The importance of getting it right

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Table 1.0 – Effect of age at first calving on performance. (Source: Cooke et al., 2013)

With milk price dropping rather than increasing, cutting costs on farm is often needed. Unfortunately, youngstock are usually top of the list, as they are still a cost rather than generating an income, however they should be considered an investment rather than a cost. A heifer won’t pay for herself until on average 1.5 lactations (530 days), whereas you want her to repay for herself ASAP, so you can make a profit from that point onwards.

Heifers are a long term investment for the future, so rather than cutting rearing costs, concentrate on hitting a first calving age of 24 months, to save costs that way. Table 1.0 shows the benefits of calving at 24 months, on performance.

Heifer rearing accounts for approximately 20% of a farm costs, behind feed at 50%. A recent study calculated the average cost of rearing a heifer to be £1,819.01; this ranged from £1,073.36 to £3,070.46.

The largest cost was feed, followed by labour and bedding. Farmers may have the potential to reduce rearing costs, by maximising growth rates, preventing disease incidence, and reducing first calving age. Figure 1.0 shows the cost benefits of calving a heifer in at 24 months, compared to calving them in at an older age.

It’s all very well saying you must aim to calve in at 24 months, but how? We offer a calf weighing service in which we can regularly weigh your calves, and monitor their growth weights to make sure you are hitting targets. We are also running ladies calf rearing discussion group and we are associated with the RABDF youngstock day this month.


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Figure 1.0: Average cost for different ages at first calving (RVC/Dairyco)

RABDF Devon Youngstock Walk

Tuesday 22nd September
M S Ashtons & Sons
Awsland Farm
EX38 8QW
10:30am – 3:30pm

Come along to listen to a range of talks throughout the day on disease control, housing and feeding for growth, as well as view the new calf unit. A number of trade stands will also be in attendance.

Ladies Calf Meeting

We had another successful meeting on farm discussing the pre weaning stage with Bianca Theeruth. We spoke about colostrum, milk powder and rumen development, as well as the importance of monitoring growth rates. We also had a very interesting talk from Rebecca Cavill from Torch vets, on calf scour and pneumonia. The next meeting will be on rearing heifers to service “The forgotten months” and will be late October – more info to follow.

Jenny Ashton
Technical Support
M 07860 776624
E Jenny.ashton 
T @jennyashtonCM