Providing calves with consistent feed on a day-to-day basis is the reason the Bryants run a fortified milk program on their calves.
Monique Bryant, who manages the calf-rearing process on the 404.7ha Kaarimba property, said she calved three times a year.
‘‘We calve in March/April, August/September and early December,’’ Mrs Bryant said.
‘‘On two of those calvings, I rear 70 to 80 each time and on the third calving, I will rear about 25.’’
Mrs Bryant explained how the fortified milk process worked.
‘‘We use a refractometer to test the milk off the cows and we make sure the calves get four litres of colostrum when they come into the shed,’’ she said.
‘‘I prefer they suck the colostrum rather than us tube it. The milk ends up where it needs to be that way.
‘‘However, when we are time poor, tubing is better than giving them nothing at all.
‘‘The fortified program works on feeding the calves whole milk, but adding milk powder to the milk.
‘‘In five litres of milk, you have ‘X’ amount of solids.
‘‘What we are trying to do is get the same amount of solids, but feed them two-and-a-half litres of milk.
‘‘That concentrate is consistent with what we are feeding them each day.
‘‘We also add in an additive, which allows the calves’ immune system to build up faster, so they are not as susceptible to getting bugs.’’
Mrs Bryant said having bugs on-farm was inevitable, but managing the threat from the beginning was important.
‘‘I get the bobcat in to the shed and clean out all the bedding,’’ she said.
‘‘I prep the ground with antibacterial and anti-viral spray.
‘‘Then weekly, I will put a put a moisture absorbing powder down, which neutralises any moisture and kills any bugs sitting in the bedding.
‘‘The calves are housed until they are weaned at eight to 10-weeks-old or once they are eating two kilograms of solids a day.’’
While the Bryants rear the calves for herd replacement as well as for external markets, the latter has been restricted by them being on the edge of a bluetongue virus zone, which has seen China refuse to accept dairy heifers from what is now a cleared area.