Keeping calves alive

Keeping calves alive

We need to provide the best possible environment for calving that we can to ensure that calves survive.    Calf Survival

Many factors need to be considered, but they are well worthwhile and can make a significant difference even in intensive farm systems.

The proportion of calves that stay alive until slaughter or inclusion in the herd is a major driver of profit. Read more on the Looking After the Hind page to find out how much it is worth.

Targets for calf survival

Weaning rate   –  Mixed Age Hinds –       95% calves weaned to hinds mated

First Calvers   –       90% calves weaned to hinds mated

Setting up the calving environment

Surveys of calving losses show that most of those losses are management related

The calving environment is the most important factor that we can manage and so we should consider the following points to ensure maximum calf survival

  • Set up calving herds either at mating or at the end of winter to allow for settling down time before calving.
  • Allow enough space for hinds to get away from the herd in the day before and during calving.
  • Large paddocks are better than small paddocks, even at the same stocking rate.
  • Stocking rates in small paddocks should be reduced.
  • Cover at calving is more important than feed quality.
  • Low cover is best (long grass, tussocks and reeds/rushes).
  • Cover in the middle of the paddock is better than cover around the sides.
  • If taking silage or topping early, consider leaving strips in the centre of the paddock un-mown.
  • Mixing other stock classes such as cattle can have some negative impacts on calf survival in some situations.
  • Visual barriers are useful (hills, tree lanes) to help calving hinds find space away from the herd.
  • Set-stocking the hinds in their calving paddocks for more than 10 days before the first calf is due can help settle the herd.
  • Keep human interference to a minimum around calving.
  • Keep calving hinds away from lanes and roads.
  • Separating hinds into early and late groups can help get a rotation going early, though extra space may be needed.
  • Sometimes calf-proof netting may be needed to stop calves from becoming separated from hinds.



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