5 September 1997

Dont fall into the too young, too old trap

ATTENTION to detail is vital when buying in-calves, according to Nigel Crowe, who rears nearly 3000 calves a year at Tregaron, Cwmnant, Aberystwyth.

As a director of Meatgold, a national farm assured beef marketing organisation, he believes experience has taught him that the systems success is based on buying-in the right type of calf.

On average, calves are 10 days old on arrival, and must be healthy and have had some colostrum. The trap, he says, is buying too young or old. "If a calf is too old this usually means there have been problems on the original farm."

On arrival, calves are fully vaccinated against pneumonia. Groups of 10 to 20 are reared on automatic machines, with ad lib milk available at 45C (125F). Coarse mix is also offered ad lib.

"Deciding which way to feed milk is personal. I find whey-based powder works better because skimmed is richer and tends to make calves scour. Some people would say ad lib feeding is not as good as restricted, but we have not had a salmonella outbreak for three years and mortality is only 2%."

Cleanliness is another key to success. Milk machines are washed and steamed regularly, and beds given fresh straw daily. Even though all sheds are open, fans blow over calves to remove stagnant air. "Ventilation is important, but make sure calves are never kept in a draught.

"This way of rearing calves may be a bit more expensive, but I think it is the best way as welfare pressure increases," he says. &#42

ATTENTION TO DETAIL

&#8226 Ensure calves have received enough colostrum.

&#8226 Clean milk machines thoroughly and frequently.

&#8226 Provide plenty of clean straw.

Rearing calves successfully depends on buying in the right type of calf.