Feeding calves upon arrival to the farm

In the second episode of ‘The Calf Show Series’ the topic of feeding the calf this spring, along with maintaining hygiene on the farm during rearing was discussed.

As a number of calves will be finding new homes over the coming weeks – ensuring that they get off to a good start, in terms of feeding, is an important aspect in the rearing stage.

One of the panellists, Irvine Allen – who is a participating farmer in the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef programme – explained his procedure of feeding calves upon arrival and throughout the calf rearing stage.

Calves arriving on farm

To start off with, Irvine spoke about the general treatment of calves during the first day on his farm. He said:

“The calves come onto my farm as close to three-weeks-of-age as possible. In general, I will try to have it that the farmers that I am buying my calves from will have them started on milk replacer before I get them – because it is less of a change.

“Once they arrive, they are fed a mix of milk replacer and electrolytes for the first one or two feedings just to rehydrate them and keep they healthy.

It can depend on the calf, but generally I start them off with 4L at a rate of 125g/L and then move them up to 6L/day.

“If the calf is strong and was already on milk replacer and was already being fed the milk replacer that I am using I could start them on with 6L.”

looking milk replacer

Method of feeding calves

There is a mixture of feeding equipment on Irvine’s farm, as he uses both a teat feeder and an automatic milk feeder. He explained:

“The reason for using both feeders is because I don’t have enough space to rear all of the calves on the automatic feeder.

“The calves that are coming in and being put onto the automatic feeder are weighed first of all. If they don’t have an electronic tag, I will put an electronic tag into their ear.

“The biggest challenge I would have is getting calves onto the automatic milk feeder. It will take a few days to get them sucking and going on it properly.

The calves on the automatic feeder are on the 69 day feeding curve – which I would try to shorten back by four or five days if I can. It’s just to try and get them eating meal that bit quicker.

“The quicker I can get them onto ration and eating 1-2kg of meal, the quicker I can get them weaned and get them out,” Irvine concluded.