Report Synopsis

Improving beef calf survival: understanding the human element is key to change

Dr Sophia Hepple

Information on calf survival in the beef sector is limited. DEFRA (UK) statistics (2008) indicated 7.7% of registered beef calves died within 6 months. USDA (APHIS 2010) reported 7% mortality with key contributing factors being dystocia and weather conditions.

Pilot interviews were carried out in England, Isle of Man, Serbia and Scotland. A questionnaire was developed to investigate farmer attitude to management and decision-making in their farming business; this included veterinary advice and the value farmers placed on keeping records, including calf events and colostrum provision.

Farmers were interviewed in Ireland, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Australia (including Tasmania), Isle of Man and Colombia. They included: hobby (lifestyle block); commercial beef; pedigree studs; dual dairy/beef. Veterinarians and Government / industry representatives were interviewed for further information on industry structure and veterinary services typically provided to the beef sector.

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