How to improve the value of dairy-bred beef calves
As a farmer, you already know what makes your business tick. You don’t need us to tell you that optimising the value of each animal is the key to a successful business. But did you know the importance of the first three months in terms of maximising lifetime performance of your dairy-bred reared calves?
Why are the first three months of life so important?
The value of a beef calf is inextricably linked to growth rates and weight. What farmers may not fully appreciate is that reaching target growth rates requires tip-top respiratory health. Calves with lung damage don’t grow as well as they should. And the greater the lung damage, the greater the impact on daily liveweight gain.
Pneumonia is one of the most common calfhood problems. And it’s estimated that 67% of cases affect calves younger than three months old. Calves whose growth has been stunted by lung damage during the first few months of life, may never catch up. The link is clear: respiratory illness means poor growth which means reduced value.
How to improve respiratory health in reared beef calves
There are a few important steps in protecting your calves from respiratory illness:
- It’s important that newborn calves receive sufficient colostrum – which is packed with important antibodies
- Newborn calves should receive at least 10% of their bodyweight within their first twelve hours of life, half of which should ideally be given within two hours of birth
- Receiving sufficient colostrum is as important for bought in calves as it is for home reared ones, arguably more so
- When buying calves from known sources or direct from farm you can check this with the seller.
- The next step is to vaccinate against the common viruses that cause pneumonia in young calves. It’s perhaps one of the most important things you can do for their respiratory wellbeing
- Other key measures include ensuring calf housing is well ventilated, and draught-free, with plenty of dry clean bedding.
- Keeping young calves away from older cows and making sure no more than 30 animals share the same airspace will further reduce the risks.
Taking the time to get the simple things right helps ensure you minimise disease risk, and protect the health of your calves. Best of all, it will have a tangible impact on the lifetime productivity of your animals.
Wynnstay support responsible use of veterinary medicines and stock a large variety of vaccinations in order to improve the potential performance of your calves. Speak to your local SQP in store or local Wynnstay representative for further information and advice.