130,608 dairy calves are born dead or die within 24 hours – that’s one calf every four minutes. It’s time to stop the loss.

Welcome to Farmers Weekly‘s Youngstock: Stop the Loss campaign, in conjunction with the National Youngstock Association.

Together with key industry partners – BOCM PAULS, Marks and Spencer, Pfizer Animal Health, Quedron, Tata Steel and Volac – we are launching this campaign to address an increasing problem in the industry and help farmers run better businesses.

According to a DairyCo-funded study, Reducing the wastage in the dairy herd, 8% of dairy calves, including dairy beef, are born dead or die within 24 hours of being born. Based on the size of the national dairy herd – 1,814,000 cows – and assuming a 90% pregnancy rate, that equates to a staggering 130,608 animals, or one calf every four minutes.

Furthermore, on top of these initial losses, 14% of heifer calves born alive fail to reach first calving, and a further 15% die or are culled during their first lactation.

Not only is this a loss of revenue to farming enterprises – replacement heifers can cost up to £1,300 to rear – but it acts as a serious black mark against the industry’s impeccably high welfare standards.

And according to Volac’s Jessica Cooke, who led the Dairy­Co study during her time at the Royal Veterinary College, very little has changed in the past 20 years, as a 1996 University of Reading study, The Incidence of Production Diseases and Other Health Problems in a Group of Dairy Herds in England, found a similar youngstock mortality rate of 7.8%.

“This is very much a global problem and the UK figures are similar to worldwide figures – 6.3-8.2% in the USA, 10% in Germany, 6-11% in Sweden and 5% in Australia – but addressing the problem should give us an edge because we will be getting on top of it,” says Dr Cooke.

“There’s always one area that’s a problem for a particular farm, and if farmers aren’t recording their youngstock mortality rates, they need to start doing that now. Once you have identified the problem time period when you are losing most of your calves, it’s easier to start looking at some of the main causes.”

Although some youngstock losses are unavoidable, the vast majority are preventable through correct management procedures, and we hope this campaign will encourage you to take the time to assess your youngstock management and address areas that need improvement.

To help with this, over the next six weeks we are publishing a series of articles offering practical advice on youngstock rearing and farmer case studies, along with downloadable factsheets and, for some areas, video how-to guides.

Throughout Farmers Weekly‘s Youngstock: Stop the Loss campaign, we will focus on the following management areas:

• Colostrum management – with tips on how to set up your calf for the future

• Management of calf – on milk with advice on milk replacers and the different feeding methods available

• Weaning and nutrition – to explain the nutritional benefits of correctly weaning your calf off milk

• Calf health – with advice on how to keep on top of common diseases and parasites

• Housing options with guidance on how to assess your housing and advice on the different housing options available for your youngstock

• Measuring and monitoring – with top tips on how to measure and manage your calves to reach the 24-month calving down target.

British agriculture has moved on leaps and bounds in the past 20 years, so why is our youngstock management still lagging behind? Now is the time to stop the loss and prevent another study, 20 years down the line, revealing we still have a calf dying every four minutes.

Campaign aims

  1. Raise awareness of the scale of youngstock losses on British dairy farms
  2. Support farmers in reducing losses by providing practical advice
  3. Unite the industry to help secure the future of the national herd


Get involved

Online For more information on the campaign, visit www.fwi.co.uk/stoptheloss

Facebook To pledge your support, visit www.facebook.com/stoptheloss

Forum Share your youngstock stories at www.fwi.co.uk/youngstockstories

Email gemma.mackenzie@rbi.co.uk

Post Youngstock Campaign, Farmers Weekly, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS