It is important to raise calves in a stress free environment so ensure peak performance and overall healthier animals. The calves' basic needs include food and water, shelter, comfort, routines and health.
Here are some areas to evaluate and consider:
1) Food and water
It is important to offer feed that meets the calves'nutritional needs throughout the year.
Calves need sufficient energy to maintain growth and allow proper body functioning.
Milk or seasonal milk replacer needs to be fed at a sufficient quantity to allow the calf to maintain body temperature, double its birth weight and to maintain proper immunity.
There should be ample of clean water available to the calves at all times.
Running out of feed or water for any duration can cause slug feeding or bloating when feed is finally offered.
2) Shelter and comfort
Calves' shelter does not need to be fancy or special.
It just needs to provide the animal a place to get out of the elements and should be easy to clean.
Other considerations that need to be made include proper ventilation, bedding and weather.
3) Considerations during hot weather
Ventilation - It is important to understand the air quality at calf level. Make sure there is sufficient air movement to help decrease heat stress.
Bedding - Proper bedding will help to add comfort to the calves and provides a barrier between the calf and ground underneath, which may contain pathogens. Ensure the bedding is always clean and dry.
Calf hutch location - Observe the sunlight to determine best position housing to reduce heat stress.
4) Considerations during cold weather
Ventilation - monitor the calf hutch airflow during colder weather to help reduce risk of respiratory problems such as pneumonia.
Bedding - Straw, cotton burs and wood shavings are all acceptable bedding. This bedding will provide the necessary warmth, improved comfort and a barrier between young calf and the ground below.
Calf jackets are also import during colder weather. It helps to keep the calf warm so that the energy it gains from colostrum and milk can be used to grow and develop rather than maintaining the body temperature.
5) Routine changes
Any small change in the calf's routine can potentially cause stress, which leads to many other health issues.
Limit the number of changes or transitions made at any given time to help reduce cal stress.
For example, when calves are changing pens, wait a few days after the move before making any changes to the feed.
If vaccinations are needed around the time of moving, work with your vet to create a schedule which limits the stress on the animals.
Overall, the health of calves and heifers is greatly influenced by food, shelter, comfort and transitioning through growth stages.
Health problems can greatly reduced when these components are addressed properly.