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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.

Nearly 2.5 million calves are born in the UK every year, but many fail to reach adulthood because of disease. On average 8% of calves in Britain are stillborn or die within 24 hours of birth and 15% of dairy heifers born alive fail to make it through the youngstock rearing period1.

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.

References

  1. DairyCo funded study: Reducing wastage in the dairy herd.