We have come to a point in calf rearing, where there is an abundance of advice and information available to farmers.
We quite often know what the ‘ideal’ scenarios are for rearing healthy calves.
Some farmers are putting these advised practises in place on their farms, and yet not getting the desired result – and this is understandably frustrating.
Sometimes the issue is something simple -not the theory behind any of these practises being wrong – but rather how consistently we choose to put them in place every day.
Inconsistent management can have detrimental effects on calf health and performance When it comes down to it, calves are simple animals who will thrive on routine, and get stressed when there are too many changes. These stressed calves are more likely to become ill.
If we are able to introduce consistency into your calf management, this should make the job easier for the calf rearer, and get better results and DLWG from your calves without changing feed or environment- so no added cost!
So, what can we change to get better results without splashing the cash:
- Specific protocols should be put in place for navel treatment, colostrum management, hygiene, and daily feeding. With protocols in place and visibly displayed, this should make daily tasks easier and result in less variation with changes in staff.
- Calves should be fed at least twice a day, at the same time every day and at the same temperature.
- Thoroughly mixed calf milk replacer should be fed, with the same percentage of solids each time. In a study in Professional Animal Science Journal, a group of calves were fed 1.5 pounds of CMR. Half of the calves fed received a consistent amount of 1.5 pounds of solids daily, and the other half received an inconsistent amount over the week that averaged 1.5 pounds of solids per day. Calves fed the consistent amount of milk replacer gained approximately 20 percent more bodyweight prior to weaning compared to calves fed the same average amount of milk replacer fed inconsistently. Calves fed consistently also maintained their extra bodyweight gain four weeks after weaning, consumed more starter and had better feed efficiency.
While consistency is often overlooked in calf rearing, it’s importance cannot be overstated. Feel free to contact your local Wynnstay Calf Specialist with help setting up protocols for your own farm for more consistent calf rearing.