Watch a video on how WellCalf was expanded to look at supporting heifer rearing using Agri-Epi’s satellite network of farms.
Healthy Heifer is a project to investigate the impact of calf health on later life and help farmers to improve productivity through better calf care.
Although it is widely understood that health problems in early life can affect the development and productivity of adult cattle, it is difficult to quantify the impact for several reasons. A lot of disease issues present subclinically and are never treated. It takes years to see the full impact of early life disease which makes it hard to trace this back to early life events. Finally, the impacts are multifaceted, involving milk production per lactation and fertility, which makes calculating the total cost challenging.
This project aims to bring together improved monitoring of calf health and evaluating the impact of this on later indicators such as age at first calving.
Smartbell tags were applied to a group of calves which were closely monitored for the first 6 months of life. Many of these animals also had growth records (e.g. weight), allowing close monitoring of growth and any impact from disease. We continued to follow the animals until they were either pregnant or had left the farm, enabling us to track fertility and compare it to early life.
The heifer cows which were in a reproductive cycle were also tagged, enabling us to gain data on fertility in cows and behaviour during this crucial time.
If we treat these animals sooner, they turn around much quicker, drink their milk and go on to be much healthier.
All our heifers which had no setback had grown at a far higher growth rate than any animals that had a slight setback
New capabilities for heat detection and fertility data from Smartbell tags on cows. Models estimating the impact of early disease on growth and the long-term impact on fertility. Assigning long-term costs to actual events enabling the farmer to realise the direct impact of early life events. This can then help drive improvements to the calf care and help to increase investments in calf facilities.
We believe that the data generated and collected by farms should work to empower their decision making, improve animal health and improve profit margins.