Sunday, November 19, 2017

Calf management review ‘key to profitable herd’

August 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Livestock

Calves

Now is the time to review calf rearing protocols to ensure target daily live weight gains (DLWGs) are being achieved, says an expert.

Ahead of the busy autumn calving period, farmers are advised to review calf management systems and implement regular monitoring of heifer calf weights from day one, says Wynnstay calf specialist Sandy Wilson.

“Strategic feeding during identified phases allows you to achieve specific growth targets which help eliminate waste and cost and thereby increase dairy profits,” she explains.

“It’s important to set growth targets for your farm, and regular measurement of your calves is essential. Your heifers must be big enough at first breeding, ideally 55-60% of mature body weight, and be at 90% by first calving.

“Growth rates cannot be determined by eye. Weight should ideally be monitored by calibrated electronic scales or a weigh band. Skeletal growth can be monitored with a height stick,” she adds.

Data produced through weighing calves also allows farmers to review the calf rearing system in place, to see if areas need to be adjusted to allow calves to grow at the required weight gain, says Ms Wilson.

Provided free to customers, the Wynnstay Calf Metrics service allows producers the opportunity to weigh, measure and monitor calves from birth with the technical and practical support from a nationwide team of calf specialists

“We currently have over 20 farms on the system, weighing and recording over 2,600 calves from birth through to service. The service allows for consistent monitoring and recording of calf weights. The data can then be used to benchmark calf performance against gold standards.

“It also highlights where alterations to the calf rearing system may be needed, and is used to guide producers even down to specific nutritional inputs ensuring targets will be met. This gives the producer an even better basis for making the decision on what changes are needed to reach the target bulling weights and calving down weights.”

When monitoring calf weights, it is also important that producers review the calf rearing protocol in place so that any areas which are impacting on the calf’s ability to gain weight can be altered accordingly, says Ms Wilson.

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