Waitakaruru farmers Chris and Karyn Coxhead rear in excess of 1,000 dairy-sourced calves for the contract beef market annually. They have a well deserved reputation as industry leaders and have two decades of calf- rearing experience. Ngahiwi Farms are proud to have supplied Chris and Karyn's calf milk for the last 20 years.
Chris and Karyn believe that with a few simple rules, you can minimise and manage health issues, and what’s more - calf rearing can be profitable.
"Of the approximately 1,000 bull calves we raise we keep around 250 to grow on to sell as 2 year olds" says Chris. "The rest are sold as 100kg weaners on the local market for prices negotiated earlier in the season" he explains.
"We source our 4 day old calves from an established client base - mostly within a 20 km radius, and top up if necessary by buying extra calves that meet our criteria at sales yards.", adds Karyn.
What are we looking for in a calf?
- Sufficient colostrum given after calving
- Good size frame, robust & healthy looking (Friesian\Holstein weights absolute minimum 37kg and over - the bigger the better)
- No obvious abnormalities.
What we do immediately the calves arrive
- Navels are soaked with a gentle iodine tincture, and checked for signs of trauma or infection. Any affected calves are marked and treated. We now use homeopathic remedies also
- Vaccinate all calves for salmonella - veterinary injectable vaccine
- Ear tag calves with differing numbers/colours for specific batches. We have a system of tagging and recording to keep track of places of purchase and ages - traceable throughout the animal's life.
Milk replacer – Ngahiwi Premium CMR
Calves are offered a litre of premixed milk powder using a fortified formula of 200g, for first three feeds - night and morning. This small amount assists in the transition from colostrum to milk replacer. Small groups of 5-6 calves are fed together, and any with difficulty or who drink slowly are marked for future observation.
After their first three feeds they are offered 2L of milk once –a- day at a fortified level. Any slow drinkers or poor 'doers' are sifted out and put into small groups in separate pens. These are observed closely and nursed until able to be returned to the herd.
Calves are fed 2L once-a-day until two-weeks-old, - then 2.5L for the following three weeks. We wean inside-reared calves off milk at five weeks – when the calf is around 60-65 kg. Because we sometimes have had insufficient shedding, some calves are moved outside (with calf covers on) at 3-4 weeks old. These are weaned at six weeks, and in the week before they are on half milk rations.
All calves offered meal from day one on an ad lib basis.
After weaning, week 6-7 restricted to 1.5kg, week 8-9 reduce to 1kg. Continue with two more weeks of meal at 500g-1kg inclusion, dependent on weather conditions and availability of grass.
Milk powder mixing
200g milk powder/litre of water (usual ration is 125g/litre) - we use concentrated mixing system to promote the early uptake of meal, and enhance early- rumen-development. We use Ngahiwi Farms Milk Replacer.
Over the past two years we have introduced homeopathic remedies - specifically for navel ill, pink eye, sepsis, foot rot, mouth abscesses, joint ill etc. We have had a good success rate and lowered costs.
We tend to use antibiotics selectively, and only in extreme cases. One again, this keeps our costs down, and avoids interference with the natural immune system of the calves.
Cattle Marker Sprays
We use cattle marker sprays for "colour-coding' - different colors used for different ailments/reasons e.g. green - slow drinkers, pink - navel ill, etc.
We routinely stomach tube milk/colostrum to non-thriving sick calves. This is easy and very successful.
Other products we use
Sodium bentonite - Trubond® - a clay powder used for its binding properties. This slows down and aids milk digestion. We use it at low rate in all milk. We also use it in larger doses for scouring calves.
Rennet - aids in clotting the milk more quickly - used as a tool for sick or scouring calves.
Four-way acid pak – an organic acidifier. It contains electrolytes, enzymes, and a supplemental source of live micro-organism. We use at half the recommended rate for first two weeks
Electrolyte – we use to replace body fluids in times of stress and dehydration, and when calf is off milk. We use a 'home-made' recipe - very cost effective. We regard this as highly effective when combined with sodium bentonite.
Important tools in our calf rearing system
- Close observation - a priority! Particularly important in identifying slow drinkers and poor doers
- Good hygiene - equipment, sheds, people handling calves, food source, etc. Regular cleaning to all, regularly carried out
- Correct feeding regime
- Good workers
- Access to clean water all the time
- No overcrowding 1.5-2m per calf
- Constant sorting - putting calves into pens with others of similar size, separating slow/sick ones and giving them extra attention, etc
- Adequate shelter for outside calves - calf covers, windbreaks, etc
- Regular checking of navels, eyes, joints, jaws, etc, throughout system
"I have used Ngahiwi Calf Milk Replacer for 20 seasons rearing thousands of calves in that time. Ngahiwi mixes easily and my young calves thrive. Ngahiwi contains, as standard, the prebiotic Bio-Mos®, the probiotic All-Lac® and the coccidiastat Deccox®. Excellent product!"