Our very own Simon Fryar has given his top 10 tips for rearing dairy calves. Here they are:
- Environmental factors are commonly less considered by most, but is undoubtedly one of the greatest “make or break” for rearing calves to achieve optimum performance economically
- Many studies show that building/systems designed for calf rearing as opposed to general purpose designs lead to higher daily live weight gains and less reactive health interventions
- Adaptability is paramount in a young stock unit, no two days weather are the same and we need to create an environment that can be changed “EASILY” with the weather. (The easier it is, the more likely you will use it)
- There is a positive relationship between using more straw and reducing health issues.
Dry feed quality
- Do not be drawn to the cheapest feed supplier. As rearers, we are responsible for developing the calf’s rumen, so highly digestible feeds are our go-to products.
- If needed, use a “Starter feed” for the first 8 to 10 weeks and a “secondary feed” thereafter to cost control your system.
- Ensure clean, dry leafy straw is fed ad-lib (good wheat straw is great)
Milk powder quality
- Calves were born to be fed cow’s milk, so it is logical that you choose a milk powder that is most comparable to whole milk in order to optimise calf health and performance.
- There are so many powders to choose from on the market but look for powders that have protein derived from dairy sources rather than plant based proteins, it is not natural!
- High Ash contents can be a sign of vegetable protein, ask you supplier for details before buying
- Feed the immune system-it is important to maximise the calf’s energy intake when it arrives on farm
- Feed calves under 28 days of age at “least” twice a day, this allows you to get more energy into a young calf and also complies with UK feeding legislation
- Look for guidance with milk feeding profiles, front loading milk powder and reducing in weekly/fortnightly increments enhances the calf’s energy intake on arrival and encourages its dry feed intake and rumen development as the milk is reduced.
- Always source calves from a reputable supplier
- Meadow Quality only buy strong, healthy calves over three weeks of age, calves under this age are more susceptible to scouring
- Meadow Qualities calf suppliers have sound colostrum protocols
- Meadow Quality can screen for BVD by request of the purchaser
Health plan & vaccination policy
- Sourcing calves from multiple suppliers and rearing them is high risk, but this risk can be managed with a comprehensive health plan and strict protocols
- Work with a Vet in your practise that has young stock knowledge and start to build a health plan based on all of the points covered in this document
- Have a sound vaccination policy, vaccines will not cover all pathogens that your calves will encounter, and therefore you will still see pneumonia. Importantly, your calves will be far less challenged and treatment regimes will be much more effective in the event of a health breakdown
- Clean your teats, bacteria are easily spread calf to calf via their milk teats
- Reduce the transfer of scour, muck from one pen/building to another
- Ensure delivery drivers, reps and other farmers that visit your unit are not wearing clothing and footwear with muck on!
- MAKE ALL VISITORS DIP THEIR FEET IN DISINFECTANT!
- The healthiest way to group rear calves are in isolated batches, fill the building/pen in the least amount of time.
- Keep age groups as tight as possible
- Try not to mix different age groups together
- Don’t keep adding calves to a pen/building over weeks, you keep reintroducing new challenges to your batch and it complicates your management procedures
- Remove ALL organic matter
- Wash down with water
- Use detergent to remove staining
- Wash down again
- Disinfect (Consider cover for FMD, TB, Coccidiosis, Cryptosporidium)
Work with Meadow Quality
- We have the best calf team in the country
- We want to work with you and help manage the health and performance of your calves
- We want you to succeed and so we become you first choice calf supplier