The dairy heifer is known as the second largest annual expense on a dairy farm after feed costs.
AHDB Dairy suggests on average it costs £2,000 per heifer successfully calved into the milking herd.
It’s not until the heifer is into second lactation does she pay back her investment to the business and generate a profit, therefore it is essential that the management and nutritional approach is right
At Harbro they work in partnership with their dairy customers to manage and monitor the whole operation on farm with their approach to calves focussing on colostrum, nutrition and environment as key contributing factors influencing performance.
The 4 Q’s of colostrum should be at the forefront of any farmer’s mind when feeding the newborn calf: quality, quickly, quantity and quietly. The experience of working with a wide range of dairy farms shows the strongest performance coming from those that had focussed on good quality colostrum as close to birth as possible.
Rumen Friendly Nutrition
Calf milk replacers should be fed following colostrum and after the first few days to aid growth and frame development, with higher concentrations of milk powder having been seen to further enhance growth rates early on. Milk should be fed for the first six weeks until the calf is weaned. At Harbro they then introduce their Buttercup Calf Starter pellets which are fed for up to twelve weeks before moving on to their Buttercup Calf Rearer Nuts or Buttercup Heifer Rearer Nuts. These pellets and nuts are manufactured using Harbro’s Rumen Friendly approach, incorporating coarse rather than finely milled raw materials to stimulate early rumen development. Features of the Buttercup range include EVO, a blend of natural plant extracts which has been shown to reduce stress and increase intakes.
An area that requires great attention to detail is the livestock building with ventilation, temperature, humidity and bedding all crucial factors.
Harbro Calf+ Monitor Scheme
These key elements can all be managed and monitored on a monthly basis using the Harbro Calf+ Monitor scheme.
Harbro launched the scheme back in 2015 to provide an insight into heifer performance and to help pinpoint where management could be improved. Enrolling in the scheme is voluntary and the units involved use milk powder and feed compounds from Harbro and a wide range of other manufacturers.
With multiple weighing data collected, collated and analysed across contributing farms, it gives a greater understanding of calf performance which then allows for the feeding regime to be tailored accordingly to optimise health and growth.
Recent figures from Calf+ Monitor show the following weight gains: Target weight gain 0.5kg/day (weight gain 0-4 weeks); Harbro top 25 average 0.64kg/day (weight gain 0-4 weeks); Best performing farm 0.71kg/day (weight gain 0-4 weeks)
To register your calf unit for the Harbro Calf Monitor Scheme contact your local Dairy Specialist or Tel: 01888 545200.