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Getting the best from your calves

Calf rearing is all about getting the basics right. Here is a refresher of some of the key things to think about.

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Getting the best from your calves

Measure it

 

  • Set Goals - What are you trying to achieve, and how will you get there?

 

  • Keep good records - Good goals lead to good results; set targets and continuously cross-reference performance with targets.

 

  • Measure growth rates - You cannot know how well calves are growing without measuring; use a weigh scale or weigh tape

 

  • Work with your vet - Speak with your vet to set and review performance and draw together a farm-specific herd health place

 

  • Team Work - Design calf rearing protocols and train staff as to why and how calves should be managed

 

Think about colostrum

 

  • The five Qs - Adhere to the five Qs of colostrum; Quantity, Quality, Quickly, sQueaky clean, and Quantify

 

  • < Four hours - When calves should receive their first colostrum feed

 

  • >10% of body weight - of colostrum should be fed within the first four hours of birth. Follow this with two litres within 12 hours of birth

 

  • Test it - Test colostrum using a refractometer or colostrometer and only feed the best

 

  • Warm gently - Do not microwave as it will destroy the immunoglobulins. Defrost frozen supplies in a bucket of warm water of no more than 60degC or use a specialist thawing system

 


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Feed the best

 

  • Daily feed intake - More than or equal to 900g/head/day of calf milk replacer or >six litres should be fed daily

 

 

  • Temperature - Take account of ambient temperature; feed an extra 55g of calf milk replacer per day for each 5degC drop in temperature below 10degC

 

  • Water - Provide an adequate supply of clean and fresh water from day one

 

  • Clean it - Clean and disinfect feeding equipment between each feed

 

  • Double birth weight - The target at weaning

 

  • Calf starter - Should be introduced at day one with refusals removed and feed refreshed daily

Make health a priority

 

  • Quarantine - Keep sick calves isolated from other cows and calves

 

  • Vaccinate - Speak to your vet and design a herd vaccination strategy to protect calves from diseases such as pneumonia and scours

 

  • BVD Control - Know your BVD status, put in place a control strategy with your vet and use vaccination alongside tag and testing of calves to monitor for PIs

 

  • Know why - Carry out appropriate disease testing without your vet so you know why calves are getting ill and appropriate preventative treatment measures can be made

 

Secure a healthy Environment

 

 

  • Wind - Avoid draughts at calf level, otherwise calves will get chilled and are more likely to get ill

 

  • Age range - Keep age range to a minimum: ideally seven days, maximum 21 days

 

  • Dry - Keep beds clean and dry; moisture should drain out of the shed

 

  • Cold weather - Feed more, use calf jackets and provide deeper bedding when temperatures drop below 10degC for more than three hours a day

 

  • Social housing - Pair or group calves from one week of age to encourage starter intake and reduce stress

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