Starting calves on the right hoof
Location: Hereford, TX
Dairy Focus Consultant: Jordan Furnish
Transition calves into productive heifers and cows
Raise their own heifers
Produce 85-90 pounds for a herd average with 3.5 - 3.8% butterfat and 2.8 - 3% protein
When Mark Osterkamp moved from Southern California to West Texas to bring Osterkamp Dairy to life in 2003, he knew he wanted to continue his family’s legacy. Mark is a fourth-generation dairy farmer after his great grandfather began dairying in the 1920s. Today, Osterkamp Dairy is home to an efficient, productive Holstein herd all because Mark got the “bug” to follow in his family’s footsteps.
The farm is well known for raising sound calves that transition into productive heifers and cows. Currently, the dairy is home to a total of 3,800 heifers.
According to Mark in reference to his younger animals, “We’ve always had good animals in my opinion, but I know there is always a chance for something bigger and better.”
Osterkamp Dairy already had a relationship with Cargill, but after a simple phone call between consultant Jordan Furnish and Mark, a new partnership bloomed. Before transitioning to a HerdFirst pellet that Jordan brought up, Osterkamp Dairy was making their calf grain on-site.
“I jumped on this new deal and it eliminated the task for us to create our own grain on the farm,” says Mark.
After a few months of feeding the HerdFirst pellet, “The pellet made the calves that much better. I have noticed a difference in their appearance alone. They are bigger, they have more strength, and they just have more frame to them than they did beforehand,” mentions Mark.
He even explained how the farm’s average daily gain (ADG) picked up by a couple tenths of a pound. “It’s kind of funny,” Mark jokes. “The calves almost resemble little monsters in their hutches and the weaning pens. They really seem to be transitioning almost as bulletproof for their next phase on the farm.”
The relationship between Mark Osterkamp and consultant Jordan Furnish is simple yet efficient, which is exactly Mark’s goal.
“Jordan has our best interests in mind. If there is an area for improvement, Jordan will do everything he can to make sure there is progress.” As for the pellet, “Jordan cruises onto the farm, makes sure our inventory is good, and checks up on anything else we might need,” says Mark.
As for Cargill as a whole, Mark mentions, “It’s kind of interesting. Cargill is huge, but they focus on simplicity and that makes it easy for us to have the product we want and to operate. I personally have my deliveries on time, which is important to me. After all, these calves have to eat! I trust the service I’m getting.”
Aside from one of Mark’s focuses being calves on the farm, he has also picked up an increasingly popular practice on many dairies by using beef sires on his Holsteins.
He says, “After three services, we have decided to use Angus bulls on our animals.”
The hope is of course to create a productive calf out of the service whether they continue the farm or have the complex marbling that a Holstein/Angus cross would have. On the other hand, Mark likes to stay more geared towards utilizing sexed semen if possible and proven sires for his herd. Getting back to the calves, Mark explains, “These calves are reaching a higher body weight faster, which means we can get them into the herd sooner. This matters to me.”
As for Mark’s calves receiving the HerdFirst pellet, he anticipates that the sped up growing process will really make them takeoff as cows. At freshening, he hopes that he will see a bigger body size, more weight, and have an easier transition overall. Specifically, he hopes this equals more milk in the bulk tank, greater herd health, and longevity.
Oftentimes, it is easy to recognize that a herd is doing well, but for Mark, he knew their averages could be even better. The dairy industry is tough, but for producers like Mark, he will do all he can to keep the family business going and for him, that means growing healthy, strong calves.