Regular weighing makes all the difference to calf mortality

Published 29 May 18

Dairy Consultant Andy Dodd will once more emphasize the significant difference routine weighing of growing calves can have at the final meeting of AHDB’s Calf to Calving (C2C) project in Aberdeen on Tuesday 5 June.

The event will be hosted by Glasgoforest Farm, which is one of twelve farms across the UK which have taken part in the initiative which followed groups of ten calves from birth to first calving, with the aim of getting them to calve at 24 months.

The C2C initiative was inspired by AHDB Dairy funded-research conducted by the Royal Veterinary College which showed that calving at 24 months rather than 26 months reduces average rearing costs by 16%.

Across all the farms involved in the project regular weighing of livestock has been demonstrated to be vital not only to consistent growth rates and the ability to calf at an early age, but also to decreasing calf mortality.

Andy explains: “The project has strongly demonstrated the importance of regular weighing of growing livestock, that information tells the farmer so much about nutrition and health and they can then make decisions about management that ensure stable growth rates and healthier animals.”

At the meeting Andy will explain how the Glasgoforest heifers have measured up against their growth targets, as well as discussing the key areas that make the most difference to heifer rearing and what every farm should do to ensure they their heifers calve by 24 months.

He says: “Alongside regular weighing we have identified other important areas to focus on such as colostrum quality, as well as an in depth understanding of your costs and targets. Once you have a goal, say to reduce your calving age by 1 month, you can then work out what you need to do to get there and if it is economically beneficial.”

The Willis family who have hosted the Calf to Calving at Glasgoforest have seen some of the most consistent growth rates over the course of the project thanks to their microscopic attention to detail when it comes to stock management.

“The Willis family were already following best practice in many areas,” Andy says. “They had an average age of first calving of 24 months, but they knew they could do more to improve their system.

“Previously they were estimating weights and growth rates but when we weighed the animals they quickly realised that their estimations weren’t accurate and have invested in weighing scales to ensure they are managing livestock based on accurate information.”

Calf to Calving farms are part of AHDB’s wider Farm Excellence Platform, which inspires industry to improve performance and succeed through farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange. 

The final meeting of the Calf to Calving Initiative will be held at Glasgoforest Farm, Aberdeen, AB21 0SH, on Tuesday 5 June from 10.45am to 2.30pm. The event is free and lunch is provided, farmers should register by contacting the KE Events Hub on 01904 771216 or at ke.events@ahdb.org.uk.