Dairy Calf Winter Tips

IMG_4350.JPGWinter months are tough on dairy calves.

When the temperature starts to drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, calves can start to struggle health and growth wise. Keeping calves warm and comfortable is a priority!

Here are a few tips and tricks I do or have seen to give calves the best start to life when born in the winter.

    1. Warm/dry environment for newborn calves:IMG_6851
      Calves are toasty warm inside the cows at 101.5 degrees. When the calf hits the ground, it’s important to get them into a warm and dry environment ASAP. Where they calve in is important as well. Our calves are born on a bedded pack with corn stalks which is re-bedded every other day typically.IMG_6762.JPGWe personally use calf warmers to dry off and warm up our calves. It’s a blue dome that the calves lay in. There is a heater attached on the bottom right side which blows warm air directly inside the PolyDome. Calves typically can be dry in 4-5 hours. All depends on the size of the calf and if the cow licked them off a bit prior to being put inside them. They are easy to clean which I love.Other ways to warm & dry off newborn calves:
      – Heat lamps
      – LOTS of straw
      – Place a couple 5 gallon containers (with lids) of 160* water inside a hutch. (cover hutch with old blanket or door) Ask Dairy Carrie for more information on this.
      – Put socks on calves back feet – Questions about this? Ask Megan.
      – Some people put calf jackets on their calves at birth. I personally don’t. I believe it makes the calf colder, and I think they stay wet longer than they would without a jacket. (I could be wrong.)Our calves get jackets AFTER they are all dry. Which leads into the next tip…
    2.  Calf Jackets (blankets):fullsizeoutput_1411
      When the temps drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, jackets are essential for keeping your calves warm. Calf jackets are placed on my calves once they’re completely dry. Then they are kept on till the calves are roughly 4 weeks old. After that, they are taken off (on a warm day) and washed and dried. We buy ours through Nasco.
    3. Lots of fresh bedding:

      “Mom, that’s enough.”

      I bed my calves up a few times every week with wheat straw. It not only keeps them dry, but it keeps them warm. Adequate bedding will give you a bigger calf at weaning. The more heat they can keep in, the more energy they will use to grow rather than to stay warm. A bigger calf at weaning time could result in a higher producing cow in the future (more milk!). Not sure how much straw is enough? Check out the nesting score.

    4. Doors for hutches:IMG_7166.JPG
      I have about 90+ calves on milk at a time. When snow/wind storms hit or when we have a newborn calf, we want the hutches to keep the snow/wind out and the heat in. We purchased 50 doors for our hutches from Genesis Enterprises at World Dairy Expo 2 years ago and use them all the time. All of our newborn calves receive a door when they are IMG_7165.JPGmoved to the hutches and the door stays on for at least 3-4 days when its below 30 degrees out. *Doors fit different hutch styles and are easy to clean too**If you do not have doors for your newborn calves,a barrel works to cover the fronts of the hutches to keep those new calves inside. Have questions about that? Ask Becca.*
    5. Extra feeding of milk:IMG_4210.jpg
      We personally don’t feed an extra feeding of milk during the day, but some farmers do and they find it helpful. Ask Darcy on instagram how she manages to feed an extra feeding.
    6. Offering warm water: 

      With Dr. Neil Michael at 2017 PDPW Business Conference

      I offer warm water 365 days a year, but some farms do not. Calves will drink warm water a lot better than they will drink cold water, especially in the winter (even in the summer). Calves enjoy water at the same temperature as they’d receive their milk at. Offering it as soon as you can will also increase the amount that they drink. The faster it gets to them, the better. Dr. Neil Michael with Arm & Hammer taught me that calves will consume their calf starter better if they have water to go with it.

    7. Leave calves on milk longer:
      IMG_4571.JPGIf the weather is extremely cold, I will keep my calves on milk longer. Sometimes it’s just a few days, maybe a week. Depends on the weather and how the calves are growing and eating their calf starter.
    8. Insulation panels:IMG_7167.jpg
      Jessie adds insulation panels to her individual calf pens to try and lock in heat in her calf barn. Insulation panel is located on the back of the pen in the picture to the right.
    9. Double calves up in hutches or pens:


      Dogs work too, right?

      I personally don’t double up calves because it’s not possible with my set up, but I have seen farmers put two calves in a hutch in the winter to keep them warmer. Doubling up calves has also been known to increase growth in the those calves. The competition with the other calf in the hutch, makes them want to eat more. Eating more will result in a bigger calf.

Anything I missed? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Hope these winter tips help you care for your calves!

Jenna, Crazy Calf Lady

IMG_5224.jpg Continue reading

Calf Hutch or Prison Cell?


Welcome back to the blog!

It’s been a bit since I’ve last made a blog post.


But I’ve been getting lots of questions about my calf hutches (pictures on instagram – @wiscowsingal) and since many people say calf hutches are “glorified dog houses” or “prison cells”. I thought I’d talk more in depth about them. Below are a few questions I’ve received on this topic and I have also made up a few questions because some people think they have ALL the facts BEFORE they even ask questions. So…


What is a calf hutch?
Form of housing for heifer (girl) and bull (boy) calves.

