CHATFIELD, Minn. – The ground is finally dry enough in southeastern Minnesota that the Kappers have been moving on with their barn expansion project. It is just in time too, as the cows have been doing their part, calving out 2-4 calves a week.
“It only took two or three days to get everything set up and now we’re putting the roof on today,” said Lucas Kappers on Aug. 14. “We’ve got all the foundation in, and then today we are putting the rafters on it.”
This shed will extend off the end of the Kappers historic red barn and will serve two functions: to cover the end of their barn cleaner – protecting it from the winter elements – and serving as shelter for the expanded herd.
“Half of it cemented and half of it is gravel. Then we'll just throw it down. Ideally, we will mix corn stocks and straw for bedding,” said Lucas.
The plan is to have enough space for 15 cows to bed down comfortably in the winter.
During the summer months, there won’t be as much space for the cattle because the manure spreader will be parked inside, underneath the barn cleaner. As it fills, the Kappers haul the manure out onto different fields and pastures.
“Now, we'll spread it on top of the fields that we've been green chopping,” he said. “The oats might not come back up again, so we'll start spreading on top of that field until the rye comes through.”
In addition to the manure from the barn cleaners, they have other bedding packs that get cleaned out as soon as they are full.
In the wintertime, the manure from the barn cleaner will be pushed aside to a safe location and stored until spring.
This shed has been in the making all summer and it will be a relief to have it done before fall.
As progress is being made on expanding the home-delivered milk market, the Kappers will need more cows to fill the added orders.
“Our herd is pretty closed. We bring in some cows, but it's not a whole lot,” he said.
Most of the new cows will need to be born and raised on site.
Having a closed herd definitely increases the biosecurity of the farm and cuts back on the risk of disease entering the herd.
Overall, the Kappers herd is very healthy. Even with the wet year, feet issues like hairy heel wart haven’t been a problem. Also, viral infections – scours and other diseases that can be very problematic for young calves – are not very common on their farm.
With each new calf born, they ensure the calf receives adequate colostrum from the cow. The calf is actually allowed to stay with the cow for the first 2-3 days of life and nurse.
“We'll put them in a maternity pen and we'll leave them together. We don't take the cow to milk or anything,” he said. “Then, we'll start letting the cow out during the daytime.”
For the first few days of life, the calf is strictly nursing from the cow. Then, the Kappers will introduce a bottle and milk replacers while the cow is out of the pen.
At about day 4-6, depending on how everything goes, the calf is moved into a calf pen and the cow is moved back with the rest of the milking herd.
The calves receive their needed vaccinations, and they also get treated with an oral de-wormer, as well as a pour-on parasite treatment, as a preventative.
Being that these calves are the future of the herd, their health is extremely important.