Imagine running 600 cows on the same 19 acres all year long, keeping cattle healthier and weaning calves in a less stressful environment. Sounds like a dream come true, but for one cattle producer from Wahpeton, North Dakota, it isn’t a dream. It is his reality after properly planning and making the best use the resources available to him for his cow-calf and backgrounding enterprises.
Eric Birchem is preparing for his third calving season in his hoop barn system in the Southeastern part of the state, where the farming conditions are ideal, and therefore pasture land is scarce and costly. Birchem decided to move to a total confinement operation in order to continue raising cattle, and relies on the by-products from the corn and soybean fields that surround him for both feed and bedding.
“We feel like the hoop barns make our operation a lot more efficient,” Birchem said. “Our calves do better from birth to weaning because they are used to eating grain, and we have less overall calf loss.”
Birchem increased his efficiency even more when he started feeding VitaFerm® Concept•Aid® Balancer to his cows. Previously, he experienced about 10% open cows, but after he started feeding Concept•Aid, his open rate dropped to about 3%, resulting in a significant gain in the number of calves born on his operation. His calves start eating a creep-ration he formulates from corn and wheat screenings and VitaFerm when they are a week old, and he attributes this early introduction to grain to a less stressful time at weaning for his calves.
“My calves were healthier and my cows bred back better when we started using VitaFerm,” Birchem said. “We will definitely keep it in our feeding program.”
Birchem weans calves at about six-months of age, and the calves are separated from the cows between the three hoop buildings he currently has. He backgrounds his calves in confinement until January and sells them when they weigh about 900 pounds at a nearby sale barn where the buyers appreciate their uniformity and near-ideal body condition.
In addition to feeding by-products and bedding with corn stalks, Birchem also recycles his cattle’s waste, selling the manure from the barns to area farmers for fertilizer, further adding value to his already efficient cattle enterprise.
In a reality where farm land is at a premium, Birchem has realized his dreams of running cattle in an efficient manner with the help of local by-products and VitaFerm.