We know that achieving higher growth rates in the pre-weaned calf has a lasting impact on performance. It is crucial to maximising calf performance within those first 8 weeks of life to exploit that superior feed conversion efficiency!
Here we talk about bedding and calf comfort!
Alongside calf jackets, a constant supply of fresh air (good ventilation), avoiding draughts at calf level and adequate stocking density rates, increasing available bedding material for nesting is key to promoting calf health and performance.
Bedding can be effective if sufficiently deep, allowing calves to nest and reducing heat loss. Straw bedding provides the best insulation for calves. It should be at least 8cm deep, dry, and clean. If you can see the calf’s legs when it is lying down, the bedding is not deep enough and will not insulate the calf properly.
Nesting score and the Drop Knee Test
There are two methods that can help determine how well-bedded a pen is. These are the use of a nesting score and the drop knee test.
1) A Nesting Score as depicted in the table below, evaluates how much of the calf is covered by bedding when lying down, in the colder months we are aiming for a score of 3.
2) The Drop Knee Test can help determine the comfort of the beds; drop from standing to your knees, stay dropped for a minute. Then check your knees to see if they are dry. If they are nice and dry and the landing was soft, the bedding is comfortable for the calves. If it does hurt and you stand up with wet knees, you may need to consider more thorough bedding.
For further information maximising calf performance, get in touch with the NWF Youngstock team on 0800 756 2787 or click HERE.