Dairy farmer Leo O’Connor shares his experience after using AHV Calf Start. Leo, married to Fiona, has three kids, and together with his brother Sean, and parents JJ and Maureen, milk 350 cows in Ballymacelligott on the outskirts of Tralee in Co. Kerry.
Their Ranaleen pedigree herd supplies milk to Lee Strand Dairies for liquid consumption. Selling surplus breeding stock locally, and to England and Northern Ireland, is another important driver for the business.
“The cows are currently averaging 8,700L at 4.0% butterfat and 3.4% protein,” Leo explained. “The herd is 70% spring and 30% autumn calving. Good-quality grass and silage are utmost priority.
“I am happy enough with the current size of the herd. Our number one objective is to ramp up efficiency levels across all aspects of the business.”
He continued: “Reducing the level of antibiotic usage on the farm is also a high priority. I want to get ahead of the curve, where this matter is concerned.
Consumers are demanding natural and sustainable dairy products and we must produce them as naturally as possible. We are doing this by having cows grazing as early as possible in the spring, weather permitted.
“Already, I am seeing this issue becoming more important in the context of Origin Green and the other farm quality assurance schemes.
Start at the very beginning – with calves
“The farm is fully aligned to the Munster Bovine Herd Health Programme. The scheme fully recognises the need for all farmers to reduce the level of antibiotic usage within their herds and flocks.
“And, of course, one of the most effective ways of achieving this aim is to maximise animal health levels and prevent disease from getting a grip in the first place, and to start at the very beginning – with calves.”
The farmer is totally committed to giving all his calves the best possible start. Leo’s mother Maureen feeds the calves with the aid of an Urban Milkshuttle. They all receive cows’ milk from birth through to weaning.
They spend the first four weeks in calf hutches outside and are then transferred into pens inside, where they are weaned in groups of five or six.
Leo explained: “Getting sufficient colostrum into the calves is not a problem, as we can milk all the cows in the calving boxes.
“But we have had some problems with scour in the past, particularly at those times of the year when there would be large numbers of calves on the farm.”
Until recently, Leo would have used some form of antibiotic to treat scouring calves.
“But I was always on the lookout for a non-antibiotic treatment,” he said.
“I came across the AHV Solutions, primarily the AHV Extra Tablet, at the Kerry Friesian Breeders tour in Waterford in 2019 and came across AHV again after a visit to the National Dairy Show at Millstreet in October 2019.
“After getting in touch with the team they advised me on their innovative solution, Calf Start, and to begin using it as a way of preventing scour problems arising.
“The AHV Calf Start solution is administered by mixing the powder into the milk at both morning and evening feeds for two weeks straight from birth.
Scour problems have been greatly reduced
“Since our peak of the calving season back in spring, I am happy to report that our scour problems have been greatly reduced. The calves are healthy and lively in their pens and thrive to achieve good growth rates.
From my experience, the AHV Calf Start is equally effective on a broad range of scours including bacterial and crypto infections as both are preventative and a curative, but you need to adjust the intake rates.
AHV’s Adam Robinson called in at the O’Connor farm. He explained: “The AHV Calf Start solution works with the same principle as the AHV Extra Tablet by using the science of Quorum Sensing.
“The active ingredients deactivate the pathogens within the calf’s digestive system before they become aggressive and cause damage to the intestines. This in turn allows the population of the young animal’s microbial population to recover in a totally natural way.
“The powder has been specifically formulated to mix easily into cows’ milk and calf milk replacer. Make sure the milk is around 38º, or like the temperature it would be when it comes from the cow.
We are getting a tremendously positive response from farmers throughout Ireland, both north and south of the border, regarding the efficacy of the product.
“As every farm has its own set of calf health challenges, we feel it is important that each farmer receives the correct advice for each situation. That is the reason we have created a team of qualified consultants to assist each farmer.”
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