Systematic, well-planned calf rearing reduces the rate of losses to well under 10 per cent if the environment (hygiene, light, air, water) allows. This ensures a greater number of highly productive heifers at a subsequent stage. The restocking rate is also reduced if care measures for hooves and udders are intensified and feed is optimised for the dairy cow herd during the first 100 days. Dairy farms then also need to think about how they can best sell surplus animals. One option is using sperm that is classified according to sex.
A look to the future
In the future, the best cows will be inseminated by dairy stock (German Black Pied/HF) in the hope of producing a heifer calf. For lower quality animals, a meat breed will be used (such as the Belgian Blue) in the hope of producing a bull calf. These bull calves are used in the trade for feed production and are relatively well compensated. In the future, the farm would then only keep the cattle they need for their own restocking. In view of the new Fertiliser Ordinance, a low first calving rate with an equally low restocking rate presents an interesting option.
Prudent rearing of calves
Modern calf rearing should be carefully planned as follows: After birth, the calf is given three to four litres of colostrum in the first two hours. Over the next few days, the colostrum/whole milk is not rationed; the calf can drink as much as it likes. On average, the calf is offered 10 litres of milk feed in the first three weeks (5 litres per meal) – in the first week 1 litre less and 1 litre more in the third week. Weaning from milk begins after about three weeks and calves are fully weaned after 10 to 12 weeks.
Supply until calving
After the colostrum phase, whole milk can be used together with the supplement Miravit MilkIdeal or the milk replacer CombiMilk Galant. In addition to milk, the calves also receive a dry TMR (total mixed ration) to eat as they please (recommended: 20 per cent chopped straw, 75 per cent CombiKorn calf maize, 5 per cent Miravit Maltodrink). Calves can only properly use silages after two months. If the calf group is mixed in development, silage is offered permanently next to the dry TMR (buffet feed). AGRAVIS Raiffeisen AG has compiled a plan containing recommendations on caring for young cattle until calving.
Air quality in livestock shed
Air quality in the calf shed has a special meaning with modern feed. Intensively reared calves eat huge amounts of feed and have an intense metabolism; they tend to sweat. This means that effective ventilation is particularly important. Farmers have had good experiences with pressure ventilation. This method provides fresh air directly into the shed through perforated hoses or pipes.