2013-06-14  facebook twitter rss
Performance and Health the Hallmarks of Lurgan Veal Enterprise

Attention to detail in every aspect of housing, feeding and animal health is the hallmark of the intensive veal production enterprise run by Gary Fitzpatrick and John Toland.

The business partners who farm near Lurgan, rear several thousand calves a year for the rose veal market.

Lurgan veal producer John Toland with vet Mairead O’Grady and Ian Graham, left, of MSD Animal Health.

Lurgan veal producer John Toland with vet Mairead O’Grady and Ian Graham, left, of MSD Animal Health

The highly specialised enterprise requires rigid management and specific herd health protocols in order to reduce the risk of disease. They work closely with their veterinary practitioner Marcel Mulholland of Lurgan Veterinary Clinic and the results of this team effort are obvious.

“Over an 18 month period we lost just one calf - due to an injury when loading onto the trailer. Exceptional results such as these are a result of getting management right and ensuring we protect all calves with a vaccination programme which delivers results,” said Gary Fitzpatrick.

The vaccination programme consists of all calves being treated with Bovipast RSP and Bovilis IBR Marker Live on arrival at the farm. Bovipast RSP is the only vaccine that protects against Mannheimia (Pasteurella) haemolytica and the two main pneumonia-causing viruses, RSV and PI3. Bovilis IBR Marker Live protects against IBR (Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis).

“A vaccination programme on its own is not the solution to improve herd health. But vaccination, combined with improvements in management, delivers results every time,” stressed Marcel Mulholland.

The system involves purchasing calves at two weeks of age. A keen eye in selecting strong, healthy calves that will thrive without setbacks is crucial. Calves that have not received enough colostrum in the hours after birth are bad news and are very susceptible to disease.

Calves are fed milk replacer until about seven weeks of age when they weigh at least 75kg. They are then weaned and fed on a diet of meal and straw until they are sold at around 12 weeks of age. They have moved from automatic milk feeding to a group bucket and teat system. According to John Toland, this makes for faster feeding and closer assessment of animals.

Another key feature is the number of calves per pen. Calves are kept in small groups at all stages of the rearing programme as “large batch sizes promote disease spread.”

“By many people’s standards we do understock the calf pens but we find they thrive so much better than when these pens are filled to capacity. The extra spend per head in straw is more than made up for by the increased growth rates of the calves,” said John.

Housing is important in any calf rearing enterprise but is vital in this intensive operation. Following visits to several units at home and abroad, John and Gary designed their own purpose-built unit.

“We knew ventilation had to be a primary consideration when designing the house, while also aiming to prevent draughts. The system we decided upon incorporates side panels which can be opened and closed to maximise airflow when the weather dictates,” they explained.


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