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Importance of Youngstock

Youngstock are the future of any herd and the way these animals are managed in early life has far-reaching consequences for the profitability of any ruminant livestock enterprise.

A recent study in mortality on-farm in GB showed that between 2011 and 2018, 54% of mortality occurred in cattle under 24 months of age and 25% occurred in cattle under 3 months of age1. Another UK based study has shown that the main causes of mortality in calves under 2 months of age is scour and respiratory disease2. This data shows that increasing focus on scour and respiratory disease prevention should help to improve disease impact and the losses which are currently occurring on farms.

Group of weaned dairy calves in a shed
Beef calf suckling from its dam

Youngstock rearing is the second highest fixed cost on most units after feed. Husbandry in early life affects not only the health of calves, but also the way youngstock perform up to three years later.

Quite apart from the economic impact, disease problems in calves also increase labour input and adversely affect staff morale. Calf rearing involves a complex combination of processes where no two units are the same; even within a single unit some calves face different management challenges to others.

Assessing calf health and management across five core areas helps establish the current situation on farm and illustrates areas to improve efficiency of production and minimise costs:


  1. Set goals and measure
  2. Good colostrum
  3. Good nutrition
  4. Low infection pressure
  5. Healthy environment
Calf Health Checklist image showing the 5 areas of the checklist

By engaging with vets, farmers and key industry stakeholders, Disease? Not On My Farm! aims to reduce these losses.


1. Hyde et al. (2020) Quantitative analysis of calf mortality in Great Britain J. Dairy Sci. 103:2615–2623

2. Johnson et al. (2017) Prospective cohort study to assess rates of contagious disease in pre-weaned UK dairy heifers: management practices, passive transfer of immunity & associated calf health. Veterinary Record Open


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