Farmers are set to benefit from a new industry body formed to tackle avoidable youngstock losses in the beef and dairy sectors.
The National Youngstock Association (NYA) will operate as a not-for-profit organisation, made up of a board of trustees from across the industry, including farmers, vets, breeders, nutritionists and academics.
A recent study carried out by the Royal Veterinary College has revealed the extent of the problem – 8% of calves are born dead or die within the first 24 hours, and in the beef sector 8% of calves die during the rearing process.
In the dairy sector, 6% of calves born alive fail to reach weaning, with a further 3% failing to reach six months old, while 14% of heifers fail to reach first calving and 15% of those that do calve down are culled before their second calving.
NYA vet coordinator Dr Tim Potter said the main causes of youngstock mortality were scour in the early stages and pneumonia in the later stages, with financial implications of £45 an animal for dairy farmers, and £83 an animal for beef farmers.
“While these are the average figures for the industry, it’s certainly not the benchmark we should be striving for and these losses are a huge drain financially.
“Youngstock is frequently overlooked and I think it’s a suitable time to bring this back to the fore and demonstrate to people the potential losses they are experiencing.”
“The NYA has come about following numerous discussions from people working within the industry and it’s a way of addressing what we see as an area of concern,” added Dr Potter.
“It’s high time people realised the importance of youngstock, because ultimately it’s the future; we all want improved prices, but in the meantime we can improve the numbers coming through.”
He said the association aims to promote knowledge transfer and become a point of contact to bring information out to the industry through farm walks, seminars and the inaugural NYA conference on 30 June at Hartpury College, Gloucestershire.
RABDF chief executive Nick Everington said: “Replacement costs are a big cost to the industry, alongside high feed costs and costs associated with NVZ regulations, so if we can have an initiative that will help reduce costs it will be very useful to our members.”
Paul Westaway, a 2010 Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year finalist, who tenants a 140-acre farm in Gloucestershire, said: “I am fully supportive of the NYA and I think they will do a phenomenal job; we have a 0% mortality rate, so you can get that 8% figure down, and from a financial point of view it’s significant.”
National Youngstock Association conference
When: Thursday 30 June 2011
Where: Hartpury College, Gloucester, GL19 3BE
Tickets: Tickets are available for up to 200 delegates at a price of £20 including refreshments. The full-day conference will involve a plenary session, followed by a choice of four streams – A practical approach to.., Fertility, Nutrition and Health and disease management. Full details online.
Tel: 07597 267 290
Post: The National Youngstock, Association, PO Box 44, Horsham, RH12 9NR