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Saturday 16 February 2019

How this farmer is saving €40/calf with his new rearing system

From 10 weeks of age calves are weighed every second week because he said that it gets extremely expensive when feeding ad-lib if it’s not controlled
From 10 weeks of age calves are weighed every second week because he said that it gets extremely expensive when feeding ad-lib if it’s not controlled
Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Michael and Shirley Bateman milk 625 cows on 207ha milking platform and rear 205 replacement heifers. Their aim is to have calves to go to contract rearers at three months of age and leave mid way at 100kg plus.

Michael has changed from calves being reared predominantly on milk until they make weaning weight of about 75kg to 80kg, to a system where he gets calves off milk at 35-40 days old and they are on adlib ration from day one, eating 1kg at four weeks and up to 3-3.5kg when they reach the new weaning weight of 85-90kg at the 90-100day mark.

Michael’s new calf system

·        Calves are tubed 3L of colostrum immediately at birth

·        Calves are then grouped into batches of 10, where they are given access to fresh water, ad-lib ration and fresh straw

·        All calves are the fed a maximum of 4L of milk a day, spit into 2L am and 2L pm for the first four weeks. Michael says this is to encourage the calves to eat ration.

·        At the three weeks of age of small bit of silage is introduced

·        At day 28, calves are fed OAD have no problem in eating 1kg of ration a day, according to Michael.

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·        At six weeks, calves are weaned completely and let out to grass with ad lib ration. The Batemans have an ad-lib feeder that can hold 1.25tn of meal. At this stage, calves are in groups of 150 and are given fresh grass every day.

·        From 10 weeks of age calves are weighed every second week because he said that it gets extremely expensive when feeding ad-lib if it’s not controlled

·        After this, when calves meet their weaning weight of 85kg to 90kg they are taken off ad-lib ration and they are sent the contract rearing where they’re fed 1.5kg/day to settle them for two to three weeks, after which they are on a grass only diet.

Benefits

He said the calves are not being pushed on the milk and are a lot healthier with much less scour issues. He said the straw bed stays much drier and this is a big help from a health point of view and also a labour point as there is less straw to be spread.

Once calves are let out to grass, they are kept in one group, which he said is a huge help from a labour point of view – meaning he only needs to visit the one paddock for check-ups.

Grassland management hours have also been reduced as there is only one paddock to manage when fresh grass is given every two days.

Finance

The new system he says, is saving the Batemans €35-40 per calf, which saves them in the region of €10,000 savings every year.

  Old system New system
Milk fed5lt for 70 days @40c€1404lt for 35 days @40c€56
Ration.75kg for 50days @34c/kg€12.75

1kg for 25 days

2kg for 70 days

 Total €152.75 €112Savings   €40/calf

Michael’s figures for his new and old system of feeding calves.

Disadvantages

He said some of the disadvantages of the new system included paying a ration bill of up to €14,000. Although, he said he may have being paying it already they never had to physically see the money go as it was coming from the bulk tank, or at least a large portion of it was.

“We’ve a ration bill now that we never had before, we spend €12,000 to €14,000 for calf ration every year. Possibly we had that bill from the bulk tank first, but we never saw it coming out,” he told the room.

Twice a week the Batemans clean out the ration feeders and feed cull cows in the yard. Another point is he said water has to be kept clean, and it’s a must, however he did say that it should be done at either system.

“When calves are being fed ad-lib they will drop some into the water trough which will sour the water. We clean the troughs out twice a week to keep it fresh as we can,” he said.

He also said sometimes calves don’t follow the feeder, which is a problem but soon do.

Overall, he said that he is happy with the system he’s is now, especially because of the labour-saving aspect of it.

“Very happy with the system, it’s ticking all the boxes for me. It certainly less labour and esier managed. Feeder can feed for two days and you can feed on a sta and not seem them again until Monday.

“Calves are slightly better, weighing in an extra 5kg – but the biggest thing for me is that there a lot less scour and calves are a lot healthier on this system,” he said.

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