If Cindy Lucas doesn’t know something about raising calves, there’s a good chance that it is not really that important.
Cindy is considered a calf rearing queen having contract raised up to 500 dairy calves a year on her property near Myrtleford in Victoria.
Now she is spreading the good word on how to give baby cows the very best start in life as a calf rearing consultant for Daviesway dairy equipment.
Cindy was recently in South Australia as a guest of Dairy SA to run workshops and information sessions for more than 70 farmers at Kyneton and Myponga.
And she set me on the right track with my own hand reared Angus girl, Sally, with six key considerations when raising calves.
“There’s really the ‘Five Cs’ of calf rearing and they’re a good foundation to keep in mind,’’ says Cindy.
“That is: Colostrum, Calories, Consistency, Cleanliness and Comfort. If you can keep those in mind, that’s a good basis.
“But I always have a sixth C and that happens to be Cuddles. It makes a big difference reducing stress, building a bond with your calves and being in tune and having good observation... not missing any changes in behaviour and acting quickly if something’s not quite right.
“And that can often be a case of a stitch in time saves nine in a big calf rearing operation.
“That’s the best and most enjoyable thing ever. When I do have a lot of calves and because I am a once a day feeder except for the very first days when they come to me, my afternoon time is going out in the paddock with the calves.
“Sometimes even when I’m really really busy I think, ‘I’m going to go and sit out in the paddock for half an hour’.’’
Calf rearing expert Cindy Lucas puts her skills on show with Primary Focus host Bryan Littlely's hand-reared Angus calf, Sally. Pic Bryan Littlely
Cindy says, increasingly, farmers are focussing more on their calf rearing side of their operations.
“Often it’s been in the past that it is the thing that gets pushed aside because there’s so many things to do on the farm,’’ she says.
“I think there’s an increased awareness of the importance of looking after their young stock and there’s also an increased understanding of the occupational health and safety side of things.’’
Working as a part-time consultant with Daviesway DASCO as well as running her own contract calf rearing operation running about 200 calves a year, means Cindy is up to date on the latest products and practices.
Last year, Cindy reared close to 250 calves. Calves are weaned at six weeks. At the 12-week mark, the Holstein heifers weigh between 100 and 125kg and the Wagyu-Holstein cross calves weigh between 90 and 110kg. Holstein steers are reared to a finishing weight of 130kg.
Anyone seeking information on best practice calf rearing techniques can look up the Calf Rearing Australia Facebook site or go to daviesway.com.au for more information and tips from Cindy on products and practices.