The effects of poor calf health and nutrition on the lifetime performance of the dairy cow will be focus during a workshop at this year’s TotalDairy Seminar.
Heifer rearing is the second highest cost linked to milk production, after feed, according to University of Nottingham’s Jean Margerison. "That said, if there are any problems with calf rearing or replacement rate, heifer rearing could become the highest cost or equal to feed cost.”
During the workshop, sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers, the professor of ruminant nutrition will offer some helpful pointers for producers and highlight where they can make changes.
“There are large gains to be had from investing in early calf health and nutrition, as that has huge long-term consequences on survival, productivity and fertility,” explains Professor Margerison.
Extensive research has shown that any disease that causes inflammation, such as scours or pneumonia, can reduce weight gain and fertility. “Age at first calving can be affected by anything up to a month. This ultimately contributes to infertility – one of the main reasons for culling and high replacement rates.”
Professor Margerison says that heifer size and weight at first calving are paramount to lifetime performance. “Optimising health and nutrition, to ensure as many heifers as possible reach your herd’s optimum target age at first calving, is vital. It’s also important that heifers are seen as an investment and any cost cutting is carefully considered.”
As part of the TotalDairy workshop, she’ll be encouraging producers to calculate how much their young-stock diets are costing them and then assess different heifer-rearing scenarios. “Producers should make decisions based on sound facts and figures,” she says.
The figures could well come as a surprise, as actually feeding less and calving heifers later will mean that the unit will need to have more replacements on the ground, which will add costs that are potentially not currently being considered.
Ultimately, Professor Margerison believes it’s about ‘spending wisely’ to get the best return on investment.
TotalDairy takes place on June 19 and 20, 2019, at The Crowne Plaza Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire.