Care for all animals

Trevor Beasley’s meticulous record keeping is a key factor behind his herd’s fertility.

Simple measures achieve good reproductive performance

Due to a decline in dairy cow fertility in Australia, there has been increasing difficulty for seasonal calving dairy herd owners to maintain a seasonal calving pattern. Calving induction has sometimes been used in order to maintain this pattern, and avoid culling cows that are not in calf.

Port Fairy farmers Trevor and Carolyn Beasley run a 260 cow operation and have never undertaken early calving induction. By only keeping fertile cows in their herd they have reduced the need for induction and they are able to maintain the performance of their herd through five simple measures:

  • Keeping meticulous records

  • Knowledge of each cow’s history

  • Maintaining efficient heat detection

  • Keeping the herd well fed during all stages of lactation

  • Treatment of pre-joining and non-cycling cows

In addition, Trevor and Carolyn suspect that keeping less fertile cows results in less fertile replacements. Because they don’t rely on staff to manage the herd, they need to know the history of all cows – this is where their meticulous record keeping comes in handy.

Caring for all calves – Continuous consistent care

Camperdown dairy farmer Chris Place milks 400 cows with his wife and brother and says correctly caring for his calves is not a difficult task. He believes a warm, dry shed is central to rearing healthy calves and ensuring they are fit for transport.

“We treat our bobby calves the same as our heifer calves, no different – it is not hard to do it and that way we don’t have to worry about looking after sick calves.,”

Around 400 cows are raised each year on the Jelbart dairy farm near Leongatha in Gippsland. The farm has developed its own manual for calf rearing called “Continuous consistent care”. Protocols cover all aspects of calf care including feeding, weaning, preparing for transport and caring for sick calves.

Nutrition is everything, according to Max Jelbart, and making sure the calves are well fed is a focus in the calf shed. “From birth to weaning is the most efficient time for an animal to gain weight and sets them up for life.”

Calves are removed from their mothers usually within 12 hours of birth, to minimise Johnes risk and ensure calves that do not drink from their mothers are fed at least two litres of colostrum at the first feed – with more at subsequent feeds.

“It’s important to feed calves good quality colostrum, so we use a Brix meter to test it,” says Max.

Calves are then fed milk twice a day until around day 14 and once a day after that, with weaning occurring at 10-12 weeks in a process taking about 10 days. All calves have access to hay grain and water at all times. Calves are closely observed during feeding to monitor their health and wellbeing.

“If a calf is aggressively feeding, it will do well. If a calf is not drinking, or just fiddling with its milk, it’s a sign of trouble.”

At the Jelbart farm, calves have dry bedding in a well-ventilated, draught free area. A new vaccine is also available for E.coli and rotavirus which was used for the first time last autumn at the Jelbart farm.

“We think it’s made a difference,” says Max.

Detailed records of all health treatments are kept. Different coloured necklaces identify which calves need special attention or are on treatment of any sort.

“Observation and individual treatment is the key to success” states the Jelbart farm manual.

What else? “Plenty of TLC,” says Max.