Almost every consultant advises against raising calves for sale. Often the high costs of breeding cannot be covered by the proceeds from the sale of calves. But there is another way: George Damen is 46 years old and is a real “cow maker”. It sells about 100 baby cows that give birth each year, primarily via the Rinder-Union West eG auction site. in Krefeld. His animals fetch above average auction prices each month. Calves are distinguished above all by good physical development, high performance and low age at first birth. Demand is high!
Maximum prices are no exception
Each year, the Daamen family sells about 50% of their calves at auction. Only a small percentage is purchased directly from the farm upon request. Because Georg Daamen is convinced that auctions are best suited for fair prices. “Auction prices ultimately determine the dealers’ prices,” he says. “Sometimes marketers call me after the auction and ask how much the calves brought me.”
Last year, the Daamen family’s calves occupied the top nine positions in terms of average selling prices per farm. In 2021, Georg Damen was always able to sell his calves for more than €2,000 on average. In recent months, its sales prices have stabilized at around €2,300 to €2,400.
Support process performance indicators:
- Test year 2021: 11,271 kg of milk with 3.99% fat and 3.45% protein (milked twice a day)
- Longevity 3.2 bottles with a capacity of more than 39,000 liters
- Lifetime production: 19 liters / cow
- Age at first calving (EKA): 24 months, Vaccination Index (BI) for livestock: 1.2 vaccinations per animal
In total, the Daamen family milks about 420 cows (including dry cows) and keeps about 400 females for breeding. Unusually for the size of the farm, manager George Damen doesn’t just raise surrogate calves. The entire offspring remain on the farm. Despite his opposition to raising calves for sale, he is convinced that this is the right path for his dairy farm.
In 10 years from 180 to 420 cows
The Daamen family currently keeps predominantly black and white Holstein cows and calves up to five months of age at the main site in Bidburg-Hau. Two and four kilometers away there are two rented farms where cattle are raised.
The number of cows at the main site in Bedburg-Howe has more than doubled since 2010. In a barn the family has rented since 2014, there are now 45 young cattle aged five to nine months in a free barn. Moving from the main site to the rented stable costs young livestock minimal development. The Daamen family keeps 60 other carrier cattle at this second location in a square barn with an adjacent track.
There are about 150 young animals in another rental stable that Daamen was able to acquire in 2019. All animals aged between nine and fourteen months are accommodated in a large cabin with 100 berths. Cattle unexpectedly well in the large compartment inflict developmental losses in young animals caused by relocation. Young cattle can often be vaccinated before the age of 15 months due to their good physical development. 50 vaccinated cattle that were recently tested positive for TU are in the same barn across from the feeding table. After a positive TU result, Daamens leads the cattle to the second site before returning to the main site to feed about three weeks into the calving.
Purely visual estrus monitoring and 24-month EKA
Verena Damien, George’s wife, is responsible for controlling the temperature of the AI cattle in the third location every morning. Heat detection is purely visible. If one or more animals are macho in the morning, George Damen vaccinates them after midday. If he sees another young cow in heat, he returns to the rented stable for pollination in the evening. In addition to insemination, he also independently conducts pregnancy tests on livestock. With regard to monitoring of purely visible temperature with great success: the insemination index for bulls raised is 1.2 inoculations per animal. With an average lifespan of 24 months, all cattle were bred for the first time.
As a KuhVisions farm, Daamens relies on 95% of the young bulls that are genomically tested. The farm manager is sure that he will make the fastest progress in breeding with a wide distribution of bulls: “A maximum of 30-40 parts are planted per bull. If later one of these young bulls turns out to be a failure, then I have no more than 15-20 offspring.”
Cows from the Damen herd
Four reasons for education
Of course, you can count on raising a cow. But I enjoy the upbringing and see huge advantages in choosing after the first birth.
In the past, there was a debate about raising fewer livestock. But the following points, speaking of the whereabouts of all the female animals, were decisive for the farm manager:
- “By raising them myself, I will later know what kind of animals I milk. Raising livestock too much enables me to make a safe choice after my first calving,” says George Damen. He selects calves according to dam lines and genomic breeding values.
- It is not necessary to buy other animals. This is very important for the family, especially with regard to the prevention of epidemics. “We can’t buy a pestilence from our animals,” says the farm manager.
- The two rental farms on which Daamens raise livestock are old dairy farms. None of the lessors wanted their stables to be empty under any circumstances. This gave George Damen a huge advantage over other tenants interested in renting. By raising his livestock on the two rented sites, he was able to get a good 100 hectares for liquid manure delivery and fodder production.
- George Damen attaches great importance to the leftover feed from lactating cows. He says that raised bulls are the best consumers of leftover feed and that his cows never have an empty trough. In addition, it can feed cattle late grass cuttings (4th and 5th mowing) and thus only provides cows with high grass qualities.
Advanced cattle wanted for sale
In order for calves to sell at a high price, they must be properly developed. George Damien calves stand out monthly at cattle auctions with good conformation, flawless feet and legs, high performance and low life at first calving. For George Damien, ideal breeding conditions are not necessarily crucial to the good growth of young animals. Instead, his recipe for success lies in proper nutrition.
- Daamen feed calves on a restricted basis with a pasteurized whole milk feeder and whole milk fortifier with a capacity of up to eight liters per day. After ten weeks they are weaned.
- In the first four months of life, calves get TMR purchased from chopped hay, calf muesli, molasses and alfalfa. In addition, hair loss from the third or fourth cut is advertisingly available.
- Then George Damen mixes the low-yielding group rations with TMR calf. When the calves switch to the cow rations, they go to the second location.
- There is a damen feeding a ration of leftover fodder, green rye cuttings, hay, and a little corn hay. Here, young cattle aged five to nine months are given a concentration of 18/3 on feed twice a day. Pregnant animals on site receive only the same TMR without additional feed concentrates.
- In the third position, the ration is made up as follows: forage residues, green rye cuttings, straw, corn and silage grass (autumn cuttings).
- From the end of April to mid-August, 30 head of cattle just checked arrived on the pastures at the main site. To make sure they are well enough to give birth, they are fed again in the barn for about two and a half months from August onwards. Then 30 heads of early cows came out from August to the end of October. Both groups receive deworming after the grazing period.
And so it will continue in the future
George Damen is already a well-known name at Krefeld Auction. Due to the successful marketing of calves and the resulting advantages, he would like to raise replacement calves as well as calves for sale in the future. Damen believes that the supply of calves will remain tight in the coming years and that, along with their good qualities, they can continue to command high selling prices. Breeding a calf should also remain simple in the future. Therefore, the consideration is investment in heat detection. Before that, the Al-Dhamin family had wished to build a new calf village. Because of the new transportation regulations, they need more calves places and seize the opportunity to improve calves breeding.
In order to achieve faster reproductive progress, George Damen now wishes to start using sexual semen in genetically interesting animals and using beef semen in genetically weaker cows. Previously, he was concerned that sexual sperm could increase his success in insemination. Its long-term goal is to achieve a lifetime production of more than 45,000 liters of milk.
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