Shine calves on Weavian farms
Cath Ratcliffe moved to West Webbery Farm, Bideford, North Devon in 2013 to enable them to expand their 180 cow herd and to keep their own youngstock as it had previously been a flying herd. Two years on they are now calving 360 cows in an autumn block, starting in August with most finished in a 10 week period.
They want a fertile, long lasting, grazing cow to utilize spring and autumn grazing, with the herd drying off in June and July when the farm can dry up. Target yield is 8,000L and 650kg milk solids. To achieve this they are breeding 3-way cross of Friesian, Holstein and Swedish Red, picking high PLI bulls with fertility index being a key priority.
Their youngstock need a good start to be ready to calve in at 23-24 months to front load the strict calving pattern, with a target weight of 340-360kgs at breeding. After looking at some calves, Cath and Ian decided to try the SHINE SYSTEM, to get calves off to a good start and save labour.
“We found that growth rates on Shine Once-a-day enabled us to double birth weights by 8 week weaning, with no weaning check as they ate more dry food.”
The first calves reared have now calved into the herd, with good stature, hitting the growth targets that Ian and Cath planned. “We were dubious of the system at first but wanted to give it a go with our heifer calves as it suited our block calving system, rearing up to 200 calves (including bulls/beef) on milk at peak times with labour already stretched at this time of year.”
Cath says, “We found that growth rates on SHINE ONCE A DAY enabled us to double birth weights by 8 week weaning, with no weaning check as they ate more dry food. The success of the system relies on good colostrum management, ensuring all calves drink their daily requirement of milk and an environment to optimise calf health – we would also advocate the step system”.
Berry’s Agriculture at Launceston supply the product. Stuart Fry from Bonanza Calf Nutrition says ‘”It’s great to see our product combined with the excellent management and stockmanship of the Ratcliffe’s and their staff making a small contribution to a great business.”