Founded in 1996, the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) has been a supporting foundation and educational resource for dairy calf and heifer growers across the nation.

The association welcomes custom calf and heifer raisers, as well as dairy farmers and industry representatives, to join a strong network of dedicated and ambitious members. This network provides a medium to exchange viewpoints, dissect issues and discuss solutions that improve individual operations and push the industry to be more progressive.

The ability to connect with such a wide variety of industry members with differing operations is a testament to the functionality of DCHA. T.J. McClure of Garden City, Kansas, works as the general business manager for Circle Heifer Development LLC. McClure manages seven employees who work to raise more than 7,000 Holstein heifers each year.

Circle Heifer Development LLC focuses on heifer development from six months of age until they are sent back to the dairy at seven months pregnant. For McClure, DCHA has provided him the opportunity to tour different operations and facilities to observe programs and procedures in a hands-on, real-time environment.

“You learn different lessons on each farm you visit,” explains McClure. Whether it is a herd health tip, a vaccination protocol or nutrition program, you take away different information from each operation.


McClure recently joined DCHA a little over a year ago, and he currently serves on the board of directors. Through his involvement with the association, he has greatly appreciated the educational opportunities, the opinions of other members and their willingness to share successes and failures.

He encourages producers, “Never be afraid to speak up and ask as many questions as you can. Talk to the dairies, talk to the calf and heifer growers, and get out and network as much as you can.”

Leading change
Pamela Barnes and her family own and operate a dairy farm in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, where they raise 240 replacement heifers for their dairy operation. Barnes has spent more than 30 years working alongside her husband on the family farm and has watched the industry change and evolve over the years.

She explains that the procedures and practices implemented on farms today are much different than those in the past because of the new information we have available.

“We take ideas and lessons we learn on other farms and apply them to our home operation. We’re constantly improving our operations, and the willingness to learn is widespread throughout the industry,” Barnes states.

Barnes strongly believes that DCHA has been a leader in industry education and communication through their presence and involvement at industry events. In 2013, Barnes had the opportunity to participate in the DCHA Leadership Class at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.

Throughout the class, Barnes outlined the organization’s purpose and its efforts for producers and industry members. As she talked with people, she shared insights about the organization and outlined how it has provided leadership to a changing industry.

DCHA has directly affected Barnes’ home farm.

“The organization gives us connections to information on how my family and I can do the best job possible when raising our young stock. When we have questions, there are so many DCHA members that we can reach out to for answers.”

Dallas Janssen, a longtime member of DCHA, has been custom raising calves and heifers for 17 years. “To me, a DCHA membership is a valuable resource. It provides me the opportunity to talk to my peers at the annual conferences.”

Janssen explains that the connections available at the annual conferences are the highlight of the organization’s offerings, and he’s always pulling new information from keynote speakers, producer panels and trade shows that he can apply to his operation.

“As I pick up new information, I change a lot of little things throughout my programs and procedures at home. But the little things add up to a bigger picture and have really improved my facilities,” Janssen explains.

With such a fast-paced and evolving industry, education, leadership and good connections to useful information can often mean success to calf and heifer producers. As new educational tools become available, the DCHA is always pro-active in engaging producers through materials published in newsletters and online through social media.

Moving forward, the organization plans to maintain a prime position on the most progressive industry topics as they provide countless resources to members and continue to grow the organization’s network of growers, producers and industry professionals. PD

Going on now and continuing through the 2014 World Dairy Expo, the DCHA is hosting a membership drive. For more information, visit the DCHA website.

Sara Kitchen is a Penn State student and served as a summer marketing intern with Filament Marketing.

Cali Edler, Pamela Barnes, Andi Radke-Rynes, Jack Banker, T.J. McClure and Kitty Waggoner were all members of the 2013 Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) Leadership Class. Leadership skill building opportunities are just one of the many benefits of a DCHA membership. (Not pictured is Dallas Janssen, one of the featured DCHA members above.) Photo provided by the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association.