Are you on track?
Today I have been out weighing calves. It’s important to monitor the growth of your calves to make sure they are achieving the correct daily live weight gain. If you are aiming for 24 month calving, then your heifers need to be achieving a DLWG of 0.8kg.
There’s a couple of ways you can weigh a calf, many like to use a weigh scale however, you don’t need to spend thousands on state of the art equipment you could simply use a weigh band.
Heart girth is closely correlated with weight and in trials we have conducted, there has only been a marginal difference between the electronic scales and our simple yet effective weigh band. The key is to be consistent – if using a weigh band, use the same one throughout the year and, between years!
So when should you weigh your calves?
As a minimum, calves should be weighed at birth, then again at six months (Volac, 2010) But when considering the fact that calves need to have DOUBLED their birth weight for weaning, it makes sense to weigh them every couple of weeks.
Factors influencing growth rates
• Colostrum Feeding
• Milk Feeding (type, amount, system)
• Housing (Ventilation, drainage, bedding, pen design)
• Weaning Management
• Post – weaning nutrition (Concentrate, roughage, grazing)
• Vaccination/disease management
24 Month Calving
Farmers seem more than ever determined to calve heifers at 24 months. And there is plenty of evidence supporting the economic benefits of this. Studies have shown that calving after 24 months of age has a detrimental lifetime effect on the animals production. Reducing average conception does not simply mean breeding one month earlier, heifers must have the physical ability to conceive earlier.
But how do you ensure that your heifers are prepared for this?
A study carried out by the RVC found that growth had a direct effect on age at first calving – larger calves with faster growth rates were younger at first calving. Capitalise on the ability of your heifer to achieve metabolic programming and feed your calves early to reap rewards later on, attention to detail pays dividends later in life.