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Farm Innovation Series: White Rock Farms of Peachland, North Carolina

August 3, 2017

Calf care is key to the profitability and longevity of a herd. When it comes to attention to detail and calf health management, there are few better than White Rock Farms in Peachland, North Carolina.

Owned and operated by Roddy Purser, White Rock Farms of Peachland, North Carolina, includes a 600-head Jersey dairy farm, hog houses and a layer operation. An innovative first-generation dairyman, Roddy saw opportunity in the dairy industry, and he knew that the secret to success was putting together a capable team equipped with both passion for the industry and the knowledge to build a successful herd.

Dakota Sparks is one of those team members. She is in charge when it comes to managing calves at White Rock Farms.

Drew Gibson and Dakota Sparks, herd managers at White Rock Farms

Dakota has helped White Rock Farms to maintain a less than 1 percent death loss on the farm since the beginning in 2014. She attributes this astounding success to four key elements: an employee dedicated to calves, cleanliness, a prevention approach and no cutting corners.

How White Rock Farms has kept their calf death loss to less than 1% since 2014

1. An employee dedicated to calves

Dedicating an employee to calves can be difficult for many farms, but as a farm grows, it becomes even more important.

Dakota is the manager of White Rock Farms’ calf area, a responsibility she takes very seriously. Feeding

calves twice a day starts with the White Rock Farms’ team removing water buckets and replacing them with milk buckets. This gives employees the opportunity to check calves while emptying, cleaning and refreshing water. These opportunities to observe calves are important for identifying any illnesses or abnormalities, so Dakota and her team devote their full attention to the task.

2. Cleanliness

Once utilized, every hutch is cleaned. All sand and gravel are removed, and the hutch is kept vacant for one to two weeks.

Once ready for a new resident, Dakota’s team utilizes a layer of black cloth at the bottom to keep the sand from falling through and then adds new gravel. This attention to detail reduces disease transmission from one calf to another, giving newborn calves the best possible opportunity for a healthy start. Not only are the hutches cleaned and sanitized after each calf, but calf buckets are sanitized after each feeding.

After the calves are fed milk, their buckets are cleaned in a three-stage process:

  1. The first water bath includes 125°F water with soap.
  2. The second bath contains 145°F water with soap.
  3. The third and final bath holds cold, chlorinated water.

Buckets are then stacked to air dry before the next feeding.

3. Prevention approach

Antibiotics are used only in instances of severe illness, but are rarely needed, according to Dakota. By taking a preventative approach, the need for therapeutic treatment is minimized.

White Rock Farms pasteurizes all colostrum and milk that is fed to calves and frequently utilizes electrolytes in water to help give calves a little boost. Dakota remarks that, when used properly, there can be substantial cost savings to pasteurizing milk for calves, especially once the cost of the pasteurizer is recouped (which occurred in two years for White Rock Farms).

4. No cutting corners

All colostrum is tested. This test is to identify the quality of the colostrum based on IgG antibody levels in the milk. If it meets the requirements, it is then used, refrigerated or frozen if not utilized within 24 hours. The frozen containers are organized and marked with the necessary information to enable easy retrieval of bags.

Roddy is confident the extra investments are worthwhile, as evidenced by heifers that are outperforming their mothers. With a solid foundation of nutrition, their calves have a healthy jumpstart on reaching breeding age with minimal illness.

White Rock Farms is a customer of CPC Commodities, based in Cowpens, South Carolina and is currently feeding the following Alltech products: Select GH®, Yea-Sacc®, Integral® A+, Bioplex® Hi-Four, Optigen® and Sel-Plex®