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The Poukawa calf rear­ing pro­ject was run on Poukawa Sta­tion in the Hawkes Bay from 1999-2006. A num­ber of dif­fer­ent calf rear­ing prac­tices were tested and re­sults from this work now form the ba­sis for ad­vice given to farm­ers rais­ing calves in the beef and dairy in­dus­tries.

The pro­ject found prof­itabil­ity de­pends on the pur­chase price of the calves, the in­put costs of calf milk re­placer and meal, and the price that can be re­alised for a 12-week-old, 100kg calf.

There are 6 fun­da­men­tals be­hind a good calf rear­ing sys­tem

While there is a wide range of calf rear­ing sys­tems, there are ad­van­tages, both in the suc­cess of calf rear­ing and cost sav­ings, to be gained through: • once-a-day feed­ing with low vol­ume milk sys­tems and feed sup­ple­men­ta­tion • early in­tro­duc­tion of solid feed • the use of high pro­tein con­tent meal • the use of cur­dling milk re­plac­ers in the first two weeks of life • en­sur­ing calves have enough colostrum early in life • hy­giene and health care

If you’re rear­ing a calf, it needs to have had colostrum

Stud­ies in 2000, 2002 and 2007 in­ves­ti­gated the in­flu­ence of colostrum on calf sur­vival and growth rate. These stud­ies found that 10-40% of calves are de­fi­cient in colostrum. Colostrum-de­fi­cient calves had higher mor­bid­ity rates and slower growth rates through to 14 weeks of age. In the first study in 2000, 40% of colostrum-de­fi­cient dairy calves died.

You save money if you buy more ex­pen­sive calf pel­lets

Spe­cial­ist calf rear­ers some­times use lower pro­tein calf pel­lets as a means of re­duc­ing costs, but it can be a false econ­omy.

Re­searchers com­pared the ben­e­fit of feed­ing 16% pro­tein pel­lets for the first six weeks com­pared to feed­ing more ex­pen­sive 20% pro­tein pel­lets. Calves fed 20% pro­tein pel­lets had faster growth rates and were 4.2kg heav­ier at six weeks of age than those fed with 16% pro­tein pel­lets. Al­most half (47%) of calves fed a higher pro­tein diet could be weaned at six weeks, com­pared to just 21% on the lower pro­tein. The cost sav­ing gained from us­ing the lower pro­tein feed was not as great as the value of early wean­ing of the calf on the higher pro­tein diet.

If your pas­ture is poor, con­cen­trates will make a big dif­fer­ence

Stud­ies have shown that calf growth rates of 0.4-0.65kg/day, can be raised to 0.9kg/day by sup­ple­ment­ing with 1-2kg per day of crushed bar­ley, maize, calf pel­lets or palm ker­nel.

The breed of calf makes no dif­fer­ence

Rear­ers tend to pre­fer cer­tain crosses of calf, and show a neg­a­tive bias to­wards an­i­mals with Jersey in their parent­age. How­ever, re­search has shown the meat is of the same qual­ity, and that you get the same amount of profit for your beef.

When Friesian type and Jersey x type bulls were stocked at a sim­i­lar liveweight per hectare, there was lit­tle dif­fer­ence in terms of to­tal out­put of beef per hectare.

The per­for­mance of mixed and odd coloured calves was com­pared to Friesian bull calves in 2000-2002 and found to be in­signif­i­cant. The per­for­mance of good- framed, odd-coloured calves was only slightly be­hind sim­i­larly-sized, well­marked Friesians. SOURCES: A com­par­i­son of bull beef pro­duc­tion from Friesian type and se­lected Jersey type calves www.grass­­ca­tions/ nz­grass­land_pub­li­ca­tion_288.pdf Prof­itable Calf Rear­ing­u­ments/farm/ Prof­itable%20calf%20rear­ing.pdf

6NRM Calf Rear­ing Guide

Mul­ti­ple Or­phan Lamb Rear­ing­i­mal­health/301-sheep-mul­ti­ple­or­phan-lamb-rear­ing­pro­to­col.html

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