Practical constraints which had prevented a dairy farmer from rearing milk-fed calves at an off-lying site have been overcome with the introduction of Shine Original milk replacer.
Conor Molony has nearly doubled his herd to 160 cows and, with two thirds of those calving in just five weeks, it is a challenge to house all the calves.
He has housing on off-lying land but carrying milk to that site twice a day wasn’t feasible.
Conor switched to Shine Original after milk quotas were abolished but it also means that he can now move the calves to the outside block while they are still on a milk diet, freeing up housing on the home farm. “I like the versatility it allows’’ he says.
And the product is easy to mix. “One of the best things about Shine is that it is very easy to mix and the calves love it,’’ says Conor.
He runs the spring calving herd of Holstein Friesians and New Zealand Friesian crossbreds on a grass-based system and supplies the milk to Centenary Thurles Co-op.
There is a strict AI breeding regime on the farm which results in very compact calving.
The target heifer replacement rate is approximately 18%. Bull calves and all calves born after the first five weeks are sold at approximately three weeks of age.
All calves are bottle-fed between three and four litres of colostrum as soon as possible after they are born. Thereafter, calves are fed three litres of transition milk both in the morning and evening, for between two and three weeks, and are then introduced to milk replacer.
Each calf is fed 700g of milk powder daily and all calves have constant access to fresh water, straw and ad-lib concentrates, beginning with a calf muesli. A week prior to weaning, calves are gradually introduced
to a 17% crude protein nut.
Calves begin life in pens of two or three. Once they are progressing, they are moved into groups of eight and fed on a ten-teat feeder before moving onto 20-teat feeders.
Calves are very close in age and are grouped according to size and strength. “Only calves that are good drinkers are moved to bigger groups,’’ says Conor.
After weaning, calves are turned out to grass and fed 0.5 kg of nuts throughout the summer. From mid-November, when grass quality declines, they are moved onto a 21% crude protein heifer nut at a
daily rate of 1.5 kg per head.
Shine is also contributing to calves exceeding their target weights. Before housing, at the end of November, calves were weighed and most were ahead of target. The average weights for all 51 calves was
As there is still some grazing available, 26 calves were left at grass while the remaining 25 calves were housed and fed grass silage.