
Speaking on ventilation
Director of Technical Services
Crystal Creek

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What’s the most significant tip or piece of knowledge you hope calf and heifer raisers will take away from your presentation?

LEITERMAN: That not all calf barn ventilation designs are the same. There are knowledgeable industry professionals that “eat, sleep and breathe” calf barn ventilation. These professionals have access to the most up-to-date information and technology and have the experience to put it into practice. Do not take the first ventilation “expert” that drives into your yard.

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Do your homework … interview multiple designers, ask about their qualifications, request references of past work and view projects they have done. The ventilation system in your calf barn is a significant investment, and it will have long-lasting impacts on the health and productivity of your heifers. The design should be done by an experienced professional.

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What do you think will be some of the biggest challenges in calf and heifer raising discussed at this conference?

LEITERMAN: One of the biggest challenges that will be addressed at this conference is determining which calf and heifer-rearing practices have the greatest impact on overall profitability. Twenty years ago, the heifer rearing conversation was “How can we do it the cheapest?” Today, heifer-raising operations are realizing that cheap doesn’t equal profitable.

Capital investments that lead to improvements in calf health are being recognized for their impact on creating more productive, profitable cows. I think that watching the calf-raising discussion evolve from “What’s the cheapest way to raise calves?” to “What is the best way to raise calves?” is a great opportunity for the calf-growing and dairy industries.

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What do you see as the biggest opportunity for calf and heifer raisers this year?


LEITERMAN:
2014 is proving to be a year of reduced feed costs and a stronger milk price. This combination will hopefully provide dairy producers with additional income and an opportunity to focus a portion of capital expenditure on improvements to their calf housing. The construction of a new calf facility or the addition of a well-designed ventilation system can improve calf and heifer health, creating healthier, more robust calves and ultimately more profitable milk cows.

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skip olson

Dr. Julian (Skip) Olson
Speaking on sanitation
Milk Products, Inc
.


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What’s the most significant tip or piece of knowledge you hope calf and heifer raisers will take away from your presentation?

OLSON: The same commitment and diligence of cleaning a milking parlor needs to be applied to calf-feeding equipment and mixing rooms. Food for us and food for our calves should receive the same level of sanitation.

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What do you think will be some of the biggest challenges in calf and heifer raising discussed at this conference?

OLSON: The ongoing calf health challenges calf raisers face with scours and pneumonia.

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What do you see as the biggest opportunity for calf and heifer raisers this year?


OLSON:
Young animals (replacement or dairy beef) are worth a lot right now and it is more important than ever to focus on the first eight weeks of life to help ensure a higher return on investment.

Dr. Kelly Peters
Speaking on early signs of calf health
Country Side Veterinary Clinic

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What’s the most significant tip or piece of knowledge you hope calf and heifer raisers will take away from your presentation?

PETERS: We will provide attendees with an understanding of the organization and management of a large commercial calf ranch and demonstrate how the attention to details can contribute to its success.

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What do you think will be some of the biggest challenges in calf and heifer raising discussed at this conference?

PETERS: The volatility in rearing costs, especially feed costs, and in heifer values and how those variations affect the profitability of both the growers and heifer owners provide significant challenges to the heifer-growing industry.

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What do you see as the biggest opportunity for calf and heifer raisers this year?


PETERS:
The biggest opportunity for calf and heifer raisers is an improvement in efficiencies. We can no longer use averages as our benchmarks; we have to focus on managing all of our decisions in the best interest of all the parties involved.

Chris Horton
Speaking on NIR technology and monitoring dry matter levels in forages
Manager of Product Planning
Digi-Star, LLC

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What’s the most significant tip or piece of knowledge you hope calf and heifer raisers will take away from your presentation?

HORTON: That there are means available to proactively plan for preparing rations for calves and heifers.

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What do you think will be some of the biggest challenges in calf and heifer raising discussed at this conference?

HORTON: Managing the challenges of culling calves and heifers when sexed semen results in more replacements than the farm or market requires.

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What do you see as the biggest opportunity for calf and heifer raisers this year?


HORTON:
Growth in the dairy industry brought on by higher milk prices and lower feed costs.

Peter Westra, CCA
Speaking on manure management strategies
Hull Co-op Association

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What’s the most significant tip or piece of knowledge you hope calf and heifer raisers will take away from your presentation?

WESTRA: Similar to the way calf and heifer producers need to know that animals are getting the nutrients they need in their feed, a crop farmer needs to know that your manure is providing the essential nutrients for his crop. This makes sampling manure vitally important. Sampling is how we learn.

I plan to discuss with them the value of their manure to a crop farmer and how they (the livestock producer) can potentially capture some of that value. No operation is the same. Timing, method of application, nutrient concentration and farm management all impact the value manure has.

Dr. Kimberly Egan
Speaking on heifer breeding strategies and the role of genomics prior to a tour of Genex
Dairy National Account Specialist
Genex Cooperative, Inc.

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What’s the most significant tip or piece of knowledge you hope calf and heifer raisers will take away from your presentation?

EGAN: My presentation will focus on sexed versus conventional semen usage, genetic information uses and impact, and using this knowledge to create a strategic breeding program. A heifer-breeding program can have an even larger importance to the dairy herd by implementing a breeding strategy program.

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What do you think will be some of the biggest challenges in calf and heifer raising discussed at this conference?

EGAN: Producers and growers across the country have faced severe challenges over the past few months, so topics like providing adequate nutrition during cold weather and how to avoid increased morbidity and mortality in severe cold will be challenges they want to discuss.

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What do you see as the biggest opportunity for calf and heifer raisers this year?


EGAN:
With a better margin, many dairies may choose to expand, allowing for calf and heifer-growing operations to expand.

Dan Schnell
Speaking on putting together the right time line: from colostrum to milk to grain to hay
Dairy Production Consultant
United Cooperative

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What’s the most significant tip or piece of knowledge you hope calf and heifer raisers will take away from your presentation?

SCHNELL: Fifty percent of lifetime height growth and 25 percent of lifetime weight growth occurs during the first six months. Intensified feeding of young calves with earlier calving and increased milk production is economically advantageous.

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What do you think will be some of the biggest challenges in calf and heifer raising discussed at this conference?

SCHNELL: I think one of the key challenges discussed will be how to better handle calf health through an “extreme” cold winter, such as this current winter.

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What do you see as the biggest opportunity for calf and heifer raisers this year?


SCHNELL:
As we continue to look for more milk production from our milk cows, we learn that “better-producing” first-calf heifers can impact overall production and profitability.

dave schroepfer

Dave Schroepfer
Speaking on the value of inputs for results
Elite Account Manager
Alta Genetics

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What’s the most significant tip or piece of knowledge you hope calf and heifer raisers will take away from your presentation?

SCHROEPFER: One tip I hope attendees will take away is that by driving up pregnancy risk in heifers, we can shorten days on feed significantly.

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What do you see as the biggest opportunity for calf and heifer raisers this year?


SCHROEPFER:
I think the biggest opportunity is for them to lay the groundwork to become more efficient in their repro programs. PD

For more information about the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association to become a member, go to their website , email them or call (855) 400-DCHA (3242).

emily caldwell

Emily Caldwell
Editor
Progressive Dairyman

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