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Calf Rearing Top Tips

25 May 2017

The Top Ten Tips for Rearing Calves

Colostrum of the right quality and quantity, given to the calf at the right time, is the for calf rearing, it supplies both essential nutrients and antibodies. Poor health, low growth rates and high mortality are most often seen in calves that have received inadequate colostrum. The following are the ‘3 Q’s’ when feeding colostrum:

Feed calves with quality colostrum ideally from mature cows. Colostrum from cows in second or later lactations usually contains more antibodies. These animals have been exposed to a wider range of pathogens and will therefore transfer a wider range of antibodies.
Wherever possible, colostrum from mature cows should be stored and fed to calves born from heifers. When considering the use of a commercial
substitute, ensure that the product has been independently tested and has proven successful.
Feed a minimum of three litres (six
pints) over two feeds in first six hours. Remember a calf requires approximately 20 minutes of continuous suckling to consume three litres of milk. Research indicates that over 30% of calves fail
to suckle sufficient colostrum naturally during the first six hours.
During its first 24 hours, the calf’s gut is open, to absorb the large antibody molecules. So it is essential that sufficient colostrum is available. Ideally, the first feed should be within the first hour.

Top 10 tips for rearing calves

  1. Ensure good hygiene practices to reduce the risk of transmission of infection and infectious diseases.
  2. Ensure navels are dressed properly using a strong iodine solution or treatment, at birth or soon after.
  3. The old rule of ‘Three pints in three hours, six pints in six hours’ is as good today as it’s always been. There are no shortcuts or magic potions.
  4. Provide calves with a well-bedded laying area on a free draining surface, in a draught free but well ventilated building.
  5. Ensure correct mixing and feeding temperature of milk replacers. Start by feeding small amounts and increase gradually. Little and often is more natural.
  6. Provide calves with fresh water and concentrate on a daily basis, feeding to encourage high intakes at weaning. Clean straw should be available to provide roughage.
  7. Check for any signs of ill health and check temperature. If necessary, notify your vet or treat according to recommendations previously agreed with vet.
  8. Wean only healthy calves. As a guide, they should be eating a minimum of 1.5kg of concentrate per day over a three - four day period, prior to commencing weaning. Wean gradually at around eight weeks, ensuring calves continue to consume concentrates.
  9. Continue to feed ad-lib concentrates, roughage and water up to approximately 12 weeks of age.
  10. Plan the rearing diet with your feed specialist to identify the best system and feeding regime, dependent on the type of stock.



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