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WelCalf

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Debra McCorkindale

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29 July 2020

WelCalf is an on-farm programme designed to help dairy farmers monitor and improve key animal health markers affecting calves and how they impact on calf well-being, performance and profitability.

What are the benefits of WelCalf?

There are two key benefits of introducing WelCalf into your farm management programme:

Animal productivity
WelCalf will help you better understand the key animal health markers affecting your calves. These will be benchmarked against other local farms and will highlight opportunities for change during Spring that will impact the life-time health and productivity of your calves. 

Animal wellness assurance
WelCalf provides assurance of your commitment to animal welfare to the growing power of big food retailers and food brands, enabling them to satisfy the demands of their consumers with regard to food safety, animal health and well-being.  

How does WelCalf work? 

The WelCalf programme measures a wide range of key performance and animal wellness parameters. These measures provide a broad animal health picture which can be used to determine areas for improvement or greater efficiency. This includes: 

1. An initial pre-calving calf-shed visit and risk assessment with your vet.
2. Two visits to collect blood from calves to monitor effectiveness of colostrum feeding.
3. Measuring calf health parameters – colostrum quality, disease rate, mortality rate, stock density, bedding score.
4. Benchmarked final summary to see how you compare with other farms and best practice targets.
5. WelCalf pack including reference guide, brix refractometer and thermometer. 

WelCalf has proven results, with participating farms showing improvement in the number of calves with adequate colostrum absorption.

How does knowing this information help? 

This is the key to the success of the WelCalf programme. 

With your data we are able to benchmark your farm locally and ultimately, nationally, which will help identify areas where calf health and life-long productivity could be optimised through changed management.

Colostrum is vital: Calves with low antibody levels due to poor colostrum intake have twice the death rate of calves with adequate antibody levels. 

Colostrum is more than just antibiodies: Calves fed 4L of colostrum within the first 24 hours of life have a 10- 15% increase in milk production during their first and second lactations compared to calves fed only 2L. 

Better growth now = better production later: average daily weight gain has a significant impact on milk yield and first service conception rates in the first lactation.

Calf disease will cost you now, and in the future: obviously, there is the immediate cost of a disease outbreak, but calves that experience any kind of illness and survive are likely to have reduced growth rates and milk production, and a higher chance of future health problems. 

Note: All data used in the benchmarking process remain confidential to you and your local XLvets veterinarian.

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