Should I offer meal to my spring-born calves?

As we move through 2020, most spring-calving suckler herds will be looking to sell this year’s calf crop at sales over the coming months.

However, before this can happen, farmers must wean calves from their dams and it is important that these calves are healthy and looking well on sale day.

Currently, grass is still plentiful on most farms and now is the time to build covers for the autumn period.

Saying that, grass quality will deteriorate over the coming weeks – coupled with a lower milk yield from the cow – so the introduction of meal works well to compensate for this.

Creep grazing calves – if not already done so – in front of the cows from now until weaning will give the calves access to the best-quality grass; calves can be allowed to graze ahead by simply lifting the strip wire.

Benefits of creep grazing:
  • Calves get priority access to the best-quality grass;
  • Saves on concentrate requirement;
  • Reduces the cow/calf bond;
  • No need for creep feeder as cows won’t have access to feed;
  • Reduces stress during weaning process.

Supplementation can start six weeks prior to weaning and splitting heifer and bull calves is advised if possible.

Earlier spring-born heifers can be fed 1-2kg daily, while bulls can be fed a slightly higher rate – giving all calves enough room to feed if access to a creep feeder is not possible.

The ration should also be introduced slowly and each calf should have access to water at all times.

While this additional feeding and weight gain is welcomed, it is important not to have fat weanlings entering into the ring on sale day, so over feeding should be avoided.