Lannah Johnson and Zach Walling
Calf Rearing is a great way to make a bit of extra money within a short time frame, but a lot of people don’t see that rearing calves is also a very intense activity for short term, it is capital intensive, and there are also very high risks associated with the animal’s health.”
Zach Waling has grown up in the farming industry, from his family Agricultural Contracting Business as well as their Dairy and Dry Stock Farms. So farming is in Zach’s blood.
Zach started off by rearing his winning pet day calves, to owning his own Hereford Stud at the age of 11 years old, to then rearing 50-150 bull calves and now Zach and I (his partner Lannah) are rearing numbers ranging from 200 calves – 900 calves in the Autumn.
Zach and I both work in the Agricultural Contracting business so Calf Rearing is our hobby while it is the “quite” off season for the contracting. Zach started rearing Friesian Bull Calves for contract 7 season ago and I have done the last 5 seasons.
Contract Calves means we have to grow the calves to their target weight of 100kgs in the shortest amount of time.
Because we contract Friesian Bulls this means the calves have to have the 5 Friesian Points, be fit and healthy etc for the purchaser whom we have signed a contract with.
We have to make sure that we try everything we can possibly do to eliminate the chances of purchasing ill calves or calves getting sick during their time with us.
When we first started calf rearing, we would go to all the sales and buy as many early calves as possible, we stopped purchasing from the sales a couple of years ago as we personally prefer to buy calves off a few farmers that we know.
When we were buying from sales we would predominantly buy all the top pens of calves, we would check the calves navel’s, that the calf is 4+ days old, and ones that don’t look under the weather and sometimes we would try and get calves that were in a pen of ‘one vendor’.
We make sure that our calf shed has fresh shavings or woodchip every season, and spray the pens before calves enter the shed, and then we spray once a day every day while there are calves in the shed to eradicate bugs.
When a calf enters our shed, on their first feed we mix Rotagen Combo in with their milk, this is a non-antibiotic aid to help the prevention and treatment of common calf scours, Rotavirus 6 & 10, Cryptosporidia, Salmonella, E Coli and Bovine Coronovirus. The calves get this for 5 days as a preventative as we try and eliminate any possibilities of Calves catching one of these viruses and getting sick.
From day one all the calves have access to OptiGuard, we just simply pour it into a feed trough and they can come and eat it as they please. You notice all the newbies come up and eat it over the first 4-7 days.
We find that by allowing the calves OptiGuard ad-lib we have next to none that scour, the calves have nice and shiny coats and pack on the pounds faster.
Calves coming from fresh colostrum and milk love it also as it helps settle their stomach as they are now having to adjust to getting fed Milk Powder.
Also, if you are trying to start giving your calves meal or muesli you can sprinkle some OptiGuard over the top and your calves will transition very easily.
When our calves get to around 2 weeks old, we start offering them Meal, we put this into their meal trough next to the OptiGuard, we also give the calves as much hay as they can eat while they are in the shed. And when they first go outside, we continue to give them hay until they start eating the fresh grass.
We still continue to feed Meal and OptiGuard to the calves when they are outside in a paddock.
All of our calves get fed twice a day (Morning and Afternoon) with nice and warm AnCalf Milk Powder. We definitely find that by giving the calves warm milk helps them grow faster as it is easier for a calf to digest warm milk and they just look so much happier and healthier.
We also use a flow meter to make sure that each calf is getting the exact amount of milk each feed. We also try our hardest to feed them their milk at the same time every day (sometime due to work we get there a bit earlier or later and you do notice the next day the calves don’t like the change.)
We stick to smaller numbers of calves per pen so they have lots of room, and if you do have sick calves – make a sick pen so they are isolated from the others.
There is no perfect way to rearing a calf and each farmer / rearer has their own way of how they do it. There is no right or wrong way. But we personally find that by doing these few things along with everything else that goes into calf rearing, we have a pretty positive outcome. We get our calves up to their target weight of 100kgs in short period of time, and we have very little or no sicknesses / losses.
If you haven’t already, make sure you contact Tania or your local Vet for some OptiGuard. You want to have this on farm before the season starts. We believe that it has definitely made a difference to our calves. We have now been using OptiGuard since BPM launched the product in 2016 and we will continue to feed this out to our calves.
Best of luck to everyone who is Calf Rearing this season, we hope everything goes smooth for you all.
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.