Calf-rearing practices were surveyed on 297 dairy farms with an average of 82 heifer and 24 bull calves reared. Only 21% of the properties fed colostrum immediately on arrival at the dairy shed, and 30% did not feed their calves for at least 8 hours after pickup. Rearing systems were highly variable although most fed twice a day on high milk volumes. Many (40%) did not know how much milk they fed to their calves and for those who did, the average was 316 litres per calf. Calves were weaned off milk at an average of 9.7 weeks. Calf-rearing practices were surveyed on 100 bull-calf-rearing properties rearing on average 259 calves annually. Larger rearers (>600 calves) tended to feed whole milk whereas smaller rearers tended to feed calf-milk replacers. Most rearers fed milk once a day and fed an average of 155 litres/calf over rearing. Calves were weaned at an average of 6.5 weeks. Bullcalf rearers feed to a weight target and a budget which resulted in a greater focus on performance and feed costs. Dairy farmers could significantly reduce both costs and time inputs by monitoring performance, feeding milk once a day and weaning earlier.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 78, Lincoln, 173-176, 2018
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