If the management of Larson understands one thing, it is that the calves are the future. Calf care has top priority and they are proud of it. Within an hour after birth, when the calves are dried up, they are separated from the cow. Employees make sure the calves get the first 4 litres of colostrum and disinfect the navel. The cow is checked for mastitis, gets a calcium tablet to help prevent milk fever and is added to the fresh cow group.
The calves are housed in one of four calf barns. These building are designed to be kept ultra clean, as is the calf housing system inside. After weaning the last calves, the whole building is cleaned and disinfected. After the colostrum the calves are fed a ration of pasteurised milk and water, and from day three onwards concentrated feed is introduced. After seven weeks the individual cubicles are reset to duo housing. The hygienic environment and dedicated employees to look after the young animals from feeding the first colostrum to carefully introducing concentrate and roughage results in a dead loss percentage of only 0.25%.
At eight weeks of age the calves are moved to a group housing system with 10 animals per pen, until they reach four months old. They are kept on a ration of TMR and additional concentrated feed. The goal is to create an uniform herd, which reaches breeding size at 14 months. For that Larson aims for the combination of height and weight, 1.2 meters and 350 kilos and a loss of 1.5%. They try to win at least one month compared to the average in North America. Mike Larson: "Apart from a veterinarian that spends at least two hours a week doing regular health checks our employees are trained on the job and work with strict protocols. That said, we empower our personnel to make their own decisions. As management we want everyone to know they are part of the success of Larson Acres and prevent micromanagement."
During a walk around the 25 hectare measuring yard it is advisable to keep your eyes open. With some 2900 cows to feed and 4 barns with young animals to take care of, the feed truck driver has to put his foot down. A cloud of dust in the distance most of the time means that one has to step aside. Feed out happens at lightning speeds and in large quantities. However, that doesn't mean that there is room for slack. All rations are carefully formulated and put together, measured by weight and/or quantity. Even the seemingly simple task of 'feed truck driver' is carried out by a college graduate. He has the responsibility of adjusting the feed formula according to the quality of raw materials and the evaluation of the structure of the leftovers from the previous feed run.
All silage is weighted. The trucks are connected to a computer that tells the driver what the dry matter content is and how to adjust the raw materials to reach the optimum. At Larson Acres all corn, alfalfa and grass is grown in their own fields. Concentrate and loose protein components are bought from the feed mill. All feed is mixed into the TMR, mixing time is only three minutes to prevent the destruction of fibre. Good fibre content benefits rumination and prevents rumen acidosis and lots of secondary problems caused by subclinical acidosis.