One of the very first posts I did was Weaning at five weeks: the Great Calf Rearing Experiment – a case study about fortified calf feeding with Karina Glass, a dairy farmer from Invergordon in Northern Victoria. It’s been one of the blog’s most popular articles, attracting close to 500 views this year.
At the end of it, I promised to track the progress of calves through pictures and video recordings with Karina’s help…
…but this never happened.
Since then, I’ve felt many a pang of shame and guilt whenever a farmer says, ‘so… what happened to those calves then?’ I’m sorry readers, but a lot of real life stuff happened. I got busy, I moved offices, the traffic was bad, my dog ate my homework, etc etc. (I apologise.)
The project stayed at the back of my mind. Now finally, with a clear conscience, here’s a short video comprising the footage that Karina took, which tracks the progress of her calves over time.
- The calf bedding used is rice hulls, which Karina says were much more economical to buy in square bales at $77/400kg, rather than the 120kg wool bale bags she’d used previously.
- She reared about 110 calves (both male and female) in total, with some additional extras bought in at various times by her husband Brendan.
- These newcomers were also put onto the fortified milk program. She kept a close eye on them for the first couple of days in case of nutritional scours (but the calves were fine).
- Karina wanted to emphasize how crucial monitoring and observation is in calf rearing. In particular, she keeps track of the calves’ pellet consumption and uses this to know when to drop back on milk.
- Once in the paddock, she does regular visual checks to make sure that her calves are doing well.
Karina did a fantastic job at spontaneous commentary, and took plenty of excellent video footage. She has remarkably steady hands, taking great panning shots despite carrying a baby during much of this. Her summary of the season:
‘It was hard work on me when Brendan bought those extra calves. Jack was only three months old. But I think I had a really good calving and a good rearing season. I had very little sickness and I think they’re all looking really great.’
Now that you can see the footage yourself, what do you think? Or did you have questions for Karina? Email me if you’d like, and I’ll pass them on at firstname.lastname@example.org, or please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
For more information about rearing and housing healthy calves, see here.
Or, for some excellent post-weaning rearing and nutrition advice, check out the Heifers on Target fact sheets and calculators here.