Are all calves kept in calf hutches raised for veal?
both heifer (girl) and bull (boy) calves are housed in these hutches.

To read more about how veal calves are raised, check out this WEBSITE, or you can ask Heidi, a dairy farmer who raises her bull calves for veal on INSTAGRAM / FACEBOOK. Or you can follow and ask veterinarian, Dr. Hake on FACEBOOK.

IMG_0227.JPGWhy is a heifer calf kept in a calf hutch?
A calf hutch is not only beneficial for the calf itself, but for the care takers as well.

Benefits of a calf hutch include…
1. Individualized care for each calf. Whether it be feeding, bedding, treating, or vaccinating, hutches make it easier for the care takers to make sure each calf is getting exactly what they need.
2. Keeps calves from spreading or contracting a disease that could make them sick. Just like a newborn baby, calves don’t have an immune system built up yet. The hutches are washed, disinfected and sanitized after the older, weaned calves are moved out and before the new calf is put in.
IMG_2118.JPG3. Easy to keep the calves bedded properly. In the warm summer months, we have a sand bedding (sometimes add pine shavings) and in the fall, winter, and spring we bed them with wheat straw.
4. Protects them from the elements. When its hot and humid, we’re able to open the windows and put blocks underneath/prop up the hutch to keep it ventilated while giving the calf shade. When its raining, snowing or really windy, the hutches keep the calf safe, dry and comfortable.
IMG_5702.JPG5. Heifer calves are future dairy cows. Hutches are tools that help get calves off on the right foot. A clean, comfortable, and safe environment helps us keep our calves healthy, happy and thriving… AND in 2 years, we’ll have happy, healthy and thriving cows when they calve in for the first time!

Hutches just act like cribs. They aren’t prison cells.


Why is a bull calf kept in a calf hutch?
Same reasoning as the heifer calves. (Read above explanation.) Bull calves on the other hand are raised for beef. Check out my blog post, A Cow Calves, Now What? Part 3 for what happens to bull calves when they’re born on a dairy.


How long does a calf typically stay in a hutch?
Typically around 2 months. Depending on the farm and the demand for space, some keep them in a few weeks shorter and some keep them in there a few weeks longer than 2 months.

What does a calf do in a hutch?
Eat, sleep, poop, and GROW!

Are there different forms of calf hutches?
YES! See pictures below…

Polydomes: An enclosed circular dome with ventilation on the top or a circular dome with a door and calf is attached to hutch with a collar and chain.

fullsizeoutput_4eb fullsizeoutput_252 fullsizeoutput_4e8.jpeg IMG_2220.JPG

Calf hutch with wire panel: Calves are free range in their hutches. They have the ability to go outside and inside. Feed is either inside their hutch or on/near the fronts of the wire panels. Doors can be put on these hutches to keep warmth in and snow out in the winter. (First and last pictures taken at Dairy Carrie’s farm.)

IMG_1706 fullsizeoutput_503.jpeg fullsizeoutput_513 IMG_2338

Calf hutches with chains: Calves are attached to their hutches with a collar and a chain. They have the same room to move as calves with wire panels do and can also roam from side to side of their hutch as well. Calves either have their feed inside their hutches or outside on the side of the hutch. Doors can be put on these hutches to keep warmth in and snow out in the winter. (I personally have found to have friendlier calves in these hutches. It’s easier to interact with them!)
IMG_1195.JPG IMG_3755.JPG IMG_6497.JPG IMG_5342.JPG fullsizeoutput_1269

Individual pens: Same concept as a hutch, but this design is short and sweet. Looks like a box. It has 2 long walls which divide the pens, the back wall has either windows or a wire panel for ventilation, and the front is a door and also is where the calves eat. The design needs more attention when it comes to bedding and ventilation. Typically seen inside calf barns with fans or positive pressure ventilation tubes. We on the other hand have our pens outside with roofs we built and designed.

IMG_2545 IMG_2122.JPG fullsizeoutput_134f.jpeg IMG_0815

(I did not include pictures or descriptions of automatic calf feeders as those calves are housed in a group setting.)

I hope you learned something new today as far as individualized calf housing goes.

All of these pictures were taken by me as I have worked with all of these style calf hutches before.

Even though calves are separated from the cows and housed in these type of environments, they’re still happy. They still enjoy life. They don’t know living any other way, so they actually don’t know what else is out there. These hutches definitely are not comparable to life behind bars. Calves get to enjoy life. They get the care and attention they need and deserve.

Thanks for reading!

The Crazy Calf Lady, Jenna

A Cow Calves, Now What? Part 3.

IMG_9822In part 3, I wanted to share with you what life is like for bull calves born on a dairy farm.

I read on social media quite often that people believe all or most bull calves born are slaughtered as veal. They believe that once a bull calf hits the ground, he is going to be sent to to the butcher, ASAPWhile there are calves sent to a processor at an early age, there are still other options for these calves.

