Vet open day will reveal insights to less than 2 percent calf mortality at four months - Veterinary Practice
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Vet open day will reveal insights to less than 2 percent calf mortality at four months

Attention to detail and persistence is critical

Reputable sources estimate average calf deaths from birth to four months at 8 percent (AHDB) or 13 percent (NADIS). On Thursday 6 June, in Somerset, farm vets have the chance to see how a unit rearing more than 6,000 calves a year from multiple sources achieves less than 2 percent mortality over the same period.

Long Lane Farm near Frome is operated by the Buitelaar farm-to-fridge beef business. At an open day designed specifically for cattle vets, Adam Buitelaar says they will be happy for visitors to copy the operation’s not-so-secret secrets. “It’s like cheating in exams and getting away with it,” he says.

“Who wouldn’t want clients to have fewer dead calves, affordably better growth rates, and calves they’re proud to show to friends?”

The unit rears dairy-beef calves, including Longhorn, Angus and continentals. The stand-out achievement of 1.1 percent mortality is despite sourcing calves at 2-3 weeks of age from a wide range of farms. On average, 14 weeks later and 150kg minimum live weight, they move to grower-finisher units.

Manager Dom McKenzie says growth rates average 1.2 kg/day across the whole place, eased back last year from 1.3kg because the marginal extra 100g was costing too much.

Ben Barber from Synergy Farm Health is Buitelaar’s regular vet at the unit. In addition to the technicalities of high-performance calf management, he identifies one more critical aspect that makes the difference between ordinary and extraordinary results.

“It’s the people,” he explains. “Attention to detail and persistence is critical. Whether it’s 8 percent or 13 percent, industry averages conceal much worse performance on some farms; This can only be addressed by clear leadership to establish the kind of excellence culture you find here.”

Of particular relevance to vets is that the open day will cover some of the R&D and farm-scale trials carried out at the unit. For example, the DIY on-farm lateral flow test launched last year for checking individual calf colostrum status was co-invented by the rearing unit, its veterinary practice and science partner.

Open day host Adam Buitelaar is keen to welcome more vet and farmer groups to see through the keyhole at the unit in action. “There are no secrets here, and we want to share proven, evidence-based facts about successful, high-health calf rearing,” he says.

Places at the open day should be booked by emailing Buitelaar Group.

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