There are two main ways of weighing calves on farm. The first is a traditional method, which utilises a weigh band. The band gives an estimate of the calf’s weight in the early stages of life and is most accurate up to weaning.
To weigh a calf using this method, the band is placed behind the front legs and around the chest. The calf should be standing normally, not uncomfortably or at an unusual angle. Using a weigh band is much easier when two people are involved, one can hold and measure the calf’s weight whilst the other takes down the measurements. This is where I came in handy out on farm! This method is a great option when the calf is young and light preferably under 100kg. When monitoring your calves important to record a birthweight so that you know a starting point for their development plan.
The second and more accurate option is to weigh calves with electronic scales. The calf walks onto the scales, a weight is then calibrated and displayed. It’s important that the scales are set on a hard flat surface to ensure accuracy. As the calves grow we recommend that a race should be used as it’s not only easier but it is also a beneficial training method for handling.
Both of these weighing methods are beneficial as long as they are carried out in a consistent manner. The data is then recorded and plotted on to a graph. The formula used is:
(Latest weight – previous weight) / Number of days between recordings = Calf DLWG
By recording weights regularly you can clearly see the DLWG from birth. It also highlights if there is a problem for example if a calf is falling behind and is under its target growth rates. By monitoring you can see which calves are performing well and which may need investigating. Black and white numbers provide a platform for the farmers and specialists to discuss feeding strategies, protocols and improvements.
It has been one of my jobs to input the data into the graphs through the ForFarmers toolbox weighing programme and it has been interesting to see trends across different farms whilst seeing calves successfully achieve their growth weights.