‘Once-a-day feeding can save dairy farmers 36% of the time they spend with calves’

Dairy farmers can save 36% of the time required in rearing their calves by switching to once-a-day feeding, according to Teagasc’s Kay O’Connell.

Speaking at a recent calf rearing event in Co. Wexford, the Teagasc Dairy Advisor said that only 27% of Irish farms are currently feeding their calves once a day.

She said that smaller dairy farms tend to spend a lot more time looking after their calves but, as herd size increases, the time spent with each individual calf drops.

The message is that you can save up to 36% of your time by feeding your calves once-a-day without it having a negative impact on their performance.

She said that research carried out in Teagasc Moorepark shows that there is no difference in the performance of calves fed once or twice a day from three weeks old.

“It is all about giving the calf an adequate energy source. This means that the calf should receive 6L of milk each day,” she said.

However, she said that farmers must be aware that EU regulations say that calves must be provided with another feed source such as hay or concentrate if this feeding method is used on farm.

O’Connell also said that calves can be successfully reared outdoors and turning calves out a 32-36 days has no negative impacts on calf performance.

“The field choice is important when rearing calves outdoors. It is important to select a dry and sheltered field.

Early turnout is all about reducing infection. This builds up in sheds when calves are housed for long periods of time.

By turning calves out early, she said, the risk of infection and sick calves is reduced.

“Sick calves create extra work, so it is important to keep them healthy.”

She also said that farmers should be organised and have things ready for calving this spring.

Are you organised for calving this spring?
  • Have all equipment cleaned and ready in advance of calving.
  • Have the necessary supplies in place.
  • Develop a system which allows for births to be accurately recorded and registered.