Rearing replacement heifers is a major financial investment on dairy farms and it is therefore important to manage heifer rearing effectively.
Early detection of ill-health and regular monitoring of growth rate throughout the rearing period is essential to maximise lifetime performance.
Recent AFBI research demonstrates that poor health as a calf can have long term consequences on performance of the mature dairy cow. Using results from this research, AFBI have developed management guidelines for calf rearing systems to optimise calf performance. This includes guidelines on colostrum provision, prevention and treatment of disease, pre-weaning feeding regimes and housing conditions. These management guidelines will be discussed during a series of AFBI Farm Walks on 12, 13 and 14 September.
Research conducted on the AFBI Hillsborough farm, and across Northern Ireland dairy farms, has shown that when calves experienced cases of pneumonia and scour, key targets for weaning, growth, fertility and first lactation were not achieved. For example, pneumonia during calf rearing increased the chances of a delayed age at first calving beyond 26 months.
The results showed a significant decrease in lifetime milk yield when calves experienced more than one bout of illness before weaning, with consequent losses in milk return.
During the series of on farm events, AFBI researchers will showcase results of recent research and present clear take home messages highlighting best practice in calf rearing to maximise lifetime performance. The events are being organised in partnership with AgriSearch, CAFRE and the Ulster Grassland Society.
For further details see www.afbini.go.uk.