21 December 2001

Open-fronted pens keep pneumonia away

REARING groups in open-fronted pens has meant no pneumonia and zero mortality this year, says Jim Webster.

"We have always favoured rearing calves outside and intend to start using calf arks. Outside rearing produces healthy calves and even though we still have to cope with the inevitable scours, we dont get pneumonia."

Newly purchased calves are given electrolyte on arrival and fed a weak milk powder mix for 24 hours. Calves are conventionally bucket reared on two milk feeds a day and weaned at about seven weeks old. Winter-housed stores are fed silage and a daily ration of 2.5kg of maize gluten.

"But the term store cattle should not mean cattle are held back. Finishers are not working on big margins, so its essential for them to buy cattle which are going forward and can quickly go up a gear when they move on to a finishing unit," says Mr Webster.

"We are aiming for a system that never allows store cattle to stop growing and even at grass in May and June we feed 0.5kg of maize gluten a day."

It has been difficult to source calves with foot-and-mouth movement restrictions this year, but 50% of the Page Bank Farms annual throughput was bought in two batches from Oxon and Shropshire.

The 94 calves sourced were 12 to 100 days old. "We now have a lot of cattle which will be ready to sell next spring at 12-15 months." &#42