Heifer rearing survey results to be unveiled at Armagh meeting

James Gabbey, John Thompson & Sons; Chris Catherwood, farm manager at the farm of John and Jason Rankin, his son Thomas, Dr Amanda Dunn, Bonanza Calf Nutrition; Dr Christine Cummins; Bonanza Calf Nutrition and Joe Murphy, Bonanza Calf Nutrition.
James Gabbey, John Thompson & Sons; Chris Catherwood, farm manager at the farm of John and Jason Rankin, his son Thomas, Dr Amanda Dunn, Bonanza Calf Nutrition; Dr Christine Cummins; Bonanza Calf Nutrition and Joe Murphy, Bonanza Calf Nutrition.

The results of a key dairy heifer rearing project that was undertaken by Bonanza Calf Nutrition, in association with John Thompson and Sons, will be unveiled a farmers’ meeting taking place on Tuesday, October 3rd. The venue is the City Hotel, Armagh: starting time 7.30pm.

The project entailed a survey of 33 dairy farms over a year-long period, assessing the growth rates achieved by replacement heifers up to 15-months old. The work was carried out by Jemma McHugh. It was the focus of her gap year studies from Queen’s University, Belfast. She is about to resume her final year course work as an agricultural technology undergraduate.

The farms involved were customers of either Bonanza Calf Nutrition or John Thompson and Sons, but not exclusive to both.

Jemma will provide an overview of the project at the upcoming meeting.

“The work confirms that it is feasible to get dairy heifers up to suitable bulling weights by 15 months of age,” she said.

“This is crucial if dairy farmers want to ensure they can calve heifers successfully at 24 months for the first time.

“Approximately, 25% of the heifers surveyed weighed 400 kilos at the 15 months stage. In almost all these cases, the calves were offered a skim-based milk replacer plus a high quality started ration.

“The work also confirms the absolute importance of giving calves the best possible start.”

The other speakers at the Armagh meeting will include Bonanza’s Dr Christine Cummins. She will discuss the importance of providing young calves with the proper accommodation and the pitfalls that can be encountered during the pre-weaning stage.

The company’s Dr Amanda Dunn will highlight the management priorities for cows during the perinatal period and the importance of good colostrum quality.

John Thompson and Sons’ Richard Moore will also address the meeting. Courtesy of his presentation, he will discuss the best way of managing and feeding herd replacements, from the weanling stage through to point-of calving. His focus will be on rumen development.

An award presentation will be made on the evening to the participating farmer with the best performing calves, overall. Separate presentations will also be made to those producers with the best performing calves, using multiple feeding and once-a-day milk feeding strategies.