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Colostrum is key

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Christine Simons

Author

05 August 2019

Did you have issues with your calves last season? Did they get scours or not do as well as you wanted them to? Would you like to improve or optimise your calf rearing system? If so, we have the answer - WelCalf. There is a lot of new research about the importance of gold colostrum to newborn calves, with an estimated 33% of calves suffering from failure of passive transfer (FPT) in New Zealand systems, and 91.3% of tested samples having higher than the target threshold value of bacterial counts too. In other words, we have a lot of room to improve in ensuring our calves get the best start in life.

What is WelCalf?
WelCalf is a program that focuses on the health and welfare of your calves, with a particular emphasis on colostrum quality and ensuring adequate transfer of those golden antibodies within the correct time frame. We measure 7 key indicators of calf health and welfare and benchmark these to compare your farm with best practice and other farms in the area.

What does WelCalf involve?
WelCalf involves three visits over the calving period. The first visit is with a vet, prior to calving, who will go through a risk assessment and discussion about your calf rearing system. Any areas that can be modified will be discussed and an action plan created.  You will also be given a WelCalf pack which contains some tools to help you make the best decisions around gold colostrum for your calves, including a Brix refractometer. The target on the Brix refractometer is to use gold colostrum at 22% or more for your newborn calves’ first feeds. The second and third visits involve a vet tech coming out to blood test 10 calves less than a week old. These blood tests are then measured in-house to calculate how many are achieving target levels of passive transfer of colostrum. A vet will follow up with recommendations accordingly. A benchmarked summary report comparing your farm to other farms is sent out after the end of the calf rearing period.

What if I have done WelCalf already?
We are now offering a ‘WelCalf Lite’ program for farms that have been on WelCalf before, have already done a risk assessment but would still like to have the blood tests and the benchmarking. How do I sign up? Speak to your KeyVet, or contact your local clinic’s Farm Services team, who will pass on your details to the WelCalf vets and techs.

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