Hosted by Cow Management at Harper Adams University, the conference programme addressed all aspects of calf rearing. Expert speakers covered topics from genomics and breeding management, management of the newborn calf, weaning management and nutrition as well as some of the key disease challenges seen on farm and the tools for managing them.
ForFarmers Youngstock product manager, Ann Coombes, was among the speakers at the conference. As well as discussing heifer nutrition, she highlighted the importance of taking a focused and consistent approach to management throughout all the stages of a heifer’s life
Heifer nutrition post weaning is key to ensure they reach target weights to calve down at 22-24 months of age. Ann suggested splitting the calf rearing into three key stages helps focus the mind on the specific requirements needed for that stage in life.
“Each stage has different dry matter, energy, and protein requirement,” said Ann. “Ensure you know the quality of forages fed by testing regularly to account for quality fluctuations, as this is key to not overfeeding or underfeeding throughout the different growth stages. If you have low protein forages, it is an expensive constituent to chase and expensive to get it wrong.”
“A happy heifer is a healthy heifer,” stresses Ann. “Taking into account other elements that contribute to heifer growth such as fresh air and good housing, and a lack of stress, will help to achieve your targets.”
Ann advised making use of the feeds already on farm, forages and bought in straights, and formulating the heifer ration around them. The ForFarmers’ rationing programme can assist in formulating diets specifically designed for key stages within heifer growth, ensuring target parameters to meet heifer requirements are being met.
Ann suggested farmers monitor growth rates by weighing heifers more frequently. “Weighing heifers at the start of cycling around 8-9 months of age gives you the ability to amend rations accordingly if things aren’t on track. Don’t leave weighing to bulling, at around 12-13 months, when it’s too late to make corrections.”
Ann also suggests that understanding your herd’s mature bodyweight when setting targets is key.