Tips for rearing calves from former New Zealand dairy farmer, agricultural consultant, and all-round farming legend Vaughan Jones, interviewed by Stephen Roberts.
Calf Rearing Starts Before Calving
Vaughan, let’s talk first about the financial impact of correct calf rearing.
If you are too busy, unsure about calf rearing, or don’t have the proper facilities, then forget it and buy weaners. Sometimes it is more profitable to buy yearlings, which often sell cheaply.
Calf rearing is a specialty job requiring specific knowledge. Correctly-reared calves continue to grow at a faster rate after weaning than poorly-reared ones, and the eventual size of adult animals relates to their weaning weight. It’s the farmer’s knowledge of this that encourages the high bidding at calf sales for well-reared ones.
How important is managing cow nutrition prior to calving?
Successful calf rearing starts before calving, with the dams not being too thin or too fat, on a rising plane of nutrition from drying off to calving. Calves can die within the first month of being born due to mineral deficiencies in the dams before birth. Deficiencies can be caused by insufficient feed for the dam or poor quality feed that lacks necessary minerals, especially selenium, copper, and iodine.