Three opportunities for advancing your calf and heifer business
By Jordan Furnish, Calf and Heifer Technical Specialist
How are your new year resolutions going? While 2022 is well underway, it’s never too late to begin resolutions that improve your calf and heifer business. Whether it’s expanding or exploring markets, maximizing efficiencies, or concentrating on the basics, I encourage you to consider these three opportunities for advancing your calf and heifer business in the year ahead.
1. Expand your markets
The beef-on-dairy market is an obvious option. The reward is there, as a typical $20 auction calf can now become a $150 beef cross. Figuring out your specific market will involve evaluating your facilities, feeding program, personal, time, and available outlets for selling. This will give you a sense of what you can and want to do based on farm capabilities and where the highest profit margin is for your dairy.
- Review your entire operation and utilize your team and nutritionist’s input to choose the best opportunity to grow your dairy business in the beef-on-dairy market.
2. Maximize operational efficiency
Finding and keeping labor is a challenge everywhere. Raising calves has been debated as the most labor-intensive job on the farm, so think about how you can build and empower your calf team. Take time to work with your employees and to teach them the reasoning behind every protocol and “why” it is necessary for animal health and productivity.
- Consider involving employees in evaluating performance goals and helping them see their progress and contribution to the farm, and “why” what they do matters.
3. Concentrate on the basics
Here are some basic, yet critical, tips to a few areas I troubleshoot most often:
- Maternity pen – Focus on thoroughly cleaning out old, wet bedding and laying down new dry material. It can make an immediate difference in decreased bacterial loads in calves and calving ease scores due to improved cow comfort.
- Water – Provide free choice, clean, fresh water in the hutch on the first day calves are placed. When calves drink water there is no nervous stimulation triggering the esophageal groove, so instead of entering the abomasum it enters the rumen where it is an essential ingredient for development.
- Monitor and lessen stress – Stress can lead to illness, less average daily gain, and eventually more money spent. Implementing the “Cs” of calf care is a great place to start – Colostrum, Consistency, Cleanliness, Calories, and Comfort.
It’s often hard to make changes but remember that focusing on the little things can lead to big rewards. For more ways to invest in your calves check out our blog - Better ways to invest in calves. You can also contact a Cargill Calf and Heifer Expert here.