Not every farm is the same. Every farmer has a different method as to how animals are raised, but I have contacted multiple farmers around the United States and Canada about what they do with their bull calves.

Below I have created a list and even some behind the scenes looks into farms and how their bull calves are raised. Take a look and I’ll bet you’d be surprised as to how many different options there really are! Attached in each portion is a farmer you can contact for more questions.

IMG_1338.JPG*Bull calves born on a dairy and sold within a week:
It’s very common for dairy farmers to have interested buyers for their bull calves and to sell them quickly. On our dairy in Nebraska, we raise all of the females and sell all of the males. The bull calves are typically with us from a day old up to a week old. It all depends on how many calves are born at a time and how many interested buyers we have. Typically calves are sold to people who raise them on a calf ranch to be later processed, to those who need calves for a nurse cow or to ranchers that have lost a calf and need to put a new calf on their beef cow, also known as a draft calf.


Still have questions about selling calves as quick as they come? You can find me at @wiscowsingal on Instagram or Crazy Calf Lady on Facebook. You can also look up @melissagaul in Iowa, or @busyb2234 in Wisconsin on instagram or Minglewood Inc. and B. Kurt Dairy on Facebook to answer your questions as well.

So how are bull calves raised on a calf ranch? One of our buyers, Laura, will fill you in with the details.

Hi, I’m Laura. I’m a mother of 3 children. My brother, Tyler, and I own and operate Central Nebraska Calf Farms. Our business was established in 2012. We raise bull calves and free martin heifers.


At our farm, we feed our calves milk replacer and grain in an individual hutch for an average of 45 days. Around 3 weeks of age, we will castrate our bull calves. We use a small cheerio sized band that cuts off the blood supply to the sack and it will eventually fall away a few weeks later. We then move them to a group pen of 6-8 calves for the next 60 days. At this time, they get fed a mixture of corn, oats and a custom dairy pellet. (They continue on this diet until they weigh 400 pounds.) After those 60 days, the calves are moved to our feedlot, where my brother cares for them. Once they have reached the goal weight of 400 pounds, they are fed a TMR (total mixed ration) of corn, cracked corn salt and a feedlot balancer mineral. We feed them for 400 days from the time they are removed from their individual hutch. They will then go to market as a fat steer or heifer. Typically they weigh around 1250-1350 pounds. We do NOT raise veal or adult bulls.

*Bull calves are sold at the sale barn:
It’s quite common for farmers to send their calves to the sale barn. At the sale barn, they are up for anyone to buy. It could be a person who has a calf ranch, a farmer that lost a calf and needs a replacement or they could possibly be sold to a processor. There are multiple options when brought to a sale barn. Some farmers choose to send their calves to the sale barn because it brings in more money and some send them to the sale barn because they have no other interested buyers near them and do not have room to house them at their facility.

@dairydinny  & @holsteinhoarder have sold calves to the sale barn, so if you have any questions, be sure to contact either of those two women!

IMG_2008*Bull calves are born and raised on a dairy. Later sent to a grower:
A friend of mine from the Instagram world raises her bull calves and their heifer calves together. She goes by Becca and you can find her on Instagram as @reb_hilby or on the Facebook farm page, Weigel Dairy.


Here’s Becca with some background as to how their bull calves are raised.

Hey everyone! I’m Becca, and I’m the calf manager and co-herd manager on a 350 cow dairy in Wisconsin. We raise all of our calves on the farm – both heifers and bulls. At birth, calves are vaccinated, have their navels dipped with iodine, and they also get a gallon of high quality colostrum. We raise all of our calves in hutches. In the summer, we use sand or sawdust bedding to keep them cool. In the winter, the calves get to bundle up in straw to keep them warm. The bulls and heifers are all raised exactly the same. They get milk twice a day, and always have access to fresh water and grain.

IMG_2010We wean the calves starting at 6 weeks old. (Meaning they slowly get taken off milk.) Around 8 weeks old, they are all moved into group housing in our calf barn. At this point, we still keep the bulls and heifers together. At 12 weeks old, we castrate the bull calves and vaccinate them once again. They will then continue on their diet until they’re around 4-500 pounds. Once they reach that weight, we will then sell them to a steer raiser who finishes them out.

Another dairy farmer that sells calves after weaning, dehorning and castrating is Josh. You can find him on Facebook at Elhanan Farms.

IMG_2116*Bull calves are born on a dairy and pasture raised for veal:
A second friend of mine from the Instagram world has a small herd of Jersey cows and raises her bull calves for veal. Her name is Heidi and you can find her on Instagram as @sugarmaplejerseys or on the Facebook farm page, Sugar Maple Jerseys LLC.

Here’s Heidi with some background as to how their bull calves are raised.

Hi, I’m Heidi and I own and operate Sugar Maple Jerseys LLC. SMJ is a small registered Jersey herd in Stockton, New Jersey. We sell our own all natural cheeses and pasture raised meats.

