More than a third of UK beef and dairy calf rearers feel that they 'could do better' when it comes to calf health, according to a recent survey conducted by MSD Animal Health.
A total of 749 UK producers responded to the national young stock survey and 45% of dairy producers in the group said that they had concerns about young stock health, adding that they thought that they ‘could do better’, despite scoring themselves between seven and eight out of ten for their current calf rearing practices.
“Heifers are the future of any herd and the way their health is managed in early life has far reaching consequences for the profitability of any dairy enterprise,” says MSD Animal Health’s Kat Baxter-Smith.
“The number-one concern highlighted by the survey, which was expressed by more than one in five producers, was inadequate housing or rearing facilities,” she says. “Number two on the list was an inability to monitor and achieve an appropriate liveweight gain, closely followed by inadequate biosecurity measures and disease prevention. Other issues included implementing correct colostrum feeding and weaning management protocols.”
Dr Baxter-Smith adds that the survey feedback indicates that producers are looking for support in this important area. “Calf rearing is a complex process and difficult to get absolutely right, but it is definitely rewarding if a number of simple husbandry guidelines and proven health protocols are implemented to suit any particular young stock production system.”
Dairy producers concerned about calf health can now ask their vet to use a MSD Animal Health checklist tool to score their young stock rearing system. More than 100 young stock audits have now been completed this year.
The comprehensive and interactive checklist – developed in conjunction with vets and nutritionists experienced in investigating youngstock management problems – helps vets and producers to work closely together to draw up a workable action plan to improve calf health.