Farmer Focus: Heatwave was a good test for new calf shed

Calf performance in the new shed is incredible. Beef-bred calves are well over 100kg when they are weaned at 56 days, and Holstein heifers are 95kg at 52 days.

This is way beyond what we managed in the old shed. The calves are so much healthier now; pneumonia is non-existent, and in the heatwave, the new shed was still managing to stay 8C cooler than outside.

That’s still warm, but the calves were comfortable with the air movement helping keep them cool.

The heatwave did start causing a little concern because grass was burning out. Luckily, we took third cut just before it stopped growing, and the quality looks very good.

About the author

Patrick Morris-Eyton
Livestock Farmer Focus writer
Patrick farms 650 Swaledales bred to New Zealand Highlander tups and 350 predominantly Aberfield ewes put to Primeras and Aberfields across 250ha plus common fell grazing with parents Robert and Rowena near Millom, West Cumbria. The farm runs a 250-head Holstein herd averaging 10,000 litres supplying Arla and a Hydro Power and building business, Beckside Construction.
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There was no need for tedders to help with the drying of the silage, which for us up here, with short weather windows, was a nice change.

The cows were managing the heat well in the new shed, because even on very hot days there was decent air flow through it.

We saw only a very small dip in yield, and I am hoping we will not see too much of a negative effect on fertility, but time will tell.

We have just gathered the lambs for weaning. Looking at them, they look like the best and most even crop of lambs we have had since we started changing the genetics in the flock, using Innovis.

See also: How a bespoke calf barn cut antibiotic use and mortality

They will get weighed, wormed, trace element-drenched and put onto fresh grass now.

Most of the store lambs will be sold privately and be off farm in the first 10 days of September, so we can utilise grazing for the ewe lambs and the draft ewes that are to sell this October.

Now the calf shed is complete, which was a major bottleneck, we are looking at ways to improve the next bottleneck in our system: our transition cows.

Currently it is not the best for the cows and not the easiest for the operator to do the best job. That’s probably a project for 2022.