Posted By: Rosie Lyle

Animal Health and Welfare Pathway - Preweaning calf health

At Shepton Vets, our commitment to animal health and welfare goes beyond addressing issues; it extends to enhancing already commendable practices. Last month, our dedicated veterinary team embarked on a comprehensive health and welfare report visit as part of the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway. The specific focus was preweaning calf health, an area we believe is crucial in the grand tapestry of farm animal well-being. It's noteworthy that this visit was not prompted by any particular concerns; rather, it was a proactive step by a farm that was already excelling in calf rearing. Our goal was to fine-tune existing practices and identify areas where incremental improvements could be made.

Last month, I conducted a health and welfare report visit as part of the animal health and welfare pathway. The focus of this visit was preweaning calf health, which was an area that the team expressed an interest in reviewing. This farm was already doing an outstanding job of calf rearing, and the visit was not prompted by any specific problems. However, we did identify a few key areas where we could further refine their practices.

Getting the entire team together was indeed critical because even those who are not directly involved in calf rearing still have essential roles to play in ensuring its success. From dry cow management to colostrum harvesting and feeding, everyone’s responsibilities contribute to the overall success of the calf rearing. Discussing these individual roles during the visit helped everyone gain a better understanding of the specific areas they are responsible for.

During our discussion, we addressed issue dairy farms often face; a shortage of high-quality colostrum. It was highlighted that this farm did not collect and use colostrum from heifers. It is well-known that older cows tend to produce higher quality colostrum, presumably due to a greater period of exposure to farm specific pathogens, but heifers’ colostrum should not be discarded as it may be of very good quality. Harvesting and testing colostrum from heifers therefore became a key recommendation to ensure that all potential colostrum was collected and used or stored. This way, the farm can take full advantage of the available colostrum resources and ensure that calves receive the best possible start in terms of nutrition and immunity.

It now even easier to apply for the AHWP funding for your health and welfare review. All you need is your Rural Payments service customer reference number (CRN) and password to sign in.

-  Vet Rosie

The success of calf rearing is a collective effort, involving every member of the farm team, regardless of their direct involvement. From managing dry cows to colostrum collection and feeding, each role contributes significantly to calf health. Our recent visit highlighted the importance of harnessing all available resources, including colostrum from heifers, which often goes untapped. By harvesting and testing colostrum from heifers, farms can optimise their colostrum reservoirs, ensuring that every calf receives the best possible start in terms of both nutrition and immunity. We applaud this farm's proactive approach and invite others to consider similar health and welfare reviews through the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway for the betterment of their livestock practices.

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