How to rear calves to reach a target weaning weight at 12 weeks
Rearing calves requires a high level of management, particularly in the first couple of weeks. As a rule of thumb a calf must gain 0.7kg every day on your farm to reach target weaning weight at 12 weeks.
The last few years has seen a large increase in the national dairy herd to almost 1.3m cows.
This has been due to the abolition of milk quotas in 2015, resulting in many farmers increasing dairy cow numbers, pushing up milk production and output. The increase in cow numbers has resulted in more beef type calves being available from the dairy sector.
The Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef programme targets a net margin of €500/ha (excluding premia). To achieve this level of profit depends on a lot of variables such as stocking rate, animal health and maximising the use grass but how the calf is managed in the first 12 weeks is critical to the success of the system.
The overall aim is that the calf is weaned at 100kg live weight, at 11-12 weeks and is then turned out to grass. The following are the key points:
Purchasing Dairy Bred Calves:
Purchase calves from a known source, where the health regime, type of cow and sire used is known to you. Do not buy from too many sources as doing this will increase the risk of importing disease into your herd.
Avoid mixing calves of different ages. On arrival on your farm, ensure these young animals are housed in a clean, dry, well ventilated, well bedded, draught free calf shed with fresh clean water available. Don't skimp on straw.