News & Advice

Are your calves on track to become well grown heifers?

Mar 8, 2023 | Dairy, Grazing youngstock, Young Stock

After an unprecedented summer of rain, flooding and variable amounts of available pasture, your youngstock may be tracking a little differently than they usually would. Feed intake, parasites, disease and trace elements all affect growth rates that will determine that all-important time when your animals will hit puberty, ready to get in calf. The situation on your farm may be very different from where your calves will be grazing over winter, so good communication is key to good planning. Whether your calves have already gone away grazing or are still at home, ensure that you (or your staff or grazier) have a youngstock plan that measures growth rates and keeps on top of these five critical animal health tasks.



Calves will still need regular drenching though the frequency may differ between properties. Warm weather with lots of moisture can lead to high worm burdens on pasture. Consider taking pre-drench faecal samples to determine the best drenching interval for your stock and remember to do some post-drench checks to monitor resistance of the worms on your farm. Chat to your vet if you need any advice about the parasite management in your animals.



Facial eczema spore numbers have been slow off the mark this year, but spore counts are now rising and we are likely to continue to see levels increasing. Zinc boluses are the best way to provide protection to your calves; other methods of zinc delivery are pretty hit and miss and will leave your animals vulnerable to facial eczema damage. Boluses last 4 – 6 weeks, so animals usually need a second dose to get through the whole eczema season. Sign up for Anexa’s weekly spore count emails here to keep up to date on regional trends. Remember you can bring grass samples into any Anexa Vet clinic to have spore counts checked on your property.


Trace elements

Many grazing properties are deficient in copper and selenium, and we know from previous work done at Anexa that a large percentage of first calving heifers come home low in these essential elements. Supplementing youngstock adequately during their growth phase, can prevent heifers having to play catch up as they enter the herd and go through the stress of calving and lactating for the first time. Trace elements can be supplemented as injections, through the water, or as boluses. Many of our clients have had great results with long-acting multi-mineral boluses, some of which can provide up to 8 months of supplementation. Talk to your local clinic to order your boluses now.



We try to get calf vaccinations all done before calves go away, but there are always some that don’t get done in time. If your calves haven’t had their lepto booster please make sure they get done while they are away grazing. With much of the North Island affected by flooding, the risk of leptospirosis is higher than usual this year for both people and animals, so don’t leave it to chance.


Feed levels and weighing

This season has been off the charts for many reasons, and the feed situation may be vastly different between your home farm and your grazier’s property. It’s important that calves have enough feed to keep growing and reach their target weights before mating. It’s very difficult for animals to catch up once they fall behind, and that can have serious consequences if they fail to reach puberty in time. Early conversations about feed availability and feed budgeting will set everyone up for success.


If you would like to create a youngstock plan either for yourself or your grazier please contact your local clinic. They are a useful way to ensure that no management steps get missed, and maximise the potential of your youngstock.



Other Anexa resources you may find helpful:

Young Stock

Podcast: Dairy calves and heifers – why reaching target weight is so important to their future production


Youngstock target weights and impact on reproductive performance



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