Stick to simple rearing system

23 March 2001

Stick to simple rearing system

FOOT-and-mouth has halted movement of dairy bull and dairy cross beef calves, causing disruption and negative cash flow for spring-calving herds, but they may be successfully reared on a simple system.

Usually sold to market at 10-days-old, dairy x beef heifers and bull calves are proving an expensive appendage on one west Pembrokeshire dairy unit.

"By the end of calving there will be more than 100 extra calves on farm due to movement restrictions," says Ken Smith of Chapel Farm, Castlemartin.

"Because our dairy cows have been outside since Feb 19, we have been able to free up sheds for temporary calf housing and our first batch of 20 calves is now outside."

Calves are initially placed in groups of eight and fed on cold powdered milk, but this has already cost Mr Smith £1000 for the first few weeks supply of milk powder. This fact, coupled with him being unable to sell calves, has led to negative cash flow.

"Calves are fed twice a day, receiving 2.5 litres/calf a feed and the milk is put in one bucket with enough teats for them to feed at the same time," says Mr Smith.

After being settled into a group of 20, the calves have access to pasture next to the shed. Then, when they become hardened off, they are kept out permanently, he adds.

Farmer Focus contributor, Christian Fox, of Cucumber Farm, West Sussex, also has his hands full with 25 extra beef calves, which would normally be sold to a calf dealer at 10 days old, and dairy bull calves usually taken to the hunt kennel.

"We are keeping the management system as simple as possible. Calves quickly go out into a sheltered paddock with straw bales acting as a windbreak. They are fed in groups once a day, receiving four litres/calf of whole milk which is put in a drum, and they have access to ad-lib hay and grass."

Both producers plan to sell calves as soon as movement restrictions are lifted. &#42

Bull calves are being ket on as simple a system as possible, says Christian Fox.

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