Rarely do I ever discuss the topic of veal, but today I would like to be informative about OUR veal and pasture raised meat in general. There is so much misinformation circling around, that I felt it was time to set the record straight. I’d like to be specific about what “pasture raised” meats means to us on our farm. Pasture raised simply means the animals are not confined to indoor pens on concrete, but raised outdoors on grass with shelter, fresh food and water. Our animals are fed a small ration of grain, which makes up less than 10% of their diet.

Our rose’ veal is raised on pasture and fed whole milk from our milking herd. Their diet also consists of grass hay and grain, which turns their meat a light pink color.


The biggest misconception consumers make is on the age of these animals. Our calves are typically processed between 6-8 months old, which is the same age as a lamb. Pigs are typically 5-6 months old, turkeys are 4-5 months old, and chickens are 5-7 months old. Most consumers eat young meat daily yet criticize the veal industry for processing young animals…

All of our processing is done in an USDA inspected facility @lehighvalleymeats to ensure that all of our animals receive proper treatment and humane handling.

Any questions, just send them our way and we would be glad to answer them for you.

*Milk-fed and “bob” veal calves:
The Farmer’s Wifee traveled to veal farms in Indiana and Pennsylvania back in May. Here is a short paragraph from her blog post on Ag Daily  on “milk-fed” and “bob” veal calves.

Milk-fed veal calves are on average 20 to 22 weeks of age with some farms raising up to 26 weeks. The average weight of these calves are anywhere from 475 to 500 pounds, depending on the farm. While their diet is mostly milk replacer, they are also fed grain. It is incredibly important that they receive a well-balanced diet. Many of the farms monitor the calves’ iron. A common myth I have read was that many of these calves are iron deficient due to poor nutrition; that is simply not the case.

Bob veal are bull calves that go directly from the dairy farm to the processing plant. They are not raised in small dark boxes like many would have you believe. They make up less than 10 percent of the U.S. veal industry.

Be sure to check out the full blog post for more details digging deeper into the veal industry.


Other options for bull calves:

*Bull calves are sold to local kids for a 4-H project. @nicolewallinga‘s Grandfather sells a few calves to local kids.

*Bull calves are sold as roping calves for rodeos. – Courtney Farms Registered Jerseys located in Oklahoma sells their Jersey bull calves as soon as they hit the ground for roping calf purposes.

*Farmers raise bull calves into fat steers on the farm.

*Selected for breeding purposes.

Another farm a friend of mine I met from the Instagram world works on, raises some calves to finish out and they also raise some for breeding purposes. Here’s Jessie with more background on those two subjects.


Hello everyone, my name is Jessie and I work at Paradise-D Holsteins LLC. Its a small family farm located in Lancaster, WI. We milk around 130 registered Holsteins two times a day in a tie stall.

We house all of our bulls and steers in buildings and have two different ways of handling them. They will either be castrated and made steers to finish out or they’ll be kept intact and sold as breeding bulls


In order to determine if we will band a bull calf or not, we need to take a look at his genetics. By evaluating his dam, sire and sometimes a DNA test, we can tell if he has many highly desirable traits. If he does, he gets a name and an orange name tag. If he doesn’t, then he gets a numbered yellow ear tag, and is castrated with a band around 2 months of age after being weaned off of milk. 

After being weaned and moved out of our calf barn our bulls and steers are moved to a building where they are fed a grain and hay diet. Once they all get a bit older, they are separated. The bulls are sent to our bull pen on the home farm, where they receive a roughage diet, consisting of haylage or silage. The steers are sent to our other farm where they receive a grain diet. We keep our steers until they weigh around 1400-1500 pounds. They are normally around 15-16 months of age when they reach this weight. After they reach that weight goal, they are sold to be processed.

If there’s anything more you’d like to know, please feel free to contact me.” You can find Jessie on Instagram as @crazy4moo or on the Facebook farm page, Paradise-D Holsteins LLC.


As you can tell, there are many options available for bull calves apart from just raising them for veal. Every farmer works with what they have been given to use. Those who have the facilities and time will raise them up to a certain age of their choosing. Those who don’t have the facilities and time will send them to others who do have the ability to raise them.


Even though they live a shorter life than the females, they are still given a great life by those who care for them. Every farmer, rancher and care taker strives to keep their animals happy, healthy and thriving.

Hope you enjoyed this read.

The Crazy Calf Lady, Jenna

A Cow Calves, Now What? Part 2.

Welcome back to part 2 of A Cow Calves, Now What?

This post will cover what happens when a cow has a heifer (girl) calf.

So let’s get started & I apologize in advance for how long this post will be. You may want to get yourself some popcorn before you settle in!

IMG_4957.jpgI’m going to tell you the story of Fireball’s life. Fireball is one of the two full Jerseys on our dairy farm. The rest of the herd are all Holstein, except for one uh-oh cow that’s a red & white holstein-jersey cross!

