Without a little “scratching”, a calf’s rumen doesn’t develop well and the animal’s ability to digest grass is delayed, Suzanne Hanning writes.

Any calf rearer worth their salt knows that to grow good calves, they need to be fed and cared for well in order to reach their full potential as adult animals. Good quality milk or milk replacer, fresh, clean water, a safe, draft-free, dry bed and a little something to help develop the rumen called “scratch factor”.

This can be supplied in the form of grain/muesli and or hay or straw. The mechanics behind this and why it’s important is this. Scratching creates tiny abrasions to the papillae or lining of the rumen that stimulate it to develop. Introducing fibre also helps to strengthen the rumen muscles and establish the gut flora which will do most of the digestive work later in life. Without a little “scratching”, the rumen doesn’t develop as well and the animal’s ability to digest grass is delayed, hence resulting in a poorer quality animal.

We humans aren’t so different, however this isn’t in regards to our digestive tract. But more so, the “scratch factor”. In life, we are often delivered less-than-ideal situations which can be trying, annoying or downright scary. We have trials and tribulations which we would rather not go through, but in most cases don’t have a choice. In short, life is far from perfect.

Imagine for a minute if it was. Initially you would think “that would be amazing!” However, if we never had anything to stress or challenge us, how would we know what good, or even great, looked like? Everything would be the same and I would wager after a while we would lose our ability to see joy in pretty much anything.

In my humble opinion (and everyone knows I certainly have one) how we look at or perceive unpleasantness goes a long way towards our general wellbeing. If we look at a challenge through the lens of “I give up, turn the lights out, we’re all going to hell in a hand cart”, we are likely going to struggle a lot more to get through it. In contrast, if we perceive the challenge with “okay, I’ll play your little game, let’s dance, I’ll take the first step” we may find the challenge itself is fuel to help drive us to not only rise above it, but become stronger individuals. The “scratch factor” actually helps us to develop strength and that very overused term, resilience.

Of course, the other things that help grow out our little calves are also needed for us humans too. Comfort, good nourishment, safety, and care are all very much pillars which sustain our wellbeing too. These come from family and friends. It’s important we treat these factors like the common cold – when we bring it home, everyone catches it.

The coming year will very likely be filled with more fertiliser price increases, Omicron, volatile commodity prices, staff shortages and goodness knows what else. We will get through this because we have no choice. How we get through it is up to us. We have one of the most nimble agribusiness sectors in the world. We are not misled by pseudo-market indicators caused by subsidies.

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Let’s dance.