AHDB Dairy events offer advice on keeping calf weights up as temperatures fall

Published 25 October 16

Calf -to -Calving -Infographic _2016-08-03- Low ResAs the nights begin to draw in, dairy farmers will need to assess how best to keep their calves gaining weight over the winter months. Potential solutions will be provided at two upcoming meetings run by AHDB Dairy in early November.

The events, the first in Lanark on 1 November, and the second in Aberdeenshire on 2 November, are part of the Calf to Calving (C2C) initiative where the growth, health and nutrition of 10 heifers on 12 farms are being monitored every three months. C2C enables dairy farmers to achieve measured improvements in heifer rearing specifically in calf and heifer survival, growth, health, fertility and age at first calving.

At both meetings the farmers will be updated on how the calves are progressing, particularly whether they are keeping pace with their target growth rates, and discussion will focus on the most efficient ways to keep the rates up as the temperatures fall.

Efficient heifer rearing has been a key focus for AHDB Dairy after a study last year showed significant variation in the cost for farmers across Britain. The daily cost of rearing per heifer ranged from £1.47 to £3.35 with an average of £2.31. To help farmers identify changes which could reduce their spend AHDB Dairy has recently launched a heifer rearing costs calculator which helps farmers understand the true costs of rearing herd replacements.

Jim Baird, farmer and AHDB Dairy board member, will host the event in Lanark on his Nether Affleck farm. He says: “Our group are really keen to explore heifer rearing costs so it will be great to find out how the calves are getting on. We will be using the heifer rearing calculator to assess and benchmark our rearing costs. Rearing replacements is such a significant part of our cost of production and it is very important to know how we are faring.”

The first meeting in Lanark will also look at lameness with the latest research explored as well as practical measures to help reduce some of the causes of the condition, such as excess hoof growth.

The group will also consider conception rates across the entire C2C initiative. As the Lanarkshire calves are now twelve months old they will soon to be the right age to conceive to ensure they give birth by 24 months. AHDB Dairy funded-research conducted by the Royal Veterinary College shows that calving at 24 months rather than 26 months reduces average rearing costs by 16%.

Up the road at Glasgoforest farm, Aberdeenshire, where the calves are just six months old the emphasis will be on nutrition and the effect of calf health on growth and fertility.

Will Tulley, Head of Farm Consultancy at veterinary practice EBVC, and AHDB Dairy Technical Manager Andy Dodd will offer guidance on how to feed young stock as efficiently as possible over the colder months, for example through mixing your own ration.

Andy says: “This will be a really practical session looking at how we can keep our livestock gaining weight at a healthy pace. In some of our Calf to Calving groups we have found that there has been weight loss due to poor quality grass over the summer, or that weight gain has slowed after weaning. Therefore at these coming events we will be considering how best to compensate for that through appropriate supplementation.”

Both events run from 10.45am – 2.30pm with lunch provided. Famers wishing to attend should contact Sharon Lauder at Sharon.lauder@ahdb.org.uk