So lets take it back to the summer of 2015. It’s a warm July day and 919 aka Cinnamon is 9 days overdue with her fourth calf. Usually when a cow is overdue it means she’s carrying a bull (boy) calf, but it was just our luck, she calved out a healthy and BIG heifer calf. Fireball was born in the evening on July 30th. Weighing 83 pounds! A typical jersey calf weighs around 60 pounds at birth, so she was a bit bigger than normal due to her being 9 days late.

IMG_4953Shortly after she was born, we moved her into a little pen where we keep all of our newborn calves in. It’s right next door to the calving pen. (If you’re wondering why we separate the cow and the calf, be sure to go back and read A Cow Calves, Now What? Part 1.) I then warmed up two 2-quart bottles of colostrum (a cows first milking that is rich with antibodies) in a bucket of hot water. Once those were at the perfect temperature around 104 degrees, I fed them to Fireball. She drank her full gallon of colostrum down very quickly. It is very important for the calf’s immunity that they consume a gallon of colostrum within the first 24 hours. On our dairy, we also feed our calves a second feeding of colostrum 12 hours later, but only two quarts instead of a full gallon.

It was then time to give her two earrings, a vaccine and out some special dip on her naval. The first one was a pink tag that just had her identification number on it, 2732 and the second one was a little round electronic button tag (RFID tag). The vaccine she received is called Inforce 3 and it is a nasal vaccine, so it just goes up the nose. It is a vaccine that helps the prevention of a respiratory disease. Many dairy and beef farmers use this vaccine at birth.  The special dip I put on her went on her umbilical cord. It’s called iodine and it prevents her from getting an infection in her naval, which is just like a belly button. The iodine dries up the cord quicker than letting it air dry would. The faster it dries, the harder it is for it to get infected.
Side note, I gave her those tags and the vaccine because all of the heifers stay in the herd. They are NOT sold as veal calves or raised for beef. They are strictly raised to later produce milk as a dairy cow. 

IMG_4988.jpgOnce Fireball had eaten, received her eartags and was given her vaccine, it was time to weigh her with the weight tape and move her down to the individual hutches. Which is where we keep our calves from birth to around 2 months old. I kind of think of them as a crib for calves.

There are a few different styles to house calves in. 
Some farmers use:

  • Hutches with a wire panel around them.
  • Hutches with a tethered chain.
  • Polydomes.
  • Individual calf pens inside a calf barn
  • Automatic calf feeders.

IMG_4982.jpgOn our dairy, we use hutches with a tethered chain and we have individual calf pens with a roof built over the top due to them being outside instead of in a calf barn.

IMG_5289.jpgWhile Fireball was living in her individual hutch, she was getting fed whole, pasteurized milk twice a day (Yes, you read that right. We feed milk from our cows to our calves!) with access to water the rest of the day. She also had access to calf starter. It’s a type of grain mix that is specifically made for calves. Heifer calves are typically on milk for 6-7 weeks and then start to get weaned onto water. Usually when calves are getting weaned, they get fed milk in the morning and then only get fed water at night for a week straight. Once the week is up, they are switched to only water.

[On some farms, calves get fed milk THREE times a day and when calves are housed in a barn with an automatic calf feeder, they also have a limited amount of milk they are able to consume, but are able to drink at any time of their choosing!] 

Along with getting fed twice a day, calves also get bedded frequently depending on the weather. Most farmers use corn stalks, straw, shavings or sand to bed calves with. Calves are also dehorned in this phase. On our dairy, we USED to just use an electric dehorner around 5 weeks old and burn them off, but a year and a half ago I decided to switch to dehorn paste due to it being more humane to use and it’s much easier to use. I use it when the calf is a newborn or up to a week old. Just depends when I get time to apply the dehorn paste. Lastly, we vaccinate with a few different vaccines and weigh our calves again just prior to them leaving the hutches. The weight tape is helpful to us, the caretakers, because it helps us compare the calf’s birth weight to her current weight and that tells us if she’s growing at the correct rate we want or if we need to watch her a little more closely. Fireball had weighed in close to 200 pounds when we moved her out of her individual hutch.

IMG_6073.jpgOnce the calves have outgrown their hutches after 2 months, we will then move them to super hutches! Super hutches are a great way for a calf to socialize. We house 4 calves together in one super hutch at a time. A super hutch is just what it sounds like. They are a giant hutch that has panels around it and also a feed bunk in the front! In the super hutches, we introduce the calves to hay and the calves will continue to get fed the same grain they were getting fed prior to moving. Here, they have access to water 24/7. [No milk is given to calves in the super hutches, they are all completely weaned at this stage.] We keep our calves in them for 2-3 weeks depending on if we have a lot of calves to move one week compared to another.

IMG_6520.jpgA few weeks went by and Fireball was then ready to move into an even bigger pen with MORE friends. The bigger pens are where she will live for the next few months, until she is ready to head to the heifer growers. She was also weighed again when she moved up there and given a second eartag.

So let me explain a little bit more.

