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A survey of calf rearing practices in the south-west region of Western Australia

Aleri, J.W., Fisher, A.D., Gogoi-Tiwari, J., Waichigo, F.K., Sodagari, H.R., Irons, P.C. and Robertson, I.D.ORCID: 0000-0002-4255-4752 (2022) A survey of calf rearing practices in the south-west region of Western Australia. New Zealand Veterinary Journal . pp. 1-7.

Link to Published Version: https://doi.org/10.1080/00480169.2022.2042413
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Abstract

Aims

To gather data on the calf management and rearing practices of a subset of dairy farmers in the south-west region of Western Australia.

Methods

A 30-minute face-to-face survey was conducted with dairy cattle producers in the south-west region of Western Australia from April–June 2019 to determine pre-weaning calf rearing practices. Participation was voluntary, using a self-selected subset of dairy farmers registered with a regional extension group. The questionnaire assessed three broad categories: farm demographics, colostrum harvesting and management and calf rearing practices.

Results

The study response rate was 34/140 (24%). The following key areas were identified where there were deviations from recognised best practice: Precalving: no transition diet was fed pre-calving on 4/34 (12%) of farms, and on a further 5/34 (15%) it was fed for less than 3 weeks; mixing of heifers and adult cows in the calving paddocks occurred in 24/34 (70%) of the farms, with 15% (5/34) of the farms using calving induction. During calving 14/34 (41%) of the farms did not disinfect navels of new-born calves; although 23/34 farmers stated that they collected calves within 6 hours of birth, data on frequency of calf pick-up (2/34 did not separate calves and dams and 19/34 picked up only once per day) indicated that on 21/34 farms (62%) the reality was that calves were picked up >12 hours after birth. Colostrum quality was not assessed appropriately on 18/34 (53%) farms and farmers overestimated how soon after birth it was administered: 23/34 (68%) reported feeding it within 6 hours of calving, despite 62% picking up calves >12 hours after calving. Regarding calf rearing practices, no pain relief before or after dehorning was used on 20/34 (59%) farms, calf bedding was removed infrequently (<weekly) on 26/35 (76%) farms and appropriate isolation of sick calves was only reported by 14/34 (41%) farmers.

Conclusion and clinical relevance

Although limited by the low response rate, this is the first survey of dairy calf rearing practices in the south-western region of Western Australia. We found evidence of at least one process inconsistent with industry best-practice on 34/140 (24%) of responding farms and all farms had more than one sub-optimal calf rearing practice. This highlights the need to improve calf rearing in this region and identifies key areas of deficiency for further study and extension to producers.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Veterinary Medicine
Publisher: New Zealand Veterinary Association
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/64224
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