Angela and her husband are Lower Order Sharemilkers, milking 360 gorgeous Friesian cows. They calve in the spring with 6 weeks of AI and Angus Bulls in for the last 4 weeks. This year Angela aims to rear 80 keeper calves and 40-50 Angus bulls. Last year was Angela’s first season rearing calves past 4 days old. The previous 3 seasons, (on their old farm) they had only ever fed the bull calves to 4 days old and also the Bobby calves to 4 days old.
Angela’s Top 5 Calf Rearing Tips – (Her 5 “C”’s worth!)
We call it liquid gold for a reason and calves really do get the best start possible by having it. Fresh is best. Ideally within the first 12 hours of the calf being born is perfect but within 24 hours is good (some calves get a really good feed off their Mums and aren’t always ready for that first feed in the shed). In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter how they get it – whether trained straight onto a feeder; tube fed either in the paddock at pick up or in the calf shed; or bottle fed - as long as they get it.
Care (and attention to detail).
Regardless if the calf is a keeper; a bobby; a bull calf; or a pet day calf, they should all be treated with care. This starts in the Springers paddock when they are taken off their Mum and should go right through until they leave your care (whether at 4 days old or when they head off for grazing).
It is such a short time that they can be with you so attention to detail is key. Try to minimise distractions when you are working with the calves and remember that no two days are seldom the same. When my children were younger, we hired an Au Pair to look after them so I could fully concentrate on the calves; but now my youngest, and “future farmer” is six, she LOVES to help care for the calves in the weekends.
Be consistent with your feeding times and amounts – especially in the early weeks. Whatever system you choose to run (OAD, Ad lib, or 2 litres twice a day) aim to feed them consistently and continue this system right through until you look at reducing feeding to get ready for weaning. Where possible, be consistent with the time of the day that you feed them also. Consistency is key – do what works for you and your set up – but be consistent. For us, during the spring time, milking the cows; monitoring our springers; and calf feeding are always done at the same time each day. We then complete the rest of farm jobs around these key tasks.
This is very important to be able to communicate to your fellow calf rearers; other staff; bosses; calf buyers; truck drivers and farm owners. Whether it is a text; a group message; a white board or face to face, being able to communicate is a key attribute to have. Find a system that works and use it. It is a very busy time of the year and stress levels can run high – but being an effective communicator is a must.
Everyone has different thoughts on cleanliness and hygiene but the same theory applies – use a system that works for you and your set up - and stick with it. It is all about keeping yourself healthy too!
Want to learn more about the Calf rearing protocols? Head to the Downloads section on the righthand side of the OptiGuard landing page for more info.