Devil is in the detail: Calf to calving events to demonstrate significant on farm impact

Two upcoming Calf to Calving (C2C) events to be held in Glasgow and Aberdeen will highlight how key changes to farm management can improve the bottom line.

The C2C programme – which is part of AHDB’s Farm Excellence Platform – encourages farmers to reduce the age of first calving to 24 months through following the progress of 12 host farms across Great Britain. The farms each track 10 calves from birth through to first calving and measure and monitor survival, nutrition, growth, health and reproductive performance.

The Glasgow event on Tuesday 3 October will be the final meeting for host Robert Steven’s farm and the group will discuss how his heifers have performed over the past two years, studying their growth targets and how they link with their health and age at first calving.

AHDB dairy technical manager Andy Dodd says there have been mixed results across the participating farms but many have made management changes which have improved their herd welfare and bottom line.

He says: “All the farms have reviewed their systems and we have seen changes to nutrition, housing, heifer management and of course weighing. We have strongly advocated routine weighing as it is so beneficial for calf health and identifying any potential issue before they start to cause genuine problems. It is this monitoring that keeps young stock on track and ensures they calf at 24 months.”

Aberdeen-based Calf to Calving farmer William Willis will host the meeting on Tuesday 24 October which will focus on transition management.

“This is a key topic,” Andy explains. “We still see a fairly high dropout rate of 14-15% in the first lactation, and when you think that a farmer spends on average £1,800 getting an animal into herd and won’t break even until two and a half lactations we see how much of an impact that pre and post calving period can have.”

Vet Will Tully will be on hand to take the group through those areas most likely to impact negatively on transition management such as housing, lameness and stress, however the major focus will be nutrition.

Andy says: “We need to be sure our heifers have sufficient dry matter intake over this period to avoid concerns such as subclinical milk fever or other metabolic issues. We will be looking at what the diet should consist of, and when the heifers should be moved on from maintenance to transition diet, which of course varies depending on herds and systems.”

Calf to Calving farms are part of AHDB’s wider Farm Excellence Platform, which inspires industry to improve performance and succeed through farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange.

Both events will run from 10.45am – 2.30pm with lunch provided. Famers wishing to attend should contact Andy Dodd at

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About The Author

John Swire - Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.