Recently I traveled to Syracuse, NY for the Calf & Heifer Congress 2015. This conference is coordinated by Cornell University Cooperative Extension and Pro-Dairy. The theme of the conference was “Manage What Matters,” which emphasized the importance of managing a profitable dairy replacement herd. This was a two-day event that began on Tuesday, Dec. 15 and ended on Wednesday, Dec. 16. I joined the Calf & Heifer Congress with Jeanne Wormuth, Farm Manager of CY Heifer Farm located in Elba, NY. CY Heifer Farm raises approximately 4,000 heifers each year for contract herds, including an on-site veal raising facility in cooperation with Provitello.
The focus topic for the first day was “Facilities, Environment, and Health”. Here, the guest speakers discussed calf facilities, management, treatment protocols, and the use of antibiotics. What I found interesting and very relevant was the discussion of the use of antibiotics. This seems to be a topic of concern for consumers, since they do not understand how and why antibiotics are used in rare cases for animal agriculture. The phrase, “antibiotics stewardship” was explained as the farmer’s role to be organized, necessary, defendable (having a purpose for utilization), and leave no residues when utilizing antibiotics. By having accurate record keeping, farmers are able to identify the animal being treated and withhold their milk if they are in lactation, or withhold the animal from being sent to slaughter, following the given withholding period. This prevents residues from occurring within the products of the animal. The milk and meat facilities are highly regulated as they test for any residue in the animals. Farmers are taking preventative measures and increasing management to ensure antibiotics are the final option when attempting to cure an illness. After all other options have been exhausted, most farmers are faced with the option to utilize antibiotics and attempt to save the animal, and end suffering from the illness.
The second day focused on “The Anatomy of a Successful Heifer Enterprise”. Guest speakers discussed strategies and risk assessment for infectious diseases, identification and management of calf scours, and nutrition and management to achieve superior growth. I was interested in the discussion of achieving superior growth. Most dairy farmers feel that their lactating cows are the ones that should get the most focus, since they are getting a return from the animal. However, achieving a high average daily gain from calf and heifer growth results in more productive cows in the future. This can be achieved by having strong management, disease control and prevention protocols, accelerated growth diet, and suitable facilities. Having a person strictly responsible for the calf and heifer management will ensure that all components of an intensely-managed heifer facility are operating efficiently and effectively for profitability. Disease protocols should be constructed and followed to provide a base for treatments that will be utilized in a case of illness. A well-balanced protein and energy diet should be established to support a high average daily gain for growth. A clean facility that has proper ventilation is what is desired; this environment promotes good health and growth of calves and heifers.
Overall, I felt this conference was highly informational and I highly recommend for more farmers to attend future conferences. The topics discussed can be applied by farmers who are looking to improve their replacement program. For more information, please visit Cornell University Cooperative Extension – Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Team’s website at http://nwnyteam.cce.cornell.edu/events.php , and check out their upcoming events so you don’t miss out.
Next time, Kimberly Tarvis will be writing about Christmas Traditions for Gabby and Kim. Ms. Tarvis is giving me two weeks off to enjoy my holidays and get some much needed rest before the next semester!
If you would like to learn more about SUNY Cobleskill’s agriculture programs and club activities, please contact Kim Tarvis at email@example.com . Until next time, don’t forget to cow-nt your blessings!