The 2013 'Cow College,' presented by Fox Valley Technical College and the University of Wisconsin Extension, concluded Jan. 22 with a lunch, panel discussion on DNA technology and tours of Waupaca County farms.
First stop on the tour was Bauer's Sandy Valley Farm on Bestul Road just southwest of Iola that features more than 1,000 crop acres and a high-producing Holstein dairy herd.
It is also one of six Waupaca County farms enrolled in Wisconsin PACE (Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements) program.
In addition to its milk production, the farm is recognized as one of the top Holstein breeders in the nation, selling animals to local farmers, as well as contracting with top dairy genetic companies around the world.
Each year, more than 100 foreign visitors, many affiliated with World Dairy Expo, tour the farm.
Along with 10 family members (four full-time and six part-time), the farm also has four other full-time employees.
Sandy Valley works with several local custom operators to haul manure, harvest forages and apply pesticides. The farm also has rental agreements with three neighboring landowners and irrigates more than 500 acres of their own cropland.
Bauer's also have built six state-of-the-art heifer and bull barns, a 450-cow free-stall barn, a three-million gallon concrete manure transfer/storage system and a double-12 milking parlor that features direct loading of milk into tanker trucks.
CALF BARN CONSIDERATIONS
The latest addition to the farm's facilities is a state-of-the-art calf barn that has replaced more than 100 calf hutches that previously had housed the younger calves.
Danae Bauer, a third-generation family member actively involved in the farm's operation and one of the dairy's key herdsmen, led the tour that included the parlor and freestall barns but focused on the new calf barn. Her responsibilities include supervising calf, heifer and bull raising.
She explained that key considerations in the design of the new barn were providing a good environment for both the calves and the people who are caring for them.
"The barn had to allow us to observe, feed, handle and treat the calves efficiently in a safe, comfortable environment," Bauer said. "This is especially important during cold, snowy and rainy weather."
The barn, now in it's second year of use, features pens that can accommodate multiple calves. A bedding pack that includes shavings helps keep the calves comfortable. "The pack is allowed to build up for several months before the pens are clean," she explained.
TUBE VENTILATION SYSTEM
However, the biggest factor in providing calf comfort is probably the barn's positive pressure mechanical ventilation system that was installed one year ago. The system's main component are 20-inch diameter tubes spanning the length of the barn on each side.
Bauer noted that the four fans bring fresh air into the barn 24 hours a day all year long. "We've seen better weight gain on our calves since moving them into this new barn," she added.
A fan is mounted on the outside wall at each end of the tube, and the fresh air is distributed evenly throughout the barn by way of small holes punched in the tubes at the correct position to ensure even air distribution without causing a draft or blowing cold air directly on the animals.
A mathematical formula is used to help determine where the air flow should stop in order to avoid chilling the calves.
"The challenge is to identify how many of those little holes, how big they need to be and where they need to go on the tube," said Greg Blonde, Waupaca County's UW-Extension agriculture agent.
It was estimated that a similar system, with two tubes and four fans, would cost between $6,000 and $8,000.