• Jin Gan

7 Important Areas Of Calf Care


7 Important Areas Of Calf Care

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.

2. Calving

  • 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.

6. Housing

  • 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.

Conclusion

  • 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.

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