A comparison of rearing systems for dairy beef calves


  • P.D. Muir
  • G. Nieuwenhuis
  • N.B. Smith
  • A.W.A. Ormond




A demonstration of the performance and cost of artificial calf rearing systems was undertaken using 4-day-old Friesian bulls. Three commercial calf rearing systems (recommended by calf feed manufacturers) were compared with a cheaper variation which involved substituting a proportion of meal with pasture. The same calf milk replacer and meal was used in all four systems, so that this was a comparison of rearing systems, not of products. System 1 was a conventional twice-aday milk feeding regime for 6 weeks, with access to pasture from 4 weeks of age and restricted meal fed to 12 weeks. System 2 involved twicea- day milk feeding for 10 days, followed by once-a-day milk feeding for a further 50 days together with restricted meal and access to pasture from 4 weeks. System 3 involved once-a-day milk feeding for 5 weeks and ad libitum meal feeding before being allowed access to pasture at 10 weeks of age. System 4 was similar to System 3 but instead of ad libitum meal, calves were allowed access to pasture from 4 weeks and fed restricted meal. Feed input costs ranged from $83 per calf in System 4 to $127 per calf in Systems 2 and 3. At 12 weeks, average calf liveweights ranged from 98 kg for calves reared using System 1 to 110 kg for calves reared using System 3. There were significant differences in 12-week liveweight (P<0.05) between calves reared using System 1 and those reared using Systems 2 and 3. The liveweight penalty at 12 weeks was still apparent at slaughter at 26 months, but at an average liveweight of 593 kg these differences were no longer significant. This study demonstrated that calves can be successfully and cost-effectively reared using a low cost once-a-day milk feeding system for 5 weeks and by substituting grass for meal as part of their diet. Keywords: dairy beef, calves, calf rearing







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