Cattle farmers from Dumfries and Galloway took five key messages home after attending a practical on-farm calf health workshop, recently, organised by Tarff Valley and MSD Animal Health.
Hosted by dairy farmers Douglas and Alison Forsyth, at Baltier, Whithorn, the practical calf rearing tips came from independent vet, Owen Atkinson, Dairy Veterinary Consultancy, as well as other housing, health and nutrition experts from the two companies.
“Unfortunately, poor calf health and delays to first calving age cost the average dairy herd 1.8p per litre,” said Mr Atkinson. “We know 5-8% of calves die before they are three months old – 40-50% of calves have insufficient colostrum immunity and 20-25% of calves get treatment at least once for either pneumonia or scour at an average cost of £50 per case. We have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to rearing healthier youngstock.”
His five top tips for healthier calves:
1, Good colostrum – feed good quality colostrum quickly, in sufficient quantity and squeaky clean to provide enough immunity for your calves.
2, Low infection pressure – keep beds and feeding equipment clean. Maintain high biosecurity, treat any sick calves quickly and appropriately, and consider routine vaccinations for infectious scours and pneumonia. 
3, Optimum feeding – feed at least 900g of high quality, digestible milk powder or six litres of milk per calf per day. Always offer chopped forage from a feeding rack and make ad-lib clean water available from day one. Introduce fresh pellets or coarse mix each day from week one.
4, Healthy environment – provide warm, well-drained dry beds using plentiful clean straw (ideally legs not visible when calves are lying down) and ensure clean, fresh air to breathe. Keep calves away from older stock.
5, Set goals and measure: for example – 0.9kg/day growth rate to weaning; at least 2kg/day solid feed intake at weaning; less than 3% mortality to weaning.