Once calves outgrow the super hutches, we move them up to our lots/pens. There are currently 3 different pens we house calves in. The first two are small and can house up to a maximum of 16 calves at a time. Calves are fed the same grain and hay diet as they were receiving in the super hutches, only a little less grain and a lot more hay! The third is our big pen. We can house up to 80 calves at most in that one. When calves are housed in there, they have access to a round hay bale, TMR (total mixed ration) and just a smidge of grain. The TMR they are fed is the refusal from the cows. Meaning that it is the food that the cows didn’t finish from the day before. The girls seem to love it!
IMG_8767.jpgWhen the calves are in the upper lots, they have a lot of room to run around and a lot of room to just nap. I mean, it’s hard being a calf..
Eating, ruminating and pooping takes a lot of them.

IMG_7407.jpgFireball spent her days in those pens rejecting every treat I tried to bring her, such as Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers. She’s not a fan of sweets, unlike my Holstein calves who attack me with kisses until they get what they want. As Fireball got older, it was time for her to move on to the next chapter of her life. We sent her and 30 of her closest friends to her new destination in February of 2016.

15094491_357293921286722_8584865737250671999_n.jpgHer new destination was at the heifer growers,  where she would live for the next year and 2 months. Some heifers are there longer than others depending on size or if we can’t get them bred to AI (artificial insemination).  (I’ll make a blog about our heifer growers later.) For now, I’ll just explain it this way. We don’t have enough room on our dairy to house all of our animals, so we send them to people who can take care of them for the next chapter of their lives. Once the heifers are old enough and big enough, they will then get bred. After they are confirmed pregnant and have been carrying their calf for at least 7 months, it will be time for those girls to return to the dairy where they will live for the rest of their lives.

18033932_10213109086659220_8471758639248935340_nAnd just in luck, Fireball’s year and 2 months were up just last week. She came home on Friday! We are patiently waiting for June 1st to roll around as it is her due date. Once she calves, she will be moved to the barns where she will eat, sleep, poop, ruminate and get milked. It is where she will stay for the rest of her time with us. If she has a heifer calf, she will then go through the same cycle Fireball went through growing up. If she has a bull… well I’ll just wait and explain that in Part 3 of A Cow Calves, Now What?

All in all, heifer calves are raised with the kind of care that will make them a great cow one day. A lot goes into making sure they are happy, healthy and thriving animals. The more times an animal has to be treated for sickness, the more her milk production in the future will decrease and that’s not what we strive for. We do our best, so they can preform at their best. Our misson statement on our dairy is … Happy, healthy people caring for happy, healthy cows profitably producing quality dairy products and genetics for the public … That is how our dairy is run.

The Crazy Calf Lady, Jenna.

PS. Please enjoy these few other pictures of Fireball growing up.

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A Cow Calves, Now What? Part 1.

IMG_7350Every single day, new calves are brought into this world.

You’re probably asking yourself, what happens to those calves and the cows?

Are they separated from their moms? Why? What happens to the heifers (girls) What happens to the bulls (boys)? What happens to the cow?

Well I am here to answer those questions, but bare with me. I plan on doing them in 4 different parts, so this post will just go over part 1. Part 1 will discuss reasons as to why we separate the cow and the calf. Part 2 will discuss what happens to the heifer calves. Part 3 will discuss what happens to the bull calves. Finally, part 4 will discuss what happens to the cow.

So sit back, relax, and learn a little something new today.

Part 1: Why we separate the calf from the cow.

  1. IMG_7512.jpgOn average, it takes a newborn calf one hour to stand on their own. Some of my calves have taken up to 24 hours to stand on their own. In order for a calf to drink from a cow, they need to be able to stand. When a calf drinks from a cow, we are not able to determine how much colostrum (cow’s first milking that is rich with antibodies) they have received. Colostrum is important in a calf’s life because it is crucial for their immunity, and in order for the colostrum to be beneficial, calves need to consume a gallon (for a 90 pound calf) within the first 24 hours. On our dairy, we feed a gallon of colostrum within the first 2 hours to the calf and then feed them another 2 quarts (half a gallon) about 12 hours later.
  2. Cows may not give enough or have a high enough IgG (immunoglobulin) level of colostrum for it to benefit their calf. Some cows give a lot of colostrum which we are able to save for a calf in that situation. (I’ll go into further detail about this in another blog post.)
  3. Calves don’t have an immune system built up yet. Which is why we want to keep the spread of bugs to a minimum and why we want to give them a high enough IgG level of colostrum to get them off to a good start. Just like a newborn baby, you wouldn’t let a sick person handle them, would you?
  4. Cows are not gentle giants all of the time. They can be dangerous to their newborn. Just the other day, my friend Kayla, told me about an incident where a calf was born and not even 5 minutes later, the cow had stepped on the calf’s leg and broke it, just like that!

    Are you starting to understand why yet?

