JANUARY 2020 www.irishfarmersmonthly.com Business News Election Fever Calves: The best start pays back in the end Cathal Bohane InTouch Nutrition Expansion over the last number of years has brought calf rearing sharply into focus. Unfortunately, some farms had to learn the hard way, as numbers increased, and the use of new technologies has made the calving season more compact. Overstretched systems, housing and labour during this period have led to ‘outbreaks,’ even though we had the best intentions to provide the best start in life to these young animals. The traditional methods of giving them beistings at a gallon a day and, after that, closing the door and keeping calf houses warm and airtight have needed to change somewhat if calves are to survive in their new systems. To measure if your current calf program is working correctly, then you need to ask yourself the following questions for your farm: Target <3% <3% <10% 15% of Body Weight Double Body Weight + 10% Concentrate Intake 1.5 kg By-elections, health, Brexit, housing and crèches are all key topics likely to influence voters in the General Election, soon to be held. In an interview with Pat Kenny last month on TV3, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he thought the current Government had achieved a lot, but more could be done if he had a strong majority government, rather than the current Confidence and Supply agreement with Fianna Fáil. When pressed by Kenny about the British Prime Minister, Varadkar said Boris Johnston was bright, but a bit eccentric, which sounds close to damning with faint praise. The Taoiseach believes his nomination of Big Phil will be very good for Ireland, referencing his strong record as Agricultural Commissioner and his understanding of Irish needs. Clearly, the outcome of Brexit will be crucial for the Irish economy and whoever is in government will be hoping for an advantageous EU/UK trade deal, delivered in double quick time. The Taoiseach and his Minister for Finance have been extraordinarily visible in recent weeks while Health Minister Harris has been all but invisible. That’s no coincidence. Health is rarely a good news story. Expect Simon Coveney to have a big role in getting the FG message across to dubious voters. Strategies are already being played out before a date is set. This election is endgame for Michael Martin. Either he leads the next government or he disappears. Leo Varadkar might not survive either if Fine Gael comes in behind Fianna Fáil. It’s all to play for: all we need is a date. What % of calves die in the calving pen? What % of calves die in the first 30 days? What % of animals were treated with antibiotics? How many litres of milk are fed per calf per day? What is your decision to wean a calf based on? The basic requirement is to have the best dry cow program, as explained in earlier articles. By following the principles, you will have a healthy cow and a good calving event. A healthy cow will mean one with good immunity that can be passed on via the colostrum. This needs to be passed onto the calf quickly (<2 hours) in sufficient quantities (3–4 litres) in order to be successful. Feed efficiency is at its highest in the first few months of life, and so, in order to wean at 8–10 weeks, a 40 kg calf will need to gain 0.6–0.7 kg per day. This will require at least 6 litres in a split feed in a warm environment. Dust-free concentrate containing grain will develop the rumen. The use of 8% chopped straw in conjunction with this will not alone strengthen the rumen but will allow this concentrate to be fed safely. Avoid the feeding of hay, which, due to overconsumption, can cause ‘pot bellies’ in calves that are not capable of digesting large amounts of forage due to an inactive rumen. It is also vital to have a clean source of water available at all times. The use of products such as Actigen® and Bio-Mos® in your calf concentrate will support immune function and aid the health and development of their gut, giving them the best possible start. Ask your feed supplier if these technologies are included in your calf concentrates. 9