Devon calf rearer aims to use competition win to help calf health

Winning Mole Valley Farmers’ Ambition calf + OmniGen-AF® competition has provided calf rearers, Toby and Beverley Boys with the perfect opportunity to trial a new feeding strategy they hope will boost calf health.

After entering the competition in June, Toby was randomly selected to win free feed for 40 calves worth £3,000. Exactly what he spent his winnings on was his choice. However, having already witnessed a reduction in antibiotic use after running his own experiment feeding Ambition calf + OmniGen-AF® pellets, he was keen to extend the project further. As a result, he has chosen to spend his prize on a combination of Ambition calf + OmniGen-AF® pellets and OmniSmart milk powder; both of which include Omnigen-AF®.

Omnigen-AF® is a complementary feed supplement designed to help maintain a healthy immune system and help the animal cope with expected and unexpected stress events. UK farms feeding the supplement have reduced their medicine spend by 35.5%. As calves don’t consume huge quantities of concentrate when they’re young, Toby hopes putting Omnigen-AF in the milk will mean they see the benefits earlier.

For Toby, who views prevention as fundamental to a profitable livestock system, the principles surrounding the product tick all the boxes.

“I’m very much for doing as much preventative treatment as possible,” he says. “I look at antibiotic use as you’re treating a problem. I’d much rather prevention with vaccination, better buildings and nutrition as once you’re using antibiotics, you’re already losing growth and performance.”

Toby runs a calf rearing business in Kingsbridge, Devon, with wife, Beverley. The pair are new entrants into farming and set up the enterprise five years ago. Toby’s father works in agriculture and Beverley’s parents run a mixed farm. However, barriers to getting into agriculture meant Toby and Beverley felt they had to establish careers elsewhere to build capital and get their foot on the farming ladder. The pair continue to work outside of the calf business - Toby is involved in sales and marketing in the energy sector and Beverley is an operations manager for a local e-commerce business.

Having initially started with six calves on 17ha (42 acres), they have gradually built land area and now buy in 400 calves a year. Toby admits it has been a learning curve. “We’ve constantly changed and honed what we’re doing to get better herd health and low mortality rates,” he explains. “We’re learning, learning, learning and recording, recording, recording and seeing the progress as we go.”

“Buying in expertise” and surrounding themselves with a good team of vets, nutritionists and builders have also proved important. This includes support from Mole Valley Feed Solutions’ Nutritionist Greg Warren, who designs the feeding plan (see box on the right).

Look out for the results from the trial in future editions of the Newsletter.
For advice on calf nutrition, please contact the Feed and Nutritionists Line on 01278 444829.