Calf rearing

While interest remains high in dairy beef systems, a lot of farmers who ventured into calf rearing in the last few years have opted out for one reason or another.

Some of the exits were down to poor quality calves, while more weren’t happy with the margins in the systems. Having the right set up is important for calf rearing.

Sheds are probably the first port of call, and big open sheds that are good for housing suckler stock don’t make the best accommodation for rearing dairy calves.

Calves need a warm shed for the first few weeks of life. It’s important that there are no low-level draughts, and that they have a good dry lie with loads of straw or other material around them to create that nesting effect.

This hasn’t been easy this year with both the price and scarcity of straw, but if you skimp on bedding material with calves you will run into health problems.

Being organised for calf rearing is important.

Calves like a routine, so you need to feed them at the same time in the morning and the same time in the evening every day.

When you are buying a calf for rearing, think of the end market you are going to sell them in.

Have you enough grazing area and shed space to bring them straight through to slaughter? Selling dairy beef calves at weanling stage isn’t a very profitable enterprise, and you need to be bringing them to the forward store stage or straight through to finish to make a decent margin.

Silage fertiliser

While rain has banished the thoughts of silage fertiliser far away, you need to be thinking of the plan. Aim to apply 80 units/acre of nitrogen on silage fields. Spreading 2,500 gallons/acre of cattle slurry will supply sufficient P and K to grow a silage crop, but the chances of getting this out and an early cut are slim at this stage.

In a normal year for high DMD, silage fields would have needed to be grazed off and closed by early April for a May cut of silage. Getting silage fields grazed at this stage will be difficult, so one option might be to reduce the amount of N you apply and still go for an early cutting date to avoid grass heading out before cutting.