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Dairy farm achieves consistency of calf performance and weaning with Flyingstart

A diet combining dry calf feed and a high-quality milk replacer made with low heat skimmed milk is ensuring calves at a County Antrim dairy farm achieve good growth rates and wean consistently at 56-60 days.

John and Caroline Suffern and their son, Thomas, produce milk from the pedigree Ravenhill Ayrshires at Ardmore Road, Crumlin. Cows are currently yielding an annual average of 8,300 litres at 4.3% butterfat and 3.45% protein from concentrate intakes of 1.7t/cow/year.

Giving dairy replacements the best possible start underpins future herd performance therefore great attention is given to calf rearing. Newborn calves receive four litres of colostrum at birth and are reared in well-bedded individual pens until they are weaned.

“Consistency is essential when it comes to rearing calves, as any change in the calves’ routine can cause them stress and consequently ill health,’’ says Joe Murphy, of Bonanza Calf Nutrition. “A good start in life means everything to calves.’’ For the last five years, the Sufferns have fed Thompsons ‘Shine Flyingstart’ and an ad-lib ration of Thompson’s weaner pellets.

Flyingstart, which is manufactured with low-heat quality skim milk, is digested in the same way as cow’s milk. Over 100,000 heifers are reared on it annually. “It delivers excellent thrive and does a good job – it mixes particularly well and is very palatable,’’ says John.

Observing calves feeding is his monitor for excellent performance and health. Calves are fed twice daily until one week prior to weaning when once-a-day feeding is introduced, to encourage dry feed intakes and aid rumen development. “It is important that calves are consuming at least 1.5kg concentrates/head/day before withdrawing milk,’’ Joe Murphy advises.

“This is to ensure a smooth transition from liquid to solid feed and to prevent calves going backwards in terms of growth post-weaning.’’

At Ravenhill Ayrshires, combining Flyingstart with Thompson’s weaner pellets results in very strong concentrate intakes, facilitating high liveweight gains and the ability to wean consistently at 56 to 60 days. Calves always have access to concentrates and milk feeding times are precise.

Flyingstart has a fixed formulation – every bag contains the same formula. “With Flyingstart John, Caroline and Thomas know they will get consistent perform

ance which is the backbone to a profitable business,’’ says Joe Murphy.

Source: Bonanza Calf Nutrition.


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