Tuesday, 22 August 2023
The dairy industry’s third Great British Calf Week takes place in September, with a series of on-farm and virtual events focusing on successful calf management.
The week of events, coordinated by AHDB and the NFU, continues to celebrate the progress being made by industry to ensure all dairy-bred calves are reared with care and for a purpose – as part of either the dairy or beef supply chains.
Farmers, vets and industry representatives are invited to support GB Calf Week at its launch at UK Dairy Day (13 September) on the NFU stand from 9am.
For this GB Calf Week, the focus will be on two main themes that are at the forefront of the minds of many dairy farmers – bovine TB (bTB) and genetics.
Depending where you are in the country, bTB may be something farmers and vets are having to deal with on a daily basis, or, at the other end of the scale, a threat that rears its head once every four years. In either situation, mitigating risks and having a plan in place can give everyone some peace of mind.
In the 'business as usual' scenario, maximising the value of each calf is a key component to the future profitability of dairy enterprises. This results from optimising the genetic potential of each calf and ensuring they get the best start in life – regardless of their destination.
Although breeding the best heifer replacements is a key focus for many dairy producers, it can pay dividends to look at where other progeny will be sold and to breed animals that meet the required specification.
This is where genetic selection, including the use of sexed semen, is worth considering.
Dr Jenny Gibbons, AHDB’s Animal Health and Welfare Senior Scientist, said:
"The GB Calf Week continues to champion the progress being made in the dairy industry, whilst providing farmers and vets with the most up-to-date information that they can apply to their individual situations.
"Sometimes, challenging the status quo is all that is needed to ignite a conversation, and often, this can lead on to significant changes. We understand the challenges currently facing dairy farmers, and believe that GB Calf Week can help everyone to work together to come up with solutions."
The week’s activities will kick off on Wednesday 13 September at UK Dairy Day in Telford. This will be followed by a series of on-farm events and a weekend where farmers can take to social media to discuss the issues they face, share the solutions they have found and ask questions from a range of industry representatives.
The GB Calf Week has the support of many industry organisations including ABP Group, Arla, Blade farming, Buitelaar Group, Cogent, ForFarmers, GameChanger, The George Vet Group, Genus, LIC, Meadow Quality, RASE, SRUC, TB Advisory Service and VetPartners, who will all be delivering on-farm or virtual events.
In the run up to this year’s event, NFU dairy board chair Michael Oakes said:
"As an industry, we have seen significant progress under the GB Calf Strategy. Since 2020, there have been a number of commitments made across both the beef and dairy supply chains to better integrate the two, and help ensure, as dairy farmers, we are breeding calves with an end market in mind.
"As we approach the end of the initiative’s final year, we need to continue working together to identify market opportunities and help ensure we are maximising the value of each calf to optimise returns."
Senior scientist: dairy