Farm-team approach nurtures success at Hochkammer Dairy
Manitowoc — Selling 80 to 100 dairy cattle as herd replacements every year from a 270-cow milking herd composed of about 50 percent Holsteins and 50 percent Jerseys. A breeding rate of up to 32 percent for 21-day periods. Partnerships for field work/cropping and farm ownership.
Those signs of success at the Hochkammer dairy farm were described during a panel presentation titled “A Team Approach to Feed Management and Dairy Nutrition” at the Manitowoc County Forage Council's annual dairy cattle feeding day.
Panelist and co-owner Casey Hochkammer, son of Tom “Herbie” and Anne Hochkammer, reported that the replacement animals, mainly recently fresh cows, go to buyers within a geographical area reaching to Milwaukee, Fond du Lac and Pulaski. For several years and with only word of mouth promotion, the minimum selling price has been at least $2,100 per head because of buyer satisfaction with the cows, he noted.
Panelist Cory Krueger, a 10-year employee at Hochkammer for whom buy-in plans are in place, outlined the cropping strategy designed to provide forages specifically for the cattle groups along with providing extra income for the farm. Multiple crop species are grown on 750 production acres.
A notable improvement in the cropping enterprise has been the creation of a partnership with the neighboring Luckow Farms LLC, Krueger stated. Titled “Moovin' Acres,” that partnership enables the two farms to complete major cropping tasks in total of six days if there are no weather delays.
Two new practices in cropping have been planting forage oats and soybeans after the harvest of 27 acres of winter wheat and the interseeding of ryegrass into previous hayland, followed by corn silage, resulting in impressive per acre yields of 3 tons of ryelage and 25 tons of corn silage, Krueger said.
After the wheat was harvested, forage oats with radish were planted on another 70 acres, Krueger continued. In addition to the acres devoted to haylage and corn for grain and silage, he mentioned 106 acres of soybeans that were sold to Quality Roasting at nearby Valders in return for soybean meal and 22 acres of contracted snap beans.
For the heifers, who number up to 310 head on the farm that has facilities on both sides of Center Road, ryelage is one of the dedicated forages grown on the farm. Casey Hochkammer pointed out that the heifer total is relatively high because sexed semen is used for the first artificial insemination of the herd's breeding heifers.
Panelist Randy Marx, a nutritionist with CP Feeds, pointed out that haylage, oatlage, corn silage, and sorghum are ingredients in a high fiber, low starch diet for the farm's heifers. The dry matter, crude protein, fiber traits, relative feed value and energy value of ryelage are considered to be ideal for the heifers.
According to panelist Dan Hale, a nutritionist with Vita Plus, the ration for the milking cows is balanced to meet the basic needs of the Jerseys. It includes corn silage, haylage, grain corn, ryelage and a protein/mineral mix.
Monitoring the heifer feeding program is also emphasized at Hochkammer dairy. Marx observed that this is achieved with regular scale weighing of calves and heifers — two or three from each pen for a total of 20 to 30 of each breed at every weigh-in.
Marx also recommended the use of an ATP meter, which provides a cleanliness test (residue and bacteria) on the equipment used for feeding milk and pelleted feeds to calves.
With the January 1 arrival of new regulations and procedures regarding medicated feeds, Krueger suggested that medicated feeds would not be necessary if proper attention is given to ventilation, starting calves with colostrum milk, observing sanitation practices, providing dry bedding, avoiding overcrowding and the handling of pen changes.
Hale cited the importance of facility walk-throughs during herd health checks, use of Dairy Comp data and dairy farm team meetings every three months.
Numerous facility updates have occurred in recent years at Hochkammer dairy farm. The most recent addition, scheduled to be open in early January, is a bedded-pack barn for housing prefresh cows and for a calving site.
In addition to the specifics, Casey Hochkammer offered another insight. He told the feeding day crowd that, as he does, keeping a daily and close in-person watch on activities and practices can make a big difference for the benefit of dairy cattle health.