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Calf Rearing with Michael and Fiona Ryan

Michael and Fiona Ryan have been running a successful dairy farming enterprise together in Fethard, Co Tipperary for over 22 years.

Managing a registered 80 cow pedigree British Friesian herd, a key element to their successful dairy farm is paying their calves careful attention from birth.

“All calves are kept on the farm,” says Michael. “We keep all female calves and a lot of the males will go for breeding bulls. The later calves are sold as surplus at the back end of the year.”

Calving commence in January this year, with over 50% of the herd calved down presently. The pair is very pleased with how the season is going so far as they currently have a 50:50 split between heifer and bull calves.

Starting Off

“The calves start off with 6 litres of colostrum in the first 24 hours of life,” Fiona explains.

“After 6 days we bring the calves down to the calf shed and here they are trained on the automatic feeder. They start off at 5.5L of milk replacer per day and it builds up to 7L per day for 12 weeks.”

Michael and Fiona kick start the development of a calf’s rumen using GAIN StartACalf from four days old. When the calves are moved down to the fit-for-purpose calf shed they are transitioned on to GAIN Calf Crunch.

Investing in Calves

Last year, Michael and Fiona built a shed for the purpose of calf rearing, with a capacity to rear up to 90 calves.

“We are delighted with it,” says Michael. “The ventilation on the side is kept out from the wall. The prevailing wind flows up through this and out of the shed. We have also put mesh along the sides and at the top to keep out the birds.”

“When we put in our automatic feeders, you can see the difference in our weanlings this year,” adds Fiona. “They are a lot bigger, stronger and ready for serving.”

Facing Challenges

2018 will live in the memory of a lot of farmers, including Michael and Fiona who were hit with the both the Spring and Summer weather. However, business manager, David Hally was on hand to offer advice to the Tipperary duo.

“I deal closely with Michael and Fiona with regards to the nutrition of the calves and calf rearing,” says David.

“The GAIN Easi-Mix Calf Milk Replacer is used on the farm. Following on from that, the GAIN StartACalf is used and then they are moved onto the GAIN coarse 18%.”

“The Easi-Mix Milk Replacer is used once calves have been weaned from the cow,” explains David. “StartACalf is introduced from three days of age and will stay until they are consuming 250g per day. After which, they will move on to the GAIN Calf Crunch.”

"David is always at the other end of the phone and he will always come into the house once a month and sit down for a chat which is great benefit to us,” says Fiona.

First Published 26 February 2019

Tagged with: Agribusiness Co-op Dairy

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