Why else would you get up at 4 a.m. to treat a calf?
VW Calf Ranch
Location: Sumas, Washington
Consultant: Jackson Parriera
- Raises 1,500 calves on two sites up to 6 months of age
- Replacing outdoor hutches with indoor calf barns
When Dale Van Weerdhuizen sold his cows in 2003, it certainly didn’t feel like the beginning of his future in the dairy industry. The Western Washington native decided to keep and raise a few heifers, but he was pursuing a career as an electrician to be his primary income. But, the dairy industry kept pulling on his heart, and soon he found his niche as a heifer raiser for large farm south of him.
“Dairy is just in my blood. You have to have a passion for it,” the father of four explained. “You’re not getting up at 4 a.m. to treat a calf if it’s not something you care deeply about.”
VW Calf Ranch sits less than 10 miles from the Canadian border. Starting slowly, Dale has expanded his heifer raising operation onto two sites with 1,500 head in age from a few days old until six months of age. Cargill’s Jack Parriera worked with Dale when he owned a dairy, and his son, Jackson Parriera, provides advice to the operation today. Calves arrive at just a couple days old and start on HerdFirst Total Calf, with a palatability-enhancing flavor encouraging early intakes. Milk replacer is a high-fat product for Jersey calves. Heifers switch to HerdFirst Grower when they transition into freestalls with dry hay .
Dale and his brother, a welder, have designed and built most of the calf barns for the Jersey and Jersey cross cattle he primarily raises. Each barn has 64 calf pens inside with removable plastic panels between each calf. Ventilation is via positive pressure tubes. “Everything we use is plastic and metal,” Dale explained. “I like plastic and metal.”
A future in the dairy industry wasn’t clear for Dale in 2003, but through his hard work and devoted care to young calves, he’s built a business he can share with his family. Already joined by two sons, Dale is excited by what’s ahead. “I’ve got two boys involved now, four in total. They might not all want to end up here, but it’s an option if they want to. I think that’s all you can hope for.”