A new project funded by AHDB Beef & Lamb will identify profitable best practice and help address some of the significant challenges that face the calf rearing sector, including reducing antibiotic use and the welfare of calves.
Research will be carried out by the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) to produce guidance on best practice for rearing dairy-bred beef calves, helping producers to find ways to make their own calf rearing business more efficient and profitable.
Dr Mary Vickers, AHDB Beef & Lamb Senior Scientist, said: “The project team brings together expertise in animal health and welfare initiatives and strong links with the calf rearing industry, which means they are well placed to tackle some of the challenges facing the sector.
“With industry encouraged to reduce the use of antibiotics, the team will look at all aspects of calf management, including situations such as collections centres and livestock markets, to understand stressors experienced by calves. The aim is to manage these better, which will improve calf health, welfare and productivity and reduce the need for medicines.”
The project will bring together existing knowledge, while actively engaging with the industry and exploring further innovation potential. Underpinning this will be a critical review of the literature, identifying risk factors and potential practical management strategies with a scientific evidence base that can be applied to the UK industry.
A large part of the work will rely on data and knowledge sharing, and to facilitate this a Project Advisory Group of key stakeholders will be established to guide the project and shape more than 20 various knowledge exchange activities.
Emily Edwards, lead researcher at the RAU, said: “This is extremely important research for the RAU to be undertaking. We will be actively encouraging dairy farmers, rearing facilities and industry stakeholders to help input into our work in order to develop clear and consistent guidance which is led by the sector.”
The project is keen to hear from producers who supply and rear calves for the dairy-beef industry and has developed questionnaires aimed at dairy farmers and dairy-beef calf rearers. If you would like to help shape guidance for the dairy beef sector, please go to beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk/best-practice-dairy-beef-calf-rearing/ to complete the questionnaire. All responses are anonymous.