News & Advice

Do you know what’s happening with your calves?

May 8, 2017 | Dairy, Young Stock

Michael Shallcrass, Anexa FVC Gordonton Veterinarian

When calves are off at grazing it’s easy to think of them as somebody else’s problem. Keep in mind though that once they come back to the farm they are your problem, hopefully for many years to come. Even if you aren’t monitoring your calves closely, there are a few things that you should keep in mind for this season: 


  • Graziers may not be using fertiliser regularly, and even if they are they don’t usually include any additional Selenium or Copper. Trace element deficiencies are all too common in youngstock, because they have to get all their minerals via direct supplementation. Copper and Selenium injections only last in the body for a month or two, so it may be more reliable to consider using boluses or a long acting injection. 
  • The recent wet weather provides good growing conditions for parasites, so this year it’s extra important to make sure animals are being drenched regularly. Calves that are now 9 or 10 months old are probably being drenched less frequently, and with a pour on rather than oral drench. If you’re using oral drench or pour on, please make sure that it has at least two different types of active ingredient in it. 
  • Spring born calves from last year should now be just under 50% of their target mature weight. The national average crossbred cow weighs 467kg, so crossbred calves should be at least 200kg. Friesian calves should be over 220kg. 
  • Animals that are reaching targets usually have everything else under control, but animals failing to meet targets usually have at least a couple of aspects of their management that can be improved. This is why regular weighing of young stock is so important, because it can alert you that there are issues that need correcting. 
  • Individual weights are also a good way of identifying animals that might need a bit of extra help. Make a list of the animals that are falling behind in the group, and ask your grazier to run them as a separate mob. Sometimes reduced grazing pressure is all that is needed for poor doers to catch up. 
  • Giving your grazier a month by month plan is a great way of ensuring everyone understands what is expected and when. Ask your Vet to make you up a personalised calendar for your youngstock so that you can be sure your calves are getting the best start you can give them.
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