Video: How to examine the calf prior to purchase for dairy-beef systems

The next instalment of the ‘Calf Health and Management Series’ will cover what physical calf traits farmers purchasing dairy calves for beef production need to look out for.

Over the coming days and weeks, more and more dairy calves will be sourced for beef production, but the quality and health of that calf has a major impact on the profitability of the dairy-beef system going forward.

Purchasing poor-quality calves leads to lessor feed efficiencies, weight gains and thrive and potentially higher mortality rates. In addition to this, careful consideration should also be given to calf weight, as low weights are associated with also associated with higher mortality rates within the first four weeks of life.

In the video (below), Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme advisor, Seán Cummins, brings us through the physical traits that farmers need to look out for when buying calves. He also touches on the factors that need to be considered in terms of herd health and genetics.

In terms of the physical traits when picking out calves, only animals that have no visible signs of disease, diarrhoea, discharge – from either the mouth, eyes or nose – deformity, disability, injury or blindness should be selected.

Healthy calves will be alert with a clean, damp nose and bright eyes. The hooves of the calves should be firm and worn flat – not bulbous or round with soft, unworn tissue. Moreover, lame calves should be avoided and must be able to bear weight on all four legs, as pointed out by Seán in the video (above).

Finally, the navel cord should be dry, withered and shrivelled – not pink/red, raw or fleshy.

Part 1: Video series: The complete guide to buying and rearing dairy-beef calves
Part 2: Video: What can I pay for dairy-beef calves?
Part 3: Video: What questions should I ask dairy farmers when sourcing dairy-beef calves?
Part 4: The importance of choosing dairy calves with the right genetics for beef production