Just how busy February and March are for calving on dairy and beef farms really hits home when one reads Darren Carty’s analysis of calvings over the last 10 years.

There was a staggering 1.25m calves born in February and March last year, up over 63,000 on the previous year. This is a reflection of improved fertility, as there were fewer calvings in April and May.

The condensing of calving into these two months is sometimes questioned, but in reality is a smart move by farmers. Earlier and more compact calving is more profitable for grass-based beef and dairy systems.

The quid pro quo is that the farm must be set up to handle the increased numbers, both in terms of labour and facilities.

The two are interconnected, and as Martin Merrick reports, good calf housing and calving facilities will reduce the requirement for labour.

The early born calf has a number of advantages over a later born calf, particularly in dairy beef systems where early slaughter before the second winter is a distinct advantage.

That’s much harder to achieve with a later born calf, so the market puts a greater value on that February and March-born calf. Kieran Mailey has some advice for farmers thinking about getting into dairy calf-to-beef systems.

Meanwhile, I take a look at milk replacer costs from our price survey of suppliers.

The good news for farmers is that prices have dropped by 16% compared to this time last year, with a litre of mixed milk replacer coming in at 32c/l this year. This will reduce the price of calf rearing this spring and make dairy calf-to-beef systems even more profitable.

One big change taking place this spring is the roll-out of the national genotyping programme. The ICBF explains the process for tagging and registering calves here.