Taking action to slash our youngstock losses

Every year British farmers lose millions as a result of youngstock losses.

In the dairy sector alone, more than 130,000 calves, including dairy beef, are born dead or die within the first 24 hours of birth. That’s the equivalent of one calf every four minutes.

On top of these initial losses, 14% of heifers born alive fail to reach their first calving, and a further 15% are culled or die during their first lactation. It’s certainly not an image of the industry we want to portray to consumers.

Rising costs are hitting farming businesses left, right and centre, and given the fact it costs up to £1,300 to rear a replacement heifer, anything that can be done to prevent youngstock losses will ultimately benefit the bottom line.

For this reason Farmers Weekly and its partners are launching a “Youngstock: Stop the Loss” campaign, which aims to cut calf and heifer losses, boost farm incomes and help secure the future of the national herd.

There is no doubt British agriculture has made tremendous technological advances in the past 20 years, yet it would seem our youngstock management has been overlooked and our mortality rate remains the same as it did in the early 1990s.

Do we really want another study to come out in 20 years’ time saying nothing has changed?

On a more positive note, we know the UK is no worse at youngstock management than our global counterparts. However, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing our very best to get on top of this issue. By addressing this problem now, we can maintain Britain’s reputation as a global leader in agriculture.

Farmers Weekly‘s Youngstock: Stop the Loss campaign is about key people in the industry acting together to tackle a serious problem.

We are pleased to be working together with the National Youngstock Association – an industry charity set up earlier this year to provide dairy and beef producers with the latest information and advice on youngstock rearing.

Over the next six weeks Farmers Weekly will provide you with best practice advice on youngstock management from leading industry experts, including farmer case studies, downloadable factsheets and video how-to guides.

This campaign is about helping you assess the youngstock management on your farm, and help you make changes – whether that be reassessing your colostrum management, looking into your youngstock housing, or altering your milk replacer feeding regime where necessary.

Together we can stop the loss.

Editorial by FW livestock reporter and campaign director Gemma Mackenzie

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