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Calf Management

You can trust us to look after your calves' nutritional needs by offering the highest quality feeds and supplements and our very best advice, whenever you need it.  Please explore our calf area to discover more

Products and Latest Advice 

For more information, please see our partners Volac.  

Calf Solutions

Choosing a System  -The Target Market

  • Are we in this for the long run? Is this a short term ‘fix’ to utilise current market opportunity? How many animals will require care at any one time?
  • Staff / Skills Available
  • Who will do it? How experienced are they? How would they adapt to change? What level of stockmanship is available? Who will do the job when key personnel are absent? What level of mechanical knowledge is available? Can we train others to do this work?
  • Services
  • Water
  • Mains/borehole/spring Normal pressure (constant)? Clarity (clean)? Would an update prove a big expense?
  • Power
  • Is supply consistent/reliable and available at all times of the year? Do we have a back-up supply? How modern is the wiring on the farm?
  • Bedding - Supply and Removal
  • Availability and storage for clean bedding? Options for disposal of soiled bedding? Will ‘calf staff’ be expected to do this? To what degree are these tasks mechanised (tractors, loaders, handling equipment)?

Rearing Regime 

  • Bucket Feeding (once or twice a day) - Ideal for rearers with a small number of calves to rear at any one time. Allows good control of volumes fed and excellent supervision of individual calves but very labour intensive and early calf growth is limited. 

  • Cold Ad-Lib Feeding - Ideal for rearing small groups of calves. Low cost to set up, with lower labour requirement and greater flexibility than bucket feeding. Calves grow well but increased milk intake results in higher rearing costs and wetter bedding. Stockmanship skills need to be better as opportunity for individual calf supervision may be reduced. 

  • Warm Ad-Lib Feeding - Suitable for larger farms. Lower labour requirement and greater flexibility than with bucket or cold ad-lib feeding, but increased set up costs (feeder hire or purchase). Calves grow well but increased milk intake results in higher rearing costs and wetter bedding. This system requires the highest level of observation and stockmanship as the opportunity to see individual calves feeding is reduced. 

  • Computer Controlled Feeding - Ideal for the larger farm (over 100 cows) where labour is limited. Allows controlled quantities of milk replacer to be fed and automatically alerts the farmer to any calf which is not drinking and which may require individual attention. With an automatic weaning programme, this system enables calves to achieve higher growth rates at reasonable cost and enables a smooth transition onto solid feed with no weaning setbacks.


Five Point Plan for Feeding A Milk Replacer

  •  Quality not just quantity is vital at this early stage - You need to choose a milk replacer with a consistent formulation of quality ingredients. Then find a product to match your system. For example, offer high performance heifers more of a higher protein lower oil formulation. Beef cross calves can be fed a lower level of a more economic replacer.

  •  Frequency & Volume - Twice daily feeding provides twice as much opportunity to observe calf behaviour and identify any signs of disease at the earliest possible stage. Computerised feeders offer the benefits of labour saving whilst allowing you to manage your calves more effectively. Individual calf recognition and feeding on a “little and often” basis promotes good calf performance coupled with early warning systems to highlight any potential health problems. The volume fed will differ according to your objectives and the feeding system you choose.

  •  Temperature & Consistency - Whole milk often lacks temperature and nutrient consistency leading to health and performance issues. Most stock people know that feeding milk replacer at body temperature, around 380C, is very important. The reasons for this relate to effective closure of the oesophageal groove which directs liquid feed straight into the abomasum. It may also encourage intakes to ensure optimal growth.

  •  Convenience & Labour - Milk replacer can be convenietly stored as a dry, relatively stable product rather than a perishable liquid. The hassle of storing and handling whole milk has to be set against the costs of setting up a mixing and warming facility. 

