Mark Breunig, owner of A-Ok Farms LLC, believes getting calves off on the right foot sets them up for success down the road. And he should know, his Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, dairy farm won the Excellence in Genetics and Reproduction platinum award for heifers!
On her birth date
In accordance with Mark’s belief, concentrated calf care starts right at birth with each heifer calf receiving two feedings of the highest quality colostrum the farm produces. The colostrum is tested using a refractometer, with a target Brix value of 25.
Every heifer is also screened for pneumonia by a veterinarian using ultrasound technology to detect lesions on the calf’s lungs. This allows the dairy’s team to stay ahead and treat calves with issues sooner rather than later.
It’s about data too. Using the GENEX Sort-GateSM program, the team analyzes each calf’s health information along with her ICC$ parent average to make early culling decisions. Results are measured as a combination of both animal health and performance. The ICC$ parent averages are graphed in DairyComp to show genetic progress over time.
“Using all of this information helps us raise heifers that are set up to reach their full genetic potential,” explains Mark.
Performance and trust
At four months of age, A-Ok heifers go to Highview Farm & Ag Services, a custom heifer raiser located about 40 minutes from the dairy. Here, the heifers continue to receive high-quality feed and care until about four weeks from calving, when they are ready to return home and join the milking herd.
The heifers average an age at first breeding of about 13 months. They receive two services of GenChoice™ sexed semen and up to two services of conventional semen, if needed.
“The team at Highview Farm does a tremendous job getting heifers bred,” shares Mark.
With an average 70% conception rate to sexed semen, they have 87% of the heifers pregnant after the first two services.
Mark trusts the GENEX team to pick bulls that fit his operation. His main focus for sire selection is ICC$. Other traits considered are Daughter Pregnancy Rate, Fat and Protein Percent, and Calf Wellness. PregCheck+ sire fertility rankings for GenChoice™ sexed semen are taken into consideration as well.
“It’s really about focusing on breeding healthier, more fertile, and more efficient animals,” shares Mark.
Success takes a team
“It is certainly a team effort that has led to the success of our reproduction program. Everybody involved does their part, and they do it well,” says Mark.
When you combine all that with high-quality genetics with a focus on ICC$, good things are bound to happen! Congratulations on your Excellence in Reproduction & Genetics platinum award!