Dairy farmers are facing into their busiest spring on record, with close to 1.6m cows and heifers to be calved over the next four months.

With stricter regulations on animal movements, farmers must now hold these unweaned calves for up to 10 days before they can be sold through the marts or directly from the holding.

The challenges faced by farmers this spring will be addressed by the Teagasc-AHI CalfCare webinar, which will be held on Tuesday 18 January at 7.30pm.

The topics and speakers include:

  • Colostrum quality and improved colostrum management – by Teagasc’s Emer Kennedy, a member of the CalfCare technical working group.
  • Calf housing – by Department of Agriculture vet Ciara Hayes, a member of the CalfCare technical working group.
  • New guidelines in dealing with pain management in routine calf husbandry practices such as dishorning – by Joris Somers of Glanbia.
  • New insights into how to prevent bloat in calves – by Volac’s Liam Gannon, a member of the CalfCare technical working group.
  • The farming perspective on calf rearing on a busy dairy unit will be given by Philip Donohoe, Goresbridge, Co Carlow.

    Donohoe calves 160 of his 190-cow herd between 1 February and St Patrick’s Day. He will outline what works on his holding to ensure a successful calving season.

    Streamlined system

    Looking ahead to the webinar, Teagasc’s George Ramsbottom pointed out that putting in place a streamlined and effective calf-rearing system was a fundamental requirement of a successful dairy unit.

    The challenges posed by the 40% growth in cow numbers over the last decade have been compounded by labour shortages and compact calving. This means that the vast bulk of the calves are now born in the period from 20 January to 20 March.

    “Messages like the 1-2-3 of calving are getting through to farmers. They know that you need to get the first feed into the calf with two hours of birth, and that it should be around three litres of colostrum,” Ramsbottom said.

    He said the webinar will focus on the key areas of calf feeding, calf health and calf housing.