It is crucial to maintain the health and performance of your calves as they are the future of your dairy farm. Here are 7 areas of calf care to focus on that would benefit your farm:
1. Transition cow health
Healthy calves start with healthy cows.
The dry cow needs to have a stress-free life so that she can focus on growing the calf in utero and making high quality colostrum.
Calving area must always be kept clean, dry and well ventilated.
The goal is to keep every calf born alive.
Train your team to be proficient in all stages of calving with proper techniques and protocol.
3. Colostrum management
Colostrum is key to the health of your calves.
The 3 Qs of colostrum are: quantity, quality and quickly.
As soon as the calf is born, she needs 3 - 4 litres of clean and high quality colostrum.
Proper colostrum management will prevent illness and keep the calves healthy.
Calves that receive sufficient high quality colostrum have higher average milk yield, growth and improved health.
All farms should have equipment to measure the quality of colostrum.
A colostrometer or a Brix refractometer can be used.
Your vet could also help you to measure the effectiveness of your farm's colostrum management by quantifying the passive transfer of antibodies.
4. Calf processing
It is crucial to establish basic handling protocols after the birth of the calf.
These may include naval dipping, drying or warming the calf.
It is encouraged to have a checklist outlining each steps.
It is important to also record data about calving assistance, colostrum quality as well as the timing of litres fed.
5. Feeding milk
After colostrum, you need to focus on feeding milk or milk replacer in order to achieve the optimal average daily gains.
Ideally, calf should double their birth weight by 60 days.
Another thing to consider is to increase calories by feeding 3 times a day or free-choice milk.
Housing in the first 60 days is very important.
Calves are very susceptible to disease since their immune system is not yet fully developed.
Make sure the calves are kept clean and dry at all times.
Ventilation is also crucial to prevent any sort of respiratory disease.
Tour your calf housing area frequently to notice any area for improvements.
7. Recording health data
Data needs to be recorded to monitor health of your calves.
Record diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia as well as treatments to understand the epidemiology of disease on the farm.
Special care needs to be taken in order to achieve optimal calf health and performance.
Raising calves is a team event.
Establish proper protocols and have training frequently so that your team are well equipped to take care of the calves.
Discuss with your vet frequently to identify areas that can be improved for optimal calf health and performance.