Understanding the challenges in dairy and beef rearing


Understanding the challenges in dairy and beef rearing

The circumstances under which dairy calves and beef calves are being reared are often quite different. This means that the challenges that dairy farmers are facing can be quite different from the beef farmers' challenges.

The future potential in milk production justifies a significant investment in dairy calves

Dairy calves are usually born on the same farm where they will be reared until they start producing milk. This means the dairy farmer is able to influence the entire calf rearing programme, including colostrum management. Most dairy farms operate a closed system and thus breed their own replacement heifers, Mixing with dairy calves from other farms does not take place. Lastly, the value of a dairy heifer once it reaches the productive phase justifies significant investments during the early rearing phase. Many dairy farmers are therefore prepared to invest in intensive pre-weaning calf feeding schedules.

Mixing and transportation puts pressure on the health of beef calves

The majority of beef calves are bull calves from dairy farms. The scale at which beef farming operates requires batches with a significant number of calves going through the system at regular intervals. As a result, calves from multiple dairy farms are collected, mixed and transported to the beef farm, usually when the animals are 10-14 days old. As a consequence, the beef farmer can’t control colostrum management and other feeding practices in the early rearing phase. The mixing and transport of calves that takes place at 2 weeks of age creates a lot of stress, a reduction in immunity and as a result, beef calves are very vulnerable and at a significant risk to go down with diarrhoea and/or respiratory problems upon arrival on the beef farm.

Lastly, compared to dairy farming, beef farming is more cost driven. As a result, milk feeding schedules for beef calves are usually more restricted compared to milk feeding schedules for dairy calves. Weaning takes place at an earlier age and is usually more abrupt. This also causes stress and may result in respiratory problems.

Review your farm performance

Working on, or managing a dairy farm is a challenging task; day-to-day routines demand most of your time. Are your operating procedures well set? Do you get the most out of your work? Tough questions if you don't have any reference at hand.

That is why we are now offering you a simple tool which gives you feedback based on results from fellow farmers around the world. It can help you find opportunities for even better results.


Sprayfo lays strong foundations for the future productivity of calves.