Calf Health for lifetime performance booklet FINAL

Reasons for the calfcare events Teagasc and AHI, supported by Volac, have successfully run a series of CalfCare events each spring for the past four years. The focus at the events is to remind farmers of the key essentials in the care of their calves from birth and refresh their skills before the spring calving season. A changing industry With the removal of milk quotas the procedures around newborn calf management have acquired even greater importance because of the profound and rapid change that is taking place in our industry: • An increased number of calves born on dairy farms - over 280,000 additional calves born in 2015 compared to 2005; • The earlier sale of calves - with greater specialisation in dairying we expect that more calves will be sold at 2-3 weeks of age; The increasingly seasonal nature of calf births and sales - 20%, 40% and 17% of dairy calves are born in January, February and March, respectively Thus there is a requirement to remind farmers of best practice in relation to calves intended to be reared on farm as well as those destined for sale off farm. Scope for further improvement in rearing replacement heifers The ICBF database has collated the most recent data relating to the age at which replacement heifers calve. Data for the 2007 and 2013 born dairy replacement heifers are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Number of Irish dairy replacement heifers born in 2007 and 2013 and age category at calving.

2007 born

2013 born

Total number of dairy heifers born % that have calved by 26 months

249,126

383,741

49% 23%

54%

% that never calved

20% est.

The target is to calve dairy replacement heifers for the first time at 22-24 months of age. The records in Table 1 above show that the number of dairy replacement heifers born on Irish dairy farms has increased by over 50% during the past 6 years. It also shows that while the proportion calving at the appropriate age is increasing and the percentage failing to calve declining, considerable scope exists for further improvement in both the proportion calving and in the proportion calving at an earlier age. Liveweight is a key component of successful heifer rearing. The data in Table 2 outlines the target liveweights for different heifer breeds and crossbreeds at the point of calving at 24 months of age. Target liveweights for intermediate stages of the replacement heifers lifecycle for calving at 24 months of age are also presented in Table 2. To calculate the target liveweight multiply the % of pre calving liveweight by the target pre-calving weight. E.g. for a Holstein Friesian heifer, the target liveweight at 15 months of age is 330 kg (60% of the 550 kg pre-calving weight).

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