Action and passion are what drives one Waiuku dairy farmer to constantly innovate and develop his calf rearing systems. It also sees his late-born calves thriving.
Scotty Shuker has farmed his 126 hectare Waiuku property for the past 17 years and he grew up on a farm just down the road. Sitting alongside the mouth of the Waikato River, his farm is characteristically wet, which means plenty of grass, but that calves are born much later in the season than on other farms nearby.
This has proved one hurdle that Scotty has been determined to conquer.
“Late calves traditionally struggle and when summer comes around, they’re not as healthy or developed as their earlier counterparts. They catch up eventually, but we wanted a system that made sure we didn’t have that setback in the first place – we wanted to avoid the check in growth we were seeing after weaning.
“So we set about changing our systems and for the past few seasons we have been onto a winner.”
“We first saw Fiber Fresh Feeds at the National Mystery Creek Fieldays and saw all the research that’s been done into rumen development and the benefit of rearing calves on their unique fibre products, and thought there’s something to this – let’s try it.
“We were blown away in the first season we trialled it. Our calves went straight into the paddock and started eating grass no problems. They would deck a paddock in two days and still be wanting more.”
He says FiberStart works well and has also worked well alongside some of their existing meal-based systems. And the animals are much more robust and bigger come summer, without having suffered any checks in growth during weaning.
Scotty says he is growing the best heifers he’s ever had.
“They look more capacious in the stomach, and go straight to grass and eat it down hard.”
Time has been another precious commodity gained on the new system, with the calves being fed once a day.
“We feed the calves once a day from the start and then leave them plenty to nibble on, so they’re constantly full and happy. They drink a lot less milk too. And of course savings in time and milk mean savings in money.”
He says the constant striving for improvement is a family trait, with both his father and brother of similar ilk. Both live on neighbouring farms and are champions of Fiber Fresh’s natural nutrition philosophy.
Over the past couple of years Scotty has further refined and tweaked his systems to become even more efficient.
“We’re trying to improve all the time, Dad raised us to always look at and be open to new ways of doing things. We do the basics and we do them well.
“I’m doing something I love and am proud to be changing our land for the better.”