Calf care critical to South Australian dairy farmers

Thursday 15 September 2011 | From Dairy Australia

Making a big difference to calf health doesn’t have to cost a lot according to South Australian dairy farmers who were part of the latest dairy industry Healthy Calves workshops.

Dairy Australia is rolling out a number of workshops across the nation’s dairying regions. The workshops already held in South Australia, run in conjunction with DairySA, are part of the Healthy Calves Program which has a strong focus on the first week of life when the calf is most vulnerable.

Farmers from the Murray Bridge and Kapunda regions who participated not only honed their skills but picked up plenty of new tips to improve their calf management practices. Farmer feedback included: “Thought it was all relevant and worthy of my dairy dollars”, “you can always learn more” and ”so helpful to refresh the essentials”.

Dairy Australia Healthy Calves project leader Dr Jamie McNeil said the workshops arose from recent farmer surveys of calf rearing practices which found farmers were keen to learn more about best practices and calf management research.

“The workshops are designed to help farmers and calf rearers remain abreast of the latest developments in calf rearing and raise awareness of recent changes in animal welfare standards and regulations,” Dr McNeil said.

“The quality of calf rearing is improving all the time, as farmers understand the value of rearing well grown, healthy herd replacements and the importance of selling strong, fit and residue-free calves.”

The workshops, which are presented by leading dairy vets, also provide an opportunity for farmers to hear from each other about their calf rearing systems and what works for them.

Interest in the Healthy Calves workshops held so far in Gippsland, Tasmania and South Australia has been excellent. Participants said the workshops “reinforced best practices” and provided information and practices which could be “easily implemented and make a big difference to calf health”.

Colostrum management is one of the key topics covered in the one day Healthy Calves workshops and as part of this subject, farmers who attend are learning to use a simple tool called a Brix refractometer.

“A Brix refractometer is a device that is commonly used in viticulture to measure the sugar content of grapes, but dairy farmers are now using it to rapidly assess the quality of colostrum,” Dr McNeil said.

“It has long been known newborn calves need good quality colostrum (the first milk produced by a cow after calving) to give them the best start in life. “

The workshop content is based on the practical experience of leading Australian dairy farmers, animal scientists and vets and as well as new advances in colostrum management, topics covered include pre-calving care, calf housing, nutrition, disease management and preparation for sale.

For more information or for a copy of “Rearing Healthy Calves – How to raise calves that thrive” handbook, contact Dairy Australia Manager Animal Health, Kathryn Davis, at kdavis@dairyaustralia.com.au

The Healthy Calves Program is one of the many examples of the dairy service levy at work. Farmers receive a benefit of $3 for every $1 invested by Dairy Australia on their behalf. For more information on this and other levy investments visit www.dairyaustralia.com.au

Media enquiries:
Felicity Gallagher — External Communications, Dairy Australia
03 9694 3894 I 0417 540 059 I fgallagher@dairyaustralia.com.au