Rearing Healthy Calves makes difference

05 Jun, 2018 04:00 AM
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Karen Low has transform calf-rearing practices by making small improvements to a number of key areas.
I got some new information on colostrum that was really helpful.
Karen Low has transform calf-rearing practices by making small improvements to a number of key areas.

For Karen Low, Rearing Healthy Calves is all about the 'one-percenters' that make the difference between average farm practices and high-quality performance in growing young stock.

The Trafalgar South, Vic, dairyfarmer attended a Healthy Calves course in 2017 and, ever since, has referred to the Rearing Healthy Calves manual whenever a significant decision has to be made.

"If Dairy Australia are going to offer us this information, we need to go in and soak it up," she said. "Even though you might think you know everything, there is always something new to learn."

With her husband Robert, Mrs Low has helped transform calf-rearing practices by making small improvements to a number of key areas.

Colostrum management on their central Gippsland farm is one facet of calf rearing that has improved significantly since she attended the course.

"I got some new information on colostrum that was really helpful," she said.

"It made me aware of the quality of colostrum and how time sensitive it is. It's just understanding different aspects of how a calf's body works.

"Understanding that as soon as the calf is born its ability to absorb colostrum starts to decline -- after 24 hours it stops completely. Things like that are important to understand."

Since doing the Healthy Calves course, the Lows have bought a Brix refractometer to assess colostrum quality and to make sure their calves are getting the best start in life.

"We knew (colostrum dosing) had to be done quickly, but when you are dosing quickly you don't often have a lot of colostrum, so you just use what you have," she said.

"But if we have oodles of colostrum, then I test it and only use the highest quality."

Mrs Low said she referred to the Rearing Healthy Calves manual whenever a significant change was made to their management of calves.

"We always have the book there and we refer to it when taking into account the size of pens and things like that," she said. "All the details are in the book so we can just refer to it whenever we need to.

"I often look through the books and keep notes in there. You have a reference that you can look up and see what the correct thing to do is."

Mrs Low encouraged other farmers to attend a Healthy Calves course, even if they believed they were already good calf rearers.

"I really loved the course because, as I said, you might think you know everything but you learn that you can do it so much better."

Rearing Healthy Calves was first published in 2011 and has proven extremely popular with farmers and calf rearers, with about 12,000 copies of the original publication circulated.

[lastpar]The manual offers farmers ideas on how to enhance the way they manage calves. Farmers, animals and consumers all benefit from stronger, healthier calves.<\#9>D

Hard copies of Rearing Healthy Calves can be ordered for free from www.dairyaustralia.com.au/healthycalves

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