You are viewing 1 of your 2 free articles

You’ll need to join us by becoming a member to gain more access.
Already a Member?

Login Join us now

Dairy calf rearing for a lifetime's lactation


With the onset of a ‘quota-free’ milk market the economics of future heifer rearing may strongly encourage producers to calve their heifers down at 22 to 24 month of age.

Twitter Facebook

Matt Palmer, ruminant nutritionist with Harbro, says herds producing between 7,000-12,000 litres will typically be targeting first calving at 24-30 months.


But to get an earlier calving age, Mr Palmer says figures from DairyCo suggest Holstein heifers will need to bulled at 15 months, weighing 420kg and with a wither height of 130cm (51in) to achieve a 24 month pre-calving weight of 635kg and a wither height of 140cm (55in).

Economic benefits

He says: “The economic benefits of calving at two years are well documented, showing increased lifetime production, a speeding up of genetic improvement and a reduction in the fixed costs associated with heifer rearing.”


He adds the first 12 weeks of a calf’s life is crucial when targeting this earlier first calving.


“The foundation of successful calf rearing is the first 12 weeks when ‘feed efficiency is between 50 and 60 per cent, compared with less than 10 per cent from 12 months old until calving.”


“Key to achieving maintenance and growth in the first 12 weeks is to follow an ‘enhanced’ calf growth programme using high quality milk replacers and calf starter feeds.


“To maximise growth rate potential of more than 0.75 kg per day, calf milk replacers need to be fed to provide 750-900g solids per day usually in five to six litres.


“In cold weather and temperatures below 10degC, be prepared to increase the milk replacer by up to 100g/day to provide extra energy as calves have limited ability to keep warm at low temperatures.”


He says, ideally, calf milk replacers which are specifically for heifer rearing should be whey-based, with a high protein of 26 per cent and low fat of 16 per cent.


“These milk replacers are designed to give much heavier heifers at weaning with better development of udder secretory tissue.


“Research has shown whey-based replacers cause less risk of digestive disorders and intakes of calf dry feeds and roughage occur sooner than with replacers based on skim milk powder, which can form a clot in the calf stomach and reduce appetite.


“These replacers benefit from being manufactured at low temperatures to protect protein quality, which in turn improves protein absorption and enhances frame development.”


Alongside feeding a specific calf milk replacer, Mr Palmer advises introducing a calf starter pellet at three to four days of age right through to 12 to 16 weeks.


“Pellets which incorporate coarsely ground, rather than finely milled raw materials, will give an increased ‘scratch factor’ within the pellet to stimulate early rumen development.”


Other nutrients which will aid the health and development of calves

  • Fish oils to improve calf vitality
  • Biotin for sound hoof development
  • Live yeasts to enhance fibre digestion and rumen function.
  • High levels of vitamin E and a bio-available form of selenium, are both important anti-oxidants boosting the immune status of the calf to fight disease.
Twitter Facebook
Rating (0 vote/s)
Post a Comment
To see comments and join in the conversation please log in.

More Insights

Family approach a proven success for organic dairy unit

The refined focus shared by the Vallis family is testament to the strength of family farms across the country. Beth Dixon finds out why they will never operate as a closed book.

Recording lamb performance helps improve future of flock

Recording basic information at lambing time is the first stage to improving flock performance. Chloe Palmer speaks to vet, Shona Mouncey.

British Friesians thriving in Norfolk

British Friesians have been at the heart of the Burroughs family business on the UK’s most easterly dairy farm for generations. Angela Calvert reports.

Rotational grazing key to grass utilisation

The Better Grazing = Better Business conference in Perth, organised by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), looked at how managing grazing can help improve the bottom line for sheep and beef producers. Ewan Pate reports.

Know your limits: Tractor and trailer weights, widths and speeds

As tractors and trailers grow ever larger, heavier and faster, we speak to industry experts to outline the dos and don’ts of safe road transport.
FG Insight and FGInsight.com are trademarks of Briefing Media Ltd.
Farmers Guardian and FarmersGuardian.com are trademarks of Farmers Guardian Ltd, a subsidiary of Briefing Media Ltd.
All material published on FGInsight.com and FarmersGuardian.com is copyrighted © 2016 by Briefing Media Limited. All rights reserved.
RSS news feeds