Health Advice Group Established for Calf Rearers

UK - To reduce the costly impact of calf health problems, AHDB Beef & Lamb has formed an on-farm discussion group.
calendar icon 3 July 2017
clock icon 2 minute read


Over 18 months, seven calf rearers from Herefordshire will take part in the discussion group, which will focus on key topics relating to youngstock health, nutrition and housing.

The activity is part of the Supply Chain Programme’s Calf to Carcase project, which aims to improve health in youngstock in order to more cost effectively meet supply chain specifications. As well as the discussion group, AHDB Beef & Lamb will also be launching a calf-rearing manual containing specific key performance indicators (KPIs) for rearers.

Participating farms will be set targets, with each calf rearer asked to record performance data including: calf weights, feeding regime, health issues, bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) status and calf sire, where possible. Nick Gibbon of Belmont Vets, who will be facilitating the discussion group, will then use the data to track the calf rearers’ progress over the 18-month period.

As well as working with a dedicated vet, the discussion group has been set up with the support of livestock marketing company Meadow Quality. By aligning the programme to commercial supply chains, AHDB Beef & Lamb aims to drive more farmer-to-farmer learning and stimulate improved calf management across the English beef industry.

Simon Fryar, Commercial Manager at Meadow Quality, said: “There is currently no platform that encourages calf rearers to come together and have an open discussion about their experiences and protocols. At Meadow Quality we’re passionate about improving the health and welfare of calves and believe that exploratory environmental measurements, combined with frank and open discussions, will further reduce stress on calves and improve health and performance.”

“The chosen calf rearers will be able to install hardware, something not many have done before, giving them the opportunity to collect data on humidity, temperature and wind speed. From the results we’re interested to see if these environmental factors have an impact on overall performance.”

Data from the participating farms will be closely monitored, with the practicalities and usefulness of implementing calf health monitoring and improved management technologies evaluated.

Sarah Pick, AHDB Beef Scientific Officer, commented: “Health and nutrition are key areas that impact on cost of production in terms of calf growth rates. Working with genuine supply chains also gives this work a hard-edged commercial focus which will assist us in our farmer-to-farmer communications”

The discussion group, which is due to start in October, is part of AHDB’s wider Farm Excellence Platform, which inspires industry to improve performance and succeed through farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange

For those interested in being involved in the next calf rearing discussion group please contact Sarah Pick, Beef Scientific Officer at [email protected] or on 01904 771 215.

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