Weight loss, mental gain

Surrounded by newborn calves, Micha Johansen is relishing a new, slimmer self.

In Home Block5 Minutes

Surrounded by newborn calves, Micha Johansen is relishing a new, slimmer self.


As I write we have 47 cows in, so that is more than a third of our herd calved in two weeks, which is a pretty good start. The biggest difference for me this season is the 20kg I have managed to lose over the last 10 months.

Everyone knows being overweight is a hindrance, especially in a physical job, but boy, what a difference. I’m walking faster, able to climb hills better (which is good as we have a lot of those), wind up reels so much easier, and I complain a heck of a lot less.
I am also far less tired, until around 7.30pm, when I tend to zonk out on the beanbag in front of the fire, but until then I have been pretty energetic.

It has also led to much better mental health.

I have been practicing the whole ‘focus on the good in your life’ routine, which takes a bit of work, but is starting to pay dividends. Case in point is despite the fact the weather has been absolute bollocks, which in previous years would have been my main focus and drained me, this season I have been focused on getting jobs done.

I haven’t even whinged about putting my wet wet-weather gear on, and I am not a fan of wet wet-weather gear. So, yes, apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Being the good keen farmer I am, I eventually took a gander at the new calf welfare regulations. Needless to say I already do most of what the regulations say, with a few ‘I know what I am doing in regards to animal husbandry’ tweaks.

The two main cases in point are, first, I am not going to offer colostrum to a calf that has obviously had a decent feed from its dam, because, quite simply, there is no point. It’s not going to drink, and if you tube it two litres (I don’t tube, ever), then it’s just going to be over-full and get a gut-ache.

I do ensure all our calves get two litres of ‘gold colostrum’ (first milking colostrum) at their first feed, and I even have about 26 litres of gold colostrum from last year in the freezer, in case I end up with none suitable on any particular day. The other is the 20% of body weight in milk, over two feeds. While I do feed twice a day, for far too long according to my mother, again, in my experience, you could be looking at overfeeding problems, leading to gastro issues.

I make judgement calls based on a number of factors including size and breeding, how full they are looking (do they have the ‘shakes’?), plus the speed at which they drink.

Once they have had quite a few days in the shed, and are not having any issues, I will likely top up a fast-drinking calf. Lets face it, this is mostly to try and keep the little bugger from knocking all the slower-drinking ones off! But it is one of the reasons I use partitioned feeders, so I can ensure all calves receive at least two litres per feed regardless of size, and drinking speed.

Yep, I even wait around defending the calves who ‘chomp’ rather than suck, making sure they get their full two litres. I believe I just may be a calf rearing Saint.

My calves also have access to hay, muesli, and water from day one, so growth rates are certainly not an issue, and they develop their rumens nicely. I’ve been told a few times that I rear nice calves, so, aside from my usual regular tweaking of my system, I’ll be leaving well enough alone.
I’m also unsure how they will police this exactly. Perhaps reading columns in one of the nation’s leading farming publications will help them out with that. Whoops!