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How good nutrition helps grow healthy calves

How good nutrition helps grow healthy calves

How good nutrition helps grow healthy calves

Giving calves an optimum start is a priority for Nic and Kirsty Verhoek. By weaning calves at 120 kilograms plus, they believe the animals perform much better. To achieve this, they feed Gusto 20% calf blend adlib for as long as possible.

The Verhoeks are 50/50 sharemilkers at Meddo Farms Limited, a 159 hectare (ha) milking platform owned by Hans Geessink.

Pasture is mainly perennial ryegrass and clover swards. The partnership affords them 75 ha of support land where they grow maize and other support crops.

Nic and Kirsty also lease a 120 ha block for rearing beef and heifer replacements with approximately 200 heifer replacements and 100 to 150 beef cattle. To minimise bobby calves, they rear everything else to sell at 10 months old.

Nic mentions that Kirsty has a PhD in ruminant nutrition. “As a result, we feed everything really well,” he says.

Calf rearing challenges are minimal in this set-up. From Nic’s perspective a small calf shed is their biggest hurdle. Rearing 700 calves over spring with only 150 to 170 capacity in the shed, the animals have two weeks inside before they are dressed in a calf cover and sent outdoors in paddocks with access to shelter.

From about day five, the calves have adlib access to Gusto 20% calf blend and meadow hay bales.

PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative, Scott Daubney, recommends Gusto as a cost-effective feed that produces good results; results being good weight gain and calf condition. Free-form with molasses mixed in, it is highly palatable.

Nic agrees. “We stick with the Gusto 20% calf blend because it works for us, it’s readily accessible and competitively priced. We’ve used it for at least five years. Being free-form, I think the calves get into it earlier.

“During this critical growth time, we feed our calves on milk and meal until we run out. The 20 percent gives our calves four percent more protein, so we carry that through.

“We try not to restrict them, ever. Nine times out of 10, this gets us ahead of any potential health issues, we get good rumen papillae developing and the results are evident in our healthy one-year old heifers and first calvers.”

Nic and Kirsty follow the same feeding philosophy in the beef business. “We want our beef calves eating four to five percent of their bodyweight daily,” says Nic. “On Gusto, we achieve this easily and we receive a premium price for our animals.”

Managing a business seven days a week, good support is important to Nic and Kirsty.

“Scott is our one-stop shop,” says Nic. “We need someone who will answer the phone and when they don’t have an answer, they will get the information for us quickly. Scott is that person, he always responds.”