The impact of successful heifer rearing on overall dairy farm profitability has often been overlooked in terms of future health and production of the adult herd. It is well recognised that achieving an average age at first calving (AFC) of 24 months has a considerable impact on profitability yet the majority of farms fail to achieve this target. There is increasing evidence that improved early life nutrition has direct effects in terms of improved growth and health allowing an AFC of 24 months to be achieved but furthermore it has indirect effects in terms of production and longevity. Increased early life milk feeding appears to be critical in this respect acting via epigenetic switching also referred to as "metabolic programming". Traditionally calf rearing has been carried out on a least cost basis with early transition to solid foods being a primary goal. We suggest that this policy is short-sighted and a radical re-think of calf rearing strategies is overdue with long term productivity being the ultimate goal. This will have benefits for both the farmer and the animals under his or her care.
|Number of pages||4|
|Publication status||Print publication - 19 Aug 2013|
- Ad lib feeding
- Calf rearing
- Milk feeding