As the farm continues to grow, we enlist the help of others who are able to focus on making a specific part of our herd the absolute best it can be! The father/daughter team of Joel and Erica DeWaard have been entrusted with the care of our babies, and they do an incredible job! I dare you to find a better looking or happier set of Jersey girls in the county! I have asked Erica to share a little bit about their process and what their day to day looks like. She is also the photographer responsible for all the photos, and a majority of the ones in previous blogs as well. Very multi talented!
Calf Raising, by Erica DeWaard
My dad and I have been raising the calves for Appel Farms for the last five years. Calves do better if everything, including who is taking care of them, is kept the same every day. We work together every day to make sure the calves are given the best care possible. Each day starts with feeding milk to the younger calves; the milk they are fed is pasteurized whole milk from Appel’s cows. Right now there are 70 calves that get milk in the morning and 85 are fed milk at night – the reason for the different numbers is that some calves are weaning, so they only get milk at night. It takes 95 gallons of milk to feed all the calves for one day! Once milk is fed and we get the bottles back, I feed grain to the ninety calves in domes (they are in individual domes for three months), while my dad gets bottles ready to be cleaned with the automatic bottle washer and feeds the three to five month old calves in the barn. After that, all the calves in domes get their water dumped out and refilled, older calves in domes get hay, the barn gets cleaned, and anyone that needs more dry bedding is given some. The evening feeding is a lot the same: feed milk, refill waters, wash everything, feed grain and hay. At night I’ll empty out all the grain buckets for the calves in domes and then refill them – they prefer their grain to always be fresh. While I take care of the calves, I’m also watching them. I have to know each of the calves, their habits and quirks, so I can catch early on if something is wrong with them. If they aren’t acting as they normally would, we figure out why, so they can feel better as soon as possible. I try keep the amount of antibiotics used to a minimum, using them only if that is really what the calf needs. To help the calves do their best, the ones under five weeks wear blankets whenever it is below fifty degrees. When they have blankets on, they can use their energy to grow, instead of trying to stay warm. Everything is also washed between calves – the bottles, nipples, buckets, blankets, and the domes – so that they can’t pass on germs from one calf to the next. I want every thing to be clean and the calves to be happy. It is always fun to see the calves playing and enjoying themselves – jumping back and forth just because they can. Our goal is that every calf that is brought to us will be taken back to the farm at five months old, looking the best that they possibly can, even if some needed a bit more help to get there than others. We want every calf to live and do well because they are the future of the farm – it just takes a lot of time and effort. And a lot of mochas from The Cheese Shop for us!