Saturday, March 16, 2013

Different Farms, Different Practices
Saturday afternoon. I sit in a  cottage built around 1835. I've been out this morning to the "Coop" market for bread, eggs, and bangers. Sidewalks here in Wickham Market vary from 18" to a little over 2 feet wide - have to get used to building build right out to the street. Oh, yes, remember to look to my left for oncoming traffic rather than to the right.

Great meeting last night with folks from about 20 farms around the village Flixton - you will have to Google it to find it. Met in the cozy - a back room at a pub. Things were quite friendly after the majority had a couple of "pints."

Every told about how they fed milk or milk powder to their calves. Majority were feeding 4 litres a day of milk (500g dry matter a day - just a bit over a pound) or 4 litres of milk powder mixed at 125g/litre (again, 500g dry matter a day). Then I talked about our Gold Standard growth goal of doubling their weight in 60 days. One young sharp fellow sitting up front observed that if we wanted a calf to gain 40-45kg in 60 days that would not happen if she was gaining less than 1/2kg a day.

Then we had a great discussion about how much milk could be fed to a calf at what age and why farmers often had scours issues when they fed greater volumes of milk. That slid right over into ways to improve colostrum management. Most of the farms were milking fresh cows twice a day at the end of the regular milking. [Remember we get 33% loss of antibodies if we wait14 hours for that first milking] Most of the farms were feeding dam: daughter so they waited to feed colostrum until the dam was milked. So we talked about why feeding ASAP after birth was better than waiting. Only one of the farms evaluated colostrum quality so whatever was harvested was fed. None of the farms had checked through blood testing how well their colostrum management was working.

Overall, lots of interest. About half of the group stayed on after the official end  of the meeting to talk about practical changes they could make to get better growth and healthier calves.

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