25 August 1995

How simplicity wins the day

ONE Wiltshire dairy herd manager has designed a simplified calf rearing system that ensures 90% of calves achieve top quality grades.

Murray Bufton puts the 280-cow flying herd at Manor Farm, Berwick Bassett, Swindon, in calf to beef sires and sells the calves at between 10 and 14 days to Melksham-based co-op Mid-West Calves.

Last year the Continental cross calves sold by its members averaged 59kg, with 3.3% grading as Q+ and 19% as Q.

But Continentals from Manor Farm averaged 61kg, with 32% grading Q+ and 56% Q. Calf price for bulls and heifers averaged £220 a head.

Mr Bufton calves his cows in a tight eight-week block from early August. The calves are Belgian Blue and Charolais crosses, the latter to counter potential export difficulties.

Calves are batched in groups of six and fed from teats at a multiple feeder using whole milk delivered straight from the parlour via an overhead pipe.

Feeding drums are emptied and washed before they are filled with fresh milk after each milking. Because the calving pattern is so tight and calves move off the farm within 14 days, there is always fresh colostrum milk available.

It is this continuous supply of fresh, warm milk that sees calves gaining up to 2kg a day liveweight and reaching top quality grades.

Most of the Belgian Blue cross calves leaving make Q+or Qgrades.