Irfon Jenkins, along with his brother Eurig and father Aeron farm 94 hectares, milking 400 and supplying First Milk. All replacement heifers are reared, and Friesian bulls/Belgian blue calves are sold at 8-16 days depending on breed. This year the family have experienced tremendous calf health.
Block calving has many benefits, with long periods of rest time for calving pens and calf sheds at the top of that list. Many, however, find that with the build-up of calves and not enough time to muck out in-between groups, out comes the bottle and injections. But, at Pentrefelin, they have had no scour this year, and with 340 calves born in the space of just five weeks, only two calves were injected. To what do they owe their success?
By now, we should all realise just how important that colostrum feed is. Talking to Irfon, it is clear why they’ve had such great success with their calves this year. All colostrum is tested when harvested using a colostrometer, heifer colostrum is tested and is proving to be of the same quality as cow’s colostrum, it is kept fresh using WYNNGOLD™ Milk Mate. It’s the third year that Irfon has used milk mate and he finds that as well as adding to the
palatability of the colostrum, it helps to keep the consistency slightly thinner, which makes it easier to heat up and administer to the calf. The colostrum is heated up on the farm using a warming stick.
All calves receive five litres of colostrum, half of it within two hours of birth and the other half six hours later. Both feeds are tubed and calves receive a further eight feeds of transition milk before moving to a diet of half milk replacer and half colostrum for the next seven days. They then step down to 1.5L colostrum mixed with 1.5L of milk replacer. From day 20 onwards, calves receive only the milk replacer and commence weaning at eight weeks old.
Wellies are disinfected before entering each calf pen and when collecting new born calves from the calving yard boots are dipped. All pens are disinfected using Cyclex and the Wydale feeders used are scrubbed clean after every use, then allowed to dry. Irfon also keeps the Cyclex diluted in a knapsack sprayer and uses this to disinfect the feeding areas twice a week. Sorgene is used to disinfect the calving yard.
It is this level of meticulous hygiene that means their calves show no signs of scour during that early first two weeks of life, when scour is typically most prevalent in calves. The farm has gained a reputation for selling good quality calves, 87 of the bull calves sold last year have experienced no deaths and Irfon comments that ‘more and more people are coming to them directly to source calves’.
Calves are weaned at 10 weeks old and turned out to grass at 12 weeks. They are supplemented at grass with 1.5kg of rearer feed, which is reduced once they have adapted to their grass diet to 1kg/head/day through until August.
Ensuring that heifers calve in a tight bunch at two years of age is imperative in any block calving herd and, to ensure that this is achieved, Irfon regularly monitors his heifers’ weight to make sure that they are on track. All calves are weighed at birth and weaning to ensure they have more than doubled their birth weight. Last year, the heifers averaged 700g DLWG, this year they have averaged 750g.
All calves are weighed at birth and weaning to ensure they have more than doubled their birth weight
Heifers are weighed again at six months old, coinciding with the animal health programme put together by Wynnstay Animal Health Specialist Huw Reed. Heifers receive a long acting pour on wormer, along with clostridial vaccine Bravoxin 10. For fly control, Butox Swish is used, providing the heifers with 10 weeks’ infestation worth of cover. Further weighing takes place in September, where heifers are grouped into three batches. Any heifers that appear smaller are grouped in bunches of 20-30 and supplemented with concentrate for longer.
Target first weight is 270kg – 300kg by 14 months
Mature herd weight, 500kg
When discussing the success of his calves this season, Irfon comments that they ‘recognise peoples strengths and work with them, consistency is key, and this means having the same person feeding the calves. As the herd has expanded, it has afforded us the opportunity to allow me to solely be responsible for calf rearing. We feed more milk powder now than we used to and have seen an improvement in growth rates’.
Irfon uses WYNNGOLD™ Stellar, a Volac manufactured product. Volac use 1.1bn tonnes of liquid whey annually and purchase 50% of all the whey produced in England and Wales. As a First
Milk supplier, Irfon has the guarantee that his milk powder comes from British whey. Volac purchase all the liquid whey from the First Milk factory in Haverfordwest.