Young stock growth is an integral part of any farming system and needs to be optimised from day one to get the best results from your animals. The faster the young stock are growing, the quicker they will reach sexual maturity for dairy grazers, and the quicker they will reach killing weight for beef animals. Both result in better performance for your business and better health in your animals.
The best way to know how well your young stock is growing is to weigh them regularly. Being able to chart animal growth rates will help you identify animals that are falling behind, before it is obvious to visual inspection. This way, you have a chance to fix it before it becomes a major issue.
There are several ways that weights can be recorded, ranging from in a book to using software like MINDA. The advantages of MINDA for dairy grazers, is that it identifies the animals’ genetic potential for mature bodyweight, and how many days old the animal is, so that it’s personal target weight can be calculated at any given time. This is very useful when there is a mixed breed mob, or where there is a wide range in ages. This will allow you to make a more informed decision about the animals in the group. The biggest animal may be below target weight, while the lightest may be above, due to differences in age and breed.
For other farming systems, there are several options for recording weights, with most of the major weigh scale brands coming with built-in software that tracks weights and identifies animals that are falling behind. This is helpful as it allows you to draft the animal right there and then, so you can take a closer look.
If you are not using a system that automatically generates target weights, there are still targets for dairy grazers that should be met to maximise their performance. The targets are based on reaching a certain percentage of mature bodyweight at certain key points.
The average national herd mature weights for each breed are:
- Jersey = 423kg
- Crossbred = 467kg
- Friesian = 500kg
The weight targets set out by DairyNZ for dairy heifers are:
- 30% of mature bodyweight at 6 months of age;
- 60% of mature bodyweight by 15 months (mating);
- 90% of mature bodyweight by 22 months (calving).
Anexa Vets can help you develop a plan for your young stock, with target weights and assistance with weighing of animals and producing reports for both the grazer and the owner of the animals. Getting this key component of your farm right will help significantly in many other areas within your farm.