IDP Enjoys Unforgettable Tour to Illinois

The IDP Farm & Industry Tour to Illinois on March 30-31 was a terrific bus tour enjoyed by 54 IDP members. To see a picture slide show of the event, click here.
There was great opportunity to see a nice variety of farms with a diverse group of dairy farm owners and industry folks. There should have been something for everyone on the tour to take great interest in, and judging from the camaraderie and laughter on the tour, that goal was achieved.
Summary of the Farm & Industry Tour
Slagel Farm: Heifer raising farm for Seven Hills Dairy in Goodland, Indiana, where they have around 2100 heifers from birth to near springing. They average picking up 25 new heifer calves weekly. Calves are 2-9 days old upon receipt. Mortality losses for the past 12 months were 1%. They raise calves in individual pens in hoop barns along with one automatic calf feeding system. Calves are weaned at 7 weeks and are moved to group pens. They start breeding cows at 13 months. Biggest challenge to the hoop barns is winter snow. The family crops 700 acres in addition to the livestock chores.
Zehr Acres: Heifer raising facility for 4 different large dairy farms, they keep calves for about 230 days. In the winter, each calf gets a jacket, a PI tissue test, Vitamin E shot, a medication shot and are dehorned using paste upon arrival. They use Heifer Pro to document everything. They pick up hospital milk and newborn calves in the same specially modified trailer. Then they feed calves with a combination of pasteurized milk and milk replacer. With 750 calf hutches, they have automated systems for filling milk bottles, bedding hutches and presenting water and grain. Zehr's make their own calf starter. Calves are grouped by age but not by source farm until they are older. Goal is to have 2.0-2.15 rate of gain in 230 days.
Kilgus Dairy and Farmstead: Milking about 130 Jersey cows, made the decision to have a dairy with on-farm processing which became a reality in June 2009. Their big hurdle was leaving the security of a co-op and dealing with the risk of processing. Their first year was incredibly difficult, and as they look back, it was one of the hardest things they had ever been through. Today, the lessons and experience they have gained are invaluable and they have a market for all of their milk and then some. They process milk on M W F, roughly 1500-1700 gal each day. They need 3-5 people in the processing plant to accomplish this. They get a lot of questions from consumers, but there seems to be less concern about organic and more about GMO's. In addition to their dairy, the meat market has been a very big market for them. They currently purchase the bull calves from River Valley farm and they profitably sell that beef, which is distributed along with their milk. They also raise Berkshire pigs, originally a way to utilize excess milk, but now just to sell pork.
River Valley Farm: This farm is a show place. It's a beautiful picturesque farm with state of the art facilities housing a show and genetic herd in individual box stalls and a separate commercial Jersey herd of 240 cows. Once they realized the potential for high genetics, they have pursued that market and currently have 20 bulls in Select Sire's program. They have a robotic calf feeding system, Juno robotic feed pusher, as well as four Lely A3 robots.
Stone Ridge Dairy: George Kasbergen personally gave the tour of his double 35 parallel parlor, where 35 employees are milking 3200 cows three times daily. They milk about 450 cows an hour. The farm has high production and excellent quality milk. They focus on beddding and good parlor management, including getting clean teat ends. Fifty percent of the herd is 2 year old heifers. The foot trimmer comes every Tuesday and their nutritionist comes every Wednesday. They keep 400-440 cows in each group, and each barn holds roughly 1600-1700 cows. The farm is fully direct load, and they save hospital milk for their calf raiser (Zehr Acres, visited earlier).
Butlerview: The final stop of the IDP Farm & Industry Tour was a dairy farm like few others. The focus of Butlerview is superior genetics with milk production secondary. Their goals include high net merit and TPI index cattle for marketing and use by bull studs. They utilize technologies like embryo transfer, IVF, and genomic evaluations. They have also produced many All-American and All-Canadian show cows throughout the years.

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