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Vaccines won’t fix bad management

PD Editor Emily Caldwell Published on 17 January 2014
If there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way to start raising calves, Katie Grinstead of Vir-Clar Dairy arguably did it the “best” way.

She had an active role in her family’s Wisconsin dairy through her youth, obtained a degree in agriculture journalism at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and then spent five years as a calf specialist with Vita Plus.

She worked in marketing and sales with calf raisers across the Midwest, observing a variety of operations and management styles.



When her family decided to bring the calves home rather than continue sending them to a custom calf-raiser, it only made sense for Grinstead to come home with them – a career she had been planning since college.

“With my previous job, I was able to see a lot of really good ideas and figure out how I wanted to implement them at our farm,” she says.

Grinstead designed the site from the ground up, appreciating the opportunity to raise calves in brand-new hutches and with new equipment.

In fact, the only hitch she had with moving calves into the facility was that she had a baby the night after the move.

“It was pretty fun at the beginning,” she says. “It still is fun. I’m really proud of our low death loss.”


She attributes this success to established protocols, employees who do a great job with those protocols and a farm-wide focus on quality management rather than “fixing” problems through vaccines.

Click here to download a PDF of the calf raising protocol at Vir-Clar Farms.

New employee training includes much emphasis on when and how to give vaccines with instruction from the farm’s veterinarian.

“We want to focus on doing everything correctly so that the vaccines will work to the best of their ability,” she says.

Well-trained employees have allowed Grinstead to take a larger role in managing the operation’s bookwork and payroll, along with her youngstock responsibilities.

“Our goal is to do a great job of managing calves and keeping everything clean so that we don’t have to give an overabundance of vaccines,” she says.


“We’re always looking at new products, but we really strive for good day-to-day management. I have seen first-hand that vaccines will not fix bad management and poor calf health practices.” PD

Emily Caldwell

Emily Caldwell

Progressive Dairyman