Dairy Monitor Farm Business Group Meeting Report – Calf housing and disease prevention

HOST Farmer Steph Randles; Marton Hall Farm, Marton, Macclesfield.

The Dairy Monitor farm discussion group met mid-January and intend to meet on a regular basis with a different group member hosting the farm walk part of each meeting.

The objective of the meetings is to discuss a topic that is relevant to not only Clive Hall Monitor farm, but to all group members and wider community, looking at various topics in relation and comparison to Clive Hall.

The meeting began with a farm walk at Marton Hall (a block calving New Zealand style system very similar to Clive Hall) and the group headed towards the calving yard as farm manager Steph Randles explained that they have plans to extend both the calving yard and the calf housing to ease management.

Good Calving Yard, Housing and Disease Prevention…
Discussions that followed were led by Ed Hayes and Olie Maxwell (Wright and Morten Vet Group); covering factors that determine a good calving yard/calf housing with disease risk prevention management.

The main topics and discussion outcomes and recommendations included;
• Calving yard
o Stocking density-15m²/cow (the more the better)
o Frequency of cleaning out- every 3 weeks
o Frequency of bedding up- daily
o Removal of calf- as soon as possible

• Calf housing and management
o Stocking density
- Less than 6 weeks old; 1.1m² /calf
- More than 6 weeks old; 1.5m²/calf (group housing)
- Age grouping within one month
o Ventilation; air movement vital to reduce humidity- stagnant air is worse than draughts
o Feed hard feed from day 1. Water should be available from day 1

• Calf disease; sours and pneumonia. Causes; inadequate colostrum, environment and pathogen load
o Scours
- Pathogens; Rotavirus, Coronavirus, Coccidiosis, Cryptosporidia, E.coli, Salmonella
- Treatment costs (excluding labour) £44/sick calf. £59 less milk in first lactation
o Pneumonia
- Pathogens; Viruses in primary stages (Rotavirus, Coronavirus), pasteurella bacterium in secondary stages
- Treatment, anti-inflammatory are vital
- Treatment costs (excluding labour) £43-£54/calf/1st treatment (£104 second treatment)

• Colostrum
o How much should be fed; 3 litres in first 6 hours plus 3litres in 2nd 6 hours
o Quality; test with colostrometer to assess quality- ZST testing
o Adult cow colostrum is better quality than from a heifer
o Risk of pooling colostrum; know your Johnes status, identify any positive cows and remove
o For passive immunity, colostrum must be fed within the first 24 hours

Calving Targets
The meeting ended by discussing the group’s targets at calving time compared with the national average and the importance of setting targets. Ed and Olie who led the discussions ended the meeting by saying; “You can control the number of calf losses where possible through disease prevention.”

National average;
• Calves born dead-8%
• Die before weaning-3%
• Die between weaning and bulling-0%
• Cases of scouring- 6%

The discussion group feedback was positive from both block and year round calving systems. Both Marton Hall and Clive Hall are due to start their 12 week calving block on the 1st February. Monitor farmer Phil Asbury had commented that “the meeting was an ideal refresher for calving starting soon”.

Clive Hall Farm will be hosting it’s monitor farm open day on Wednesday, February 23rd at 10-30am.

Contact Lesley Innes at Reaseheath College Tel: 01270 625 131 ext 308 to confirm your attendance.