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Spring calf crop continues

by Rod Kebble

Twenty calves have been born so far this spring, 9 heifers and eleven bulls, with another 12 due to arrive imminently.

Three pregnant heifers at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm, March 2012.

Three of the 12 heifers due to give birth soon, March 2012.

A calf needs to receive colostrum through its mother’s milk within 6 hours of birth, to ensure it starts life with a full complement of antibodies (calves do not obtain immunity through the placenta but must ingest proteins through the stomach wall, which remains porous for the first 24 hours of life).

If a Pierrepont cow is not seen to have fed its newborn calf within an hour of the birth, it is milked and the milk given to the calf. Calves spend three to four days with their mothers, who feed them at least twice a day.

After that, the calves are kept in individual pens and are fed a balanced powdered milk diet. There are two advantages to this:

  1. the milk powder ensures that the diet contains all the nutrients required, which is not always possible when the calf drinks its mother’s milk, as this may vary in content with the seasons;
  2. a farmer cannot be sure that a calf left with its mother is receiving enough milk but this way its consumption can be monitored.
Calves at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm drinking milk.

Calves in their individual pens in October 2011. The two on the left are drinking the balanced milk diet — there is a lifelike rubber teat on the back of each bucket.

At around ten days of age, the bull calves are bought by Jane and Paul Denley at Woodlands Jersey Beef, who grow them on for their meat.

The heifer calves stay in their pens for 10 weeks, being weaned at 6-8 weeks. After that, the calves live together in the same dairy yard, which is carpeted with straw and roofed, though otherwise open to the elements, before eventually moving outside to the fields.

Young heifers tuck in at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm in December 2011.

A group of young heifers tucking in to their feed, December 2011.