  •  Disease Risk - Disease risk can be reduced greatly by proper pasteurisation of whole milk prior to feeding or by using certain quality milk replacers. Feeding raw milk to calves can spread Johne’s disease in a herd. It’s not always possible to feed milk from test-negative cows and if the herd’s Johne’s status is unknown or milk cannot be separated, pasteurisation should be considered.


Housing Requirements

  • Individual Calves  - Allow 1.1m2 of space for calves up to 4 weeks of age. Allow 1.8m2 for calves up to 8 weeks of age. No calf should be confined in an individual pen after 8 weeks of age. (unless directed by a veterinary surgeon). All pens should have perforated walls (except sick calves in isolation) allowing calves to have direct visual and tactile contact with other animals. 

  • Grouped Calves - Allow 1.1m2 for calves up to 8 weeks of age. Allow 1.5m2 for calves up to 12 weeks of age. 

  • Passage Width - Two rows of pens - one on each side of a central passage (1.2m). Single row of pens on one side of the passage (1m). 

  • Trough Frontage - Feeding space for individually fed calves - 350mm per calf. 

  • Natural Ventilation - A calf house should have a minimum cubic air capacity of 7m2 per calf. Inlet areas should be a minimum of 0.045m per calf and outlets a minimum of 0.004m per calf. The outlet must be situated 1.5 - 2.5m above the inlet. With both natural and fan ventilation, always ensure a minimum ventilation rate of 6 air changes per hour.

  • Temperature - Not critical, providing it is similar to outside conditions and calves are sheltered from draughts and bad weather. 

  • Insulation - Not required in monopitch or pitched roof designs. 

  • Heating - Localised electric heating may be required for sick calves. A quartz linear lamp is suitable for group reared calves. It heats the calf rather than the air and sick calves move naturally into heated zone. 

  • Floors/Bedding - Beneath straw bedding provide concrete floors with a slope of at least 1 in 20. Passages should be domed and the floor slope in feed storage areas should be 1 in 40. 

  • Water - Individually penned - minimum of one water bucket for each pen. Group penned - minimum of one water bowl for every 10 - 12 calves. 

  • Lighting - Natural - provide 10% of the roof as translucent sheeting. Artificial - provide 100 - 200 lux at calf level to aid inspection of calves.


Solving Common Ailments 

  • Respiratory Disease

  • Review ventilation and drainage

  • Consider vaccination programme

  • Liaise with vet

  • Bloat

  • Check for correct mixing concentrations

  • Check for correct mixing temperature

  • Check for consistent feeding times

  • Check bucket height – 16 inches from the ground where calves stand

  • Infection

  • Rehydrate calves immediately (electrolyte)

  • Call the vet

  • Milk Scour

  • Check mixing concentration

  • Check temperature

  • May occur 24-48 hours on new diet

  • Cake Scour

  • Check milk feeding procedure

  • Check if weaning too abruptly

  • Check calf starter pellet

  • Check forage

Feeding Equipment

Volac Computerised Calf Feeders

Designed to automatically mix whole milk or milk replacer and to control the feeding of each individually identified calf, via small portions of milk, throughout the day. The daily milk intake of each calf is preset and the weaning period is fully controlled. The preparation and temperature of the milk is constant and allows automatic cleaning of the machine right up to the teat. The whole concept is designed to reduce man hours and deliver a fully controllable rearing system with up to 30 calves per feed station. 

Volac Automatic Feeder

Automatically mixes and supplies warm milk replacer for up to 50 calves. Available to hire or buy the feeder dramatically reduces man hours required for mixing milk and feeding calves, although a high degree of management skill is still required. 

Volac Milk Mixer

90 and 200 litre capacity milk mixers available to hire.

Five Freedoms

Each calf has the right to all five freedoms in accordance with the Farm Animal Welfare Council. 

  • Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition

  • Freedom from discomfort

  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease

  • Freedom to express normal behavior

  • Freedom from fear and distress


Store Locator For website enquiries and online orders phone 01769 576419 (8.30am - 5.30pm 5 days a week)

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