Monday, December 10, 2018

Youngstock health is concern for beef and dairy farmers

December 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Livestock

Beef and dairy calf rearers feel they should give their youngstock more attention, reveals a survey which suggests herds need more support to secure their future.

Between one third of beef calf rearers and 45% of dairy calf rearers said they had concerns over youngstock health and think they could do better – despite giving themselves between seven and eight out of ten for their current calf rearing practices.

“The way youngstock health is managed in early life has far reaching consequences for the profitability of any beef or dairy farm enterprise,” says Kat Baxter-Smith, ruminant veterinary adviser with MSD Animal Health, which conducted the survey.

Biggest worry

The biggest concern – expressed by more than one in five farmers – was inadequate housing or rearing facilities. Second was an inability to monitor and achieve an appropriate liveweight gain, closely followed by inadequate biosecurity measures and disease prevention.

Other highlighted issues included implementing correct colostrum feeding and weaning management protocols. The survey feedback indicated that farmers were looking for support in this important area, says Dr Baxter-Smith.

“Calf rearing is a complex process to get absolutely right but is definitely rewarding if a number of simple husbandry guidelines and proven health protocols are implemented to suit any particular youngstock production system.”

Beef and dairy producers concerned about calf health can now ask their vet for a checklist to score their youngstock rearing system. More than 100 youngstock audits have now been completed this year and farmer feedback has been excellent.

Better management

Developed in conjunction with vets and nutritionists experienced in youngstock management problems, the MSD Animal Health checklist aims to help vets and farmers work closely together to draw up an action plan to improve calf health.

“The checklist-based tool explores, records and scores calf health performance across five core areas to identify the strengths and weaknesses of any rearing unit’s environment and processes,” says Dr Baxter-Smith.

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