Mortality rates at 5pc last year
FOR THE vast majority of weanlings the journey from birth to sale time is relatively uncomplicated and healthy.
Mortality, however, especially in the first month, is a huge economic loss to the Irish farmer and the industry every year. While there are always going to be some deaths, it is imperative that farmers make every effort to keep them to a minimum.
This requires the farmer to take all necessary precautionary steps, but it must also involve a more proactive approach from the veterinary surgeons and, indeed, the likes of Teagasc and the farming press to ensure that the necessary information is put out there to educate the farmer.
There were 40,000 calves recorded as having died on Irish farms last year before they reached six months of age. While this represents an improvement on the previous year, it remains quite a significant figure.
Added to this are the stillbirths, estimated to be around 10,000. Of the 1.018m calves registered to suckler cows in Ireland last year, those dead calves represented close to a 5pc mortality rate. If a weanling price of just €500/hd is applied, the total loss to the farmer is €25m.
Generally, as far as calf deaths are concerned, there are two critical periods; the first 48 hours and from day two to one month old.
With regard to the first 48 hours, it is important to remember that calves at birth are presented to an environment that challenges their health immediately. Their ability to stay healthy and thrive is influenced by multiple factors, some of which are onboard even before delivery.
Important factors include the health of the mother, trauma during birth, the environmental conditions of birth, ability to feed adequately and the quantity and quality of the colostrums (10pc of calf body weight in first 24 hours) they receive shortly after birth are all important considerations. Suitable calving facilities and adequate supervision can help greatly in cutting down on problems and stress to the farmer and animals associated with difficult calvings and injured, sick or dead calves or cows.