Friday, 24 July 2020 08:06

Well-looked after calves thrive

Written by  Staff Reporters
Well-looked after calves grow faster. Well-looked after calves grow faster.

Calves that are cared for well have a reduced risk of disease and cost less to rear, says DairyNZ.

In its Caring for Calves booklet, the dairy industry good organisation says well-looked after calves grow faster and go on to be stronger well grown replacements. It also adds that such calves also develop into valuable, productive adults or that will be fit and strong enough to be transported at four days of age as bobby calves.

“Healthy calves also make the whole farm team’s life easier, more rewarding and are something to be proud of.

“Good biosecurity practices can also help keep calves and the farm team healthy.” 

DairyNZ recommends farm workers washing their hands with soap and warm water regularly, especially before eating, drinking or smoking. 

“Have a separate pair of farm clothing and boots to use around calves and clean these regularly,” it advises. 

“Prevent visitors from entering the shed – the more people that come through the shed, the higher the risk of spreading disease. Also avoid moving calves between pens to limit the spread of disease. Bedding must be comfortable, clean, and dry.”

Dairy NZ also advises to regularly use a disinfectant to clean pens to help reduce build-up of harmful bugs. 

“Keep feeders and other calf equipment clean. Bobby calf transporters have a high risk of spreading disease. Since transporters can carry diseases from other farms, the bobby calf area could be at risk. 

“Feeding bobby calves once all other calves have been fed can reduce the chance of spreading bugs to our other calves,” it adds.

General health daily health checks are also recommended to help identify and treat any issues among calves early.

“From a distance, checks can be made on calves getting isolated from the group.

“One can also pick out calves that aren’t interested in feeding and behaving differently to the group.”

 The booklet suggests that when near the calves, check them over while they are feeding.

“Treat navels with iodine, which reduce the risk of infection and dries the navel quicker, look for scours or dirty bums.

“Also look closely for any calf with dull or sunken eyes. Or those walking unsteadily and not feeding as enthusiastically as the others.

Ear tagging

Ear tagging and avoiding infected ears allows for better identifying and tracking of calves. 

DairyNZ says by understanding how to correctly tag calves, farmers can keep calves calm. 

“Before starting, check to make sure the tagging equipment is working. Once the tagger is loaded, make sure the male and female parts of the tag line up correctly,” it advises.

“To reduce the risk of infection, dunk the tag and end of the tagger in antiseptic, and remove any hay or shavings from the ear. 

“Hold the calf between your legs with its back end in a solid corner of the calf pen to maintain good control. Place the tag as shown, between the two thickened lines of cartilage. 

“Once in place, squeeze the tagger quickly and firmly. You should feel a strong click when the tag snaps together. Remove the tagger and check to make sure the tag is closed and it will hold.”

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

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To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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