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Rearing beef calves

beef calf suckling from motherA new born calf will typically weigh between 40 to 50kg. Achieving an early and adequate intake of colostrum (the first milk produced by the calf’s mother following calving) is the single most important management factor in determining calf health and performance. Colostrum is rich in energy and protein but more importantly, with immunoglobulins (antibodies which provide the calf with passive immunity). The priority with new born calves is ensuring that they suckle and drink at least 2 litres of colostrum within the first six hours of life, with up to 8 litres within the first 24 hours.


charolais cow and calfIn traditional beef systems the calf will stay with the beef cow for around 8-10 months before it is weaned and transferred for fattening. During this time the cow and calf will normally be grazing outside, either on grass or on a forage crop like kale. Hay and silage will be supplemented as required. In winter months when conditions worsen the animals may be brought in to large open barns and fed on conserved fodder, typically grass silage.


suckling calfAnimals supplied for beef production from the beef herd tend to be borne of beef cows that suckle the calf for between 7 and 10 months. After weaning the calves are finished through a variety of feeding systems. Farmers who run suckler beef herds tend to finish their animals through more extensive feeding systems.


young calves at grassBeef calves that have come from the dairy herd, either as pure bred bull calves (Holstein) or as cross breds (Limousin cross Holstein for example) will usually be brought into the beef system at around one week of age. These animals will be bucket fed on milk replacer and may be housed individually or in groups (see calf housing and health). They are usually weaned when the calf is eating about 1kg of concentrates per day. This is usually between 6 and 8 weeks of age when it is between 55-65kg. Following weaning, concentrates continue to be offered ad-libitum together with grass, hay or straw and by 12 weeks old the calf is usually weighing between 90 to 110kg. From here differing feeding systems can be adopted by the farmer for the fattening and finishing of the calf.


We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Harper Adams University College in the production of this article.








Statistics for Beef

Beef
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
Total Cattle and calves
(000s)
11135 10602 10345 10517 10588 10392 10270 10304 10107 10025 10112
Total steers etc marketed
(000s)
2421 2145 2289 2283 2329 2276 2208 2155 2013 1946 1075
Beef value of production
(£ millions)
1114 998 1113 1125 1266 1389 1591 1623 2071 2131 2191
Cattle subsidies
(£ millions)
899 831 929 928 1016 196 68 47 47 20 19
Beef production as % total supply
(%)
79 72 71 70 70 74 81 81 82 82 85
Cattle
(000s)
174.8 214.3 244.8 250.4 319.6 331.2
Compound use - cattle
(000 tonnes)
4181 4485 4544 4598 4485 4700





June Census statistics for Beef


Beef
1900
1910
1920
1930
1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
Other cattle 2 years and above
(Numbers)
1,036,052 1,025,138 1,326,805 882,956 1,048,184 1,142,698 864,407 553,910 625,409 708,759 639,717
Other cattle 1 year and under 2 years
(Numbers)
990,006 1,061,388 933,732 946,760 1,157,470 1,247,328 1,699,858 1,566,072 1,856,093 1,737,136 1,561,179
Other cattle and calves under 1 year
(Numbers)
923,017 985,385 751,130 897,504 1,142,630 1,455,555 1,800,192 2,133,778 2,117,083 1,965,338 1,598,127
Total cattle and calves
(Numbers)
4,848,698 5,126,251 4,818,166 5,065,026 6,157,447 7,002,668 7,601,303 7,677,784 8,055,620 7,097,436 6,155,762