How a Cheshire dairy is calving heifers at 23 months


Jeremy Platt and the staff at Lea Hall Farm, Wimboldsley, Cheshire, are targeted on strong heifer efficiency to common 23 months at first calving.

Setting the foundations for that is good colostrum administration at beginning: calves are fed three litres of pasteurised colostrum throughout the first two hours.

All colostrum is examined, pasteurised and frozen, then thawed instantly earlier than use with a coloQuick machine.

“If you’ll make investments any cash, put money into one in every of these machines,” advises Mr Platt.

See additionally: Advice for guaranteeing heifers are the proper weight after calving

After a second feed, calves then transfer to an computerized milk machine the place they’re fed 150g of skimmed milk powder/litre of water.

Manager Les Furber explains that by day 14, calves are at peak consumption, being fed 8.5 litres of milk a day.

“The milk machine is barely nearly as good because the individual taking care of it,” says Mr Platt, who reiterates that it have to be checked repeatedly for calves that haven’t fed.

Farm information

  • Milking 1,400 cows throughout two dairies
  • A 3rd farm is used as a youngstock unit
  • Selling milk to Muller/Sainsbury’s
  • Yielding 12,000 litres at 3.8% butterfat and three.3% protein, on common
  • Three-times-a-day milking


Weaning is a step-down course of beginning at 56 days; over a 12-day interval milk is steadily decreased by 0.4 litres a day.

Calves are supplemented with ad-lib pellets from day one, alongside finely chopped straw ad-lib.

At 90 days calves are moved in batches of 25-30 to the youngstock unit at Lea Hall Farm.

Here, they transfer onto a complete combined ration (TMR) of grass silage, straw, half mix (24% crude protein) and half heifer rearer pellets (18% crude protein).

“The proportion of protein depends upon the grass silage,” says Mr Platt. “This yr, the mix is increased. We put a number of the nuts within the TMR and that has helped that food regimen transition. Gradually, calves transfer throughout to 100% mix.”

Once in calf, they’re turned out to graze. They are moved again inside and placed on a transition food regimen three weeks earlier than calving.

Calf and heifer well being

Good vaccination protocols are key to stopping any examine in progress. At seven days, calves are vaccinated in opposition to pneumonia, and a repeat dose is given at weaning.

Heifers additionally obtain ringworm, bovine viral diarrhoea, leptospirosis and infectious bovine rhinotracheitis vaccines.

Heifers are foot-bathed with formalin as soon as every week, which has introduced down general digital dermatitis within the herd.

Mr Platt says: “In a gaggle of 100 we would have seen one or two [cases], however it is extremely contagious, so we didn’t need to go away it unchecked.

“We stamped on it shortly and began foot-bathing weekly, and we don’t see any digital dermatitis in our heifers now.”

Calf progress charges are averaging 800g-1kg/day, with animals weighed at beginning after which each quarter.

At 11-12 months, heifers are served twice with sexed semen after which get mated with Aberdeen Angus semen.

Rearing prices

Rearing prices have escalated over the previous eight months, going from £1,360 to £1,920.

“We have added in additional price with vaccinations, however we’re reaching a extra constant animal and a quicker turnaround,” explains Mr Platt.

“You need to rear your heifers as effectively as attainable on the least expensive price. Rearing prices have principally gone up on the again of upper feed prices and labour.

“I’m hoping the expansion positive factors we make will counter that price. It’s nonetheless cheaper to rear them then function a flying herd, and we aren’t bringing in unknown ailments. Plus, you might have a pool of heifers to choose from.”


  • Average age at first calving: 23 months
  • Age at service: 11-12 months
  • Total calf losses 5%
  • Average progress fee: 0.8kg/day
  • Pregnancy fee for cows: 25%
  • Pregnancy fee for heifers: 32%
  •  Conception fee to first service on heifers: 52%
  • Heifer rearing prices a head: £1,920
  • Herd alternative fee: 25%