From calf to sustainable robot cow
A sustainable robot cow with a high lifetime production; which dairy farmer wouldn’t want that? Unfortunately, on many dairy farms, the average calf mortality rate is 12% during the first six months. This is a high and very costly mortality rate as well as time-consuming and troublesome. There is a better option however; at the best farms the calf mortality rate is between 3 and 4%. When breeding young livestock, many health problems can be avoided through good management.
Check-list and brochure
On the website you can download a check-list for evaluation of your young stock; what is going well and which points can be improved? To further support you, Lely has also developed a brochure for breeding young livestock, including tips to improve overall breeding and to breed more sustainable robot cows. Please find below an overview of the major focal points for breeding young livestock.
Objective and costs of breeding young livestock
Objective of breeding young livestock: a full-grown heifer that calves at the correct weight, produces milk easily, is able to handle plenty of roughage as well as being highly sustainable and self-supporting due to a strong build. Rearing a calf to the stage of milk producing heifer takes an average of two years plus, of course, the necessary amount of money. Dairy farmers calculate an amount of approximately €1,500 (all costs included, except for the buildings) for each heifer that is bred on the farm. Depending upon farm size, this boils down to 4 to 5 euro cents per litre of milk.
Colostrum: plenty, fresh, quick and often
The problem-free birth of a lively calf is a good starting point for the breeding period. Throughout the preceding period, optimal cattle management as well as proper feeding are crucial. A newborn calf deserves optimum attention. The first steps leading towards a high-production, sustainable cow are made during the first days of the calf’s life. Colostrum is a prerequisite, under the motto plenty, fresh, quick and often. In other words: a minimum of 3 to 4 litres of colostrum during the first hours after birth.
After 3 to 10 days, the calves can be accommodated in age groups complete with an automated calf drinking station. This is the start of the calves’ social development. Providing milk through an automated drinking station considerably reduces the risk of feeding errors, since smaller portions are allocated to the calves more frequently. This will also stimulate the calves to take in solid food as well. Therefore, roughage as well as fresh and clean drinking water should always be available to calves of about one week old.
Lely Calm automatic calf feeder
On average, an automatic calf feeder can provide tailor-made portions of milk to 25 to 30 calves (per box) several times a day. A Lely Calm calf feeder yields a labour economy of 60 to 70% and when breeding 60 calves a year, a dairy farmer can earn the investment back in 3 years’ time. The Lely Calm can be perfectly combined with a concentrate feed station; this provides an excellent preparation for milking in the robot, where the animals will also receive concentrates.
After weaning, it is essential to ensure optimum profit from the calves’ growth. In point of fact, calves up to the age of 1 year are allowed to grow as fast as they like to be able to achieve the goal of calving at the age of 24 months. For insemination of young livestock, a certain physical development is desired: weight approx. 370 kg, shoulder height approximately 1.32 m and a chest size of 165 cm.
Accommodation and health
Separated accommodation of calves up to one year and older cattle is essential to healthy breeding of young livestock. Calves can easily contract various diseases through contact with advanced young livestock or grown cows. Transmission of diseases can be reduced by housing young livestock separately, installing a hygiene sluice as well as applying the work sequence “from young to old”.
Optimum breeding of young livestock earns itself back quickly; the heifer will calve sooner, start producing milk sooner and it will visit the robot actively and of its own accord.
Most important issues to improve the health of the calves:
Do you have any questions or would you like to receive further information? Kindly contact your local Lely Center organisation.