Your Calf, Your Future.

 Having previously experienced the benefits of a ‘workshop style’ meeting, the decision was made to explore the well-known, but sometimes neglected, subject of calf rearing. Building on previous research on rearing heifers to the point of calving at 24 months of age, Thompsons knew that there was still a lot that could be learned on this key part of any dairy unit. Involving the input from their long-term industry partners; Shine Calf Milk and Zinpro Performance Minerals and CAFRE, Thompsons’ Technical Team set themselves the task of three workshops, over three days, on three different farms, in three different locations across the province. Following the format of the hugely successful Fertility Workshops held in 2016, four ‘stops’ were decided on, where different speakers would cover various aspects of calf rearing, in a more ‘hands-on’ practical way, involving interaction and discussion from those that attended. The host farmers were set as; Mark and Denis Blelock (Crumlin), Malcolm Keys (Clogher) and Murney Brothers (Warrenpoint) and with Alex Berry lined up to feed everyone, the stage was set for what proved to an extremely successful, educational and memorable three days.

Stop 1

Thompsons’ James Black and Denise Rafferty joined forces with Shines’

Joe Murphy to take responsibility for ensuring that no one left the workshop

without understanding the importance of getting calf rearing right, before the

calf is even born. They discussed how eight weeks pre-calving the cow’s diet

must be adjusted accordingly to ensure that the required vitamins, minerals and

nutrients reach the cow and calf to put them in the best health for calving. Joe

followed this up by saying that every farmer there was ‘duty bound’ to feed the

calf colostrum as over 60% of calves that suckle don’t get sufficient immunity.

Shines' Joe Murphy
Shines’ Joe Murphy


 Stop 2

Professor Sandra Godden from the University of Minnesota was keen to

share her views on calf housing and the huge impact this has on the health and

development of the calf. Sandra stressed the dangers of cross contamination,

both between calves and from housing, with the need to give calf houses a break

or the ‘cycle of disease’ will never be broken. Sandra also discussed group

sizes, bedding, drainage and ventilation. With such knowledge and experience,

Sandra’s opinions on how best to house calves, would have made everyone

question their own practices.

Professor Sandra Godden
Professor Sandra Godden



 Stop 3

It was the job of Thompsons’ Richard Moore and both CAFREs’ Jason

McFerran and Martin to identify the importance of knowing the growth and weight

of heifers to ensure that they are ready for calving at 24 months. Richard used

a blueprint - that had been established several years ago in conjunction with

AFBI – to show how the desired growth rate of 0.8kg per day was achievable,

even if it was more difficult in April/May born calves. By comparing how good

the human eye is at ‘guessing’ the weight of heifers, with weigh-tapes and digital

weigh-scales, Richard showed that it is possible and vital to know how heifers

are progressing. Jason and Martin put the figures behind the cost of rearing

heifers, displaying the huge range in costs associated with this side of the


Thompsons' Richard Moore
Thompsons’ Richard Moore



 Stop 4

A well-known figure in the dairy industry and popular speaker at

Thompsons’ events, everyone was looking forward to hearing what Dr. Roger

Blowey had planned for his stop. Using the visual aids of calf tracheas,

stomachs and lungs, Roger was able to clearly show what impact the practical

aspects of calf rearing have on the physiology of the calf. Giving numerous

examples, that will stay in everyone’s memory until the next time they feed

their calves milk, Roger made sure his discussion was full of questions, learning

and laughter.

Dr. Roger Blowey
Dr. Roger Blowey




A hugely successful and enjoyable three days was had by everyone that attended Thompsons’ Your Calf, Your Future workshops. With huge support from the host farmers, large numbers were facilitated at all three days, ensuring that no one missed out on hearing from such world class speakers.But don’t worry if you didn’t make it to one of the days, or maybe you just want to watch it again, as all the presentations will be available to view on-line. Keep an eye on our facebook page @thompsonsfeedinginnovation and follow the link. Or for further details contact Thompsons; 028 9035 1321.

Posted 17,09,18 by allison.

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