  5. Dairy cows DO NOT have the same maternal instinct as a beef cow does. There have been many instances where a cow calves and they don’t care to lick off their newborn. When a cow licks off her newborn it helps stimulate them. You can gently glide your fingers on a calf’s back by the spine (it would act like a cow tongue) and they will feel the need to stand. Neat trick, I know!
  6. IMG_6670.jpgIn the winter, it’s especially crucial to get the calf in a warm area so they can dry off and stay warm. We normally separate the cow and calf within 15 minutes in the cold winter months. Think about getting out of a hot shower and going outside with just a towel when it’s 0 degrees outside to dry off. Would you rather have a warm and dry place to dry off rather than standing outside with just a towel to use? On our farm, we have invested in calf warmers (blue domes with a heater attached). With those, we are able to keep the calf at a desired temperature of our choosing and it usually dries them off completely in a matter of 4 hours. (Keep a look out for a blog post about that as well.)
  7. Dairy cows nowadays produce more milk than a single calf can consume. On
    our dairy, a cow produces a little over 11 gallons of milk in a single day. Do you really believe a calf could consume all of that? We feed no more than 2 gallons of milk to a calf in a day. Which is why cows need to be milked out fully. It’s the same concept as women pumping milk after they’ve had a baby.
  8. IMG_5028Lastly, Calves are born with teeth! Teeth hurt and dairy cows don’t have an udder that can handle that sort of stress like a beef cow’s udder can. When calves are hungry, they head butt the udder to let the cow know to let down their milk. Do you really think that sounds comfortable when they head butt and then suckle with their teeth? I’m sure all the moms out there that have breastfed can understand that feeling.

With that being said, I hope you can understand a little bit more as to why separating calves from cows is beneficial. If you have any questions, feel free to send them my way!

The Crazy Calf Lady, Jenna

Why I Farm.

When you hear the word farmer, what do you think of?

DSC_6223.jpgDo you think about a person who tends to livestock such as cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, etc.? Do you think about a person driving tractor? Do you think about an older gentleman wearing overalls? Do you think about a person who is a part of feeding the world?


Do you think about a person who would give you the shirt off their back like Katie does? Do you think a farmer is one who is not confined by a time clock, but rather by his love, ability and the job? Dani thinks about a person who has faith, is a hard worker and is committed.

What comes to mind to you?

Do IMG_0336.jpgyou think about those videos you see on Facebook showing an animal being abused? If so, do you think to yourself, why didn’t the person capturing that footage step in and stop it? Why did they let it continue to happen? Was it just so they could get some footage to make a video about it? Do you truly believe that abuse happens on every farm?

I can assure you that you would be wrong if you believe that abuse happens everywhere. The only way you’re going to have a healthy, thriving and happy animal is if they don’t have to endure stress or if you can keep it to a minimum, such as being quiet as you’re moving cows around.

I can assure you that livestock are respected.

Livestock are treated with the utmost care.

Livestock are given the best possible life.

Livestock do love their caretakers. Believe it or not.

Livestock’s needs come before most farmer’s own needs.

That is why I farm. This is why I am an AGvocate. To share the truth. To share who we IMG_0370.jpgare. I may only be a few years into my dairy farming adventure, but the places I’ve worked and the people I have met along the way have made me want to continue. They have made me want to share my story and share about life on a farm. There are SO many misconceptions about food and I am just one of the many voices that is trying to share the truth. If you have a question about life on a farm, where our milk, meat, corn, wheat, etc. go, just ask a farmer, a rancher, a gardener. Whomever sells products to the market has an answer for you. Come to us first before running to google.

The dictionary definition of a farmer is a person who owns or manages a farm.

I can reassure you that we are much more than just that definition. We are caretakers.
We are dedicated. We are respectful. We have faith. We are providers. We are united. We make our living to provide for our families and yours. We buy our food at the grocery store just like you do. We are people too.

If you want an answer you have to be willing to listen. Listen to understand instead of listening to just reply.

To us, farming is more than just an occupation, it’s a lifestyle.

Thanks for reading.

The Crazy Calf Lady

Cows Have Best Friends Too

Just like people, cattle can have best friends too. Did you know that?IMG_6298.jpg

Many of the farmers I know, don’t spend nearly as much time with their calves as I do. Since I am the crazy calf lady, I pick up on the little things, such as who likes who. When I figure out those pairs, I do my best to keep them together. I have a few dynamic duo pairs I wanted to share with you all.

Calves put a smile on my face, and I figured they might do the same for you all as well.

The first pair would be Rue (3369) and Dinosaur (3375). Unfortunately we have separated this pair due to the fact we decided it was best to sell Rue. She made a great pet, she just wasn’t keeping up with the rest of the girls her age. Dinosaur IMG_5325.jpgon the other hand was a calf that started off on the right foot. She was 120 pounds at birth, and has been thriving ever since. For some odd reason, those calves bonded. Guess opposites do attract, right? I have posted a picture of the two of them and myself, and you can easily compare the size difference.

