At our ‘Wean Soirée’ events in Gore and Winton, some of our local calf rearers shared some of their challenges and key learnings. While many are out of their control - such as the weather - they shared a great list of things they do. The discussions, bubbles and food was great and an interesting challenge was the interference of fathers/husbands and grandfathers! The biggest takeaway tips and tricks suggested by the calf rearers were:
- Get poorly calves on electrolytes asap.
- Using electrolytes recipe off DairyNZ website - great!
- Use heat lamps for small/sick/newborn calves in poor weather.
- Use calf covers/jackets on small calves/newborns.
- Isolate sick calves into a separate pen.
- Wash calves in wheelbarrow when get muddy/wet - saves lives but creates ++ laundry!
- Use a backpack cleaning/disinfectant spray – easy.
- Spread Stalosan F - disinfectant powder for pens.
- Don’t forget to clean and disinfect ear tagging kit.
- Scrub all feeding equipment well with hot water and detergent.
- Weighing calves helps with accurate weaning.
- Weaning calves once at pasture helps reduce the check in growth.
- Wean based on weight at 100kg.
- Wean calves off milk by reducing the volume of water in milk feed and keeping powder amount same.
Welfare & Identification
- Using local anaesthetic and pain relief when disbudding calves.
- Sedation as well as using local anaesthetic for doing disbudding AND at same time doing the ear tagging, BVD testing and ringing bull calves worked really well.
- Tagging ears of calves including DNA tags for BVD detection before going outside.
- Shelter makes a difference.
- Use of “benzonite” powder for helping bind up the guts of calves.
- Use of products such as ‘Biobrew’ (multi vitamins) and 7 in 1 (Clostridia vaccine).
- Warm fresh milk every day is best.
- Controlling milk intake helps calves eat more calf meal.
- Prioritising colostrum management.
- Using simple colour coding systems (i.e. coloured stickers indicating better vs worst quality colostrum).
- Feeding enough whey powder in milk feeds.
- Feed at least 2L of colostrum, usually 3L.
- Keeping calves in until eating more grain/meal.
- Collect fresh colostrum in large VAT.
- Optiguard - adlib or mixed into milk.
- Use a refractometer to measure the quality of colostrum.
Process & People
- Best thing when rearing calves = good staff
- Get up ~3/4am to pick up new born calves!!
- Key to success is good communication between farm team.
- Aim to pick up calves at least 4 x a day during calving.
- Require proper treatment by bobby trucks (those moving the calves.
- Invest time into your facilities and tools - this will make your life and their’s a lot better.
- Fathers/Husbands/Grandfathers interfering/not believing in ‘gold colostrum’.
- Avoiding ear infections from dirty ear tag equipment.
- Keeping calves indoors due to poor weather.
- Disease build up in sheds over the season.
- Dealing with family/worker injuries (husband broke leg during calving).
- Calving large calves is a physical challenge.
- Having less than adequate facilities makes job harder.
- Getting calves to eat enough milk before weaning is a challenge.
- Juggling family life always a challenge.
- Keeping jerseys alive especially with bad weather.
- Long calving seasons are difficult.
- Nowhere to isolate sick calves.
- Bobby calves and the bobby truck – poor service, worried about animal welfare (late arriving, driving too fast, calves being bruised and bashed on arrival at works due to ‘mad’ driving).
- The weather!