John McCann, from Eglish in Co Tyrone, owns a herd of top quality Simmental-cross suckler cows.
Spring calving, they have traditionally been mated with a top quality Charolais bull to produce a selection of elite calves, all of which command premium prices in the sale ring.
“I have developed the herd over a number of years. All of the replacements are home bred and have been specifically selected to have the scope to produce a high quality calf on an annual basis over a long number of years. The Simmental breeding in the cows also means that they will have plenty of milk to feed their calves throughout the spring and summer months,” John explained.
“The system that I have developed is based on ensuring that the cows have access to high quality grass swards throughout the grazing season. The calves get minimal levels of meal while on the cows, so that means they must get the best possible start.
“Any upset, particularly during the first few days of life, can have serious repercussions on subsequent growth rates. I basically live with the cows in the run up to calving. Specifically, I have always ensured that the new arrivals get adequate colostrum immediately after calving.”
But even going to these lengths was still no guarantee that John would get away with a problem-free calving season. In the past, a number of calves would, invariably, succumb to a very unpleasant ‘24 hour’ scour problem, which would knock them for six,” he commented
“Three years ago I was advised to administer one Calf Aid paste to each calf within the first 12 hours of life. This program has given remarkable results. We have not had a case of calf scours within the herd since.
“The Calf Aid acts to provide the young calf with a boost, which certainly helps it to tackle the bugs which cause scours. It is now standard practice on the farm to give Calf Aid to every new born calf. It is very easy to administer. I simply place the contents of the tube to the back of the tongue. And one feed is all that’s required.”
Calf Aid is manufactured by Mervue Laboratories. Earlier this week, the company’s Robert Mollan called in at the McCann farm in the company of local distributor Nigel Irwin, of Eglish-based Irwin Farm Supplies.
Robert explained:“Calf Aid is a Micro Nutrient Oral paste, formulated specifically for new-born calves at times of stress to support the emerging immune system; growth rates and appetite.
“It contains ‘C Guard’, a blend of plant extracts, essential oils, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants aiding the natural management of immunity and gut health. This will, specifically support the young calf’s ability to resist the common problems found on farms. Calf Aid is also a source of Omega 3 oils, Prebiotics, Trace Elements and Vitamins.
“Calf-Aid is suitable for all calves but particularly popular with suckler farmers as it ensures that new-born calves receive support for their immunity system needed to fight off disease. What’s more, it is easy to apply. There is no requirement to mix powders in water and then force the young calf to drink whatever has been prepared for it. Calf-Aid can be easily administered to the back of the new arrival’s tongue in a matter of seconds.”