The other dynamic duo pair I wanted to share with you would be Tortilla (3381) and Topanga (3382). These two were neighbors in the hutches and hit it off from the start. We recently shipped them to our heifer growers just last week (I’ll talk about that in a different post.) These two can be found eating, pooping, relaxing, ruminating or attacking me with love together. They do EVERYTHING together and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s easier to go through life with your best friend by your side!
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One last thing, cattle don’t have to bond with other cattle. They do enjoy hanging with the one who has cared for them growing up, which would be someone like me! Some of my best friends are calves, heifers and cows! They sure seem to like me as much as I like them!IMG_5646

Who is the Crazy Calf Lady?

IMG_8516.JPG Who is the Crazy Calf Lady, you ask?

Well first off, welcome to my blog!

My name is Jenna. I am 21 years old and live in central Nebraska. I am originally from south central Wisconsin, but relocated to Nebraska May of 2015. I am the calf and young heifer specialist on an 850 cow dairy.

Here’s a big surprise, I do NOT come from a farming background! I am a city girl who somehow fell in love with agriculture, and wanted to pursue a future in the dairy industry. Weird, right?

Growing up, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my future and who I wanted to be as a person. I somehow found my calling when I joined FFA in high school. It opened my eyes to how many people had very little knowledge about agriculture, including myself.

When graduating high school came around, I had plans to go to a technical school for general education and I then wanted to transfer to a university to study agricultural business. I had attended one semester at MATC for my generals, and decided that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Microeconomics and Trigonometry just wasn’t for me. I then decided to look elsewhere for school. I thought to myself that I’ve always enjoyed cows and maybe I wanted to do something with them, so I applied at a different technical college for their Dairy Herd Management program. Shortly after applying, I got accepted into the DHM program.

10636882_10205021251468395_6406732340362279759_oAt that time, I was working at Farm & Fleet as their candy girl. One day after I had finished my shift, I had received a message from a family friend about an opportunity taking care of calves on a 500 cow dairy. I instantly called the farm and set up an interview. I got the job on the spot and started a few weeks later.

I started at Sunburst Dairy the middle of December in 2013 and instantly fell in love with the job. I realized that calves were my calling, but I always questioned that if you could make a career out of it. I worked at Sunburst up until the fall of 2014 right before I started at my new school, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, for Dairy Herd.

After getting situated at my new school and making new friends, I got word of an opening working with calves at Stone Front Farms. I went in for an interview and found out a few days later that I had gotten the job! While working at Stone Front, I became close with the calf manager, Kaila. Kaila showed me that you can do what you love and be happy with it. She influenced my life tremendously, and helped shaped the person I am today.

A little bit later into the school year my teacher, Christina, had brought in a guest speaker who was an intern for PDPW, Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. Her name was Kayl10896183_10205972823097091_3696421868441916643_oa, I believe, and she told us about a mentorship opportunity we could apply for. The mentorship program allowed you to shadow a farm for a day and get a little more insight into what your interested in. I applied, got accepted, went to Dolph Dairy LLC in Lake Mills, WI in January of 2015 and spent the day with the farm crew. Everyone who participated in the mentor program was able to attend the PDPW business conference that March, where breakfast was held for the students and the mentors. At the breakfast, we all had to stand up and introduce ourselves, where we went and what we learned. I stood up and had mentioned that I went to Dolph Dairy because I was interested in the calves, since I wanted to be a calf manager. Once the breakfast concluded, a woman came up to me, introduced herself and we got to talking. Her name is Linda Hodorff, one of the founders of PDPW. She mentioned how she had a dairy in Nebraska and she was interested to talking with me more about an internship opportunity. Multiple conversations later, I decided to take it. I started at Broken Bow Dairy a few weeks after I graduated college the spring of 2015. Luckily, I had a lot of support coming out to Nebraska, especially through my coworker, Kaila. I felt better about picking up and moving away for three months when I had someone who really believed in me. She was the person I would go to for advice, and I am grateful I had her in my life.

IMG_5601I started June 1, 2015 as an intern taking care of the calves and was supposed to move back to Wisconsin that fall once my internship was up, but decided that I wanted to stay. When September 1, 2015 rolled around, my internship ended and I became the calf and young heifer specialist at the dairy.  My time in Nebraska has been unbelievable and I am beyond grateful to have taken every opportunity that has been brought my way.

I hope this gives you a bit of insight into who I am and I hope you’ll continue to follow along as I share with you my piece of paradise. I am always open for questions, so be sure to send them my way if you have any!

The Crazy Calf Lady, Jenna

Welcome to the Adventures of the Crazy Calf Lady

IMG_8251If you enjoy looking at cute calves all day, everyday. This is the place to be.

If you enjoy learning about life as a calf or cow on a dairy farm. This is the place to be.

If you enjoy agriculture. This is the place to be.

I hope you all can learn a little, smile a bit, and are willing to listen to my side of farming through my new blogging adventure.

I may share a few other details about life in central Nebraska along with my calf and cow posts.

Thanks for following along.

The Crazy Calf Lady, Jenna