An award-winning dairy and beef farming partnership says a once a day system of feeding calves milk replacer lays the foundation for a productive herd.
David and John Hatrick started using Shine Once-a-Day milk replacer at Creggan Farm, Londonderry, in 2008. Since then their heifers have been calving at 23 months and the average current production across the heifers is 8,200 litres. Their heifers are also larger at bulling and at first calving and they produce more milk.
“We are getting excellent results in calves and this lays the perfect foundation to realise production ambitions in older animals,” says David.
The Hatricks run a herd of 230 cows. Semen from black and white bulls is used on 65% of the herd - all heifers are served with sexed semen for a maximum of two straws. A proportion of the herd is served with Belgian Blue, Hereford and Aberdeen Angus semen.
When calves are born they are manually fed eight litres of colostrum and transition milk for the first three days before progressing onto powder.
When John feels calves are ready he moves them onto Shine Once-a-Day milk powder, starting at 500g milk solids. Over a period of 10 days this is increased to 740g daily.
“This is done without increasing the volume of water in the mix,” says Joe Murphy, of Bonanza Nutrition. “John finds this improves performance because without big volumes of watery milk his calves eat more calf cudlets which he gets from Thompsons in Belfast. As a consequence their rumen is better developed. This means less stress at weaning and post weaning.’’ John is also adamant that attention must be given to topping up water in drinking buckets at midday on very hot days.
Shine Once-a-Day helps achieve a target of abruptly weaning all calves at 50 days and intakes of calf cudlet of 2.5 kgs per head at nine weeks.
The Hatricks say Shine Once-a-Day will remain an important part of their system because since they first used it their calves are more content and healthier. Dry feed intake is strong without milk solids being reduced.
Limited staff means the calves receive excellent supervision multiple times daily without the need to spend an extra hour daily milk feeding. This is especially vital in the evenings at weekends.
The Hatricks take great pride in their system, evident from a string of recent awards including 2013 United Dairy Farmers, Farmer of the Year 2013 and Aberdeen Angus Quality Beef Limited Large Dairy Herd Competition winner.
“Together with better genetics and correct dry feed planning from John Thompson and Son, the Shine Once-a-Day system delivers,” says John.
“Shine has been specifically formulated to meet the needs of calf and farmer in equal measure,” explained Joe Murphy. “Containing Skim milk powder and buttermilk Shine forms a soft curd in the calf’s stomach and is then digested throughout the day. Trials in Northern Ireland, in the UK and as far away as New Zealand has proven that for Once-a-day feeding Skim milk is a must.”
It is important that calves have access to dry feed, straw and water at all times and calves will drink four litres of clean water for every kg of dry feed consumed. Lack of clean water reduces rumen development, reduces growth and increases rearing costs. Straw is also a great feed for calves as it allows calves to eat more dry feed as the calf produces twice as much saliva eating straw as it does eating hay. Saliva helps to buffer the acid in the rumen allowing the calf to consume more dry feed.