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Georgia calf raiser Allen Oglesby can take the heat

PD Editor Emily Caldwell Published on 29 August 2013

Allen Oglesby

When you’ve farmed in Georgia your whole life, you learn a thing or two about managing the heat.

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Just ask Allen Oglesby of Laranda Farms, Inc. in Lyons, Georgia, who has been raising calves since 1978.

“In July and August, it gets so hot and humid that you can barely breathe,” he says. “We need to be through with everything we’re going to do with the calves by 10 in the morning because it can be 100 degrees by 11.”

Oglesby currently raises 2,500 head a year for four dairymen, mostly in the southern Florida area. His closest farm is 60 miles away, and his farthest is 440 miles away.

He’s had as many as 5,500 animals a year, raising for up to nine dairy operations.

“But when the dairy industry gets tough and milk prices go down, people sell their heifers rather than raise them,” Oglesby says.

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For the dairymen who are able to continue with heifer-raising services, Laranda Farms offers flexibility.

“I prefer to receive wet calves, 1 to 14 days old,” Oglesby says. “But whatever people need, that’s what we’ll do.”

View a photo slideshow of calf facilities at Laranda Farms. Story continues below photo slideshow.

The farm guarantees a death loss of less than 4 percent and promises to double the calf’s incoming weight within two months.

The farm draws blood on every calf upon arrival. If the calf hasn’t had the proper colostrum requirements, Oglesby doesn’t guarantee the death loss.

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“It’s hard to kill a good calf,” he says. “But it’s even harder to raise a sorry calf.”

4 month old calves

Calves are fed in hutches until 56 days old and come off milk at 6 weeks old.

From there, calves move to a calf pen in groups of six to eight per pen for 30 days, then up to 20 for another 30 days.

At 4 months old, calves are moved to the pasture in groups of 40.

At 6 months, calves are grouped by age and size and rotationally grazed with a maximum of 80 head per pasture.

Staying shaded
Oglesby says he and his employees spend the most time during the summer moving artificial shades in the pastures and fighting flies.

“We’ll add a pinkeye vaccine to the schedule in the middle of May,” he says. “Other than that, we work with an entomologist, Dr. Max Nolan, to figure out what’s going to work best that summer. Our calves seem to build up a resistance to everything, so we’re constantly trying new things.”

Both the artificial shades and the calf hutches use a black cloth that absorbs the heat of the sun but helps to keep air flow moving.

For shading the calves in hutches, Oglesby used to rely on the farm’s acres of pecan trees, used for his family’s side businesses, Southern Nuts and Wagon Hammock Nursery.

But food regulations required that the calves be moved away from the trees, so Oglesby adapted his management practices to avoid feeding and handling calves during the hottest parts of the day.

“I’m actually considering planting a few rows of pecan trees to be used only as shade just because they worked so well for us,” he says.

While the winter months can cool off and provide challenges in freezing water, Oglesby says they rarely see temperatures dip below 20 degrees for more than a few days. His biggest wintertime challenge, he says, is buying enough hay to keep the animals fed.

Breeding successes
Oglesby takes the most pride in the farm’s herd health, giving credit to quality employees who follow SOPs and a strict vaccination schedule.

The second area where he thinks the farm is performing well is getting heifers bred, noting an average conception rate of between 68 and 77 percent, depending on the time of year.

Cow

Heifers at 51 inches at the withers or 800 pounds will be bred, with all heifers being bred by 15 months.

For heat detection, the farm relies on the HeatWatch system by Cow Chips.

Patches are glued to the area just in front of the tailhead.

A heifer having more than 10 mounts receives sexed semen, while a heifer with less than 10 mounts receives conventional semen.

Pregnancy checks are done at 35 and 60 days.

Other challenges
While the heat is certainly the main challenge for the Georgia operation, it’s not the only one.

For the most part, Oglesby says he’s had good luck with employees, noting that some have been with the farm for five or more years.

“The hardest position to fill is the feed mixer,” he says. “The feed has to be mixed correctly every single day, not just some days.”

That’s particularly true with ever-increasing feed costs.

“My fixed costs stay fixed, but if feed prices go up, we’re forced to charge more,” Oglesby says. “If I charge too much more, I’m at risk to lose my clients.”

The farm buys calves on current market value and sells out heifers at current market value.

“I used to do it where we agreed on the end value, but there are too many variables now,” he says.

As the Southeast dairy industry continues to consolidate, Oglesby has started looking at other potential sources for income, including raising beef cattle.

His children are still young, but Oglesby hopes to provide an opportunity for them to farm one day, if they choose. PD

PHOTOS
TOP: Allen Oglesby of Laranda Farms, Inc. in Lyons, Georgia, stands in front of a group of wet calves, which are housed in hutches with a black-cloth covering.

MIDDLE: At 4 months old, calves are moved to the pasture in groups of 40.

BOTTOM: Oglesby’s heat-detection system is a device patch that records mounts. They use the number of mounts to determine which semen to use on the heifers. Photos by PD Editor Emily Caldwell.

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Emily Caldwell
Editor
Progressive Dairyman

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