Blarney calving system sets excellent example
Preventing stress to animals in first days is critical on Hayes' farm
Mitchell Hayes from Blarney in Co Cork calves down between 240 and 260 cows every year and his herd consists of New Zealand Friesian, Jersey, Jersey cross and some Holstein Friesian cows.
Half of the herd calves within 16 days and 80-85pc will be calved within six weeks. Springing cows are grouped according to their calving date and moved from their cubicle and loose housing onto stand-off pads approximately 10 days before calving.
Once the calf hits the ground, the navel is sprayed with iodine, the ear tagged and the birth is recorded in Mitchell's notebook. The bulk of calves are Jersey cross calves and are easy calving and quite vigorous.
After the morning milking, all new calves are collected off the stand-off pad and moved into the baby calf pen, which can house up to 15 small calves at a time. Here, the calves are bedded on dry woodchip and given their first feed of no more than two litres of colostrum by stomach tube. Iodine navel spraying is repeated for three days.
Calves that are very vigorous and obviously full from drinking from the mother will not be stomach tubed, but any calf with a question mark is fed by tube.
The second feed that evening is also by stomach tube and, again, is no more than two litres of colostrums.
On the calf's second morning, if it will suck a finger, it is moved into the milk bar for training. If the calf is not anxious to suck, it will be tried again that evening.
"I give each calf two minutes at the milk bar and if it does not drink, I won't stress it. Instead, I will leave it until later when it is hungry and quicker to drink," said the dairy farmer.