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Calf Raising Success Focus of Butler Barn Meeting

6/29/2013 2:00 AM
By Carol Ann Gregg Western Pa. Correspondent

BUTLER, Pa. — Dairy producers gathered at the Leroy Bergbigler Dairy Farm for the dairy twilight meeting on June 15.

Leroy and Mary Bergbigler greeted old friends, neighbors and many farm families, encouraging visitors to tour their facilities. In addition to the self-guided tour, there was a program focusing on calf raising.

The porch of the milking barn was used as a stage where the Bergbiglers’ veterinarian, Israel Isenberg, of Kittanning, Pa., spoke about the need to give newborn calves special care.

“Calves are like human babies,” Isenberg said. “They are fragile.”

Efforts need to be taken to maximize the calf’s immune system and minimize its exposure to pathogens that can cause disease when it is so susceptible, he said.

Isenberg recommended that calves be given four quarts of colostrum at birth when the calf’s system can absorb the most antibodies from the colostrum.

“Within 12 to 24 hours is the window of opportunity to get the maximum benefit from the colostrum,” he said.

It is important that the mother cow have a clean place to give birth. This will help give the calf a healthy start.

Nutritionist Phil Anderson talked about nutrition programs available to ensure maximum calf growth.

“Traditionally, a calf is fed two quarts of milk or milk replacer twice a day,” Anderson said. Calves are then fed grain.

Anderson described two other programs — one increases the milk or milk replacer to six quarts a day and the other, an accelerated program, offers the calves two gallons a day.

This accelerated program isn’t for everyone, but it has produced earlier frame growth in calves.

The Bergbiglers have an automatic calf feeder. Calves can come to the station five times a day and will receive a predetermined portion of milk replacer that is mixed as needed in a blender.

Each calf has a transponder in its left ear that is read by the computer when they enter the stall.

“This saves me lots of work,” said Mary Bergbigler as she pointed out how the system works.

The calves that are using the calf feeder are in a separate group in the heifer facility that houses young stock up to the age of 1 year.

Visitors could also try their hand at dairy judging at the twilight meeting.

Leroy Bergbigler selected several groups of cows for the judging. Adult division winners were Michele Hickman and Rita Kennedy. The youth winners were Haley Henry and Lilly Ansell.


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