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Newborn calves get plenty of TLC at Heim’s Hillcrest DairyNewborn calves get plenty of TLC at Heim’s Hillcrest Dairy

Calves are housed in a new calf barn.

Fran O'Leary

November 7, 2023

2 Min Read
Kiley Heim kneeling near Holstein calves resting in a pen
HEALTHY CALVES: Kiley Heim is in charge of caring for calves at Heim’s Hillcrest Dairy near Algoma, Wis. Calves are fed milk from an auto-feeder that can feed all four pens in the calf barn at once. The milk has been pasteurized on the farm. “They can drink when they want,” Kiley says. Fran O’Leary

The Heim family owns Heim’s Hillcrest Dairy near Algoma in Kewaunee County, Wis. They farm 1,800 acres, milk 825 Holstein cows, and raise all their calves and heifers. Jeremy Heim, general farm manager, is the third generation of his family on the family farm.

In 1995, the Heims’ dairy barn was destroyed in a fire. They built a new freestall barn and milking parlor, and grew their herd to 200 cows. In 2003, they expanded to 450 cows. Five years later, they increased their herd again to 640 cows. They’ve been milking 825 cows since 2022.

In addition to the dairy farm, Jeremy and his brother Scott started Heim Brothers Custom in 2015.

“We do manure hauling for 17 farms in Kewaunee County,” Jeremy says. “We also chop corn and alfalfa for five farms in addition to our own.”

Family farm

Nine family members are involved in the operation, including Jeremy’s brothers Rod and Scott; Scott’s wife, Carrie; and their parents, Lloyd and Joyce. Fourth-generation family members working full time on the farm include Jeremy’s daughter and son, Kiley and Ben, and Rod’s son Sam.

“Three years ago, we held a family meeting, and we decided we were going to expand our dairy operation or get out,” Jeremy says. “We felt we needed to do a better job of caring for our cows and raising our calves.”

Jeremy describes himself as a “reforming heifer hoarder.”

Before the Heims expanded to 825 cows in 2022, they were milking 640 cows.

“We had enough calves for a 900-cow dairy,” Jeremy explains. “We were hurting ourselves. We are actually raising fewer heifers now than when we milked 640 cows.”

With their most recent herd expansion, they also built a new calf barn, freestall barn and temperature-controlled maternity area. “It never gets below 30 degrees F in the winter,” Jeremy says. “We have great ventilation.”

Newborn calf care

Kiley is in charge of calf care. After a calf is born in the maternity area, it is immediately dried off and put in one of three heated and air-conditioned rooms.

“The rooms are very clean and are temperature-controlled so the calf has no stress,” Kiley says.

One employee works during the day and one at night in the maternity area, helping cows calve and taking care of newborn calves. The cow is milked, and the calf is immediately fed colostrum.

“If the baby calves are doing well at 3 days old, they leave their temperature-controlled room and are moved to the calf barn,” Kiley says. “They go right on the auto-feeders.”

An auto-feeder can feed all four pens in the calf barn at once. Calves are fed milk that has been pasteurized on the farm.

“They can drink when they want,” Kiley adds.

The Heims use sexed Holstein semen to breed their virgin heifers. “Everything else — second lactation and higher — is bred to beef,” Jeremy says.

Their dairy-beef calves are sold at 2 days old for $450 each.

“We used to get $75 for our newborn Holstein calves,” he notes.

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About the Author(s)

Fran O'Leary

Wisconsin Agriculturist Editor

Even though Fran was born and raised on a farm in Illinois, she has spent most of her life in Wisconsin. She moved to the state when she was 18 years old and later graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

Fran has 25 years of experience writing, editing and taking pictures. Before becoming editor of the Wisconsin Agriculturist in 2003, she worked at Johnson Hill Press in Fort Atkinson as a writer and editor of farm business publications and at the Janesville Gazette in Janesville as farm editor and feature writer. Later, she signed on as a public relations associate at Bader Rutter in Brookfield, and served as managing editor and farm editor at The Reporter, a daily newspaper in Fond du Lac.

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