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News > Dairying Management Notes -December


Dairying Management Notes -December

November 24, 2020

Getting calves weaned at the correct stage is critical

Calves can be successfully weaned when adequate rumen development has occurred. Correct nutritional management of the calf helps improve rumen development in those early days. Through careful management early weaning can be successful, helping to reduce the cost of rearing replacements.

  • Feed the calf milk or milk replacer at a rate of 10% of birth weight. More recently the use of accelerated growth programmes have been highlighted. These consist of feeding calves up to 9 litres (1350 g) of milk replacer daily. Research shows that calves on these type of programmes can achieve higher live weights pre and post-weaning compared to conventional feeding. However, this programme is more suited to units that have automatic calf feeders due to the volume of milk being fed.
  • During the first month of life calves eat small quantities of starter. The aim is to offer small amounts (50-100 g) from two days of age on a daily basis. This keeps it fresh and encourages intake. Starter intake is critical for adequate rumen development. Providing clean water also encourages intake and supports the developing bacterial population in the rumen.
  • In most cases calves can be weaned at six to eight weeks if starter intake is adequate; when they consume more than 1.0 kg of starter per day for three or more days. Gradually reduce milk levels, ideally in the last week before weaning. Calves that had scours and were off feed, were fed poor quality starter or did not have water available may require longer. Delay weaning these calves for an additional week to allow for adequate rumen development.
Electricity usage

There is generally scope on most farms to reduce electricity usage. Make sure you are on the best tariff available. Electricity suppliers offer larger energy users more competitive rates. Change time clocks when required. Cheaper electricity in winter is from 1 am to 8 am. Dairy farms typically use 20-30% of their electricity at the low rate. Change the times on your water heater so that all the water is heated on the night tariff.

Ensure your plate cooler has an adequate water supply. For maximum benefit there should be a flow of two litres of water for each litre of milk. Any investment made to improve the water supply to the cooler will be repaid with lower electricity bills. Well insulated hot water tanks and pipes save money. Many of the old water heaters have a thin metal lid which loses heat to the environment. A 30 mm layer of insulation greatly reduces this heat loss. Ensure that thermostat settings do not allow the water to boil.

Lighting can be a bigger cost than is often realised. Installing low energy bulbs can result in real savings. LED lighting is now an economic option where lights are used several hours a day. Remove dirt and dust from light bulbs and turn off unnecessary lights.

December jobs checklist
  • Assess weight of young stock, especially maiden heifers. Will they be at the correct weight for service? Does the feed rate need to be increased?
  • Carry out any vaccinations due, for example BVD well in advance of the breeding season.
  • Calibrate parlour and out of parlour feeders to ensure accurate feeding.
  • Empty precast concrete field drinkers to ensure they do not crack