Disbudding and castrating are painful procedures for calves. Recent research shows that calves experience a negative emotional response for up to 22 hours after for some time. However, these behavioural and physiological responses can be reduced greatly or avoided.
Calf & Youngstock
We all know the importance of quality colostrum, but it is easy to overlook the importance of dry cows and dry cow management when it comes to maximising colostrum quality.
The end of 2021 has arrived with colder weather, darker nights, and a storm brewing in the calf milk raw material market.
With the dairy industry increasing the use of sexed semen, and research indicating there may be environmental benefits to crossbred calves, rearing dairy-bred beef calves can be an attractive option.
Unfortunately, far too many farms are still losing too many calves to scours. Indeed, a 2017 study highlighted that in calves under two months of age, scour is the main cause of death.
What’s more, according to MSD Animal Health’s latest national youngstock survey (spring 2020), 81% of more than 300 farmers surveyed said they had experienced scour in their calves during the last 12 months and 50% of farms had suffered mortalities. On dairy farms, calf deaths due to scour had been seen by more than 65% of units.
Cryptosporidiosis is one of the most common causes of calf scour. Calves are usually affected shortly after birth and develop scour at around 5-7 days. Infected calves suffer permanent damage to the intestinal lining which reduces their ability to absorb nutrients and water. It can affect growth rates and push back the age at first calving.
The intestine of a calf is still developing throughout the first few weeks of life, and production of digestive enzymes are increasing with age. The calf doesn’t obtain all the nutrients available in liquid feeds for a period after birth.
Whether it is beef or dairy it is important to grow calves efficiently to meet slaughter weights sooner. Standard target weights of pre weaning weights are greater than >0.7kg/day and post weaning DLWG of >0.8kg/day - >1.0kg/day for dairy or beef respectively.
There is no such thing as a silver bullet balancing for Amino Acids in calf milk replacer.
Amino acids are certainly the buzz word in ruminant nutrition, and rightly so. Nevertheless, will AA supplementation change the world of calf milk replacers too?
There are two overarching themes in research and ongoing farm trials:
- We are scratching the surface.
- A silver bullet does not exist.
The British dairy industry prides itself on being a pioneer in dairy cattle welfare; it is a top priority for the sector.
However, the fate of dairy bull calves is not a secret; it is a key focus area for the industry. While the rearing of bull calves for the beef market is high, and several industry initiatives continue to champion improvements in calf health, welfare and survival, there is still room for improvement. The industry has committed to making further progress in this area with the development of the GB Calf Strategy. The core objective of the strategy is to find practical solutions to reduce the number of calves that are routinely euthanised on farms. You can read more about the GB Calf Strategy on the AHDB website.