Survey probes farmers' attitudes to cow-with-calf system

Researchers at Scotland's Rural College want to learn more about cow-with-calf dairy system
Researchers at Scotland's Rural College want to learn more about cow-with-calf dairy system

Dairy farmers and new entrants interested in operating a cow-with-calf dairy system are invited to take part in a new survey.

UK researchers are aiming to find out farmers' motivations and reservations about operating this type of system.

Traditionally, dairy calves are separated from their dams within 24 hours of birth, but this project investigates the cow-with-calf system where calves are kept with their mothers for up to five months.

Currently, there are significant barriers to dairy producers considering running such a system.

These include understanding the full economic costs of keeping cows with calves, finding markets for the product, cow and calf health benefits and environmental outcomes.

The project, by Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), is based around one of three Scottish farms running a commercial cow-with-calf system.

Funded through the SRDP Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund, it will create a network of farmers interested in operating the systems and provide them with information and tools to help them.

The survey, which is open until the end of the year, will help researchers build the evidence base around the systems and gauge what support farmers need to move to this practice.

What will the project establish?

Researchers at SRUC want to find out:

• How a cow-with-calf system performs in terms of human, animal, environmental and financial health

• An economic analysis of the cow-with-calf system at a farm level; investigating calf growth, cow longevity, animal health and more

• What business models and marketing channels are available for cow-with-calf dairy products

• Creation of a prospectus for those looking to follow the system; pitfalls to note, finances, animal health considerations and more