New calf welfare research to be led by Royal Agricultural University

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) has been selected to lead research which addresses significant challenges facing the calf rearing sector, including reducing antibiotic use and maintaining welfare.

Funded by AHDB Beef & Lamb, the project will produce guidance on best practice for rearing dairy-bred beef calves, helping producers to run a more efficient and profitable calf rearing business.

Dr Mary Vickers, Senior Scientist at AHDB Beef and Lamb – the organisation for beef and lamb levy payers in England – said: “The project team brings together expertise in animal health and welfare initiatives and strong links with the calf rearing industry which means they are well placed to tackle some of the challenges facing the sector.

“With industry encouraged to reduce the use of antibiotics, the team will look at all aspects of calf management, including in situations such as collections centres and livestock markets, to understand stressors experienced by calves. The aim is to manage these better, which will improve calf health, welfare and productivity and reduce the need for medicines.”

The project will bring together existing knowledge, whilst actively engaging with the industry and exploring further innovation potential. Underpinning this will be a critical review of the literature, identifying risk factors and potential practical management strategies with a scientific evidence base that can be applied to the UK industry.

A large part of the work will rely on data and knowledge sharing, and to facilitate this a Project Advisory Group of key stakeholders will be established to guide the project and shape more than 20 various knowledge exchange activities.

Emily Edwards, Lead Researcher at the Royal Agricultural University, said: “This is extremely important research for the RAU to be undertaking. We will be actively encouraging dairy farmers, rearing facilities and industry stakeholders to help input into our work in order to develop clear and consistent guidance which is led by the sector.“

The project is keen to hear from producers who supply and rear calves for the dairy-beef industry and has developed questionnaires aimed at dairy farmers and dairy-beef calf rearers. To help shape guidance for the dairy beef sector, please go to http://beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk/best-practice-dairy-beef-calf-rearing/ to complete the questionnaire. All responses are anonymous.

For further information: https://www.rau.ac.uk/about/news-and-events/news/rau-will-lead-new-research-calf-welfare-and-productivity