Calf health a priority on once-a-day feeding system

Shine Milk Powder - 2012-07-02

A stockman rearing 350 calves on once-a-day milk powder says the system helps him keep fully on top of animal health because it creates an extra three hours in his working day.

David Roberts uses Shine Once-A-Day milk powder at Kingston Hill Farm, near Oxon, to rear dairy heifer replacements for the autumn-calving herd and bull calves for the store market.

David wanted to keep the feeding system simple because of the large number of calves and says he is not only saving three hours a day but the mortality rate is almost zero.

“We have only lost one calf this year and that was an unexplained death,’’ he says. “Feeding just once every day frees up my time to keep a closer eye on the calves. As a stockman, nothing beats watching the calves; you can pick up so much more. You can see if they are holding back a bit or not drinking as vigorously as they should be.’’

The farm runs a herd of 600 cows, yielding an average of 8700 litres. The herd is housed from early October and fed a Total Mixed Ration until turnout.

David’s daily routine starts with mixing the milk powder with fresh milk and water. The fresh milk comes from an isolation group so the volume varies according to the number of cows in that group. He says the Shine powder gives him the option of varying the fresh milk percentage without altering dry matter intakes. “We can add more powder if there is less milk so it means the calves get the right amount every day. It gives continuity of dry matter intake regardless of fluctuations in fresh milk output and this is vital to the health of the calves.’’

It is a straightforward system that can easily be adopted by relief staff. “When I have a day off, feeding is straightforward for the lad who takes over from me. The diet does not change at all so that calves’ stomachs can be stable.’’

The calves are fed Shine Once-A-Day from day six and stay on this system until they can eat 1kg of dry matter daily, usually when their weight hits 100kg. They drink the milk from a milk bar which is transported to and from the paddocks.

David is delighted with the results he is achieving. “We will get a better picture as the animals grow older but they have had a very good start. It’s down to a combination of me putting in the effort and the calves having a feed that is consistent and uniform.’’

David’s boss, David Christensen, says the farm has reared calves in a multitude of ways over the years, including computerised feeders. He says the simplicity of Shine Once-A-Day works very well on his system. “I would need some convincing to move back to twice a day or to automatic feeders,’’ he says.

Photos for this release:

David Roberts uses Shine Once-A-Day milk powder to rear dairy heifer replacements.