All too often young calves are housed somewhere that is just either convenient for feeding, or unsuitable for larger cattle rather than in a facility designed for their specific needs. In this blog we will discuss the particular needs of young calves and highlight the importance of hygiene on a milk-fed system.
I was very honoured and privileged to be chosen as one of 19 people from the UK to be presented as a Nuffield Farming Scholar for 2017, in Newcastle in late November last year, at the Nuffield Annual Conference.
Gatelands Farm, near Penrith, is owned and farmed by Andrew and Angela Barraclough and their two children James and Alysha.
It is a 300-acre farm and the business is comprised of 150 milking cows and replacements. In addition to the milk business the family also rears veal calves and fattens cattle for Lake District Farmers, which supplies the best restaurants in London. Most recently its veal has featured in the final of the Great British Menu!
Unlike a human baby which is born with antibodies passed on through the placenta, a new born calf arrives without such protection and relies entirely on colostrum to receive those crucial antibodies.
Throwing down a challenge to beef rearer-finishers, the Scottish Rural University College (SRUC) has reported that cattle killed after 12-15 month of age “eat their own profits”. Based on data from seven abattoirs over 12 years, they found that reducing slaughter age would improve beef profitability, regardless of breed. Savings on feed, bedding and labour costs made significant contributions to the figures.
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.
Stay on top of fly populations on farm to protect livestock productivity and welfare
Flies can be a costly nuisance to the UK’s cattle and sheep population. In addition to the irritation caused, flies can also transmit a number of diseases, causing both financial and welfare concerns. An effective plan for control should be implemented to control the seasonal surge in fly population numbers, and prevent the development of associated diseases and related productivity challenges caused by these parasites. Fly problems can occur any time between April and November, depending on weather conditions and geography.
There are many risks of not treating flies and external parasites on cattle and sheep, which include reduced milk yields of up to 20%1, increased incidence of summer mastitis, reduced calf weight gain and reduced reproduction in sheep.
In addition, flies are implicated in a variety of serious diseases, for example they can transmit New Forest eye in cattle and sheep.
Did you know?
- It only takes 10-20 head flies to have a negative economic impact on farm2.
- The horn fly will feed on blood from cattle up to 40 times per day – this could lead to blood loss and constant irritation for the animal2.
The Spot-on Solution for Cattle and Sheep
Spotinor is a Deltamethrin spot on treatment which is easy to apply and the simple dosing negates the need to weigh animals before treatment and so saves time and labour. It is barely absorbed through the skin; 72% of the active ingredient remains on the skin of the animal, in the place where it is needed most.
Spotinor Features and Benefits
- Easy dosing- no need to weigh
- One product for cattle, sheep and lambs
- Aids prevention of ticks in young lambs
- Options for dosing- squeeze pack or backpack and gun
- Zero milk withdrawal in cattle
- 17 day meat withhold for cattle
- 35 day meat withhold for sheep
For more information on Spotinor, please contact your local SQP in store or speak to your local Wynnstay representative.
1 Taylor, B.D. et al. Economic Impact of Stable flies (Diptera Muscidae) on Dairy and Beef Cattle production. J. Med. Entomol 2012, 49(1)
2 Walt, R. and Shearer, D. Veterinary ectoparasites, second edition (2001)
Written by: Ceri Jones
Information provided by Norbrook Animal Health
Having the right applicator whether injecting, drenching or pouring on is critical to overall good treatment result. The risks using the wrong applicators are many and following a few small guidelines can improve your animal health practice.
One thing’s certain about 2016 worm threat: It’s unpredictable!
From most areas of the UK, feedback suggests that last year was one with low to moderate roundworm burdens, according to Zoetis vet Dave Armstrong. “Where this was identified using good diagnostics,” he says, “economies from using fewer wormer treatments were possible with manageable risk rather than a fingers crossed approach.
Lamb growth is at its most efficient in the first 10 weeks, so the quicker you are able to rear your lambs to target deadweight, the more efficient the enterprise and in turn you will be able to reap the benefits of selling on to an earlier market.