Feeding calves with high quality colostrum after birth and good husbandry and calf rearing management and facilities are considered the most important aspects of calf rearing for Katamatite dairy farmers Kim and John Buchanan.
The couple farms 315.7ha and milks between 600 and 650 cows.
This year, the couple has handed over the reins of the calf rearing program to their staff member Lyndl Snyman, who is originally from South Africa.
‘‘I prefer one person to rear the calves and that’s Lyndl’s area of responsibility,’’ Mrs Buchanan said.
This autumn, Ms Snyman reared 180 calves, and she and Mrs Buchanan explained the process they used.
‘‘As soon as the calf is born, the calf will get marked with a neck band, which is correspondent to the mother,’’ Ms Snyman said.
‘‘This information is written on the board in the dairy.
‘‘Then they are picked up and taken to the calf shed. Once they are in a calf pen, their navel is sprayed with iodine.’’
‘‘First milking colostrum is tested with a refractometer and graded,’’ Mrs Buchanan said.
‘‘Gold standard of 23 or above is fed as soon as possible after birth.
‘‘The first feeding is by suckling or tubing depending on whether the calf will suckle or not.
‘‘They get a second gold standard colostrum feed within six to eight hours of the initial feed. From there, we feed them either colostrum or milk fortified with milk powder, following a recommended program.
‘‘For zero to seven days we feed them 1.8litres; 2.2litres for days eight to 14; and from day 15 onwards 2.5litres.’’
She said by fortifying the milk, it allowed the calves to be fed once a day and reach weaning targets in eight weeks.
‘‘The benefit of using fortified milk is it concentrates the nutritional requirements into one volume, which then encourages the calf to eat hay and pellets earlier and to a greater volume,’’ Mrs Buchanan said.
‘‘In autumn we fortify milk powder because it is more economic than milk out of the vat. In spring, the price (for milk) is less than what we are paying for powder.’’
According to Mrs Buchanan, the next step is to look at growth rates.
‘‘Weigh and measure we don’t do at this stage. It’s an area on the to-do list.’’