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Free calf health and management advice for dairy farmers

Published Friday, 4th October 2019 in Livestock and Dairy news

Reducing calf losses and early disease detection will be discussed at an open farm event
Reducing calf losses and early disease detection will be discussed at an open farm event

Dairy farmers will learn about reducing calf losses, the impact of early disease detection, calf nutrition and maximising growth performance at an open farm event organised by SRUC.

Calf mortality in the first month of life has been estimated to range from 0 to 12 per cent by the Royal Veterinary College and is a key indicator of the welfare level on farms. Pneumonia and scours are the main causes of calf deaths, and with farmers under pressure to reduce antibiotic usage, getting the calf off to a good start in life by maximising its immune status is essential for performance and profitability of the calf rearing enterprise. 

Researchers and vets from SRUC, will be joined by speakers from the Ark Veterinary Centre, University of Glasgow Vet School and AHDB Dairy, to discuss topics ranging from achieving good immune status, reducing calf losses, early detection of disease and minimising their effect on growth and milk replacer quality.

Focusing on getting the right type of calves for your enterprise will also be discussed through AHDB Dairy’s Breed4Better campaign to help reduce less valuable dairy bull calves.

The event, which is funded by the Universities Innovation Fund, will be held at Hardgrove Farm (kindly hosted by Alistair Marshall, Managing Director), Carrutherstown, Dumfries, DG1 4NT on Wednesday 23 October from 10.30am to 2.30pm.

Alistair runs the high-yielding 600-strong Holstein-Friesian cow herd at Hardgrove and his focus on calf management over the last year has greatly improved health and performance.

Recent changes to calf management include steam cleaning and disinfecting calf pens every two weeks and ensuring all calves receive four litres of colostrum within the first four hours of life.

Alistair said: “These changes have greatly reduced cases of pneumonia and scours and we are seeing better growth in our calves. We weigh them at birth and at weaning and calves are on average 90-100kg at weaning, so they are at least doubling their birth weight."

The talks will include:

  • Why do dairy calves die? Knowledge is the first step to prevention: Megan Fergusson (SRUC Veterinary Services)
  • Exploring failure of passive transfer and colostrum quality: Ali Haggerty (University of Glasgow Vet School)
  • Factors affecting calf growth rates and minimising these with early detection of disease: Katrina Henderson (SRUC Veterinary Services) and Carol-Anne Duthie (SRUC)
  • What to look for in a quality calf milk replacer: John Newbold (SRUC) and Lorna MacPherson (SAC Consulting)
  • Calf rearing at Hardgrove: Alistair Marshall (Hardgrove Farm) and Gareth Boyes (Ark Veterinary Centre)
  • Management tools for heifer rearing and Breed4Better Campaign: * Chris Stockwell (AHDB Dairy) 

For more information, or to book your place (noting any dietary requirements), please email Janis Forrest at janis.forrest@sac.co.uk or phone 0131 603 7525.

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