Dairy Focus: I-29 Dairy Consortium hosts calf and heifer tour

Farm Forum

A dramatically improved dairy economy has been the source of optimism, keeping dairy replacement heifer values strong nationwide.

Compared with last year at this time, springer prices have nearly doubled, and heifer-calf prices have more than tripled. While this is a healthy increase, today’s prices still hover at or below the cost of production, according to University of Wisconsin researchers.

The researchers recently reported that the cost of raising a heifer calf from birth to weaning at 7.6 weeks in 2013 was $363.69, and from birth to freshening at 23.4 months was $2,377. Both figures assume an initial value of $150 per calf.

New offspring are the wellspring of any dairy farm. New genetics, improved efficiency and greater milk production potentials all play into the profitability of the replacement herd. That is why the I-29 Extension Dairy Consortium is hosting a calf and heifer tour Dec. 11.

The tour is part of the consortium’s theme for 2015, “Raising Your Best Calf Ever.” Note that this four-state effort is included as part of the I-29 Dairy Conference. However, this year, we are bringing the conference to each state as opposed to our traditional one-day conference in Sioux Falls, S.D.

This “Boots on the Farm” tour also will kick off our winter educational series by the same name scheduled for Jan. 5-8, 2015. North Dakota producers should plan to attend our local sessions on Thursday, Jan. 8, in Mandan at the Seven Seas Inn. While the details for the workshop will be promoted soon, I am pleased that Minnesota Extension dairy educators have lined up a series of calf and heifer operators willing to share their success strategies with us.

Here is the schedule for the Dec. 11 calf and heifer fall growers tour. Attendees can meet in Brookings, S.D., or Marshall, Minn.

• 6:30 a.m. – Load vans and depart South Dakota State University motor pool parking lot.

• 6:45 a.m. – Travel to Marshall, Minn., to join participants meeting at the University of Minnesota regional Extension center.

• 9:30 a.m. – Visit the Carlson Dairy, Pennock, Minn. The dairy uses automatic Urban calf feeders to raise replacement heifers and milk 1,500 cows with a herd average of 32,000 gallons of milk.

• 11:45 a.m. – Lunch at the Hilltop Restaurant, Paynesville, Minn.

• 12:30 p.m. – Virtual tour of Rohe Dairy Calf Feeders at the restaurant. Rohe Dairy uses a forced-air system in an old milking barn with Lely automatic calf feeders.

• 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. – Visit the Mill Creek Dairy, Kimball, Minn. The dairy milks about 600 cows and raises its own heifers using Lely automatic calf feeders.

• 3 to 4:15 p.m. – Visit the Landwehr Dairy, Watkins, Minn. The dairy milks about 900 cows and has an all-in, all-out remodeled facility to raise replacement heifers using pens with Lely automatic calf feeders.

• 4:15 p.m. – Return home, dropping tour participants off in Marshall and Brookings

The tour registration fee is $75 with van transportation or $50 if you drive. The fee does not include travel to and from North Dakota. I am planning travel options. If you are interested in being part of this tour, call (701) 231-7663 or email no later than Dec. 8.

Locations and dates for the 2015 “Boots on the Farm” sessions are:

• Jan. 5 – Orange City, Iowa, Iowa State University Sioux County Extension Complex

• Jan. 6 – Brookings, Days Inn

• Jan. 7 – Fergus Falls, Minn., Ottertail County Government Center

• Jan. 8 – Mandan, Best Western Seven Seas

• All of the workshops will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Session topics will include:

• Nutrition and research with distillers grains

• What works for ventilation

• Ten years of calf research at the University of Minnesota’s Southern Research and Outreach Center

• Pros and cons of automatic calf feeders

• Calf health, with a focus on respiratory diseases

Heifer calves are the future of the herd. Whether you raise your own or contract with others, raising the best heifer ever will go a long way toward ensuring success of the milking herd.

The workshop hosts are the I-29 Dairy Conference partners: North Dakota State University, Iowa State University, South Dakota State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, Midwest Dairy Association and Minnesota Department of Agriculture.