Maintaining well-grown calves through summer

weighing calves

It is likely now that your well-grown heifer calves have left the home farm for grazing. Whether this is with a grazier or your property, there is a huge opportunity to ensure they remain set up for reaching their long-term goal of joining the herd at their mature liveweight, ready to produce well and get back in calf early.

The first challenge after leaving the home farm is surviving and continuing to grow well through summer.

There are two main reasons that calves don’t grow adequately on pasture, particularly in summer. Either they are not receiving enough pasture or the pasture available is not suitable quality for growth.

The most obvious example of not receiving enough pasture occurs in years of drought but on a day-to-day basis, it involves regularly offering fresh breaks and not expecting calves to graze to low residuals.

Offering quality pasture is particularly challenging over summer when both the protein (CP) and energy (ME) content of pasture declines. This means that to receive enough protein and energy to grow, calves grazing dry stalky summer pasture would need to eat more than is physically possible.  

So, knowing these challenges are likely heading into summer, what can we do to minimise the impacts?

  • Ensure calves are well set up before summer by feeding meal until calves reach at least 120kg and keeping lighter calves in a smaller group on the home farm and on meal until they have reached their target weights.
  • Regularly weigh calves every 4 to 6 weeks to ensure they are meeting their target liveweights and identify drops in weight gains early allowing early action.
  • Expect that summer pasture will not be enough alone to meet calves’ requirements to grow and plan to feed additional higher protein and energy feed supplements as pasture quantity and quality decline. In addition to feed supplements, consider products such as Ruminate Forage Balancer Weaner, designed to provide the minerals, trace elements and vitamins lacking in pasture alone.
  • Prevent health challenges with strategies against parasites, facial eczema and trace element deficiencies.

For more information on planning summer for your young stock, contact your local Franklin Vets clinic.

Dr Ilyse Jennens, Farm Vet & Branch Manager at Waitakaruru




Franklin Vets

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