Youngstock are the future of any herd. The way these animals are managed in early life has far reaching consequences for the profitability of any ruminant livestock enterprise.
Nearly 2.5 million calves are born in Great Britain every year, but unfortunately far too many fail to reach adulthood because of disease problems.
On average 8% of calves are born dead or die within 24 hours of birth on British farms. What’s more, 15% of dairy heifers born alive fail to make it through the youngstock rearing period1.
By engaging with vets, farmers and key industry stakeholders our mission is to reduce these unnecessary and costly losses.
Youngstock rearing is the second highest fixed cost on most units. Husbandry in early life affects not only the health of calves, but also the way youngstock perform up to three years later.
Dairy cows only reach breakeven point half way through their second lactation and increasing the number of animals that do so on any farm will have a dramatic impact on the bottom line. Sadly many youngstock do not hit this target.
If a dairy heifer calf doubles its birthweight by 60 days of age, research shows it will give an extra 250 litres in its first lactation. And if calves put on a kg a day instead of 0.5kg a day they will produce an extra 1,000 litres in their lifetime – and be far healthier as a result.
Quite apart from the economic impact, disease problems in calves also increase labour input and adversely affect the morale of staff.
WHAT IS GOING WRONG?
Up to 50% of calves born in Britain do not receive enough good quality colostrum2. Addressing this issue alone would do much to reverse such depressing youngstock management statistics.
Education is vital if we are to get the nation’s calves off to the best possible start.
Measures of success will include:
- Effective communication of best practice colostrum management and feeding
- Effective communication of best practice advice relating to the environment in which youngstock are reared
- Developing a better understanding of the key diseases affecting youngstock and the benefits of cow and calf vaccination.
Let’s improve the health and welfare of the nation’s youngstock.
1. DairyCo funded study: Reducing wastage in the dairy herd.
2. T. Potter. Colostrum: getting the right start. Livestock Vol 16. September 2011.