Endres Jazzy Jerseys: All-in, all-out calf barn minimizes death loss

Progressive Dairyman Editor Jenna Hurty-Person Published on 02 May 2017
calves in calf barn

Building the right calf barn may mean looking outside the dairy industry for inspiration. For Dave Endres, owner of Endres Jazzy Jerseys, a 900-cow Jersey dairy in Lodi, Wisconsin, this meant borrowing the all-in, all-out style commonly seen in hog operations.

For several years Endres struggled to keep calves alive during the winter and often averaged a 10 percent death loss during those months.

“I used to have the hutches right here, and I remember going out there at 4 o’clock in the afternoon feeding the calf and it’s perfectly healthy sucking down a bottle of milk,” Endres says. “I come out the next morning and it started scouring in the middle of the night and froze to death, so it’s like we can’t do this. We’ve got to do something different.”

Dave Endres

In 2006, Endres built a new calf barn. He designed it in the shape of an “H.” The central portion is used as an office and to prep milk for the calves, store supplies and anything else the calf employees might need when caring for the calves. Off of that central room are four other rooms, each of which is completely separate from the other and follow an all-in, all-out system. Endres says he decided to model their calf barn after hog barns to limit the spread of disease between calf groups. In addition, the aisles in each room are heated, keeping the barn above 35ºF throughout the cold Wisconsin winters, and positive-pressure ventilation tubes bring in fresh air to calf-level.

The individual calf pens have panels that easily pull out to allow skid steer cleaning between groups. Once cleaned, the room is pressure washed and disinfected with bleach. Endres says between their cleaning protocols and barn setup, they have not yet had a bug spread from one calf group to the next and currently average an impressive 1 to 1.5 percent death loss.

If calves do show signs of sickness, employees treat them promptly. A simple piece of duct tape marked with the date and treatment is stuck to the pen to communicate the situation to other workers. In addition, when each calf arrives at the calf barn, the calf’s number, its dam, the date and who handled it in the maternity area. They also track this information on a clipboard in the office. This way, management can not only track the calf’s progress, but also make sure employees do their jobs correctly.

More recently, Endres started updating the barn’s ventilation system by replacing their current positive-pressure ventilation tubes and fans with larger ones. The new tubes have bigger holes and are better positioned to promote airflow in the barn. In addition, the barn has two-tiered curtain sidewalls, which are raised and lowered based on the weather. While Endres expects the new tubes and fans to drive up his heating bill a little bit in the winter, it should help calves stay cooler in the summer and has improved air quality, which are their main reasons for installing the updated system.

cow barn

Each room in the barn holds 52 calves and fills to capacity about every three weeks. Both heifer and bull calves are raised here through 3 months old. Heifer calves move onto super hutches and eventually to rented facilities for growing. However, Endres found an interesting niche for marketing his Jersey bull calves. Through a listing in the paper, a man from Texas contacted him about purchasing the young bull calves for rodeo. This has turned into an ongoing value-added opportunity for Endres, as the buyer continues to purchase the young male stock, drawn back to Endres because of the calves’ health and vigor compared with others they had previously purchased. The two parties have worked out an agreement to meet in Kansas as a transfer point between Wisconsin and Texas.

Endres attributes the healthiness of their calves not only to the housing system, but also to the care each calf receives in the first hour of life. Within minutes of birth, employees dip the calf’s navel and start warming up a three-quart bag of refrigerated colostrum. To help with cleanliness, they use disposable colostrum bags that attach to a tube feeder. While the bag is warming, the employee dries the calf off, wraps it in a blanket and puts it in a calf cart. Once the colostrum is sufficiently warm, the employee moves it into a specially designed calf feeder made out of a large piece of PVC pipe.

“We’re pulling the calf out of the cart, and we have foot traffic and everything, and we’re putting it on a dirty floor, and then you’re fighting the calf trying to tube it,” Endres says. “Feet are flying everywhere, so we turned around and we created our own calf feeder.”

calf feeder

The calf feeder, which is sanitized between each use, stabilizes the calf for easier feeding while also keeping it in a clean environment. Since developing it, Endres says his employees use it every time without question.

Once they feed the calf and it’s been thoroughly dried and warmed, employees transport it to the calf barn where it will receive 3 liters of pasteurized whole milk twice a day, a 20 percent protein starter and an unlimited supply of water. They are weaned around eight weeks.

Going forward, Endres says he needs to continue fine-tuning the calf barn ventilation system and is in the process of setting up a colostrum pasteurization system. With the help of his sons Vinny and Mitch, who now work on the farm full-time, he’s optimistic about future success and continuing to raise healthy, thriving calves on their dairy.  end mark

Jenna Hurty-Person
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PHOTO 1: Calves receive 3 liters of pasteurized whole milk twice a day and have unlimited access to water and starter. They are weaned at eight weeks, but stay in the barn until about 3 months old.

PHOTO 2: When Dave Endres started Endres Jazzy Jerseys in 1989, he had an all-Holstein herd of 50 cows. By 1992, however, he'd switched to an all-Jersey herd of 60 cows. Today, he and his sons milk 750 cows with about 150 dry cows and 800 youngstock.

PHOTO 3: Within an hour of birth, employees dip the calf's navel, dry it off with a blanket and feed it 3 quarts of colostrum. They use a calf cart to make transporting the calf from the maternity area to the calf barn easier.

PHOTO 4: To make tube-feeding calves easier and keep them clean, Dave Endres built a calf feeder out of PVC pipe. This device not only contains the squirming calf, but it's also easy to sanitize between calves, minimizing the calf's exposure to disease. Photos by Jenna Hurty-Person.

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